105 Ways to Give a Book

Bye-Bye, 2009

And never have I been so glad to see a year go. While I’ve had some ups — especially KidlitCon09 — this year has been mostly downs. Including a downsizing at my library that is seeming more permanent than I ever expected. Which has left me in limbo for What to Do Next, y’know, with my life and everything.

Much more manageable was What To Do For Christmas, which many of you shaped with your wonderful suggestions. You even helped other people who came to that post with that exact question. So, thanks. I ran the ideas past my family, and the verdict came back that we were all too exhausted to do anything that involved leaving the house. We stayed in pajamas (some of us), watched movies, played board games, tested the new video games, and made a nice dinner. The next days were filled with extended family and visiting, so it was good that we created a quiet day before the chaos.

I got lots of books for the holidays, some of which I bought myself when my Amazon Associates gift card came in two days after Christmas. I now have The White Queen, King’s Fool, SuperFreakonomics, Earth from Above: 365 Days, Nanny Returns, The Audacity to Win, and Such a Pretty Fat.

Back to the end of the year. I had hoped today to write a poignant post reflecting on the past year or decade and adding some insights for the new ones. Instead, I spent the day entertaining my niece as the train had a two-hour-late departure, and now I need to turn to the family New Year’s Eve celebration, which involves rotini noodles and Lost. But I couldn’t leave this year behind without at least writing my one thousandth post on MotherReader — which is kind of cool — and without wishing you and yours a Happy New Year. Here’s to 2010!

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Festivus: The Airing of the Grievances 2009

Yes, it’s Festivus, the holiday for the rest-of-us. The iron pole is up, the feats of strength are on the schedule, and now is the time for the airing of the grievances. You have free space in the comments — my gift to you this holiday season — or you can always go to the official site. But truly, it would be more fun if you did it here. At least for me.

Boy, am I full of grievances this year. I’m going to have to limit myself or I’ll be here all night:
  • Okay, okay already. I believe in The Secret and the Law of Attraction in that the chaos in my life attracts more chaos. Now MAKE IT STOP! Thank you.

  • Teachers should want to teach and perhaps even actually like kids. They should not give impossible and vague assignments — like writing a sequel to a two-hundred-page book — or two hours of homework a night to fifth graders. They should also be somewhat open to hearing the problems from parents, instead of defensive and antagonistic.

  • My dad desperately needs a hobby that doesn’t involve calling to tell me to sell my Apple stock.

  • Why oh why can’t we win? We did a great film in May, but didn’t win anything other than an audience award. My daughter did a great video for a contest, but didn’t place. I can’t even get retweets for our Snowpocalypse design, while I sift through the third version of Ten Reasons Why Your Blog Might Suck, which only serves to flame my insecurities. Three times.

  • I like our little hamster, but it drives me crazy that she constantly loads up her wheel with food and then runs, making herself into a rodent maraca.

  • My political grievances for the year are way too much for this post, but right now I am angry at the entire Congress for holding up and/or messing up health care legislation. As far as I’m concerned, they can’t leave for Christmas until they get this puppy passed. No sympathy.

  • Copy and pasted from last year: My kids are brilliant, loving, and kind, but can’t manage to put away their own stuff or comprehend that failure to do so is making it twice as hard for me to tackle the house clutter which makes me unhappy. Ditto on the husband. (Happy Birthday, Honey. Love you!)
Okay, your turn. Anyone want to start with the December snowstorm? Zhu Zhu pets? Glenn Beck?

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Snowpocalypse!


We came, we saw, we designed the T-shirt. Buy one of the many varieties of styles at CafePress.

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Online Shopping with Bargain Books

If you’re getting snow tomorrow, like we are here in the DC area, perhaps you don’t want to go shopping this weekend. Maybe, in fact, you just need one more gift to round out your child’s Christmas loot or have one more niece/nephew/godchild to shop for before calling it a season.

