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Books I’ve been reading with a lot of toast…

Since January I have been rotating back and forth between two authors that I have really enjoyed. In my ongoing search to find WWII era books I found The Distant Hours by Kate Morton.  I had heard of the author before and so I went to the library to get it. On the shelf close by was What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, I grabbed both books even though they were both rather lengthy. I am not a fast reader so I wasn’t sure if I could read both of them before they were due.

I was absolutely spellbound by The Distant Hours. I could not put it down. The book had nothing to do with WWII, but it was set during that time in England. It is a recently published book, but still fits my “criteria” of WWII, England, not really graphic…the words that I had seen used to describe the book was “gothic fictions”.  This would normally turn me away as I usually read before bed and have a hard time getting images out of my head. I loved it and it wasn’t freaky. The book also goes back and forth between a present day storyline and then back into the past which I love.

When I was done I picked up What Alice Forgot and could not put it down either. Nothing to do with WWII…but a very interesting story about a woman who loses her memory and thinks that she is living 10 years earlier. She doesn’t understand why her current life is falling apart and isn’t happy with the person that she has become. The similarity of the two books? Not many! Both authors are Australian and apparently their comfort food is toast. Everyone’s answer to stress or being sick is to eat toast.

I found this to be true as I have sailed through all the rest of Liane Moriarty’s books…Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, and The Hypnotist’s Love Story. Lots of toast. My favorite was definitely What Alice Forgot, the others were enjoyable, but just not quite as good in my opinion. Three Wishes and The Last Anniversary were lighter than The Hypnotist’s Love Story which dealt with stalking and was a bit more intense.

Of Kate Morton’s books, I have also read The House at Riverton which I had heard was a good read for people who like Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs. And yes, it was a good read. As with The Distant Hours, and all of Kate Morton’s books, the story is told in present day and then traveling back in time. I am currently reading The Secret Keeper and can’t put it down. Next will be the The Forgotten Garden.

I would recommend both authors. What Alice Forgot is my favorite of Liane Moriarty’s books.  I am only halfway through the third of four Kate Morton’s books…My favorites so far are The Distant Hours and The Secret Keeper.

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Tea and Trouble Brewing Giveaway Winner

I was so excited to have 29 entries in my first giveaway!

I have randomly chosen a winner…comment number….

And since I don’t always know what I am doing, I accidentally deleted the comments when I was trying to turn them off so no more could be left when the giveaway ended…

Oops…Hopefully I can get them added back in.

So comment number 9 was: (a second comment by someone and my response were not counted)

Connie says : November 15, 2012 at 11:13 am

“I have her other books and enjoy her writing so much!”

I will be emailing Connie to find out a mailing address. Congratulations and I hope that you enjoy the book!

and a reminder…

To Purchase:
If you would like to purchase Tea and Trouble Brewing directly from Dorcas (with a check) visit her blog Life in the Shoe,  or you can send a check for $15 to:
Dorcas Smucker,
31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg,
OR 97446

You can also purchase from Amazon with a credit card.

Dorcas has three other books that can be purchased on either site…Ordinary Days, Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting, and Downstairs the Queen is Knitting.

 

Tea and Trouble Brewing Update

Thank you to all who have commented on my review of Tea and Trouble Brewing by Dorcas Smucker.  The giveaway is still open. Please leave a comment on the original post between now and Sunday, November 25. I will announce the winner on Monday, November 26 and contact the winner via email.

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To Purchase:
If you would like to purchase Tea and Trouble Brewing directly from Dorcas (with a check) visit her blog Life in the Shoe,  or you can send a check for $15 to:
Dorcas Smucker,
31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg,
OR 97446

You can also purchase from Amazon with a credit card.

Dorcas has three other books that can be purchased on either site…Ordinary Days, Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting, and Downstairs the Queen is Knitting.

