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TBR checkpoint 5 chromeI’ve skipped a couple of checkpoints, but I’ve managed to make some progress in the 2014 TBR Pile Challenge. Still, I’ve got a bit of reading to do this summer to clear the shelf!

I started with 15 books in my original TBR Challenge Pile, which stretched across the cupboard. So I am a little over one third of the way through, having knocked off six books so far.

I’ve read and reviewed 3 books :
Arabian Nights & Days by Naguib Mahfouz
A Very Long Engagement by Sébastien Japrisot
Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

I’ve read 2 more that need to be written about:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
What is Art? by Leo Tolstoy

And I’ve given up on one book that I just couldn’t get into after 81 pages:
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I must say, it is truly gratifying to see the TBR pile shrinking and to link up the reviews. So I must thank Adam at Roof Beam Reader for organizing this challenge. Now, back to the books!

The 2014 TBR Pile Challenge

Checkpoint 2: Progress as of Feb 16

Checkpoint 1: Progress as of Jan 15

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Dewey's Readathon April 2104

2014 TBR Challenge and Dewey’s #Readathon stack.

The Dewey’s Read-a-thon, spring or fall, is always one of my favorite weekends. A whole day dedicated to reading!!

Sign up to join us for the read-in this Sat. April 26 at 8:00 am EST.

I am hoping to make a dent in my 2014 TBR Challenge Pile, which still seems rather large as I’ve been sidetracked by other books.

So, this is a double reading challenge day for me!

One Book Completed! Arabian Days and Nights by Naguib Mahfouz

Readathon Rerack

Back to bed with book, coffee, and a very lazy dog!

It was a drizzly, rainy morning so instead of our usual am adventure, the doggie was happy to jump back in bed … and stay there!

A nice (and luxurious) boost to my Read-a-thon productivity.

Indeed it was perfect reading weather. Last April, I was distracted by the fact that is was the first sunny, warmish day in months–so I kept sneaking outside.

Second book finished!

Second book finished!

I also finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, another TBR Pile Challenge pick. So two books down and a very relaxing day. I really wanted to savor my reading time and enjoy not being on a schedule. Mission accomplished.

 

So in Need of Dewey’s Read-a-thon October 2013

Here We Go, Dewey’s Read-a-thon April 2013

Read-a-thon or Read-a-5k? October 2012

Read or Cheer on the Dewey’s Read-a-thon October 2011

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TBR first book on shelf VWe are now two months into the 2014 TBR Pile Challenge, and I am happy to report that I’ve read two books. The first book I chose was Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin, and I have just finished What is Art? by Leo Tolstoy.

As of press time, I have not yet managed to post any reviews. Nor has our host and challenge leader Adam blogged about what he’s read, so I guess I am not disqualified. (Update: I reviewed Winter’s Tale but need to gather my thoughts on What is Art? I do recommend it though.)

One bonus of winter is more reading time, especially this year. We’ve already had more than twice the average snowfall—around 55 inches so far and it’s snowing now. All these storms have managed to cancel trips and evenings out, so I have had many more nights reading by the fire (about which I am not complaining).

Off to the bookshelf now to pluck another from the TBR Challenge pile.

The 2014 TBR Pile Challenge.

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2014 TBR challenge

As a reading resolution for the New Year, I have decided to take on The 2014 TBR Pile Challenge hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader.

Read more and declutter seems like a perfect New Year’s resolution.

Status: 7 of 12 read

Checkpoint 8: progress as of August 31

 

My 2014 TBR Pile Challenge List
(In no particular order and I may swap in/out the alternates.)

1. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (2009)

2. Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin (1983)

3. The Nautical Chart by Arturo Pérez-Reverte (2000/2001 US translation)

4. What is Art? by Leo Tolstoy (1897/1995 US translation) — review pending

5. Nightwoods by Charles Frazier (2011)

6. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (2011)

7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (2011)

8. Arabian Nights & Days by Naguib Mahfouz (1979/1995 US translation)

9. The Brontës by Rebecca Fraser (1988)

10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005) — review pending

11. The Room and the Chair by Lorraine Adams (2010)

12. A Very Long Engagement by Sébastien Japrisot (1991/1993 US translation)

Alternates*:

1. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (1994)

2. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe (1794)

3. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (2006) — gave up after 81 pages

* I gave myself an extra because my TBR is just that big.

