105 Ways to Give a Book

Happy Festivus: The Airing of the Grievances

I have been so busy this holiday season that I almost forgotten about this annual tradition! Yes, it’s Festivus, the holiday for the rest-of-us, 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. I’ll start:
  • My daughter's teachers who seem to believe they offer the only challenging course in the school and are therefore entitled to assign homework over Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.
  • My local Safeway that after years still can't figure out that the time right before 3:30 p.m. is always busy and needs to be staffed appropriately.
  • Okay yeah, my mom for staying here last week and throwing off my whole holiday schedule. (I swear she doesn't read this blog.
  • Anyone who utters anything about the only way to stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun, especially if they do so while I'm on the information desk at work.
  • Can I be annoyed with a whole year? Because honestly, 2012 didn't do it for me.
So how about you? None of your people are likely to see your grievances all the way over at my blog, so go nuts. Talk about your boss, your neighbor, your drama queen of a friend. Tomorrow we can get back into the spirit of the season, but now it’s venting time.
Category: 5 comments

Poetry Friday: Peace, Love and Understanding

For Poetry Friday, another installment of music as poetry. This song by Elvis Costello is stunningly haunting - now especially.
As i walk through
This wicked world
Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity.
I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?
And each time i feel like this inside,
There's one thing i wanna know:
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?

And as i walked on
Through troubled times
My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
So where are the strong
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.
'cause each time i feel it slippin' away, just makes me wanna cry.
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?

So where are the strong?
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.
'cause each time i feel it slippin' away, just makes me wanna cry.
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?
While it would make perhaps more sense to include a pure version of the song to reflect the serious nature of the words, I'm not that person. I like a little bit of levity wherever I can find it, and this Colbert adaptation does that - though I'll say that the bear makes a lot more sense if you watched the Christmas special.

Poetry Friday is hosted today at My Juicy Little Universe. Merry Christmas, everyone. And for the new year, a hope for peace, love, and understanding.

Picture Book Donations: Part II

Following Part I of the story, I had always intended to bring books to the Christmas shop, but after the horrible events of Friday it felt even more important to do something in the cause of joy.

When I came back from my delivery, it was perfect to find that someone had expressed this concept so perfectly as Jarrett Krosoczka calling for us to Make Magic, Preserve Wonder. What better way to describe the importance of picture books in the hands of needy children.

 Berkeley’s Barn Owl Dance Berkeley’s Barn Owl Dance
by Tera Johnson, illustrated by Tania Howells; Kids Can Press

Dancing right out of the nest and into our hearts.

Chavela and the Magic Bubble
by Monica Brown, illustrated by Magaly Morales; Clarion Books

Magical bubble gum takes a girl to the Yucatan. Better than Jet Blue.

Chicken Big
by Keith Graves; Chronicle Books

Silly hens, it’s just a big chicken. Look at the title.

Daniel Boone’s Great Escape
by Michael Spradlin, illustrated by Ard Hoyt; Walker Books

Historical fiction takes an adventurous turn.

 Dogs on the Bed Dogs on the Bed
by Elizabeth Bluemle, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf; Candlewick

Too many dogs in a rhyming romp.

The Eensy Weensy Spider Freaks Out
by Troy Cummings; Random House

Who cares what happens next with a great title like that.

Good Night, Chickie
by Emile Jadoul; Eerdmans Books

Chickie worries at bedtime, but Mommy has it covered.

How Do You Wokka Wokka?
by Elizabeth Bluemle, illustrated by Randy Cecil; Candlewick

A dance takes over a city neighborhood.

 Imogene’s Antlers Imogene’s Antlers
by David Small; Dragonfly Books

Growing antlers overnight doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

I Must Have Bobo!
by Eileen Rosenthal, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal; Atheneum Books

A favorite lovey is essential to both boy and... cat?

Hurry Down to Derry Fair
by Dora Chaconas, illustrated by Gillian Tyler; Candlewick

Old-fashioned fair in an old-fashioned time.

Legend of Ninja Cowboy Bear
by David Bruins, illustrated by Hilary Leung; Kids Can Press

A ninja, cowboy, and bear are friends with a conflict.

 Lots of Dots Lots of Dots
by Craig Frazier; Chronicle Books

A showcase of dogs in the world all around.

Metal Man
by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Paul Hoppe; Charlesbridge Publishing

Creating art out of junk and being a quiet inspiration.

by Shutta Crum, illustrated by Patrice Barton; Knopf Books

Siblings squabble with one word – Mine!

 Olu’s Dream Olu’s Dream
by Shane W. Evans; Katherine Tegan Books

Adventures begin at night.

Princess Baby, Night Night
by Karen Katz; Schwartz & Wade

Even little princesses must go to sleep.

Ron’s Big Mission
by Rose Blue and Corinne Naden, illustrated by Don Tate; Dutton Juvenile

Getting a library card. Becoming an astronaut. True story.

 Six Crows Six Crows
by Leo Lionni; Knopf Books

A scarecrow can’t chase these birds away, but fighting back isn’t the answer either.

