105 Ways to Give a Book

Word Order

I hate working on Saturdays, because I hate leaving my family home while I work. Makes me bitter.

I hate indoor pools, because they are noisy and the smell of chlorine makes me crazy.

And today I get to do both of those things one right after the other for one big ball of hate.

The only thing making the day tolerable is wearing my new I’M A NOUN! shirt — to work even, because what were they going to say? The other thing that brought a small smile to my face was the headline of this article:
Chocolate Jesus show canceled
The way it’s written makes it sounds like Chocolate Jesus is a band. Actually, that would make a great band name! The AP headline was slightly rearranged and thus didn’t capitalize the word chocolate. Not as funny.

Word order. It matters.

Poetry Friday: Reaching for Sun

This poem is from Tracie Vaughn Zimmer’s book Reaching for Sun.
choked by kudzu

There’s this vine
called kudzu
someone brought over from
Japan,
trying to make
here
look more like
there.

Thing is,
that vine goes
crazy in this climate,
blanketing whole forests.
No sunlight
or even fresh air
can get under the umbrella
of its leaves
so things can breathe
and grow.

The way Mom and I don’t talk
out what happened
grows between us
until the air
feels
choked
like
those
trees.
As you drive south through Virginia, you see where the kudzu has taken over patches of trees along the highway, so I felt a connection to this particular poem in this book of verses. I also really like the poem “Poppies,” but Little Willow had used it before for Poetry Friday, so I picked something new.

Reaching for SunI read Reaching for Sun while my daughter took her ballet class, and while I enjoyed it, I felt that I had not honored the book somehow by reading it while occasionally giving my daughter the listen-to-your-teacher glare. So today I sat outside in the sun, to read it surrounded by the daffodils, the crocuses, and that yellow flowering bush... thing. And if you can, that’s the way you want to read this book, with beauty all around you and beauty on the pages in front of you.

Josie has celebral palsy and struggles with her desires for friends and independence. She is isolated in school where she is either ignored or teased. She hates the painful and embarrassing sessions of occupational therapy. While her mother and grandmother are loving, she feels babied and restricted. She only feels valued unconditionally at the nursing home and is only at peace in the garden. Things begin to change for her as she finds a new friend and grows up, allowing her voice to be heard.

Two personal notes. One, I was excited to see the reference to Tidewater Community College, which is in my other home, Virginia Beach. Yeah, Greater Tidewater Area! Two, I tried to get in the mood for reading this book by weeding my little garden. I thought it would make a lovely post for me to make the connection between the book and my own forays in the fertile soil. But instead of having a spiritual experience preparing the garden and sprinkling the seeds that I received with the review copy of the book, I managed to turn up a termite infestation which gave me the willies for a solid half-hour. Chalk it up, again, to my irony-prone existence.

Chicken Spaghetti does today’s Poetry Friday round-up. Leave her a comment if you want your post included.

Stop The Presses! Mo News

Guess whose birthday is coming up?

No, not Mo’s. (I missed it. Though my interview did post the very next day. Interesting.)

As it turns out, the Pigeon is celebrating his birthday on April 1st, and his gift totally rocks. He’s got a great new website! Fun for the whole family. Stop on by.

Thematic Thursday: Nanny Books For Adults

I love books about nannies, because these people don’t write nanny books to say how great and attentive the parents are. No, people write nanny books because the parents are awful — to the children and to the nanny — and to make some cash. So whenever I read one of these books, I feel instantly better about myself as a mother. At least I’m not as bad as that one, I can safely say.

You’ll Never Nanny in This Town AgainI liked The Nanny Diaries. I highly recommend it as a fictionalized funny/sad story of a nanny’s Manhattan experience. I liked White House Nannies. Again, recommended as a nonfiction look at a nanny service operating in the power center of Washington, DC. I had high hopes for You’ll Never Nanny in This Town Again, by Suzanne Hansen, to cover the Hollywood version. Oh well.

Susie nannies for some important people, and she’s not afraid to name names. The lack of concern for the children’s privacy makes me uncomfortable, as the other books keep the identities under wraps. Susie is also a whiner, complaining and complaining about how she is treated, but never standing up for herself. She knew she was supposed to get a contract for her services, she didn’t, and it bit her in the butt. As she states many, many times throughout the book. She is very young and immature, and doesn’t do what she needs to do. I can understand the relationship of employer and employee, but all throughout the book I kept wishing for her to grow a spine and set some limits on the parents. While it seems the first nanny job was awful and they did take advantage of her, she didn’t help matters by being a doormat.

She learns some lessons from that experience as she moves on to nanny for Debra Winger and then Danny DeVito. They seem to have been good employers, though she finds things to complain about there too. Eventually she gives it up to — surprise! — write a book about the experience. Now that you’ve read a summary of her experience here, skip the book and read one of the other suggestions instead. Or tell me your favorite nanny book. (Is it the Melody Mayer series? You can tell me, because I read it too.)

Sold In The Range Of YA

Sometimes it amazes me that “Young Adult” includes books like Sold and 10 Things To Do Before You’re 16 (Caroline Plaisted).

10 Things  To Do Before You're 16One is entirely fluff. And up to now I thought I had read books that were teen-chick-lit fluffy, but now I realize that they actually had things like a plot, a storyline, character development, a point. 10 Things is just how two fifteen-year-old girls set out to change their lives one leg waxing at a time. It’s certainly not a harmful book. It is what it is. Pure, unadulterated fluff.

SoldNow contrast that with one of the most harsh, most intense YA books that I have ever read: Sold, by Patricia McCormick.

This is the story of a thirteen-year-old girl who is sold by her father in Nepal to a brothel. The woman making the transaction walks her to a city, and then gives her to someone else to get to the city. Along the way there are several negotiations for her that Lakshmi doesn’t understand. she thinks she is going to the city to be a maid, and doesn’t know why she is going so very far. The travel and build-up goes to about halfway through the book, giving us a chance to get to know this girl before it all comes crashing down.

Lakshmi is imprisoned in the brothel, first by being beaten and drugged until she has to submit. Then she is held fast by the huge debt over her head — that she will never be allowed to repay — and the threat of violence. She watches the scenes of the other prostitutes play out before her and loses hope.

There are the tiniest bright spots. A friend who is kind to her. A son of a prostitute who teaches her some English. A tea salesman who gives her some tea. And eventually, an American who can offer her safety.

Sold is a grueling book. The verse format works well in capturing the cruelty and devastation that is a reality for many girls. I hesitate to even say this is a YA book rather than an adult book. Yes, the character is thirteen, but this isn’t a thirteen we know. It’s an amazing book that will blow you away.

Let me suggest, based on experience, that you not read it directly after any teen book that is either pink or features shoes on the cover. It’s just not a good idea.

Thinking Blogger

As you may have read from my husband/editor’s post on Saturday, I took my girls to Virginia Beach for the weekend to see family. We spend a lot of time with my baby niece. In fact, we got to keep her with us at my mom’s house from Saturday noon up until this morning. She was delightful, especially with all of those helping hands to take care of her every need. I’ve said for years that I don’t want another baby, I want a neighbor with a baby, but this is even better.

Maybe you picked up on the “this morning” reference above and pieced together that I drove back to Northern Virginia (Motto: The Fifty-First State) today, and you would indeed be correct. I drove back and immediately went to a booktalking session in the afternoon. I feel like I know my booktalking stuff, but it never hurts to hear some new ideas — especially when the speaker is using the books from your county’s summer reading list.