Ongoing Checkpoints:

Checkpoint 8: progress as of August 31

Checkpoint 5: progress as of May 31

Checkpoint 2: progress as of Feb 16

Checkpoint 1: progress as of Jan 15

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classics readathon 18:15 am ish Books down for now. Feeling rejuvenated by my classics read-in, though I did not make it 24 hours. Still, as the forecast is freezing rain today, I’m hoping to channel the #ccreadathon with more Wharton this afternoon.

7:17 am Picked up Jane Austen, Game Theorist by Michael Suk-Young Chwe to reread the sections about Mansfield Park. I’m not sure if this counts (pub’d in 2012), but he has some new and very interesting insights into the character of Fanny. Resisted the urge to go online, so as to maximize last hour of #ccreadathon time.

11ish pm Fell asleep reading Edith Wharton. Barely remember flicking off the light.

8:30 pm Finished MP and now completely absorbed by The New York Stories of Edith Wharton. Reading about Old New York is almost like time travel.

6:55 pm Got slightly sidetracked looking at all the fun readathon updates at #ccreadathon and @ourclassicsclub on twitter. Back on the couch and nearly finished with Mansfield Park!

4:05 pm Had a lovely afternoon of reading with the sun streaming in through the windows. It’s fading now, and I must break to brave the crepuscular chill as the doggie is eager to go out before dark. #shortwinterdays

1:45 pm Took a break to walk the dog during the sunniest part of the day. The cold, hardened snowscape has me thinking I should be reading Ethan Frome, but I’m most content with Mansfield Park.

11:00 am Posting this response to the Classics Club Readathon Starting Post. Now back to Fanny Bertram… (Egad, spoiler alert, just realizing I wrote Fanny Bertram not Fanny Price!)

9:51 am Looked up from Mansfield Park to peruse #ccreadathon and @ourclassicsclub on twitter. Lots of great ideas for my target classics list.

8:17 am  Ah, coffee and Jane Austen … I should start every weekend morning like this!

7:58 am  Gasp. Rolled over to realize I’d slept in! Grabbed Mansfield Park off nightstand and flipped on the coffee.

Classics Club Readathon Intro Questions:

1.) Name and Blog: Sarah at WordHits

coffee choc3 picasa

Coffee, chocolate, and a classic.

2.) Snacks/Beverages of Choice: My readathon fuel will be Nespresso coffee (yes, pods, but so unbelievably delish!), Lady Grey Tea, and dark chocolate.

3.) Where are you reading from today? Frozen, snowbound Connecticut. It’s 14°F outside! Perfect day to spend reading.

4.) What books are you planning on reading? Am starting with Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. Also on deck: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, The New York Stories of Edith Wharton, and What is Art? by Leo Tolstoy. Here’s a bit more on my book choices.

5.) Are you excited? Yes! Well, inversely. I am excited to do nothing exciting but relax and read. I love that “this is a laid back, zero pressure readathon.” I always enjoy the @ourclassicsclub tweets about the Classics Spin and other classics memes. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to get involved!

WordHits: Cosy Up for the 2nd Annual Classics Club Readathon

Classics Club Readathon Official Starting Post #ccreadathon

The 2nd Annual Classics Club Readathon

Readathon Sign-Up

#ccreadathon hosted by @ourclassicsclub on Twitter

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Top Ten TBRTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly book blogger’s meme organized by The Broke and The Bookish. This week this focus is the Top Ten Books in the To Be Read pile.

1.) TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
I just got my hands on this book which has garnered wonderful reviews. I really loved Let the Great World Spin, McCann’s ode to the Twin Towers.

