Book Review: Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods

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Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods by Tania del Rio, Illustrations by Will Staehle

What begins as a “Sleeping Beauty” tale transforms into an enchanting fantasy. Warren the 13th is not your average twelve-year-old; he is a caring, responsible, and honest orphan. As the naive groundskeeper, bellhop, and manager of the family hotel, he guides the staff as they tend the guests in his cruising hotel, “where every stay is a go!” Indeed, these traveling hotel guests encounter fanciful settings ranging from the Malwoods captivating forest to raging rivers.

Slippery Sid operates a Sundry Shoppe with magical potions, special oils, notions, and assorted products. This old-fashioned haberdashery is complete as a men’s outfitters and tailor; the shopkeeper also serves as a dentist. Read how the elusive Sid becomes Warren’s imposter and calls himself Warrin.

Ordinary animals with magnificent alterations mesmerize readers in grades four through ten. Those who appreciate Tim Burton’s artistic interpretations and stories will enjoy this book. More than a comic book, the literary elements engage the reader with alliteration, simile, metaphor, and onomatopoeia with clever-sounding words and expressions. The descriptive scenes of formidable quicksand, sticky sap, venomous snakes, and supernatural forests leave the reader bewildered and astonished. Stylish fonts and imaginative shading enhance unique drawings.

Learn how Warren faces the obstacles Warrin creates. After continued failed attempts to repair the hotel and redirect the course, can Warren transform the walking hotel into a cruise ship and save the guests and employees? Will Mr. Friggs’ experiences in reading and tutoring aid the passengers? Will the evil tattooed witches plague the course? Will Petula, the perfumier in training, portend the future? Will Warren’s fondness for and knowledge of Jacques Rustybooks piratology properly guide him?

Although the sinister characters in this fable may startle a young reader, the persistence of Warren provide hope that good will prevail over evil. The book is dark without causing nightmares and comical without being preposterous. Read Warren the 13th, solve the riddles, and appreciate the decorative, gothic illustrations. The book is a sequel; nonetheless, books in this series do not need to be read chronologically.

Also check out the first book in the series: Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye.

Guest review by Carmaine Ternes: Kansas Librarian, Researcher, Writer, and Presenter

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Book Review: Becoming

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Becoming by Michelle Obama

Available in audio, large print, and regular print

The elusive “Middle C” did not prevent Michelle Robinson Obama from performing at her first piano recital under the guidance of her prim, sensible Great Aunt Robbie who demanded a great deal from her students. Discipline, responsibility, music, and laughter were expectations and elements of Michele’s childhood that continued through her adulthood. Her humble South Side Chicago upbringing did not restrain her imagination nor deter her from completing her homework and contributing to her neighborhood. Although the Robinson family did not possess property or wealth, they were rich in conversation, faith, fulfilling promises, helping others, and family commitment. Unfortunately, those children who “felt devalued” were often caught in a vicious, depraved cycle resulting in poor decision making, theft, lack of education, or addiction.

Fraser and Marian Robinson worked hard, contributed to their community, and invested in their children, Craig and Michelle, raising them to be accountable for their actions. “Basketball unlocked a frontier for Craig” earning him a scholarship to Princeton, while Michelle was “quietly collecting bits of data” on a ninety-minute one-way bus ride during high school. When an educator informed Michelle, “I’m not sure…you are Princeton material,” she increased her efforts and energy to “rise to the challenge!” Being wheelchair-bound due to multiple sclerosis, Fraser did not ask for assistance nor did he miss work. Stoic Marian welcomed and accommodated countless guests into their quaint home. Michelle credits her accomplishments to her nurturing parents due to their wisdom, expectations, and sacrifices.

While attending Princeton University, Michelle connected with the Third World Center and other organizations raising awareness about cultural understanding providing encouragement and educational resources. In an effort to build equitable relationships, she forged community connections. With an Ivy League degree in sociology, she was accepted to Harvard Law School where she continued to “climb ladders” and be substantive. When she returned to Chicago, Michelle worked for a law firm “parsing abstract intellectual property issues for big corporations.” When she was asked to interview potential interns, Michelle met Barack Obama who had earned degrees from Occidental College, Columbia University, and Harvard Law School. She later remarked, “Barack was a deep thinker and spent money on books.”

Together, Barack and Michelle visited community groups listening to ordinary people suffering to keep jobs, earn a living, provide for their families, and face adversity. Barack asked the participants, “Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?” to help them identify their goals. Both were committed to guiding Chicagoans to the resources they needed to become successful.

After careful planning, Michelle became pregnant, yet faced a miscarriage, “a lonely, painful, and demoralizing almost on a cellular level.” When she conceived again, she was delighted to deliver Malia Ann then almost three years later Natasha Marian “Sasha” was born. Michelle was a single parent during the week while Barack spent time in Springfield serving three terms as an Illinois Senator. Juggling professional responsibilities, motherhood, campaign commitments, and community health care collaborations consumed Michelle’s life. She pledged to routinely give her girls their nightly bath, read to them, and spend precious time together. This Mary Tyler Moore fan was steadfast in her “you’re gonna make it” resolution and determined “most likely to succeed!”

