105 Ways to Give a Book

Decisions, Decisions...

It's been an intense, soul-searching time for the Teen and I as we analyzed, compared, deliberated and ruminated on colleges. I'm excited to say that she's decided on George Washington University!

It fits everything she is looking for in a college, put together in parts. It's an urban campus offering the city of Washington, DC to explore. Yet, it also has a smaller, greener campus that is mostly residential and a short shuttle ride away from the main campus, four blocks away from the White House. It offers the resources and variety of a large university, but being admitted to the honors program gives her a small, nurturing community of advisors and intellectual challenge. There are great programs in political science and public policy, which is where her interests are leaning, and several combined programs for earning a Masters degree. She was offered a large scholarship that puts the school in our price range, plus they'll take enough of her AP credits that she may be able to knock out a semester. The school is very focused on internships and since she lives near, she may be able to turn one into a summer job. She'll be close to home, but the environment is completely different from the suburban area where we live.

And omigod the dorm! The honors program offers housing in a dorm that has four single rooms that open into a common area with shared bathroom in a hall with a full kitchen and laundry in a building that houses the dining area and - I swear it's true - a black box theatre space. Could it be more perfect? Oh yeah, the Shakespeare learning community is housed in the same campus.

Okay, that long description was indulgent, but it's for the five or six people who may be interested in the decision process. I'm available for personal college consultation on request. I also do children's parties.

I'm happy that things look so ideal for her, and also that we're done. Honestly I'm ready to have my brain back from thinking about colleges and you know, her "future." It's tiring. Deciding whether to read the new teen book OR the adult bestseller is more my speed. (Answer: duh, both.)

College Update

March has been an anxious month waiting for college acceptances to arrive, and I suppose I don't write when I'm anxious. I can't say what else I was doing, besides churning over the same college information and cleaning out the computer/storage room. Oh, and shoveling snow, which was flippin' weird in March.

But the results are in, and they are good for the Teen. She didn't quite make her reach school Columbia, but was admitted to its sister school Barnard. She swept our Virginia colleges with acceptances from University of Virginia, University of Richmond, and William & Mary, along with UNC at Chapel Hill. A last minute addition of George Washington University is looking promising with an admittance to a selective honors program and a large scholarship.

With such a variety of good schools to consider and such a big decision to make, I can't say how present I'll be online this month either. Though there is a significant difference in the tension of not being able to move forward because you have no idea what to decide among, and the tension of having many good choices to decide among. If it's any indication, this nagging lower back pain I've had for weeks is suddenly gone.

If you have anything to share about the schools, I'd love to hear. Especially about GWU or Barnard, where I don't have any insider view. William & Mary is safely covered by its two alumni in this very house - which is probably killing Teen's view of it - and Richmond is too expensive.

All right, I'm going to move on because I could write for hours comparing what we know of those schools and how they fit my daughter and what that could eventually mean for her future and if any will affect her potential as President...

Oh, yeah everything else is fine. The Kid is on a chorus trip to DisneyWorld and auditioned for a summer theatre program of Legally Blonde, which should be fun. My mom is doing fine from her recent follow-up appointment and got a new kitty friend. The husband and I are coming up on our twentieth year anniversary, and will likely have to pretend that it is actually occurring at a more convenient time to celebrate. Like 2016.

If you're reading this, thanks for staying around. I haven't been a great citizen of the KidLitosphere, but I love my friends in it too much to disappear entirely. Just sometimes, for odd stretches of time. Be well!

Thursday Three: Hide and Seek

Some library books I liked that helpfully fit into a theme of hide and seek. But they all also have classroom or home use for demonstrating values like working together, gratitude, and acceptance without being heavy-handed.


Come Back, Moon
by David Kherdian, illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian

Beach Lane Books, 2013
Come Back, Moon
When Bear is bothered by the light of moon and can’t sleep, he steals the moon. Under the clever leadership of fox, the forest animals work together to get it back. Simple text makes this ideal for younger storytimes or even as a beginning reader book. The soft, watercolor illustrations bring to life a serene forest scene, with special acknowledgement to the orange fox — who looks so darn cute and cuddly. The book would also be useful for themes of working together and conflict resolution.


