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YA Book Review: The Changelings

Oh. My.  Let me preface this by saying this book isn’t coming out till September 6, but that’s in plenty of time for Christmas.  Or Hanukkah.  Or any holiday that comes after September 6.  And you can pre-order it right now.

the changlelings

Because if you have a little who is intrigued by All Things Fairy, he or she is going to Love this book.  The Changelings has all the right elements to yank a middle-grade reader in and hold her there till the very satisfying end:  an unhappy young girl, a bratty little sister, a witch, and a whole slew of fairies–some good, some bad–but all with their own kinds of problems.  The cool thing is, even though the book is written for a certain age group, it never felt false or condescending, and that kept me reading as much as the action-packed story.

Izzy Doyle is pretty miserable.  Her family just moved to a new town–for the ninth time in her eleven years.  Needless to say, she has never really had any friends.  It doesn’t help that no matter where they go, Izzy never feels like she fits in.  All she has is her book of fairy tales, a tattered and well-loved book that she loses herself in whenever she’s feeling lonely.   Everton is their last stop, her parents tell her.  They’ve inherited her grandmother’s house and they will be staying.  But the cashier at the local grocery store swears Izzy’s new next-door neighbor is a witch.  And one morning, her little sister, Hen, hears a flute in the woods.  And she follows the sound.  And Izzy finds herself on the witch’s heels in the middle of a strange forest.  She meets a boulder who turns out to be a boy.  After rescuing him from dangerous pursuers called Unglers, she follows him back to his home tree, where she meets a stoat who is also a boy and a butterfly who is a translucent girl.  The rag tag team sets off to find Hen, who has been captured by Good Peter the Piper.  The changelings are confused by this, because Peter always leaves a changeling in its place when he takes a human, but no changeling was left for Hen.

Throughout their adventure, Izzy keeps hearing about the new queen of Fairy, a queen the changelings do not trust, a queen who has been collecting changelings for years for some purpose no one understands.  The unglers are her pets, creatures that sniff out changelings and deliver them to the queen.  Good Peter, who has not been so good lately, is also working for the queen.  How in Fairy are they supposed to rescue Hen from such a powerful group of enemies?  And what will happen if they get caught?

Watching Izzy grow from a sullen child to a quick-thinking, caring individual is a lot of fun.  Perhaps even more, the world Christina Soontornvat has created from the fey is real and intriguing.  It’s been a long time since I read a book with fairies in it and wanted to finish it.  Oftentimes the whole idea is trite.  Not so with The Changlelings.  The voice reminded me a whole lot of Emily Rodda’s The Key to Rondo (and if you haven’t had the pleasure, read that one soon, too).  I love when a good writer pens a middle grade book that speaks intelligently to the age group she is targeting.  Nothing more irritating than an author talking down to her audience.  Soontornvat never does that, and that is part of what makes this gem of a novel so good.

My suggestion is, when you buy this book for your little, get a hard copy.  This one is going to be loved and probably read over and over, so give your little the tangible book to hold onto.  That’s the best kind.

Love wins,


This post is linked to Literary Musings Monday Blog Hop

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Giveaway Winners and Kindle Mania

When I tell you the story of how I got my first Kindle, you’re going to laugh at me.  Remember, I was once a librarian and I believe fully in the power of physical books, books that smell of old ink and paper, books that have been read 100s of times by other eyes, held by other hands, books that you can hug to your chest when they get really good.  I never wanted a Kindle.  I was like that guy on the bus in the commercial–proudly reading my paperback while everyone else stared at a screen.  I’m still often that girl, but I have to admit I love my Kindle.


I love the image on the start screen of the little dude sitting under a tree reading a book.  I can’t tell you how often I spent my childhood days just like that.  It just seems full of promise.

Anyway, when Amazon first came out with the Kindle, my beautiful husband told me he wanted to get me one for Christmas.  He said if I could have books on a Kindle, maybe there would be room in the house to walk and we could stop using stacks of books for coffee tables.  (That was a mild exaggeration, but if you ever saw my house, it is–even now–covered in books of all shapes, sizes, and genres.  I could start my own library.)  I scoffed at him.  I Did Not Want a machine to read on. Good grief, I was a librarian; I Believed In Books. Get me something I want for Christmas, for goodness sake.

The next Christmas he was harping about the very same thing.  Thanks to rummage sales and thrift stores and Amazon, even more books were scattered throughout the house.  I adamantly refused.  Then he came home from work one glorious day.  He told me a woman he works with had a Kindle.  “She said you can get all kinds of free books,” he said.  Free Books?  My head turned.  My ears perked up.  “She said there’s all kinds of classic novels that you can get for free.”

Free. Classic. Novels?