As always, I can direct you to my 105 Ways to Give a Book. Very handy with all of the comparing and shopping and links provided for you. Today I’ll also add the latest in my Bargain Books series with a nice selection for the kids. To make shopping easier, I’ve grouped them by age and gender, but freely admit that the lines of both are fluid. Hardback (HB) editions are indicated, mostly to show the amazing deals offered.

Preschoolers to First-Grade Boys or Girls

Second- to Fourth-Grade Girls

Second- to Fourth-Grade Boys

Fourth- to Fifth-Grade Girls

Fourth- to Fifth-Grade Boys

Fourth- to Fifth-Grade Girls

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Booklights and the Christmas Around the World

Today I'm sharing Christmas stories from around the world at Booklights. Head over and add your favorite picture book titles to the comments.

As I was checking on the titles at Amazon, I stumbled on two new-to-me titles that seem worth further investigation for this theme. Do you know them?

A Pinata in a Pine Tree: a Latino Twelve Days of Christmas written by
Pat Mora and illustrated by Magaly Morales take the traditional twelve days idea and adds a Latino twist, plenty of Spanish words, and vivid pictures.

N is for Navidad written by Susan Middleton Elya and Merry Banks and illustrated by Joe Cepeda takes the reader through the holiday season in a Latino neighborhood, letter by letter, with bright, lively illustrations.

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What To Do For Christmas?

I need help. This Christmas will be the first in many years that we have not spent with extended family, and I don’t know what to do for the day.

It was one thing when the kids were little and would happily play with their toys all day, but now they are ten and thirteen and aren’t really getting toys for Christmas. We had a taste of this two years ago, and the oldest got a little sad waiting to join the grandparents for a late dinner. Now the visit with the grandparents and cousins will be on the 26th and my mother and niece on the 27th and it’s just us on the 25th.

I need some ideas of what to do with the day to keep it fun. We just recently broke the Santa news to great distress in our family, so we could use something to make this holiday nice. Sure, we could sit around watching the fifth season of Lost, but that doesn’t seem very merry. So, I’m looking for suggestions. Maybe what you do. Maybe what you’ve wanted to do. Maybe what you know about it the DC area.

And don’t suggest crashing the White House party, because we’ve all seen how that goes down.

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Nonfiction Monday: The Day-Glo Brothers

The Day-Glo BrothersThe Day-Glo Brothers, by Chris Barton, is making all the lists of best books for 2009 and has been reviewed all over the book blogging world, so clearly I don’t need to chime in. But I have to, I can’t resist. I was flipping through it before I sent a copy on to my contest winner, and I found myself going back to the beginning to read the whole thing through again.

It’s certainly a well-written biography, the cartoon illustrations are engaging, and the touches of day-glo on the gray pages is inspired. Wonderful book, no doubt. But I think what is making this book such a standout is the sense of discovery, in two ways. The reader follows the brothers on their path to create a new color, and to find the applications of that finding to be more far reaching than they could have imagined. It’s an interesting story that most people have never heard. So reading it feels like a discovery in itself.

I was fascinated by the tale of these brothers, but perhaps even more impressed by the author’s original research on the topic. In the author’s note at the end of the book, Chris Barton describes how he interviewed various members of the Switzer family, dug through seventy-year-old experiment notes, and visited the U.S. Army’s historical office. With so much nonfiction already well-covered ground, there is a magic to the original source research that went into this book. So, I guess that’s a third discovery in the book — from the author himself.

For an addition to my 105 Ways to Give a Book theme, I’d pair The Day-Glo Brothers with neon glue pens. For more nonfiction, head to Nonfiction Monday, hosted today at In Need of Chocolate

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Give a Teen a Book Like...

There’s a great post by Fuse#8 in which she asks which ONE 2009 Young Adult book she should read. Fortunately, she hadn’t been able to resist Fire, Catching Fire, or Leviathan, so they could be removed from the equation. Very helpful, because the feud between the Fire and the Catching Fire teams could have gotten ugly. The comments are abuzz, topping seventy-five votes for various titles — many which are repeated enough to see the true possibility of that book being That Book.

