105 Ways to Give a Book

Blog Reading

Holy Brother of Todd!!! The Kidlitosphere Conference is only one week away!!! I’m going to meet all these people, like, in Real Life!

Realizing that I’d see these blog buddies soon made me get back to blog reading and commenting. I do read through JacketFlap, but I haven’t been commenting as much. I think, honestly, it’s because I’ve been reading the blogs too quickly. I haven’t allowed myself time to digest the writings enough to want to add something.

I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling, since I’ve noticed comments going down in general and more people noting that they aren’t keeping up with their blog reading. Further evidence that everyone is writing in their blogs and not reading blogs is found in a post from Bottom Shelf Books. Check out this paragraph, in reference to the book Millions of Cats:
For those of you who are skeptical about the connection between advertising and religion, I present you with Exhibit A: Jesus. Regardless of your religious affiliation, there is no denying that Jesus is, by far, the most successful spokesperson in history — followed at a safe distance by Mickey Mouse, Ronald McDonald, and the late Anna Nicole Smith (the former spokeswoman for both TrimSpa and Giant Boobs... may they rest in peace).
How could the comments on this concept not go crazy? We aren’t paying attention. This guy’s walking the line. Taking chances. Putting it out there. To think that I might have missed it.

It’d be hard to miss John Green, especially when Brotherhood 2.0 is talked about in the Wall Street Journal! The online edition even has the liquefied Happy Meal video. To be fair, the subject of the article is the online campaign contributions collected by Daniel Biss, but there’s a lot of the Brotherhood in it too.

Also, a John Green Experience is described over at Miss Rumphius Effect. (Apparently, the experience is like a dolphin encounter at SeaWorld. Amazing and over too fast.)

From Original Content, I learned of a post at BookLust referencing amazing works of art where the artist carves out of a book. Really, you have to see it to believe it.

Miss Erin wrote about the very creepy book Coraline. But it was this quote about the book that caught me off guard:
I suggest that you step very slowly away from this book and go find another source of amusement, such as investigating an unsolved crime or making a small animal out of yarn.
— Lemony Snicket
Yarn animals? How did he know?

In other personal news, it looks like I’ll be changing my desktop wallpaper. (Totally kidding. Totally. Well, probably kidding.)

Poetry Friday: The Impression That I Get

Time for another installment of Song Lyrics as Poetry. This is one that hit me the other day, and while I don’t feel I’m that under the gun, it still resonates with me. From The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, “The Impression That I Get”:
Have you ever had the odds stacked up so high
You need a strength most don’t possess?
Or has it ever come down to do or die
You’ve got to rise above the rest?
(No? Well...)
I’ve never had to...
(knock on wood)
But I know someone who has
Which makes me wonder if I could
It makes me wonder if I...
Never had to...
(knock on wood)
And I’m glad I haven’t yet
Because I’m sure it isn’t good
That’s the impression that I get
Poetry Friday round-up takes place over at AmoXcalli.

Odds and Ends and Yarn Bugs

Many days I feel like I’m trudging along, doing what everyone else is doing. I’m making coffee, taking the kids to school, folding laundry, and so on. But at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, it occurred to me that nobody in America, maybe even in the world, was systematically pulling the googly eyes off yarn bugs and re-gluing them. Apparently, “tacky glue” isn’t the same as Elmer’s glue — which the girl who came up with the Girl Scout swap had told me — but pshaw, it had to work because I didn’t feel like going home and getting the “right” kind of glue. Lesson learned.

I’ve been so busy with all this GS stuff and school stuff and stuff stuff, that I’ve missed the boat on a few things. I totally spaced out on submitting for The September Carnival of Children’s Literature over at Charlotte’s Library, but at least I can read the great posts there — as can you.

In the category of Other Great Things I Didn’t Contribute To This Month, the September issue of The Edge of the Forest is up with exciting features, as well as interviews, reviews, and much, much more. Take the time to check it out.

I haven’t made time to talk about the upcoming Cybils, but the nominating and judging panels are now up, and I’ll be serving on the picture book nominating committee. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to find the best five books out of all the 2007 picture books nominated. Come to think of it, that’s sounding like a lot of work. Anyway, nominations for the best books of 2007 will open on October 1.

If you’ve been in a KidLit-free cave, then you may have missed the wonderful brainstorm of 7-Imp, where bloggers will help promote the snowflakes made for auction for Robert’s Snow for Cancer’s Cure. I’ve got Mo Willems (naturally) on Halloween (if you’ve seen his snowflake, then it makes sense), but that’s all I’ll say about that — for now.

I have some breaking news. Jenni Holm is profiled in today’s Washington Post’s KidsPost section. It’s a nice article about her mentioning her Babymouse books, and one of my 2007 favorites, Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf. She’ll be at the National Book Festival this Saturday with tons of other great authors.

I will not be there. I will be camping with my Girl Scout troop and handing out yarn bug swaps, now with non-detaching eyes. Sigh.