Tea and Trouble Brewing: A Review and a Giveaway

I have been reading Dorcas Smucker’s blog, Life in the Shoe, and her Register Guard column, Letters from Harrisburg, for several years now. When she posted a request for help in reviewing her latest book, Tea and Trouble Brewing, I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, once I was committed, I remembered that I have never reviewed a book on my blog. I started to feel a little intimidated. I was worried that I wouldn’t do her words justice. Fortunately, as I neared the end of this delightful book, I read the essay “Climbing My Mountain”, and felt encouraged to write my first book review.
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“It is strange, the things we classify as impossible, tucking them into that box in our heads without ever asking why we put them there or who we could ask for help or what would happen if we tried or why we’re afraid of only partial success.” (p. 149)
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Tea and Trouble Brewing is a compilation of 34 of Dorcas’ newspaper articles. I had already read the majority of these articles when they were originally published by the Register Guard, but it was a pleasure to read them again, one right after the other. Reading this book was like sitting on the porch and chatting with a good and wise friend.

Dorcas writes of the every day. Life with six children. Life in an old farmhouse. Experiences that many moms and wives share. Kitchens, pets, children, anniversaries. These stories are told with humor and wisdom, and also with honesty and grace. That she is still trying to get it right, doesn’t always get it right, and it is ok if she doesn’t. She is trying. And she encourages us to do the same.

In “The Children Who Leave or Stay”, Dorcas discusses the differences between being the child who lives near the parents and being the one who has moved away. Her words resonate with me as I am “the one that has chosen to stay”.
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“The ones who stay do the airport runs, rearranging their schedules to drive to Portland or Eugene at all hours…At the airport, they pick up or drop off the ones who left, siblings who swoop in from distant places carrying a whiff of the exotic and different, stay for a whirlwind week, and then leave, often with relief, as though re-escaping something they fled long ago. ” (p. 71)
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In “An Old Tree, an Old Dog”, Dorcas writes of the loss of their great old oak tree and one of the family pets, both occurring within the space of two weeks. Who hasn’t experienced the heartbreaking loss of a family pet?
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“I have lost friends and family members, and would be silly to liken that loss to this, recognizing their vastly greater magnitude, their exponentially deeper loss. Yet I find this has a sadness all its own, when large, beautiful, faithful, old things have been a part of your life, and then they are gone. You look for branches against the sky and listen for a thumping tail on the porch, and there is nothing where something once was, and only a large emptiness remains.” (p. 52)
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Dorcas’ thoughts on motherhood are peppered throughout the book. Some of my favorites are:
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“I wonder, where is the tipping point where just enough becomes too much? And how can I teach them to hear the message of the gift: ‘You are precious to me. I am interested in who you are. I am willing to invest in you because I love you.'” (p. 23)

And when the kids are away…“Solitude is a mysterious thing, distorting the normal into strange proportions. Time, space and sound are magnified five-fold; small decisions take on deep importance…Too much solitude brings loneliness, but just enough brings the gift of rest.” (p. 54, 56)

“Give yourself credit for showing up every day and loving your children and doing the best you can, I tell them, because that in itself makes a huge difference to a child. And, I add, give yourself some grace: We are allowed to make mistakes.” (p 136)
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On the surface, Tea and Trouble Brewing felt like a lighthearted read. There are many humorous stories throughout the book that had me giggling. As I read more, however, I found Dorcas’ wisdom and voice moving around in my mind, settling there and encouraging me on my own journey as wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend.

The Giveaway:
Dorcas has graciously sent a signed copy of her book for me to give to one of my readers. If you would like to enter this giveaway, please leave a comment on this post between now and Sunday, November 25.

To Purchase:
If you would like to purchase Tea and Trouble Brewing directly from Dorcas (with a check) visit her blog Life in the Shoe,  or you can send a check for $15 to:
Dorcas Smucker,
31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg,
OR 97446

You can also purchase from Amazon with a credit card.

Dorcas has three other books that can be purchased on either site…Ordinary Days, Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting, and Downstairs the Queen is Knitting.

