105 Ways to Give a Book

New York Vacation

I thought that I might continue to update the blog in my free time in New York City, but now I’m seeing that as pretty unlikely. Both the updating and the free time. Yes, though I’ve managed to carve out a few minutes this evening to say that I could TOTALLY LIVE HERE! And by that, I mean in my cousin’s apartment with its wide-open rooms and eight- ten-foot ceilings and intricate wainscoting (I think that’s the right word; I’ll have to look it up).

The tween was happy with her first day at Broadway Artists Alliance, even though it seemed a bit overwhelming as we went in — for both of us. It’s going to be a little tough getting her there because it definitely involves a bus or subway transfer, and I’m not crazy about either. But I’m learning. I took in the American Museum of Natural History with the teen, though I could have benefited more from going in one of the many spas we saw along the way. Seriously, how many spas does one city need?

I may be back during the week, and I may not. But if not, I didn’t want you to worry.

Making Ripples

By now, many of you have heard of the blog Ripple, where illustrators donate their art for donations to causes to help the wildlife in the Gulf Coast disaster. I’ve been following the project since the beginning, and am excited to report that it has raised over $8,500 in funds — most of it one $10 card at a time. I have five myself.

I’ve noticed many artists listed as children’s illustrators, and recently the site has offered $50 cards from authors of published children’s books. So far, all the contributions from Tom Warburton, Janeen Mason, Susan Miller, Aaron Zenz, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Mo Willems, Stephen Marchesi, Maggie Swanson, and Jarrett Krosoczka have sold. Upcoming featured illustrators include Matt Phelan, Dan Santat, and Don Tate. I hope that more illustrators will lend their name and art to the cause.

With the extra publicity in July, the other $10 cards have sold very well. But there are a bunch of cards from June still available. Consider buying one for the chance to contribute as part of our community.

How about: The Sea was Filled with Color

Or Seagulls

Or a print of Still Life

Or Black Shells

Or any of more than 150 unclaimed cards. Even if you find your contribution to be less for the art and more for the charity, go find one and make a difference for the Gulf and maybe even for an artist. You’ll see the whole list of titles at the bottom of Ripple. Some unclaimed cards include:

609, 610, 611. Brown Blues
614. Mermaids and Jellies
619. Help!
628. Spirits of the Sea
636. Black Shells
642. Precious
646. Ladyfish
647. Smothered
651. Pelican and Fish
654. Wisdom of the Dolphins
657. Cleanup Effort
663. We Are One
664. Swan Song
665. What Greed Can Do
667. Can You Hear Us?
671. This Is Wrong
677. Spot on the Sea
678. Blanket of Oil
684. Mamma Are We Surrounded
686. Slick Willie
688. In the Hands of Hope
690. Starfish and Octopus
705. Save a Couple of Birds
714. Remember
718. Babe in Arms
722. Those Aren’t Urchins
731. The Enemy of the Anemone
734,735. Ducks
738. Cranewife
741. Behind the Illusion
745. Escape
746. Who Did This?
776. A Bird’s Fate
777. Pirate

Update on a Stroke in the Family

Three months ago my mother had a stroke. She was lucky in that her impairment wasn’t severe, and physically she recovered quickly. To be more accurate, her body excluding her brain recovered quickly. Her brain relearned some things within a week; many other things are still behind a locked door. She struggles to read and comprehend more than a paragraph. She mixes up numbers, can’t do any math, and forgets the time. She can get confused in new situations, and in those times her speech also loses some coherence. There remain a number of surprises as we learn some new, discrete impairment.

This weekend offered one of those moments. My mom came up to see my tween in her summer musical theatre performance, where she was featured in several numbers and had the Maria solo in “I Feel Pretty.” The logistics of the travel arrangements weren’t easy, but it was very important to my mom that she make it to this show, so we made it happen. My daughter gave a wonderful performance, both in dancing for songs from Hairspray and in her solo. I wasn’t sitting next to my mom, but she seemed to be enjoying the show. It wasn’t until the end that she shared that she hadn’t recognized her granddaughter during her solo. She was light about it, but it broke my heart. She came all the way here to see my daughter perform, and then didn’t realize that was what she was seeing. I tried to make sense of it — because certainly she recognizes us — and came to the conclusion that with the costumes, and without the context of a familiar setting, her stroke-impaired brain couldn’t make the connection between the lovely singer and her own granddaughter.

