Sunday, December 23, 2018

Smallfoot- Movie Review

There are a few slight spoilers in this review.
Smallfoot (c) 2018 directed by Karey Kirkpatrick etc.

Smallfoot was a fun movie for both kids and adults, and which I enjoyed. I feel I should say that some people might see it as an attack on religion, because of the many false beliefs that the Yetis hold onto, including the belief that "Smallfeet" don't exist, which we "smallfeet" know to be not true. I can understand why some people would see it that way, but I don't. I see the underlying message as being that it's okay to find things out; that real truth isn't something to fear; that learning facts about the world around us is not just okay, it's great. In other words, curiosity didn't kill the cat, curiosity educated the cat! A person can know all sorts of facts and truths about the universe and the world and still believe in God, and understand that having and living a moral code (even when it's hard and others are pressuring us not to follow our consciences) leads to positive consequences.

The yetis, in particular Mego and his gang of friends, were fun, and the way he developed his friendship with the main human character Percy despite their language barrier was funny and entertaining.

I liked that Percy had a change of and heart, and learned the value of friendship and integrity, even when it made him look bad to others.

The movie is rated PG for a few scenes of mild peril.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Performed by Patrick Stewart, Audiobook Review

Christmas Carol (c) 2006
performed by Patrick Stewart
The audiobook, Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, performed by Patrick Stewart, is a wonderful rendering of the book!

The original text is not read word for word, but what is left out is mostly the purple prose, and other wordy, reduntant stuff that Dickens and other Victorian authors were fond adding into their stories. The meat of the original story is still there, and Dickens' rich, descriptive word choice is also still there.

Patrick Stewart does a wonderful job bringing the story to life, and adding voice, depth and personality to the several characters of the story. This is an audiobook that I highly recommend! It was published by Simon and Shuster Audio in 2006.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Christopher Robin- Movie Review

Christopher Robin (c) 2018 by Marc Forster
Christopher Robin, directed by Marc Forster, starring Ewan McGregorHayley Atwell, and Bronte Carmichael, and produced by Disney, is a fun, family movie about the adventures of a grown-up Christopher Robin with Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, and the rest of the gang from the Hundred Acre Wood.

Having married, survived the horrors of the Great War, and become a father, Christopher Robin is working at Winslow Enterprises, a company that makes suitcases, to support his family. He has lost his imagination, and is more often than not, working hard to impress his ungrateful supervisor, which takes time away from his family.

After having been order by his supervisor to work all weekend to find a way to cut costs, or cut employees, Christopher Robin doesn't know what to do. This unexpected assignment has taken him away from a trip to the country he had planned with his wife and daughter, and the two have to go without him. Feeling bad about the situation, he's sitting on a bench in a small park, when he hears a familiar voice. Who could it be, but Winnie-the-Pooh, come from the Hundred Acre Wood, looking for him! Thus begins an adventure with Christopher Robin and his Hundred Acre Wood family, and which eventually involves his wife and daughter, as well!

But what is the group going to do about that annoying supervisor who wants nothing more than to fire Christopher Robin, and his whole department? Watch this great family movie to find out!

The movie is rated PG for a few scenes of mild angst, and in my opinion, is appropriate for the whole family! Ewan McGregor and the rest of the cast do a great job, and I highly recommend it.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Dragonwatch Book 1 by Brandon Mull

Dragonwatch book 1 (c) 2017
by Brandon Mull
The first Dragonwatch book by Brandon Mull is an exciting continuation of the adventures of siblings Kendra and Seth, who began their adventures in the first book of the FableHaven series. In this story, Kendra is 15, and Seth is 13. This time, the two siblings and their grandparents are dealing with some recalcitrant dragons at a dragon reserve called Wyrmroost. (I'm guessing the spelling, because I listened to the audiobook.) Celebrant, the dragon king and his fellow dragons are tired of being kept in the reserve where they were put by humans because they'd been a danger to the humans in the past (burning, looting, etc.)  The dragons claim that they should have the right to roam free. But the people who are in charge of the reserves, of course, disagree.

