Summer Book Recommendations – Chained

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Hi guys, Aidan here with the first of my summer reading recommendations.

Chained, sounds like it might be sad, especially when you see the picture of a young Indian boy standing by a small elephant on the cover, but it is a book about friendship, courage, kindness and not giving up.

We are introduced to ten-year-old Hastin when his sister is sick and his mother is forced to work for a family that is unkind to her. To free his mother Hastin takes a job far from his family as an elephant keeper.

I felt the author did a good job of bringing both the marketplace and the jungle to life and really liked the way she gave descriptions an Indian twist, like “it feels like a python is squeezing my chest” and “she grows smaller and smaller, her face just a dot of cinnamon.”

I also liked that the author gives you lots of interesting information about elephants. While we were in India we learned a lot about elephants, including their teeth wearing down and also, of course, all about the tiger trade. I think it’s great that there are books like Ms. Kelly’s who help bring these issues to the attention of children and do so in an entertaining way.

There are some chapters that are hard to read, but the relationship between Hastin and Nandita and Hastin and Ne Min made me want to keep reading. In fact, I read the entire book in one day, it was that good.

If I had any criticism, it would be that I kept wondering if this was set now or in the past as it was hard to tell. I also wish I knew what part of India Hastin came from originally – a part that had desert and camels. However, I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in India, or anyone who enjoys a story about a boy and his elephant.

http://www.amazon.com/Chained-Lynne-Kelly-ebook/dp/B007XSNB5S/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1434554333&sr=8-2&keywords=Chained&pebp=1434554341355&perid=0KNDWJGWVFT9409E2J8J

You May Not Know!

handsc flutec

Something you may not know about us cousins is that we are all musical.

Cagney sings in the school choir, Aidan plays the guitar. Olivia plays the flute, Tess the clarinet and they both play the piano. I play the violin. See Tess’ drawings above.

At Christmas we got together and played Christmas carols, which was actually more fun than it sounds!

Happy February, my friends. Hope you are all staying warm and dry – Lissy.

Top Ten Reasons Why Buying Books for Christmas Gifts is a Good Idea

CIA - Operation Tiger Paw

Hi Guys, Aidan here. The holidays are coming and I’m sure we are all giving serious thought on what to buy those loved ones on our shopping list. Here’s my top ten reasons why buying books as gifts for Christmas is a smart idea. Happy shopping everyone.

  1. It’s cheaper to send books through the mail than regular gifts.
  2. Books are easy to wrap.
  3. No one has to return a book because it’s the wrong size.
  4. Books smell good, plus they make you smart.
  5. No batteries required.
  6. Compared to other gifts, books are cheap.
  7. Books are easy to store.
  8. Books can be passed to others when you’re done.
  9. Books do not go out of fashion or have a use by date.
  10. You can get presents for everyone in just one store.

http://www.amazon.com/Operation-Tiger-Cousins-Action-Book-ebook/dp/B00OOIFNY2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417793410&sr=8-1&keywords=operation+tiger+paw

Cagney’s Top Ten Tips on how to be FABULOUS at Halloween

Hopping Mermaid By Tess

Hopping Mermaid By Tess

  1. Do not leave it to the last minute to buy a costume – else you’ll be going as a penguin or even worse, a pumpkin.
  2. Okay, so my friend, Ella, had this mermaid costume that was super cute but she couldn’t actually walk in it and had to hop everywhere. The rule is, if you can’t walk in it, don’t buy it. Nobody wants to be trick-or-treating with a hopping mermaid!
  3. Make sure you have a big enough bag! Make sure the bag has sturdy handles.
  4. Make sure you can be seen in the dark (okay, Lissy made me put this in – but there are some super cute stickers that glow in the dark and let’s face it, getting run over on Halloween would be really annoying).
  5. While we’re talking safety, don’t run (of course if you’re wearing a mermaid costume you won’t have to worry about this). It’s way too easy to trip in the dark – believe me, I know about this.
  6. Don’t bang at the door if the light is off – no candy for you!
  7. If the candy is not wrapped don’t eat it – you never know if anything icky got in it.
  8. Remember, dogs are allergic to chocolate – make sure your pooch is kept well away from all treats.
  9. Make sure you know who is meeting who and where. There’s nothing worse than not being able to find your friends in the dark and no-one wants to trick or treat alone, or worse, with your brother.
  10. No matter how ridiculous they look – do not laugh at adults in costumes – I’ve heard it can get you in serious trouble.

The Wish List

Meg

As you could probably tell from my post last month, I am REALLY into Eoin Colfer. So I was happy to discover that Mr. Colfer had written other books, including The Wish List. Okay, it is NOT Artemis Fowl, but it is GOOD. Here’s what happens.

Meg Finn is not really bad, she just acts that way. And she’s acting that way when she decides to break into pensioner Lowrie McCall’s apartment with local bad boy, Belch. Things quickly go horribly wrong when, after a freak accident, she finds herself flying down a passageway with two options at the end – heaven or hell.

But Meg is a conundrum – turns out she’s exactly 50% good and 50% bad – unheard of. And, before she knows it, Meg returns to earth in the form of a petulant teenage spirit, sent to help the man she has wronged.

Meg and Lowrie embark on a quest, a wish list, for the dying man. The question is, will they be able to finish it before time runs out?

Definitely worth the read, I’d say Mr. Colfer has done it again.

First Stop – Peru

Llamas

Hello Blog Post Readers. This is Lissy Puddleton, finally writing about our time in Peru.

