Monday, February 5, 2018

This Blog is a Tide Ad

The real and one true winner of Super Bowl 52 was Tide. What teams even played? Who cares.

I knew Tide was the winner when an ad for a different laundry detergent started playing and the entire room went, "Wait, is this a Tide ad too?" - like, no one remembers what brand of detergent was actually being advertised.

And do you see any stains here? Nope - this blog is a Tide ad too.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Boy in the Black Suit

The Boy in the Black SuitThe Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After 17-year old Matty's mom passes away, he finds himself working in a funeral home, hoping the grief others feel will help him with his own. Things change when he meets Love at her grandmother's funeral. She doesn't seem to grieve in the same way, and she "gets" his conflicting feelings of both wanting to move on and wanting to go back in time.

This YA novel feels more mature than similar stories - Love and Matty are thoughtful teenagers. They develop a shy friendship that grows into romance, and Matty works through some rough stuff. Besides grieving his mother, he becomes the parent figure for his father, who doesn't handle her death very well. He also learns what it means to forgive, what it means to have regrets, and why comparing trauma is never a good idea.

Fans of Jason Reynolds will embrace this sweet story, one with heart and characters to care about.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Cheers to January

January, the month that still feels long, even as time seems to pass quicker and quicker. Artist Mari Andrew gets it:

A post shared by Mari Andrew (@bymariandrew) on

Perhaps it's because I'm coming off several months of overeating, celebrating everything, and travel (wedding+honeymoon+holiday season), but I'm truly appreciating this crawl back to "real life" that January has been. It's been the perfect month to weed out my closet and to start buying groceries and cooking for myself again - with no events to plan for or attend and no visitors to entertain, just me, my husband, and stacks of YA novels to read.

Cheers to long nights, long socks, and long books.

Monday, January 29, 2018

2Birthdays & 2Cellos

Yes, our birthdays are in the summer...but our birthday gift from Mom & Dad got postponed until last weekend - a sold out 2Cellos concert!

Neither Jesus nor I have ever seen a show at the Chicago Theatre, so we enjoyed seeing the inside of this landmark building. The music was pretty alright too. ;) 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Witch Boy

The Witch BoyThe Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the graphic novels I read last semester for my children's materials class was a new release by Molly Knox Ostertag. I book-talked it in class, and though I was nervous (as a book talk newbie), most of my classmates seemed really interested in reading the book after hearing what I had to say about it. Fans of colorful and fantastical graphic novels will also want to add this one to their TBR piles.

Imagine knowing exactly what (or who) you want to be, but not being able to show it because of rules created long before you were born. Such is Aster's predicament - he wants to be a witch, but in his family, only women are witches. Men become shapeshifters. When his boy cousins start disappearing, leaving him behind, Aster's secret talents at witchcraft just might save them. Will he risk exposing his secrets? Besides all the real life parallels that can be drawn with this tale, it's wonderfully written and illustrated, and features a wide variety of characters - in personality, looks, sexual orientation, and magical abilities.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Welcome to the Jungle(s)

In the dead of winter, sometimes what you need is a total escape in the form of a movie. What's a total escape from dry, cold Chicago? A hot, humid jungle filled with giant monsters.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

The most recent of my jungle movie picks, this indirect Jumanji sequel (takes place in the same world, but only barely references the original movie) sends its characters into the game, which has been updated from board to video for a 21st century audience. Once in the jungle, our four protagonists become the avatars they play - so a nerdy teen becomes a ripped explorer (Dwayne Johnson), the football player becomes a much smaller zoologist (Kevin Hart), the brainy overachiever becomes the sexy martial arts expert (Karen Gillan) and the vapid selfie-taker becomes the overweight cartographer (Jack Black). Learning how to work together, and growing more comfortable with their new personas, they play to win the game - the only way back to real life.

I found this movie hilarious, and all the actors did a great job of showing us their distinct personalities, which were usually at odds with their outward appearances. The video game rules made sense and were followed (mostly) consistently, and while the ending is predictable, the journey there is lots of fun.

Godzilla (2014)

We've seen several iterations of Godzilla in recent years, but this reboot marks the beginning of a MonsterVerse series with several films to follow, and because of this makes an effort to build a complete world with characters we are invested in and writing that gives depth and variety to the plot. This movie reveals Godzilla's origin through a narrative that stretches back to the 1950s and carries into present day, and introduces other MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms), and while only a portion of the movie actually takes place in a jungle, it's still worlds away from a Chicago winter.

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

This King Kong reboot fits into the MonsterVerse franchise along with Godzilla as an origin retelling and a way to introduce future (upcoming) monsters. Set primarily in the 1970s, the story shows us scientists and soldiers traveling to an uncharted island and discovering Kong, along with other larger-than-life monsters. Plot-driven action and dynamic characters advance the story and keep it from getting bogged down with monster fights, and the gorgeous cinematography matched with a setting-appropriate soundtrack make this movie both visually and aurally appealing.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

While You Are Sleeping

While You Are SleepingWhile You Are Sleeping by Mariana Ruiz Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I've learned anything from my time working with children's literature, it's that there's something to be said for wordless picture books (silent books). They're accessible to children of all ages and speakers of any language, and because different things stand out during each read, the story is stays fresh. The ability to tell a story with illustration alone is not a skill all authors/illustrators have, so it's a treat to see it done well.

Mariana Ruiz Johnson's While You Are Sleeping is an example of wonderful storytelling through imagery. She helps children imagine what goes on in the world right outside their windows while they sleep - and it's a world many parents will recognize as neighbors walk their dogs, go out for dinner, have a glass of wine before bed, and pursue hobbies late into the night. Of course, adventures await the later it gets, but when morning comes, we're back and safely tucked in bed, ready to face the day (and ready to read the book again and again).

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