I find this story interesting, because unlike many books where the antagonist doesn't have a clear motive for what he does, I can actually see the dragons' point of view. The situation reminded me of incoming Europeans confining Native Americans to reservations. Though the motives are different, and so are the species. It isn't a matter of cultures clashing, or me being greedy for someone else's land. It's about me not getting eaten by something one hundred times bigger than myself. It's about raw survival. So I see the real necessity of keeping dragons away from humans; because from the destruction that dragons can do, I, as a tiny, chewy human, don't want them roaming free. Neither do Kendra, Seth, their grandparents, and others. But Celebrant doesn't like to be confined. While I can see the point of view of the dragons as a group, I really don't like Celebrant. He's a plain all around jerk. I am certain that with his character, he would be a jerk in the best of situations. He's the kind of guy who is looking for a reason to be mad, and if he didn't have the excuse of complaining about being confined to a dragon reserve, he'd find something else to be mad about. I don't see him as a noble but wronged leader, like Sitting Bull, or Crazy Horse. He's just a bad leader all around, and his fellow dragons would be better off picking someone who  wasn't as inherently mean-spirited, and was better at negotiating. He belongs in dragon prison, not leading other dragons.

The book, like Brandon Mull's other books, is very well written, and the characters believable and multi-faceted. I highly recommend it to young readers of fantasy, and to adults as well. It's the kind of book that that can be read and enjoyed by more than just its target audience. And I look forward to the other books in the series!

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Wizard of Oz presented by Duchesne High School

Duchesne High is currently performing The Wizard of Oz and will be performing it tonight and tomorrow night at 7:00 pm both times. I attended on Saturday, and enjoyed the performance very much. The play is based on the book, written in 1900 by L. Frank Baum.
The main character, Dorothy, and her dog Toto, need to find their way home after her house is picked up by a tornado and set down in the land of Oz. Glinda, the good witch, tells her to seek the help of the Wizard of Oz in order to get back home, and she sets off on the yellow brick road to find him. On the way, she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Cowardly Lion who decide to help her on her quest. But they are hindered by the Wicked Witch of the West. Will they get the Wizard's help? Or will the Wicked Witch of the West get to them first?
Duchesne High's Drama department has done a great job, and I recommend the play!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Treasure Island, by Robert Lewis Stevenson

Treasure Island (c) 1882
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is a classic adventure story for many reasons. The plot is fun, the characters are likable (or dislikable) in fun ways, and the adventure, going after buried treasure, is fascinating for all sorts of age groups.

Jim Hawkins is the main good guy, a young man in his early teens, who first meets Billy Bones, a salty old sailor who has a secret. After old Billy Bones dies, Jim and his mother find a treasure map in his sea chest. This begins his adventure, pitting him and the other good guys against the main (and satisfyingly dislikable) bad guy, Long John Silver, and his dastardly minions.

The crew sails off together in the Hispaniola, Jim not knowing at first what John Silver and his minions have planned until he overhears their evil schemes while hiding in an apple barrel. 

Will Jim Hawkins and the other good guys be able to defeat the bad guys, or will the bad guys get them, and steal the treasure as well? Read the book and find out!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Ferdinand, Movie Review

Ferdinand (c) 2017, Blue Sky Entertainment
The movie Ferdinand (2017) starts off with little Ferdinand, a young bull who would rather take care of flowers and be kind than fight the other little bulls, saying goodbye to his father who is about to head off to the arena to fight the matador. But when the trailer returns without his dad, Ferdinand becomes confused and frightened. A door left ajar in his barn gives little Ferdinand the chance to escape, and he runs away from the farm that raises bulls just to fight. He makes it to the countryside, and to the flower farm of little Nina and her father. They welcome him into their home, and there Ferdinand grows up in peace and tranquility. But when he becomes an adult, an innocent visit to the local town's flower festival turns things bad for Ferdinand after he has an unfortunate run in with a bee.

While things become difficult for Ferdinand, he never lets go of his principles to be peaceful and kind to others, and he uses these personal standards throughout the movie.

The 2017 version of Ferdinand is based on the children's story The Story of Ferdinand first published in 1936 by Munroe Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson.

I like this story, as well as the book upon which it is based, and the short movie Ferdinand the Bull produced by Walt Disney Productions in 1938.

