Sunday, January 25, 2015

Books the kids recommend

My kids are avid readers. I'm always asking them, "What books do you recommend again?" as people email or post on forums asking for books for kids.

So here is my kids' list of favorite books. We skew toward fantasy, light sci-fi, and nonfiction around here. Please add your favorite middle grade and YA books in the comments!

The kids' favorite books and authors:

What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World, by Henry Clark (this is one of my all-time favorite books, too)

The Underland Chronicles Series, by Suzanne Collins

Warriors Series, by Erin Hunter

Wings of Fire Series, by Tui Sutherland

Keeper of the Lost Cities Series, by Shannon Messenger

Rick Riordan Books (all of his)

Dr. Seuss Books

Calvin and Hobbes books (all of them), by Bill Waterson

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

The City of Ember Series, by Jean DuPrau

The Magic Treehouse Series

The Ender Series, by Orson Scott Card

The Pokemon Manga (and games)

Geronimo Stilton series, by Geronimo Stilton

Dragonbreath series, by Ursula Vernon

The 39 Clues series (authors vary)

Shark Wars, by E. J. Altbacker

The Ever Afters, by Shelby Bach

Tales of the Frog Princess, by E. D. Baker

The Spiderwick Chronicles, by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

The NERDS series, by Michael Buckley

How to Train Your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell

The Space Station Rat books, by Michael J. Daley

Jean Craighead George's books

The Dragon Slippers Trilogy, by Jessica Day George

The Tuesdays at the Castle series, by Jessica Day George

The Dinotopia books, by James Gurney

Redwall, by Brian Jaqcues

The Dragon Keepers Series, by Kate Klimo

Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist by R. L. LaFevers

Guardians of Ga’Hoole, by Kathryn Lasky

Wolves of the Beyond, by Kathryn Lasky
Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull

Mouse Guard, by David Petersen

The Silverwing Trilogy, by Kenneth Oppel

Darkwing, by Kenneth Oppel

Tales of the Frog Princess, by E. D. Baker

Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians Series, by Brandon Sanderson

Walls Within Walls, by Maureen Sherry

Escape from Mister Lemoncello's Library, by Chris Grabenstein

Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City, by Kirsten Miller

The Animorphs Series, by K. A. Applegate

Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling

The Narnia Series, by C.S. Lewis

Beverly Cleary books

Hardy Boys books

Little House on the Prairie Series (believe it or not, this is a favorite of 4-6 yo boys, too)

Sherlock Holmes stories, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson

The Book of Mormon

The Big Bad Book of Botany, by Michael Largo

Deadly Outbreaks, by Alexandra Levitt

Nazi Hunters, by Neil Bascomb

Garfield books, by Jim Davis

Tales of the Cryptids, by Kelly Milner Halls

Blender for Dummies, by Jason van Gumster

Software Synthesizers (but this has a language alert!), by Jim Aiken

Captain Underpants books, by Dav Pilkey

Ripley's Believe it or Not books

That's Weird, by Kendall Haven

What Makes Flamingos Pink, by Bill McLain

Bill Pete books

Spirit Animals Series, by Brandon Mull and various other authors

Books recommended to my kids by others (many of my favorite books are on this list):

The Hero and the Crown (by Robyn McKinley)

The Blue Sword (by Robyn McKinley)

The 'Bet You Can' and 'Bet You Can't' science series

Ronia, the Robber's Daughter (Astrid Lindgren)

Poison (Bridget Zinn)

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E.L. Konigsburg)

Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli)

The Princess Bride (William Goldman)

The Last Unicorn (Peter S Beagle)

The Ordinary Princess (M.M. Kaye)

The Neverending Story (Michael Ende)

The Dark is Rising series (Susan Cooper)

The Jungle Book (Lisa Church)

Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)

Peter Pan (J.M. Barrie)

The Tale of Desperaux (Kate DiCamillo)

Half Magic (Edward Eager)

The Velveteen Rabbit (Margery Williams)

The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)

Dune (Frank Herbert)

The Scarlet Pimpernel (Emmuska Orczy)

Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren)

Rapunzel's Revenge (Shannon Hale)

Inkheart (Cornelia Funke)

Wildwood Dancing (Juliet Marillier)

Shadow Spinner (Susan Fletcher)

Isaac Asimov (Fantastic Voyage)