Soup Day
by Melissa Iwai; Henry Holt & Co

Making soup with mom. Mmmm. Soup good.

by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Scott Magoon; Hyperion Books

It’s hard out there for a spoon.

Sunday is for God
by Michael McGowan, illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson; Schwartz & Wade

Simple beauty in a day given to worship.

 Ten Big Toes and a Prince’s Nose Ten Big Toes and a Prince’s Nose
by Nancy Gow, illustrated by Stephen Costanza; Sterling
Flawed princess and prince find each other, and happiness.

Ten for Me
by Barbara Mariconda, illustrated by Sherry Rogers; Sylvian Dell Publishing

Butterflies and math. Together again.

Ten on the Sled
by Kim Norman, illustrated by Liza Woodruff; Sterling

Winter fun on a sled, not a bed.

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Picture Book Donations: Part I

At this time of year, a local organization here sets up a Christmas shop for their needy clients to find presents for their children. For the past couple of years I've brought them books from the ones I received as a reviewer and Cybils panelist.

I am very picky in my selection, knowing that this might be the only book that the child receives this holiday. Maybe even this year. Assuming that the parent won't be looking through for the exact right title for their child, I look for broad appeal and happy topics.

I am sharing the books in two parts, with today's selection being mainly 2011 titles. It always makes me feel bad that I can't review so many of the books that I have received, but I am grateful to the publishers who have sent me books over the years and allowed me to pass them on to others. Thank you, and know that your books went to a child in need.

The Big Snuggle-upThe Big Snuggle-up
by Brian Patten, illustrated by Nicola Bayley; Kane Miller

Everyone comes in to get warm, together.

Bug and Bear: A Story of True Friendship
by Ann Bonwill, illustrated by Layn Marlow; Amazon Children’s Publishing

Bear needs alone time, but Bug is persistent. Sometimes friendship is compromise.

Buglette the Messy Sleeper
by Bethanie Murguia; Tricycle Press

Buglette's messy sleeping saves the day!

Charlie the Ranch DogCharlie the Ranch Dog
by Rec Drummond, illustrated by Diane deGroat; Harper Collins

Charlie does all the work around that ranch. Wink.

Chicken, Chicken, Duck
by Nadia Krilanovich; Tricycle Press

Lots of farm animals, beautifully illustrated.

A Dog is a Dog
by Stephen Shaskan; Chronicle Books

Bouncing rhymes take a dog through a series of surprises for the reader.

Edwin Speaks Up
by April Stevens, illustrated by Sophie Blackall; Schwartz & Wade

Busy family can't quite hear their littlest member, but he keeps it together.

Every Little ThingEvery Little Thing
by Bob Marley and Cedelia Marley, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton; Chronicle Books
Bob Marley lyrics in a joyful, beautiful book.

by Tim Jessell; Random House

A falcon's journey, a boy's imagination.

Farmyard Beat
by Lindsey Craig and Marc Brown; Knopf Books

Dancing rhythms down on the farm

I Like You the Best
by Carol Thompson; Holiday House

Friends can fight, make up, and still be best friends.

Is Everyone Ready for Fun?Is Everyone Ready for Fun?
by Jan Thomas; Beach Lane Books

Jumping on the couch has never looked so good.

Jam and Honey
by Melita Morales, illustrated by Laura J. Bryant; Tricycle Press

Girl afraid of bee, bee afraid of girl, but both get what they need.

Job Site
by Nathan Clement; Boyds Mills Press

Construction and trucks on the job.

The Lighthouse Santa
by Sara Hoagland Hunter, illustrated by Julia Miner; Flying Dog

True story of a Santa who visited remote locations.

Light Up the NightLight Up the Night
by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine; Hyperion Books

The universe in the colorful, imaginary travels of a young boy.

Moo, Moo, Brown Cow
by Phillis Gershator, illustrated by Giselle Potter; Random House

All the farm animals contribute, not just the black sheep.

Mrs Noah’s Vegetable Ark
by Elena Pasquali, illustrated by Steve Larvis; Lion UK

Noah brought the animals, but his wife remembered the food.

Olive and Snowflake
by Tammie Lyon; Amazon Children’s Publishing

A puppy needs obedience training, along with his owner.

Ollie the Purple ElephantOllie the Purple Elephant
by Jarrett Krosoczka; Knopf Books

A purple elephant joins a family and then the circus.

Pussycat, Pussycat
by Dan Bar-el, illustrated by Rae Mate; Simply Read Books

The pussycat visited the queen and a whole lot more.

Shoes for Me
by Sue Fliess, illustrated by Mike Laughead; Amazon Children’s Publishing

Picking just the right shoes can be a challenge, but a fun one.

The Snow Blew Inn
by Dian Curtis Regan, illustrated by Doug Cushman; Holiday House

When a snow storm strike, this little inn is ready for company.

Tom’s TweetTom’s Tweet
by Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Dan Santat; Knopf Books

Simple breakfast plans get complicated.