These are the times when I understand how much has been lost, and how surprising some of the losses are. Also that I began to worry about what is still in store. One of the findings from all the brain scans was a benign tumor that is pressing on her optic nerve and other sensitive areas. Surgery looks likely, but is tricky and possibly dangerous. One of the hardest parts is that it may fall to me to make or at least to finalize some of the decisions, because this kind of problem solving is exactly where my mom struggles. It’s scary.

I’ve found some help and comfort in My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., and am talking about the book in a separate post for NonFiction Monday here.

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My Stroke of Insight

When my mother had a stroke, I turned to books as my usual source of comfort. Or, better put, comfort in information. Mostly it was a frustrating experience, as strokes are so individualized that I didn’t find much that felt helpful to our situation. The best source came from a memoir of a stroke written by a brain scientist, My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.

One morning this neuroanatomist got the ultimate brain study experience — seeing a stroke from the inside. She details the progress of the stroke as various parts of her brain shut down, and then takes the reader through her own journey to recovery. This is an amazing book for several reasons. First, it is an inspiration to stroke survivors to see the complete recovery of someone who had a massive stroke. Second, it helps stroke survivors and their families cope with the often-present question of “Why didn’t she call 911?” (Answer: The stroke knocked out that logical approach.) Third, it details assistance to recovery in a readable and personal way, while also offering a handy list of recommendations at the end of the book.

And fourth — and in many ways most important to the book and to the author — it shows us the beauty and divine spirit of our right brain. What the author found was that as the entire left hemisphere of her brain was shutting down from the ruptured artery, she was experiencing the world through her right brain and was astonished by the immense joy and peace she found there. In fact, at a point she would rather have given up on this life and let go, but for a found purpose to share with the world that this sense of spiritual oneness is within us.

If you want a preview of the book, and her intense experience, watch the video of her presentation. It will certainly make you think.


Nonfiction Monday is hosted today at In Need of Chocolate.

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Booklights and Summer Books

Today at PBS Booklights I’m sharing thirteen chapter books that take place during the summer. I tried to include a mix of styles, genres, and characters, but in general, I went with a lighter tone in the books I selected. There were many more titles that could have been included, and I think I’ll do one more list of tween/teen selections. I hesitate to commit because making each of these lists took a long time — much longer than I thought it would.

Anyway, last week I wondered here if there were an ideal way to indicate race and culture in very short reviews. This week I come with a new problem that perhaps you — yes, you, author person — can solve: I couldn’t find many summer stories that feature kids of color. Can someone get on this, please?

Oh, and here’s last week’s list of Summer Picture Books again — because, as I mentioned, it took a long time to make so I need to get like, double credit for it.

A Few Words Regarding Libraries

In my first minutes at Girl Scout camp, a child got off the bus and threw up at my feet.

Sometimes things start off pretty much the way they are going to continue. I’d call this camp experience one of those things. I was glad to be able to help. I had a nice group of girls, and I did like the teen leaders. But it was continually annoying how disorganized the camp was. I didn’t have much to do as a chaperone, so the days were long and boring. And for reasons of economy they fed us like we were all preschoolers — in food type and amount. Seriously, can you call one piece of cheese on white bread a sandwich?

Certainly spending my days in the heat and humidity left me little energy to attend to this blog. I only managed personal hygiene out of necessity. I wasn’t going to have a post today until I ran into a gem on Facebook — the Old Spice guy gives a few words regarding libraries. Enjoy.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

Hey — TeenReader here, bringing you a fabulous review of the equally fabulous book, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger. The first thing I noticed about this book was the unusually large number of references to the dorky kingdom (Lord of the Rings, Spiderman, and of course Star Wars). The second thing I noticed? I get every one of them. It’s a real eye opener. Now if you’ll excuse me, my tribble named Gandalf and I need to watch a Buffy marathon in nerdy peace.

