Sunday, July 13, 2014

I am …Ordinary People Change the World

My day job is teacher. Primary Multiage Teacher of six, seven, and eight year olds specifically. The students study biographies. And they write biographies. This wonderful series of books by Brad Meltzer is a great companion series to the biographies they read.

I've purchased and read the first three books in this delightful collection. In charming voice, the stories are told in first person and are accompanied by child-friendly illustrations by the talented Christopher Eliopoulos.

Looking forward to the fall release of I Am Albert Einstein.

Peace ~ Love ~ Books

Blog you later!

Ali B.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Out of My Mind

This book waited for far too long on my To Be Read pile. Out of My Mind tells the story of Melody - bright, sweet, and trapped in a body she can't control with thoughts and ideas she is unable to voice. Funny and heartbreaking but always uplifting, Sharon M. Draper gives us a first-person look into the gifted mind of a young girl with guts and determination. And cerebral palsy.

The three things I loved the most:

1. Mrs. V. In a word - stupendous. I loved her honesty, her compassion, and her "I'm not throwing you a pity party" attitude. More than any other character, Mrs. V empowered Melody. She reminded me a lot of my mom - huge bonus.

2. Mrs. Shannon. The last of the H-5 teachers we meet. What a gem! I love that she gets rid of all the old preschool, watered-down, learning activities for the kids and starts to differentiate her instruction for their individual needs. We need more Special Ed teachers with that attitude - actually we need more schools willing facilitate full-inclusion of special education students.

3. Melody. Of course. Brilliant! When she gets Elvira, her communication device, her whole world opens up and so does Melody. It doesn't change the way we read the story - we always knew what was in her mind - but her ability to communicate with others changed what we know about her spirit. We could see her react, honestly react, to her parents, teachers, and peers. We learned what she'd say and what she kept to herself. Melody is inspirational.

This is the first book I've read by Sharon M. Draper, but I look forward to reading her other award-winning titles.

Peace ~ Love ~ Books

Blog you later!

Ali B.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

This book is a must-read for every tween and young teen out there. Oh, and their parents too. I love what Neil Gaiman had to say on the jacket cover.

"Excellent in every way, poignant and really funny and
heartwarming and honest and wise and smart…. I have no
doubt that in a year or so it'll both be winning awards and
being banned."

The three things I loved the most:

1. Junior's voice. Alexie did a brilliant job of not only creating a likable, funny, flawed character, but his voice. I can usually picture a character - no problem, but I could hear Junior in the dialogue. His vocabulary, sentence structure, and style were perfectly pubescent boy.

2. Ellen Forney's art. Not too much - just enough. It still felt like a novel, not a graphic novel and was humorous, well-placed, and brutally honest.

3. Junior & Rowdy - the relationship. I've lived this relationship. The reader understands this relationship. It's perfectly imperfect. Love vs. Hate. Jealousy vs. Pride. Loyalty vs. Self. I was worried for the first couple of chapters that we might start getting "the other side of the story" - The Rowdy side. I didn't want it. I just wanted his reactions - strong, angry, violent - to Junior's new life. Rowdy wasn't a caricature of a best friend and he didn't come around in the end. Junior leaving the reservation wasn't just life changing for Junior, it changed Rowdy's life too - but not for the better.

The one thing (or three things) that I had a bit of a hard time swallowing and felt sorta "over the top" were the back to back to back deaths of Junior's grandma, Eugene, and his sister. It didn't keep me from loving the book and recommending it to everyone I know, but it felt gratuitous. Or maybe I just didn't want anything else bad to happen to Junior.

My twelve-year-old son loved it too.

Peace ~ Love ~ Books

Blog you later!

Ali B.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Back to Literary Lunchbox

I've missed my little blog. I've missed my book-loving blogger friends. I've missed writing about children's literature. I took a wee break that turned into a horrible hiatus. It had to be done. I had a book to finish, students to teach, and children to raise. But… I missed blogging.

