105 Ways to Give a Book

Let’s Hear It For the Banned Books Posts!

I didn’t even ban a book this week. I feel like such a failure.

I did read — okay, skim — Judy’s Blume’s Forever..., and have to say that it was pretty honest about sex. Much more honest then I remembered it being. It’s funny how it seems so much more alarming to read about a accurate portrayal of a beginning intimate relationship then to read a book about “burning loins.” Or Gossip Girl books. It seems much more real, and — I gather — that is why it becomes so challenged as a book.

I saw some great posts out there, even if I didn’t do much myself. Semicolon did a controversial post regarding whether there truly are any banned books in this United of America. Outside a Cat challenged us all to read a banned book this week. Liz gave us some more perspective on the topic from the front lines of the library. And I generally rely on Bookshelves of Doom for all the latest in book-banning news.

But the winner of the week (if we can call it such a thing) was Finding Wonderland, who approached each day with a new and interesting post on the topic. If you haven’t been there, please give them a look-see.

And now I am off to my high school reunion, having just left the National Book Festival. Where I chatted with my good friend Mo — along with his wife and daughter. Wish I had more time to write about it. Guess you’ll have to wait until Monday.

John Green Responds

I am mystified by technology. Heck, sometimes my stapler is even a little much for me. So, I have no explanation for why stuff going to my email sometimes lingers in cyberspace for a while. Size doesn’t matter (of the file, that is) and my computer’s pretty foolproof. In this case the wayward email was a comment by John Green of An Abundance of Katherines fame answering my sample interview questions. (Bloggers will know that the comments show up in your email. At least, I assume that happens to everyone. What do I know?)

Very exciting. Very cool. Here they are:
MotherReader: I haven’t read the book An Abundance of Katherines, but having seen the cover, I can guess what it’s about. Trust me, I’m really good at this. A boy, Darren, is a time traveler currently living in the early seventies. Frustrated that he isn’t seeing enough of his girlfriend Katherine, he travels to the year 2045 and brings back a cloning machine. He proceeds to clone his girlfriend so he can see more of her, but it quickly spins out of control with hysterical consequences. Is that pretty close?

John Green: There are some hysterical consequences. But that’s about the only connection. It’s about a former child prodigy who, having been dumped for the 19th time by a girl named Katherine, sets off on a road trip with his best friend Hassan. They end up in a little town called Gutshot, Tennessee, where they more or less try to figure out what if anything matters.

MotherReader: How much s*e*x is in the book? Because many of my readers don’t like sex. I mean, in their books. They might like sex perfectly well in their private lives. And they might like it in their romance novels. Or online porn. What I’m really asking is, does the content make this book more appropriate for high school or middle school?

John Green: It’s definitely a YA novel, in the same sense that Alaska is a YA novel. There’s not much material that’s inappropriate for middle schoolers, but the language might be a little sophisticated for them (I mean that there is some Latin, not that there is some cursing. Middle schoolers are already familiar with most of the major curse words; I don’t mind them reading books with swears in them.) So yeah. There is not much sex in Katherines, although there are some subtle digs at the sex-and-profanity-obsessed state of YA lit these days.

But I’m not sure how important sex is in the scheme of things, or in the scheme of audience-defining a book. There is not much explicit sex in the Gossip Girl books either, though, and I am profoundly concerned that middle schoolers read that shit.


MotherReader: One last question. Mo Willems. Great illustrator/writer or the greatest illustrator/writer?

John Green: Let me first echo the kudos on the Colbert reference [a comment to the original post]. And let me second say: Great, I think. I mean, are we talking about greatest ever or greatest contemporary? I don’t think you can make a very strong case for greatest ever, but you can make a good case for greatest contemporary. My heart, however, is with Kevin Henkes. But Mo is brilliant. There’s no doubt about that.
With these thoughtful responses to my less-than-top-notch questions, I now proclaim John Green to be an official “Friend of MotherReader.” I suspect I will actually need to read his books to make the next “Friends of John Green” email, but I’m getting to it. I really am. Thanks John, for stopping by to visit your Mother...Reader.

Poetry Friday: The Moon

Years ago, when my kids were little, we had a special nighttime activity. Every once in a while, after the girls were in their pajamas and ready for bed, I would pull them around the neighborhood in a wagon. It was a special treat to be outside when no one else was around and to see the world in the nighttime. It was dark, but we’d have flashlights and the stars and the moon.

Perhaps this memory is why I was so moved by The Moon, by Robert Louis Stevenson and illustrated by Tracey Campbell Pearson.

Robert Stevenson’s poem is brought to life with the wonderful pictures of Tracey Campbell Pearson. She turns this poem into a story far beyond the words of the poem. In her book, the father wakes up the boy (or girl with short hair — it could go either way) and takes him out on a nighttime adventure. They say goodbye to mommy and the baby, but take the dog and cat along. They drive through the country to a dock, get on a boat, and go on a nighttime ride. You can imagine what a treat this would be for an older sibling to have a special trip with daddy after bedtime. Pearson has made each picture such a feast for the eyes, with incredible attention to detail and to the mood. Simply a lovely book.

And as a bonus for Poetry Friday readers, here’s the poem:
The moon has a face like the clock in the hall;
She shines on thieves on the garden wall,
On streets and fields and harbour quays,
And birdies asleep in the forks of the trees.

The squalling cat and the squeaking mouse,
The howling dog by the door of the house,
The bat that lies in bed at noon,
All love to be out by the light of the moon.