Best Books Listers

When I was putting together the MEGALIST of the Best Books of 2007 (So Far), I didn’t have the time (or energy) to link back to the bloggers who’d participated. Honestly, two days later, I still don’t. Lots of folks left their favorites in the comments, which was great. Cut and paste. Can’t beat it. Many bloggers put together their lists with annotations, personal observations, and links to their reviews. If you feel like reading what your blog buddies had to say about the Best Books of 2007 (So Far), check out:

Confessions of a Bibliovore, Sarah Miller: Reading, Writing, Musing..., Writing and Ruminating, Miss Rumphius (and here) 
(and again), A Year of Reading (and more) (and yet more), What Adrienne Thinks About That, Becky’s Book Reviews, A Patchwork of Books, Little Willow at Amazon, Seven Impossible Things, So Many Books... (and here), 2nd Generation Librarian (and here), Pinot and Prose (and here), Greetings From Nowhere, Your Neighborhood Librarian, Proper Noun, Fuse#8, and me, me, and me.

Thanks again to everyone who made suggestions and lists and clever comments. I’ve got such a great reading list for the rest of the year, I don’t know how I’ll make time for Dancing With the Stars. Oh, that’s right — I won’t.

Best Books of 2007 (So Far): MEGALIST

Here are the favorites of more than thirty bloggers and kidlit lovers (not mutually exclusive categories). If a book was mentioned more than once, the number of times it was put forward is indicated in parentheses. I took a few liberties with the placement in categories, but for the most part followed the suggestions of the person naming the book. The clear winner of the year is The Invention of Hugo Cabret, listed as a favorite by almost half the respondents. The out-of-sight-out-of-mind winner would have to be Eclipse, which got rave reviews, but was only mentioned after I nudged readers to name the missing YA. Enjoy.

Picture Books
17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore, by Jenny Offill (4)
The Apple Doll, by Elisa Kleven
The Apple Pie that Papa Baked, by Lauren Thompson
At Night, by Jonathan Bean (3)
Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug, by Mark Newgarden
The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds, by Marisabina Russo
The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County, by Janice Harrington (5)
Chicky, Chicky, Chook Chook, by Cathy MacLennan
Cowboy and Octopus, by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
Dadblamed Union Army Cow, by Susan Fletcher
Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Dumpster Diver, by Janet Wong
Edwardo the Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World, by John Burningham
The End, by David LaRochelle (2)
Fabian Escapes, by Peter McCarty
Fred Stays With Me! by Nancy Coffelt (2)
Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy, by Jane O’Connor (2)
Fish, Swish! Splash, Dash! by Suse MacDonald
Goldilocks and the Three Bears, by Caralyn Buehner
Go To Bed, Monster! by Natasha Wing
A Good Day by Kevin Henkes (3)
Green as a Bean, by Karla Kuskin
Grumpy Bird, by Jeremy Tankard (2)
I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean, by Kevin Sherry (3)
The Incredible Book Eating Boy, by Oliver Jeffers
Jazz Baby, by Lisa Wheeler.
Knuffle Bunny Too, by Mo Willems (4)
Library Mouse, by Daniel Kirk
Lissy’s Friends, by Grace Lin
Little Night, Yuyi Morales
Mary and the Mouse, the Mouse and Mary, by Beverly Donofrio
Me I Am! by Jack Prelutsky
My Cat Copies Me, by Yoon D. Kwan
Orange Pear Apple Bear, by Emily Gravett (3)
Penguin, by Polly Dunbar
The Pink Refrigerator, by Tim Egan
Pirates Don’t Change Diapers, by Melinda Long
Pssst! by Adam Rex (2)
On Meadowview Street, by Henry Cole
Ruthie and the (not so) Teenie Tiny Lie, by Laura Rankin
Scribble, by Deborah Freedman
Taking a Bath with the Dog and Other Things that Make Me Happy, by Scott Menchin (2)
That Special Little Baby, by Jane Ann Peddicard
Walk On! By Marla Frazee
What Happens on Wednesdays, by Emily Jenkins
The Wizard, by Jack Pretlusky
Wolf! Wolf! by John Rocco
Yo, Jo! by Rachel Isadora
The Zoo, by Suzy Lee (2)

Beginning Readers
“Every single Elephant and Piggie book by Mo Willems that you can get your hands on.” (quote from Fuse#8, but echoed in sentiment by anyone who listed this category.)

Younger Elementary
The Friskative Dog, by Susan Straight
A Girl, A Boy and a Monster Cat, by Gail Gauthier
Henry’s Freedom Box, by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Let it Shine: Three Favorite Spirituals, illustrated by Ashley Bryan (2)
Mokie and Bik, by Wendy Orr
Rickshaw Girl, by Mitali Perkins
The Talented Clementine, by Sara Pennypacker. (4)
Violet Bing and the Grand House, by Jennifer Paros

Elementary/Middle-Grade
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
The Arrival, by Shaun Tan
Atherton: The House of Power, by Patrick Carman
The Aurora County All-Stars, by Deborah Wiles (3)
The Baptism, by Sheila Moses
Billy Hooten: Owlboy, by Tom Sniegoski
Cassie Was Here, by Caroline Hickey
Castle Corona, by Sharon Creech
Click, by Linda Sue Park and others
Clarice Bean, Don’t Look Now, by Lauren Child
A Crooked Kind of Perfect, by Linda Urban (5)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney (4)
Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis (2)
Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, by Lynne Jonell
Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree, by Lauren Tarshis (4)
Evil Genius, by Catherine Jinks
Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer, by Laini Taylor
I Am Not Joey Pigza, by Jack Gantos (2)
Into the Wild, by Sarah Beth Durst (2)
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick (14)
Kimchi and Calamari, by Rose Kent
Laika, by Nick Abadzis
Leepike Ridge, by N.D. Wilson (2)
The Lemonade War, by Jacqueline Davies
Letters from Rapunzel, by Sara Lewis Holmes
Louisiana’s Song, by Kerry Madden (2)
Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf, by Jennifer Holm (3)
Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller, by Sarah Miller (2)
Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little, by Peggy Gifford (4)
The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Stewart
The Navigator, by Eoin McNamee
No Castles Here, by A.C.E. Bauer
No Talking, by Andrew Clements
Paint the Wind, by Pam Munoz Ryan
Runaround, by Helen Hemphill
The Secret History of Tom Trueheart, by Ian Beck
The Secret Identity of Devon Delaney, by Lauren Barnholdt
Skulduggery Pleasant, by Derek Landry (3)
Someone Named Eva, by Joan Wolf
Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, by R.L. LaFevers
The Thing About Georgie, by Lisa Graff (3)
Titan’s Curse, by Rick Riordan
Un Lun Dun, by China Mieville
Verdigris Deep, by Frances Hardinger
Way Down Deep, by Ruth White
Where I Live, by Eileen Spinelli