Thank you for your patience.

Peace ~ Love ~ Books

Blog you SOON!

Ali B.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Author Interview ~ Valerie Wicks

Hello Literary Lunchbox Friends ~

After a short hiatus, I am back in the blogosphere. Yay! 

I am delighted to post an interview with my new friend and fellow author - Valerie Wicks.

Here goes...

                                          Who is Valerie Wicks?
My name is Valerie Wicks and I love worlds, characters and stories. I am the author of the middle grade fantasy/adventure series, Seven Spectral, and I suppose my lifelong obsession with books, movies, and video games got me there. My mission is to entertain you! :) I want you to have fun, expand your imagination, and dive deep into a world you've never seen with characters you trust. Growing up, that experience meant more to me than anything. I will never forget the journeys I've taken into the books, movies, and games of my life. In a way they built me, so my hope is to give a gift to you. I want to give you something you loved and lived. 

What got you interested in writing?
I've always loved telling stories. I wrote four ridiculous books in high school. I wouldn't suggest reading them, because I was in high school, but it was great practice! I went on to learn storytelling in film school, then became a video game producer where I told stories in a totally different way. I even did theater for a while. Now I've come back around to books thanks to a little floppy disk I found cleaning out my room in my parent's house in Atlanta. It had a story I wrote when I was ten about seven worlds, each a different color of the rainbow. I loved the idea so much I took it back to LA with me and wrote my first book, Seven Spectral: Into the Red World.

Is Middle Grade your favorite age category?
The short answer is yes. Everything I write comes out middle grade, young adult, or some crazy mix of the two. Middle grade is really my jam though -- so much adventure, magic, and character. I love books like Harry Potter and shows like Doctor Who. It's all very middle grade. 

What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Time. I always just want more time. I can write forever -- I can write my way through writer's block without much issue. I just need the time to be able to do it. I want to start putting out two books a year, so we'll see if I can do it!

What is one of your favorite books? Why?
You have to ask the difficult questions, don't you? Hmm, since I have a forum to explain my answer, I'd like to say Ender's Game. It was my favorite book growing up before all of the controversy. The whole situation makes a good argument for keeping authors behind the keyboard and out of the spotlight, because the book is still so striking despite its writer's upsetting beliefs. As far as the book goes, I love the psychological exploration of a character so young and so damaged by war, and forced into leadership through that damage. I love the discussion of what it means to communicate with someone foreign. I love the world, or universe rather. And I've always been one for strategy. It's an irresistably painful book, but it's growing pains, for sure.

If you could have any literary characters over for dinner, who would it be and why?
Probably the hobbits of Lord of the Rings, because you KNOW they would do it second breakfast-style. They'd bring lots of laughs and great stories. And afterward, they could introduce me to Legolas and Aragorn. Talk about yum!

Tell us about your latest book.
My latest novel is the second book in the Seven Spectral series, The Orange World Outlaw. It's set in the wild western frontier of the Orange World and follows the second of seven heroes in the series, Javier Jones. Don't worry though, Emer will be back! They all will -- there may even be some sign of her in this book…

Here's a description!

Javier Jones never wanted to leave his comfy home, loving family, and blossoming career as a troublemaker. But when his town is attacked by a horde of outlaws, he must hitch a ride with a traveling circus and journey to the capital for help. Little does he know, the circus is up to more mischief than even he can manage, and it all centers around a mute jester-girl and her magical Green pyramid. Can Javier and his strange new companions put an end to a plot that could mean the downfall of all seven spectral worlds?

Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
You can find out tons about my books and my seven worlds on my website You can also see trailers for both books there, and later in 2014 I will be launching a Seven Spectral video game where you can explore each color world! Join my mailing list and follow me on twitter for all the latest updates!

Blog you later!

Ali B.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Iris Brave ~ A Book by ME!

Literary Lunchbox is my blog. It's where I review books. All sorts of books. Picture books, chapter books, middle grades books, and even young adult - this is the place. I LOVE books!