I think the message of this story is an inspiring one. Ferdinand's example shows us that it is possible to have great power and yet use it wisely and in kind ways to help others, rather than to hurt them. This is a good message for children and adults, and I strongly recommend this movie as well as the book and short movie.

Ferdinand was directed by Carlos Saldanha and produced by Blue Sky and Twentieth Century Fox Animation. It is rated PG for action scenes, and has no bad language. It is suitable for young children and up.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Adventurers Wanted Book One: Slathbog's Gold by M. L. Forman

Adventurers Wanted Book One: Slathbog's Gold
(c) 2011 by M. L. Forman
Adventurers Wanted Book One: Slathbog's Gold by M. L. Forman is the first book in the Adventurer's Wanted series, which follows the adventures of young Alex Taylor who sees a strange sign in the window of a bookshop he often passes. The sign reads "Adventures Wanted" he looks away, then back again, and the sign says, "Adventurers Wanted. Apply Within". Looking at the sign again, it's back to what it originally said, and naturally intrigued, the young man goes into the shop, meets Mister Clutter, and suddenly finds himself whisked away on an unexpected adventure in a strange land people with friendly elves, dwarfs, and other folk, and things much less friendly.

Will he and his friends succeed in their quest? Read the book and find out!

Young people who enjoy fantasy adventure will enjoy this book!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Invention by J. Scott Savage

Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Invention
(c) 2016 by J. Scott Savage
One of my favorite things to do, is listen to audiobooks when I'm driving. I just finished Mysteries of Cove:Fires of Invention the first book in the Mysteries of Cove series by J. Scott Savage. Thirteen year old Trenton Coleman lives in Cove. A city entirely enclosed in a mountain because, as the leaders say, the outside air was poisoned by too much invention. As a result, invention is outlawed. Trenton's problem is that he is a born inventor! When he crosses paths with fourteen year old Kallista Babbage, the daughter of the notorious Leo Babbage whom authorities claim accidentally killed himself and many others making an "invention", then interesting things start to happen! Finding parts and clues left behind by her father, the two friends start to build an invention in secret, and begin to realize that their safe haven may not be as safe as they once thought. And while others may not listen to what they have to say, the two friends may be the only hope Cove has for its survival!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Shantell and Macoy Young, and their Baby Boy

My sweet neighbor, Shantell Young and her baby boy whom she had been carrying for four months, passed away yesterday. My thoughts and prayers are with her good parents Heidi and Deloy Brady, and her siblings as well as her husband Macoy, and his family. Macoy is still in serious condition in the hospital. Please consider helping with funeral and medical expenses on their GoFundMe page.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Freetown- Movie Review

Freetown, by Three Coin Productions and Go Films, is based on the true story of eight missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who find themselves in the middle of a civil war in Liberia, and realize that they need to get out.

Freetown (c) 2015 

While there were actually eight missionaries who escaped the war in Liberia, for the purpose of simplifying things for the movie, the number of missionaries in the film was taken down to six.

The names of the eight elders were Elder Marcus Menti, Elder Joseph Myers, Elder Taylor Selli, Elder Joseph Forkpah, Elder Roverto Chanipo, Elder Dave Gonquoi,  Elder John Gaye, and Elder Prince Nyanforh. With the help of a local church leader, Phillip Abubakar, the missionaries set off on a journey to escape to the safety of Freetown in Sierra Leon. But their troubles are compounded by a rebel fighter who is intent on killing one of the missionaries simply for belonging to the Krahn tribe, a tribe with which the  rebel fighter has had bad blood.

I found myself rooting for the missionaries as they escaped the war torn country, the bunch of them crammed together in one little car. The fact that it was based on a true story is particularly moving. I thought the music was well done, and the acting fantastic.

I recommend this movie to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and also people of other faiths who enjoy inspiring stories about good people overcoming difficult and dangerous situations. If you have watched and enjoyed The Saratov Approach, or The Cokeville Miracle, you would enjoy this movie.

Far World: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage

Far World Water Keep (c) 2008 by J. Scott Savage
While I have read Far World Water Keep  by J. Scott Savage many times, I haven't taken the opportunity to listen to it on CD until just recently. I am very glad I did! Mark Wright does a great job bringing Marcus and Kyja to life along with the other characters with whom they interact. I especially enjoy how he does Riph Raph's voice!