I also came back to a Girl Scout emergency, whereby some mothers — or one — in my troop did not agree with the date I had picked for an overnight outing and wanted to take me to task on that decision. But now the mothers know what they’ll get from me when they question my decisions: a very long description of my entire decision-making process. I only wish that I could have added sketches and diagrams. Yeah, take that.

So after my three-hour drive (we shouldn’t talk too much about speed limits), a booktalking session, and a failed coup, I’m out of juice to review anything or read any blogs or really do more than hit the booze and hit it hard, but I’ve made a error and I can’t wait any longer to correct it.

Thinking Blogger AwardI was tapped by Magpie Musing with a Thinking Blogger meme. I am touched that anyone would look at me in that way. My thanks. But as it turns out, two blogs have bestowed that honor upon me. I was also tagged by Book Nut and I was also very touched, and then hit a week of overwhelmedness (it’s probably a word) and let it slide.

I don’t know if I have to tag five blogs or what, but since the meme police are unlikely to come after me, I’m going with three. I decided to take the title of Thinking Blogger as literally as I could and only highlight the blogs that really make me think. I mean really, really.
  • Original Content has been on my blogroll since I started because I find such interesting topics there. Gail does not always see things my way, but seeing a different view expands my understanding and I appreciate her for it. It also amuses me that she will hate all the leading personal fluff in this post, and therefore may never get to this part where I say how great she is.

  • Oz and Ends was not on my blogroll for a long time. I didn’t have it on my blogroll because I would only go to the blog when I had plenty of time and mental energy to read it. I didn’t want to skim these great thoughts. After meeting the blogger at the kidlit drink night, I realized that I needed to get it on my blogroll to remind myself to read it because it always challenges me.

  • Chasing Ray is not on my blogroll, but will have to be now. Someone is always mentioning something interesting Colleen is writing about and I go and read it and like it and think that I have to visit more often and promptly forget because that is pretty much how my life goes these days. She’s a wonderful writer and thinker.
Now that I’ve responded to the Thinking Blogger challenge, I must help my second grader make a stuffed paper tiger for school tomorrow. Man, I hope we have staples.

Fanboys Unite!

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth GirlI’m afraid those of you tuning in expecting MotherReader’s trademark wit are likely to be a tad disappointed today. Instead, you’ll just get a dose of her editor’s notorious long-windedness: MR’s taking the weekend off, but asked me to say a few words about The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, by Barry Lyga.

I don’t know why she would think I’d be well suited to offer up my opinions here. I mean, Donnie, the titular “Fanboy,” is an obsessive comic-book fan and aspiring artist who’s read every superhero comic under the sun, dreams of owning a mint-condition copy of Giant-Size X-Men #1, and worships at the altar of the likes of Alan Moore and Brian Michael Bendis, whereas I...

Okay, point taken.

Fifteen-year-old Fanboy is a veritable social outcast, a loner who spends his days just trying to stay under the radar and avoid the antagonism of the ever-present high school bullies. But all the while, he harbors hidden dreams of getting even with his tormentors (he even keeps a mental “list” of those due for comeuppance) and lovingly crafts his own comic — excuse me, graphic novel — in the hopes of escaping his dreary existence. But his perspective changes when he meets the openly rebellious Kyra, or “Goth Girl,” with whom he shares a feeling of societal isolation, but who may be seeking a more active form of self-expression.

At times, I feared the book would venture too far into exaggerated farce (something all too easy to do in the comic-fan arena) or darker-toned violence. Not that exploring the extremes of teenage ostracism is an unworthy undertaking in the post-Columbine era, but as I was drawn into Donnie’s world, I felt that twisting the story to that degree would have been no more than a cheap stunt. But my fears were largely unfounded; Lyga finds a truly plausible balance between humor and credibility in terms of Fanboy’s obsession, and between harmless fantasy and destructive reaction to teen angst. The book is not toothless — it does come very close to that line — but never alienates the reader from its protagonist.

The book is obviously targeted toward a YA audience, but I actually believe it holds greater value for the adult reader. While I could wholeheartedly empathize with Donnie’s plight — who doesn’t remember feeling marginalized as a teenager? — I could bring an adult’s experience to the table. I could travel along with his thoughts and dreams, but also see where his naiveté would run headlong into the harsh wall of reality, even while he remained blissfully ignorant. It made his failures all the more poignant. And his successes...? Well, let’s just say there’s still enough of the teenage fanboy in me to take unabashed satisfaction in those as well.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I just picked up a copy of Bendis’s latest Ultimate Spider-Man, so while I go read, I’ll return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Non-Kid-Lit Blogs

Another meme has come my way, and I’m knocking it out fast before anyone else in the kidlitosphere tags my choice taggies. This meme comes from A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy, and simply asks us to name five non-kid-lit blogs we read.

Well, mine are listed right over there on the side, so this is easy. I’m not even going to use book or authors’ blogs at all, so there.
  • Suburban Turmoil: A stepmom to teenagers and mom to a preschooler and a brand-new baby makes every aspect of motherhood and parenting amusing.

  • Notes From the Trenches: A mom to bunch of kids handles life’s curveballs with humor and grace... Well, actually just more humor.

  • Laid-Off Dad: A cool dad in New York City raises his two boys and battles mice and crazy neighbors.

  • Hygiene Chronicles: A gay dad in DC shares custody of his son with his other mothers and keeps things light and funny in his writing.

  • Defective Yeti: A dad but not a daddy blogger; his writing covers literature, games, news, and his own clever turns of phrase. My new favorite: Damn it — I’m still writing “Fourth Year of the Iraq War” on my checks.
Now I get to tag five people to do the same meme, and I’m working up the kid-lit blogs from the bottom. (You should know that when I go through my blogroll, sometimes I start from the top and sometimes the bottom, just to be fair). So your favorite non-kid-lit blogs, Year of Reading, Wrung Sponge, What Adrienne Thinks About That, Wands and Worlds, and Three Silly Chicks (they can pick six blogs, two for each chick).

Carnival of Children’s Literature

When everyone else is posting about the Carnival of Children’s Literature, I stay quiet. Then...

BAM!

I hit you with it today. Why? Because if you’re anything like me, you went to a few blogs and then meant to get back to it and forgot. So go to The Carnival over at Midwestern Lodestar and use the leisurely weekend to see all the sites.

Thoughtful Thursday: SOL

In Virginia the tests that are given to all school children under the No Child Left Behind Act are called the Standards Of Learning tests, or “SOLs.”

Yes, many people sat around in a room and named the tests SOL. Did anyone say, “Hey isn’t that the common shorthand for Shit Out of Luck?” I guess we’ll never know. As it turns out, the name describes the test perfectly, because if the schools don’t do well on their SOL tests, they’re SOL.

Recently, it’s been “news” that perhaps getting one hundred percent of school-age children to pass these types of tests all around the country is — surprise! — impossible. However, when you’ve locked yourself in with a catchy name like No Child Left Behind, it’s really hard to back off. No Child Left Behind Except Joey, Tina, and Angel just doesn’t fly.

At the time it was a great name, because when anyone brought up anything against the act — like the fact that it’s impossible to achieve — supporters could indignantly say that the evil person speaking up wanted to leave a child behind. But now the name has become an albatross, and yet another proof to me of the power of words.

What made me think of all this today? A Year of Reading posted something that apparently has been passed around among teachers, but by golly, I’d never seen it. It’s a perfect description of what No Child Left Behind looks like from a different perspective.