Well... I'm switching gears for this post. I'm going to do a bit of promotion. Self-promotion. See, I wrote a book too. And I'm pretty proud of it. 

Take a look at what some reviewers have said about Iris Brave.

In her literary debut, Ali B. has created a main character that lives up to her name. Iris has the heart of both Scout and Laura Ingalls. As engaging as Iris is, it is the cast of supporting characters and their genuine interactions with Iris that make this book a literary stand-out. The author puts these well-developed characters into a twenty-first century plot that will make this book a page-turner for upper elementary school students.

As an elementary school teacher, I had the opportunity to share this story with some of my students. It kept them all so engaged, and I found both my students and I couldn't wait to pick it up again the next day. I grew up in the Midwest, and the descriptions the author used remind me so much of my childhood. I can't wait to read and share her next installment in the series!

Iris Brave is one of my favorite books and I think everyone should get a chance to read it. It is realistic with just enough magic to make it fun and if you like mysteries this book is for you. Once I picked it up I could not put it down and however soon the next book comes out it will not be soon enough. It is a great book.
Russ (Age 11)

 If you're interested in reviewing Iris Brave, contact me at or leave me a comment and your contact information. I'd love to send fellow bloggers a review copy for consideration.

To learn more about me (as author) or to purchase a copy click here.

Blog you later!

Ali B.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Something for Everyone

Full-time teaching, parenting and my own writing schedule have kept we from Literary Lunchbox for far too long. I'm taking the Labor Day Holiday weekend to catch up on my blog and write a new post that has something for everyone.

There's been lots of talk recently about breaking the fourth wall, what it means and how to do it well. As a teacher of six, seven and eight year olds, I've been on the lookout for a great picture book that doesn't just break the fourth wall, but demonstrates how to do it. Hard to explain...

At the SCBWI conference last month I had the wildly wonderful opportunity to listen and learn from Mac Barnett, author of Chloe and the Lion. He was adorable and delightful and talked about a book that he wrote with illustrator Adam Rex. The book was Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, but he also talked about this incredibly spunky character named Chloe and her adventure with a lion (and a dragon.) But what really got be excited about this book was how to clearly illustrated what breaking the fourth wall means, and in a way that is accessible to little kids. Yay!

Teachers, parents, Santa Claus ~ if you haven't read Mac Barnett, you should.

Easter Ann Peters is trying to change her image. She's always been the good girl, the good student and
the teacher's pet. Heading into seventh grade, Easter wants to make new friends, stand up to a bully and get noticed. She has a plan - Operation Cool.

I loved this book because I loved Easter Ann Peters. She is so identifiable. We all have a bit of Easter in us. I also loved this book because it isn't just another "I want to be one of the popular kids" books. Easter is dealing with heavy issues at home, mainly her mother's depression and alcoholism.

 Jody Lamb does a magnificent job of developing Easter's character and portraying the struggle a child
must feel when she's worried about her mom, wishing she'd just get better but enabling her mom's alcoholism by covering for her and lying. She's a kid taking on adult responsibilities and doing what she thinks is best - until she realizes she's not.

I will continue to recommend this book to all middle grades readers, but will certainly emphasize the importance of Easter Ann Peters' ~ Operation Cool as a book that needs a space on every school counselor's bookshelf.

Now that I've highlighted a glorious picture book and a touching middle grades novel, I want to round out this blog post with a not-to-be-missed young adult read. Eleanor & Park. This book should be on everyone's TBR pile. Rainbow Rowell has a stolen the YA crown this summer with this beautifully-written, character-driven teen love story.

Here's what I wrote on Goodreads: This book was clever and sharp and so hit the spot without trying too hard. Rainbow Rowell's ability to jump in and out of character seemed effortless. Eleanor was wounded without all the angst and Park was the boy every girl should get for their first boyfriend. The 80's pop culture references and the raw dialogue were outstanding. Yay.

Blog you later!

Ali B.