Marcus is a boy who has grown up on Earth, and who can't use his left arm and right leg. He needs a wheelchair to get around, though he can scoot pretty quickly when he needs to. Kyja is a girl who has grown up on FarWorld, and who can't do magic, though everyone else can!

The way these two kids work together to save both their worlds from the Dark Circle is inspiring, and teaches young people (without being too didactic) that they too can face and overcome hard things! I recommend this book, written and audible, to anyone who enjoys fantasy for young readers.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Battle for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi

The Battle for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi is the third book in the Wondla series, preceded by The Search for Wondla and A Hero for Wondla. I have not read the first two. I found The Battle for Wondla at my library, and picked it as it looked interesting. Because of not having read the first two, and there not being a summary of what happened in the first two at the beginning of this book (or at least in the audio version, as I listened to it) I was slightly lost for a little while, but was able to piece together what was most important.
Battle for Wondla, The, (c) 2014 by Tony DiTerlizzi
Eva Nine is working hard to stop the evil Loroc from taking over the city of Solas and the rest of the world of Orbona, but she has first to convince the Queen O-Ho that her intentions are not wicked as the Queen has been duped by Loroc into thinking that he is her ally, and wants to help, and that Eva Nine is the enemy.

The world building that DiTerlizzi does is fantastic, on par with Brandon Sanderson's world building skills. The books is clean, and written for teens and young adults. People who enjoy clean sci-fi would enjoy this book, and doubtless the two that come before it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

1931 Dracula

Dracula (c)1931
The 1931 movie version of Dracula, with the title character acted by Bela Lugosi, produced by Universal, and directed by Tod Browning is a classic movie that will probably be famous for ages to come as a wonderfully made and acted story in its genre. The story changes a little, with Renfield going to Transylvania instead of Jonathan Harker, likely done to explain Renfield's insanity later. As might be expected, Renfield's excursion to Dracula's castle doesn't go as well for him as Harker's does in the book. After this, we get an exciting story with characters recognized from the book but changed a little to adapt to the screen. We're missing Arthur and Quincey, but we still get John Seward, no longer a twenty-something young doctor, but a middle-aged man, and the apparently widowed father of Mina. He's still in charge of the same asylum as in the book, and Renfield is a patient there. Jonathan Harker is still there, as is Lucy, whose fate is the same as in the book. The heroic Van Helsing played by Edward Van Sloan  is also one of the main protagonists in the fight to save Mina from Dracula.

I enjoy the movie every time I watch it, and I recommend it for anyone who enjoys slightly scary classical movies with little blood, and no foul language.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis

The Magician's Nephew (c) 1955
I reviewed The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis back in January, but wanted to review it again, because it is such an uplifting book that, while a fantasy, teaches important truths. Diggory and Polly are tricked by Diggory's Uncle Andrew into setting off on an adventure between worlds, and as they travel, they come into contact with Jadis, an evil, power hungry queen from a dying planet who grabs them, and forces them against their wills to take her along with them. After wreaking havoc in London for a few hours, Jadis is transported by Diggory and Polly who are trying to protect their home, into a new world called Narnia. Along with them, come a horse named Strawberry, Strawberry's owner, a cabby named Frank, and Diggory's Uncle Andrew.

They come at the very birth of Narnia, which is being created by Aslan, the Lion, the Son of the Emperor Beyond the Sea. Aslan, clearly a analogy of Jesus Christ, sends Polly and Diggory on a mission to get an apple that will become a tree that will protect Narnia from Jadis' evil, the evil queen who ran off into the wilderness when she realized she could not hurt Aslan.

