IMWAYR – October 24, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

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I love babytimes.

I love toddler times.

I love family storytimes.

But preschool storytimes must just be my very favourite storytimes of all.

Shh…don’t tell the other storytimes!

I’ve been covering for a colleague’s preschool storytimes for the past few weeks, and it’s been an eye-opening experience. I’ve worked predominantly with babies and toddlers for the past two years of story times, and preschoolers are a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. They’re bright, curious, engaged and oh so very chatty, making them a whole lot of fun to work with.

A lot of the stories I shared with my preschoolers this week have been old favourites, but I have discovered a couple of new-to-me favourites as well!

The Watermelon Seed

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A little crocodile loves watermelon more than anything else in the world. But when he accidentally swallows a watermelon seeds, he becomes convinced that it’s going to grow and grow in his tummy and turn him into a watermelon! He eventually burps out the seed (my preschoolers’ favourite part of the story), and all is well. A silly little story with limited text and fun illustrations that are sure to make kids giggle.

Rex Wrecks It

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This is a fantastic story for sharing at a preschool or daycare because it centres on learning to play respectfully and to empathize with others. Rex is a little dinosaur who loves to wreck things, much to the dismay of the other little critters in his preschool. How will they ever learn to get along? This is another very simple story with limited text, but it’s great for starting conversations with children about respecting the needs and feelings of others, as well as inferring those needs through observation and conversation.  

And just look at those critters! There’s a robot, a monster, and a unicorn rabbit – something for just about every preschooler! 😉

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Stop Snoring, Bernard!

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Bernard the otter loves his life in the zoo. He loves playtime, mealtime, and most of all naptime! But when his loud snoring upsets his fellow otters, Bernard sets off to find a place where he can sleep without disturbing anyone. Having grown up with a dad whose snores register on local seismographs (hi, dad!), I can’t help but sympathize with poor old Grumpy Giles, the otter who finally snaps and sends Bernard packing. Can you spot Grumpy Giles?

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There’s a great repetitive refrain – stop snoring, Bernard! – that kids will love chanting along with, and the illustrations! Oh, the illustrations!! Zacharia OHora has a distinct, immediately identifiable illustration style that brings so much heart and charm to the story. The little otters are absolutely adorable, and my preschoolers just couldn’t get enough of them!

So many fun new favourites!

Have a great week, everybody!

IMWAYR – October 17, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

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I’ve got another fantastic set of picture books coming your way this week! Here we go!

Monster Park

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A daddy monster takes his little monster to the monster park for an afternoon of fun and play. But when it’s time to go home, little monster decides he doesn’t want to go!

Working in the children’s section of the library you see these meltdowns each and every day – they’re just a fact of life for little ones! This happy rhyming book with its colourful little monsters embraces little ones in all their exuberance, whether they’re squealing with laughter or rolling on the floor in a tantrum. They might drive us bonkers sometimes, but we still love them to bits.

It’s also really nice to see a little one spending the day with a beloved daddy – when the little monster skins his knee, he cries out for his daddy, who quickly makes everything better. It’s refreshing to see a dad taking on a role traditionally limited to mothers by soothing and comforting an upset child. Spotlighting male caregivers in picture books helps to chip away at longstanding gender biases and limitations – being patient and loving has nothing to do with a person’s gender, and everything to do with a person’s heart.

My Friend Maggie

Paula and Maggie have been friends since they were little, but when mean girl Veronica decides that Maggie is too fat and starts teasing her, Paula abandons her life-long friend and sides with the mean girl. When she finds herself Veronica’s next target, though, Paula discovers what it means to be a friend.

My Friend Maggie realistically portrays elementary school relationships, and the story wears its anti-bullying message lightly. 

Here’s a quote from a Goodreads review that gave me pause for thought, though:

….There’s a page where the main character says “and her clothes are a little snug” with a picture of this elephant trying to put on clothes that are too small for her, and that’s the page that completely lost me. Because there’s this persistent idea that of course fat people can’t dress themselves and all their clothes don’t fit.

That page frames Maggie as “the fat girl”, and with that framing device all the other things they pick on Maggie about take on a slightly different tone. Because there are a lot of stereotypical ideas that are used to shame fat people; they’re clumsy, their clothes don’t fit, they’re loud. All these things are said about Maggie and no where in this story are those things refuted. Maggie just continues to be a friend to the main character. And that’s the last stereotype, right? The idea of the kind, loyal, fat girl.

Having been the fat kid for much of my life (who was mercilessly teased throughout elementary school), I could see where this reviewer was coming from. Poor old Maggie seems to exist primarily as a plot device that allows Paula, the “normal” kid, to learn an important lesson. Even Maggie’s best friend seems to use her – much of Paula and Maggie’s friendship is based on the many things that Maggie does for Paula. Growing up fat and teased, the life lesson we often end up with is that we should be happy to have any friends at all, even if they don’t treat us with respect. 

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I still think My Friend Maggie is a beautiful picture book, and the illustrations are breathtakingly detailed and add so much emotion and heart to the story. Paula is a realistic and empathetic character, and a lot of readers will be able to see themselves reflected in her, both in her strengths and her weaknesses. I just wish fat characters could get a little more respect in children’s books.

Lion Lessons

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John Agee’s It’s Only Stanley has long been a favourite of mine for its droll sensibility and deadpan humour, and Lion Lessons has simply reinforced my admiration for this talented author/illustrator. Agee has a distinct talent for creating stories that are at once ridiculous and relatable – a little boy signs up for lion lessons from a suit-wearing, clipboard-carrying lion. As one does. But being meek and gentle, the little boy just doesn’t seem to have what it takes to be a lion, until the final lesson, Looking Out for Your Friends, provides him with the opportunity to earn both his Lion Diploma and the adoration of the neighbourhood cats.

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Agee’s delivery is once again brilliantly deadpan – his absurdist scenario is depicted with such understated simplicity that the whole thing seems practically run-of-the-mill, which is where the real humour lies. Nothing about Lion Lessons hits you over the head or tries to distract you with crazy bells and whistles. This is good old fashioned absurdity in the classic tradition of William Steig, Peter Bown, even Maurice Sendak. Understated, sweet, and a lot of fun to share aloud, Lion Lessons really is a winning picture book.

Have a great reading week, everyone!

#IMWAYR – Oct 10, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

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Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends and honorary Canadian friends!!

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I’ve got a bumper crop of books to share this week, so let’s dive right in.

Mr. King’s Machine by Genevieve Cote

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Mr. King is a merry old crown-wearing feline king who loves pretty things and machines. When a caterpillar mars a pretty thing – a flower – Mr. King turns to his second love – machines – for revenge. He creates a mechanical butterfly catching machine not unlike an orange tank, and races around the land in pursuit of the offending butterfly. Unbeknownst to Mr. King, though, his machine is filling the air with terrible pollution, and his friends are most displeased with him. To set things straight, Mr. King uses his mechanical know-how to create something beautiful and practical!

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A fun, sweet story from a Canadian author/illustrator and publisher – how cool is that? And how can you resist that charming face?! It’s definitely worth checking out this third adventure featuring the delightful feline, Mr. King.

Pigs and a Blanket by James Burks

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Two little pigs share a much beloved blanket. Each likes to have fun with the blanket in their own way – making movies, playing with trucks, reading or dancing. When the two little pigs each decide they want the blanket for themselves, they quickly realize that sometimes sharing something with someone you love is actually a million times more rewarding than having that something all to yourself.

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Anyone with siblings or multiple children will immediately recognize these dear little piggies, and it’s a lot of fun for story times. Pigs and a Blanket is a great little story about sharing and caring with text that’s simple and approachable enough for even the youngest readers.

Hoot and Peep

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Big brother owl Hoot is thrilled that his little sister Peep is finally old enough to come outside on the rooftop with him at night. He can’t wait to teach her all his owl wisdom. But little Peep just doesn’t seem to understand what being an owl is all about! Instead of saying hoo! like a normal owl, she wants to sing! Could it be that the unconventional Peep actually has her own owl wisdom after all?

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Hoot and Peep is a beautifully illustrated story about finding your own song, and about having the courage to dance to the beat of your own drummer, no matter what anyone else has to say about it.

Blocks

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As anyone who’s ever worked with or raised young children can tell you, sharing can be a difficult concept to grasp and master. Giving something away to someone else, with no guarantee that you’ll ever get it again, isn’t necessarily intuitive! It can be hard enough for us grown ups to share, so imagine how difficult it must be for little ones.

In this colourful picture book from author/illustrator Irene Dickson, a little girl named Ruby plays happily with her red blocks, while a little boy named Benji plays with blue blocks. But when Benji snatches away one of Ruby’s red blocks, and Ruby decides to take it back, they bring both of their block sculptures tumbling down. When Ruby and Benji learn to share, they realize that by combining their block collections they can open up an entirely new world of building ideas and creations!

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Like Pigs and a BlanketBlocks is a great story about sharing and caring, and is a great starting point for conversations about collaboration, sharing and team work. It’s also super cute!

So many sweet and wonderful picture books, so little time! Hopefully you can get your hands on copies of all these books – they’re all great reads in their different ways.

Have a great reading week, everyone!

#IMWAYR -Sept 26, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

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So, I’ve been in a bit of a recreational reading slump recently – no reason, really, I just haven’t been able to find the right book to engage me and keep me interested. I have discovered a few new-to-me picture books that I’d love to share, though, so it’s not been a wasted week!

