Category Archives: Literature

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–Reading About Amphibians and Reptiles

During the last two weeks, we’ve covered amphibians and reptiles. Firstly, we read About Reptiles and About Amphibians in the “A Guide for Children” series by Cathryn Sill. We also went on to read some fun fictional books about reptiles and amphibians. Our favorite book, hands down, was I Spy With My Little Eye. Dora loves playing “I Spy With My Little Eye”, so this book’s title immediately grabbed her attention. In each two page spread, you get a slight hint and a peek, through a hole in the page, of the animal that is on the next two page spread. Dora couldn’t figure out each animal by herself, so every time we came to an animal that she didn’t know, she’d make me start the book from the beginning so would “know” the answer to each of the “I Spy” riddles.

Another book that fascinated Dora was One Tiny Turtle, written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Jane Chapman, which was much more advanced than I had realized and I cannot really recommend for pre-schoolers, as it is rated as being for ages 5+ or grades K-2. The illustrations are lovely and it is a very interesting read and taught us both lots about sea turtles, but it is pretty wordy for pre-schoolers. If your child is very much interested in animals, like Dora is, then she might be ready for this book at an earlier age, like Dora was. Dora was enthralled with all of the challenges that the sea turtle had to face and was very concerned about the turtle’s plight. When I then explained to her that some people go to beaches to help make sure that sea turtle hatchlings make it to the ocean, Dora immediately wanted to go do it. I have no idea where or how one goes about doing this, but you can bet that I’ll be looking into it. To tell you the truth, after reading this book, I want to go help some hatchlings myself!Finally, we read about The Greedy Python, who is done in by his excessive appetite and inability to learn from his past mistakes. This book written by Richard Buckley and illustrated by Eric Carle.

What have you been reading lately?

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Labels: Literature, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–It’s Banned Books Week

If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all. – Noam Chomsky

Books usually are challenged with the best intentions—to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information. – ALA Website

This week is Banned Books Week. It is an important reminder to those of us living in the United States that no matter what our opinion is, we may write, talk, or read about it without fear of government persecution. As frustrating as it can be at times, we cannot enjoy this freedom ourselves if those, whose opinions we whole-heartedly despise, are not granted the same freedom. To learn more about Banned Books Week, please visit the American Library Association’s “About Banned & Challenged Books”.

Banned Books Week is an annual observance from the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) that celebrates the First Amendment right of the freedom to read. During Banned Books Week, libraries, schools, and bookstores across the country will celebrate the freedom to read by hosting special events, exhibits and read-outs.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the annual celebration, and to commemorate this milestone anniversary, ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom is coordinating a “50 State Salute to Banned Books Week.” The “50 State Salute” will be the highlight of the second annual VIrtual Read-Out, and will consist of videos from library leaders from across the country proclaiming the importance of the freedom to read.

Also celebrated during Banned Books Week is Banned Websites Awareness Day on Wednesday, Oct. 3. Sponsored by the ALA’s American Association of School Libraries (AASL), Banned Websites Awareness Day aims to raise awareness of the overly restrictive blocking of legitimate, educational websites and academically useful social networking tools in schools and school libraries.

“Banned Books Week: Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Freedom to Read”, American Library Association, July 29, 2008. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek

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Labels: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–Lovely Books About Mammals

As I stated last Friday, Dora and I spent last week looking at mammals. I had chosen two books to accompany our unit, but we also read a third book that I decided to lump in with the unit, as it is a wonderful book and it’s main characters are mammals (I know I am stretching it a bit here, but just roll with me here). The first book we read was About Mammals: A Guide For Children by Cathryn P. Sill. I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. I had been kind of dreading it, assuming it was going to be like all the other supposedly interesting, but actually terribly boring, preschool science books that seem to be in abundance in the preschool book market. Instead, this book was very simply written, yet managed to convey what was really special about mammals. The text actually flows more like a poem than a text book. What we both really loved about this book, however, was the drawings. The drawings in this book are just absolutely superb! They are incredibly realistic depictions of common mammals of the United States shown in evocative scenes.

