Celebrate Easter with National Geographic Kids

I love NatGeoKids! They have everything a kid (even a big one like me) loves! Around this time of year, many people all over the world are preparing to celebrate Easter.

Celebrate Easter with National Geographic Kids

Nat Geo Kids shows readers, in gorgeous full-color photos how other people celebrate Easter. While reading the book, young readers will discover that in New Orleans people celebrate Mardi Gras, and in England there are pancake races, in Cuba there are carnivals with stilt walkers!

The book contains photos of people attending church in Peru and Russia. In Germany, there is an Easter Eve bonfire, and all across America there are Easter egg hunts. Celebrate Easter is a good addition to your library not only because of the photos, there are recipes (yummy food), songs, and maps in the back.

I remember when I was a kid I had to get dressed up in a new dress and go to church. The book even explains that old tradition. What traditions do you have for Easter?


What’s In My Ear: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

I love love love the Code Name Verity series by Elizabeth Wein! I totally have a photo of the two of us together somewhere but, you know how finding those things goes.

Wait. Hold that thought. I found it!!

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This pic was taken at Children’s Book World in Haverford (cheating on Towne Book Center, shhhhhh) at the release of Rose Under Fire. Signed Hardcover dorky love ya’ll!!


I first read Code Name Verity over a year ago. In fact it was probably more like 2013. A friend at the bookstore turned me on to it and I loved it! CNV is the story of girl pilots during WWII. As I’m a fan of British TV shows like Bletchley Circle which center around female code breakers during the war, CNV was a perfect fit.

There are two main characters in CNV which you grow to love. I’m not going to spoil the ending for you but let’s just say that I was powerfully moved after finishing Verity and couldn’t bring myself to read the companion book.  I finally FINALLY in April 2015 thought I was ready to read Rose Under Fire. And let me tell you something; I was also reading Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place at the same time, which I don’t advise.  The atrocities during WWII never. cease. to amaze. me.  Hitler and his minions were the worst of the worst.

Rose Under Fire brings pilot Maddie from CNV and introduces you to Rose Moyer Justice the heroine you will grow to love.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

RUF has won all kinds of awards and for good reason too. If you want kids to learn about the war and the German occupation, give them this to read. Dr. Wein completely researches her facts so while this is fiction, the facts will teach you more than you’ll ever learn in History class (sorry to my 9th grade History teacher) or a boring autobiography. I kinda feel like if Anne Frank had published her diary of her internment at a concentration camp, it would probably be the only other autobiography I would read.

I cannot tell you any more about RUF because I will give it all away. It’s so good. I laughed, I cried, I cursed.  You will too.


Adult Fiction Books

SPOTLIGHT: The Color of Courage– A Boy at War: The World War II Diary of Julian Kulski

If there is going to be a war, I do not want to miss it. So writes Julian Kulski a few days before WWII begins, in this remarkable diary of a boy at war from ages 10 to 16. As the war unfolds through his eyes, we are privileged to meet an inspirational soul of indomitable will, courage and compassion. At age 12 Kulski is recruited as a soldier in the clandestine Underground Army by his Boy Scout leader, and at age 13 enters the Warsaw Ghetto on a secret mission. Arrested by the Gestapo at age 14 and sentenced to Auschwitz, he is rescued and joins the commandos. At age 15, Kulski fights in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. He ends the war as a German POW, finally risking a dash for freedom onto an American truck instead of waiting for Soviet liberation. “

Yeah. So what were you doing when you were 12? Me? Singing along with The Jackson 5 or at Girl Scout Camp or at band camp.  It’s hard to imagine a 12 year old who wants to go to war, right?


Look at that face! Ok so he’s not 12 anymore but he’s still very young. Too young to fight in a war.

World War II veteran, international architect, and author Julian Kulski’s book, The Color of Courage—A Boy At War: The World War II Diary of Julian Kulski, will be published by Aquila Polonica on Veterans Day, November 11, 2014.

“I can’t say I really want to die,” 12-year-old Julian Kulski writes, “but I can see now that there are times when one has to be prepared to do just that.”

The Color of Courage is a rare and vivid day-by-day eyewitness account by a young boy who becomes a man far too soon under the brutal Nazi German occupation of Poland.


Julian is a 10-year-old Boy Scout when the Germans invade his native Poland to start World War II. At an age when most boys are still playing with toys, Julian begins his own private war against the Germans with small acts of sabotage. At 12, he is recruited into the clandestine Underground Army by his Scoutmaster, and begins training on weapons and military tactics.

By 14, he is holding up German soldiers at gunpoint, has gone on a secret mission into the Warsaw Ghetto to liaise with Jewish resistance leaders, is captured by the Gestapo, beaten and interrogated, sentenced to Auschwitz, rescued, and joins a Commando unit of the Underground Army. At 15, he fights in the Warsaw Uprising, ending the war as a German POW.

The war’s end brings physical freedom but very little peace for the 16-year-old veteran suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). A wise army doctor advises Julian to write down his experiences to help lessen the psychological and emotional burdens of the war. The Color of Courage is the result.