Young Adult
Beige, by Cecil Castellucci
Beauty Shop for Rent: ... fully equipped, inquire within, by Laura Bowers
Betwixt, by Tara Bray Smith
Blood Brothers, by S.A. Harazin
Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale (4)
Boy Toy, by Barry Lyga
Cupid, by Julius Lester
Cupcake, by Rachel Cohn (2)
Deadline, by Chris Crutcher
Defect, by Will Weaver
Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Dramarama, by E. Lockhart
Eclipse, by Stephanie Meyer (2)
Epic, by Conor Kostick
Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature, by Robin Brande (3)
Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson
First Light, by Rebecca Stead
Flora Segunda, by Ysabeau S. Wilce
Forever in Blue, by Ann Brashares
Forever Rose by Hilary McKay
Girl at Sea, by Maureen Johnson
Grief Girl, by Erin Vincent
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling (4)
Here Lies Arthur, by Philip Reeve
How to Get Suspended and Influence People, by Adam Selzer
I’m Exploding Now, by Sid Hite
In Search of Mockingbird, by Loretta Ellsworth
Lemonade Mouth, by Mark Peter Hughes
Lessons from a Dead Girl, by Jo Knowles
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, by Gabrielle Zevin (2)
The Nature of Jade, by Deb Caletti
The Off Season, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (4)
The Plain Janes, by Cecil Castelucci (3)
The Princess and the Hound, by Mette Ivie Harrison
Reaching for Sun, by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer (2)
Story of a Girl, by Sara Zarr (5)
Such a Pretty Girl, by Laura Wiess
A Swift, Pure Cry, by Siobhan Dowd
Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
Tips on Having a Gay (ex)Boyfriend, by Carrie Jones,
Twisted, by Laurie Halse Anderson (2)
The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt (5)
What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
Wildwood Dancing, by Juliet Marillier
Y: The Last Man, by Brian Vaughn
Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath, by Stephenie Hemphill

Poetry
Animal Poems, by Valarie Worth (3)
Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems, by John Grandits
comets, stars, the moon and mars, by Douglas Florian (3)
Dogku, by Andrew Clements
Here’s a Little Poem, ed. by Jane Yolen (5)
Tap Dancing on the Roof, by Linda Sue Park
The Owl and the Pussycat, by Edward Lear (KCP)
This is a Poem That Heals Fish, by Jean-Pierre Simeon
This is Just to Say, by Joyce Sidman (3)
Today and Today, by Kobayashi Issa, illustrated by G. Brian Karas (2)
Twist: Yoga Poems, by Janet Wong
Shout! Little Poems that Roar, by Brod Bagert

Nonfiction
1607: A New Look at Jamestown, by Karen Lange
A Seed is Sleepy, by Diana Hutts (2)
Dogs and Cats, by Steve Jenkins
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, by Laura Amy Schlitz
Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson, by Sue Stauffacher
One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II, by Lita Judge
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth, by Rochelle Strauss
Strong Man, by Meghan McCarthy
Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood, by Ibtisam Barakat
The Long Gone Lonesome History of Country Music, by Bret Bertholf
Tracking Trash, by Loree Burns
Where in the Wild? Camouflaged Creatures Concealed... and Revealed, by David Schwartz, Yael Schy, and Dwight Kuhn

Thanks to everyone who participated. I hope this sparks some ideas for the upcoming Cybil Award nominations and gives everyone some new books to look for at your local library or bookstore!

The Land of Little Horses

Other people go to Gettysburg for the history, the education, the connection to the past.

We went for The Land of Little Horses.

On our trip to Niagara Falls, the plan was to visit this icon of American animal miniatures as a break in the eight-hour journey. But it made sense to change the itinerary — which we only did with a promise to the third grader that we would visit The Land of Little Horses very soon. (Incidentally, it would help the tone of this post if you could speak the name of the place with a tone of grandeur. Thanks.)

Today was the day.

The Land of Little HorsesIt actually was nicely done, The Land of Little Horses. They had loads of stables and outside enclosures, and a few of the horses roamed freely around. Along paths through the woods, there were several other animals — most of the pettable type — to see and visit. There was an arena show, and a presentation of several horses, which included a history of the breed and of The Land of Little Horses (established in 1971). I had the girls do a happy dance for a future Brotherhood 2.0 video — because while it’s likely that someone will think to do their happy dance in front of a monument in D.C., I’m fairly certain that no one else will do one at The Land of Little Horses.