Never Ever
by Jo Empson

Child's Play, 2012
Never Ever
A girl complains that nothing exciting ever happens, yet as she walks with her stuffed bunny a world of excitement is going on around her. Flying pigs, a flower-loving gorilla, and a brave lion join her on her walk — right into a dragon’s mouth! But she continues to be unimpressed, even with one more surprise in store. The illustrations in watercolor and pencil depict a world both gentle — with the soft blues of the girl’s dress and pink of the pigs — and lively in the yellow flowers and bright green dragon. Simple in words and concept, but high in imagination, this book is an invitation to play and think about what is right in front of us.


How to Hide a Lion
by Helen Stephens

Henry Holt, 2013
How to Hide a Lion
The book sets it up nicely: “One hot day, a lion strolled into town to buy a hat. But the townspeople were scared of lions, so the lion ran away.” A little girl find the lion, and decides to help him out with a bandage, a comb-out, and mostly by hiding him. But her mom finds him, screams, and the lion runs away. Hiding himself in town, he finds an opportunity to save the day and is accepted by the townspeople. Fun story that has an actual plot line to it. The bright yellow lion is visually captivating, and the relationship with the girl is adorable. The book would also be a good example for not judging someone too quickly.



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Boardbook Bonanza

Since I haven't been reviewing much, I don't get much to review. That's totally fine and in fact preferred as I don't want to waste anyone's review copies and I can get much of what I want at the library where I work. But occasionally a package comes my way, as with a little collection of 2014 boardbooks from Chronicle. Now I don't actively look for boardbooks or tend to review them, so let's call this a set of "reactions." Because it sounds less formal.

Creature
by Andrew Zuckerman

CreatureI received both Numbers and Colors from the set, which also includes Sounds and Baby Animals. I am familiar with Andrew Zuckerman's photography of animals, and I love the idea of bringing his work into young hands. My nagging complaint about the set is that I wanted the pictures bigger. Partly because the books are small, meaning the pictures get smaller still. But also because I don't think babies are as invested in the concept that Zuckerman's work highlights the animals with plenty of white space. They just want to see the green frog. But you know these kids are going to get books of colors and numbers anyway, so it's a great idea to enhance the experience for both child and parent reader with some artistry. That you'll get.

You Are My Baby
by Lorena Siminovich

You Are My BabyI received both the Ocean and Garden from the set, which also includes Safari and Farm. Boardbooks are pretty basic, so when someone comes up with any new idea, it's worth a mention. These books have a smaller book embedded within, so that you can turn the pages of the little book - which focuses on the baby - separately from the larger book. While obviously related, you could read each "book" alone. (Big book: "You sing a happy song in our leafy tree." Little book: You are my baby, little hatchling.") The illustrations are cute, bright and friendly. I wonder how the book will hold up physically, but I also think it would be fun to share with a little reader.

Going to the Farmers' Market
by Stefan Page

Going to the Farmers' MarketI shouldn't fault the concept - at least it's something different - but it got a little eyeroll out of me. I certainly can't fault the illustrations, which are cool in a retro, Charley Harper way. (Now you can roll your eyes.) But the text misses the mark. Overall it covers from market to meal, but not as cohesively as it could have. Parts of it go for the "to market, to market" rhythm, but not all. Parts of it detail the foods, but not all. Maybe it seems picky, but I want a boardbook to have internal consistency, whether it's with story, rhythm, or learning concept. But hey, if you need a gift book for the hipster parents in your circle, this is perfect.

Daddy Wrong Legs
by Nina Laden

Daddy Wrong LegsThis is one of the books where you can turn the bottom pages separately to mix up the tops and legs of the creatures. I'm sure that lots of parents and kids love this idea. It. Freaks. Me. Out. I'll admit that I have a low creep-out threshold, but this is the kind of book that would have given me bad dreams. ("Daddy has spider legs!") But look, I like this author (see below) and her illustration style. So for those who like the concept of funny animals and people with the wrong legs, here's your book.