Move!

Tomorrow I’m doing a program for four- to six-year-olds that focuses on simple science. I’ve done individual programs about water, air, snow, gravity, light, sound, magnets, and measuring. I mix in relevant picture books, nonfiction books, songs, and mini-experiments. I love doing this science program because the kids are so excited about everything we do. It’s a pretty basic overview, but to these kids it’s like I’m revealing the secrets of the universe. Which in a way, I suppose, I am. Wow. Heavy stuff.

Move!This time I’m talking about motion, and I thought of the perfect book to set the pace: Move! by Robin Page. If you haven’t seen any of Steve Jenkins’s illustrations in other books, you will not believe what this man can do with torn and cut paper. The animals just come to life and bring us along into their amazing world. Move! focuses on the many ways that animals get around, starting with the gibbon who swings through the trees or walks on his back legs. This picture leads to the jacana who walks on floating lily pads or dives to catch a fish. You see how it all links together.

At the end of the book are paragraphs about each of the animals pictured throughout the book. The text is simple enough to use with a beginning reader and can be supplemented by the additional information in the back. A beautiful and educational book in one. And tomorrow, it’s science.

The Dinner Preparation Theory

Yesterday I was having a bad day. The weekend had flown by without me accomplishing very much. We watched the movie Babel on Sunday night, which disturbed me so much that I stayed up way too late reading a book to chase the depressing bleakness of the movie out of my head. Monday, I felt a little sick in the morning, and my Girl Scout meeting was like pulling teeth.

After the kids did their homework, I decided to take a nap before facing the evening. I woke from my dozing state to hear several kitchen cabinet doors opening and closing. Just as I was about to get up and see what was going on, I heard (approximately) this conversation between my daughters:
10-year-old: So how is Mom feeling today?

7-year-old: I don’t know.

10-year-old: Do you think she’s tired? Disappointed in the Girl Scouts? Angry? Sad?

7-year-old: I guess.

10-year-old: That’s what I call deep depression. Now what kind of dinner is she going to make us in deep depression?

7-year-old: Macaroni and cheese?

10-year-old: No, Dad usually makes macaroni and cheese. Now here’s my theory: If Mom’s happy then she cooks dinner...

7-year-old: Like chicken and rice!

10-year-old: Right. But she’s not happy today.

7-year-old: She’ll order Chinese food?

10-year-old: No, she orders food when she’s in the middle. But she only orders Chinese food when she’s happier. You know, like last night she sent Dad out for Popeye’s chicken because she didn’t want to cook, but she wasn’t that cranky.

7-year-old: Yeah. Maybe we can get McDonald’s?

10-year-old: No, because she’d have to feel like getting in the car to get it. She’s not going to do that. I think it’s going to be... (sound of more cabinet doors opening, plus the refrigerator) Campbell’s soup, Spaghetti-O’s or hot dogs. Let’s go check.
By now I was burying my face in the pillow so they couldn’t hear me laugh, because the thing is... my daughter was totally right. They went downstairs to the computer room first, and then found me in my room, giving me time to compose myself.
10-year-old: (sweetly) Hey, Mom. What are we having for dinner?

7-year-old: (giggling) Yeah, what are we having for dinner?

Me: I don’t know. I was thinking of maybe soup, Spaghetti-O’s or hot dogs.
My oldest proceeded to let me in on some of her theory of my dinner preparations, though I don’t believe that she used the phrase “deep depression” this time. But I fooled them by making soup, frozen pizza, and hot dogs, because I am not predictable. Oh, and we were out of Spaghetti-O’s.

Kids Cookbook: Food Fun for Boys and GirlsI also decided to order the Kids Cookbook: Food Fun for Boys and Girls. I had checked it out from the library before, but hadn’t even tried to get the kids involved in making any of the stuff. Pretty much because I was too lazy. But clearly, we are in a rut and need some fresh ideas like Easy Tostada Pizzas. I mean, the word easy is right there in the name, so that’s got to be a good sign. Maybe one day I’ll advance to real grown-up cookbooks not put out by Pillsbury, but if I can get the kids to learn how to make something, that could only be better for all of us.

Dumb Bunny

Junie B., First Grader: Dumb BunnyYou’re either a Junie B. Jones fan, or you’re not. I am. I’d love to bring you over to my side, but I won’t fool myself that I can convince everybody. But I can try.

The new book is out — Junie B., First Grader: Dumb Bunny — and it’s as funny as ever. I read it aloud to my girls last Sunday, and my husband read it this Sunday. This time, Junie B. and her class are invited to an egg hunt at richie Lucille’s house. Here’s my favorite passage from the book:
   “I just don’t get it,” Lucille grouched. “How could anyone forget the Easter Bunny? The Easter Bunny brings candy right to your door.”
   Lennie did a frown at her.
   “He doesn’t bring candy to my door, Lucille,” he said. “The Easter Bunny is a different religion than me. I’m Jewish.”
   Shirley nodded.
   “I’m Jewish, too, Lucille,” she said. “I’ve never even been to an Easter-egg hunt before. What do you wear to something like that, anyway?”
   Lucille stood up and fluffed herself.
   “Well — since the Easter Bunny and I are the same religion — I’m going to wear a fancy Easter dress, Shirley,” she said.
   Shirley though for a minute. Then she nodded.
   “Hmm. Then I guess I will wear a fancy Jewish dress,” she said.
   Lennie’s eyes lighted up.
   “Really, Shirley? You mean we have our own clothing line?” he asked.
   He smiled.
   “Then I think I will wear some fancy Jewish pants,” he said.
The discussion continues until the teacher, Mr. Scary, explains that it is not a religious party, but more of a spring picnic with an egg-hunt activity. Apparently, there’s a special prize if you find the golden egg, and that lovely prize is a playdate with Lucille in her indoor pool and everyone wants to swim in that hot water pool. A fun book for Easter, or really any time you need a laugh.

Interview Meme Day With Some Shout-Out Components

Today would be Shout-Out Sunday in my new experimental format, but now that feels a little weird. So instead it’s Interview Meme Day with Some Shout-Out Components. Wow, that doesn’t flow off the tongue at all.

I’ve decided to post the first four questions of the Interview Meme here, these being the questions that I made up for the participants. The last question is individually addressed to each participant.
  1. What’s your favorite quote?

  2. How would you spend $1,500 that you won in a radio contest?

  3. Where do you like to go to get away from it all?

  4. If you had the complete attention of everyone in the United States, but only for thirty seconds, what would you say?
Now the individual question number 5.
  • Zee Librarian — How do you keep up your energy working with the “whatever” teen population?

  • Emily Reads — How are things going with the new baby and another little one at home?

  • Check It Out — What do you like least and most about being a school librarian?

  • Saints and Spinners — Why did you chose your blog name and signature name?

  • Cats and Jammers — What feels different about putting out a book that you wrote from the books that you’ve illustrated?

  • Journey Woman — I put you in the writer category of my blogroll because it seemed the best fit. How do you see yourself?

  • Kaz — Slightly different from Emily’s, but what are you enjoying or noticing this time around with your baby? (If you want your blog linked here, send me the address. I couldn’t find it. Again. And didn’t know if it is really public.)
Now after answering the questions on your blog, you ask if anyone wants to answer your interview questions and so on and so on and so on...