The Earth Dwellers, Adventures in the Land of Ants (nonfiction,Erich Hoyt)

The Brothers Lionheart (Astrid Lindgren)

The Hiding Place (Corrie Ten Boom)

My Hundred Children (Lena Kuchler-Silberman)

Farmer Giles of Ham (J.R.R. Tolkien)

Uglies series (Scott Westerfield)

Seventh Son series (Orson Scott Card)

My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George)

The Graveyard Book and Coraline (Neil Gaiman)

Animal Farm (George Orwell)

Finn the Wolfhound (Alec John Dawson)

The Secret of Platform 13 (Eva Ibbotson)

The Great Brain (John D. Fitzgerald)

Howliday Inn & Bunnicula (James Howe)

The Trumpet of the Swan (E.B. White)

The Incredible Journey (Sheila Burnford)

Heidi (Johanna Spyri)

Where the Red Fern Grows

White Stallion of Lipizza (Marguerite Henry)

The Martian Chronicles (Ray Bradbury)

Flatland (Edwin A. Abbott)

The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank)

Understood Betsy (Dorothy Canfield Fisher)

The Princess and the Goblin & The Princess and Curdie
(George MacDonald)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series (Douglas Adams)

An Them There Were None (Agatha Christie)

All Creatures Great and Small series by James Herriot

Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien

My Sparkling Misfortune and My Royal Pain Quest (absolutely hilarious!)

Which Witch by Eva Ibbotson

White Fang

Cinder (The second book in the series, Scarlet, might not be considered clean because of the kissing scene, but the first book is fabulous)

The Time Machine

The Wizard of Oz

Treasure Island

Emily of New Moon series by L.M. Montgomery

The Looking Glass Wars series by Frank Beddor (inspired by Alice's Adventures in wonderland)

Queen Zixi of Ix by L. Frank Baum.

Books by Heather Choate

The original 1923 Bambi, A Life in the Woods (Felix Salten, translated to English in 1928 by Whittaker Chambers)

 Taran Wanderer series (Lloyd Alexander)

Black Stallion series (Walter Farley)

Leviathan series (Scott Westerfeld)

Earthsea trilogy (Ursula K. Le Guin)

Pit Dragon Trilogy (Jane Yolen)

A Little Princess (Francis H. Burnet)

Dragon Drums trilogy (Anne McCaffrey)

A Wrinkle in Time (Madeline L'Engle)

Peter and the Starcatchers



Island of the Blue Dolphins (I loved this when I was a wee one).

The Water Fight Professional

The Sisters Grimm series

The Key of Kilenya series by Andrea Pearson

The Beyonders series

Ranger's Apprentice

Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck

The Alliance

Cryptic Hunters series

The Emerald Atlas Series

Lemony Snicket's books

The Westing Game

The Melendy Quartet by Elizabeth Enright (starts with The Four Story Mistake.) 

The Trolley Car Family

Lad: A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune.....has a few words that I didn't know, as it was written in 1919.....But GREAT book!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Did I just read that?

"Musician Dies Between Sets at Lakeview Bar"   (

What I want to know is how did he manage to do the second set?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Jack turns on the cute

Jack has always been exceptionally cute. Last night took the cake, though.

Tim was holding Emmeline on our bed so I could get ready to sleep, and Jack climbed up and sat beside him. Tim was doing the universal baby bounce-and-sway to keep Emmeline content (you know the one--same one you find yourself doing to that bag of flour while you're waiting in line at the grocery store when the newborn is a month old).

When I came into the bedroom, Tim said, "Look at Jack."  I glanced over and Jack was drinking his milk and doing the same bounce-and-sway that Tim was doing.

SO cute.

A little later, Jack looked at me and said, "Daddy Dance." and started doing the little swaying bounce again.  "Daddy dance with Embaline." 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Jack, 2, teacher Emmeline the important things

Jack is pretty excited about his new little sister.

Today, he found his first chance to teach her the important lessons of life.  I was changing her diaper--messy--and he saw her flailing her arms around.   "Oh! Oh! Don't touch poop!" he said earnestly to her. "Yucky! Oh! Don't touch poop!"

Important lessons from one diaper-clad child to another.

Baby 8 Came!

Finally got baby #8 here, and we're all so glad.

It was super fast.