Next we read, Me . . . Jane. I had purchased this book, because I feel that Jane Goodall played, and continues to play, a major role in our society’s current understanding of animal psychology, conservation, and ecology. At the same time, I had been dreading this book also, just because I find that a lot of Jane Goodall fans tend to be, shall we say, a bit on the extreme side. I was amazed that this book was nothing like that at all. It was truly about Jane Goodall, as a child, with very little of the story being focusing on her work as an adult. Instead, the story focuses on how Jane Goodall became “Jane Goodall”. It is about the life experiences and opportunities that she had as a child that shaped and molded the adult that she became. Her curiosity as a child was a wondrous thing that all children can relate to. The illustrations are child-like ink and watercolors. The pages with text on them have illustrations in the background that resemble nature journal drawings. Dora’s favorite part of the book, however, was being able to see the photograph of Jane’s stuffed chimpanzee, Jubilee, looked when Jane is holding it as a baby, compared to the photograph with her holding it as a child. That chimp saw some serious loving (and honestly looks a bit diseased in the 2nd photo). Finally, we read Hairy Maclary Scattercat, which I had purchased, thinking it was a Halloween book for some odd reason (maybe because the picture on the cover looks Halloweeny? Or maybe because I am beginning to have “senior moments”?). The book is actually about a dog, named Hairy Maclary. For some reason, known only to himself, Hairy Maclary decides that on this particular day, he is going to torture cats, who are just minding their own business, by chasing them. At this point, I will point out that a) Hairy Maclary should be on a leash and b) chasing cats and scaring them is not actually funny. Still, I decided to roll with it a bit and I am glad that I did. In the end, Hairy Maclary gets what’s coming to him, he makes the mistake of trying to chase a cat that is too big, tough, and mean for him. He ends up being chased all the way home by that cat, with his tail between his legs. I hesitated a bit to recommend this book, simply because Hairy Maclary is being a bully, even if he is cute in the way he goes about it, but not only does the ending satisfy my desire for cat-justice everywhere, the vocabulary is this book is so unusual, I just had to recommend it. The text is written at an age-appropriate level, but the author uses the rhythm of the story to introduce children to more advanced vocabulary such as “bumptious”, “bellicose”, and “boisterous”.

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–Petunia and Pinkalicious

In this day and age, it can be hard to find a good role model for our daughters. Times have really changed. When my mother was a girl, her PE class consisted of playing basketball by standing in place (I kid you not, they passed the ball back and forth without running around). When I was in junior high, I was put in “girls PE”, where I was forced to take dance and gymnastics, much to my tomboy self’s horror. In 8th grade, I was one of the first girls allowed to take “boys PE”. Now, it is a given that PE includes both sexes. Additionally, girls’ sports have come to resemble boys’ sports. When Tertia played on a soccer team, I could not believe how aggressively the girls played. Had any girl played like that when I was a kid, she would have been red-carded and socially ostracized.

With Dora being a later in life child for me, I find myself more challenged to help her fill her role in society as a girl. How aggressive should she be? Should I actually discourage feminine behavior? What do I say to strangers who ask her who her favorite princess is? (I still am always flabbergasted by this question, neither Secunda not Tertia were ever asked that and why do people assume that little girls have a favorite princess anyway?) Then there are studies that come out that show how differently we raise boys and girls and I feel the need to try to counter some of that. So I find myself trying to be very careful when selecting literature for Dora that portrays female role models. In past posts, I had mentioned how much Dora likes the Ladybug Girl series.

This week, we found two more really astounding female literary role models for Dora. I had really avoided the Pinkalicious series of books up to this point. I seriously doubted that anything named Pinkalicious could portray my values. Boy was I wrong! This week we went to the bookstore and Dora saw Pinkalicious and I consented to read the book to her in the store. Well, we both loved the book and I ended up buying it and Purplicious too! Pinkalicious loves pink, but so does her dad, brother and mother (they like to play pink pong and so forth). In addition, her high energy spirit greatly reminds me of Dora. (Here’s a pink trivia piece for you. Did you know that pink used to be considered a boy’s color? “An article in the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department in June 1918 said: ‘The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.’” – source Wikipedia)

The other female role model who is much like Dora, in spirit, is Petunia. We had previously read A Pet for Petunia, which is really funny as the pet Petunia wants is a skunk. While at the bookstore, however, I noticed a second Petunia book, Petunia Goes Wild. In this book, Petunia decides that being human is far too boring for her. She’d rather be an animal, but when she asks her parents if she can be their pet, their reaction is not what she had hoped for. So she decides to mail herself to Africa (the book won bonus points with Dora for mentioning Africa in it). In the end, Petunia is able to reconcile her wild behavior with being human.

Gohan continues to read manga and I haven’t been reading much lately, which is unusual. I started reading a book by one of my favorite bloggers and it upset me so much that I had to stop reading it about 1/3rd of the way through. I rarely leave a book unread if I manage to make it past chapter two. I guess I have been feeling a bit gun shy since this negative reading experience. What about you? What have you been reading this summer? What have your kids been reading?