So, That Happened

There’s this memorable scene in a great movie called State and Main. (If you haven’t seen this movie, you really should. It’s funny. Smart funny. Written and directed by David Mamet. The story involves a movie cast and crew that descends on a small town to make a movie. Incredible dialogue and attention to detail throughout the story.) The drunken actor, played by Alec Baldwin, comes careening down the street in his car and crashes it in a screeching, dramatic way. The street is otherwise quiet, except for one man, the movie’s writer. The actor gets out of the car, sees the wreck, and says, “So, that happened.”

That’s pretty much how I feel today after yesterday’s explosive “issue.”

I’ve applied the more amused side of myself to the situation and found some areas that fit in with my irony-prone life. Now, this is the more vaguely defined Alanis Morissette irony, not the strictly defined literary irony, but still.
  1. I wrote the article “Be a B-list Blogger” as a way to reach out to newer bloggers who might not know how to best break in to the community, but the article ended up as a jumping-off place for being called an exclusive clique.

  2. I was originally going to title the article “Be a Better Blogger,” but changed it because I thought the title was too judgmental. I didn’t want to say that someone was a better blogger because they received more links. However, if their goal was to get more links, than describing it as a B-list blogger was more objective. Or so I thought...

  3. I spent the time away from my computer yesterday calling mothers and rejecting their daughters from my school’s drama club. How’s that for bizarre? Actually, it’s a class with an instructor and a class limit and several people turned in registrations too late, so I had to tell them that the class was full. Man, I hate leaving people out.
Luckily, it’s time for Seven Wonderful Things Before Monday at the Seven Impossible Things blog. In the spirit of being inclusive, let me make sure that everyone is aware that they are invited to go to the blog and list in the comments some shiny happy things that happened over the last week. I forgot to mention there that I got some kick-ass shoes today for eight bucks instead of forty.

Also, the next Carnival of Children’s Literature is accepting submissions... um, today. To explain, the Carnivals is a collection of posts from the preceding month, pulled together by one blog and presented to the members of the community at large. To participate you either use the Carnival site to submit an entry, or you write to the host of the carnival with the link to the post you want to feature. You generally pick a favorite post of the month, though sometimes a carnival will have a theme like love or thankfulness or community.

It may not be too late to be included in the Carnival of Children’s Literature if you write an email to Midwestern Lodestar and explain how you are very new at these things, but that you really, really, really want to participate because now you realize after all the past week’s discussions that it is up to you to get yourself out on the dance floor and shake your booty. Tell her that Mother(Reader) said so.

I’ll be back tomorrow with questions for the bloggers who said they wanted them. Brace yourselves, people.

Click vs. Clique

Let me tell you a little personal story.

As a teen, I went to a private school for a couple of years, and then transfered into the public high school in tenth grade. A lot of the friendships were already signed, sealed and delivered by then — especially as my community generally involved people who had never ever moved. I may have been the only new girl out of two hundred tenth graders. Having trouble finding my people, I ended up with a unique crowd of artsy folk. And things were okay.

But in eleventh grade, I found that my group didn’t really fit me anymore. Some of them had gone from artsy to druggy. Some were heading to the VoTech school for half the day, while I was staying after for music and theater.

So I set my sights on a group of girls who were also into music and theater. It wasn’t necessarily easy. I’d talk to them in homeroom, but if I walked out to our lockers with them, they’d start leaving me out of the conversations. Then I could walk to the lockers, but if I walked down the hall with them, they’d talk about people I didn’t know. Then I could walk down the hall, but I knew I couldn’t sit at lunch with them. I just knew. But by the end of my private campaign, I was not only in the group, but a trend-setter within it.

Additionally, each day I’d go home and tell my mom of my progress in a detached way. I didn’t get bent out of shape that they didn’t embrace me from day one. Why would they? They didn’t even know me. If I wanted to be part of the group, then it was up to me — not them — so I made the effort. I remembered to cut out the article from Seventeen about the cute actor that one of the girls liked. I always had an extra pencil on hand to share. I may have made a mix tape.

Didn’t my feelings get hurt sometimes? Sure. But that’s life. These girls weren’t actively mean. They didn’t say nasty things to me, but they weren’t going to make me their new best friend just because I wanted it. I had to prove that we had something in common, that I’d add something to the equation, that I was... worthy, I guess. It didn’t hurt that I was talented in our shared interests of music and theater, but that wasn’t enough really.

There had to be that “click factor.” Not “clique factor.”

Now put that whole experience in with the blogging world, and you’ll get my point. It parallels my own experience in blogging almost perfectly. Instead of “music and theater,” it’s “books and reading.” Instead of “talk to them,” it’s “comment.” Instead of “my mom” it’s “my husband.” Instead of “article in Seventeen,” “extra pencil,” and “mix tape,” it’s “emailed them about something kid-lit-related,” “linked to a great post,” and “started the 48 Hour Book Challenge.”

And you know what? I’m still doing it. I keep up with my kid-lit peeps, but I still reach out there. I comment on Surburban Turmoil, though she’s never mentioned me. When Defective Yeti — an A-list blog — had a contest, I played and I told people about it and he mentioned me for it and I probably got some new readers.

Now when I opened up my interview question meme yesterday, one person said they’d do it. ONE. What a great chance that was for a blog who wanted some face time to get attention, because I went over to Zee Librarian to look at her blog. And lo and behold I saw this cool thing she had done with her young adult display. I found she writes about movies too, which I love, and I’ll certainly be back to visit her. That’s how you do it, people.

Am I saying that the kidlitosphere is like high school? Noooo. I’m saying that all of life is like high school — in a way. Things become more refined, sometimes. But if you need proof, look at who society pays — athletes and actors (beautiful people).

I bring this up, because Monica brought it up and wanted some feedback. I commented there, and at Fuse#8, where I originally saw the post. She didn’t mention my article on how to be a B-list blogger specifically, but she did reference the A-list, B-list status thing. My idea in writing that article was to tell other blogs how to get out themselves out there — assuming that’s their goal. It doesn’t have to be.

As for Monica’s related point of how to teach our children within classrooms and literature and parenting about not excluding people, I’ll teach my daughters not to depend on everyone else being nice and fair, because life isn’t nice and fair. However, be nice and be fair. I’ll teach my daughters to be proactive about their destiny, not reactive. Oh, and that friendships — even blog and literary friendships — take effort, time, and often that “click factor.” And that’s not the same as “clique factor.”

Thoughtful Thursday: Interview Meme

Last week I saw that A Wrung Sponge was doing this interview meme and, always being one to keep the meme alive, I said I’d play. She had answered questions written for her by a Repressed Librarian, and she wrote these for me. Watch out. They’re deep.

1. What is the thing that most surprises you about being a grown-up?

The amazing, unlimited capacity to love my kids. It’s an experience of love that can’t be compared to anything else. Not loving your parents, your partner, and most certainly not your dog. Those are all wonderful things, but loving your children is watching them grow and change and develop, under your guidance. It’s knowing you’d kill or die for them. It’s experiencing childhood again, but with perspective. It’s giving them the last double-chocolate chip cookie. Well, sometimes.

2. What do you miss most about being a kid?

My kid body. I don’t mean my hot teenage body — though I wouldn’t mind having that waistline again — but the freedom of a body that does everything you ask it without complaint. Really, the freedom of taking your body for granted. Now, even in my (let’s say) mid-thirties, I’m so conscious of my physical self. I get out of bed, and my back hurts. I drop a fork under the table, and I groan while reaching for it. And let’s not even talk about the Slip-and-Slide...