The Strange Case of Origami YodaBut really, I did like the book. Basically, an oddball sixth grader creates a Yoda finger puppet out of origami and begins to predict fortunes with it and give advice, which often seems to work out spookily well. The story was compelling and easy to follow. The book itself was meant to be a case file on “origami Yoda,” with different students telling stories about how “Yoda” has helped or hindered them. The collection of short stories kept an otherwise static plot moving in a good flow. The writing styles and thought process really did seem to convey the minds of sixth graders. I also love the slight surrealistic element to it. Not enough to creep you out, but just enough to make you wonder…

My only small problem with the book is that the setup kind of reveals the payoff. Wookiee mistake (I’m sorry — I couldn’t resist). I don’t want to reveal too much, but the book started by letting us know there was a problem, and went into more detail about what exactly the problem was. And as soon as I found out exactly what the problem was, I (correctly) predicted the solution. So either I’m a better fortune teller than origami Yoga, or this needs to involve a few more unconventional twists to keep us guessing. But I could just be very clever.

On the whole, however, this was a really fun, light, and enjoyable read for all my nerdy brethren out there. I would definitely pick it up. I found it to be more enjoyable than blowing up a Death Star. And blowing up a Death Star, that’s fun.



MotherReader here just to add a “What she said!” to this review. I enjoyed the book very much myself — which is one of my key requirements to passing it on to TeenReader. All I can really add is that I particularly appreciated the shout out to the KidLitosphere in the acknowledgements. That’s certainly a first, and I loved it.

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Poetry Friday: Bella & Bean

Today I have a picture book about poetry, which counts for Poetry Friday, I believe.

Bella & Bean
by Rebecca Dotlich, illustrated by Aileen Leijten

Bella & BeanBella writes poetry every day “at a small desk, beneath a small window, shaded by a canopy the color of plums.” When her friend Bean comes by to show off her new hat and to invite Bella for a walk to the pond, Bella stays in to write. While Bean does things, Bella writes things, until she realizes that she’s missing out on sharing these moments with her best friend. Her revelation leads to a better balance of action and friendship. The illustrations are lovely — lots of teal green backgrounds to reflect this year’s hot color — and a general prettiness to the characters and scenes. Overall, it’s a great story of friendship and balance, but also a view into the writing and poetry process. As an example, here’s a section from where Bella puts together things from her talk with Bean and things that she observes as Bean walks away:
She wrote words that reminded her of the river:
bend, flow, gurgle, and rush.
She wrote words that remind her of the moon:
white, round, silver, and bright.
She wiggled just right in her chair and added:
flower, bonnet, sun and breeze

Then Bella wrote this poem:

The river gurgles ’round the bend.
It rushes like the breeze.
The sun is a silver bonnet.
The stones are its flowers.
You’ll have to keep reading the book to find where the moon words fit in. Poetry Friday round-up is hosted today at Carol’s Corner.

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Booklights, and a Question of Race in Reviews

Today I’m sharing thirteen of my favorite picture books about summer over at PBS Booklights. I worked hard to make a list that showed the many different ways that kids enjoy summer, even though I found I could easily find that many books on the beach alone. As a beach lover, I worked against instinct to include only two, maybe three choices that covered the shore. Maybe the next list will be all beach books.

I also worked to incorporate diversity into the list. I had a number of books in mind that featured children of color, and at the same time I still wanted to show a variety of summer settings. I did come across an issue that I’d like to put up for discussion. With a one-sentence summary to work with, should every book that features a child of color be identified as such? On the one hand, I’d like to make sure that people know that there are books showing African American children. On the other hand, I don’t label all the other books as featuring Caucasian children. What makes sense to you?

In one book, I reference the Spanish words in the text, which fairly implies a Hispanic family. Another book shows a visit to India, which establishes a multicultural title. But I handled the three books about African American children differently and without knowing which is most correct. In one book, Come On, Rain! I didn’t mention it at all other than that it was an urban setting. In Think Cool Thoughts, I didn’t mention race, but I did include a picture of the cover. In Summer Sun Risin’, I did say that it was an African American family because I felt like people might not expect that in a book about a farm.

So my question to you is how do you think race should be addressed in a quick review?

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ALA Experience: Part IV

On Monday morning, I was so tired that I didn’t think I’d make it to one more day at ALA. But my teen encouraged me to go, reminding me how much I would enjoy being around my friends. Boy, does she ever know me well.

