In a box of books donated to my Little Free Library, I found and read You Have a Girlfriend, Alfie Atkins? by Gunilla Bergstrom, which was published back in 1988. I hope it was a young boy who owned this book, and his parent or grandparent donated it, for the “lesson” that Alfie, the protagonist learns is one young boys everywhere should learn. Friendships with girls are not “unmanly” and something to be avoided at all costs, but certain girls like Milly, Alfie’s friend are “not exactly a girl.” When the other boys tease Alfie for playing with Milly, and even write “Alfie loves Milly ” on the bathroom wall for the whole school to read, these same boys end up envious of Alfie and Milly’s tree fort which has many ingenious features and inventions thought up by Milly.

My favorite parts are the pages with the illustrations of how girls are, and how Milly is NOT like a girl, and then the page where Alfie lists how Milly IS like a boy:

” Milly almost never cries./ She invents things./ Right now she is making a mailbox, with a rope pulley for the fort./ (Milly never tells anyone about the fort. She knows how to keep a secret.)/ Everyone says that Milly is a REDHEAD./ Alfie doesn’t think so. / Her hair isn’t red; it sparkles like gold–at least when the sun is shining./ And she even wears a heart of gold around her neck!/ Milly is a good friend because she knows…

How to make candy and bake cakes…and build a toy circus…and do a handstand on one hand. She’s not afraid of jumping off the garage roof, and she can make really disgusting faces. Look!

Now she is working on a bell for the mailbox. It will ring when you pick up the mail. You can find out things from Milly. You can learn things from her.”

These quoted passages are included in five of the most wonderfully illustrated pages of Alfie and Milly’s adventures (and “things that girls, in general, do” and “the boys” Alfie is friends with), but I could not find the illustrator’s name anywhere! I must assume that he/she is an illustrator with R&S Books. The book is originally a Swedish book and is distributed in the US by FArrar, Straus and Giroux, N.Y and in the UK by Ragged Bears, Andover; in Canada by General Publishing, Toronto; and in Australia by ERA Publications, Adelaide.

It is a book every boy should read!




I “met” Aidan several years ago when his first novel, Pathfinder, was published.  The book was a real page turner about a young man whose friend was in a coma, constantly having nightmares and wasting away. When he learned that it was possible to enter his friend’s dream and help him to wake up, he did so. I was intrigued by lucid dreaming, and even encouraged a psychology student to do her argument research paper on how psychologists are using lucid dreaming for patients suffering from night terrors or even PTSD. The book was full of action and a great read.

Reid’s second book, Sigil, was a mystery that was excellent as well. The main character, a priest in a small village in Ireland discovers an evil so profound that it makes him doubt his faith.

His third novel, Raising Lazarus, is my favorite so far.

Summary: Molly Walker, granddaughter of Roy Walker, prison warden at Lockworth Correctional Facility, needs a criminology grad school thesis, and asks her grandfather to let her interview an “interesting” prisoner to use as a base. A handsome,  prisoner with a Middle Eastern appearance and only one name,” Lazarus”, arrested for prostitution, becomes her “project.” When he is paroled, they become involved, and the nail-biting, action scene near the end includes actual people, events and facts from the story’s time that make the reader feel the story could have happened.

Is he the Lazarus? This pivotal question of the novel explores the “dark underbelly of the city” as Lazarus’s story unfurls. Is the “gift” of being raised from the dead a blessing or a curse?

Sometimes the story jumps back and forth in time, but after about the fourth chapter, the narrative is straightforward and easy to follow.

I highly recommend Raising Lazarus as a “thinking reader’s” novel which will cause you to hold your breath until the very end.  5 out of 5 stars.   * * * * *


Today is December first, which leads me to reflect on the books I read during the month of November. I was amazed when counting back that I had read eleven books: a book about books, an inspirational book, a memoir, a mystery, a non-fiction book, a Newberry Award winning kid’s novel, three novels, and two YA novels. This floored me, for also during the month of November, I graded 23 research/argument (7-10 pages each) papers; my students finished and presented their Literacy Projects; I caught a four-day virus, which I promptly shared with My Better Half; my brother from Virginia came for a visit; I turned another year older, and we celebrated Thanksgiving.  Whew!

Here is a quick list of titles and authors I read:

Academic Curveball by James J. Cudney (to be reviewed here soon) Kindle

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hasseini (reviewed on this blog recently) audio book

Books For Living by Will Schwalbe (reviewed on this blog recently) borrowed from an e-library

Compulsion ( a YA novel) Kindle

For One More Day by Mitch Albom (to be reviewed here soon)

In The Shadow of the Statues by Mitch Landrieu ( to be reviewed here soon) Book club selection for November

Jesus by Max Lucado borrowed from church library

The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (reviewed on “Saturday Mornings for Kids” on this blog)

Never Stop Walking by Christina Rickardsson (reviewed recently)

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman, which resumes my Alphabet Challenge

Raising Lazarus (to be reviewed here soon)

With the Christmas Holidays fast approaching, I may not do as much reading, but there are still so many books on my TBR shelves, and my “little brother” gave me a Barnes and Nobel gift card for my birthday!