In all honesty, we did do a quick tour of the Gettysburg battlefield and cemetery, and there are two things I will always remember. First, as we went up to the monument to Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, I was moved by the woman sitting on the ground in front, apparently contemplating this divisive time in America’s history. As we drew closer (passing the sign about observing respect and silence on the grounds), I realized that the woman was chatting on her cell phone. And not quietly. I just had to laugh.

The second moment was at the crest of Little Round Top. As I was taking a picture of my girls waving from the top of the turret-shaped monument, my husband was behind them videotaping me taking the photo. Now I remember why I didn’t rush to replace our video camera.

Tomorrow I’ll post the list Best Books of 2007 (So Far). At least I hope so. Come to think of it, I should probably have been working on that now instead of this post. But how could I deprive you of either the photo of the smallest horse I’ve ever seen or the catchy destination name of The Land of Little Horses?

See how the adding importance to the sound of the name makes the whole reading go better? Thanks again.

Poetry Friday: Volunteering Blues

My week has been tough. I lost the first round of Volunteer Chicken, which means I now have the responsibility of placing kids in Girl Scout troops at my school. Unfortunately, there are a lot more girls than troops, so some of the moms of these troopless youngsters are going to have to step up and make a troop — or two. And guess who has to talk them into it? Oh, and I need to pay attention to my own troop at some point this month, since we’re going camping in a week.

As if that weren’t enough, I coordinate the Drama Club for the school. I generally don’t mind doing it, because it’s very little work. I change the dates on a flyer that I inherited from the coordinator before me. I photocopy it, the teachers hand it out, I pull together the forms and money from the kids who’ve joined. After that, it’s pretty much in the hands of the instructor.

But today, as the last straw in my volunteering haze, I received an email from the County Schools Official in Charge of Meaningless Things telling me that I can’t use the name of the instructor’s company on the flyer itself. Did I mention that it’s the same flyer that’s been used for at least four years? Knowing that, I hadn’t waited for the official go-ahead, and it’s been copied, gone home, and been returned. So, oops? But the best part is that under her signature she had the phrase “Pray for Peace.” On a county email. In this extremely politically-correct county. I mean, how can I object to the phrase “Pray for Peace”? Everyone wants peace, right? But still, “pray” is a pretty loaded word for an official email. I’d say more loaded than my including Acting for Young People on my flyer.

Anyway, the whole thing has given me the Volunteering Blues and inspired me to write this poem. Actually it’s more like a song, especially given that I had the tune in mind as I wrote it. Whatever — I think it counts for Miss Rumphius’s Poetry Challenge and for Poetry Friday. Read, Write, Believe has the round-up. Now who has the guitar to accompany my singing?
The Volunteering Blues

I’ve got the volunteering blues.
I’ve got the do-gooder blues.
Ain’t got a moment to call my own.
Am I too old to run away from home?
Lawd, would someone get me off of the phone!
I’ve got the volunteering blues.
I’ve got the do-gooder blues.
The Girl Scout troops and the PTA —
I’m not sure I can make it through another day.
And here comes a memo from the county to say,
“You used the wrong words for your Drama Club play!”
If everyone thinks I’m doing it all wrong,
Then why have they stayed away for far too long?
They’re the reason why I’m writing this here song.
I’ve got the volunteering blues.
I’ve got the do-gooder blues.
Ain’t got a moment to call my own.
Am I too old to run away from home?
Lawd, would someone get me off of the phone!
I’ve got the volunteering blues.
I’ve got the do-gooder blues.
You can take a bit of my blues away by giving me some titles for the list of Best Books of 2007 (So Far). I have just under thirty participants, and I’m still missing a HUGE book. Think YA.

Volunteer Chicken

Getting volunteers is the Mom version of Chicken. You keep expressing the need, the importance, of getting this role filled. You wax poetic about the opportunity. You threaten the consequences of NOT having a volunteer. You do all this until someone caves.

I’ve been the one who caved, which is why I am now in the position of trying to get others to cave. It’s ironic. It’s also exhausting, so I haven’t had time/energy to post, or read much for that matter.

Instead, I’ll point you to an article about making reading “Mo” fun. That’s all I’ve got. Oh, unless you’d be interested in getting together with me and other DC area folk. In that case, stop by The Longstockings and let Caroline know that you don’t think that New York City is really all that.

My Best Middle-Grade Books

Okay, this list has been very difficult to do. I had five books in mind before I had even started posting my lists. Then a bunch of books came in from my holds list from other library branches. Suddenly I had ten more great candidates. And then several of those books made me think of other books that I had liked but not thought of as I was making my list. Soon I was thrown into a sea of indecision — which ones were my absolute favorites? The pressure!

Throw in a little Girl Scout chaos, a weekend of yard work, and a visit from my dad, and I was fried. So, I’m going back to my original choices. I selected these books because they had something unique to share, the selection covers several ages within the middle-grade range, and the titles stuck with me.
  1. Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf, by Jennifer Holm
    I loved the way the story of the girl is told through stuff. Very creative book.

  2. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
    Who didn’t like this book? With an interesting story and amazing illustrations, it may be the book of 2007.

  3. The Talented Clementine, by Sara Pennypacker
    Can I say that a sequel has something unique to share? Sure, if it’s about Clementine.

  4. The Thing About Georgie, by Lisa Graff
    I loved the way the narrator involves the readers in this book. The story was different, engaging, and funny.