I also got to explore Word Vancouver, “Western Canada’s largest celebration of literacy and reading”, and I had the chance to discover some new-to-me B.C.-based writers, illustrators and publishers, which is always exciting! Maybe there will be a few new Reading Staycation posts coming up in the next few weeks…!!! 😉 So exciting to be able to support local creators and independent businesses – it’s not easy being a smaller fish in the big book ocean.

Mad About Monkeys is a mod new take on a children’s nonfiction text, packed full of swishy, eye-catching illustrations and interesting simian facts, all put together in an incredibly stylish package.

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I’m in love with pretty much everything Flying Eye Books produces – they typically manage to create books that are visually stunning, without sacrifices quality for style. Like I mentioned, this is a beautiful book, but it’s doesn’t skimp on the information either, and offers your standard nonfiction text features, including a table of contents and an index. Best of both worlds, really.

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On the completely other end of the picture book spectrum, we’ve got All for a Dime, which is so freaking adorable I just want to eat it all up. So cute!!

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Bear, Mole and Skunk are ready for the farmer’s market, each laden with wares to sell. Unfortunately, Skunk and Mole have decided to sell products with a rather niche market, and wind up being their own best customers. In the end, Bear is the only one to make a profit at market, and he uses his dimes to buy ice cream to share with his friends. Economics 101 this ‘aint, and none of these characters are great entrepreneurial role models, but the spirit of sharing and caring is strong in this one, making for a sweet story of friendship.

Finally, I faced my fears of creepy crawlies and explored Angela DiTerlizzi’s Some Bugs (be sure to check out The Book Wars in the next few weeks for a more in-depth look).

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The gentle rhyming text works beautifully as a read-aloud, and the googly-eyed little insects are just so expressive and adorable. I wish real insects were this cute….not to mention spiders…*shudder*…so not cute….

raccoonA wonderful picture book to inspire a sense of wonder and curiosity about the natural world, and lots of fun to share and explore.

So, hope everyone has a great reading week, and try to stay dry if you’re in a grey, dreary, soggy part of the world like me!

#IMWAYR – Sept 12, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

Fall is here with a vengeance! Shorts and flip flops have already been traded for jeans and boots, and I for one couldn’t be happier. I am a pasty northern flower who wilts in the heat and turns fire engine red at the first sign of sunshine, so I am definitely more comfortable in autumn/winter!

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This week I shared my love of Japanese animation (anime) with a Top Ten Tuesday list dedicated to ten of my all-time favourite programs, many of which are available onNetflix!

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For Nonfiction Wednesday I featured a fascinating title celebrating female fashion trailblazers who changed the world by changing their clothes. Fashion Rebels is a perfect nonfiction choice for any budding fashionista, but it could really appeal to just about any tween/teen history buff – I’m the least stylish person imaginable, but even I was drawn in by these stories of pioneering women who used fashion as a means of expressing themselves, fighting societal conventions and turning assumptions on their heads.

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On Thursday I took a walk down memory lane and shared an old university essay dedicated to one of my favourite children’s books of all time, the Canadian classic The Paper Bag Princess. If you haven’t read this one yet, hop to your nearest library on the double – it’s the original girl power picture book, and it’s pretty darn fantastic.

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Friday was my first foray into Poetry Friday! As a student I was convinced that poetry was TERRIBLE, and I HATED it. My academic interactions with poetry consisted primarily of “interpreting” poems by long-dead Englishmen, which inevitably meant memorizing the correct interpretations and repeating them on demand. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, I swore to the moon and stars that I would never set eyes on another poem for the rest of my days. This, of course, was a terrible shame, and as a librarian and book lover I’m hoping to do my part to help connect young readers with poetry that speaks to them, and to help future generations avoid my unpleasant experience. How better to kickstart this project than with a collection of poems about dinosaurs?

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Saturday saw the continuing of my B.C.-themed Reading Staycation project with Spark, a sweet little story about a young dragon who just can’t seem to control his flame! Author Kallie George is a successful author, editor, instructor and speaker who is based in Vancouver.

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Finally, I capped off the week with an ode to one of my favourite book stores – the wonderful Japanese second-hand book store chain Book Off, which sadly doesn’t have a location in my home city. Though considering the stack of books my partner brought back from a recent trip to New York, our wallets might benefit from the distance between ourselves and the nearest Book Off!

Over on The Book Wars we celebrated the launch of our brand-new website, and we couldn’t be more excited!!

September is “space month” over on The Book Wars, so I let my feminist/geek flags fly and shared two great nonfiction titles all about female astronauts! Women In Space: 23 Stories of First Flights, Scientific Missions, and Gravity-Breaking Adventures features the incredible stories of 23 pioneering women from a variety of different countries, cultures, backgrounds and decades who  triumphed over prejudice to pave the way for future generations.

