American Girl: Ultimate Visual Guide

Have I ever mentioned I love American Girl? If not, here’s a book to remind you of a great company and story:

636071411154411042-9781465444967-2-In the 1980s, Pleasant T. Rowland had a remarkable idea. Inspired by the history of our country and the true heroics of girls both past and present, she would create a company for girls. There would be dolls, books, and whole stories created for girls and their mothers to enjoy together. In 1986, that dream became a reality when the first three American Girl dolls debuted: Kirsten Larson, Samantha Tarkington, and Molly McIntire. Girls eagerly bought and used these first dolls and the company slowly expanded, first adding new wardrobe collections for their first dolls, then adding characters Samantha Tarkington (in 1990), Felicity Merriman (1991), Addy Walker (1993), and finally Josefina Montoya (1997). As the company kept expanding, more stories, more characters, and more merchandise was introduced. Girls could now get dolls that looked like them, go to an American Girl store with their doll, and read American Girl magazine with their doll. As the 21st century began, Pleasant Company became American Girl company and two new dolls were released: Kit Kittredge, an aspiring reporter in the midst of the Great Depression, and Lindsey Bergman, an animal lover whose facing a brand new century. As the years have progressed, American Girl thrived, introducing their line of contemporary characters (which later became Girl of the Year), new historical characters (Ivy Ling and Julie Albright, along with Rebecca Rubin a few years later), and Truly Me (dolls that look like American Girls). Pleasant T. Rowland’s dream to celebrate American history and girls at the same time has become a huge success and it was wonderful to read the story.

First off, I had to have mentioned I love American Girl before. I grew up on it. I read the american women list mainhistorical books for years. I remember reading my first catalogue when I was about six or seven. Mia was the girl of the year back then, but what really intrigued me were the historical characters. Kit Kittredge and Felicity Merriman were my personal favorites, with their spunky outlook on life and the courage to do things in a time when that seemed impossible. I loved horses and I loved (and still love) writing like Kit. I was delighted to discover, when reading this book, that Kit debuted around the same timeline I was born! Coincidence?

My sisters and I have spent years with American Girl. Our tenth birthdays centered around it and we each have a doll (mini doll that is) of our favorite character. It’s been such a joy to have them and to read the books. I truly love American Girl and this book is such an ode to that kind of joy. So many girls have shared and loved American Girl. A whole generation has passed that is now mothers and is sharing American Girl with their daughters. This book is such a wonderful, colorful celebration of that. I highly recommend it.

Chime Time?  Who’s your favorite AG character?

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Happy B-Day, Dr. Seuss!

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Today marks the anniversary of a great man’s life. His books were a joy to all and have been the subject of TV shows, movies, cartoons, and more! My personal favorites are Oh the Things You Can ThinkGreen Eggs and Ham, and the classic Cat in the Hat. While I volunteer at a library event celebrating today, I hope you have time to reflect on some of your favorite Dr. Seuss books and stories.

To compound on his whimsical themes, I’ve compiled some pretty good Seuss quotes:

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I love all of these quotes. But one of my favorites is almost our library’s un-official motto:

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Which Seuss quote is your favorite?

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Word of Mouse

“No matter the temperature, home is always colder when there’s no family to share it with.” -Isaiah

In a mad dash to escape the terrible labs where he’s been raised, Isaiah is separated from 516gwmzh4cl-_sx342_bo1204203200_his family. Alone in the suburbs and the outside world for the first time, he must survive on his own. With the help of the charming Mikayla and her mischief, Isaiah finds his courage and becomes a great mouse in his own right. But blue-furred and different as he is, he may never fit into the mouse world. But with the meeting of a human girl named Hailey, Isaiah discovers the human world, where not all two-legged creatures are out to stick a needle into him. Armed with the truth about his situation and newfound bravery, Isaiah determines it’s time to rescue his family – once and for all.

This new children’s book is a delightful read. Full of funny quips, quotes, and sayings from the plucky Isaiah, Word of Mouse is a delight that will warm all hearts and make you want to read more of his story. For a huge animal lover, this book ranks high on my list of animal reads. Definitely time spent wisely, I will come back to this book more than once.