3. What do you look forward to in being a senior?

Time, time, time. I’m so frustrated with having so many things that I want to do and not nearly enough time to do them. I do the things I have to do now, and save the rest. Like I have to be my daughter’s Girl Scout leader now, even if I don’t really have the extra time. But she’s not going need a troop leader when she’s thirty-six and I finally have the time. So I put off a bunch of things I’d love to do — travel, paint, write a book  — to focus on what’s in front of me. It’s just a shame that what’s most clearly in front of me is yesterday’s dinner plates, two weeks’ worth of laundry, and a ten-year collection of Happy Meal toys.

4. What stories do you think your kids will tell their children that they have heard from you?

Since I’ve drilled it into their little brains so much, the story of their differences. I believe that the worst thing about a person is often the best thing about them turned around. My seven-year-old is stubborn and argumentative. However, no one will ever push her around. My ten-year-old worries about everything, especially social norms. However, she has lots of friends because she adapts so easily. I tell them what great luck it is that they are sisters, because all their lives they’ll be able to help each other understand another perspective. Or they’ll kill each other. Either one.

5. If you could put a children’s author and an illustrator together to work on an e-book for fifth graders, who would you choose and why? (They get to write the story and design the artwork as a team.)

This is a very specific question. Are you working on a project? Anyway, after a lot of thought, I’d put together Louis Sachar and Kadir Nelson. What’d I’d like to see is a great story featuring African-American children, but not about civil rights or slavery or prejudice. I think it’s important to have books that talk about the culture and struggles of Black Americans, but that it’s also important that we have books that don’t make color the complete focus. And poor Kadir Nelson needs to get locked into a project before a picture book is written by Chris Rock.

If you want to do the meme, let me know in the comments. I’ll come up with five questions that you can answer on your own blog.

Unicorn Books

Oh, girls love their unicorn books, don’t they? I came across two unicorn titles in quick succession, the first from the library and the second from the publisher. Let’s take a look.

Unicorn WingsIt’s possible that the beginning reader book Unicorn Wings, by Mallory Loehr, is not very good. But who would notice when each page has fanciful pictures of unicorns and rainbows and roses and butterflies and bluebirds and castles and swans and moonlight on the ocean? If you’ll ever get a sugar high from a book, this is the one.

The unicorn — who for some strange reason in this ultra-girly book is a male — has a horn that can cure, but he really wants wings. He tells the butterflies and bluebirds and swans how he wishes that he had wings. But none of their wings are right for him. Boo. Then he meets a beautiful pegasus, cures her broken wing, and magically gets wings too! Hooray!

My seven-year-old daughter looooved it, even though the text is for a younger reader. It’s a beginning reader book that desperately needs a sequel. Not for me, mind you, but for my daughter.

Unicorn RacesI’d put Unicorn Races in the same camp. I don’t know that the story of the book is all that it could be, but the illustrations are very sweet. And very purple. Lots and lots of purple. There are other colors too, like blueish purple. (Okay, there are other colors in the book.) Is it because it’s from Purple Sky Publishing? Hmmm.

The story follows a little girl who waits until her mother thinks she’s asleep, and then she beckons her flying unicorn to take her to the magical place where she is the princess of all the fairy creatures. There she oversees the lovely unicorn races and crowns the winner, and then they all have lots of cake and sweets. (Actually, this may be the leading sugar high book.) Then the girl goes home and goes to sleep.

I found the text a little choppy in places, sometimes stilted and formal (though by design), which made the reading awkward. But I don’t know if it even matters, because my daughter looooved this book too. The pictures and story are the stuff of little girl dreams. Little girl princess candy-coated dreams.

The Edge of the Forest: Be a B-List Blogger

The March 2007 issue of The Edge of the Forest is now up, featuring interviews with Newbery Honoree Kirby Larson and with the hilarious Jenny Han. There are also reviews in all categories — from Picture Book to Young Adult. (Don’t miss Brian Farrey’s “Open Letter to Adam Selzer.”) Lots of other features to numerous to mention make this a must-read ’zine.

The Edge includes my new article, “Be a B-List Blogger.” I felt I needed to give some tips back to the book blogging community after being asked so many times about my own rise to B-list fame. Okay, maybe I was asked once. And now that I think about it, the question may have been if I could “go all night long,” but anyway, I took it as a cry for help.

I entered the kidlitosphere in complete and utter naiveté. My husband had been bugging me for a year to get a blog, after the many times I would bug him about including some adult book or some earth-shattering thought of mine on his blog. Then one day I just decided to do a blog about books. We set up the site, and I started writing. I knew nothing of other book blogs. I hadn’t followed blogs at all. I was actually quite surprised to find out how many were out there, and how good they were. While I started writing pretty much for myself and my friends, I soon wanted to be part of the larger community. But how?

The answer to that question is contained in my article at The Edge. Most of the tips came to me along the journey. Some of them were only available to me upon reflection. But I hope that the suggestions can help other bloggers that are struggling with their own road to blog-improvement.

On a personal, related note, in my article I mention that commenting on blogs helps get you noticed, and I want to say to some bloggers who comment here, that I do notice you and I do appreciate your support. I often bookmark blogs that are new to me, and I visit occasionally to see how they’re growing up. I rarely put a blog that is just starting out on my blogroll, because I think everyone needs time to find their voice. And honestly, sometimes I just forget. I am not an organized person, and I am at this point a deeply overwhelmed person, so there are things that just don’t happen. But I am happy that you read MotherReader, and I hope you keep coming back until the day you’re an A-list blogger and I’m begging you for a little blog-time. ’Cause that’s how things roll in the fast-paced, high-stakes world of blogging.

Shout-Out Sunday

Last week, as I was writing my Shout-Out Sunday post, I kept having the nagging feeling that I was forgetting something. It bugged me all the rest of the day and didn’t come to mind until the next day, when I finally remembered...

READERGIRLZ!

This website has been mentioned a lot, but it’s my turn to give the idea some play. Here’s some information from their press release:
Starting on March 1, readergirlz founders Dia Calhoun, Janet Lee Carey, Lorie Ann Grover, and Justina Chen Headley will unveil a monthly book selection, featuring young adult novels with gutsy female characters. More than just a book club, readergirlz aims to encourage teen girls to read and reach out with community service projects related to each featured novel. As well, readergirlz will host MySpace discussions with each book’s author, include author interviews, and provide book party ideas, including playlists, menus, and decorations.

Each book selection will dovetail to a topic, identified by the readergirlz divas and prominent children’s lit bloggers as topics teen girls should know about in this millennium. The first topic is Tolerance, a theme explored in the kick-off book selection for readergirlz, Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies). In conjunction with the first novel, teen girls will be encouraged to visit www.tolerance.org to learn how to safely stop bullying and to apply for one of the organization’s Mix It Up grants to break social and racial barriers within their schools.
This past week I learned about the extensive list of coming-of-age books put together by Chasing Ray. If you love your teen angst — and I know that I do — this is a great collection of the best. She’s also identified some key components making it that much easier to find a multicultural, gay character dealing with the death of a loved one. Or something like that.

I read this Meg Cabot post while working at the information desk at the library and had to cover my mouth to hide my laughter as the story kept getting funnier and funnier. It’s definitely for cat lovers, but this is choice stuff with my personal stamp of approval. Thanks to Robin Brande for pointing it out.