I knew there would be a slower pace on Monday, with a little more time with friends and authors, and more relaxed time to explore the booths. Running a bit behind schedule, I quickly made my way to Tanita Davis’ signing of Mare’s War. We chatted for a bit before we realized that we could meet over lunch for a more extended visit. That much better plan allowed me time to see E.B. Lewis and get a copy of Jackie’s Gift. I wish I had brought my copy of The Negro Speaks of Rivers, but I did get to tell him how much I loved his work in that book. And then it was over to Candlewick to get a copy of Roger Sutton’s A Family of Readers. Can’t wait to read it!

Though I had seen Grace Lin all weekend, I really wanted her to sign my copy of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. I was lucky to find that her signing — actually for a different book — wasn’t too crowded, which allowed me to get a picture and give her a necklace I made as a little gift. And a hug, because she’s the sweetest lady in the world. Later, when I went back to that booth an editor there told me how touching it had been to see our meeting, which made me feel good for having brought a tiny bit of happiness into what had to be a long day for those booth workers. Yup, I’m a giver.

I checked back with Tanita, where she had gathered other friends for a lunch break. I was happy to spend some extra time with Laura Purdie Salas, Kelly Fineman, and Charlotte Taylor. Tanita’s mom had come to town as well, and was delightful and so proud of her daughter — as she should be. Tanita’s husband David was the trip photographer, capturing this happy picture of us. We had a nice time visiting, and I was sorry not to be able to spend more time with this fun group, but they were all headed their separate ways, and I had a few more folks to see.


Specifically, I was headed to a signing of Will Grayson Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan. The signing on Sunday had an outrageous line, but this one from BWI hadn’t been promoted, so I was able to get through the line pretty quickly. The distributer was giving away free copies, which attracted a different sort of people. Namely, the people who wanted free books, whatever they were. Instead of getting to gab with fellow Nerdfighters, I found myself behind a rather cranky lady who didn’t know anything about the book and was annoyed that the wait was so long. If she hadn’t been like seventy years old, I might have smacked her. I didn’t have much time with the authors, of course, but I did pick up the free copy and had the one I had purchased signed as well. (Which led the irritable lady to ask how I got two books. Le sigh.)

Then it was over to the Charlesbridge booth to to chat with Emily Mitchell — editor and blogger of Emily Reads — and get my copy of The Day-Glo Brothers signed by Chris Barton. As we talked, I found that Walter Dean Myers was signing at the next booth. Surprisingly, there was no line at all, so I picked up a copy of Looking Like Me and we chatted about kids today. I suggested that his son seemed to have grown up okay, having illustrated the book I was buying. He liked that. I was able afterward to pick up a copy of Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin — a book I really enjoyed — and make a very specific compliment to the book. I’ve heard authors like that.

Now it was about 2:00 and I was beginning to fade. I was taking a quick walk through as some booths were starting to unload their display copies, and stumbled on two more signings. The first was a book by Joyce Sidman that I liked, but never got around to buying — partially because it’s kind of sad. But seeing illustrator Pamela Zagarenski signing, it seemed like the right time to take home This Is Just to Say. The second surprise signing was Lane Smith for It’s a Book. Actually, there were a couple of surprises there. A free tote bag, and the last line of the book. Oh, you’ll see.

At that point, my bag was full and I was ready to head home. On the Metro ride back, I realized that people approached ALA in different ways. Some were there for the sessions, of course. Some were excited to see the different award presentations. Others wanted to get as many books as they possibly could, while still others went to hang out with a group of friends. For me, I wanted to meet as many authors and bloggers and librarians as I could, especially the ones I knew online. The signings certainly made it easier to find authors, but I also enjoyed spotting them “in the wild” of the exhibit floor. I even approached a few that way. The whole time there I was also running into fellow bloggers, and even a few MotherReader fans. Overall, it was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time, and I’m only sorry that I couldn’t extend my time to enjoy the Printz Awards on Monday evening and Coretta Scott King Awards on Tuesday morning. But my real life was calling, and it was calling collect.

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ALA Experience: Part III

When we last left our heroine, she was headed to the Convention Center bathroom to let a black silk top (finally, a chance to wear it), Prada shoes (bought on eBay!) and a feathered fascinator (yeah, a new word for me too) make her fancy for the big night...