Today’s Saturday morning selection, Is That A Sick Cat in Your Backpack? is by Todd Strasser.  It is the second book in “The Tardy Boys Series” (No, that is not a typo.) published in 2007. The target audience for the book is ages 7-10, according to the author’s hilarious “Author’s Note and Warning.” Strasser explains that “Tardy Boys” is a two book series, the first book titled, Is That A Dead Dog in Your Locker?  He allows kids to read Sick Cat as a stand-alone, reminding them that he, “the author,” at the end of book one, mentions “The Meowians from the Planet Meow in the Feline Galaxy.” He goes on to tell readers, “The Meowians have changed their name and the name of their planet.”

The cover is the biggest hook of the book.  One of the boys is holding a scarf over his nose as “fumes” of smell arise from his school backpack. Greg Swinson, responsible for the cover art is amazing. The book opens with “The Missing Cat Mystery,” written in the form of a memo from” Commander Claw on Planet Hiss in the Feline Galaxy,” and the zanyness goes on from there. We meet The Tardy Boys: T.J., Wade and Leyton, coming home from a party.  The mystery builds raucously as a skinny, foul smelling, raggedy cat is delivered at night by a weird “person?” and becomes the source of their woe.  Other characters like Fibby Mandible and Barton Slugg make the boys’ lives miserable throughout the book.

I laughed until I gagged; I reached for the air freshener at times, and continued on.  It will delight seven to ten year old boys everywhere. If they read it with a friend, they will punch each other and giggle madly at the second adventure of The Tardy Boys.


I found this on Ritu’s “But I Smile Anyway” blog recently.

“Don’t you dare say I only work half a day.

Don’t you dare sneer at my ten weeks “off” a year.

Give me this , and I’ll give you my roll.

But I warn you , my friend, it takes heart, body, and soul.”   (Anon.)

This reflects my respect for teachers everywhere at all levels. As a veteran of 50 years of teaching junior high, community college, and university classes. I KNOW how hard it can get, and I KNOW how wonderful it can be.


Tuesday Teaser is a meme begun by The Purple Booker and one I was introduced to on Brainfluff. The idea is to copy a few sentences from where you left off reading, or at random, so others might be teased to read the same book. Put your blog address if  you have one and post your Teaser. OR place your Teaser (don’t forget the book title and the author’s name) in the response section.

Today’s teaser is from blogging friend’s James J. Cudney’s third novel, Academic Curveball, from the Braxton Campus Mysteries, Book I.  Killan, the protagonist and narrator, is attending the funeral of a second murder victim who was his father’s assistant at Braxton College. He has just run into his grandmother, unexpectedly:

“What are you doing here, Nana D?” I asked crossing to the entrance of the funeral parlor.

“I had a few stops to make downtown today. Just thought since I was in the area, I should put in an appearance,” she said. Nana D was in her standard funeral outfit–a stylish, vintage dress cut just below the knees with a little bit of white trim on the hem. “I also needed to talk to you about Bridget.” (Nana D’s clarinet student who attends Braxton)

“I couldn’t believe how persistent she’d become about finding ways to bring us together but to be so pushy at a funeral service…”

Nana D has yet another clue to the identity of the murderer, “a scandalous conversation” Bridget overheard, one which might be the missing piece in the jigsaw of clues Killan, a substitute professor for the murdered professor (murder #1)  has been piecing together…

I am 74% through the book, and I have speculated many times on who the murderer is. However the novel has so many twists and turns that as sure I am right as I might be, some new information that makes me unsure again, emerges and turns my “theory” on it’s ear. The characters and plot are engaging, and the touches of humor and “typical” family drama between generations is handled awesomely. There are enough nostalgic memories of college life and college towns, with enough new/younger generation trends to keep all ages interested and wanting to turn the page.  Who will be the murderer? I have many clues to evaluate, but I don’t know. As in all good mysteries, “Something just doesn’t add up.” Cudney will surprise me at the end as he always does.

P.S. Book II of Braxton Campus Mysteries has just been published.


SEAN DICKEY, Advanced Writing Student: Guest Post

Literacy Lessons

Earlier, as part of his Literacy Project, my Advanced Writing student, Sean Dickey posted about accidentally discovering his life’s passion and adjusting his academic and career goals accordingly. Today, he is addressing the current status quo.

The Deep Divide

I had originally intended to write about something a little more benign like the acquisition of a stray cat who has become my own. But between the recent shootings in religious institutions and the bombs sent to political figures, I felt inspired to write about these events. Mrs. Longest asked me not to write on controversial topics for her blog, but she has placed her trust in me to handle this topic with decorum. I also have to attribute some of my inspiration to Dr. Cherry, my sociology professor. His words resonated with me, and I will be sure to give credit where credit is due in the course of this…

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