2.) No One Could Have Guessed the Weather by Anne-Marie Casey
I’ve already started this novel in stories about an expat Brit who find herself transferred to hip East Village New York with her husband. So far seeming a breezy summer read.

3.) Jane Austen Game Theorist by Michael Suk-Young Chwe
I am completely fascinated just by the notion that Jane Austen was a shrewd, pioneer in Game Theory Economics—well, in the strategy because it didn’t then exist per se as a discipline.

4.) Ireland by Frank Delaney
I have wanted to read this epic book for ages! I have become a fan of Irish author and broadcaster Delaney via his twitter feed. I just bought his book to take along on my trip to West Cork in July.

5.) Under the Dome by Stephen King
I am about halfway through this book, which I am reading as part of the #DomeAlong group read. If you are interested you can still join us in the readalong.

6.) And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Hearing lots of great things about the latest from Hosseini. I hate being the last to read a book, so must get cracking.

7.) Together Tea by Marjan Kamali
I read an online excerpt from this delightful debut novel, which seems like a cosy, upbeat read. I just need to dash out and purchase a copy.

8.) The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett
Shakespeare, suspense, historical flashback—this book sounds so tempting. I am hoping it will be right up there with Possession. Not quite in the TBR pile, as I need to procure.

9.) The Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews
Even before the whole Snowden/NSA scandal broke, this book is by former CIA operative had been getting lots of buzz for it’s realistic look at our espionage relations with Russia. Still need to pick up a copy via dead drop.

10.) Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition by Patricia Meyer Spacks
I’m reading this for another take on one of my all-time favorite books, as part of the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge and year–long celebration.

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Read-a-thon Wrap Up: A Great Weekend of Book Love

In all, I read three books, several spring poems (it is Poetry Month after all), and the weekend New York Times—in 24 hours. Read-a-thoners worldwide read over 5,000 books collectively!

Check out my full Read-athon Wrap Up.

 

7:15 am Update: Back at the Books

I actually, gulp, went to bed for a few hours (#needsleep), but woke up just after 6 am. Cosy in bed finishing My Ántonia and wondering what to start next? Luckily, the doggie is still sacked out, so prime reading time. LAST HOUR #RahRahreadathon

 

11:15 pm Update: Closing in on Book 3

book 3 b

Oh, I do love My Ántonia.

After seeing my post on dogs and flowers, you may be asking, “Is she actually reading?” Yes, I am, though not at the rate of many #Readathon-ers who have racked up 5 to 10 books so far. I feel that I never have enough time to read, so I have really been trying to enjoy the Read-a-thon. Also, I got part of the NY Times Sunday paper delivered today, so I had to read a bit of that.

I am closing in on book 3: My Ántonia, a favorite that I am rereading for book group. Oh, I do love Willa Cather! Off to bed with my book, more tomorrow.

 

9:45 Update: Dangerous Distractions

Not only did my rascally dog Baci lure me outside for walks and games of fetch, but every time we came in … she took over my reading spot on the couch!

Dog odalisque.

Dog odalisque.

Today in the mail came the two most tempting junk mail magazines, including the ‘Most Beautiful’ People. I don’t even subscribe to People, so why would the gods of junk reading send this to me today …  of all days. (I do subscribe to Entertainment Weekly—great book reviews and everything else!)

Hard to resist.

Hard to resist … but I did!

 

7:30 Update: Spring Poetry

It has been glorious out today. I’m not going to lie—I snuk out for a few dog walks. But, in keeping with Read-a-thon spirit, I first read one of my favorite spring poems, Today by Billy Collins.

“If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze …”

If you need a poetry break, try these lovely Spring Poems, via the Poetry Foundation. I also savored a reread of Tintern Abbey, by William Wordsworth.

My own azalias are at their peak, but I also saw vibrant forsythias, blooming magnolias, and the last of the daffodils.

azalias

Spring in flowers and poetry.

 

5:50 pm Update: Book Sentence Challenge

I’ve had some fun checking out all the Mini-Challenges as part of the Dewey’s Read-a-thon. Such vibrant book and readerly creativity!