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–Handa’s Suprise

I posted previously about Handa’s Surprise – we used the book when we were studying the sense of taste. Recently, Dora has started requesting that I read it again, every….single…day. It is a wonderful book that really should be on more “Recommended Reading” lists. This time around, however, Dora was more interested in the African culture shown in the book and the various animals that eat each piece of fruit as Handa is walking by. Reading this book has made Dora absolutely obsessed with Africa! In fact, during a variety of her imaginary games, she will say that various people or dolls are going to Africa for various reasons. Dora also has started trying to carry various things on her head, just like Handa does. One of Tertia’s best friends was from Kenya and visits there frequently.  I’m afraid to admit it, but her stories of malaria and the anti-malaria medication possible side effects (which I just know I would suffer) have made me very nervous about visiting Africa. Not to mention the fact that she got badly sunburned there, so I cannot even begin to imagine what would happen to my fair skin! Obviously, if Dora continues to be this obsessed with Africa, I will have to get over my malaria-phobia,  invest in some super SPF sunscreen, and take her there. In the interim, I do think it is time to bring out some geography materials!  

Woodland Park Zoo 10

Since Dora was so interested in the animals in the book, some of which are less common, we took a trip to the Woodland Park Zoo. Overall, it was a good day for a trip to the zoo. It was a bit cloudy, so it wasn’t too crowded (though driving there was H-E-double hockey sticks and I would like to point out that allowing street parking in the right lane on the main road to the zoo is very stupid). Anyway, we went in a different entrance than we usually do and went in the opposite direction that we usually go. The highlight of the trip for Dora was the Willawong Bird Station, where they sell seed sticks that you can feed birds with (parakeets, cockatiels, and parrots). We spent about on hour there!

Woodland Park Zoo 11

After we left the bird station, we stumbled upon the snow leopard right after it had been fed a huge piece of meat (I have no idea what type of animal it was eating). I believe that is the only time the snow leopard came out of it’s cave the whole day. So we were very lucky to be able to see this beautiful animal.

Woodland Park Zoo 14

We saw many animals, but one of the more unusual animals that we were able to see was the tree kangaroo, which never moved at all. It was kind of freaky, I couldn’t tell if it was sleeping with its eyes open or having some sort of weird staring contest, but it stood in this exact position for at least five minutes.

Woodland Park Zoo 13

In addition, I have never seen a sloth bear anywhere else, but the Woodland Park Zoo. They make you want to hug them while you are running away from them!

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature, Social Studies, Things To Do Around Seattle
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–A Couple of Classics and Two Rainbow Books

Dora is really excited about books right now and we are reading lots and lots every day. For some reason, she seems to think that library books are meant to be destroyed. The whole thing is really odd, because she treats our own books just fine. I even tried to slip some library books amongst our own books and she knew right away that they were library books and tried to write in them and cut up the pages. So we’re back to purchasing every book for her. The good news is that she loves to read the same books over and over. Plus, some books that we read to her when she was younger are taking on new meaning. For instance, she used to love Sheep in a Jeep, by Nancy E. Shaw, for it’s silly storyline. Now she is starting to explore the rhyming sounds that are in the book, so she asks me to read it every day. It is ironic that she loves this book so much, because none of my older kids liked it at all. Maybe I’m doing a better job of presenting it now? Or maybe it is because it is one of the lap-sized board books? Personally, I think board books are one of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind! Making them lap-sized is the icing on the cake.

I introduced Dora to Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina, this week. I had to rush through the beginning during the first reading so as not to lose Dora’s interest. Of course, as soon as we got to the part about the peddler yelling at the monkeys and wagging his finger, while the monkeys copied him, she was hooked.

This week’s rainbow theme for us seamlessly followed last week’s cloud theme. I was a little surprised that there were not more fun rainbow books. I mean, where would the world be without rainbows, glitter, and unicorns? Yet, so little literature is devoted to rainbows! It is madness, I tell you! We did read What Makes a Rainbow?, by Betty Ann Schwartz, which was not nearly as scientifically sound as I had expected. It does teach the basic colors of the rainbow. What made this book so fun for Dora was that on each page, a new ribbon is introduced. So at first, there is just one red ribbon going across the page, forming the rainbow. Then, on the next page an orange ribbon is added, so there are two ribbons and so on. After all six ribbons are introduced, the final page actually is a giant pop-up rainbow and very briefly mentions the need for rain and sunlight to make a rainbow. The one thing that made this book a flop for Dora, in particular, was that she now wants all of her rainbow art to go in the correct order and gets very frustrated and upset if she doesn’t remember the correct order. She’ll go so far as to throwing her pictures away if they are not done in the “correct” order, even though I have tried to explain that in art, rainbows can go in any order she wants.