But all of the things that belong to the day
Cuddle to sleep to be out of her way;
And flowers and children close their eyes
Till up in the morning the sun shall arise.

— Stevenson, Robert Louis (1850–1894). A Child’s Garden of Verses and Underwoods. 1913
Use this book as inspiration for your own after-dark adventure with your child, children, nieces, or nephews. It would be nice to have a boat, but a wagon will do. Or even your shoulders. Full moon is optional.

Who Said It Best?

Everyone has been drawing attention to banned books this week, it being the ALA-approved week to do so. Thinking on this topic first pulled to mind this quote by Kurt Vonnegut. I know many of you will have seen it, but it's a great time to think about it again.
And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.

So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.


— From “I Love You Madame Librarian” or Man Without a Country
Way to go libraries, now and forever.

John, Call Your Mother...Reader

Clever and talented Fuse#8 has just scored an interview with John Green, author of Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines. The interview is wonderful, interesting, and insightful. The interviewee is a Hot Man of Children’s Literature and — I hope I can I say this without it being creepy — is totally deserving of such an honor.

John Green is doing an interview tour of the blogging world. But since I didn’t get the “Friends of John Green” email, I can only assume I am not on the tour. Sigh.

Now some would say that by not reading the book, I have left myself out of the interview running. But I beg to differ. Here are some sample questions I would pose for Mr. Green.
MotherReader: I haven’t read the book An Abundance of Katherines, but having seen the cover, I can guess what it’s about. Trust me, I’m really good at this. A boy, Darren, is a time traveler currently living in the early seventies. Frustrated that he isn’t seeing enough of his girlfriend Katherine, he travels to the year 2045 and brings back a cloning machine. He proceeds to clone his girlfriend so he can see more of her, but it quickly spins out of control with hysterical consequences. Is that pretty close?

MotherReader: How much s*e*x is in the book? Because many of my readers don’t like sex. I mean, in their books. They might like sex perfectly well in their private lives. And they might like it in their romance novels. Or online porn. What I’m really asking is, does the content make this book more appropriate for high school or middle school?

MotherReader: One last question. Mo Willems. Great illustrator/writer or the greatest illustrator/writer?
See, I would have totally nailed it.

The Trifecta of Kids’ Lit

The trifecta of kids’ lit is upon us. With the Top Picks of 2006 (So Far) Master List and the new edition of The Edge of the Forest and The Seventh Carnival of Children’s Literature all coming at the same time, we have to expect that things will start moving in contrary ways.

Lovers of children’s books will light cigars with copies of Charlotte’s Web and smoke them over Little Women as they drink Mountain Dew from leaky plastic cups.

Librarians will start yelling at kids as they look for all twelve books of the Lemony Snicket series, saying, “Don’t you kids get it yet? Bad things keep happening. Now stop reading and go play your Grand Theft Auto.”

Reviewers will fall in love with The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

Hold it. Something doesn’t seem right about that last sentence...

Anyway, lots o’ stuff is happening out there and you need to go see. I’m going to bet that there will be few posts this weekend as people catch up on their reading — blogs and books.

Top Picks for 2006 (So Far): The Master List

It’s been hard to wait, but here it is. The Top Picks of 2006 (So Far): The Master List

Participating blogs include:

MotherReader (MR); Fuse#8; A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy (AChair); Jen Robinson’s Book Blog (Jen); Little Willow (LW); A Year of Reading (Year); Big A, little a (BigA); Chasing Ray (Ray); Kids Lit (KLit); Scholar’s Blog (Scholar); Literary Gas (LG); Jonathan Stephans (Jon); GraceAnne DeCandido (GA); Aaron Zenz (AZ); Book Buds (BB); Bookshelves of Doom (BoD); and Chicken Spaghetti (CS)

I made a few adjustments to placement when it seemed appropriate. The titles are listed in alphabetical order with the blogs that suggested them. Blogs are listed by when they submitted their suggestions.

High School

Alphabet of Dreams, by Susan Fletcher (Fuse#8)
An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green (BigA) (BoD)
Ask Me No Questions, by Marina Budhos (Fuse#8)
Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, by M.T. Anderson (BoD)
A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, by Dana Reinhardt (AChair) (Jen) (LW)
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak (AChair) (Jen) (LW) (Jon)
Corbenic, by Catherine Fisher (Ray)
Crushed, by Laura McNeal and Tom McNeal (MR)
Dairy Queen, by Catherine Murdock (LG) (BoD)
Dead Connection, by Charlie Price (MR)
Diamond of Drury Lane, by Julia Golding (Scholar)
Enthusiasm, by Polly Shulman (LW)
Geography of Girlhood, by Kirsten Smith (MR)
Here There Be Dragons, by James Own (Ray)
It’s Kind of a Funny Story, by Ned Vizzini (Jen) (LG)
King Dork, by Frank Portman (MR) (AChair) (Jon) (Ray) (BoD)
Nailed, by Patrick Jones (MR)
New Moon, by Stephanie Meyer (Jen)
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Cohn/Levithan (AChair) (KLit) (GA) (BoD)
Nothing But The Truth, by Justina Chen Headley (LW) (BigA)
Over a Thousand Hills, by Hanna Jansen, Elizabeth D. Crawford (MR)
The Pursuit of Happiness, by Tara Altebrando (LW)
The Queen of Cool, by Cecil Castellucci (AChair) (Ray)
Rash, by Pete Hautman (KLit)
River Secrets, by Shannon Hale (GA)
Rules of Survival, by Nancy Werlin (BigA)
Star Dancer, by Beth Webb (Scholar)
Stay With Me, by Garret Freymann-Weyr (Jen) (GA)
Wait for Me, by An Na (KLit)
Wide Awake, by David Levithan (BigA)

