Monday, April 22, 2013

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand

I found this book at my local library on the New Books shelf in the children’s department. The cover looked promising, so I grabbed it, along with a bagful of others, and carried it home. I’m one of those readers that rarely takes the time to read the back blurb on a book. I’m usually in a hurry to finish my errands when I make a trip to town, so I browse through books rather quickly, and when I see a cover that catches my attention, I snap it up. If I don’t care for the beginning of the book, I often toss it aside and move on to the next one in my TBR pile.

This book came dangerously close to getting tossed into the “not worth the time” pile. (It isn’t actually a pile, because I almost NEVER leave a book unfinished. But it does happen, and this one just barely missed it.

Admittedly, the first paragraph hooked my attention. A young girl admits that she only has one true friend, and now he has gone missing. Sounds like a promising read. But then, I have to admit, nearly sixty pages of minutia follows that came extremely close to boring me to tears.

The MC of this story is totally unlikable. It’s a no-brainer why she has no friends. She has no redeeming qualities to attract other young people. She uses her one friend, Lawrence, as a project. Since she’s so boringly perfect, why shouldn’t she help him achieve that same state? blah, blah, blah. I hated her. She whined, preened, gagged me with a spoon through three chapters.

But underlying all this nothingness, are hints of something wicked permeating the town and its residents. Slowly this evil seeps into the storyline, and our MC begins to pick up on the weirdness.

Next the book takes us on a bizarre and grotesque ride that will freak out any young reader and probably leave him with nightmares for months to come. I envy Ms. Legrand for her superb imagination and the skill with which she weaves the details and the characters into this morbid thriller.

I began to realize after I finished this book that the MC was the perfect choice for this story. I wonder if she could have been any different in her attitude or self-image and pulled it off. Kudos to her for a job very well done. I look forward to future books from her, although I’m not sure my nerves, or my stomach, can handle them. (I will only say here, wait until you meet the Gofers.)

If you love terrifying, gross, nightmare-inducing books, written in a style that will eventually suck you in, then this is a book you won't want to miss.  


Cordelia Dinsmore

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing
Books for Children and Young Adults

That’s quite a mouthful for the title of a book. But if you can remember that the author’s name is Cheryl Klein, you can find it easily on a Google search. If you write for kids, it would be time well spent.

I’ve read a few books on writing. Not a trunk-load or anything, but enough to know that I didn’t learn a lot from some of them. Some were quite helpful. This is one I’m going to have to purchase because I know I’ll be using it often.

I decided to check this one out at the library first. One reason for that decision is because I’ve bought other writing books, and later wished I had saved my money. Not that I have an aversion to buying books! I’m just running out of room in my old house, and I want great books lining my shelves. This one is pretty great.

Ms. Klein writes in a way that is so uncomplicated, even I get it. And she throws in humor from time to time; something I always enjoy. (I especially loved her description of the sofa.) But there is a wealth of information she has provided from appearances she has made at different writing workshops.

I’m not going to go into details of the book itself. If you write for kids, and want to know the whys behind what works and what doesn’t, and how to make your manuscript touch a chord with an agent or editor, then this book might well be worth your time. I truly appreciate Ms. Klein, and her expertise at such a young age, for sharing with me. I think you will, too, if you read the book!


Cordelia Dinsmore

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Brag Fest

My apologies for being absent for so long, but my blogging and writing had to take a back seat in order to devote time and energy to an amazing group of kids I know and love. 

I normally avoid expressing political or religious views on social media sites, but I'm making an exception today. For the last three years, our home congregation youth have participated in a regional competition that involves a lot of hard work for all the kids and their coaches. Since I only coached the writing categories this year, my work load was light, but as a teacher and parent, I still devoted many hours of teaching and quizzing the kids so they'd be ready for the Bible Bowl portion of the convention.

My son wrote an acrostic poem again this year, and it was interesting to read the judges' remarks. Two of them thought it was amazing. The other, I think, possibly didn't quite get it. This judge thought it was an interesting form, but failed to see how it related to the theme. Actually, the theme was written out entirely as the first letter of each line, while the body of the poem revealed the theme in context. But, that's one of the reasons each entry is judged by three separate individuals. It's great that we can all read something and each come away with different impressions.

Aside from the writing, which included poems, essays, and picture books (complete with illustrations), the kids were allowed to display their talents in a number of other ways. There were bulletin boards, banners, photographs, drawings, sculptures, scrapbooks, power points, paintings, video Bible dramas, web pages, scripture reading, sermons, chorus groups, and probably a few others I'm forgetting. Believe me when I say that there was a lot of talent compiled in that hotel lobby. 

What impressed me the most, however, was the Bible Bowl. (Admittedly, I did not attend the Bible Quiz, so I can't compare the two.) But I would like to explain the concept to any who may have never experienced it, and perhaps you'll understand why I'm so proud of these young people.

We began work on preparing for Bible Bowl several months ago. As the teacher for the fourth through sixth grades, I utilized class time on Sunday mornings to familiarize the kids with the book of Matthew. In order to be prepared for the Bowl, the younger students - up through the 6th grade - needed to memorize approximately 600 questions covering the 28 chapters of the book. During the bowl, they are only given a total of 75 questions, but they have no idea which questions will be asked, so they need to know all of the possibilities. The older kids, and any of the younger ones who wish to take it on, have an additional round of 35 questions. 

Aside from the Sunday morning preparation time, our preacher's wife worked with the kids every week for another hour. They also had internet access to games which would also help them learn the material.

What I find so interesting is that most of these kids - I'm talking close to 600 altogether, although there were only four from our congregation - memorized all of the material! They are judged on a curve, so if even one participant gets all of the questions correct, the maximum number others can miss and still come out with a gold medal is 9. Our four kids did great, with three silvers and one gold! Some of these kids were third graders, and I find it awesome that they devoted so much time and effort into memorizing so many details about one of the Gospels. 

I recognized a couple of the kids from last year, and was talking to one young man. His younger sister was competing for the first time this year, and although she missed a few (he missed none for at least the second year in a row) she still had a joyful attitude about it. I asked him how they prepared for it, and he responded that they write out all of the questions, which he said worked best for him. Can you believe that, from a sixth grader? Seriously, the material covered over 600 questions. 

(sigh) I came away from that weekend with so many good feelings. I never heard kids being disruptive or disrespectful in any way, even though they were exhausted by the time the weekend was over. They do us proud every time! 

The memory that will stay with me the longest from this year is the picture of the hot tub on Friday night. Many kids were up at the pool after Bible Bowl and Bible Quiz were over, but the basketball game was on in the workout room, and all the kids from the pool were crowded into the hot tub on the other side of the glass, gazes riveted on that screen. Unfortunately, KU ended their season that night, but the view from where I stood was a winner.

I plan to be back next week with a review or two, and hopefully an author interview in the very near future. My pile of TBRs is growing at an alarming rate, and I hate to progress much further without sharing my thoughts on some more great reads.


Cordelia Dinsmore