  5. Rickshaw Girl, by Mitali Perkins
    This book brings a view of the other side of the world to younger elementary school readers. I love the focus on solutions and innovation.
Now, I know there are books I left out; as I said, I couldn’t spend any more energy sorting through it. But you can still include those books and suggest them for my blogwide list of Best Books of 2007 (So Far). Maybe you can consider it a chance to sort out your nominations for the upcoming Cybil Awards. Maybe you’ll want to make up for the certain lack of fantasy I’ve noticed while working on the master list. Maybe you’ll want to guess which HUGE book hasn’t been named, even though more than twenty people have posted lists or named a favorite in the comments. (It’s not Harry Potter or Hugo Cabret — I’ll give you that.)

You have until Friday at midnight to come out and play with me.

Deadline Extended for Your Best Books

I’m extending the deadline for submitting your choices for the Best Books of 2007 (So Far). Why?
  1. The new school year and Girl Scouts have kicked my butt this week.

  2. Big ideas in the kidlitosphere have kept everyone busy.

  3. I started pulling together the list and was surprised that some books were not on it — including one HUGE book. HUGE.
So, if you still want to post a list or add your favorites in the comments, you have until next Friday. Working on the master list, I’ve found it very low on fantasy and science fiction. C’mon wizard lovers, represent!

My Best Young Adult Books

I could have sworn that I read more 2007 YA books. Maybe it was just that I heard about a lot of new books, or read a lot of 2006 titles. So if you look at my list and think, “How could you leave out My Favorite Book?” chances are that I didn’t read it. One of the reasons I like compiling a list of the kidlitosphere’s choices (and there is still time to post your selections and/or leave titles in the comments) is that it serves as a reader’s advisory for the rest of the year and into the next.

While I didn’t read as much as I thought, I was fortunate enough to hit some excellent books. All of these titles would be appropriate for middle school, with only a word of caution on Story of a Girl, which does talk about sex.
  1. Beige, by Cecil Castellucci
    I loved this fish-out-of-water story of a conservative girl spending time with her aging rocker dad. There’s humor! There’s angst! There’s a playlist in the chapter titles!

  2. First Light, by Rebecca Stead
    The first sentences of the book captured me, and I found that I couldn’t put it down. I enjoyed the mix of realism and fantasy. Marketed as YA, it could also be for middle-grade readers. Interesting and engaging book.

  3. Evolution, Me, & Other Freaks of Nature, by Robin Brande
    My husband did the official review of this title, because evolution vs. intelligent design is His Thing, but we both loved the teen take on a controversial subject. The large side helping of humor in the book didn’t hurt.

  4. Story of a Girl , by Sara Zarr
    I was late to this title, and by then it seemed like lots of people had loved it and written about it, so I just didn’t. (If you are one of those bloggers, give me the link in the comments and I’ll put it in here.) I was haunted by the angst of a girl trying to leave behind one mistake. Top-notch writing.

  5. I’m Exploding Now, by Sid Hite
    Funny story: As I was pulling together today’s list, I realized that I hadn’t read any guy books at all. At all. In desperation, I read a book from my ARC pile, just hoping that it would rock. What do you know? It did. It’s not a long book and not a lot happens. In fact, I was halfway through before anything really happened. But I loved the insight into the teenage boy’s mind. I loved the humor. I’ll be posting a review — with book quotes — very soon, because I don’t want you to miss this title.

My Best Picture Books

You have all been so good about getting together your lists for for the Best Books of 2007 (So Far). Bravo, people, bravo. You can still post your own list or add a special title to the comments. It’s certainly not too late, as evidenced my my own Best Of lists beginning today. I’d like to do a round-up of the lists over this weekend, when I am blissfully free of obligations.

Finding my favorite picture books of the year is always extremely hard, because while I might read thirty/forty/fifty Young Adult books or middle-grade books, I’ll see about two hundred picture books as they come into the public library system. I read — or at least skim — most of them. (Of course, the exception is any book with a corresponding TV show, like Dora or SpongeBob. Then the exception to the exception is the Charlie and Lola books, which my kids and I adore.) Bringing it down to five top choices is tough, but I look for those that stuck with me as the year went on.
  1. Knuffle Bunny Too, by Mo Willems
    Yeah, I know I’m a huge Mo fan, but in all sincerity, this sequel is just as strong, interesting, and funny as the first. If anything, I’d say the story and humor are even more developed than the first. Total slam-dunk by the Mo man.

  2. Lissy’s Friends, by Grace Lin
    I love the lively, detailed illustrations, the sense of whimsy (did the stork really come alive?), and the theme of friendship. Beautiful, sweet book.

  3. Me I Am! by Jack Prelutsky
    The message of individuality is so well done with Prelutsky’s adapted poem, but for me the real joy is in the lovely and whimsical illustrations which develop their own story. Really special.

  4. 17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore, by Jenny Offill
    I loved this book the instant I saw it, but didn’t review it because it felt like it was being mentioned everywhere, because everyone loved it. It’s one funny book with amazing illustrations. (Apparently, this title brought out a range of emotions in Amazon reviewers, who either loved it or despised it. Interesting.)

  5. Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
    I suppose I just forgot to review this title, but I loved the simplicity of the drawings, the text, and the humor. It’s a funny book, but in a subtle way. It makes a great beginning reader book too.
I was tempted to include Someday, by Alison McGhee, but it’s really less a book for kids than for adults. I’ll mention it, but I won’t put it in my top five.