Meanwhile, while Frank, Polly, Diggory, and eventually Strawberry (who becomes a talking and flying horse) can understand Aslan's speech and the speech of the talking animals he creates, Uncle Andrew cannot. It isn't chance that makes him unable to understand. As the narration explains, from the moment their group found themselves in Narnia and started to hear Aslan's song calling the world to life, Uncle Andrew (who had already made selfish, unrighteous choices already) denied to himself that it was a song, and continued denying it after the light started to increase, and he saw Aslan and the other talking animals. He denied so much that Aslan's words were a song, that Uncle Andrew reached a point where he could not hear the song, and only heard, in his own mind, roars and growls, and from the talking animals, only various animal sounds. C. S. Lewis was a brilliant teacher who taught great truths with his stories, and this particular part of the story teaches me that in order to be able to hear, to sense truth, I need to tune myself to learn it.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula, (c) 1897
Dracula, written by Bram Stoker and published in 1897 is a frightening story about a vampire named Dracula, who was based on a real life man named Vlad Dracula. He was also known as Vlad the Impaler, because of his most often used form of execution.

Dracula begins with one of the main protagonists, Jonathan Harker going to Dracula's castle, thinking that the man he's going to see is simply a Transylvanian noble who is looking to buy property in England. He quickly learns that he is in great danger, and though the situation is terrifying, he is able to keep his wits about himself, and finds a way to escape Dracula's three wives who were planning on devouring him, as Dracula and multiple coffins are carted away to begin his journey to England.

Meanwhile, his fiance, Mina's friend, Lucy Westenra is murdered by Dracula, and Jonathan, Mina, Lucy's fiance Arthur, two friends, John Seward and Quincey Morris, and the wise and brave Dr. Abraham Van Helsing set out to stop Dracula from doing the same to others.

One line from Dracula that I really like, is something Van Helsing says in the text: "Devils, or no devils, or all the devils at once, it matters not. We fight him all the same."

What I get out of the book Dracula, is that it is possible to face difficult, even terrifying situations, and cruel people who are certain they will succeed while their victims fail, and still overcome the designs and plans of these cruel people.

Throughout the book, the characters, especially Van Helsing, repeatedly petition God, and reference Diety as a source of hope and help, and I like that. I don't necessarily agree with the idea that someone can be made evil and unworthy by the actions of someone else as the book implies, but I like the idea that with courage, and with the blessings of a benevolent higher power, cruelty can be stopped. Maybe not right away, maybe not as quickly as we hope, but it can still happen.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers- Vernal Theater

The Vernal Theater, which shows fantastic plays using a local cast, recently finished showing Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I went with two of my children on the 20th, and enjoyed a great performance. 

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers follows the troubles and triumphs of Adam and his six brothers in their quest for romance. At the beginning of the story Adam meets and marries Milly, a spunky, brave woman who isn't afraid of adventure. But his brothers don't have it so easy. The way they set about meeting and courting girls they're interested in sets a wedge between Milly and Adam, as well as between their whole family and the rest of the town! Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a fun play that I recommend to anyone who enjoys fun musicals.

The Vernal Theater regularly shows some fantastic plays. 
The next one coming up is Wait Until Dark, and will be played during Halloween time. It sounds like a pretty scary play! I don't care much for scary plays or movies, but if you do, I'm sure you'll enjoy it if it's as well done as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers!! 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Candy Shop War: Arcade Catastrophy by Brandon Mull

The Candy Shop War: Arcade Catastrophe
(c) 2012 by Brandon Mull
Candy Shop War: Arcade Catastrophe by Brandon Mull continues the story of Nate, Summer, Trevor, Pigeon, and their new friend Lindy, as they investigate a new Arcade in town, Arcade Land, which seems to be linked to the disappearance of Mozag and John Dar, who have been policing the magical community for misbehaving magicians. When they discover that the own of Arcade Land is Jonas White, the brother of their last nemesis, Belinda White, they realize that things are even more dangerous than they first appeared. With Jonas White wanting to recruit kids to help him collect magical items for some sinister scheme, will the kids be able to work together to defeat him? Read the book, and find out!
Kids and adults who enjoy magical adventures will enjoy reading this book!

Friday, September 21, 2018

My Son is Home From His Mission!

A few days ago, my son, who went to the Philippines two years ago to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, has recently returned, and I am super excited to have him home! He served in the Philippines Manila mission, and from all that I've heard so far, had a great experience, did a lot of good, and made some great memories!

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

I found this poem, The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, and liked it very much. It reminds me that what we appear to be on the outside doesn't matter nearly as much as who we really are inside, and what we believe in and live for.