First of all, as you may remember, this was my first time out of the state, not alone the country. My cousins and I had never boarded a train, never mind a plane. It was all very exciting, albeit slightly terrifying.

To be honest, I barely knew where Peru was before Grandma whisked us off there. True, I knew it was in South America, but finding out exactly where it was (on the Pacific coast, with Ecuador and Columbia to the north, Brazil to the east and Bolivia and Chile to the south – just in case you were wondering), was something I had never given much thought to, until we were on the plane, heading south.

The first thing we found out when arriving was about the invasion of Francisco Pizarro in 1531 and the death of Athualpa, the Inca King, which led to the hiding and losing of the lost treasure of the Inca. To put this in prospective Henry VIII was on the throne of England and had just become the head of the church of England. The story of Pizarro and Athualpa was really fascinating, plus it’s really cool that treasure hunters are still looking for this treasure today, now worth an estimated eight-billion dollars.

Getting to fly across the Nazca Lines was also amazing. Even though I’m sure there must be a logical explanation on how these soil canvases were made, I have to admit, it’s pretty impressive, and does make you wonder how on earth (or not) they did it.

Of course, visiting Machu Picchu was the highlight of our trip. It’s only when you’re standing 8,000 feet above sea-level that you realize what an accomplishment the lost city is. Hiram Bingham’s re-discovery just over a hundred years ago, is also quite unbelievable. Pretty impressive, seeing he wasn’t even looking for Machu Picchu, but another lost city, Vilcabamba.

Having lived my entire life in Texas, I must admit, Peru was a bit of a shock. I never knew a place could smell different – but it did. I never thought I’d be daring enough to try new food – but I did. I also never thought I’d be trekking around the jungle with just my cousins for company – still find this one difficult to believe – but I did.

However, the best thing about Peru was something you can’t read about in books or online – it was the people. From the eccentric Lucila to the enthusiastic Senor Gustavo, I will never forget their friendliness and how welcome they made us feel. Truly, when it comes down to it, it’s the people that really make a country and bring it to life.

Happy travels, my friends.

Jokes on Tess

Tess for tickles

Tess loves to tell jokes. Here is her current favorite!

There were two nuns driving through Trannsylvania when Dracula appears in the road. The one nun says to the other, “quick, show him your cross.” So, the other nun rolls down the window, leans out and shouts – “Get out of the road, you toothy git!”

Cagney’s Top Ten Tips on Packing

Hello, my friends.

As you can imagine, I am becoming quite an expert on packing for international travel. I am, therefore, going to share my fabulous knowledge with you all, because that’s just the kind of girl I am.

Firstly, if you’ve never traveled out of the country before, don’t worry. It’s easier than falling off a llama (which, as it turns out, is pretty easy). As long as your family doesn’t abandon you once you get there (a different blog post altogether), you’ll be fine.

When my cousins and I first started boarding airplanes I had no idea what to pack and so I took everything – big mistake. Less is definitely more. First of all you have to carry this stuff and wheels on suitcases only take you so far – you still have to lift it. Secondly, there’s always lots of fun stuff to buy when traveling and you want to make sure you have room to bring it all back.

So, you may ask, how do you fit a week’s worth of fabulous clothing into a suitcase without having a complete meltdown? Just follow Cagney’s Top Ten Tips  on Packing and you will be good to go.

1. Check the weather – if it hadn’t been for Mrs Snoops, the whole bunch of us would have taken summer clothes to Peru in June – big mistake. Just because it’s 100 degrees in your hometown, doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same where you are going, especially if it’s in a different hemisphere.

2. Make sure you have a sleep mask. Jet lag is a bore and you will wake up and want to go to sleep at the most inconvenient times. Also, for some reasons, the further north you go in summer, the longer the days. When it’s not dark until gone ten and light by 4:30, a sleep mask can come in mighty handy. My personal favorite is purple, padded and plush with the words – “wake me and I’ll bite you” on it, but anything will do in a pinch.

3. Take one spectacular outfit. Just in case you bump into a glamorous movie star who invites you out for dinner – hey, it can happen.

4. Do not carry anything sharp and pointy onto the plane – they get very upset about this.

5. Don’t forget your chargers and adaptors. Weird thing about other countries, they don’t have plugs that look like ours – that was a bit of a shock.

6. Lay out all the outfits you want to take. Make sure your pants and tops match, there’s no point bringing your fabulous lime green top halfway around the world only to realize you have nothing to match. Pack your favorite outfit first and then keep going until you have one outfit for every day – no more. Jeans can do double duty for two outfits, if you are pressed for space. Don’t forget your PJ’s, a sweater and, although it pains me to say it, sensible shoes.

7. Take something to do for the downtime – which there always is when traveling. Aidan brings books – of course. Lissy is inseparable from that darn laptop and Tess – duh – brings food. Just make sure whatever you bring it’s not too bulky or heavy, or if it is, it’s edible.

8. If you’re going to England – take an umbrella.

9.  We cannot always choose who we travel with, so bringing ear plugs to drown out your travel companions constant information dump is always advisable.

10.  Finally, don’t forget to mark your luggage really well. After several hours in the air, the last thing you need is to have problems identifying one of the gazillion black suitcases gliding around the carousel. I’m not going to go over the top like Tess – whose baggage, as you can imagine, is hard to miss, but subtle is not the way to go either. A bright ribbon attached to the handle in your favorite color is always a good start, or a luggage label with an unusual design. My luggage label states – BACK OFF MISTER, THIS IS MINE! Subtle, but effective, I find.