Chime Time! What’s your favorite animal book?

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Horus and the Curse of Everlasting Regret

It is the 1930s, decade of some of the greatest monster films of all time. In a sleepy little town, where summers are long and carefree, a great mystery abounds.

24755514Peter is an inventor. All he wants to do is get away from his stepbrothers, who bully and beat him mercilessly. Though his father loves him and his stepmother is kind, both are blind to his situation. And with his father leaving, Peter knows they won’t be restrained from fully rendering him senseless. Petunia is an artist. Her mother taught her how to write in beautiful lettering, with swirls and dips and perfect dots. Now it’s just her and her father, who is deliriously ill. “Tunie” is forced to work for an impatient woman and do double-time for her father’s night shift at the museum. And if she doesn’t get money for a doctor soon, Tunie’s father may die. When both children read about a mysterious kidnapping and discover a live mummy in the museum, they are forced to work together to solve the mystery of what really happened to the kidnapped girl and Horus – before it’s too late.

Written masterfully by Hannah Voskuil,  I found this book months ago but never actually got around to reading. When I finally did I found it to be a delight and an enjoyable journey. This entertaining read is sure to spark a child’s interest in all things “mummy.” The book was also good about telling the story from not only Peter and Tunie’s point of view, but also from Horus’. As a reader, I was thrilled with the narrative and engrossed in such a well-told tale. I highly recommend this book for all with a penchant for the historical and mystical.

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The Notorious Benedict Arnold

It is a dark time for the Americans. As the Revolutionary War rages on, Americans and Brits alike suffer losses. One Benedict Arnold leads a strong force against the British. George Washington trusts this man with his life. Until suddenly the cry of “traitor” can be applied to his friend.

But the story doesn’t start here…

The Arnold family history was one rife with tragedy and success. Benedict Arnold was 91o8ojrwdelactually Arnold the III. Ashamed by his father’s reputation as a drunkard and hopeless fool who lost the family fortune, the boy grew up brash, bold, and headstrong. Those who knew him could be quoted as saying he could not stand public scorn and wished to be in the spotlight. As a young man, he made his way in the world, becoming a wealthy young businessman. Later he became a part of the American army, leading a daring fleet of men to Canada that would be unbelievable to most. Through his rise in the ranks of the American army, Benedict Arnold led remarkable forces and committed reckless, but successful acts that could only be described as amazing. Through public scorn, shame, and scandal, he continued his work for the Americans. His turn to “traitor” is a convoluted tale that will draw readers in and make them question their impressions about this historical figure.

In this well told nonfiction read, Steve Sheinkin takes us into the mysteries of American history and explains a complex man who was not only traitor, but friend and hero. I really enjoyed the story and think Benedict Arnold’s story would actually make a remarkable film extravaganza. His adventures are at times unbelievable, but completely entertaining. His turn to traitor is also one of the most interesting portions of the story, as it was actually more than the simple matter I thought it was. I highly recommend this book for all readers. Parents might think to read through this book with their younger children so they can help them better understand what’s going on. Again, a marvelous read and I highly recommend it!

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Happy Valentine’s!

heart-1192662_960_720To all you readers and bloggers out there, Happy Valentine’s! I hope your day was as full of
love as mine was. Family is the best company and mine sure is some company. And for those of you who are younger, like me and my siblings, remember that Valentine’s is Dia de Amistad in Spanish. That’s “Day of Friendship”, something my grandmother taught me. Remember all those whom you love, whether it be friends or family. Happy Valentine’s!