Finally, we read A Rainbow of My Own , by Don Freeman, who is more famously known for his Corduroy the Bear series of books. It is a sweet story about a boy, who wants to play with a rainbow and finally finds a real rainbow of his very own in his bedroom. The illustrations are a bit dated, which means that the rainbow’s colors tend to be more primary, in nature, than Dora would have liked, though she still loved the story.

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading–The Windy and Two Days Late Version

I’m two days late with this post and I am sure that has really wrecked everyone’s week! SmileThis week, Dora and I looked at wind. We read three books about wind.Our first book was I Face the Wind and is from a four volume science book series by Vickie Cobb. We really liked this book. The illustrations are simple and modern. Experiments are woven into the narration. The narration also asks the child many open-ended questions to consider as you read through the book. My only complaint with this book is that there are not more books in this series!

We also read Gilberto and the Wind, by Marie Hall Ets, which I had never read before, even though it was published in 1978. It is a cute book about a boy and his adventures with wind. I think that the story is very compelling for the preschool-aged group as Gilberto’s character engages in timeless and genderless play. All children can relate to a wind that tugs playfully at your balloon one minute and then all of a sudden whips your balloon away. Wind is intriguing, playful, and at times, scary for children, as they come to fully understand what wind is about. The book ends on a sweetly peaceful note though.Finally, we read The Wind Blew, by Pat Hutchins. This book is often listed on “great books to read to young children” lists and I’ve never quite understood why. It is not really that funny. Nor does it teach much, in the way of science concepts. And when one compares it to Gilberto and the Wind, the storyline’s shallowness is glaring. I love a lot of Pat Hutchins’ books, this just isn’t one of them.

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–The Black Book of Colors, Amos McGee and Eating to Survive

This week, a lot of library holds came up for Dora. At first, she wasn’t too interested in reading them. Then all of a sudden, tonight, she wanted to read all of them over and over. The first book that stood out to me was The Black Book of Colors. The title sounds like an oxymoron, but the book is actually about how colors feel, sound, taste, and smell – not about how they look. The book is written in traditional English type, but at the top of each page, the text is also given in braille. Then on the facing page, each illustration is done in black vinyl on black paper. The illustrations can be seen, if you turn the page just so, but more importantly, the pages can be felt. I wish I had found this book when we were studying the five senses, but as is, it opened up a wonderful dialogue between Dora and I about blindness and other disabilities.

Another read that we really enjoyed was A Sick Day for Amos McGee, which is an endearing book about how the best way of showing your friendship will vary from friend to friend, but in the end, however, being there for each other is what matters most.

The next three books we read were all about animals eating other animals. I’m going to start with my least favorite book first, just because I want to make sure other parents know how this book ends before they read it to their child (meaning BIG SPOILER ALERT). This book has been very well-reviewed, though I am certainly not the first to question its message. I checked out I Want My Hat Back based on all the hype and wish I had previewed it before reading it to Dora. I will start off by saying that I very well understand that animals do eat animals in nature and this is not something that we keep secret from Dora. This book starts off very cutely with a Bear looking for his hat (my first issue with this book is that I thought the bear was a beaver, which made the ending a bit confusing for me). The bear asks animal, after animal, if they have seen his hat. When he questions the rabbit, the rabbit is actually wearing the hat and clearly lies about the fact that he has stolen it. It is funny that the bear is so gentle that he just accepts the rabbit’s story. In the end, however, the bear figures out the truth. It is what he does afterwards that disturbs me – he eats the rabbit. It is written in such a manner that it is supposed to be funny, but I just can’t find humor in the fact that the bear killed/ate the rabbit just because the rabbit took the bear’s hat. Had the bear eaten the rabbit in a natural act of survival, I would have no problem with it. In the context of this book, however, the author seems to suggest that if anyone does anything bad to you, you seek revenge and show no mercy. You can also imagine why I was a bit confused when I originally thought the bear was a beaver, as a beaver eating a rabbit is just weird. I had to read the book jacket to learn that the character was a bear and I still think he looks more like a beaver or a groundhog….

On the other hand, Feathers for Lunch, illustrates the natural hunting cycle, while allowing the birds to go free, because the cat’s owner has belled the cat. Thus, the cat only gets feathers for lunch. What I really like about this book is that it labels each bird and plant on each two-page spread. We’ve been doing a lot of bird watching with our two new bird feeders and several of the birds in this book were ones we have seen.