Check out my entry to the Book Sentence Challenge.

 

4:30 pm Update: Two Books Read

Theras

This is a GREAT book for kids!! Educational and so much adventure.

Just as I suspected, I have gone off-piste and selected a book not from my  #Readathon TBR. How can you really know which book you feel like reading until you are about to start?

I chose a children’s classic that was one of my repeat reads as a kid,  Theras and His Town, by Caroline Dale Snedeker.

Theras is a young boy growing up in Athens who has  all sorts of adventures. (It would make a great  Disney film!)

Also, er, I took a nap. Something about allowing yourself a day of reading is soooo relaxing!

 

12:30 pm Update: Got Physical

The Read-a-thon website said “Let’s Get Physical!” I took my dog Baci to the park for an intense game of fetch. She loves tennis balls the way I love books, so I couldn’t deprive her. Also, this is the nicest Saturday we’ve had this spring. Throwing is a good way to open up the muscles and stretch after a morning hunched over my book. I try not to hunch, but one does get sucked in.

Baci Fetch

Baci is indefatigable!

 

11:00 am Update: One Book Read

Yes, I get a buzz from decaf.

Yes, I get a buzz from decaf.

 

One book down–Sinners and the Sea. I’m not reading as fast as some (who have knocked off two or three), but I have been  distracted by all the fun #Readathon updates on Twitter.

Woo hoo, #Readathon has trended to the TOP spot!!! And I am loving reading everyone’s blog updates … I was told that this counts . 😉 😉

Also, had to finally make coffee! Didn’t get to it due to pre-start dog walk and eagerness to get cracking, spine cracking that is.

Now, which book next?!

 

9:15 am Update: Love the first book!

I was so excited about the day of reading that I woke up early at 4:30 am—like on Christmas! Woke up for real at 7:17 am and feeling great after a night of dreaming about books!

I’m starting with Sinners and the Sea, by Rebecca Kanner—the tale of Noah’s Ark told by his unnamed wife. I had peeked at the first few pages last night. So far I am really liking this book—lovely but spare writing and so readable! I’m on page 217 out of 337.

Book 1 Sinners and the Sea

Bookmark from Barrett Bookstore, featuring their mascot Riley, the Golden Retriever.

 

Friday Preparations: the Stack to choose from … but not limited to!

 

Readathon Stack

My Read-a-thon Stack: mostly rounded up from
independent bookstores and the public library.

I’m psyched for the Dewey’s Read-a-thon tomorrow, Sat April 27. It’s not too late to sign up if you want to join more than 400 bookworms in this worldwide read-in.

Dewey’s Read-a-thon starts at 8am for me, that’s Eastern Standard Time. Here’s a link to all the Read-a-thon Start Times around the globe.

Above is the stack of books I will be choosing from, though I’m not sure I can get through them all. (Unlike most participants who mow through stacks much taller than this!)

I am soo excited to have a great excuse to sit and read … and read and read!! Last time, I Read-a-5k, but hoping to crank tomorrow. More later, as I will be updating as I read…

readathon large Read-a-thon or Read-a-5k?

Dewey’s Read-a-Thon

Dewey’s Read-a-Thon Start Times

History of Dewey’s Read-a-Thon

Remembering Dewey Through Her Words

A Tribute to Dewey

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Started my Readathon off right! Coffee and savoring a pore through the Sunday NY Times

I’m SO excited about the Dewey’s Read-a-thon on Saturday, Oct 13, starting at 12:00 pm GMT, which is 8:00  am EST in the US. Hundreds of people around the world will devote a whole day just to reading! If you are interested in joining, sign up here! Or you can sign up to be a Read-a-thon Cheerleader. Yes, it’s a sport and we have cheerleaders.

Make no mistake—these folks are not fooling around. They prepare meals in advance so they won’t have to take time off for cooking, and they stock up on caffeine to fuel them for 24 hours. Full disclosure: there are some people (like moi) who will take breaks and actually stop to sleep. But there are an impressive number of readers who go the distance. And they go through a crazy amount of books!