I know, right? Here’s a book trailer to pique your interest even more:

I think this will make the perfect holiday gift for the war hero in your life.

Adult Fiction Banned Books Books Reviews Young Adult

Revisiting Banned Books: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

I want to revisit this title. Again. The story is so good and the movie was so…not.  Anyway, I now see teens buying this book so I’m guessing classrooms have realized how important this work is.  As always, book is BETTER.


“What about a teakettle? What if the spot opened and closed when the steam came out, so it would become a mouth, and it could whistle pretty melodies, or do Shakespeare, or just crack up with me? “

To be sure, Safran Foer’s new novel, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, is as interesting as his debut novel, Everything is IlluminatedExtremely Loud & Incredibly Close revolves around 9 year old Oskar Schell, his family, and his father’s death after the Sept 11th events.  Do not be deceived: the story is neither for children (although possibly YA) nor a drab account of the terror attack.

Individual family members suffer with what appears to be post traumatic stress disorder through generations of terrorism and war.  Given his background, it is little wonder that Oskar suffers from anxiety as he copes with and searches for answers to his father’s death.  Safran’s story is imaginative in its presentation, providing photographs and other graphic representations: several pages are empty like pages in a blank book.  The book is clever enough to be different from every other novel, yet at times just a little too clever.

In the end I am satisfied with the author’s ending and the resolution of the character’s situations.  Multiculturally, the main characters are Jewish and while not openly practicing, appeals to my need for ethnic diversity.

I give this story of a precocious child 3 paws!

“I could invent a teakettle that reads in Dad’s voice, so I could fall asleep, or maybe a set of kettles that sings the chorus of “Yellow Submarine,” which is a song by the Beatles, who I love, because entomology is one of my raisons d’etre, which is a French expression that I know.”


Agent Colt Shore: Domino 29 by Axel Avian

I’m excited today to present to you Agent Shore, a teen spy.  I love spies and pirates, both jobs which a librarian would be great at!  Anyway, the title I present to you today is Agent Colt Shore: Domino 29.


Domino 29 a rousing romp across the globe, kinda like my boy Jason Bourne; traveling from the US to Germany to the Middle East. In fact, the castle Neuschwanstein featured in the book is actually a real place! Click here for the link.  I love traveling and while I’ve never been to this castle, I can imagine in my head the many scenes from Domino 29 unfolding in the castle.

Ever wonder what goes on in an author’s head?  Find out below:

Q: Where did the idea first come from for Agent Colt Shore?
A: Probably back when I was at school. He’s always been there for me. Although whilst the gadgets got cooler and I got older, he remained essentially unchanged (except for his wardrobe).

Q: How long have you been writing stories? What other kinds of things have you written?
A: I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. I mostly write adventure stories, but I like comedy, too. I am trying to work on some film scripts.

Q: What are some of your favorite books & authors? What about favorite young adult books?

A: It’s really only a one-part question; my favourite books are young adult books. Recently I have been reading Neil Gaiman’s book and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. Growing up I loved Narnia and Lord of the Rings. I am a fan of Ian Fleming and Bond, of course. Also a book I was recommended called The Messenger, by Marcus Zusak. Non-fiction I am big on comedy, particularly Bill Bryson’s travel writing. Come to think of it, I have rarely read a book that didn’t become my favourite. I loved Harry Potter, too.
Q: Do you have a book that you like to read over and over again…because you know that it will make you feel good after reading it?
A: Casino Royale, by Ian Fleming. Or any Bond Novel.

Q: Do you judge a book by its cover?
A: I might have, once or twice.

Q: Is there some place you’d like to write about? A place you’d like the characters to find themselves?
A: Not so much a where as a when. I have always wanted to write a novel set in a fictional prohibition-era metropolis. This doesn’t mean I am going to put Colt through time travel though! I think they call that ‘jumping the shark’. No, that’s for another character in another world. For Colt, I would like to take him to Chernobyl, I think.

Q: Do movies and books inspire you? If so, which ones?
A: Yes, both. All the books I mentioned earlier, and more. My favourite films are Gladiator, Indiana Jones, and Stardust, which is an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name, directed by Matthew Vaughn.

Q: Do you think future generations will still be readers?
A: Absolutely. Or they’ll be idiots. But I am sure that will not be the case because at the heart of every movie, game, comic, tv show or whatever is a story and the foundation of every story these days is language. Siri will never be more creative than a human, I don’t think.

Q: You’ve admitted that you’ve worked for an organization like FALCON, in what way is being an author different? Are there ways in which they are 2 sides of the same coin?
A: Being an author is a lot less confidential. I cannot get into too much more detail for the same reason! The stakes are lower, being an author; I feel I only risk letting myself down… and Arundel. I suppose they could be two sides of the same coin, the mission objective broadly remains the same, just the execution and target audiences change.