Middle School

Anatopsis, by Chris Abouzeid (BigA) (KLit)
Bella at Midnight, by Diane Stanley (KLit)
Clay, by David Almond (Fuse#8) (KLit)
Corydon and the Island of Monsters, by Tobias Druitt (Fuse#8) (KLit)
Death of a Ghost, by Charles Butler (Scholar)
Endymion Spring, by Matthew Shelton (Scholar)
Firegirl, by Tony Abbott (BoD)
Happy Kid, by Gail Gauthier (MR) (BigA)
Hit the Road, by Caroline Cooney (MR)
Hugging the Rock, by Susan Taylor Brown (Jen) (BigA) (AChair)
I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, by Ally Carter (AChair)
Ingo/The Tide Knot, by Helen Dunmore (BigA) (Scholar)
Kiki Strike, by Kirsten Miller (AChair) (Jen) (BoD)
The King of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner (AChair) (BoD)
Larklight, by Philip Reeve (BoD)
Monkey Town, by Ronald Kidd (Fuse#8)
Monster Blood Tattoo, by D. M. Cornish (KLit)
Ptolemy’s Gate, by Jonathan Stroud (KLit) (Scholar)
The New Police Man, by Kate Thompson (BigA)
Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall in Love, by Maryrose Wood (Jen)
Shug, by Jenny Han (MR) (LW)
Sir Thursday, by Garth Niz (AChair) (Scholar)
Sweet Thang, by Allison Whittenberg (KLit)
Two Steps Forward, by Rachel Cohn (LW)
Voices, by Ursula Le Guin (Scholar)
Wintersmith, by Terry Pratchett (Scholar)
The Wizard, The Witch, and Two Girls from Jersey, by Lisa Papademetriou (MR)

Elementary

The American Story, by Jennifer Armstrong (BigA) (CS)
BabyMouse: Beach Babe, by Jennifer L. Holm (MR) (AChair) (Jen) (Big A) (Year)
Dawn Undercover, by Anna Dale (BigA)
Desperate Journey, by Jim Murphy
Fairies of Nutfolk Wood, by Barb Bentler Ullman (Year)
Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Harper (MR)
Fly By Night, by Frances Hardinge (Fuse#8) (BoD)
Free Baseball, by Sue Corbett (Jen)
Gossamer, by Lois Lowry (MR) (Year) (KLit)
Gregor and the Marks of Secret, by Suzanne Collins (KLit)
The Legend of Bass Reeves, by Gary Paulsen (GA)
The Mailboxby Audrey Shafer (Fuse#8)
Penny from Heaven, by Jennifer L. Holm (Fuse#8) (AChair) (Year)
The Prophet of Yonwood, by Jeanne Duprau (Jen)
Rules, by Cynthia Lord (LW) (KLit)
The Sea of Monsters, by Rick Riordan (Jen) (BigA)
Something Invisible, by Siobhan Parkinson (MR)
Star Jumper: Journal of a Cardboard Genius by Frank Asch (Jen)
Strange Happenings, by Avi (MR) (BigA)
The Strictest School in the World, by Howard Whitehouse (BigA)
Weedflower, by Cynthia Kadohata (Fuse#8)
Yellow Star, by Jennifer Roy (MR) (Fuse#8) (Jen) (Year)

Younger Elementary

Akimbo and the Crocodile Man, by Alexander McCall Smith (MR)
Araminta Spookie: My Haunted House, by Angie Sage (MR)
Circus Carnivore by Mark Svendsen (Ray)
Clementine, by Sara Pennypacker (Fuse#8)
Dear Fish, by Chris Gall (Ray)
Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, by Adam Rex (Fuse#8)
Henrietta, There’s No One Better, by Martine Murray (KLit)
Ivy and Bean, by Annie Barrows (Ray)
Junie B. First Grader: Aloha-ha-ha! by Barbara Park (CS)
Lose, Team, Lose, by R.L. Stine (Year)
Mia’s Story, by Michael Foreman (BBuds)
Phineas L. MacGuire Erupts, by Francis O’Roark Dowell (MR) (Fuse#8)
Shark and Lobster’s Amazing Undersea Adventure, by Viviane Schwarz (AZ)
Sound of Colors, by Jimmy Liao (BBuds)
Stella Brite and the Dark Matter Mystery, by Sara Latta (Ray)
The Terrible Hodag, by John Sandford (AZ)
Thelonius Monster’s Sky-High Fly Pie, by Judy Sierra (GA)
Toys Go Out, by Emily Jenkins (Fuse#8)
The True Story of Stellina, by M. Pericoli (GA)
The Year of the Dog, by Grace Lin (MR) (Fuse#8) (Year)
A Young Shepherd, by Cat Urbigkit (Ray)
Younguncle Comes to Town, by Vandana Singh (Fuse#8)

