Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reviews Galore..and more..

My thoughts: The selection of the giants featured in this book was just perfect - Abraham of Ur, Pericles, the Apostle Paul, Sir Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Teresa. The stories of these wonderful men and women across nations and times shows us that 'we can' be giants too! This shows us that history and biography books can be interesting and thus teach more in the process.

Razia’s Ray of Hope – I had seen this book featured across many blogs last year and wanted to read it way earlier than I actually did. And now I am glad I did. And I agree with the real Razia Jan that ‘education is the key to positive, peaceful change in the world’. 
The story follows Razia as she strives towards her dream of going to the new school - her patience and perseverance in getting her family's support results in sweet triumph. The realistic portrayal of Razia, her family, her village, and of the struggles in a world other than what most of us know is wonderful and inspirational. A must-read for everyone - though the book is aimed towards kids, adults can benefit by reading this too. The accompanying illustrations are beautiful and make this book a treasure indeed along with the well written story. 
A great book for classrooms as part of multicultural studies. This is another wonderful book from Kids Can Press and part of their CitizenKid collection.

Rating: A+
Reading Level: Ages 5 to 8
Reread Level: 5/5


Disclaimer:Thank you to Edelweiss and to the publishers for sending me a digital review copy of the books above. I was not compensated for my review. My thoughts on these books were in no way influenced by the author or publicist. They are my personal opinions formed when I read them..

Water Can Be: Just like the previous book ‘A Leaf Can Be’, this book is magical. Using wonderful watercolor illustrations and words that flow, both the author Laura Purdie Salas and the illustrator Violeta Dabija have once again seamlessly blended their talents to create a wow factor with simplicity, with words and pictures that are at once sublime and superb. As we turn the pages, we can see the many phases and faces of water as the seasons change. For example, water can be a kid drencher, or a rainbow jeweler; it can be a puddle or the sea! The backmatter includes a lot of useful information – a glossary, a list of books for further reading, and a useful index called ‘More about Water’ which goes into some detail into the water cycle and more.
Laura’s website includes guides and activities that can be used with the book in a classroom for kids both young and old; or at home for some rainy afternoon.

Rating: A+
Reading Level: Ages 5 to 8
Reread Level: 5/5

Edie's Ensembles: The artwork is simply gorgeous and there is a wonderful lesson to be learned - that you just need to be yourself - the you inside - the one that matters. My kids (even though they are already older than the intended audience) enjoyed seeing the outfits Edie makes as they got weirder and weirder and appreciated her imagination. The story lost me a little a couple of times and it might be tough to get younger kids to understand some of the whys and whats of the story. But I loved the end of the story as Edie realizes that you do not need to always be the center of attention, that who you are inside matters more, and that to be friends, you do not need to be popular or well-dressed or .........
Rating: B
Reading Level: Ages 5 to 8
Reread Level: 3.5/5

Disclaimer:Thank you to NetGalley and to the publishers for sending me a digital review copy of the books above. I was not compensated for my review. My thoughts on these books were in no way influenced by the author or publicist. They are my personal opinions formed when I read them..

As part of my goals for Bloggiesta, wanted to get on my overdue reviews and start on reducing that pending list - so today's reviews are part of that process, thanks to Bloggiesta!

 For ABC Wednesday's letter J, I wanted to be a little more earlier than just in time! Jokes apart, ABC Wednesday has definitely kept me trying to write posts about varied subjects and on a weekly once schedule at least. Jostling with regular blog post writing and bloggiesta updates are the preparations for the wonderful celebrations of Navratri coming this week, and I definitely find joy in both. For something else that brings a smile to my face, a couple of photos from our visit to Universal Studios not too long ago. 


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Joining Bloggiesta (one more attempt at getting better!)