World War II Books (Mostly Fiction)

I have been on a World War II “era” reading kick for months now. I am partial to fiction and certainly more fluff than reality. I think I like the feeling of the time, definitely not the horrid reality of what many went through during the war. In particular, I like books that are set either in the US or in England.

I thought I would compile a list of some of the books I have read recently…The two I would recommend most highly would be Unbroken and Coming Home, the former for harsh reality the latter for more of a light read.

If you have any suggestions to add, please leave them in the comments!
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Mrs. Tuesday's Departure Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure – Suzanne Anderson 
(From Amazon.com)
When Natalie and Anna, sisters and life-long rivals, hide an abandoned child from the Nazis, their deception resurrects the scars of a star-crossed love triangle that threats their safety and tests the bonds of their loyalty.

Hungary’s fragile alliance with Germany insured that Natalie, a renowned children’s book author, and her family would be safe as the war raged through Europe. But, as the Führer’s desperation grows in the waning years of the conflict, neighbors now become traitors.

Beautiful but troubled Anna, poet and university professor, is losing her tenuous hold on reality, re-igniting a sibling rivalry that began with a poetry contest in childhood. It boils over when Deszo, Anna’s unrequited love, re-enters their lives with a promise of safety.

Interwoven with Natalie and Anna’s story, is Mila’s. The abandoned child whose future Natalie lovingly imagines in a story called Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure.

A story that takes on a life of its own fifty years later.

Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure is a haunting tale of un-requited love and the un-breakable bonds of sisters.
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Dream When You’re Feeling Blue – Elizabeth Berg
(description from Amazon)
New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg takes us to Chicago at the time of World War II in this wonderful story about three sisters, their lively Irish family, and the men they love.
As the novel opens, Kitty and Louise Heaney say good-bye to their boyfriends Julian and Michael, who are going to fight overseas. On the domestic front, meat is rationed, children participate in metal drives, and Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller play songs that offer hope and lift spirits. And now the Heaney sisters sit at their kitchen table every evening to write letters–Louise to her fiancé, Kitty to the man she wishes fervently would propose, and Tish to an ever-changing group of men she meets at USO dances. In the letters the sisters send and receive are intimate glimpses of life both on the battlefront and at home. For Kitty, a confident, headstrong young woman, the departure of her boyfriend and the lessons she learns about love, resilience, and war will bring a surprise and a secret, and will lead her to a radical action for those she loves. The lifelong consequences of the choices the Heaney sisters make are at the heart of this superb novel about the power of love and the enduring strength of family.
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The Time In Between cover.png The Time In Between – Maria Duenas
(description from Amazon)
The inspiring New York Times bestseller of a seemingly ordinary woman who uses her talent and courage to transform herself first into a prestigious couturier and then into an undercover agent for the Allies during World War II.Between Youth and Adulthood . . .At age twelve, Sira Quiroga sweeps the atelier floors where her single mother works as a seamstress. By her early twenties she has learned the ropes of the business and is engaged to a modest government clerk. But then everything changes.

Between War and Peace . . .

With the Spanish Civil War brewing in Madrid, Sira impetuously follows her handsome new lover to Morocco, but soon finds herself abandoned, penniless, and heartbroken. She reinvents herself by turning to the one skill that can save her: creating beautiful clothes.

Between Love and Duty . . .

As World War II begins, Sira is persuaded to return to Madrid, where she is the preeminent couturiere for an eager clientele of Nazi officers’ wives. She becomes embroiled in a half-lit world of espionage and political conspiracy rife with love, intrigue, and betrayal. A massive bestseller across Europe, The Time In Between is one of those rare, richly textured novels that enthrall down to the last page. MarÍa DueÑas reminds us how it feels to be swept away by a masterful storyteller.
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Breaking the Code: A Daughter's Journey into Her Father's Secret War
Breaking the Code – Karen Fisher-Alaniz
(description from Amazon)
Our parents are our most unexplored mystery.