My Read-a-thon stack. JK!

I know because they post (via blogs and Twitter) pictures of the aforementioned swollen—towering—stacks of books. Check it out via #Dewey or #Readathon hashtags. Most impressive, and er, intimidating. Alas, I will be a teense of a Read-a-Thon slacker—hence my not-quite-a-stack, pictured right. It’s not by choice, but I have to work for several hours tomorrow. Also, I’ve had a trying couple of months in which I’ve only managed to sneak reading in hurried bursts on the subway, over lunch, or staying up late. It’s been so rushed, and, honestly, I’m just not in peak perusatory form.  (E.g., I’m pretty sure that’s not a word.)

But I want to join in spirit. So I am approaching the Read-a-Thon as an exercise in savoring the read, the peruse, the pore. I will take it slow and enjoy. On deck: one of my favorite poets—Edward Thomas, at times called the ‘British Robert Frost‘ (apologies to the Brits who would say Frost was the ‘American Thomas’). I’ll linger over his poems, like Adlestrop, October, and The Sun Used to Shine (about him and Frost).

Beyond that, I’m going to wing it from my embarrassingly-tall and not-shrinking-fast-enough TBR. Also, I am definitely going to allow myself a leisured, every-section read of the Sunday New York Times, which I haven’t had the luxury of enjoying in months. So instead of a marathon, for me, it will be like a fun run. A reading 5K, if you will. You don’t really need to train. You can just cruise along and enjoy the ride—or read.

Here We Go, Dewey’s Read-a-thon April 2013

Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-Thon

Sign Up to Read

Read-a-thon Start Times

A Tribute to Dewey

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It’s Banned Books Week (Sept 30- Oct 6), organized each year by the American Library Association (ALA). The awareness campaign was founded in 1982—the same year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a New York school district could not remove Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five from its middle-school and high-school libraries. Well, barely. The court was sharply divided over this decision, split 4-4 as to whether limiting the books would violate the students’ First Amendment rights. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger actually sided with the book banners. The swing vote was cast by Justice Byron White, who concurred with the four that wanted to limit the school board’s ability to withhold books, but he refused to comment on the First Amendment issue. Er, I’m no lawyer, but denying books to students seems a pretty clear violation of both “freedom of speech” and “freedom of the press.”

It was close call, but that ruling hasn’t stopped Slaughterhouse Five from being barred repeatedly from school bookstores and libraries, as recently as 2007 in Howell, Michigan. Other frequently banned classics include high-school favorites like A Separate Peace, by John Knowles; As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner; The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger; The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding; and just about everything written by Hemingway, Orwell, and Steinbeck. Check out the ALA’s list of the Most Frequently Banned and Challenged Classics.

Back in 1918 when James Joyce’s Ullysses came out it was banned from publication in the U.S., Ireland, Canada, and England. Sylvia Beach famously came to the rescue by printing and selling the book from her Paris bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. In 1940, U.S. Post Office actually declared Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls “non-mailable.”

But censorship is not something of the past. Right after the first The Lord of the Rings movie debuted in 2001, a pile of Tolkien’s books were burned outside a church in Almagordo, New Mexico, for being “satanic.” Clearly, these people had not actually read the books (or seen the movie). In 2010, a California school district banned Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary owing to “explicit definitions.”

Last year, the ALA reports there were 326 attempts to remove books from school curricula and/or libraries. The Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2011 include To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (both repeatedly challenged in the 21st century). Of course, the list includes The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, just as a few years back the target was on J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I confess, I feel a bit squeamish about younger children reading The Hunger Games, but that’s a decision for their parents—not the state … or the local town council, seriously?

So celebrate our right to read this week by reading a banned book … or any book. Check your local library for Banned Book Week events. Also, don’t miss the Virtual Read-Out on YouTube. Passages from banned books will be read in video clips by celebrities, famous authors, and just about anyone who wants to upload to the channel. Read on.

