Really Happy! by Jim Reese


Genre: Poetry

Page Count: 73

Publication Date: 2014

Summary: Jim Reese is a South Dakota college professor who also teaches at the local prison.  His witty insights about these particular events come across in this volume of poetry.

Recommended: Yes.  I love poetry and I found myself rereading particular lines because they captured a particular feeling or moment so perfectly. I especially  enjoyed the poems about Yankton.

Watch Out For:  The speaker in some of the poems is stereotypically male so some of the poems come across as a bit sexist.

Noteworthy Excerpts: “At the head of the line, buying a twelve of Pabst,/ a hairy, overweight man with a plumber-crack/ and a t-shirt two sizes too small/ drops a quarter on the ground.”    “And on the eyelids of one man there are two tattoos that read – GAME OVER”


Pocket Full of Colors


Written by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville

Illustrated by Brigette Barrager

I don’t normally review children’s books on this blog unless they are exceptional.  When my 6-year-old daughter and I read this book, we both agreed it was the best book we had read together in quite a while.

This is the story of Mary Blair. Mary worked for the Walt Disney Company during the Great Depression.  She loved bright, vibrant colors, but the men around her thought children only wanted black-and-white cartoons.  She eventually became so frustrated that she left the company to pursue other things, but Walt Disney himself called her on the phone one day because he felt she was just the person for a special project he had in mind – one that involved many fantastic colors.

We loved this story about never giving up on your dreams, embracing the things you are passionate about, and shooting for the sky, but the illustrations really make the book. Two thumbs up, all the way around.


The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald


Genre: Fiction

Page Count: 180

Publication Date: 1925

Summary: The classic American love story. Jay Gatsby has built the perfect life for himself except for one thing – he is watching his beloved from afar.  This book has something for everyone – love, betrayal, murder, crime, money and fantastic parties.

Recommended: YES.  At almost one hundred years old, this book still has a modern feel and you will find yourself rooting for Gatsby until the very end.

Watch Out For: There are a few instances of racism due to the time period in which the book was written.

Noteworthy Excerpts: “She got up slowly, raising her eyebrows at me in astonishment, and followed the butler toward the house. I noticed that she wore her evening-dress, all her dresses, like sports clothes – there was a jauntiness about her movements as if she had first learned to walk upon golf courses on clean, crisp mornings.”      “It was all going by too fast now for his blurred eyes and he knew that he had lost that part of it, the freshest and the best, forever.”

Conscious Classroom Management


Authors: Rick Smith & Grace Dearborn

Genre: Education

Page Count: 325

Publication Date: 2016

Summary: Using the fictional teachers Mrs. Allgood (a teacher who manages her class effectively and well) and Mrs. Meanswell (a teacher who struggles to manage her class at all), the authors give specific tips and ideas for teachers to about how to run their classrooms.  The book is aimed at beginning teachers but could be helpful for anyone with classroom management problems.  Topics range from assuming the best about students and learning how to say “no” to how to teach procedures and what to do when consequences don’t work.

Recommended: Yes.  I feel like this is one of those books a teacher could reference over and over again.  Ideas are broken down into specific and easy-to-implement steps and there are online resources associated with the book.

Watch Out For: No problems here.

Noteworthy Excerpts: “Respect isn’t received through demands. Rather, student respect is earned through providing safety, structure, and consistency.”        “For students to feel safe and connected to their teacher, classmates, classroom, and what they are learning, they need to feel welcome.  And this includes their cultures.”

My Ántonia by Willa Cather


Genre: Fiction

Page Count: 175

Publication Date: 1918

Summary: Jim Burden recollects the story of the Shimerdas, a Bohemian family who lived alongside his family on the Nebraska prairie as it was being settled.  The Shimerdas experience the usual joys and tragedies a family experiences, but they are magnified because of their experiences as immigrants.

Recommended: Yes.  Some of the reading is a little dry but overall the story is good.

Watch Out For: Because the story was originally published in 1918, there is some racism.

Noteworthy Excerpts: “Fuchs had been a cowboy, a stage-driver, a bar-tender, a miner; had wandered all over that great Western country and done hard work everywhere, though, as grandmother said, he had nothing to show for it.”     “He was a dapper little Irishman, very vain, homely as a monkey, with friends everywhere, and a sweetheart in every port, like a sailor.”

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger


Genre: Romance

Page Count: 546

Publication Date: 2003

Summary: As you can tell from the title, Henry and Clare end up married but the story begins when they first meet.  Theirs is no ordinary love story, though, because Henry suffers from chrono-impairment – he randomly travels in and out of the past, present and future.

Recommended: YES!  I loved this book because it’s not an ordinary love story.  Henry’s time-traveling adds an element of drama and excitement (and sometimes sadness and danger) to their relationship.  The ending made me cry and one scene was kind of unbelievable but overall it was a very good book. There is a reading guide at the end of the book that would be helpful for a book club discussion.

Watch Out For: Bad language throughout the book, Sex scenes, drug references, and a suicide scene.

Noteworthy Excerpts: “I’m wearing blue jeans, a baby blue sweater with little yellow ducks all over it, and a neon red down vest with pink tennis shoes. Really, it’s not surprising that someone would feel they needed to hit me.”      “Clare is eating something pistachio-colored that has several large shrimp poised over it as though they are nearsighted old men reading a newspaper.”

Sunday’s on the Phone to Monday


Author: Christine Reilly

Genre: Fiction

Page Count: 318

Publication Date: 2016

Summary: This is the story of Claudio and Mathilde – how they met at a party and fell in love and eventually got married and had kids.  It is a story about life – about growing up and living in New York, about tragedies and miracles and the ordinary moments, about the passage of time.  It is a story about keeping secrets and telling truths.  It is a story about how different we are and yet how our lives are all the same. The story spans from the late 1980’s through 2016.

Recommended: YES.  This book is edgy, raw, and very real.  I felt myself connecting to many of the characters, even the ones who are most flawed.  The author’s choice of words is delightful; however, in my advanced reader’s edition there were numerous typos which I assume would have been fixed upon publication.

Watch Out For:  I thought I could include this book in my classroom library but after reading it, no way.  Watch out for inappropriate language (34 instances of the F-word), several drinking and drug references, multiple sexual references including sexual assault and prostitution, an attempted suicide and a violent death scene.

Noteworthy Excerpts:  “There are dreams out there for everyone, – Jane soothed herself upon waking. Dreaming was a more finished version of hoping.”     “On good days, her doctor would say, let’s see if we can try a smaller dosage. On bad days, he’d say, I’m sorry, and after supper they’d feed her more of what made her feel like she was made of soft-serve ice cream.”