Whether close or distant to us, we see them as “parent,” rarely knowing or thinking about the person that they are outside that role. So few of us get to discover that person inside, even if it may be just a question away.

Like many, Karen grew up with a father who was always there and yet always absent. As a little girl and then an adult, she talked to him, but they never really had a conversation. He’d told her stories of his childhood and of his time in the Navy, but she’d barely listened.

But on his 81st birthday, without explanation, her father placed two weathered notebooks on her lap, with more than 400 pages of letters he’d written to his parents during World War II. The more she read, the more she discovered about the man she never knew and the secret role he played in the war.

Thus began an unintended journey – one taken by a father and daughter who thought they knew each other, a journey of healing and discovery that started with a leap of faith.
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 Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet – Jamie Ford
(description from Amazon)
In the opening pages of Jamie Ford’s stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love–that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice–words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.
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The Odessa FileThe Odessa File – Frederick Forsyth

(description from Amazon)
The  suicide of an elderly German Jew explodes into  revelation after revelation: of a Mafia-like  organization called Odessa …of a real-life fugitive known as the  “Butcher of Riga”..of a young German journalist  tumed obsessed avenger…….and, ultimately, of brilliant, ruthless plot  to reestablish the worldwide power of SS mass  murderers and to carry out Hitler’s chilling  “Final Solution.”
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Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand
(description from Amazon)
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.
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The Land Girls – Angela Huth
(description from Amazon)
With the country’s men at war, it falls to the land girls to pitch in and do their bit…Stella arrives at Hallows Farm in her Rayon stockings, having just waved goodbye to the love of life – naval officer Philip. Agatha has just graduated from Cambridge; life on the Farm is certainly going to offer her a different kind of education. Prue, a hairdresser from Manchester, is used to painting the town red, not manual labour. Joe dreams of leaving the family farm and becoming a fighter pilot. But with the arrival of these three beautiful young women, there’s enough to keep him busy on the farm for the time being…Work is hard and the effects of war start to take their toll on the three women. But as the bonds of friendship start to form and excitement builds as the RAF dance looms, maybe life in the countryside isn’t so bad after all?
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Letters from Home – Kristina McMorris
(description from Amazon)
Liz Stephen’s life changes when she meets infantryman Morgan McClain at a Chicago USO club. Liz has long expected to marry her childhood friend, Dalton, yet her instant attraction to Morgan is mutual. But when she misinterprets Morgan’s chivalrous rescue of her friend Betty, she flees without explanation. When Betty begins corresponding with Morgan, she asks for Liz’s help. Soon, Morgan and Liz, under Betty’s alias, are exchanging soul-baring letters. Betty, serving in the Woman’s Army Corps, finds unexpected romance of her own, as does Liz’s engaged best friend Julia. But as the war ends, each woman faces the repercussions of her choices. Inspired by the true story of her grandparents’ epistolary courtship during World War II, Kristina McMorris captures the heartache and sacrifice of love and war in a story that is timeless, tender, and unforgettably moving.
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Bridge of Scarlet Letters – Kristina McMorris
(description from Amazon)
Los Angeles. 1941. Violinist Maddie Kern’s life seemed destined to unfold with the predictable elegance of a Bach concerto. Then she fell in love with Lane Moritomo. Her brother’s best friend, Lane is the handsome, ambitious son of Japanese immigrants. Maddie was prepared for disapproval from their families, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed the day after she and Lane elope, the full force of their decision becomes apparent. In the eyes of a fearful nation, Lane is no longer just an outsider, but an enemy.