I began to ponder the wisdom of my obstinacy.  And, before that second Christmas had passed, dreams of all those free books dancing through my head (kind of like sugar plums), I agreed.  He could get me a Kindle for Christmas.

Boom. Hooked.

At first I filled my Kindle with all the Dickens and Austen and Tolstoy (among many others) I could.  Not because I don’t already own the paper versions, but so they would all be in the same place.  As I trolled the Kindle store for more free stuff, I also began to realize what this meant.  I would not have to drive all the way to Louisville anymore to go to the bookstore or wait a week to receive a book from my beloved Amazon.  I could order them for my Kindle and they would come right to it!  Immediately!  Like Magic!


When I discovered the text-to-speech option, you couldn’t tear me away.  I began to listen to my books when I was cooking, washing dishes,driving the car.  I Loved My Kindle.  I Was So Very Attached.

When I bought the Littles tablets for school, I was bowled over that I could hook them up to my Kindle account and they would have access to all my Kindle books.  We have used that feature often during read-aloud time (though admittedly, not nearly as much as we use paper books).  It was a revelation for our homeschool, though, to be able to access the classics together without having to buy 3 copies of the same book.  My love deepened.

I had that first one for about 2 years.  The love affair was still strong, till death do us part.  Then one day I was mopping the kitchen.  I had the Kindle propped up on the counter, listening to who-knows-what-beautiful-story.  Littlest walked by me and, being Littlest, promptly knocked my Kindle off the counter.  Into the bucket of mop water.  I cried.  Not quite as hard as I cried the day my glasses broke, but I cried.  I called Martin and he said, “Order a new one.  Get you a Kindle Fire this time.”

I Did Not Want A Kindle Fire.  I wanted My Kindle, with text-to-speech.  And all the info on Amazon about the Fire did not mention Text-to-Speech.  (FYI, the Fire does have the option, but I had no way of knowing that until I bought Big one for Christmas a year or so later.)  Seriously, even though they had stopped making my particular Kindle in lieu of a newer version, I searched the interweb for it and found a new one Just Like Mine.  And I ordered it.

I’ve had this one for about 2 years.  I still don’t have a tablet of my own.  My Kindle is for books and that is all I use it for.  There goes that obstinacy again.

The moral of the story is, of course, if you read books on paper and you drop one into the mop bucket, you’ve only dropped one book and chances are you can let it dry out and still read it.  But a Kindle has its own kind of magic.  Just… you can lose a thousand books at once if you’re not careful.  So don’t Littlest around when you’re mopping.

Now for the exciting news, the winners of the Dr. Seuss canvas giveaway!  Thanks to everyone who entered, but we can only have 2 winners.

seus canvasesThe winner of the blue Oh! The Places You’ll Go canvas is Gabrielle B!

The winner of the pink Lorax canvas is Amy M!

I will be contacting the winners via email to get your shipping info, so make sure you get back to me quickly.

Happy Friday, my lovelies.

Love wins,



Books That Take Your Breath

One of my favorite things in the whole world is finding a new author to fall in love with.  I told you last month that I had stopped trying to convince the Littles to read Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright because they kept putting me off for what they thought were more adventurous stories.  And I have to admit, I was pushing it on them based on the back-cover synopsis alone.  It looked like the kind of book I Would Have Loved as kid, and I wanted them to know that kind of story.

Enright-Gone Away

What kind of story?  The kind where the kid goes to stay with relatives in the country for the summer.  The kind that makes summer seem like a revelation and country living more fascinating and exciting than any old suburb or city.  The kind that has at least one frog, one forest, one barn or other mysterious building.  Mostly though, the kind of story that gets by with no violence, very little mystery, and as Middle pointed out, “Hey, there wasn’t any real conflict in that story.”

(Before I go on, may I just say my kids Freaking Rock?)

“Well,” said I, “there were points of conflict.”

“I know,” he said (and I was So Proud!), “but most books have a major conflict in the plot and this one didn’t.”

Boom.  I have taught them something, after all.

The cool thing about it all is that I have also now introduced them to a memorable story and an author who can write books without major conflict in them and still make a point that resounds in their little hearts.

Every time I suggested they read Gone-Away Lake on their own, I thought to myself, “Why don’t I just read it?  Then I can Really Convince them.”  So one night I took it to bed with me.  I read about 5 pages.  I put it down.  Because I knew I was going to be making it a class as soon as we finished the book we were reading aloud together.  Within 5 pages I knew I had always been right about that book.

Want to know the best part?

We finished Gone-Away Lake last week.  Just so happens in my (far too) extensive library, I had the sequel, Return to Gone-Away.  Guess what we’re reading this week?

return to gone away

They insisted.