Through the trials and tribulations of the Presidential campaign, Michelle remained focused on family values despite criticism from opposing forces. Promises to improve the economy, health care, and the criminal justice landscape, end Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and raise awareness about climate change were some of Barack’s key conversations. Living in the White House presented a unique paradigm since the Obama family was under attentive scrutiny and surveillance. Nonetheless, Michelle’s efforts to raise her daughters to be responsible for making their beds, completing their homework, and eating their vegetables was a mainstay.

As First Lady, her initiatives comprised being a role model for women, an advocate for healthy lifestyles including “Let’s Move” to reduce childhood obesity and “American Grown: The Story of the White House Garden.” She visited veterans across the nation and felt dedicated to the lives of service members and their families. “Let Girls Learn” and “Reach Higher” are examples of her educational endeavors. Along this journey, Michelle emerged as a welcoming and inclusive First Lady balancing the demands of motherhood, work, community, and service with a sense of style and personality.

Her reflections make memorable storytelling and leave the reader astounded and engaged without bewilderment or disappointment. If you wish to read an account of a child who lived in a financially challenged neighborhood, rose beyond a life of crime or gang affiliation, earned university degrees, and committed her life to making a difference, you will appreciate Becoming.

Writing is a craft Michelle Obama has mastered in her personal story concentrating on overcoming obstacles with sincerity, charm, wisdom, and humor.

Guest review by Carmaine Ternes: Kansas Librarian, Researcher, Writer, and Presenter

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Book Review: To Leave a Shadow

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To Leave a Shadow by Michael D. Graves

A 2016 Kansas Notable Book Award Winner: Pete Stone hadn’t always been a private eye. He’d lost his dairy business at the toss of a coin when the depression hit. His children grew up, as children do, and his wife left him for a chinchilla farmer. He had learned to like his solitude. When Mrs. Lucille Hamilton walked through his door searching for her missing husband, Pete was the only one who believed her husband’s death hadn’t been a suicide. — via Barnes & Noble

I enjoyed the slapstick humor, familiar setting, attention to detail, and the reminders of life in simpler times. In the absence of today’s technology, detectives of that era needed to use their wit, wisdom, intuition, tenacity, along with a touch of luck. I had forgotten how common smoking and having a daily brew (or two) was in those days; it seems like everyone lived life on the edge, even if they didn’t know they were doing so!

I look forward to reading more of Peter Stone’s trials and tribulations!

Join author Michael D. Graves and other area authors at Barnes & Noble on Saturday, July 27, 2019, at 5:00 p.m. for a Local Author Event Forum.

Guest review by Carmaine Ternes: Kansas Librarian, Researcher, Writer, and Presenter

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Book Review: Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life

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Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life by Marc Freedman

The progression of middle-aged Americans into retirement creates a significant social drift transforming the workforce. Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life by Marc Freedman provides a meaningful guide with concrete steps to find fulfillment beyond midlife careers.

Encore career pioneers provide amazing testimonials and magnificent strategies revitalizing a redistribution of income and value. Freedman presents a “freedom to work” ethic encouraging seniors to refuse to fade away and deem them with a responsibility to enhance their “Golden Years” beyond a traditional scope. One example is Win Craft’s phrase “chasing a dream, not a dollar,” by contributing to humanity and creating a more meaningful world.

Learn how to balance the responsibilities and visions of work by incorporating a mind-shift welcoming new terms and occupational trends. By utilizing personal talents, seniors can positively influence and redesign the world of work. Legendary labor leader, Walter Reuther’s belief, “we are too old to work and too young to die,” focused on the corporate pension as an incentive to allow younger employees to enter the workforce. Established and resourceful “baby boomers are inventing a new phase of work,” infusing past with present and opening doors to the future.

In an era of downsizing, layoffs, personal injury, illness, or early retirement, Americans are encouraged to retool, mentor, and make a choice to become a “pilgrim embarking on a new adventure.” When trailblazer Bill Gates announced his retirement, he created a new trajectory by “reordering my priorities.” Nascent innovative organizations offer myriad opportunities and tremendous potential to connect with new generations supporting the modern labor force.

Encore highlights the stories of career innovators “searching for a calling” to transform the nature of work in America. A University of Kansas Sociologist David Ekerdt stated, “the busy ethic” is an approach to retirement that should include more than a set of golf clubs. “Moral continuity between work and retirement” reflects the potential to support a balanced society. “Activity, recreation, and exercise are key ingredients” in addition to lifelong learning and volunteering. Alleviate the “purpose gap” of keeping busy by substituting with purposeful actions. “These pioneers are not celebrating their freedom from work, but rather their freedom to work” in form of social renewal constituting a phenomenal style of volunteering and exertion. The emerging forces of energy cited in Encore instill hope and happiness and may intrigue readers with the Purpose Prize, Experience Corps, Troops to Teachers, Hope for Generations, and a plethora of inspirational and educational resources.

After being in education for 35 years, I chose to retire. “Someone gave me a chance upon college graduation; now it is my time to offer someone else an opportunity for a job.” Freedman does not promise a “fountain of youth” nor guarantees for success, he offers practical optimism founded on fundamental principles. His goal to “live interested” should appeal to readers of all ages, interests, and abilities.

Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life by Marc Freedman is available for checkout.

Guest review by Carmaine Ternes: Kansas Librarian, Researcher, Writer, and Presenter

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