I don’t recall anything standing out in the Beginning Readers except Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie series. They are wonderful and I’ll be talking about them soon with the folks at 7-Imp in a cross-blog review.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting my Elementary School favorites. No! Young Adult. No! Elemen...

Let’s just wait and see, ’kay?

Song Meme

When my family does something, we really do it to the max. A couple of years ago, when we visited a friend in New York City, she was amazed by how much we packed into three days. When we went to Niagara Falls a couple of weeks ago, we totally did the Falls. We walked all over the New York State Park, taking in every angle of the river and the waterfall. We did the Maid of the Mist and the Cave of the Winds tours. We went to the movie, the discovery center, the aquarium, and the observation tower. We drove to Canada and looked at the view from that side. Oh, and we fit in MarineLand too. What the hell, here’s a picture.

The family at Niagara Falls
(Don’t you like how I slipped in our vacation summary? I said I would, hadn’t done it, but covered it now. I rock.)

So anyway, when I was tagged for this song meme by Big A, little a, I knew I would have to leave some time to do it right. Contrary to popular belief, I do not have a mind like a steel trap. More like a steel colander. I had to look up more than half of the songs on iTunes — and some of them I still didn’t recognize. 

After my husband got hold of my post (and somehow messed up the coding — thanks, honey), he then felt compelled to add the links to the iTunes Store. Oh, if only we could use our thorough, obsessive nature for house-cleaning, or say, real estate investment.

Here’s my key to the song titles:

Green = I loved it!
Black = I liked it (meh)
Red = I hated it!
Blue = I can’t remember it
  1. That’s What Friends Are For, Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder
  2. Say You, Say Me, Lionel Richie
  3. I Miss You, Klymaxx
  4. On My Own, Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald
  5. Broken Wings, Mr. Mister
  6. How Will I Know, Whitney Houston
  7. Party All The Time, Eddie Murphy
  8. Burning Heart, Survivor
  9. Kyrie, Mr. Mister
  10. Addicted To Love, Robert Palmer
  11. Greatest Love Of All, Whitney Houston
  12. Secret Lovers, Atlantic Starr
  13. Friends And Lovers, Carl Anderson and Gloria Loring
  14. Glory Of Love, Peter Cetera
  15. West End Girls, Pet Shop Boys
  16. There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry), Billy Ocean
  17. Alive And Kicking, Simple Minds
  18. Never, Heart
  19. Kiss, Prince and The Revolution
  20. Higher Love, Steve Winwood
  21. Stuck With You, Huey Lewis & The News
  22. Holding Back The Years, Simply Red
  23. Sledgehammer, Peter Gabriel
  24. Sara, Starship
  25. Human, Human League
  26. I Can’t Wait, Nu Shooz
  27. Take My Breath Away, Berlin
  28. Rock Me Amadeus, Falco
  29. Papa Don’t Preach, Madonna
  30. You Give Love A Bad Name, Bon Jovi
  31. When The Going Gets Tough, Billy Ocean
  32. When I Think Of You, Janet Jackson
  33. These Dreams, Heart
  34. Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone), Glass Tiger
  35. Live To Tell, Madonna
  36. Mad About You, Belinda Carlisle
  37. Something About You, Level 42
  38. Venus, Bananarama
  39. Dancing On The Ceiling, Lionel Richie
  40. Conga, Miami Sound Machine
  41. True Colors, Cyndi Lauper
  42. Danger Zone, Kenny Loggins
  43. What Have You Done For Me Lately, Janet Jackson
  44. No One Is To Blame, Howard Jones
  45. Let’s Go All The Way, Sly Fox
  46. I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On, Robert Palmer
  47. Words Get In The Way, Miami Sound Machine
  48. Manic Monday, Bangles
  49. Walk Of Life, Dire Straits
  50. Amanda, Boston
  51. Two Of Hearts, Stacey Q
  52. Crush On You, Jets
  53. If You Leave, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
  54. Invisible Touch, Genesis
  55. The Sweetest Taboo, Sade
  56. What You Need, INXS
  57. Talk To Me, Stevie Nicks
  58. Nasty, Janet Jackson
  59. Take Me Home Tonight, Eddie Money
  60. We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off, Jermaine Stewart
  61. All Cried Out, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam With Full Force
  62. Your Love, Outfield
  63. I’m Your Man, Wham!
  64. Perfect Way, Scritti Politti
  65. Living In America, James Brown
  66. R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A., John Cougar Mellencamp
  67. Who’s Johnny, El Debarge
  68. Word Up, Cameo
  69. Why Can’t This Be Love, Van Halen
  70. Silent Running, Mike and The Mechanics
  71. Typical Male, Tina Turner
  72. Small Town, John Cougar Mellencamp
  73. Tarzan Boy, Baltimora
  74. All I Need Is A Miracle, Mike and The Mechanics
  75. Sweet Freedom, Michael McDonald
  76. True Blue, Madonna
  77. Rumors, Timex Social Club
  78. Life In A Northern Town, Dream Academy
  79. Bad Boy, Miami Sound Machine
  80. Sleeping Bag, ZZ Top
  81. Tonight She Comes, Cars
  82. Love Touch, Rod Stewart
  83. A Love Bizarre, Sheila E.
  84. Throwing It All Away, Genesis
  85. Baby Love, Regina
  86. Election Day, Arcadia
  87. Nikita, Elton John
  88. Take Me Home, Phil Collins
  89. Walk This Way, Run-D.M.C.
  90. Sweet Love, Anita Baker
  91. Your Wildest Dreams, Moody Blues
  92. Spies Like Us, Paul McCartney
  93. Object Of My Desire, Starpoint
  94. Dreamtime, Daryl Hall
  95. Tender Love, Force M.D.’s
  96. King For A Day, Thompson Twins
  97. Love Will Conquer All, Lionel Richie
  98. A Different Corner, George Michael
  99. I’ll Be Over You, Toto
  100. Go Home, Stevie Wonder
I’ll tag Bill (who has probably already started), Mitali, Adrienne, and Minh. You can find the song lists here. Have a happy trip down musical memory lane!