At 5:40 am, I woke up because Jack said something beside me in bed. I noticed I was having tiny contractions and thought I should time them.

At 6:00 am, I realized the contractions were 3-7 minutes apart and thought maybe I should get up.

At 6:15 I realized I had to get up because I had started bleeding.

At 6:30 I woke up Tim. I got Jack distracted, Tim showered, I collected the stuff we needed and asked Anda to get up and watch Jack (as we had planned).

At 7:00 am, we walked into the hospital and I was very, very uncomfortable.

It just so happened that it was shift change time right then, so I had two teams of nurses at my disposal. As a result, they got everything done double quick, and by 7:30 am I was comfortable with an epidural/spinal combo (best kind--numbs the belly and not much else!).  Phew. So glad that worked out fast fast fast. Too bad the labor moved so fast that within half an hour I was uncomfortable with contractions that were so strong I could feel them through the epidural--but at least the edge was off. I can't imagine surviving those without the epidural. Yikes!

At 8:21 am, Emmeline was born. That fast. She weighed 8 lbs 2 oz, just like Caleb did.

We had a little laugh that our 8th baby came at 8:21 am on the 8th weighing 8 lb 2 oz.  Lotsa 8s!

She was gorgeous. I was relieved. Nurses all came and went and said she was so healthy...soo healthy they didn't even really NEED the doctor to look at her, everyone knew he would sign it all off.

By 9:30 am, Tim was back home with the other kids, feeding and diapering them and telling them the baby came and then having a nap. Now that I write that, it seems kind of unheard of that we'd leave to have a baby and 2 1/2 hours later, Daddy was back home with the other kids because we were totally, totally done and ready to nap.

8 hours later, after Tim had napped (he'd been up all the night before suspecting I was in labor and waiting for me to get up and tell him that, so he'd slept about an hour when I woke him up) and I had napped (childbirth, even the good times, is exhausting) and Emmeline had napped, the kids showed up to visit us at the hospital. I was so happy to see them.

The kids doted on Emmeline and loved her and held her and talked to her and sat on the hospital bed (endlessly fascinating) and pushed the buttons on the bed (I wasn't so happy about that).

Just as they were getting ready to leave, we put the baby down and someone said, "What's wrong with Emmeline?"  I turned and saw she was choking on spit up--clear, thick liquid was coming out her mouth and both nostrils. I sat her up and suctioned her out and she started turning blue and was still choking, so I called the nurse, who rushed in and tried everything I had just tried and then ran her out the door, shouting, "Open the door to the nursery!"  Just so happened that our own baby nurse was standing at the door to the nursery and got it open quickly, and the whole rest of the family just stood there in shock in my room.

When we had arrived at the hospital, we got the last room available--almost directly across from the nursery--and then hiccups kept them leaving us in there even though we were supposed to move to a different room much farther from the nursery. I now consider those hiccups to be miracles. Every single second when your baby isn't breathing is a terrifying eternity.  Trust me. It's horrible.  So the fact that a nurse was at the door of the nursery, that we were directly across from the nurses station and the nursery, that a nurse was available to step in instantly when we needed help (often they just can't come that fast)...all of it was a miraculous combination of circumstances that saved our baby.

To distract the kids, we turned on cartoon and Tim went to check on the baby. The nurses did their jobs well, and Emmeline was fine. They had to use some special suction equipment and essentially vacuum her breathing passages, throat, stomach...and then she needed some pressurized oxygen and a whole bunch of wires and sensors and we all agreed she should stay in the nursery for a while. Reassured that all was well, Tim took the kids home.

I had multiple nurses pop in over the next hour and say, "Good job working fast."  "Good thing you were alert to that."  "Nice work moving so quickly, Momma!"  I wanted to say the same thing to them. Nobody said it out loud, but we all knew that perfectly healthy, gorgeous baby had been a real risk of brain damage or death.

She was barely pink again 2 hours later when it happened again! I was in my room, but the Nurse Practitioner said it took them by surprise because Emmeline was absolutely silent, and had the alarms not gone off, the nurses wouldn't have noticed even that she was choking. They saved her life again, and a couple hours later baby was ready to nurse but so sleepy from all the trauma.

So we all agreed she should stay in the nursery overnight because what if that happened while I was sleeping? She made nary a peep and would have died.