Always happy to jump on the Mo wagon (that didn’t sound dirty, did it?), I’d love to promote a project that I saw on his blog. A fan wrote in to mention that there’s a Camel Bookmobile that travels around the bush in Kenya. They invite book donations from authors and others, with picture books being particularly needed. Mo’s in and wants to know who’s going to join him. Well... duh, me. For now I can promote it, but I’ll probably put my Girl Scouts to work collecting books. They’re already collecting books for a middle school in DC, so why not? I don’t get stacks of picture books for review, but I know some of you do. If you want a cool place for them to go, consider the Camel Bookmobile.

Poetry Friday: “1985”

For Poetry Friday I’m featuring new(ish) hip(ish) songs that have their own poetry (of sorts). Today’s song as poetry is “1985,” by the band Bowling for Soup. It will probably strike a chord, so to speak, with other thirty-something moms, but the song was big last year with all the kids of those thirty-something moms. Ironic, huh?
Debbie just hit the wall
She never had it all
One Prozac a day
Husband’s a CPA
Her dreams went out the door
When she turned twenty-four
Only been with one man
What happened to her plan?

She was gonna be an actress
She was gonna be a star
She was gonna shake her ass
On the hood of Whitesnake’s car
Her yellow SUV
Is now the enemy
Looks at her average life
And nothing has been all right since

Bruce Springsteen, Madonna
Way before Nirvana
There was U2 and Blondie
And music still on MTV
Her two kids in high school
They tell her that she’s uncool
’Cause she’s still preoccupied
With 19... 19... 1985.
Check out the rockin’ tune at iTunes, and don’t blame me if you start singing it everywhere. Like, say, in the car while you’re driving your daughter and her friends to the ice-skating rink and your daughter says you’re embarrassing her even though her friends clearly think that you are the coolest mom around for knowing all of the words to the song and also seem to appreciate the little dance move you can do while driving, because that’s talent.

Not that I know anything about that kind of situation.

Thoughtful Thursday Except On Friday and About The Scrotum

Yesterday I started to write about the scrotum issue as well as my BACA alert, but I was running out of time before work so I had to bag the scrotums. (Was that too easy? It felt like it was too easy.) I hadn’t weighed in on the issue partially because I didn’t feel like I had anything new to add to the discussion and partially because I was juggling too many other personal concerns. It’s hard to care about the scrotum when you have all these balls in the air. (Again, easy.)

When the dust had settled, two posts stood out to me. One was only (let’s see, 5 + 7 + 5 = 17) seventeen syllables long. I’ve debated today whether I would do this blogger a greater service by posting her work here or linking to it, but I’ll link to be safe. Check out Emily Reads on the topic.

The other post that picked up accolades around the kidlitosphere was one by Pixie Stix Kids Pix. In contrast to the seventeen-syllable post, this one feels closer to seventeen pages. It’s very through. It’s also extremely good in describing the whole Scrotum Kerfuffle (I believe that is now the official term, is it not?). When you look at the whole lifespan of the issue, it’s really just nuts. (Still easy.)

The PKP post led me to my point of contention, which is accuracy in reporting. The New York Times finds a few librarians talking on a librarian listserv about whether they should buy a book for their library that they believe has limited appeal — Newbery award or not — and uses a word that could be controversial. The Times takes this and runs with it as if the book is being banned all over the U.S.

If you can’t discuss professional concerns on your professional listserv without being taken to task by the freaking New York Times, then what’s next? I suppose the paper would like to report that we are being visited by Martians because a few people in the city claim they can see the aliens when they wear their aluminum foil hats. Or hey, maybe the media will start giving credence to the few scientists who say that global warming is a big myth and allow that to create a “controversy” over our environmental policies for so many years that the New York Times reporters find themselves kayaking to their office because the island of Manhattan is three feet underwater. But I digress.

In the end, I don’t want to give hell to the librarians who were having a discussion on a semi-private listserv about a book they hadn’t read (almost no one had, since it came out late in 2006) and its appropriateness for their schools (which, if you heard the word “scrotum” out of context, you might — might — wonder about). But the New York Times deserves a little hell for this fake reporting. I certainly hope that someone over there gets the sack (...eh, never mind).

Thoughtful Thursday: BACA Alert

It appears that Jenna Bush has written a book. As founder of BACA, Bloggers Against Celebrity Authors, I know I need to come into the discussion. But I hesitated, and let me tell you why. My personal, primary reason for being against celebrity authors is that I think it’s greedy. If someone is already famous as an actor, singer, and rolling in dough, c’mon, just walk away from children’s literature. Just walk away. My secondary reason is that trading in on your famous name to get big book deals is unfair and kinda annoying.

So Jenna has a book deal. Honestly, I’d cut her some slack on both of my reasons. She’s not famous as an actor or singer and rolling in dough (though I do believe her family is pretty wealthy). She happens to be the president’s daughter, but she hasn’t already made her own personal stamp in the world. Maybe it will be in young adult fiction. I kind of doubt it, but stranger things have happened. So she’s not being greedy in bringing her career into kids’ lit as she has no actual career. Also, while she is trading in on her fame to get a book deal, it’s not her fault that she’s famous. So I’m not really sure I can blame her there either. I’m torn.

However...

The poor girl leaves herself wide open with these two statements (from her interview with USA Today):
“Jenna Bush, in a rare interview, says her forthcoming book for teens — about a 17-year-old single mother in Panama who is living with HIV — will end with a ‘call to action.’”

“She says she ‘very, very modestly’ hopes her book will have some of the influence of two books about girls caught up in the Holocaust: Lois Lowry’s novel Number the Stars and Anne Frank’s The Diary of Anne Frank.”
Oh Jenna, it is terribly unlikely that coming out of the gate as a first-time author that you are going to influence people like Lois Lowry or — Lord have mercy — Anne Frank. I know that you didn’t really mean to imply that you would, but the fact that you said it at all doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in whatever you’re going to write.

As for the “call to action” line, ohmigod! Do you realize how incredibily annoying it is for people living under your dad’s uncaring, uncompassionate, uninspired polices for six freaking years to hear that you want to issue a “call to action” on social issues? You want a call to action? Start with calling your father and talking to him about single mothers, HIV, and foreign aid and then you get back to us.

Thanks to Big A, little a for the all-important BACA alert. Keep up the good work.

Keeping It In The Family

Heave Ho!Hi! This is MotherReader’s fifth-grade daughter. After reading the picture book Heave Ho! written by Heinz Janisch, I have decided to write a review for it.

Heave Ho! states right from the beginning that it will be told in twelve sentences. Even though it is mostly about having twelve sentences, I think that the story could have been better. It has a story, but it is not elaborate. If a twenty-four-page book only has twelve sentences, they should at least be good sentences. I also think that the pictures are a bit odd. The dog has no bottom lip, the rats have lightning bolts on their heads, and the cat seems to not be “all there.” And why do all the doors have scratches down them?

But on the bright side, it was an original idea, and the story was pretty cute. Overall, I would say that this book is A-OK. So if you happen upon it, you should read it, but don’t go out of your way to get it.

(MotherReader here. She wrote this review — I only did a little bit of editing. She even underlined where she wanted the italics to go. Can you see how she takes after me? I’m pretty much with her on this book, though I didn’t notice the odd things in the pictures. All hail the power of observation.)

Time-Out, T-Shirt Tuesday

Books Are Good For YouTime-Out Tuesday brings you this lovely offering from Threadless, where for a limited time, many T-shirts are ten bucks. For a tenner, I’ll probably pick up this shirt, even though I’m not fond of yellow. I’m very interested in another shirt emblazed with the simple phrase, “I’m a Noun!” Unfortunately, the haiku shirt is not available at this time, but they have many other hip styles, including the literary “Shakespeare hates your emo poems.”

