Weekly Wrap-Up #6

Wham, and just like that I finished my goal of 4 audiobooks 9 days into February! Don’t be too impressed; these were smaller Juvenile books with only 2-4 discs a piece. I’m waiting for Swiss Family Robinson to become available via Overdrive so I don’t want to begin any thick books.

This week I also finished 2 books, 1 Juvenile Fiction and 1 Non-Fiction, and begun another Non-Fiction, a Biography this time.


War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

Michael Morpurgo is a pretty prolific writer. I’ve never read his books but they seemed decent. This book has been made into a movie so I thought of this book to try first. I’m glad I did and I can’t wait to read his other works.

Set during World War I, this is the story of Joey, a horse who was purchased by a farmer. His son, Albert, takes great care of Joey until one day the farmer sells Joey to the British Calvary. Joey ends up in France and is eventually used by the Germans. Through a set of unhappy events, Joey is freed and finds his way back to the British and back to Albert. However, to help pay for the cost of the World War I, the British have to sell their horses, Joey included. The ending is a twist, however, as Joey ends up with Albert afterall. The reason why tells of the sweetness in humanity.

I recommend this story, although I am NOT a horse person and it was a bit too anthropomorphic for my taste. The story is very reminiscent of Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan, except instead of a harmonica being passed around the US with all those who connected with it end up together in the end, a horse is being used by different groups of people who join up in the ending to share Joey’s story of being a war horse.

Fun fact: this book was copyrighted 1982! Never could have placed that as historical fiction has no age, ha-ha.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Whenever I’m waiting for an audiobook I have on hold to become available, I grab a DiCamillo one. Mostly, it is because the stories are short. But they are full of feeling and depth. It’s amazing what DiCamillo can cover in the span of two discs, or 200 pages.

India Opal Baloney is the daughter of a Baptist preacher. They recently moved to Naomi, Florida where Opal, as her daddy calls her, is trying to live life. Her mother left when Opal was 3 and Opal, now 10, wants to learn more about her. “Because of Winn-Dixie,” a mangaled stray dog she ends up taking home from Winn-Dixie one day, Opal not only learns more about her mother, but gets a little side-job, gets invited to a party, becomes friends with other people, and more.

What I loved about the story is the realness of pet friendship. I grew up having a stray cat who was my darling companion. Obviously you can’t take cats places, but she was always there when I needed a hug. That was the type of dog Winn-Dixie is. I hope everyone has someone to hug and love–animal or human.

My only qualm with this book is Opal’s use of The Preacher to refer to her father. It is too formal and almost seems disrespectful. Granted, parents should make time for their children, and The Preacher doesn’t seem to (he is too absentminded and/or so depressed he tries to avoid engaging with Opal more than we read). Would Opal (or DiCamillo at that) have called him The Doctor or The Teacher if he was in the occupations? Deep inside, I think so.

Kids that like this book will enjoy Sheila Turnage’s series “Mo & Dale Mysteries,” the first one being Three Times Lucky.


Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale

After last week’s read on Stay Alive, I wanted to learn more about the Donner Party. Since Stay Alive was told from the perspective of the Graves family, I assumed the Graves would begin this historical graphic novel. Nope. It was actually of the Reeds, the husband who eventually kills the Graves’ hired hand and gets banished!

The Reeds, the Donners and a bunch of other groups join together to take a shortcut into California. This shortcut is not a shortcut and after they make it through uncut forest and a desert, they reach mountains. And winter. The snow keeps them from going on. It also prevents them from finding food and their supplies has dwindled. Most of the pioneers stay sheltered up, but a handful of them decide to cross the mountains and get help. While they are away, the rest of them decide it is better to leave than stay.

Hale does a terrific job squeezing as much information into his little comic squares. Like all in this series, Nathan Hale of the Revoluntionary period (not the author of same name), is on the gallows awaiting his hanging with a British solider and the hangman. While they wait for the moment to execute Hale, Hale shares stories of the future (from their standpoint, but history from ours).

As you learn while reading this book, the name Donner Party is bit of a misnomer because the Donners did not play much of a role in the story. They didn’t help in the rescue mission. Also, you learn that there isn’t a lot of cannibalism in the way of killing people purposely to eat (that only happens a few times). The starving people mostly ate those who passed away, although not relatives.

Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat by Gail Jarrow

A mind-blowing read. See my review here.

Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escape North Korea by Sungju Lee

I recently begun this memoir of a young man who lived in and eventually escaped from North Korea. I am just at the beginning, where his career military father gets relocated from the bustling, clean capital city to a country town, where everything is grimy and dirty. Lee does a wonderful job with his rich imagery to contrast the two locations. Just by the descriptions you empathize immensely with this family’s move and with the people who live in the “countryside.”


Humphrey’s Creepy-Crawly Camping Adventure by Betty Birney

Theo asked for another Humphrey book, so I had to deliver. In this book, Humphrey goes home with Heidi and she has a camp-out sleepover. The boys next door have one, too. The boys mess with the girls and Humphrey tries to get back at them for their antics. While I don’t care for the boy vs. girl war, I know that’s how kids are.

How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long and illustrated by David Shannon

Theo’s class did pirates a week ago and he enjoyed this book so much, he made his dad check it out at our local library. It is a fun book about a small boy joining a pirate group to help them locate a place to bury their treasure. The boy has a great time awake as a pirate, but falling asleep and the storms that pirates face, not so much. In the end, he tells the pirates that he knows the best place to bury the treasure: in his own backyard. So, he comes back home.

What makes this story come alive are the illustrations. I love David Shannon! Look at my favorite images from this story (I love the detail he did on the mom’s thigh–it looks so realistic in its curves!):

What have you been reading?


  1. Continuing on with Shannon Hale stuff, I just finished listening to the first Ever After High book. The twist on fairy tales was indeed interesting. Now I’m listening to Book of a Thousand Days. I find the book entertaining yet, disturbing. Did you? As for books for the kids, I really enjoyed Marvelous Cornelius. I really got a kick out of reading Mo Willems Diva and Flea, especially when I found Pigeon and Piggy in the lovely illustrations!!

    1. Hey! I can see how Book of a Thousand Days can be disturbing. I kept thinking of the first part as the Rapunzel story. Of course, the princess’ father is a bit off, but you know we only glamorize royalty, so it is nice to see that being of the gentry wasn’t all that fun. I haven’t heard of Marvelous Cornelius! I also didn’t find Pigeon and Piggy in Diva! How funny. Pigeon is in Goldilocks and the 3 Dinosaurs. That was hilarious.

      1. I love Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs!! I borrowed it when my daughters were toddlers, and borrowed it again for Mitchell.

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