One of these women in particular is the focus of the second space-themed book I shared this past week. Mae Jemison was the first African-American woman in space, which is an incredible accomplishment in itself, but she’s also a successful physician, entrepreneur, Star Trek fan and all-around awesome roll model. This engaging early reader introduces children to this inspiring, trail-blazing woman, a true embodiment of girl power.

It’s been a great week so far – bring on the sweaters and the pumpkin spice lattes! 🙂

#IMWAYR – Sept 5, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

HAPPY LABOUR DAY LONG WEEKEND AND WELCOME TO SEPTEMBER!

I love September. Don’t get me wrong, I love summer, but there’s something so refreshing and invigorating about the coming of fall. The crisp air, the changing colours (the endless, endless rain….) that makes me think of fresh starts and new beginnings.

This week I shared a few books, as well as some other (hopefully) interesting bits and pieces.

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I wrote about one of my favourite local bookstores, the fantastic Russell Books in Victoria, B.C. This institution is the largest new and used bookstore in Canada, and its beautiful, well-organized shelves are what book blogger dreams are made of.

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I shared the exciting news that the #diversekidslit book sharing meme is now on Pinterest! Be sure to check out our Pinterest board for exciting and inspiring books and information.

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I participated in another edition of Nonfiction Wednesday with a beautifully-photographed title that introduces children to food production, and helps develop a generation of informed, healthy consumers.

Over on The Book Wars I wrapped up Australia month with the charming rhyming picture book Edward the Emu. It’s a “the grass is always greener” story with a twist, and how often do you get to read about an emu, anyway?

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Finally, I continued my Reading Staycation series with a Audrey (cow), the charming story of a plucky cow’s bid for freedom.

All in all, a pretty good reading week! 🙂

I hope everyone is having a safe and happy long weekend!

#IMWAYR – August 29, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

Wow, it’s almost September, can you believe it? Where did the summer go?

This past week…

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I talked about a new-to-me picture book that’s toddler time GOLD. If you haven’t seen Tiptoe Joe yet, definitely pick it up and take a look, it’s simple and sweet and very fun.

I shared a very pretty rhyming picture book that looks like one of those adult colouring books that’s been coloured in by an actual artist. Some Birds is pretty, pretty, pretty, and I think it could inspire some fun artistic classroom activities.

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My Reading Staycation project continued with one of my all-time favourite illustrators, the wonderful Julie Flett. Her bilingual alphabet book Owls See Clearly At Night is a loving celebration of the critically endangered Metis language Michif. If you only take a look at one book from this post, I highly, highly suggest that it be this one. Elegant, heartfelt, beautiful and powerful.

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Australia month is coming to an end on The Book Wars, and I shared a lovely little picture book called Mr. Huff. Mr. Huff is all about a little boy whose sadness follows him around like a giant cloud, getting in the way and just ruining everything. It’s a sensitive exploration of childhood emotions, and a great means of introducing discussions on mental health and emotional wellness.

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I may have also sneaked a Kiwi picture book into Australia month…shhhh….Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy is a bestselling New Zealand picture book that has become a treasured bedtime story for countless Antipodean kiddies. This classic story has recently been translated into Maori, allowing even more children to join Hairy Maclary on his silly adventures.

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I recently finished The Gold Eaters, a sweeping historical epic set in the New World of  Francisco Pizarro. Our protagonist Waman is a young Inca boy who is kidnapped by the Spanish and forced into servitude as a translator. The longer Waman spends as a prisoner of the Spanish the more out of touch he becomes with his traditions and his culture, and the more he becomes a spiritual wanderer, torn between cultures, feeling like he belongs to neither.

The back copy write up for this one is a bit misleading – it talks about our hero Waman seeking to be reunited with his “true love”, when in reality the romantic story line is perhaps the weakest aspect of the story. Still, it’s set in a period in history I’m not that familiar with, and I did enjoy being able to explore a different world. I did wish the story had focused more on the Inca culture and characters than the Spanish, though – I feel like the Inca characters would been far more interesting than their Spanish counterparts.

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Being on a bit of a historical fiction kick, I also read Blood and Beauty : The Borgias, which recounts some juicy periods in history that perhaps not surprisingly were glossed over in my Catholic high school history classes. Unfortunately, this novel takes fascinating historical figures and salacious actual events and makes them…well…pretty meh. The book is long, and you feel every page. It just kind of drags, which isn’t something you’d expect from a book recounting the lives of the scheming, scandalous Borgias. Not a terrible book by any means, and obviously thoroughly researched, but unfortunately a bit too dry for my liking.

Interestingly enough, both stories were told in the third person present tense (James goes to the door. He pauses. He opens the door. He is eaten by a dinosaur.”), which I can never quite seem to get into.

So, how has your reading week been?