Poetry Friday: Teeth!

A poem about a root canal? Okay, you asked for it (and I didn’t have anything else for Poetry Friday).
Teeth!
Don’t talk to me about teeth.
I don’t want to hear about
cavities or bridges or
God forbid, root canals!

For years, my worst nightmares
have been about losing my teeth.
Not usually through some accident
that wasn’t my fault,
but through my own obsessive need
to wiggle and wiggle the teeth loose,
even though I know
(in the dream)
that’s it’s a terrible idea.

I’ve heard or thought or guessed
that these nightmares represent loss.
Maybe not death,
Probably not death,
But other significant loss —
of the perfect body
of the best friend
of the writer’s hopes.
Which makes it more devastating
that I am responsible.
I am eating the doughnuts.
I am ignoring the phone calls.
I am delaying the writing.

Teeth!
Don’t talk to me about teeth.
I don’t want to hear about
cavities or bridges or
God forbid, root canals!

Unless...

Cavities are just emptiness
That could be filled with clear water
and long walks.
Bridges can be built between friends
who have lost touch.
And root canals.
Root canals can
Dig out the poison
of hesitation, procrastination
to let the healthy hopes
grow stronger.

Stay Tuned

I was going to start on my own lists for Best Books of 2007 (So Far), but I’m not ready yet. You know, emotionally. So instead I’m going to spend the next two days beating you over the head with the idea. Or simply mentioning it. One or the other.

With my vacation at the end of the summer, I missed announcing the arrival of the August Carnival of Children’s Literature. Since the feature was hosted at a homeschooling blog, there were many participating blogs that I didn’t know. I was particularly interested by Woman of the Tiger Moon’s personal list of
her favorite 100 children’s books
. I’ve seen the National Education Association’s Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children, but there are several books on there that I wouldn’t choose. Plus the list doesn’t include books published after 1999 (are they going to update it any time soon?). I’m intrigued by the idea of making my own Top 100 sometime. Hmmm. By the way, the next carnival will take place at Charlotte’s Library.

I also was interested in a question received over at The Longstockings, where an English teacher asked, “What MUST READ books would you include in a primer dedicated to YA or on a syllabus for a YA course?” I’ve seen a course guide for Young Adult Literature, but again, the question made me think of a more personal approach. What would I suggest, especially if I had to keep the choices limited — say, to a selection of twenty books? Hmmm. I may have to look at that issue, though I suspect that I have some readers who are ready to answer that question right now.

I hadn’t paid any attention to BlogShares for a while, until I learned that Gotta Book was subject to a hostile takeover. It made me look, and I found that the kidlit blogs have been targeted. Probably because none of us takes any interest in — or for that matter understands — the whole BlogShares concept. I have to admit, however, that I loved my “press release” — even if can’t comprehend it.
MotherReader was the subject of much speculation when analysts at several firms were heard to be very positive about its recent performance. Its share price rose from B$126.14 to B$182.90. Much of the hype was said to originate from Ken Adams whose Maurice Sendak (artefact) was said to be involved.
Yesterday I looked obsessively for this exchange from Friends, when Monica and Chandler got engaged, because I had to use it today.
Rachel: I’m so happy for them!

Phoebe: Me too! So happy for them!

Rachel: I’m so happy and not at all jealous.

Phoebe: Oh no! No, God, definitely not jealous!

(They both take a drink of coffee.)

Rachel: I mean I’m probably 98 percent happy, maybe 2 percent jealous. And I mean, what’s 2 percent? That’s nothing.

Phoebe: Totally. I’m like 90/10.

Rachel: Yeah, me too.
It’s the perfect lead-in for pointing out the fantastic, incredible, totally zazz interview with Mo Willems over at Seven Impossible Things. Not only is Mo funny (of course), not only is the content interesting (naturally), but they also linked to several other interviews through the ages. My Mo-view is listed, and I believe my obsession is noted, along with the announcement that I and the 7-Imp gals will be co-reviewing the Elephant and Piggie books. I’m so happy...

Oh, one quick thing for a laugh. Read Roger pointed out this great site with 15 Unfortunately Placed Ads. Some were groaners, but several made me crack up. I’ll never forget the one with the cat and... Jesus.

Best Books of 2007 (So Far)

Oh, hi. There you are. It’s been a quiet summer statistics-wise, and I’ve been wondering when you’d show up again. Not that I blame you for taking it easy on your blog reading and commenting over the summer. I mean, we’ve all got to get in our time lying by the pool/ocean/lake/pond/spigot. But now summer is officially over, and it’s time to get down to business.

Last year I listed my best books of the year before the year was technically over. Then I invited anyone who wanted to participate to make a list of their own, which I incorporated into one big list of the kidlitosphere choices. It was fun, in a busy, obsessive way.