Picture Books

Adele and Simon, by Barbara McClintock (Fuse#8)
Augustine, by Melanie Watt (BigA)
Augustus and His Smile, by Catherine Rayner (AZ)
Bats at the Beach, by Brian Lies (CS)
Belinda and the Glass Slipper, by Amy Young (AZ)
Big Sister, Little Sister, by LeUyen Pham (Year)
Bringing Asha Home, by Uma Krishnaswami (BigA)
Castaway Cats, by Lisa Wheeler (PMathis)
Dizzy, by Jonah Winter (KLit)
Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late, by Mo Willems (AChair) (LW)
Duck and Goose, by Tad Hills (MR) (LW) (BigA)
Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct, by Mo Willems (MR)
An Egg is Quiet, by Dianna Aston (KLit)
For You Are a Kenyan Child, by Kelly Cunnane (Fuse#8) (KLit)
George and the Dragon, by Chris Wormell (BBuds)
Hippo! No, Rhino!, by Jeff Newman (Year)
I Am Not Cute by Jonathan Allen (Fuse#8)
I’m a Pill Bug, by Yukihisa Tokuda (CS)
Last Day of School, by Louise Borden (Year)
Learning to Fly, by Sebastian Meschenmoser (AChair) (BigA) (BBuds)
Library Lion, by Michelle Knudsen (PMathis)
Lilly’s Big Day, by Kevin Henkes (MR)
Meow Ruff, by Joyce Sidman (KLit)
Mommy? by Maurice Sendak (Fuse#8)
Museum Trip, by Barbara Lehman (BBuds)
My Cat, The Silliest Cat in the World, by Gilles Bachelet (PMathis)
Nutmeg, by David Lucus (CS)
One White Wishing Stone: A Beach Day Counting Book, by Doris Gayzagian
Scaredy Squirrel, by Melanie Watt (Year)
Sleepy Boy, by Polly Kanevsky (GA)
Summer is Summer, by Phillis and David Gershator (KLit)
Pecorino Plays Ball, by Alan Madison (MR)
The Princess and the Pea, by Lauren Child (A Year) (BBuds)
Tree Ring Circus, by Adam Rex (AZ)
Waiting for Gregory, by Kimberly Holt (BBuds)
When Giants Come to Play, by Andrea Beaty (PMathis)
When You Were Small, by Sara O’Leary (Fuse#8) (GA)
Wow! It Sure Is Good to Be You, by Cynthia Jabar (MR)

Non-Fiction

Aliens Are Coming! by Megan McCarthy (Fuse#8)
Chew on This by Eric Schlosser (MR)
Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Sharks and Other Sea Monsters, by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart (BBuds)
Freedom Walkers: Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, by R. Freeman (Fuse#8)
Giants of Science: Isaac Newton, by Kathleen Krull (Fuse#8)
Owen and Mzee, by Craig Hatkoff
A Pair of Polar Bears , by Joanne Ryder (MR)
Quiet Hero: The Ira Hayes Story, by S.D. Nelson (CS)
Oh, Rats! The Story of Rats and People, by Albert Marrin (Fuse#8)
Team Moon, by Catherine Thimmesh (Fuse#8) (BBuds)
Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss and the Musical Rent, by A.Rapp (LW)

Thanks to everyone who made suggestions. It was amazing how many different books were put forward, with very little overlap. The clearest winners with four or five votes each are The Book Thief, King Dork, Nick & Norah, Yellow Star, and BabyMouse: Beach Babe. With an even 150 great reading choices, I think we’ll all have a lot of reading to do.

Lost Reviews II: Electric Boogaloo

It may have come completely out of left field that I put Pecorino Plays Ball, by Alan Madison, on my Top Picks of 2006 (So Far) list, given that I have never mentioned it on my blog. It will further surprise you when you learn that it earns a spot as a Weird-Ass Picture Book based on one aspect of the book. But it is one aspect of the book that is very weird, and yet reviewers don’t seem to have noted it in this or in the first book, Pecorino’s First Concert. Like episodes of Jeopardy, I will note this oddity in the form of a question.

What is the deal with the pointy breasts?

I’m fine with the strange style used throughout this book, whereby the characters have round googly eyes and very large noses. Okay, as an artistic choice. I think the filled-in pencil drawing style is pretty cool, and I’m totally on board with the occasional mixed-media additions of cotton ball clouds and yarn pieces in the grass. Keeps it interesting. But the cone-shaped breasts à la Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour? Whew. Weird-Ass to the max, man.

But in spite of — or maybe even because of — these strange illustrations, this book makes my top list. The illustrations are funky and very cool. They complement and convey the humor of the text throughout. My favorite picture is when Pecorino tucks in his too-big T-shirt of “MALONE’S: We Sell Boxes,” and he is left with a T-shirt that says “ALONE” (his arms cover the “M” and the “S”). The idea is funny and the picture is even funnier.

Back to the story. Pecorino’s mom signs him up for Little League, even though Pecorino doesn’t seem to know what it is. He is so out of his element — he can’t catch a baseball or hit a baseball — but in the end it all works out for him. This is one of the few picture books that could be read to a class up to fifth grade, and it would still work. It’s a funny, clever book that will win over a wide range of kids. It’s also that rare “boy” book that has a cross-over appeal. All this allows me to forgive the pointy breasts, even if I can’t understand them.

Top Picks: The Lost Reviews

My writing and reviewing is somewhat erratic. I’ll read something great, mull it over, and... totally forget to write about it. After looking at my Top Picks lists, apparently I do this often. Here is one of the lost reviews, with more on the way the rest of this week.

Something InvisibleI was trying to pull together my top picks list for elementary school, when Something Invisible knocked me off my feet. This quirky book by Siobhan Parkinson mixes humor with real tragedy, and does it well. Eleven-year-old Jake meets a girl who inserts herself into his life in a way he couldn’t have expected. At the same time, his mom has a new baby that nobody told him was coming. He just thought mom was putting on weight. Now he has to deal with this new baby and the changes she is bringing to his family. And the girl and her large family make him look at who he is and how he relates to those around him. A slow-paced book, more about tone and feeling than action.