Personally, I haven’t been reading much YA this year, so I can’t say that I come to this conversation with any real authority in comparing the plethora of publications from 2009. However, I love three books that are coming up in the comments over and over again, so I’d like to make my case for each of them.

In staying with my theme of the month of Ways to Give a Book, these are also three I’d suggest to give to a teen in your life with a gift card to a café and a coupon for a one-on-one talk. As a mother, I’ve found that my thirteen year old and I have had some wonderful talks starting from discussing books. It’s a defenses-down way to share how you feel about many things, but sometimes even the difficult things, like sex and drugs. So here’s what I’d give to a high schooler, read myself, and set up a book discussion coffee date.

Marcelo in the Real WorldMarcelo in the Real World
Francisco X. Stork
This is one of the few books that I actually read twice in the same year because I enjoyed it so much. I was really drawn in to the story of a teen with Asperger’s showing his father that he could make it in the real world, and then going beyond that to solve a mystery, right a wrong, and get the girl. The book is interesting and well written. Look for discussions about the complicated nature of family, the head games people play with each other, the true nature of our acceptance of differences, and the need to venture out of our comfort zone.

Going BovineGoing Bovine
Libby Bray
Okay, I haven’t even finished this yet, but honestly the author had me at the first sentence of the acknowledgments page: “I would like to thank everyone I’ve ever kissed or punched and anyone who has ever kissed or punched me.” She continued to win me over with her wild ride of a story of a sixteen-year-old boy who thinks he is going to die of mad-cow disease and sets off on a road trip for a cure — and the meaning of life, I suppose. The conversation questions are best captured by the jacket flap — so forgive me for quoting jacket flap copy, which is such a no-no. “A dark comedic journey that posed the questions: Why are we here? What is real? What makes microwave popcorn so good? Why must we die? And how do we really learn to live?”

LiarLiar
Justine Larbalestier
For Fuse#8, this is the one book I’d suggest. It’s perhaps not as literary (whatever that means) as Marcelo or as unconventional as Bovine, but it’s a Read-Now book more than the others. For the most part, reviewers have been good about keeping the surprises of Liar under wraps, but that won’t last forever. And while what happens in the book is really open to interpretation, knowing what’s coming changes the way you read the book. Intriguing, huh? That’s why it would make a great discussion book for mothers and daughters (aunts and nieces), because it comes down to interpreting the story of an unreliable narrator. The other reason I’d suggest this book to both Fuse#8 and mother/daughters is the controversy that arose over the original cover, which featured a white girl for a book that was about a biracial protagonist. The publisher, in an amazing move, changed the cover to what you see now. While white-washed covers have long been lamented and long been an issue, with this particular book it changed the nature of the book. If you trusted the cover and decided that the main character was lying about something as basic as her race, what in the story can you believe at all? Great discussion topic there. Also a great lead-in to a discussion about race in books in general, how teens are seeing racial issues as opposed to us “old” moms... the topics are endless.

I’ll be interested to see what ONE book is chosen by Fuse#8. And by you.

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Booklights and the Holidays

Today at Booklights I’m featuring my three current favorites for the holiday season. Can you guess them from these excerpts?
“So you’re basically hash browns,” said the flashing colored lights. “Maybe you can be served alongside a Christmas ham.”
“I’m not hash browns!” cried the latke. “I’m something completely different!”

The holiday season is a time for storytelling, and whether you are hearing the story of a candelabra staying lit for more than a week, or a baby born in a barn without proper medical supervision, these stories often feature miracles.

A snowman shadow
paints himself in blue upon
a cold white canvas.
— Elaine Magliaro
Head over to Booklights to see if you’re right, and add your own holiday favorite to the comments.

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Teens: Win Money!

That may be my best post title yet for the whole SEO (Search Engine Optimizing) thing, but it’s real. From Susan Taylor Brown:
Only a little over a week left for teens 13–18 to get their entries in for the FreshBrain.org $1000 scholarship to create a book trailer for the middle grade verse novel, Hugging the Rock.