🙂 🙂 🙂

Listen, if you don’t already read aloud together in your homeschool every day, Get On It.  I’ve talked about the benefits before, but this one is new even to me.  If you pick the books for your homeschool reading class, you have the opportunity to introduce your littles to books they might not normally read–and I don’t just mean the Classics, though you know I think that is important, too.  I’m talking about the kinds of books that are written just for kids, the kinds that stay with us all our lives.  The kind that made me wistfully dream of living in the country when I was small and led me to my own beautiful farm and wondrous life.  The kind that can change everything for them and they don’t even know it till they turn the first page.

I truly hope you check out these books.  I like them so much I’m honing the novel studies I wrote for my shop’s grand opening.  You’ll love the study, too.

More shameless plugging.

P.S.  You still have through tomorrow to enter my giveaway for the Dr. Seuss canvases.  If you haven’t already, head over and give yourself a chance to win!  I’ll be announcing the winners on Friday.

Love wins,




How Reading Counters Meanness

I have a story for you.  It’s a story about a little girl who loved to read.  When she was very young, she saw all of her family–mother, father, brother–always immersed in books.  Her father and brother read wonderful stories to her from those books.  She begged to be taught to read herself and finally her brother taught her because she couldn’t wait until she was in school to get to read stories herself.

austen reading by the window

Years passed.  Friends came into her life.  They laughed at the books she always carried, but they also asked what each story was about.  The girl began to write stories of her own, trying to match the wonder she found in Raggedy Ann stories and Nancy Drew mysteries.  She never stopped writing stories or reading books.  In high school, all her teachers encouraged her to become a writer.  With knowing smiles, they allowed her to read her own book when she should have been paying attention in class.  She discovered new authors without assistance–Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas, Jane Austen.  She began to understand history in a way she wouldn’t have otherwise.  When stress or meanness came into her life, she had a place to go, always.  She always had a book.

Last week, my beautiful husband was sick.  He had bronchitis, sinusitus, and an upper respiratory infection.  He was not feeling well at all, and he stayed home from work the whole week.  This meant I ran more than usual, hopping into the car to go to the store and pick up this or that for him.  Apparently it was a bad week for everyone around here, because about 80% of the people with whom I came into contact were grumpy and mean.  Or condescending and mean.  Or annoyed and mean.

high five

If you’ve been reading me for any length of time, then you know that I believe that the most important human trait is kindness and that I practice it every moment.  When people are mean to me, I have to admit,  I get confused.  If I am being polite, friendly, kind… why the hell are people responding to me this way?  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take a lot of guff, and when a situation calls for strength, I find it.  But if the cashier at the gas station stares a hole through me because I’m taking too long to put my change away, am I supposed to stare back?  Attack her, either verbally or physically?  Well, no, the situation calls for none of those things.  I don’t know what’s going on in her life to make her so impatient–I don’t even know her name–so why would I pull out my cranky card?

get well card

After one particular similar situation, I left the store and climbed into my car.  My brain was still trying to assess the event and I was feeling confused and a little hurt and a little offended and a little like, “Why the f— did I come out in public again?”  I put the keys in the ignition and looked down at the console.  There sat my Kindle.  Ready to be turned on, the text-to-speech option almost blinking at me with its serenity.  And I smiled.  And I forgot the meanness inside the store as I remembered I had a beautiful story to listen to on the way home, and I didn’t know that woman.  She didn’t even know my name.  In an hour she will have forgotten me.  In 2 minutes, I would forget her.  I turned on my Kindle, put the car in reverse, and smiled as that wonderful robotic voice began to read to me.

I had a book.  I always have a book.

This.  This is why we want to engender a love of reading in our children.  Sure, there are other reasons–to promote literacy and good speech, to help them learn about the world, to give them knowledge.  But the single best thing about a book is that it takes you away.  I’ve said it before, but I fully believe that teaching our littles to love reading gives them a healthy form of escapism and could save them from trying other, more dangerous ways to escape.  Sure, I could have come straight home and poured a stiff drink to shake off that incident.  It probably would have relaxed me.  But by the time I got home I would have been stewing in it for 15 minutes, blowing it up in my head, letting my feelings hurt even more.  I might have needed 2 drinks at that point. haha

reading escape


Instead, I had immediate succor.  Something that relaxed me and made the incident seem as trivial as it really was.  We want that for our kids, don’t we?  Because no matter how much we want to and how hard we try, we can’t protect them from all the mean people in the world or all the temporarily mean moods.

There is nothing more relaxing than falling into a good story and staying there until your brain is ready to deal with your problems.  So read to your littles.  Read in front of your littles.  Have your littles read to you.  Read, read, read.

Some day, when they’re pulling away from the store with an oncoming headache, they will thank you.

Love wins,