Overnight, though, she improved and soon could spit up and spit it out without choking. They got all the mucous and gunk out. Apparently slow birthing processes squeeze all that junk out of the baby's airways, and quick births like we had get them swallowing even more gunk and not squeezing any of it out. Most of my other kids who had quick births just vomited it all up and it was okay, but Emmeline's gunk was too thick, and she tries to swallow it instead of spitting it, so she was in serious danger.

She was good enough by today, though, that she got to come home with us. Didn't have to stay the extra day we anticipated (thank goodness!), and we all have watched her take care of spit appropriately.

But it was very scary for me.

And, even though I longed for a home birth for my last baby or two, I am so glad we went to the hospital for this one. Even if we'd had a qualified, properly equipped midwife for the birth at home, we still would have lost this baby because the issues showed up 8 hours later, after baby had been so perfectly, gorgeously healthy that no midwife would still have been around with pressurized oxygen and vacuums for airways. Even if she had survived, the time it would have taken for an ambulance to get here would have probably left her brain damaged.

So now I understand why all the nurses I know say, "Just have your baby at the hospital. You never know what will happen."

As much as I craved the peace and serenity of a good home birth, and as much as I despise the trauma and hurry and stress and needles and being subject to everyone else's systems and lack of privacy and discomfort of the hospital way of giving birth....

I can't deny it saved my baby's life.

It's worth it.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Thinking about police in the US

How can you not think about the police in the US right now?  It's all over the big cities and the news.

I keep feeling like people are missing asking the right questions, though.

I would love to see two questions addressed thoroughly:

1.  Why don't people follow police officer's instructions? (I have yet to hear a story that didn't involve someone refusing to follow officers' instructions as the catalyst.) This is not, in my mind, a rhetorical question.  I really want to know--what is going on in people's minds that makes it seem like it is a better idea NOT to obey?


2.  Why are the cops apparently overreacting? (or are they?)

I guess the third question that should be asked is 3. What do we want our society to look like and how do police fit into that?

Of course, each question leads to many, many more...

Like Are the cops scared for their lives all the time? Why?

And  Are people so afraid of what cops will do that they can't fathom obeying them? Why?

And Where is the line between understanding that criminals are human beings (and so treating them with dignity and respect as humans) and letting them get away with crime rather than enforcing the law (which might hurt their feelings or interfere with their activities)?

In the 1980s, people were so horrified at the criminality of big cities that they insisted that the police fix it. And they did--by working hard to enforce the "little laws" (ie not urinating in public, no graffiti, not selling unpackaged cigarettes), which cut down on breaking of the "big laws" (ie murder, rape, carjackings).  But lately it seems like people are coming down on the side of allowing people to break the "little laws" rather than....hurting their feelings?....without any sense that any amount of lawlessness leads to massive amounts of lawlessness really, really fast.   While there are many cases of the police using force where someone actually didn't break any laws (except for not obeying instructions from a police officer), there are many more cases where the person involved was breaking a "little law" and then resisted the police officers. And ended up dead. And yes, that does seem excessive, to end up dead for some misdemeanor offense, but does that mean we don't allow officers to enforce the "little laws" for fear they will do something wrong themselves?

I end up with lots of other questions that aren't be addressed, like is the militarization of police a cause or an effect?  If we disarm the cops but don't disarm the robbers (because really, how do you disarm the robbers? They are functioning outside the law as it is, so more laws won't help.), where does that leave the average citizen?

Also, I keep finding myself asking, "If you, as a member of a group (religious, cultural, racial, whatever) see members of your group doing heinous things (jihad, being thugs, running drugs), and you DON'T come out publicly to condemn that, how can you insist that you don't own part of the reputation the group gets from the idiots and criminals?" Reputations are rarely created whole-cloth and imposed on people. They are usually earned by someone (and then sometimes unfairly applied to others).   But if the Muslims don't want to carry the reputation as terrorists, and the inner-city minorities as criminals, and the hispanics as drug cartel members, shouldn't they be actively fighting those "members of their group" (even just those perceived as members of their groups)--or at least speaking out against them?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Did I just read that?

"Crash tests with human dummies have confirmed the material efficiently absorbs energy and protects passengers from “secondary impacts”—i.e., slamming into the wall or a seat back when the train lurches unexpectedly. "

I guess you'd have to be a dummy to volunteer for crash tests.   Human dummies abound. Some animals are dummies, too.