There are only a few entries so far and a nice chunk of money on the table so the chances of winning are looking good!

The deadline is December 15th and details are available at FreshBrain.

Please help spread the word!
Besides offering this contest, Susan is doing a wonderful job of introducing us to other great bloggers in her 31 Blogs series. Go see if you can meet someone new this December.

I wanted to write up reviews today, but instead my head is full of drama in the holiday plans, Girl Scouts, and — interestingly enough — Drama Club. I’m going to go quietly wash dishes, do laundry, and hope that the dust settles without me. A nap may also be in order.

And chocolate.

And I’m not ruling out wine either.

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Nonfiction Monday: Going Green

Yesterday there was an editorial in The Washington Post that lamented the current green consumer trend, arguing that we were getting distracted by our small changes and not fighting for the big changes that are truly needed. The author compared the environmental cause to the Civil Rights Movement, noting that legislative action was needed to enact change, not “10 Ways to Go Integrated.”

I see the author’s point, but also see the flaw in the argument. With segregation, people had ample evidence of the problem — especially as the growing fight opened their eyes. Certainly African Americans were well aware, but for the majority of Americans the issue was flying below their radar. It was The Way Things Were. But as the civil rights issues came front and center, the evidence was around to keep reminding people that it wasn’t The Way Things Should Be.

So while I agree that bringing my canvas bags to the grocery store isn’t going to change the world, it does make me just that much more conscious of the larger issue. I can roll my eyes at the sudden takeover of Go Green shirts at Walmart — probably made in China — but I think that the trend of individual responsibility for the environment helps by making the issue more tangible.

Nowhere do I see more potential for a shift in understanding than with today’s kids. They are hearing the message at school and on TV and in books. I recently came across two titles at my library that I was excited to share with my own kids.

True Green Kids: 100 Things You Can Do To Save the PlanetTrue Green Kids: 100 Things You Can Do To Save the Planet, by Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin, features a paragraph for each concept, with a separate action step. The layout is clean and simple, with lots of white space. Produced by National Geographic, the photographs are engaging and some are truly wonderful. Section dividers are bright with an overall thought on the topic. The end of the book includes a resource section with pages of websites on different topics on the environment.


101 Ways You Can Help Save the Planet Before You’re 12!101 Ways You Can Help Save the Planet Before You’re 12! by Joanne O’Sullivan, packs in the information on each page, with lots of description, facts, ideas, and photos. The photographs are fine for a nonfiction book, but generally more utilitarian than artistic. The book is not divided into sections, and the websites are incorporated into the relevant pages instead of in a separate resource section.

Comparing the two, True Green Kids runs younger — with the shorter paragraphs and clean layouts making it easier to share with a child, even one who may not be reading on her own. Personally, I preferred the layout and the photographs, meaning that as an adult, it would be a book I’d be more likely to pull out to read with my daughters. 101 Ways has a more dynamic feel for older kids, and I like having the websites on the pages instead of in a separate section. I wish that they hadn’t used an age in the title, because this book could easily have reached the middle school audience — especially if it included a few teen photos. Both books present good ideas in an accessible way and provide specific things that the reader can do.

Nonfiction Monday round-up is hosted today at Rasco from RIF.

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Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Where the Mountain Meets the MoonWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon is simply beautiful — not just for the artwork, but for the storytelling and the message contained within.”

I can quote myself, right? That statement is from my interview with Grace Lin during her book release blog tour in June. Today I watched Grace on, well, The Today Show, as Al Roker talked about her book for the kids’ book club. I had been excited about this TV interview all week, because I love Grace’s artwork, her writing, and this book in particular. She also is a person most deserving of success, and I feel happy for her. Joyful, even.