Q: The structure of Domino 29 is different than the other books in the series will be, because it introduces the readers to Colt. Is there anything you can say about Colt’s new adventures? What else does he find out about FALCON?
A: Nothing is set in stone, but I find it incredibly interesting how the new frontline in a nation’s defense is in cyber warfare. Now I, for one, have difficulty synchronizing my calendars across my laptop and smartphone, so I promise you I will not be leading the charge on the cyber battlefield. Nor do I think will any of my friends be. It’ll increasingly be teenagers and young adults holding this front. I look forward to seeing the first colonel’s commission given to a boy or girl in his or her twenties. Having said this I do not think that conventional espionage is dead. Far from it, and I think Colt is going to find a special relevancy and demand for his aptitude in multiple theatres.

Q: Does Talya come back? What other characters from book 1 will come back in other books?
A: I think I have to have Talya back at some point. She is such a powerful girl and a great counter to Colt.

Q: hat is the most interesting place you have visited & why?
A: Mont Saint-Michel. A beautiful fortified abbey built on a giant piece of limestone jutting out of the coastal flats in Normandy. I love it for its natural and architectural beauty and also its incredibly rich history.

I couldn’t agree more, Axel.  The abbey at Mont St Michel is beautiful.  I had the pleasure of singing there once. Mais oui!

So, get more Axel and Agent Colt at his website, and stay tuned for his upcoming books.  I’m hoping to catch up with Axel  at Book Expo America so maybe I”ll send a pic of us together; SCORE!


Adult Fiction Books

A Future Arrived by Phillip Rock a TLC Book Tour

So here we come to the final installment of the Passing Bells trilogy, with A Future Arrived.

A Future Arrived











I’m sad to see the series end.  To be sure, I have mixed feelings about the trilogy.  Touted as a companion to Downton Abbey, it’s almost completely different from Downton Abbey in that there is less about the lives of the servants downstairs and more about the lives of the beautiful and rich upstairs.  But that alone, is not a reason to discount the trilogy.  If you yearn for the recent historical past, you’ll love this series too.

I love a writer who can keep up with all of the character’s lives, introduce new characters and not get too convoluted in the telling and merging of their stories.  I believe Rock has done this well.  Now, in book three, I am reminded of why I liked or hated the characters from book 1, but am still able to enjoy the lives of the newer characters as they struggle with the similar problems of war.  The grandson of Lord Greville is now a main character, as well as the young brother in law of our favorite reporter, American cousin Martin Rilke.  The Grevilles have stopped yearning for the Edwardian days and have accepted the future and the mixing of social classes. Not that they really had a choice.

During the course of the series I’ve learned the ins and outs that led up to World War I.  I feel as if I’ve become an expert.  I also feel like I was experiencing life in the trenches and on the streets of London.  Post WWI I feel as if I was taking a slight vacation and allowed to have a little fun and relax.  I was also aware that WWII would come and I wasn’t sure how Rock would introduce our characters to it.  Rock did not disappoint, he provided a thorough look at how life can be ruined by war.  Interestingly enough, given that I learned about war was from the American viewpoint, I feel as if I have a broader understanding of how ugly and devastating war is.

If you don’t like war stories or need a bit more of an emotional setting, this is not the book for you, but if you want to develop relationships with characters, this trilogy will satisfy you just fine.

I give this book 3 paws.

Unconventional Librarian 3 paws


Books Non Fiction

A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead a TLC Blog Tour

Close your eyes and visualize with me for a minute.  France, 1930s, and women.  What comes to mind? Do you think of:

The Eiffel Tower?  Yes.  What about:


baguettes? Probably.

Do you think about fashionable french women?

courtesy tumblr.the1930s


But what about Hitler? Death Camps? Antisemitism? War or resistance?

These are topics you probably don’t naturally associate with France unless you know your French history.

A train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead, provides one of the most thorough investigations into women’s roles during the German occupation in World War II.  It is incredible to discover that regular women, housewives and mothers, became resistors to the war effort.

These brave and clever women made bombs, transported secret documents, and organized clandestine meetings right underneath the watchful German eye during the occupation of France.



These are the faces of powerful young women in France during the 1930s.

These incredible women performed acts that they knew were dangerous and could and would and did cost some of them their lives.  But they did them anyway.  They hid their children with relatives.  They often lived nomadic lives rarely sleeping in the same home twice.  And what I find most incredible about this?  They did not have the modern conveniences we have today.  There was no hairdryer or take out when they were hungry and needed a quick bite.  They couldn’t text a girlfriend to see if they could sleep at her apartment.  There was no GPS to track where their loved ones were being held prisoner.

None of that. But yet they persisted because they fought for what they believed in.  Many of these women were sent to concentration camps for being a Jewess or helping Jews or for resisting the Nazi occupation. They were beaten, gassed, shot, or worse.   Some of these women formed friendships during this incredibly difficult time.

So what can you take away from a fact heavy book like this?  That being a woman is not limiting, regardless of your situation or the time period in which you live.  It takes a bunch of ordinary women to make something extraordinary happen.  A train in Winter will force you to look at French women differently.

Perhaps you will catch some of their joi de vivre?


I give A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead four paws for its powerful depiction of women fighting for Jewish rights.