And how can a book lover type not love this passage:
“I collect words,” Stella said. “It’s my hobby. But it’s a bit like collecting seashells — you can’t collect them all, so I only collect the beautiful ones. Like ‘mackerel,’ and ‘plinth,’ and ‘obloquy.’ I try to go by the sounds, not the meanings, but sometimes the meanings do get in the way, like ‘tryst,’ for example. I don’t know whether I really like that word, or whether it’s just the idea of it. Do you see what I mean?”

Jake coughed. “I like mackerel,” he said at last.
And this:
“We brought you some cherries,” said Jake, offering her a small bowl.

“Ah, what life is not a bowl of,” said Ms. Kennedy. “Thank you.”

“Excuse me?” said Jake.

“Life is not a bowl of cherries, Jake,” said Mrs. Kennedy gravely.

“Oh, I see,” said Jake. “I knew that, actually.”
Something bad does happen, which goes to prove that I can like a sad book, if it is well written. The bad thing takes a while to happen, even though it’s listed in the description of the book as though it is the theme of the book. I thought that was strange, but I won’t let that tarnish my opinion of the book itself.

M-Reader

On Friday morning, my website went down. I was not alone in this malfunction. Some of my best friends saw the same error message that day. But I felt like Blogspot was cheating on me. There was anger. (What did I ever do to you Blogspot?) Regret. (Was it something I did with the coding, Blogspot? Just tell me.) Embarrassment. (Yes, the site is down. No, I don’t know what happened.) And, after an anxiety-ridden morning in which I imagined all my content deleted (After all that I gave you, Blogspot!), finally reconciliation. (We can work this out, Blogspot. I know we can.)

By the time my site was up and running, so was I. That is, running the errands and tasks necessary to going on a camping adventure with twelve Girl Scouts while packing up the Brownie for her own camping trip. Oh, and squeezing in a birthday party that both girls were invited to attend.

The camping trip went fine, though the weather was overcast and drizzly for most of the day. And the shelters that we were assigned were three-sided with a heavy rubber curtain for the fourth wall. A heavy curtain that was covered in black mold and mildew. A curtain that we did not use, relying instead on a plastic tarp and a shower curtain. If it had actually rained, we would have been screwed. But at least if it rained we would have had water, since our pump worked rather haphazardly. We took to leaving it on with a bucket underneath for the occasional times it would decide to bestow some water upon us. We also appeared to be the furthest site from pretty much everything, including the parking lot.

That said, we had a good time. My Brownie girl had a nice time with her troop and didn’t miss her mommy. My troop of fifth graders worked very well together and learned some valuable skills, as did I. They didn’t complain (much) or bicker. Some of them may have even gotten a decent night’s sleep. I think everyone had a great time.

I did not get a good night’s sleep. Apparently, sometime after say, thirty your body is not made to crash on a wooden floor with only a thin foam pad separating you from the boards. And when your pulled-together plastic tarps don’t go all the way to the floor of the shelter, the outside air blows in right on your face. Who knew? Anyway, I came home on Sunday morning and got to work on a piece for Edge of the Forest. And, oh yeah, I’ve got my big booktalking session tomorrow at the middle school. At 11:00 at night it sure would be nice if I felt like I had that under control. But here I am writing this instead.

But most importantly, I’ve got a new license plate. Whaddaya think?

Top Picks for 2006 (So Far): Picture Books

This was hard. I read fifty young adult books and picked ten. I read forty chapter books and picked ten. With picture books, however, I read two hundred and fifty, and I’m picking only five. This is killing me. I am going to give you my top five, but I have to — have to — list five runner-ups. You know, in case any of the first five fail to perform their duties. I will not (sigh) include my runner-ups on the master list, since it is five picks per blogger. If you should suggest them... well, I’d have to include them, wouldn’t I?

All right, here goes nothing.

Picture BooksRunner-upsAs I pulled together the list, I found an element of peace in moving the younger picture books to the Runner-Up list. My justification being that my Top Picks goal was to help school libraries and summer reading list committees with their choices. There are also some books I might have included — like Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! — that I know will make it on the master list from all participating bloggers, so I feel safe passing it over. (Mo, I did include Edwina).

Now it’s back to you. Post a list by September 20th of your best so far and let me know about it. I’ll pull together our suggestions in one big list. If you would prefer, you can leave your suggestions in my comments. I’ve had some great participants so far, and I’d love some more.

Who Knows Me Better...

... than my movie-loving husband? From his email to me, directly to you.
Don’t know if you knew this, but Tale of Desperaux is being made into a movie, and it looks like they’re getting a pretty big cast. [My note: Includes Dustin Hoffman, Keven Kline, Christopher Lloyd, William H. Macy, Tracey Ullman, Sigourney Weaver, and Justin Long as Despereaux.]

(At least they’re not doing Tulane.)

And in further Dr. Seuss bastardization, they’re doing a CGI version of Horton Hears a Who, with Jim Carrey and Steve Carell.

Oh, and Lord of the Rings/King Kong director Peter Jackson’s doing an adaptation of The Lovely Bones.

Just thought you’d be interested in those little tidbits.
Yes I am, and I’ll bet other people will enjoy them too. Readers of this blog will know of my hatred of both The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Lovely Bones. Actually, they are the two books that most deserve to be linked together. They’ve both received critical acclaim, though in neither case can I understand why. They are both manipulative with what we care about most — for adults, their child and for children, their special toy. They both blow. It would be awesome if Amazon started linking those books instead linking the Tulane book with, say, every children’s book I look up!