When her husband is interned at a war relocation camp, Maddie follows, sacrificing her Juilliard ambitions. Behind barbed wire, tension simmers and the line between patriot and traitor blurs. As Maddie strives for the hard-won acceptance of her new family, Lane risks everything to prove his allegiance to America, at tremendous cost.
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Suite Francaise – Irene Nemirovsky
(description from Amazon)
Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940. Suite Française tells the remarkable story of men and women thrown together in circumstances beyond their control. As Parisians flee the city, human folly surfaces in every imaginable way: a wealthy mother searches for sweets in a town without food; a couple is terrified at the thought of losing their jobs, even as their world begins to fall apart. Moving on to a provincial village now occupied by German soldiers, the locals must learn to coexist with the enemy—in their town, their homes, even in their hearts.When Irène Némirovsky began working on Suite Française, she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she died. For sixty-four years, this novel remained hidden and unknown.
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Cover When the Emperor Was Divine – Julie Otsuka
(description from the publisher’s website)
On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her home, and matter-of-factly begins to pack her family’s possessions. Like thousands of other Japanese Americans they have been reclassified, virtually overnight, as enemy aliens and are about to be uprooted from their home and sent to a dusty internment camp in the Utah desert.

In this lean and devastatingly evocative first novel, Julie Otsuka tells their story from five flawlessly realized points of view and conveys the exact emotional texture of their experience: the thin-walled barracks and barbed-wire fences, the omnipresent fear and loneliness, the unheralded feats of heroism. When the Emperor Was Divine is a work of enormous power that makes a shameful episode of our history as immediate as today’s headlines.
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Coming Home – Rosamunde Pilcher
(description from Amazon)
Against the backdrop of an elegant Cornwall mansion before World War II and a vast continent-spanning canvas during the turbulent war years, this involving story tells of an extraordinary young woman’s coming of age, coming to grips with love and sadness, and in every sense of the term, coming home…

In 1935, Judith Dunbar is left behind at a British boarding school when her mother and baby sister go off to join her father in Singapore. At Saint Ursula’s, her friendship with Loveday Carey-Lewis sweeps her into the privileged, madcap world of the British aristocracy, teaching her about values, friendship, and wealth. But it will be the drama of war, as it wrenches Judith from those she cares about most, that will teach her about courage…and about love.

Teeming with marvelous, memorable characters in a novel that is a true masterpiece, Coming Home is a book to be savored, reread, and cherished forever.
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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
(description from Amazon)
January 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.

Summer Reading at Our House

Grace and I have been reading a lot this summer (well and the spring too). We have been to the library several times and despite her saying “no more chapter books for a little while”, she is devouring them.

My reads:
I have just finished reading the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. I absolutely loved it. There were 8 books and I enjoyed all except one (Among the Mad). The books are set after WWI in England.

A few other books I have read recently and enjoyed are The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, La’s Orchestra Saves the World, actually anything by Alexander McCall Smith.

I seem to be really taken with WWI/WWII England right now…

Any suggestions?

Grace has been reading all sorts of chapter books. She loves to read before bed (as do we) and now that it is summer she has been reading as late as she wants.

Books and series she is loving:
The Ramona series by Beverly Cleary
The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall
The Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace

We have had a hard time getting the third book in the Penderwicks series at our local library. When we were there yesterday the librarian said they had it on CD. We decided to give it a try and Grace loves it. She said “I can do whatever I want and just listen to it! She never stops talking, she just keeps reading and reading!” The set was over 7 hours and she listened to almost half of it yesterday while coloring and playing paper dolls. Not sure how much she is absorbing, but she loves it!

She also still loves her Fairy books but she doesn’t seem to be devouring them like she was.

Every month or two she tries to read a book about Helen Keller that was mine when I was a kid. Each time she gets a little farther before she abandons it. I think that one is hard to grasp.

Well that’s what we’re reading. What about you?

Owen: Fun Books

I recently checked out the book “Owen” by Kevin Henkes at the local library.

The other day, Danny read it to Owen. He sat with such interest at this book with his name in it.

Danny changed the name of “Owen’s” blanket from “Fuzzy” to “Minnie” and our Owen just loved it.