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Banyon Fire Station

It’s about 10:00 AM. It’s misty, chilly, and for most of the kids, too early to be up. After a quick briefing on the way, we pile into our cars and set off. A quick ten or fifteen minutes later, we have reached Banyon Fire Station.

firetruck-2020742_960_720We are greeted by Mr. Andy Parker. He leads us into the station and through a large garage of sorts into their kitchen. Here we meet the station’s captain, Mr. Roberts. He and Mr. Parker cheerfully explain that they are making a meal. Mr. Parker goes on to explain that at the station, they make 2 fresh meals every day. The fire trucks one might of see in front of a grocery store is because they are in fact shopping. To keep men healthy, food should be fresh. Men do not eat out and, conveniently enough, there is a workout room right next to the kitchen. As Mr. Parker explains fire safety and what would happen to us if they had a call at the station, an alarm sounds. The captain and Mr. Parker vanish out the door and we now meet Mr. Abel Castaneda, who explains he is only present today because there are firefighters testing to become engineers.

Just then, Mr. Parker and the captain return, explaining that they do not have to leave. They continue the tour from where they left off. All the men are trained as paramedics. They also work technical rescue. According to our guides, the station takes care of traffic accidents, fires, and medical emergencies. They leave when pipes break. They’ve actually pulled cats out of a tree. According to Mr. Parker, they’d even pulled an owl out of a tree. They took care of a bear wandering around in Etiwanda last year. My respect for these men grows as they explain the difficulties of their job. Being a firefighter is not for the faint of heart! The job is also rather time-consuming. Men dedicate a third of their lives to this job. A typical shift is 24 hr and men will work 4 shifts in a row; 24 hrs on, 24 hrs off. A usual work week will have 56 hrs on the time card. During the night, the men might be able to sleep. Back in the day, firefighters would take shifts. Now they can all sleep, thanks to a special alarm system.

Mr. Parker leads us out of the kitchen area and gives us a brief look at their sleeping quarters. Mr. Castaneda explains that the station he used to work had barracks. Due to the amount of land they had, the men were able to request regular rooms, with twin beds and a bathroom. We move past to the garage and are given a chance to look at their gear room, where open lockers contain their equipment for easy access. There are two fire engines still remaining, but, as Mr. Castaneda explains to us, the truck that just went out is a fire truck, not a fire engine. Fire trucks primarily carry water and some smaller equipment such as shovels and hoses. Firefighters must be able to detect where the fire is and know where their equipment is. In canyon, cliff, and trench rescues, they have a special vehicle to help. The engineer sits at the front with a headset. He has a backseat where he can store gear and in emergency situations, firefighters might ride.

On the fire engine, Mr. Castaneda shows us their air-fuel station. They strap these to their back and can refuel when necessary. “We look like the Rocketeer,” he laughs. He then shows us their main ladder. It can stretch up to 100 feet and lie at an almost complete vertical angle. He opens another door and shows us where they keep a basket to carry patients. A firefighter will help strap them in. In canyon and trench rescues, he might be lowered down by a helicopter. “We have to be incredibly fast,” Mr. Parker comments, when speaking of the transfer. They have extra equipment and hydraulics in the side of the fire engine. The system works at 5000 to 8000 lbs.

My fellow highschooler gets a chance to pick up a circular saw when opening a new firefighter-920032_960_720cupboard. Inside there are chainsaws as well as the circular saws. These are used to get into the house. These chainsaws have special chains to cut through the roof of a house. Terra-cotta, wood, and other materials can be broken under the weight, pressure, and strength of these saws. In a drawer, they show us sledgehammers and large keys; crowbars and pryers. They have big scoop shovels, safety cones, and brooms. The amount of equipment is staggering. Mr. Castaneda shows us an orange box of medical equipment. This will be carried by the paramedics when they get to patients.

At the back of the engine, there is a compartment for extra ladders and wood blocks. The wood blocks, our guides explain, are used to lift heavy trucks in a traffic accident. They also have air bags and tarps to lift trucks. They have a mapping system for sewer lines and drainage system. This system is accessible for the firefighters at Chaffey. As we close the compartment and go around to the side, Mr. Parker points out a pole in the corner. “We had a rattlesnake over here,” he explains. According to the firefighters, they must deal with snake calls, being so close to the foothills. “So here we are a bunch of tough guys, not wanting to get near the thing!”