Top Picks for 2006 (So Far): Elementary

Strangely enough, I haven’t been reading much in elementary school-age books. As my library branch started getting all the new Young Adult books, I went on a teen binge — breaking occasionally to devour a pile of picture books. Of the books I’ve read, only a few leaped out as favorites during the year. In fact, I added one book just last night. I also have only reviewed a handful of these selections on my website, so I won’t link to my own reviews for now.

Older ElementaryYounger ElementaryThere’s a decent mix of books, but I noticed that I haven’t found any fantasy that I’ve loved. Or adventure books. I also had trouble finding boy books, which is why Strange Happenings made it on the list and booted out the kinda-YA Counting on Grace. Tomorrow I weed through my enormous picture book list to bring you the very best. I don’t know how I’m going to narrow it down to five choices. There’s still time to add your own choices to a master list of the blogging world. Post your favorites on your site and let me know in the comments. Or, if you prefer, list the books in the comments. But please separate by category and only five per category. Fuse#8 has give us some graphic novel choices for 2006; anyone else want to get in on that action?

Top Picks for 2006 (So Far): Young Adult

Oh, what fun! I’ve received many comments on the favorite books of the kidlitosphere. Jen Robinson was all over this challenge, posting her list before even I got to it. And she linked to her own reviews of the books so you can find out more about them. Great idea, Jen, and I’ll follow suit.

I’m going to break my list down into two, maybe three posts, because doing all these links wears me out. Plus I can’t decide on my favorite picture books. There are so many great ones!

I’ve divided my Young Adult books into High School and Middle School, thus accomplishing two things. One, I can differentiate for those schools/readers/libraries that need to know if there is any s*e*x in the books. Two, I can suggest twice as many books.

High SchoolMiddle SchoolIn doing this list I realized that I never blogged about some of my favorite books of the year. I guess I just forgot. I also felt that I needed to include a second book with a male protagonist in my high school list, so I selected Nailed instead of, say, Stay With Me or Bass Ackwards and Belly Up, both of which I liked better. I need to read more boy books. I also freshly appreciated the wide range that is Young Adult. The last three Middle School Suggestions would be great for High School too. Many of the High School books are fine for Middle School — depending on the reader. And the age recommendations for the books in the reviews are all over the place. So, know your community/readers/PTA.

I’ll be back with more top picks later, and I’ll be popping by the neighborhood book blogs to see what others have suggested.

Top Picks for 2006 (So Far)

Last year I helped select the books for our county’s summer reading program. And I loved doing it. There was no better validation for doing all that reading than seeing my choices featured for thousands of school children. Very cool. This fall, I did not join the committee, in an effort to share the wealth of that experience with the other librarians in the county. I would love to submit my suggestions, but I have to be selective about what I send.

Then I started thinking about all the summer reading committees forming all over the country — and yes, they are probably starting now — who could use some suggestions. Maybe there is a better validation then being part of my local — if large — summer reading list: If I can influence the lists across the country.

As this idea was pulling itself together in my head, I saw the Fuse#8 interview in Edge of the Forest, where she lists her top five books in a number of categories. What if, I thought, the kidlitosphere all posted their top picks for 2006 (so far), in contribution to the summer reading lists, and school librarians’ fall ordering, and just plain reading for people everywhere? Wow.

How about it? Post your “Top Picks for 2006 (So Far)” in any or all of the categories: Picture Books, Early Elementary, Elementary, Middle School, High School. Narrow it down to five choices per category (I know it will be tough). My ultimate plan is to pull together the posts into one big list at the end of next week. And thus we will take over the reading selections of the nation, and maybe Canada. (Insert maniacal laughter here.)

Picture Books As Poetry/Poetry Of Picture Books

I can’t decide which title it should be, but it is my Poetry Friday feature. Many times I come across a picture book where the text is really one poem stretched out over several — usually lovely — pages. And you know what? I’m counting them for Poetry Friday. So there.

In yesterday’s post I mentioned this stand-out book. It’s the only book I can think of that has taken the aunt/niece relationship and captured it so well. Personally, the fact that its release coincides so nicely with the addition of my new niece couldn’t have hurt my response to it. Not that it was deliberate on the publisher’s part. At least I hope not, or I’m in some sort of Truman movie experience.

Wow! It Sure Is Good To Be You! by Cynthia Jabar is a beautiful and touching book. Here’s the first part:
Somebody, somewhere, is thinking about you,
Keeps your picture in their pocket,
Misses your kisses,
Loves you more than birds love trees,
more than brothers love to tease,
loves you even more than dogs have fleas,
and that’s a lot too!
Loving you is their favorite thing to do.
Wow! It sure is good to be you!
And these sweet words are accompanied by fun, lively illustrations of a little girl going about her life while getting support from afar. I love the “Girl Power” crown on the kid’s head. I love that she is a person of color. I love the picture of her acting out in her house. I love the aunt’s/friend’s/cool grandmother’s hip bell-bottom pants. A wonderful book to share with the princess/rock star/cool girl in your life.

Picture Books At Your Local Library

I know I’ve mentioned that I process all the new children’s books for our library branch. And I know I’ve also mentioned that there are times that I wish the new children’s books would just stop coming. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for the amount of books we receive here in one of the richest counties in the nation; it’s just that I feel compelled to look at all of them. It’s a little tiring.

