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March 2019


By General No Comments

We recently returned from a family vacation. For months, we carefully planned our trip – the destination city, the perfect location to stay, visits to museums and World Heritage Sites, and not-to-be-missed foods. It was a lovely time! It is after times like these, we ask, “What was your favorite part?”

As I thought about it, I found that it was not the carefully-planned outing or the world famous spots that stood out as the most cherished moments. It was the unexpected happenings – the SURPRISES that brought me the most delight! It was stumbling upon a beautiful street market, accidentally arriving in time for a free concert, and the sheer size of a huge painting!

The very word shouted aloud makes the heart beat a little faster, the eyes perk up a little brighter, and (hopefully) a startled look dissolve into a wide smile and laughter. Some of us love surprises more than others; nevertheless, surprises jolt us out of the mundane activities of life.

Isn’t that something that all great books share? A surprising plot twist. An unpredicted action by a favorite character. A truly tragic series of events. An amicable resolution of a conflict.

Great authors cause us to hold our breath while we read on to see if our hero makes it out of a treacherous situation. Great books prompt us to stay up way past our bedtime because we just MUST see what happens! Great stories surprise and delight us.

What are some books that surprised you?

Lakeland Elementary School Students Celebrate Read Across America with Book Drive for Kids

By What's Happening No Comments

LEWISVILLE, Texas – March 21, 2019 – In early March, all across the country schools celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday with a campaign to promote reading called Read Across America. Children and adults alike are familiar with Dr. Seuss (real name Theodor Seuss Geisel), who revolutionized children’s books by creating fun characters like The Cat in the Hat and zany experiences like eating Green Eggs and Ham.

On Friday, March 1, Book Drive for Kids, a local non-profit organization, joined the festivities at Lakeland Elementary School in Lewisville, Texas. With a generous sponsorship from Independent Bank, Book Drive for Kids hosted a free book fair for all 800 students. “At Book Drive for Kids, our mission is to create enthusiasm for reading and we do that by providing books that children can take home and call their own,”  says Michelle Cook, co-founder of Book Drive for Kids. At these free book fairs, every student chooses a book from a variety of genres. “The kids are so excited to get the books. It is a great way to spend the day,” remarks Lakeland librarian DeVona Williams.

“When we heard about this celebration, we were excited to support Lakeland Elementary School,” says Chuck Clay of Independent Bank. Book Drive for Kids is a grassroots organization run by volunteers and donations from the community. “It was so much fun!” exclaims Dottie Francis of Independent Bank. “We had an amazing time!” adds Rebekah Carpus, who volunteered along with her college-aged daughters Mikayla and Abigail.

Book Drive for Kids offers free book fairs for economically disadvantaged children in the DFW area. It was started two years ago by Flower Mound residents, Nicol Klingenstein and Michelle Cook.  “When we learned that there were families with few if any, children’s books in their homes, we knew we had to do something about it. Reading with our own children had a profound impact on them as well as ourselves. Every child, regardless of their zip code, deserves to ignite their imagination through books.” If you would like to know more about Book Drive for Kids, please visit the website or Facebook page.

Book Review

By Book Reviews No Comments

Looking for some thrilling adventures? Check out a few of our family favorites! These Adventure chapter books can be read independently by older elementary children but are excellent read-alouds for kindergarten to adult.

Adventure Chapter books (series)
#1 The Wilderking series
By Jonathon Rogers

The Bark of the Bog Owl
(The Wilderking Trilogy #1)
By Jonathon Rogers
Read aloud – all ages; Independent read 4th grade and up.

“What if I am destined to be the Wilderking? How should I live?”
“The same way you should live if you weren’t the Wilderking. Live the life that unfolds before you. Love goodness more than you fear evil.”

The Bark of the Bog Owl is a mixture of Huck Finn, The Chronicles of Narnia, and the Biblical story of David & Goliath. Set in the mythical land of Corenwald, Aidan Errolson is destined to be the Wilderking to save his beloved country from the deceitful Pyrthians. Just a teenager, he is an unlikely warrior-king, and his stories of Dobro, the feechie, just complicate his credibility. Readers can sympathize with Aidan’s struggles and doubts, yet his unshakeable love of country and commitment to integrity propel him forward. His friend Dobro provides more than a few chuckles.
The Bark of the Bog Owl is a lovely read-aloud for the entire family. It has all the great elements of a strong story – humor, mystery, adventure, and underlying truths that encourage us all to “Love goodness more than you fear evil.”