It doesn't interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me
how old you are.
I want to know 
if you will risk 
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesnt interest me
what planets are 
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life's betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you 
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn't interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn't interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know 
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone 
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.


Cragbridge Hall: The Avatar Battle by Chad Morris

Avatar Battle, The (c) 2014 Chad Morris
The Avatar Battle by Chad Morris is the second book in the Cragbridge Hall series. In this second adventure, Derick and Hafa (I'm not sure of the spelling, because I listened to the audio book)  use their avatars to help solve the mystery of who is knocking out different members of the Counsel of the Keys and trying to take over the school and The Bridge in order to be able to change time.

It all starts when Grandpa Cragbridge and the team, including Derick and Abby stop a couple of Charles Munz's followers from stopping the disaster of the Hindeberg, and accidentally bring something into the school that starts doing serious damage.

The book is an excellent race against time, and trying to figure out who the bad guy is.

The ending is a bit of cliffhanger, but gives enough of a payoff for the book that the reader is satisfied with this adventure, and ready for the next.

One thing I like about this series is the morals that it teaches about learning from the past, and doing our best as we move into the future. On the surface, Charles Munz's desire to go into the past and right every single wrong that has ever happened may seem like a noble thing. But when one thinks deeply about it, Munz's claim to want to make everything better have a very sinister side to it. As terrible as they are, we can learn from tragedies. We become better and stronger when we do. And also, the world would be very different if the past were changed, the people who are now alive might not be, if the past were changed, for one example. And that is another reason Grandpa Cragbridge wants to leave the past unchanged.

Will the kids be successful in stopping Charles Munz's evil schemes? Read the book and find out!

I recommend this book to young people and not so young people who like futuristic adventure stories.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Cragbridge Hall: The Inventor's Secret by Chad Morris

Inventor's Secret, The (c) 2013 by Chad Morris
Cragbridge Hall: The Inventor's Secret by Chad Morris is the first book in the Cragbridge Hall series, a series for middle grade readers, which follows the adventures of Derrik and Abigail, twins who are students at Cragbridge Hall, a cutting edge school in the future. 

Derrik and Abigail are in their first year at the school, working to fit in and find their place. Their grandfather is the founder of the school, which provides unique struggles for the two students, especially Abby, who is accused of having unfair favoritism shown to her. 

But their struggles in school suddenly become small when their grandfather and their parents are kidnapped. They don't know what to think or do, but after following clues their grandfather left behind, they begin to piece together what has happened to their parents and grandfather, and they begin to realize what they need to do to get their grandfather and parents back. And it will be even more tricky and dangerous than they could have imagined. 

But the pair are clever and determined, and have that to their advantage. 
Middle Grade readers who enjoy science fiction will enjoy The Inventor's Secret.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Fourth Nephite by Jeffery S. Savage

Fourth Nephite, The (c)2010
by Jeffery S. Savage
The Fourth Nephite by Jeffery S. Savage is an LDS time traveling adventure aimed at teens, and which follows the adventures of Kaleo Steele, a high school junior whose priorities are not what his parents and seminary teacher hope that they are. When his seminary teacher sends him to an office building in Salt Lake talk to a man named Ladan, Kaleo thinks he'll just get a sit down lecture. But what he gets is much, much more!

The story is entertaining, filled with plenty of action, and geared toward LDS teens. Young people who are LDS and who enjoy time travel adventures similar to Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites would enjoy this book.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes

Bronx Masquerade (c) 2002 by Nikki Grimes
Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes is an enjoyable, enlightening book that explores the lives of several young people at one school, the students of Mr. Ward, all of whom are doing their best to become smarter, wiser, and better able to face the world around them. The students write poems about themselves and what they observe in the world, and then read them to each other. The poems are sobering, sweet, and eye-opening.
They struggle with things that most young people can relate to, or at least can imagine, and the whole book, a collection of the insights of these young people, is upbeat and hopeful. I recommend this book to anyone who likes poetry, collections of different insights from different characters, and stories that reaffirm that there is good in humanity.

Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry

Call it Courage (c) 1940 by Armstrong Sperry

I first heard the story Call It Courage when it was read to me by a teacher when I was in elementary school, and fell in love with it. It is a great story that teaches young people that they can face and overcome their fears; that despite post traumatic stress, as Mafatu experienced when he lost his mother because of a hurricane, young people (and not so young) can still face the things that they fear, and they CAN overcome those things. 

Mafatu faces not only an unpredictable ocean, he has to struggle with other things, living and non-living to overcome his fear. Like a frightening stone idol on the island he lives on for a while, a hammerhead shark that is after his dog Uri, and fearsome "eaters of men" cannibals who come after him!

The story is also wonderfully informative about the culture of the South Pacific, and I enjoyed learning that information when I was small. I continue to enjoy the story today, and recommend it to readers both young and not so young.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Racing the Sun by Paul Pitts

Racing the Sun (c) 1988 by Paul Pitts
School will be beginning soon, which means soon my students will be writing essays, reading and comprehending news articles, and reading literature.

The freshman, every year, beginning the fall by reading a small book that was published in 1988, and which tells the story of a young man named Brandon Rogers. He's middle school aged at the time, living along the Wasatch Front with his parents. He is full Navajo, but hasn't had much of a chance to learn about his culture. This all changes when his grandfather moves in with them, and shares Brandon's room.

It's a great book for young people, and it teaches the value of family, culture, traditions, and keeping the old ways alive while living in a modern world. While I read it every year with my students, I haven't gotten tired of it because of the great story, the skillful writing, and the message that it teaches.

I recommend it for any one who enjoys a good story about young people learning who they are, and the value of family and learning to care about others.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Who Was Harriet Tubman? by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Who was Harriet Tubman? (c) 2002
by Yona Zeldis McDonough
Who Was Harriet Tubman? is an interesting and educational biography illustrated by Nancy Harrison and written by Yona Zeldis McDonough for elementary aged students about the life of Harriet Tubman.

Her life was very remarkable. She started life as a slave. When she was in her early teens, she injured very badly  by a brick that hit her in the head. She recovered, but suffered the rest of her life with several issues related to her head injury, including sometimes falling asleep without any warning.

Despite this, she was able to escape slavery and make it to freedom in the north. She went back many times to help others escape, and when the Civil War took place, she helped in that, as well.

The book details her life in a way that young readers can understand, but it is also educational for adults as well.

I recommend this book to anyone, from elementary age to adult, who enjoys learning about history, and wants to know more about Harriet Tubman's life.

Friday, July 27, 2018

My Newest Book, Raccoons and Rabbit Holes

Raccoons and Rabbit Holes (c) 2018
I am so excited to announce that my most recent book, Raccoons and Rabbit Holes has just come out!
Raccoons and Rabbit Holes is a middle grade novel with three friends, Jax, Julie, and Ani, who go exploring near an old house in the woods that local legends say is haunted. They don't believe in ghosts, but when they meet a raccoon that's acting strangely, they know something wild is about to happen! Especially when Ani slips down a giant rabbit hole that wasn't there before, and Jax and Julie have to get her out! Before they know it, the three kids find themselves transported back in time to the antebellum south, with no idea how they're going to get home!
And how can they get home, with bounty hunters riding around in the woods looking for escaped slaves? And what happens when the kids run into a group of people who really are trying to escape slavery?

Saturday, July 14, 2018

All Shook Up performed at the Midvale Performing Arts Center

All Shook Up, performing at the Midvale Performing Arts Center, is a humorous modern take on Shakespeare's 12th Night.The book was written by Joe Dipietro, and the play features the songs of Elvis. It features a wide cast of characters all looking for love, and follows them through their hilarious adventures and misadventures as they each work toward their own goals. One of the main characters, Natalie, even goes to such lengths as dressing up like a guy so that the man she's interested in will start paying some attention to her if she's one of the guys!

The cast did a fantastic job. Each member of the cast and ensemble is very talented. My favorite character, I think, was Sylvia, performed by MeriLynne Michaelis. She can really sing!

There is a little bit of crass humor in parts for those who would want to be aware of that. I recommend the play to anyone who enjoys funny romantic comedies, and fans of Shakespeare who would appreciate the similarities between this play, and 12th Night.