Lately, we’ve been receiving picture books. Lots and lots of picture books. I cannot review them all. Not by a long shot. For me to write about the book, it needs to be very good or very bad. Or very stange. In other words, it has to stand out in some way. For the last few batches, I made notes about the books to see how many I really choose to look at further. Today I’ll share how one reader culls through all the stuff out there to bring reviews to you.
  • Hush Little Digger, by Ellen Olson-Brown
    “Hush Little Baby,” but with construction trucks. And boys like trucks, right? Cute, but not for me.

  • Mrs. Crump’s Cat, by Linda Smith
    A golden cat comes up to Mrs. Crump’s porch, but she has no use for a cat. Look at his sad little kitty face. She doesn’t quite close the door, and the cat slips in. She should get rid of the cat, but there are many reasons it isn’t the right day for it. I’ll take this one home for another look. (Didn’t Fuse#8 review this? It sounds familiar)

  • The Louds Move In, by Carolyn Crimi
    It’s a quiet avenue, until the Louds move in. Don’t like the illustrations. Would make a good read-aloud to four- to six-year-olds, but was the loud “Burp!” at the end really necessary? Nail in the coffin for me.

  • Clip-Clop, by Nicola Smee
    All the animals ride on Mr. Horse. For babies. Cute.

  • Pirate Bob, by Kathryn Lasky
    Story of a pirate stealing gold and wondering about friendship. Odd. Didn’t do it for me.

  • Oh No, Not Ghosts!, by Richard Michelson
    Spooky book with some spooky, creepy stuff in it — werewolves, demons, witches, skeletons — but in the end, the scariest thing is Dad, who realizes the kids aren’t sleeping. Maybe for Halloween.

  • Eat Your Peas, by Kes Gray
    A little girl won’t eat her peas as her mom promises more and more things to the girl. The girl keeps saying, “I don’t like peas.” But what happens at the end is cute, though I’m not sure about the mixed message about eating your veggies. I’m taking it home anyway.

  • Wow! It Sure Is Good To Be You!, by Cynthia Jabar
    I love, love this and will give it to my niece someday. “Somebody, somewhere, is thinking about you / Keeps your picture in their pocket / Misses your kisses.” It’s about loving from far away — maybe an aunt or grandma or family friend. It’s adorable.

  • You and Me, by Martine Kindermans
    Sweet, soft book about love between parent and child for the youngest readers. “All we need is you and me to be as happy as can be. And no matter where we go, I will always love you so.” Features two geese and lots of pinks and oranges in the pictures. Pretty, but too young for my kids.

  • Cowboy Ned and Andy, by David Ezra Stein
    Andy the horse goes to look for a birthday cake for his cowboy Ned, but can’t find one in the desert. He realizes the best gift he can give is being with his friend on his birthday.

  • Like a Hundred Drums, by Annette Griessman
    A storm comes across the farm. Soft pretty pictures.

  • Beautiful Buehla and the Zany Zoo Makeover, by Gary Hogg
    Buehla gives the animals makeovers for picture day at the zoo. Funny, I guess, but missed the mark for me.
Out of twelve books, I took home three for a closer look. Two more I liked, but probably won’t review. Two I really didn’t like, and the rest were just okay. So, how do you choose what to review?

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Lately, I’ve enjoyed reading the new blog, Buried in the Slush Pile, of a children’s book editor. I dream that one day my manuscript will be in that pile. But if isn’t my time yet, maybe it will be my daughter’s day in the sun.

On the Buried Editor’s site is a contest for kids to win the new book from her publisher. The child just needs to write a paragraph about what they did on their summer vacation and email it... well, tomorrow. You know, at the latest.

Can you make your kids do it tonight? For homework tomorrow? I’m going to strong-arm my fifth grader (especially considering her “I Wonder Why... Automatic Paper Towel Dispensers Hate Me” essay), and I expect no less from all of you. You have approximately 24 hours. Just like that show. What is its name...?

Four Things

The “Four Things” meme has been around a while, but had never gotten to me. But fear not, for Books Are Our Friends tagged me, so here goes:

Four jobs I’ve had
  1. Waitress
  2. Hotel desk clerk
  3. Psychiatric aide
  4. Law library assistant
Four movies I could watch over and over again
  1. Four Weddings and a Funeral
  2. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  3. The Princess Bride
  4. A Fish Called Wanda
Four places I have lived
  1. Northern New Jersey (Motto: Not Just a Suburb of NYC)
  2. Shenandoah Valley of Virginia
  3. Virginia Beach
  4. Northern Virginia (Motto: Well, it SHOULD be a state)
Four TV shows I love to watch
  1. House (my cousin plays Wilson)
  2. Curb Your Enthusiasm
  3. Entourage
  4. American Idol (and I will NOT be made to feel ashamed)
Four places I’ve been on vacation
  1. Maine
  2. Northern California
  3. Disney World
  4. New Jersey shore
Four websites I visit daily

        I usually go through my whole blogroll once, sometimes twice daily. It’s a sickness.

Four of my favorite foods
  1. Brownies
  2. Chocolate cookies
  3. Chocolate ice cream
  4. Chocolate chocolate (getting the theme here?)
Four places I would rather be right now
  1. The beach — any beach
  2. New York City
  3. London
  4. Paris
Four blogs I’ll tag

        I won’t link to them, but Bill, Dan, Kori, and Hillary are welcome to give it a go.