Finally, Bark, George is just a silly book about a puppy who actually swallows animals, rather than eating them. The ending of this book, combined with the mother dog’s facial expressions, were what put this book on my “it’s a keeper” list (not that I’ll literally keep the library book, mind you).

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–Fractured Fairytales, Ladybug Girl Returns and More

This week was a big reading week for Dora. As I have mentioned before, Dora is obsessed with fairytales. So I have been reading some of the fractured fairytales to her. For the most part, she doesn’t like these books and gets upset at the skewed versions. For some reason, however, she likes take-offs of The Three Little Pigs. So this week we read The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, by Eugene Trivizas, and The Three Little Fish And The Big Bad Shark, by Ken Geist. In the first, it is the wolves who are the innocent, little victims and the pig who goes around destroying their super strong homes. The ending is a little cheesy, but Dora thought that the turn of events was hysterical.

In The Three Little Fish And The Big Bad Shark, sticks pretty true to the original format, except that the pigs are replaced by fish and the wolf by a shark. Also the ending is a bit kinder, without being cheesy at all. Both books are good reads for fans of the Three Little Pigs.

In addition, we were quite excited that the latest Ladybug Girl book by Jacky Davis, Ladybug Girl and Bingo, arrived on our front porch this week. In this latest adventure, Ladybug Girl’s family goes camping and their dog, Bingo, gets lost! What happens next? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out.

My personal favorite read for the week was A Pet for Petunia, by Paul Schmid. The book is about a little girl who, like many little girls, wants a pet. Unlike most girls, however, Petunia wants a pet skunk! In my world, the book could have been horrible and I would have still loved it, because I find the mere idea of a child wanting a pet skunk to be totally hilarious. Also, I had to laugh, because Petunia’s theatrics are even greater than Dora’s. Dora liked the book also, just not as much as I did.

Our final read for the week that is worth mentioning was Inch by Inch, by Leo Lionni, which is about a fast-thinking inch worm, who manages to convince some birds that he makes a better measuring device than breakfast. Dora is already pretty fascinated with measuring things, so the book really appealed to her. She has spent much of the week making me “measure” her various body parts like the inch worm did (with my fingers being approximately one inch apart).

Gohan has continued to be sick, so we had no new middle school reads. I have just been reading the latest edition of The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–Moons and Mysteries

This week, Dora and I have been studying the moon. For a literature selection, we’ve been reading Bringing Down the Moon, by Jonathan Emmett. I found our copy at our local homeschool consignment store. I’ve been trying to transition to using more library books with Dora, as she has reached the age when she doesn’t necessarily want to hear the same book over and over again. She is also finally at the age when the library books aren’t so chewed up by other children, that it seems unsanitary to use them. This was a hardback book for a good price, however, and Dora has loved it, so I’m glad that I actually purchased this one. Bringing Down the Moon is a cute book about a mole who wants to bring the moon down so that he can have it. I think the main attraction to this book for Dora has been the onomatopoeia (and I thought studying poetry terms in 10th grade was a waste of my time,! Ha! Here I am, 27 years later, and I get to use the word “onomatopoeia” in a pseudo conversation! And yes, I did have to look up how to spell it!). The book has phrases like, “Swish, swish, swishety, swish” and Dora has just been enraptured with them.

Meanwhile, Gohan has had a very bad cold, so we have not progressed at all with the The Dark is Rising, though ironically, Primo overheard us listening to it and now is reading it himself. Gohan has really struggled with following the story, so I doubt he will want to “read” the rest of the series, but I suspect that I will read it on my own, just because I hate leaving a series unfinished. Plus, I’ve gotten a bit sucked up into the story.

On my own, I have been catching up on the Gaslight Mystery series by Victoria Thompson. I usually am very good about staying caught up on my favorite book series, but since Dora was born, my organizational powers have gone to hell in a handbasket. So I suddenly realized that I was several books behind. The last two weeks found me reading Murder on Sisters’ Row (Gaslight Mystery) and Murder on Lexington Avenue. The series takes place during the late 19th century and stars Sarah Brandt, a midwife, and Frank Malloy, a New York City police officer. There is an underlying romantic current that runs between the two characters. I am hardly a Harlequin Romance reader, but even I can’t help, but find myself wishing that Frank would scoop Sarah into his arms and kiss her passionately (while at the same time admitting that this would probably be the ruin of the series). Sigh…. Anyhoo… the series has taught me a lot about the 19th century (in particular, that I am very glad to not be living in it, especially as a woman – and an Irish Catholic woman at that! oi vey! My life would have been very unpleasant, indeed!).

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff