The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet a #Cybils middle grade finalist

The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet

So much packed into The Orphan Band of Springdale. It covers so many issues yet still manages to be a tender, touching story.

It’s 1941, and tensions are rising in the United States as the Second World War rages in Europe. Eleven-year-old Gusta’s life, like the world around her, is about to change. Her father, a foreign-born labor organizer, has had to flee the country, and Gusta has been sent to live in an orphanage run by her grandmother. Nearsighted, snaggletoothed Gusta arrives in Springdale, Maine, lugging her one precious possession: a beloved old French horn, her sole memento of her father. But in a family that’s long on troubles and short on money, how can a girl hang on to something so valuable and yet so useless when Gusta’s mill-worker uncle needs surgery to fix his mangled hand, with no union to help him pay? Inspired by her mother’s fanciful stories, Gusta secretly hopes to find the coin-like “Wish” that her sea-captain grandfather supposedly left hidden somewhere. Meanwhile, even as Gusta gets to know the rambunctious orphans at the home, she feels like an outsider at her new school — and finds herself facing patriotism turned to prejudice, alien registration drives, and a family secret likely to turn the small town upside down.

I love reading a book about a girl who plays a musical instrument. How about you?

Diversity Reading Challenge

2017 Diversity Reading Challenge: How’d You Do in March?

So March has come and gone; let’s check in and see how we did in the Diversity Reading Challenge, ok? Here’s what I read:

Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. My review is here.

Wonderful You: An Adoption Story by Lauren McLaughlin; illustrated by Meilo So. You’ll find my review here.

The Rock Maiden: A Chinese Tale of Love and Loyalty by Natasha Yim Illustrated by Pirkko Vainio. Find the review here.

Bud Not Buddy counts as a book written by or for African American young men. Adoption, unfortunately isn’t one of the topics of this year’s Diversity Reading Challenge but since the family depicted in the book are brown skinned we will assume they are people of color; so it counts. I also think adoption counts as diversity. And finally, a book containing an Asian main character is satisfied with Rock Maiden, which is about a Chinese family.

How’d you do? Share your titles with me, I’d love to hear them.



Diversity Reading Challenge

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

I have been wanting to read a book by Pam Munoz Ryan (Hey we have the same first name!!) for a while now.

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Echo is a delight. The book is mildly complicated so it’s probably best for older tweens. By complicated I mean that there are several stories interwoven with one common thread. If your reader is not able to follow a story like this, it will seem like work.

I’ll admit, it was tough for me to adjust to each different characters’ story after I had just gotten emotionally connected to them. The payoff, of course, in the end was so worth it! If your reader loves history, music, people of color, good triumphing over evil, etc, kind of stories, then this is the book for them.  As a former musician, the music references within the story take you deep inside yourself and you’re able to connect with the characters so much more.

The fact that each child overcame difficult life situations will also uplift the reader. I was so sad the book had to end.

And OH how I want a harmonica! Also book 1 of the 2016 Diversity Reading Challenge! One of the main characters is a young Hispanic girl.

Books Children

The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis


The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis

You know I’m all about books with pirates, right? Good or bad, ugly or princess, if there’s a pirate in it, I want to read it!

You also know that I love a good opening line in a book. It sets the tone and if done accurately opens up a world of wonder.  Here’s the first line of The Map to Everywhere:

Fin crouched behind a rack of bootleg flavors, trying hard to ignore the taste of rat fu and broccoli juice seeping from the grungy bottles.

Love it! Makes me want to barf and run away at the same time.  But it also lets you know that the author(s) have some good stuff in store for you.

map to everywhere

To Master Thief Fin, an orphan from the murky pirate world of the Khaznot Quay, the Map is the key to finding his mother. To suburban schoolgirl Marrill, it’s her only way home after getting stranded on the Pirate Stream, the magical waterway that connects every world in creation. With the help of a bumbling wizard and his crew, they must scour the many worlds of the Pirate Stream to gather the pieces of the Map to Everywhere–but they aren’t the only ones looking. A sinister figure is hot on their tail, and if they can’t beat his ghostly ship to find the Map, it could mean the destruction of everything they hold dear!

I have a sneaky suspicion this will be a series and we’re going to find out what other trouble Fin and friends can get into.  Think Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean meet something; Oliver Twist maybe?

I dunno but I can’t wait for the next book. Sign me up, matey!




My Thoughts on the Frozen Craze. I don’t get it!?!




It’s all the rage right now. You have to live under a rock to not have heard of it! My youngest is a teenager now so I’m kinda out of the loop with these kinds of things. Many of my friends, however, are crazy for it! Since I remember those days fondly of singing theme songs with my own little ones, I felt I needed to investigate and discover what all the fuss was about. As a side note, we have requests to host Frozen tea parties at the bookstore where I work.  Here’s a pic of one from a little while back.


Isn’t it pretty?  So, I just HAD to know what all the fuss was about! After reading one of the books, here’s what I discovered:

  • Two sisters, who are PRINCESSES are orphaned
  • One of them has magic powers and hurts the other one
  • There is a snowman named Olaf
  • One becomes Queen but is unhappy
  • The other one falls in love but the guy is a jerk
  • The next guy she falls in love with tries to kill her sister with the magic powers
  • She steps in, saves her sister’s life and they all live happily ever after

Ok so I may have abbreviated just a bit. I was reading a Little Golden Book version which may have oversimplified the story. But here’s the question, do young girls need a love story?

I’m thinking back to every single fairy tale I’ve ever read and loved. The key to each story was find your Prince  Charming and your life will be instantly better.  And now that I have a teenaged girl (GAH!) I wonder if that’s the message I want planted in her brain.

I’m all for dressing up and feeling special and having a good time.  I’m just not sure that the message of finding your one true love still holds true in today’s society?

To be sure, Idina Menzel does rock as a singer.  I have yet to hear the song all the way through, but what I’ve heard is good.

What are your thoughts on Frozen? Am I off the mark? Overthinking? Too feminist thinking? A scrooge?  Tell me!

Books Young Adult

The Genius of Little Things by Larry Buhl

Happy Monday!

Here’s a video book review I cooked up just for you…

bon appetit!

This is a great sleeper, don’t let it pass you by; it reminds me of John Green mixed with Napolean Dynamite.


I give it four paws due to the OCD and foster family issues!

Unconventional Librarian 4paws


Adult Fiction Books Reviews

The Whipping Club by Deborah Henry – TLC book tour

Wow.  I can honestly say I’m embarrassed for being so late on this review.  I apologize for my delay; life has a way of getting in the way.

That said, let’s talk about The Whipping Club!

I’m not sure where to begin when discussing this story.  The setting is Ireland in the early mid century and a young Catholic girl and a young Jewish boy fall in love and she gets pregnant.  The girl goes away to a vicious Mother Baby home and inadvertently gives her baby up for adoption.  Meanwhile, she and her sweetheart marry and produce a daughter together.  Relatively happily married, the knowledge of the presence of the child born before their marriage starts to impose on their lives.

Interfaith marriages are highly controversial in mid century Ireland, with Jews being likened to Africans of another race (I believed Nurse referred to one as a nig nog).  There is political strife in Northern Ireland, interfaith problems with the grandparents, and now the knowledge that not only does the child given up for adoption live locally, the child survives under incredibly harsh and violent treatment at an orphanage and later a home for boys.

I was sickened and outraged at the violence against children in this book. I kept forgetting that this was not America, and while our history has not been perfect, these kinds of horrors are almost forgotten in the general population.  Because these violent acts against children took place in another country, I was constantly angry, saying to myself “you can’t do that!!!” or “this is America!!”, which of course, changes nothing.

It is no wonder that in this day people from Tom Brokaw’s greatest generation are often so quiet when it comes to discussing certain injustices; they just want to put it all behind them.

Another difficulty I had with the book was the way in which Deborah Henry told the story; at times we were in the present then just as quickly we were flashing back.  I found it confusing at times to keep up.

All in all, Henry has a well written story that, with the right audience, could be a winner!

I give the story 3 paws for ethnic diversity and the in depth study of a Jewish lifestyle.

Unconventional Librarian 3 paws