The Squampkin Patch

The Squampkin PatchIn the The Squampkin Patch, author JT Petty lets us know right away that we’re in for something a little odd. In fact, right from the first paragraph of the first section, “To the Reader”:
“Nasselrogt” is pronounced “Nasel Rod.” This is not as difficult as, say, performing dentistry on an unanesthetized bear, or tying your shoe with one hand. But for teachers, waiting-room attendants, roll callers, and countless others, the pronunciation of Nasselrogt was an insurmountable peak.
If you are the kind of reader who might skip the “To the Reader” section, your introduction begins with Chapter 1, “Duck in the Pants”:
A rack of trousers, a pair of tanning beds, and their own last name conspired to orphan the Nasselrogt children.

After the Great Cheese Grater Fiasco, the Nuked Alaska Ice Cream Debacle, and the Taffy Handkerchief Catastrophe, Milton and Chloe were all out of nannies. So Mr. and Ms. Nasselrogt, despite their busy schedules, had been forced to take their children back-to-school shopping themselves.
As their parents are ignoring them, the kids hide as a joke. When they come out to look for their parents, they are gone. The children end up getting shipped off to the Urchin House, run by Mr. Porifera. When their parents reappear, they can’t find their children, since Mr. Porifera doesn’t recognize the kids’ last name as the parents pronounce it — that is, correctly — and doesn’t find their files. One of my other favorite quotes is about the Urchin House itself:
The front half was white columns and gables; the back half was gray warehouses and smokestacks. It did not look like the marriage of a factory and an orphanage. It looked like a factory had tried to swallow an orphanage, choked, and died with its mouth full.
The children escape and end up at a mysterious house surrounded by a pumpkin patch — or so they think. It turns out that patch holds something strange and frightening that is coming to a head on Halloween.

Though the build-up is to Halloween, I wouldn’t want to lose this book the other eleven months of the year. It is definitely suspenseful, sometimes scary and creepy, too. But it is also filled with dark humor and interesting characters. There was one plot point involving a wall and a large zipper that seemed out of place, but fortunately it was early on in the book. The book shows a very strong Lemony Snicket influence in the writing, which should make it a natural pick for lovers of the Unfortunate Events books — and that includes a lot of kids.

Shout-Out Sunday

Ages ago I mentioned the cliché rotation project at Defective Yeti, whereby old clichés are moved out in favor of new ones. As it turns out, my own cliché entry was listed on the website. (Old cliché: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” New cliche: “If you won’t shake your booty, get off the dance floor.”) The contest was such a hit, that D.Y. is keeping it going for a while. Check out what’s he’s got so far, and start thinking of your own. With all these clever writers in kids’ lit, we should be able to make a good showing. (Another favorite of mine updates “playing second fiddle” to “Jeeves in a Google World.”)

I was pleased as punch (that would be a good cliché to update) to see that Kelly Fineman interviewed Adam Rex, author and illustrator of the fantastic poetry book Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich. Kelly even asks real, in-depth questions that show she might know a thing or two about the author. Now, I don’t always read author interviews, but Adam Rex seems like the kind of person I’d like to hang out with at the neighborhood Chili’s. Though he probably know some hip Brooklyn bar where they hang baby dolls from the ceiling by their feet, so we could go there instead.

Earlier this week I saw this post of when Mo Willems met Dick Bruna. While Mo is my guy now, when I was a little girl my favorite book was Bruna’s The King. I still have my book where I added tears to the king’s face and colored in his bald head after he took off his crown. What caught my attention most in Mo’s description of the visit and the trip to Holland was this sentence: “I showed him some of my work while we discussed minimalism, modernism, Calder (who he used to see in Paris), Shultz (who he spent an afternoon with once), Matisse, color, process, and studio work habits over a lekker cup of tea.” Doesn’t that sound like such an intelligent discussion? I’m having trouble thinking of who my career idol might be, but even if I should find him/her, I doubt our conversation would reach that higher level. My idol as a blogger would probably have to be Dooce, and I bet our talk would run more toward potty training and public tantrums. I don’t have a librarian idol, and even if I did, I’d be more likely to share creepy patron and porn viewer stories. I’ve got to work on this.

Book Meme In Five Questions

I saw this book meme over at Big A, little a, originally created at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Two of my answers were the same as Kelly’s, and I said as much in the comments. She responded in the comments with “Do the meme, MR!” Notice the exclamation point. How can I not do it now? Because when Big A says jump, MotherReader says, “With these jiggly thighs? I think not.”
Anyway, here are the questions:
  1. What are your five most important books?
  2. What is an important book you admit you haven’t read?
  3. What classic (or childhood favorite) was a little disappointing on rereading?
  4. What book do you (or did you) care most about sharing with your kids?
  5. Name an acclaimed book, either classic or contemporary, that you just don’t like.
What are your five most important books?

This is bound to be embarrassing, because they’re not very smart books, but I picked the books that I thought most influenced some aspect of my life.
  • Illusions, by Richard Bach, is the tale of a reluctant messiah. It’s a very interesting, if very seventies, story about the power within yourself. It also has lots of wonderful quotes from The Messiah’s Handbook, like, “If you will practice being fictional for a while, you will understand that fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats.”

  • Cosmos, by Carl Sagan, is also from my youth. It was a book I read when I was trapped in the intellectual pithole of the mountains of Virginia. It’s the book that reminded me to keep challenging myself.

  • Hobbit/Lord of the Rings are getting put together as one big book, because who’s gonna stop me? These books expanded my world to include worlds I could imagine.

  • Bridget Jones’ Diary may seem like an odd choice, but it’s the matriarch of chick lit. It’s the first book to really be funny and light in a woman’s sort of way, and I like the freedom of that sort of writing. The book was published just when I had a baby, and the books that I used to read were too heavy for my sleep-addled brain to handle.

  • Raising Your Spirited Child also may seem like an odd choice, but when you’re a mom with a fiesty two-year-old, this book can be a saving grace. It made me realize that all techniques for tantrums and limits don’t work with all children. I was able to handle both of my spirited children with far more talent than I would have without this book.
What is an important book you admit you haven’t read?

Probably almost any important adult book you can name — other than the ones that you had to read in high school. I am woefully undereducated in classic literature. I looked at the shelves yesterday to think of the kids’ book that it would be most embarrassing to admit to skipping, and I landed on this revelation. I had never read anything by Roald Dahl until this year, when I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I know, shocking.

What classic (or childhood favorite) was a little disappointing on rereading?

Kelly and I have the same one here, Little House on the Prairie. The writing style is not strong and all the racial things made me squirm.

What book do you (or did you) care most about sharing with your kids?

This was the other place I agreed with Kelly naming Winnie-the-Pooh. I’m afraid all the Disney crap has made people believe that this is a book for toddlers, when the books are really quite funny and sophisticated. I’d also add the Raggedy Ann Stories, because I loved them as a kid.

Name an acclaimed book, either classic or contemporary, that you just don’t like.

Okay, say it with me folks...Tulane.

I tag anyone who wants to be tagged. Oh, oh! You know who I tag? Brotherhood 2.0. If you haven’t been following the video blog of John Green and his brother Hank Green, you have been missing something special. Go. Go, watch it now.