A Summer Inventory

At the end of the summer it is so easy for me to fall into the despair over what we didn’t do. The summers just don’t seem long enough. The days don’t seem long enough. And every year, before I know it, the kids are back to school again. I miss them.

We didn’t pull out our tent and go camping. We didn’t get to any of the four amusement parks in a two-hundred-mile radius. We didn’t go the pool nearly as much as I thought we would. Yet we didn’t have many of the long, lazy days I remember from my own summers growing up. We were so busy. But with what?
  • Three trips to Virginia Beach
  • One trip to Lake Anna
  • One trip to a wedding in New Hampshire
  • Two weeks of drama camp
  • Two weeks of Rec Center camp
  • One water park outing
  • One Nationals baseball game
  • Three movies (Cars, Over the Hedge, and... Garfield)
  • One day of school supply shopping (thanks to Target for the $0.20 glue)
  • One day of outlet mall shopping (thanks to Limited Too for the $5.00 discount for a good report card)
We went to the public pool a couple of times a week, and often took a friend. We saw all three of our brothers and their families. We visited my New Jersey cousins and aunt and uncle. The kids saw all of their grandparents, most of them several times. They read lots of books and played lots of computer/video games. They caught fireflies in their bare hands without going “Ewww. Bug.” A shining moment, no pun intended.

As for me, I did a lot of reading, starting the summer off with the 48 Hour Book Challenge. With the new additions of teen literature to our library, I read about forty young adult/older elementary books. I also read about ten to fifteen adult books over the summer. I blogged about maybe half of them. I’ll remedy that later. Hubby and I saw a concert (Bruce Hornsby, who was amazing) and a comedy show (Patton Oswalt, who we joined for drinks after the show). Two nieces joined our family in the middle of June.

Next summer we’ll cut the Rec Center camp, I’ll take off more time from work, and we’ll have more time to just hang out. For now, we’ll focus on an exciting school year. My oldest’s teacher loves children’s literature, so that should be a great match. My youngest’s teacher is the dynamic, wonderful teacher I requested for her, so we should see some progress in the second grader’s school skills. I’ll be a leader of the Juniors girl scout troop for the next two years, and I’ll help with the drama club at school. And of course, I’ll continue as a blogger for the foreseeable future.

Happy New School Year, everyone.

The Bastardization Of Pooh

The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-PoohWhen my first daughter was due to arrive in this world, I wanted to decorate her nursery with a Winnie-the-Pooh theme. But not that crappy Disney Pooh. No, I wanted Classic Pooh. And at that time — about ten years ago — there were two classic Pooh bedding sets priced accordingly for the snobby Yuppies who wanted them. Disney Pooh bedding you could get merely by singing “It’s a Small World” at the front of any participating store. Though I am generally financially careful by nature, I wanted the expensive classic Pooh set, and would have purchased it on my own, but my generous in-laws beat me to it. It was a worthwhile investment, though, having been used for my two girls and now for my baby niece.

It was fun at that time having the classic Pooh theme, because Disney Pooh had taken over to such an extreme that finding pictures, stuffed animals, clothes, etc. of the right kind was like a treasure hunt. I remember getting calls from friends telling me when some specific, out-of-the-way store carried Classic Pooh. Oh, and remember, this was 1996, before Internet shopping took hold.

Now you can buy classic Pooh stuff at Target. At TARGET.

On one hand, I am delighted that an entire generation may be exposed to Winnie-the-Pooh as he was meant to be seen.

On the other hand, you can now buy a crib set for what I paid for a Pooh and Piglet stuffed animal set. I’m a little bitter.

But even Disney Pooh didn’t prepare me for this travesty: Pooh Adore-Ables. A baby-version Pooh world which I had seen in stuffed animals and had hoped would die a quiet death. Unfortunately, that is not to be, as evidenced by the existence of this book, Lots of Pots.

This is a very easy reader for introducing the simplest of words. Fine. Whatever. But the babyfied characters! Oh, the horror! I refuse to put the picture on my site. You’ll need to link over to see it. And you should, since we need to know the enemy so better to fight.

Poetry Friday: A Link and An Original

I missed participating in Blog Day when I was tagged by Journey Woman. It’s surprising, because I love doing those sorts of things. But by the time I realized I was tagged, I was at work. And I had a lot of work to do, so I didn’t get around to fulfilling the requirements there. Then I came home, and could have continued the tagging, but then I got distracted and the next thing I knew, Thursday, August 31st, was over. But thanks for thinking of me, Journey Woman.

In any case, five new blogs didn’t pop into my brain immediately. But one did and it is the perfect one to point out today. Emily Reads writes many of her reviews in haiku form, making her the perfect blog for Poetry Friday. A sample about a book I also read, The Year of the Dog.
Earth-shattering? No.
A little obvious? Yes.
Still, a good girl read.
Isn’t that clever? She also has used one-line summaries for books she has read, which I am thinking of using to catch up on the dozens of books I’ve read but not reviewed.

I would also like to use today’s post to point to another site that I found through Journey Woman. If you want to write your own poem, but need a little inspiration, you can try Poetry in Motion for their magnetic poetry-type format. It’s fun and addictive. Just like smoking! (Kidding.) Here’s mine from today:
Fast-fading summer
You give my dreams truth
If I dive into my heart’s desire,
Can you take me through to December?
For more Poetry Friday, try Kelly, and Liz, and Jen, Keepers of the Links. And remember that Semicolon does a book review round-up on Saturday, so submit your best entry tomorrow. I’m going to soak up as much summer fun as I can on a rainy day, just days away from the start of school.