Though I have been blogging for sometime now, it has not been consistent (to say the least). But I believe in 'Try, try, and try again, and you will succeed'. So I keep trying to get into the habit of blogging regularly. One of my blogger friends who pops in every now and then to comment on even my infrequent posts has a recent post for Bloggiesta.
I am inspired and I am planning to join Bloggiesta and hope to be an active participant this year. But keeping in mind my blogging habits for the past year(s), I will keep my Bloggiesta goals a little more realistic this time.
Here is my master to do list:
1. Take part in at least two mini-challenges(if I end doing more, great!)
2. Catch up on my NetGalley/Edelweiss reviews - complete at least four overdue ones (half-written with notes all over the place)
3. Work on one of my 'pardon the dust' pages
4. Update my Reading Challenges page - I joined so many but then did not ever link back (I know) so in a better-late-than-never fashion, I plan to at least pick one challenge and update it.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Simply Sunday - News that make a day

The Sunday newspaper is one thing we all look forward to. For one, we just get the newspaper delivered on Sundays as weekday mornings are normally a rush-to-wherever-times and evenings are filled with classes, homework, and family times. So the doorstep is particularly attractive on Sundays - the newspaper makes it so. It is a race to see who gets it first - whoever does reach it wins a prize - they can pick the section they want to read (generally the kids and me too - fight over the comic section!).

And today's newspaper had one piece of news that made me feel good - one more permanent hazardous waste collection center in our area. The existing ones are open only one weekend a month and the alternatives to that are to wait for the collection days in our area. Now people have one more option - this new center is open two days every week (though we still need an appointment to drop off and if you are a Santa Clara county resident, you can request for an appointment here for this new center). Now I need to go collect the paints and the batteries that dried up and are around the house.

I certainly look for news that make my day each day. This was one piece in the newspaper that did today.

Yesterday was #RoaldDahlDay! He is definitely one of my favorite authors - one whom I discovered as an adult. The first book that I read of his was one of his for adults and I did not realize he wrote for children until I arrived in the US! The first read was magical though - 'The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar and Six More' and was a gift from a friend who knew my love for reading. Thank you!
Now, I have read enjoyed many more of Dahl's creations along with my little ones and each one is a treasure.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Inspiration - the hows, whys, where, what, who, and when of it!

As ABC Wednesday’s fourteenth round came around to the letter I this week, the word that comes to my mind is inspiration.

So, what is inspiration? Per the dictionary, the definitions of inspiration are below:

Inspiration (noun)

  • the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative:
  • the quality or state of being inspired
  • an inspiring agent or influence (can be someone or something)
  • the drawing in of breath; inhalation.

And why does it matter? Without inspiration, for one, we wouldn’t be here, literally! If we do not draw in breath, if we don’t inspire, then….. we expire. But that said, I am going to focus on the other meaning(s) of inspiration since we know we need to breathe in. We all need inspiration – to keep us going, to be a catalyst that helps us create something beautiful, something useful, something that makes life better. Here is one great article on ‘Why inspiration matters’ in the Harvard Business Review.

How can you find inspiration, make it work for you, and how does it work? There are so many wonderful articles I read often on the hows of inspiration, including Leo Babauta’s Zenhabits that I am going to point you to them here. 

For me, some things that do work:

  • A walk outside by myself
  • Just watching the starlit sky alone or quietly with my little ones
  • My little ones
  • Books
  • Smiles - seeing smiles or smiling myself - both work!

Some other articles with great tips and information are below:

When and where does inspiration strike you? For me, this is still an unanswered question. I do recall having fantastically wonderful dreams but well, I am sleeping at that time so that doesn’t really help! Other times are in the shower or sometimes when listening to a monotonous speaker(); again, both are times when I can’t note down my ideas ; I need to shower and I need to pretend to listen at least.

Who/what provides inspiration? Each of us finds inspiration from so many sources - people we know and those we don't; things we see and read; and more. I am lucky that I have so many people who inspire me on a daily basis – my family definitely (from my grandparents to my little ones), friends who are just wonderful being who they are, and a whole community out there – of bloggers I read regularly, of parents I know from school and teachers. 