Grace looked lovely in the red dress that she picked especially for the occasion. She did a wonderful job answering the book club kids, who asked her several questions about the book. They wondered if there were a specific Chinese folk tale that inspired the book, if the moral of story came from a real life experience, and why a goldfish is good luck in the book. The last question about whether she enjoyed writing this book gave Grace a chance to share how this book is her favorite, because she was able to write and illustrate the book with full-color panels, which are unusual in a novel.

koi fish necklaceI’m giving my fifth grader Where the Mountain Meets the Moon this Christmas, and though it took me some extra time to find the gift to give with it for my 105 Ways to Give a Book, I finally found something. I bought this necklace with a koi fish from Lunaricsales. Hopefully she’ll make some more. The pretty fish necklace seemed a better choice for our family than the more obvious gift pairing — a live goldfish. With the cats, the hamster, and a betta fish hanging onto life by a fin, I think we’re done with pets.

Congratulations to Grace Lin for her Today Show appearance. You rocked it!

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Booklights, Cybils, and NaNoWriMo,

You know those articles where you learn which local doctors the doctors would go to? Well, here is one part of my version — which picture books I will give to my beloved three-year-old niece out of all of the Cybils-nominated picture books I’ve seen. To find out, head over to Booklights and lend your support, thoughts, or suggestions in the comments.

Speaking of Cybils, I’m having great fun going through the many, many nominated picture books. I’ve read about 140 of the 176 titles and have seen some truly wonderful books. It’s going to be very hard to narrow my favorites list down, much less work with the other panelists to bring seven books to the final shortlist. But I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Speaking of challenges, I totally bailed on NaNoWriMo as my fifth grader hit the skids with her schoolwork. We’re having some issues with the amount of work involved this year and her own ability to do that work. The teacher has not been helpful. So, I spent November doing far more work on fifth grade homework than on my novel, but I was glad to get the firm starting point that NaNoWriMo offered. I am very proud of my buddies Abby and Sarah who met their goals. Congratulations! (They’ve both also got great gift-giving blog posts going with 12 Days of Giving and Tween Book Buying Guide.)

Speaking of gifts, don’t you want to win a free book you can give as a present this holiday season? Enter by leaving a comment with your favorite 2009 book for a chance to win The Day Glo Brothers plus a surprise picture book. And of course I have to plug 105 Ways to Give a Book for your holiday book-buying needs.

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Best of 2009... for Me

As lists go, I’m partial to my list of 105 Ways to Give a Book, featuring books paired with toys, trinkets, and activities. But as much as I favor my labor of love, I cannot ignore that it is also the time for Best Of 2009 lists. There are lots of these lists. Lots and lots of them all over the Internet. Fortunately, they are rounded up for easy use at Chicken Spaghetti. Thank you, Susan!

For me, there are only three lists for this season, and top of those is the one from School Library Journal. I like the format, and I generally find myself in agreement on the books selected. I also think it tends to balance a bit more kid-appeal into the literary value equation. The list from Publishers Weekly also has a good format, but their reviews have less punch. I enjoy looking at the Kirkus supplement in paper, but hate leafing through the PDF, where it can be hard to tell at times where the list ends and the ads begin. Plus they have inserts like “Second Look: Our Recap of previously featured books that also represent The Best of 2009,” which included The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and The Day-Glo Brothers. But they don’t seem to be on the official list... or are they? I find that confusing.

My favorite lists have yet to come out. The Cybils short lists will go live on January 1, 2010, and I’ll be doing my part in the Fiction Picture Book category to turn out a wonderful selection. I also await with excitement the ALSC Notable Children’s Books list that comes out right after all the cool awards are given at ALA’s midwinter meeting on January 18th.

But for now, here are of my favorites of the year from the School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus lists.In fact, start at age two and this would be a pretty good list of books to give at each age up to fifteen. I’m just sayin’ — holiday season and all.

Speaking of which, Liz B. is hosting a Gift Giving Idea Round-Up and updating it as the posts come in. Go and check it out as another way be inspired to Give Books!

And speaking of giving books, I’m in the mood to give one away. Comment here with a favorite book from 2009 different from the ones I’ve listed, and I’ll pick one person at random to win The Day Glo Brothers, by Chris Barton, and a surprise 2009 picture book. Winner selected and announced Friday, December 4th, at 3:00 EST.

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