The play will continue to be performed July 16, 19-21, and the 23rd. All performances begin at 7:30 pm.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Dollar Ridge Fire

A Big Thank You to the Volunteers,
Red Cross, Fire Fighters, and 
First Responders that truly "Rocks"!
The Dollar Ridge Fire has been burning since July 1, and is impacting people in my community. My own town is not in danger, which is good, but other people have been evacuated from their homes, and there have been many structures burned because of the fire. The Duchesne County Sheriff's Office, Fire Fighters battling the blaze, The Red Cross and so many people have been great, and the community has been so kind as people have generously donated food, tents, flashlights, batteries, and countless other important and necessary things to the people who have been evacuated from their homes because of the fire.

As of today, the fire is not spreading east, which is good news. But it has still moved some toward the west, which may impact structures and property near Strawberry Reservoir.

One good thing that has come out of this fire, is that I have learned I live in a very kind, and generous community. Bad things happen in the world, but there are still good people out there who are glad to step forward and help their neighbors where they can.

Check out information about the Dollar Ridge Fire, and other fires burning in Utah, on Utah Fire Info's Facebook Page.

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Sands of Nezza by M. L. Forman

Sands of Nezza (c) 2014
by M. L. Forman
Adventurers Wanted: Book 4, The Sands of Nezza by M. L. Forman is a fun fantasy adventure for kids from upper elementary grades through junior high and high school. Alex Taylor, the main character, is tasked with the goal of rescuing a friend from an unjust imprisonment in Nezza. The friend had gone with a team of adventurers to rescue the rightful king, Rallian, and had been taken prisoner. So Alex sets off to rescue them all.

What follows is an exciting and dangerous adventure battling sand serpents, and wicked, power-hungry lords and their minions.

The story is fast paced with little time for the reader or the characters to get bored. I recommend this book to young readers, and anyone who enjoys reading adventure stories geared toward young readers.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss

Swiss Family Robinson (c)1812
by Johann Wyss
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss is a fun, adventurous classic with lots of action and excitement.
It was first written in 1812, and translated into English in 1814.

It is the story of a family, dad, mom, and four sons who are shipwrecked on a deserted island and who have to make the best of things waiting for help to arrive.

They had the luck to have quite a few domestic animals with them on the ship when it ran onto rocks, but none of the crew of the ship survived. The crew abandoned the family on the ship and took to lifeboats in the storm, and since we never hear from the crew again, we, and the Robinson family can only assume they all drowned.

During their time on the island, they find and tame many wild creatures, and even rescue a young lady who is also shipwrecked on another part of the island.

While I found it a little farfetched that an island would have so many different kinds of animal life, from penguins to ostriches living natively on the island, I didn't let that bother me, and simply enjoyed the story. I believe that anyone who enjoys a good adventure story, especially one that involves people using ingenuity and cleverness to adapt themselves to their new environment, and their new environment to themselves, would enjoy The Swiss Family Robinson.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Drowsy Chaperone, presented by The Midvale Arts Council

The Midvale Performing Arts Center 
The Midvale Arts Council is finishing up presenting a hilarious musical, The Drowsy Chaperone which has played since the 8th at The Midvale Performing Arts Center. The Drowsy Chaperone is a fun, and playful tale, a story within a story, as we first meet The Guy in The Chair, a character in the present who breaks the 4th wall and addresses the audience as he listens to The Drowsy Chaperone, a story on a black vinyl record.

The Drowsy Chaperone by Bob Martin,
Don McCellar, Lisa Lambert,
 and Greg Morrison
The Drowsy Chaperone takes place in the 1920s, and is filled with music reminiscent of that time period. Part of the conflict is that Janet, an actress, is about to get married to Richard, and is going to give up her acting career to do so. But that's only a small part of the story! Throw in her chaperone, who isn't a very good one, a director, two gangstas posing as pastry chefs, and a whole host of other characters, and we get a delightful story that doesn't let up until the end!

The cast and crew at The Midvale Performing Arts Center did a great job, and I am confident that they will perform many excellent productions in the future! I hope I can go see more!

The Drowsy Chaperone was written by Bob Martin and Don McCellar with music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. The original story was first written in 1997, and, following alterations, opened on Broadway in 2006.