I headed to the hotel in conversation with Jenny Schwartzberg and with a book-fiiled suitcase taking up my legroom in the cramped shuttle. After checking the hefty bag, I was ready to make the rounds at cocktail hour. I quickly ran into Jennie, who challenged my fascinator with her most awesome one. That alone would have forced us together for the rest of the evening. We found many other kidlitosphere folk and many impressive authors and illustrators as the party got started. As we got closer to the magic hour, we hovered close to the entrance to the banquet room. Apparently, when the ropes came down there would be a running of the librarians that we needed to join if we wanted a prime seat.
It was our preparation that put us in a good place to snag a table with fellow morning presenters Travis and Liz, plus bonus fellow blogger Adrienne. I took pictures of them, but I was using my daughter’s camera, with apparently all the wrong settings. Sorry. But I do have one — or can lift one — of Grace Lin’s buddies from The Blue Rose Girls — Anna Alter, Alvina Ling, Elaine Magliaro, Libby Koponen, and Meghan McCarthy. I should have sat down and actually visited, but I was in mom mode, making sure that everyone had a seat.

Susan Kusel had helpfully arranged a huge table buyout, so we were guaranteed good company all around. A table over from mine included Tanita Davis — I mean, Coretta Scott King Honor Award winner Tanita Davis — and her husband David, who had a awesome camera, by the way. Many of the poetry crew sat there, including Sara Lewis Holmes, Kelly Fineman (pictured), Laura Salas, and Tricia Stohr-Hunt, with occasional visitor Joyce Sidman. I mean, Caldecott Honor Award winner Joyce Sidman.

I believe it was this cheerful group who alerted me to an improbable alignment, when the table in front of me — yes, even the seat in front of me — was occupied by one Mo Willems. Unbelievable, but true.

He was very gracious in his greeting, and was only mildly annoyed when I almost blinded him with my stupid camera flash settings. He doodled at times during the presentation, and I know this because he was in my eyeline during the whole speech thing.







You see, my view of the stage was this:

But if I looked to the JumboTron screen, I saw this:

Which means I pretty much couldn’t help but be looking toward Mo the entire time that people were talking. Oh, and I had tried to be so good this conference in repairing my stalker image. I hadn’t gone to his signings, I didn’t go to the book cart drill that he was emceeing. But yet, here he was so close that I could have flicked butter pats at him all night. Not that I did. That totally wasn’t me.

There were indeed speeches from Caldecott winner Jerry Pinkney and Newbery winner Rebecca Stead. The speeches were contained on the CDs on our table, and we had a lovely program designed in the theme of The Lion & the Mouse. Given our long kidlitosphere connection with Grace Lin, our tables were particularly enthusiastic about her chance to accept the Newbery Honor award. (Read her lovely version.)

There was a receiving line at the conclusion of the banquet, but since I had said something to all of the winners at some point during the weekend, I decided to hang around and socialize. Besides, those open bottles of wine left on the publishers’ tables weren’t going to drink themselves. (Kidding! maybe...) I was able to say a quick hello to Holly Black, Jon Scieszka, and Tobin Anderson. I found myself in a conversation with Charles R. Smith, the photographer for My People, after saying, approximately, “Who are you?” Because I’m subtle like that.

At that point my chariot was about to turn into a pumpkin, meaning that Metro stops running at midnight, so it was time to go. As will happen, it took longer to get out and all than we thought, and Jennie was soooo kind to drive me to my car at the King Street station. (I owe you a scone at the next book club meeting!)

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ALA Experience: Intermission

I’m visiting my mom, brother, and niece in Virginia Beach right now, which is making it harder to finish my ALA recap. Especially since I shouldn’t even have Internet access at my mom’s house, but by some wireless miracle I’m online. But the access is inconsistent and the beach is calling, so rather than work up the extensive post I need to do on the uber-exciting Newbery/Caldecott banquet, we’re taking an intermission with this awesome video done by Katie Davis. And I’m not saying it’s fantastic because I’m in it — though I am, and I rock it — but because her question was a perfect way to elicit interesting responses from some notable children’s and young adult authors. Enjoy!