So, want to do it again? We can consider it a public service toward next summer’s reading lists, and school librarians’ fall ordering, and just plain reading choices for people everywhere. If you want to join in, post your “Best Books of 2007 (So Far)” in any or all of the categories: Picture Books, Early Elementary, Elementary, Middle School, High School. Mix in your nonfiction or graphic novels by the age categories. Narrow it down to five choices per category (I know it will be tough). Let me make it clear that you don’t have to cover every age. Also, you can combine categories and make, say, one YA list. But if so, be a pal and indicate if you think it’s more High School level or Middle School level. My ultimate plan is to pull together the posts into one big list by the middle(ish) of September. Oh, and the books don’t have to be the most literary choices or the Caldecott contenders. They can be on your list because they made you laugh or cry (or were better than Cats) or proud to be an American, or whatever.

Some of you have already let me know that you plan on participating, and to you I say, “Rock on.” For those of you just waking up from your lazy summer days in the hammock or just back from vacation, let’s see what you’ve got. Comment on this post when you’ve got something to share, and I’ll put your choices in the master mix.

Summer Inventory

My summer goals:
  1. Get rid of the donation books at work. Add, buy, or sell them.
  2. Clear out immense piles of paper at work.
  3. Get back to blog reading.
  4. Try JacketFlap to condense blog reading.
  5. Get tree stump removed and plant a new tree.
  6. Devote Monday and Tuesday mornings to clutter removal.
  7. And Friday mornings to paper control.
  8. Use time off in August to write — a book, essays, an article.
  9. Go to pool three times a week — hey, we’re paying for it.
  10. Plan at least one vacation.
Ahh, how hopeful I was in June. I got rid of a lot of the donation books at work, but not all, so I’d say I got about halfway on #1. On #2, I didn’t even try. Oh, well. I have been reading more blogs (#3) and using Jacket Flap more (#4), so let’s call those accomplished. Finished #5 on Labor Day! Totally bombed on #6, #7, and sadly on #8. Oh, well again. We hit the pool more like one or two times a week, so let’s call that one halfway on #9. I completely rocked on #10. though, and planned an awesome vacation to Niagara Falls.

My 2007 summer inventory:
  • One ALA meet-and-greet extravaganza.
  • Four trips to Virginia Beach.
  • One trip to Lake Anna.
  • One visit to a water park.
  • One visit to an amusement park.
  • Lots of pool visits.
  • Two weeks of Drama Camp.
  • Several movies: Hairspray, Surf’s Up, Shrek 3, Live Free or Die Hard, Harry Potter
  • Seven Harry Potter books read.
  • Many other books read.
  • One rockin’ party.
  • One wedding.
  • One Christening.
  • One baseball game.
  • One yard sale.
  • One family vacation to Niagara Falls, including...
  • Bonus visit to MarineLand.
Not a bad summer, I’d have to say. It’s still hard to leave it behind for school, homework, clubs, and work. The kids are excited about school starting. Me, not so much. Tonight we finished the labeling of the school supplies with much fanfare. The kids are holding me to an early morning wake-up call — which may possibly kill me after all these days of sleeping in — because they can’t wait to get back to their friends. Tomorrow I’ll walk them to school and come home to an empty house and hours to fill until they come home again.

Hmmm. Hours to fill. Actually, that part is sounding pretty good.

Books ’N More

First LightThis morning I was very excited to see Rebecca Stead’s book First Light as the suggested book in the Washington Post’s KidsPost section! For my money, this place in the paper is much better for a kids’ book than the official book pages, so like, “Yeah, Rebecca!” I really liked First Light — not to mention the author herself — so I’m glad to see the book get some buzz. Remember how I mentioned the Al Roker book club call, Rebecca? You may want to prepare.

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of NatureIn other book news, Fuse#8 alerted me to the presence of a book trailer for Robin Brande’s book Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature. Very cool. I really enjoyed the book, but Bill reviewed it because he won the coin toss. Let me add to his review that I particularly like the humor throughout the book, which kept a heavy topic from taking over the tone. For instance, a description of a yoga position that “can only come in handy if you ever want to shave your own back.” One more thing: I think that the opening paragraphs set up the book so perfectly. Here they are, as a MotherReader bonus, so you’ll check out the trailer, the review(s), the first paragraphs, and get yourself this book — now available at a bookstore near you (or at Amazon, duh).
I knew today would be ugly.

When you’re single-handedly responsible for getting your church, your pastor, and every one of your former friends and their parents sued for millions of dollars, you expect to make some enemies. Fine.

It’s just that I hoped my first day of school — of high school, thank you, which I’ve only been looking forward to my entire life — might turn out to be at least slightly better than eating live bugs. But I guess I was wrong.
In completely unrelated news, my favorite maker of T-shirts is having a sale through tomorrow. Many of the fantastic Threadless styles are on sale for $10. I’ve talked about the Haiku shirt, the Shakespeare Hates Your Emo Poems shirt, the I’m a Noun! shirt, the Spoilt shirt, and now I’ll point to the Stupid Raisins, Stay Out of My Cookies shirt. It has no literary connection, but it makes me laugh.

I had meant to write about my vacation to Niagara Falls because it was fabulous. Maybe later. For now I’ll give you my favorite photo from the trip. It’s a baby Beluga whale at MarineLand, and it’s waving goodbye to summer. (Click on the photo for extra cuteness.)