30 Year Timeline of Banned Books Week

Top Ten Banned Books of 2011

List of Most Frequently Challenged Classic Books

Banned and Challenge Classics: History by Book

BBW Virtual Read-Out on You Tube

Bookman’s Does Banned Books on You Tube

Flashback Post: Banned Books Week 2011—Celebrate  Celebrate our Right to Read

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I’ve been surprised to hear that many of my friends who saw War Horse—the play on Broadway or the new Steven Spielberg film—did not know that both were based on a wonderful novel by Michael Morpurgo.  For some reason, Morpurgo, who was the Children’s Laureate of the UK, is not that well-known in the states. He has written dozens of children’s books, which are extremely popular in the UK, and indeed, worldwide. Some, like It’s a Dog’s Life and The Butterfly Lion, are geared to early readers. War Horse is one of his several fine young-adult novels.

The story is of Joey, a Devon farm horse, who is drafted into World War I, and Albert, the boy who enlists and vows to find his horse. Morpurgo did not want the book to be partisan, so Joey ends up working in turn on the British and the German sides. We see the humanity, kindness, and brutality of both. Morpurgo paints a picture of how WWI impacted civilians as well as soldiers. The book holds close to historical details, with the new agonies of trench warfare, machine guns, and gas. There’s a moving scene of Joey getting caught in no-man’s-land between the fronts, and also Albert fights in the pivotal Second Battle of the Somme. Morpurgo brilliantly invokes the foolhardy, specious, “charge-of-the-light-brigade” gallantry that would send a cavalry into battle against modern heavy artillery. Whether he is writing about people or animals, Morpurgo creates memorable characters. I particularly loved the gruff but noble workhorse Topthorn.

Another book by Morpurgo that I strongly recommend is Private Peaceful. Also set during WWI, it is an affectionate and wrenching story about Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful and his brother Charlie, who become soldiers together.

After their father is killed in an accident, the two brothers struggle to help their mother keep the family together, now that they no longer have claim to the tenant farm where they live. Morpurgo highlights the resolute and capricious power that the landed gentry had over their laborers—an authority that ultimately forces the brothers off to war at an early age. This class conflict is mirrored by the brutish behavior of some of the officers in the trenches. Again with attention to historical accuracy, Morpurgo focuses on a lesser-known, barbaric injustice faced by many of the rank-and-file soldiers in the British army in the early 20th-century.

The book is told in flashbacks by Tommo, who lied about his age so he could go along when his older brother was drafted. “They’ve gone now, and I’m alone at last. I have the whole night ahead of me, and I won’t waste a single moment of it. I shan’t sleep it away. I won’t dream it away, either.” I was hooked from Tommo’s first line. Also, the pacing that alternated real-time with the past had me ripping through the pages. The countdown felt a bit like an episode of the TV show 24—with the suspense, and the sense of dread, compounding. I finished Private Peaceful in one sitting.

In addition to some lovely vignettes of life in the Devonshire countryside, there is also a charming, understated tween love triangle, which sparkled with the refreshing, best-friend dynamic of childhood romance. Though his books are targeted to young readers, Morpurgo insists they are “stories for everyone.” And I must say I am steadily plowing through them, relieved to find that he is so prolific.

Although the children’s book market has been booming, there is a lot of dodgy, poorly-written, mishmash out there—such as the hackneyed “kitten”, “rainbow”, and “weather” fairy series. And don’t get me started on the fad of celebrity children’s books. Ugh. Do you really want your kids reading this stuff?

Parents looking for quality, compelling books for their children should browse the virtual bookshelf on Morpurgo’s website. Not only are his many books beautifully-crafted with wonderful characters (there are lots of animals and there’s lots of history), but these books are downright satisfying page-turners … for readers of any age.

Fueled by Movie Buzz, War Horse Breaks into Top 50 Bestsellers

War Horse: the Novel

Private Peaceful

Michael Morpurgo’s Virtual Bookshelf and Website

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