Peek-a-Zoo!
by Nina Laden

Peek-a-Zoo!I consider myself an explorer of the new and different, but it was the most traditional boardbook of the bunch that won me over. Very simple in concept, with the words "Peek a" on one page facing a page with a hole through which you can guess at the animal behind. Thus the black and orange stripes turn to a tiger, where now "Peek a" is viewed through the hole and added the word "MEW!" So simple, but a nice twist on traditional Peek-a-boo. The whole thing ends with a mirrored page for "Peek a YOU, TOO!" The fun illustrations have a woodblock-print look to them, and feature lots of bright colors from a secondary pallate of purple, orange, turquoise and pink. Also a nice size for little hands. This is one I'll recommend to my library system, especially for mother/baby program kits.



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Poetry Friday: Forest Has a Song

So excited to share the winning poetry book for the Cybils Awards!

Forest Has a Song
by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, illustrated by Robbin Gourley

Clarion Books, 2013
(review copy received)
Forest Has a SongPoems document the seasons in the woods with sensory reflections on everything from the spongy feel of a dead branch to the sound of a proposal in a tree frog's song to the taste of a wintergreen plant. The beautiful watercolor illustrations capture the gentle feel of the forest and the poetry itself. Simply a lovely book to enjoy and share. So with the sharing in mind, here is one small sample poem. And yes, I am showing my weariness of winter in selecting one about spring.
April Waking
Ferny frondy fiddlehead
unfurl curls from dirty beds.
Stretching stems they sweetly sing
greenest greetings sent to Spring.
-Amy Ludwig Vanderwater

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Karen Edmisten.


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Personal Update

Ahhhhhhhhhhh! That is the sound of me relaxing for the first time in... I want to say... years?

Maybe it just feels that way, and certainly everything in my life hasn't reached a positive plateau. However, two big things are squared away. My senior was basically accepted into an excellent, affordable college, and while she hasn't decided on William & Mary, it's a relief to know that it's there as an extremely attractive option. She also just got the part of Cleopatra - the role she's been wanting and working towards, in a way since she starting acting. She's put a lot of time into this theater department and has truly earned this part with both performance skills and hard work.

Also the kid - who is really a teen - is settling into high school quite nicely. She's finding her own place in theater and chorus with parts and solos, both well-deserved. She's really shined in Unplugged with an original song and a beautiful cover, and that venue has given her incentive to keep working on her guitar. We watch American Idol together with an analytical approach to what she should do when she auditions.

And they get good grades, have friends, enjoy each other, and still hang out with me.

I've hit the parenting jackpot, and I'm so proud and happy.

So, time to breathe and figure out what is next.

Cybils Awards!

Today in the KidLit community we celebrate Love... of books with the announcement of the Cybils Awards! Some wonderful titles across the board, but I'll give a special shout-out to my committee of Picture Books. From an incredible list of finalists, the judges selected a book that I would have personally chosen myself to win. The perfect Cybils selection:

Mr. Tiger Goes WildMr. Tiger Goes Wild
Peter Brown

Little, Brown and Co., 2013
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild opens to muted tones of a proper Victorian society of well-mannered animals, living in houses and walking on two legs. Surrounded by an abundance of subdued suits, ties, dresses and tea, the daily hum-drum pushes Mr. Tiger outside the city limits to a place where he can ROAR! But first he undergoes the drama and surprising silliness of life on four legs, a swim in the water fountain and *gasp* a view of his magnificent, naked self. Confident artistic elements start on the decorative endpapers, capitalize on the freedom of double page illustrations, built intensity with the color palette, and combine seamlessly with the lean text of most carefully selected words. With great comedic timing and a light-handed touch on message, Peter Brown has written a clever, compelling invitation to self-discovery.


Congratulations to all the Cybils winners!


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