On the right side of the fire engine, there are many more compartments. One contains rope bags. Another has a station to refuel air bottles to rescue their own firefighters. According to them, firefighters have fallen on the job and must be rescued by their fellow firefighters. The kids goggle him, in awe at the dangers depicted. In a different cupboard, they have large lights. “In case we knock out the electrical in a house, these are to light up the place,” Mr. Castaneda explains. In the next compartment are tarps. These are to cover valuable objects in a house, such as china and computers. Underneath these, they have a vacuum underneath to pull water out of a house.

Now back at the front of the engine, we thank the firefighters. It’s been a wonderful, informative trip. We gather for a group picture, wearing “helmets” of red plastic and flashing our golden badges. The kids are proud and I am happy to have attended such a delightful trip. My respect for these fighters has increased tenfold. These men are such an important part of our community and they serve us faithfully. We should be grateful to them for all the hard work they do and the amazing services we’ve been paid.

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King Kong – From Fay Wray to Peter Jackson

I picked this informative read  a couple months ago and enjoyed it immensely.

Once upon a time, in Depression-era New York, Carl Denham finds the thrill of a lifetime; kingkongposterthe eighth wonder of the world. There is a magnificent monster chase through the city, a daring battle atop the Empire State building, then a grisly thud. The rest as they say is history. Or is it? This book takes readers behind the scenes, detailing the minds behind Kong’s first steps: Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack, Edgar Wallace, Willis O. Brian (the mentor to famous monster-maker Ray Harryhausen), and more. This book also details the making of the less well known Kong spinoffs from the 30s (Son of Kong, Mighty Joe Young) and the 70s (Queen Kong, King Kong Lives) as well as the high budget remake of 1976. We are given a fascinating look at merchandise, worldwide recognition, and a brief viewing of Peter Jackson’s own action-packed extravaganza.

This book was a great read, especially for a huge fan of the 1933 classic. I love that movie, from its slight cheesiness in Bruce Cabot’s performance, to the special effects that now look doubtful. The script, casting, lighting, everything about that movie was perfect. And I loved reading about how it was done. I was less pleased with the remakes. While I respect Peter Jackson’s vision and the time put into the project, I feel he failed to capture the spirit of the original film (but this is, of course, personal preference). Nevertheless, I enjoyed the read. It was fun to see the enthusiasm, time, and effort put into these films, even the “so-bad-they’re-good” spinoffs.

Chime Time: Which King Kong movies have you seen and which is your favorite?

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Happy B-Day Mouse!

screen-shot-2017-02-07-at-9-12-33-amRecently my sis had her 12th B-Day. Where has the time gone? She’s sprouted up in the last year, had to change jean sizes, and learned pre-algebra. Yup, time has flown. As we welcome in 2017’s promises, I’d pray that she’d have a marvelous year of friendship, fun, and imagination. Happy B-Day , sis.

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The Great Shelby Holmes

“Every writer needs a good story to tell.”

So are the words of John Watson, our guide in this new book for kids. Fun, intriguing, and full of great storytelling moments, this book was a refreshing break from the more serious novels I’ve found, surprisingly enough, in the children’s section. Shelby Holmes is a truly one-of a kind spin-off of our the famous detective. Here is a brief synopsis:

John Watson has never stayed in one place for long. He and his mom are always moving 9781681190518from place to place and this move’s been especially hard, what with his parents’ divorce. This time though, there aren’t a whole lot of new kids eagerly waiting to be best friends with him. Instead there is the plucky, inestimable Shelby Holmes. Despite her obvious annoyance with “Watson”, as she has dubbed him, Shelby becomes his companion and guide through NYC. As a kidnapping takes place and all mayhem breaks loose, Watson invites us to join him on his adventure with Shelby. And maybe Shelby will learn something along the way.

Like I said before, this was a refreshing book. Nowadays I feel that children’s authors can take themselves too seriously, writing books about more tragic and down to earth situations. As a reader (and writer), my goal in reading is escapism. I live life; I want to enjoy something I can’t live. Shelby Holmes brought a perfect blend of mystery, humor, and know-how to the detective genre – at least for kids. I can’t wait to read about more of her exploits.

Chime Time: Who’s your favorite fictional detective? My own personal favorite is Columbo, played by the brilliant Peter Falk.

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