The blogging world has definitely provided me a lot of inspiration, and each day I find someone or something who inspires me to do more, do better, and just do! Be it food, crafts, reviews, poems, travel, family and general blogs, or any one of the so many topics covered by talented blogger around the world – I see inspiration everywhere and I am glad. 

Just the fact that I have so much more to learn, to do, to enjoy, and to possibly inspire someone else in the process is wonderful.

So what about you? Let me know the answer(s) to the how, why, what, when, where, who of inspiration for you... 
A few quotes on inspiration to ponder and enjoy and be inspired by:

“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.” ― Vincent van Gogh

 “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” ― Saul Bellow

 “I like to imagine that the world is one big machine. You know, machines never have any extra parts. They have the exact number and type of parts they need. So I figure if the entire world is a big machine, I have to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.” ― Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret

 “Ideas come from everything” ― Alfred Hitchcock

Inspiration helps make the seemingly impossible possible.

Also for Theme Thursday where the theme is 'possible'.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Magic Mondays - The Magic of Memories and more...

For ABC Wednesday's letter H, here it is, a little late: H for a glimpse of the Harihareshwara temple in Harihar, Karnataka - this was one of those wonderful weekend trips taken during our summer trip to India. A trip that brought back memories of childhood, of visits to this ancient and beautiful Hoysala architecture as a girl with my mom. For some reason, even though the visits here were not often, they stood out in my memory and never fail to fill me with peace, with a happiness within (even though my visits to temples now and then were less spiritual or religious and more of a visit to the temple to reacquaint myself with it, to sometimes socialize, to just be there).


Also, for the letter H is another glimpse into the humble adai with a side of ridge gourd kootu (gravy curry). 

I read these books sometime ago now and recently reviewed them after rereading them. 

V is for Vegan – I am a vegetarian and embrace being one as well. 'Veganism' is something I admire though I am not sure I could follow a vegan diet. This book highlights the concepts of being vegan not just in food habits but also in other aspects of life – including clothing and other lifestyle habits as well – in an easy to understand fashion with rhyming words and bright illustrations. My main peeve with this book – it takes promoting the vegan to a couple of degrees too much for a kid’s picture book – kind of like in those commercials where one brand promotes itself by showing how the other one is bad. (Kind of contrary to the title of being kind).
Rating: C/B- (but for my peeve, this book would have been a B)
Reading Level: Ages 3-7
Reread Level: 3/5
Disclaimer: Thanks to Edelweiss for a digital copy of this book for review.

Gorgeous, detailed, colorful illustrations that lend to the reader's imagination, that tell stories proving a picture tells a thousand words (since the words in this book are sparingly few), that show insight into an amazing culture - these illustrations are the highlight of this book. It definitely made me more curious to learn about this culture, it opens the reader to explore what the few words and the detailed illustrations are actually saying, and is a must-have just for it's illustrations. Since it is translated from it's original, that might account for the really few words and making me wish for something more at the end of the book (maybe a few details about the culture). That accounts for the four stars instead of five.
Rating: A-
Reading Level: Ages 5-10
Reread Level: 4/5
Disclaimer: Thank you to NetGalley for an ecopy of this book.

Adorable, Beautiful, Charming, Delightful, Effervescent, Fairies...(Can go on with the rest of the ABCs): This is adorable in the way it uses delightful illustrations that are a charming combination of art and photography to engage fertile imaginations and weave magical fairytale worlds in our backyards. This book guarantees more time outdoors for the little ones and that alone makes it a pick-me-up!
Rating: A
Reading Level: Ages 5-8
Reread Level: 4/5
Disclaimer: Thank you to NetGalley for the digital ARC of the book

 Linking these books to What are you Reading? From Picture Books to YA at Teach Mentor Texts andWhat are you reading? @Book Journey

And for Musing Mondays at Should be Reading, - a reading habit that I should have as a book blogger/reviewer - that I hope to actually make into a habit by the end of this month - write the review of the book as soon as I read it, while it is fresh in my mind so I do not need to work my brain or reread (like above) the books to review them.