Adventure Chapter books (series)
#2 Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School
By Andrew Clements

Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School: We the Children
Written by Andrew Clements
Ages 7-10

“First and always, my school belongs to the children. DEFEND IT. Duncan Oakes 1783”

This is the inscription on the gold coin given to Ben, a sixth grader at Oakes School, by the ancient janitor Mr. Keane, right before he fell over dead in the school hallway. His last words conveyed an urgency for Ben to protect the school and keep it from being torn down in the name of progress. Ben and his friend, Jill, start looking for answers. It turns out that Captain Oakes, the school’s founder, left clues, artifacts, and other tools that the children hope will keep the only school they have ever known from being demolished and the quaint history of their town unblemished by the construction of an amusement park.

The Keepers of the School is a six-volume set. It is very suspenseful without the use of magic or fantasy. Ben and Jill (and later Robert) follow the clues in an effort to save their school. The children do real detective work and learn historical information along the way. They learn to work together and the power of friendship. Written for middle grades, this series will engage even the most reluctant of readers as the mystery unfolds. Will Ben and his friends be able to save the Oakes School?

Andrew Clements is a favorite children’s author who writes about ordinary people and often uses the school setting, which is so relevant to children. His books are a nice balance of humor, suspense, and genuine characters. Some of his other books include Frindle, Lunch Money, The School Story, and Janitor’s Boy.

Adventure Chapter books (series)
Tucket’s Travels: Mr. Tucket, book 1
By Gary Paulsen

Mr. Tucket (The Francis Tucket books #1)
Written by Gary Paulsen

“Happy Birthday, Francis,” his father said, smiling. “We figured that it was about time you had one of these.” Francis was really puzzled, until his fingers tore away some of the paper. He didn’t need to unwrap it all to know what it was.”

Mr. Tucket is the first installment in a five-volume series about Francis Tucket and his family’s journey to Oregon during America’s Westward Expansion. In 1847, Francis and his family leave their farm in Kansas for a new life. Francis receives his own rifle for his 14th birthday and lags behind, practicing his shooting. Soon he is captured by Pawnee Indians. Will he get away? If he does, how will he survive alone in the wilderness?

Mr. Tucket is a great adventure story loved by children and adults alike. The reader will be transported into the difficulties faced by early settlers of the American West. Paulsen’s knowledge of the living in the wilderness provides detailed descriptions of Francis and his struggles. Young readers can relate to Francis’ efforts to be grown-up. All readers will enjoy the adventure, humor, and excitement of these Western tales. Along the way, they’ll also gain an appreciation for early settlers in the American West.

Adventure Chapter books (series)
Madeleine Takes Command
Living History Library

By Ethel C. Brill

“What is your plan, Ma’m’selle?” the older solider inquired.
“To defend the seigneury to the last. The little children must stay in the blockhouse and their mothers with them That leaves only six of us …We are fighting for our people-what there are left of them-for our country and our faith. Let us fight to the death if need be.”

Madeleine Takes Command is a based on the true facts of how in 1692 Madeleine de Vercheres, a French Canadian settler, her two younger brothers, and a handful of settlers defended the family estate against the Mohawk Indians until help arrived. Her parents were away at the fur-trading center of Montreal when the Indians trapped most of the men when they were farming the land outside the garrison. Madeleine’s quick thinking, courage, and leadership motivate the remaining settlers to hold off the Indians.

Madeleine Takes Command vividly portrays the dangers and hardships of settling the new frontier. It portrays the struggles of both the French settlers and the Indians in whose land they were seeking to develop. Madeleine’s story is a remarkable story for young people, females in particular. She is a worthy character to imitate.

Reading about history really makes places come alive! We read this book aloud as a family before we took a family trip to Quebec. We stood on the banks of the very river that Madeleine watched her mother sail away and from which she hoped and prayed help would arrive. We looked across the plains and imagined the settlers hunting and farming as described in the Madeleine’s story. We felt we were in Madeleine’s time. That is the power of an amazing story….it transports us to places we haven’t been. Then if we are fortunate enough to actually visit there, it feels familiar and like an old friend.

Madeleine Takes Command is one book in the Living History Library series. Each book in the series portrays an actual historical period and persons from the perspective of children. We have read many of them and they are an excellent way to learn and experience history. Check them all out!