Poetry Friday: Dr. Seuss Style

It’s Dr. Seuss’s birthday and it’s Poetry Friday, so that’s cool. A Wrung Sponge is collecting your favorite lines from Dr. Seuss, with bonus points for those done off the top of your head. I did have to peek, because I needed to make sure I had it exactly right. I added the last few lines of the beginning of The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.
All that deep,
Deep, deep snow,
All that snow had to go.
When our mother went
Down to the town for the day,
She said, “Somebody has to
Clean all this away.
Somebody, SOMEBODY
Has to, you see.”
Then she picked out two Somebodies.
Sally and me.
My mother used those last lines a lot whenever she was assigning my brother and me chores. I still think of it often. It particularly fits today as it is a lovely sixty degrees and the last bits of snow are indeed going.

Last year I wrote an Ode to Seuss, and I’m going to copy it in here again. First of all, it’s perfect for the merging of Poetry Friday and Dr. Seuss’s birthday, and secondly, I have more readers now who may not have seen it. Oh, and it’s a work of art, I tell you.
Ode to Seuss

The sun did not shine
It was too wet to play.
So I sat by the computer
All that cold, cold, wet day.

I sat with my blog.
We sat there, just deuce.
And I said, “How I wish
I could rip off Dr. Seuss.”

Then I looked up,
And saw him step in on the mat!
I looked up. I saw him!
The Cat in the Hat!

(Or it could have all been
in my head, not a fact.
I’d taken two Advil
And at least four Prozac.)

The Cat said,“Now why
Do you sit there so gloomy?
Your house looks quite clean
Your playroom quite roomy.”

I said, “It’s my blog,
I need something to write.
I can find no inspiration
At least not by tonight.”

“Inspiration, you want.”
(sounding kind of like Yoda)
“Open your eyes,” he said,
“And get me a soda.”

“All that you’re looking for
Is here on this shelf.
You don’t need any more,
You can get it yourself.”

And then all the titles
Popped right out at me
With a surreal neon glimmer.
(Note: Avoid LSD.)

Oh, Say Can You Say?
The Foot Book, ABC,
Hop on Pop, Mr. Brown,
The Shape of Me.

Horton, and Yertle
The Lorax and Grinch
The King’s Stilts, Mulberry Street
Oh, this was a cinch!

I turned then to thank him,
That Cat in the Hat.
I turned then to thank him
But he’d have none of that.

Then putting a finger
Aside of his nose,
He gave me a wink
And up the chimney he rose!

(Sorry about that —
A little Xmas got in.
Guess I shouldn’t have taken
That third Vicodin.)

Let me say to you all
Dr. Seuss broke the mold,
Giving us the best books
For all of time told.

From America to Uruguay
Readers, thinkers, let loose.
Take a moment to say,
Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss.
Don’t forget to send the Cat in the Hat a birthday card at Seussville, where a book will be donated to First Book for every card received. If you haven’t heard it yet, you may want to try out Dylan Hears A Who for a bit of the surreal in your life. Big A, little a is doing the Poetry Round-Up today, which includes a special guest star.

Be The Parent

I had so many suggestions for Thursday — Thematic Thursday, Therapeutic Thursday, Theme-Song Thursday — that I can choose as I go. Today I’m using Thoughtful Thursday as my anchor for today’s post about parents.

Yesterday I heard a mom arguing with her two-year-old for ten minutes about leaving the library. Hear that: ARGUING WITH HER TWO-YEAR-OLD. The mom was ready to leave and twoer was clearly not. I was an innocent bystander, collecting books for my next program. There was counting: “I’m going to count to three...” And pleading: “Mommy’s really ready to go home now...” And even some bitterness: “Well, Mommy doesn’t get to do what Mommy wants to do most of the time.” There may have even been some despair over lost opportunities: “Mommy could have been a background singer for Celine Dion, but instead here she is in purple velour sweatpants trying to haul your dream-killing butt out of the public library so Mommy can get home to the little orange pills that make it all seem fine.”

Come to think of it, that last one may have been me.

Anyway, I realized that my being the only other person in the children’s area might be contributing to the problem, because maybe the mom was feeling awkward with a staff member right there. So I left, and as I was telling my coworkers that the mom might be coming behind me with a screaming kid, the mom did pick up the kid, who did indeed scream. Considering the whole thing finished, I went into the back room.

But here’s the kicker: When I came out of the back room thirty minutes later, the mom was just then checking out! Was she honestly negotiating with her two year old for forty minutes? Did someone forget to tell her that SHE’S THE MOTHER?

When did parents forget to be parents?

I may be annoyed by the tantruming kid in the store or library, but I’m still sympathetic deep down in my heart. I know that any kid, any mom can have a bad day or even a bad period. The tantrum itself isn’t indicative of the parenting, though how it is handled can be. My oldest was a big tantrum kid coming up on three years old. But when I had to, I carried her screaming body out. I still remember the day I had to carry her out of the mall, wrapped around my body under both arms as she tried to kick and scream, while I pushed her sister in the baby stroller. Good times. But I tell you that so you know that I’m no stranger to strong reactions to the phrase, “We need to go home now.” Tantrums aren’t fun to watch as the mother or a random person in Kohl’s trying to find a pair of jeans that don’t shout how you’ve given up looking hot. But tantrums by themselves are not nearly as bad as seeing a mom hand over control to someone who hasn’t even maintained control of his bowels yet.

Is it fair to give your kid a little heads-up that you’re leaving soon? Sure. Is it helpful to offer constructive choices surrounding your departure? Can be. Is it useful to argue the finer points of your departure with a two-year-old? NONONONONO!!!

These parents are often in my storytimes as well, but fortunately I can usually hold their kids’ attention. But when I can’t, I watch them asking the kids nicely to not bang on the carts or not climb on the stacks of chairs in the middle of my reading. I want so badly to put down the book and show them how to handle their kids. Because it’s possible that instead of asking from ten feet away for the kid to stop, you need to get up and physically remove the kid from said cart or chairs. Sometimes I think that I would do far more good showing parents how to parent their child then I can do showing them how to read to their child, but then that wouldn’t be fair to the majority of parents and kids who are listening nicely.

Actually, one of the times I did suggest to a mom that she take her child out of the storytime and return when he was ready, she complained — not to my supervisor, or even the library branch manager, but to the director of the entire library system. While I didn’t get in trouble per se, everyone in the entire chain of command knew about this complaint. So even though the people I work with directly knew the whole thing was crazy — I’m really a nice person — I’m sure it left doubts with the people who didn’t know me. It just adds a whole other level to the parenting crises. Not only will these people not control their own children, if you try to suggest they do so, you can get a black mark by your name in the Big Job Book.

It’s scary for the future to see how much power parents are putting in their kids’ hands. Want to play a little game? Go to a playground or busy children’s section of the library or bookstore and count the number of times you hear parents say, “Okay” — as in, “We’re going to go home soon, okay?” It has become a verbal tic for parents who think it softens their statement (“We’re going to go home soon”), but is really asking permission of their child (“Okay? No, not okay,” the kid thinks). Parents are afraid to be seen as harsh or mean, so instead they get played like the Wiggles keyboard in front of KB Toys.

The Three-Martini PlaydateA great book for moms struggling with their inner meanie is The Three-Martini Playdate. The book reminds us, in a very tongue-in-cheek way, how to be the parent in a number of situations from birthday parties to bedtime, diaper bags to dinner out. Hopefully moms will laugh reading the insert for Our Little Tot’s First Martini Recipe, but the serious message contained within the book is the concept — how revolutionary — of being the person in charge.