The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot
by Margaret McNamare, illustrated by Mark Fearing; Schwartz & Wade

A space-age fairy tale.

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Thursday Thirteen: Best Picture Books of 2012

December 13th seems like the perfect day to expand my usual Thursday Three to Thirteen. Plus I have a lot of great books to cover. At the library, I bring the best picture books back to my desk to read and share. When I don't want to give it back is when I know I have a special title. These are some of the books I could barely part with over the past year.

Another Brother
by Matthew Cordell

Another BrotherThe opening sets it up perfectly “For four glorious years, Davy had Mom and Dad all to himself.” Page turn. “But things change…” The first brother is annoying and disgusting – crying, spitting up, and needing to go potty. (All of that nicely illustrated, by the way.) But one new baby isn't enough for this story. No! He gets twelve brothers who follow him and copy him all the time... until they don’t. Davy’s not sure he likes being alone – but he isn’t for long. The pen, ink and watercolor illustrations complement the light, fun tone of book and this fresh take on the common sibling theme is done with humor and heart.

Chloe and the Lion
by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex

Chloe and the LionBringing us into the book is the author, Mac, who introduces the illustrator, Adam, and our main character, Chloe. As the story moves on, she gets lost in a forest and instead of meeting up with a lion, the illustrator chooses a dragon. Author and Illustrator break into the story to argue and Adam plays tricks with his illustrator's power, leading to the hiring of a new illustrator who can't draw the way Mac wants - though he does get the lion to swallow Adam - forcing Mac to fire him and take over the artwork too, but he can't draw. The character, Chloe, stages an intervention getting the author and illustrator to make up and get things going so that the lion coughs up Adam and the story can finish up. Such a hard book to describe - complex, funny, clever, multi-layered, meta. I absolutely loved it. Great book trailer too!.

Each Kindness
by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Each KindnessA new girl comes into the classroom, and she is quiet and obviously poor. Our main character doesn't let Maya play with them and even turns from her shy smiles. The kids laugh about her behind her back, even as Maya keeps trying to connect with sharing her small toys. A lesson from the teacher on kindness may be too late for this child, but makes it more poignant for protagonist and the reader. Lovely, heartbreaking story is perfectly matched with the luscious artwork which adds its own emotional component. A book you won't soon forget.

Extra Yarn
by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Extra YarnA girl finds a box filled with yarn, so she knits a sweater. Finding that she has extra yarn, she knits one for her dog too. But as there continues to be yarn she knits for all her classmates, townsfolk, animals – nice Klassen nod to the bear and rabbit from I Want My Hat Back – and even houses. Her knitting creates a colorful world that attracts the attention of an archduke who wants the box for himself. It all seems to go wrong for the little girl, but good wins out. So much to love in the book - the story that goes somewhere, the sharing of gifts freely, the play in the illustrations between grays and soft colors. A wonderful book that is getting a fair amount of Caldecott buzz.

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
by Mo Willems

Goldilocks and the Three DinosaursSelf-referential tale of Goldilocks noting the oddly convenient bowls of food and the poorly supervised little girl among other aspects of this unexpected story. Older readers will gleefully understand that the dinosaurs are waiting for Goldilocks to come so that they can eat up a chocolate-pudding stuffed little girl. But that would make a pretty dark ending, so she gets away before things go bad. Great lines make for a perfect read aloud for early elementary kids who will get the irony. Funny and clever, this is Mo Willems having fun and inviting us along. Yes, there is a hidden pigeon or two, along with some little visual jokes for the observant reader. Excellent.

Good News Bad News
by Jeff Mack

Good News Bad NewsWho knew four words could say so much? As two friends prepare to have a picnic, events and their dispositions move forward a simple story of staying positive - even when being struck by lightning. Well, at least it chased off the bear! Negative mouse has the last word then which is bad Bad BAD news, finally breaking rabbit’s optimism. But friendship turns this grumpy mouse around to find good news in their friendship. Cartoon illustrations with broad strokes keep expressions front and center. Love that the mouse has a chip on his ear. Nice touch.

by Miles Van Hout

HappyLeave it to Lemniscaat to give us another beautiful book of art that also functions as a picture book. Each whimsical, colorful fish jumps out against the black background as the opposite page describes the aquatic’s emotional state – be it curious, brave, or loving. The words are artistically rendered as well, with the background selected to accent the fish’s color while conveying a tone – red for furious, for instance. Simple in concept, the artistic execution brings this book from simplicity. Look for openings of discussion as to what makes this fish or that look proud, angry or content. Color me – like the last fish – delighted.

Huff and Puff
by Claudia Rueda

Huff and PuffWith a subtitle of “Can You Blow Down the Houses of the the Three Little Pigs?” This book brings the reader into the action. The hole on the cover is echoed through the book as a peek to the page beneath as well as an invitation to the reader to be the world. Simple text, minimal illustrations in pen and ink and watercolor and an ending surprise make this a fun book for younger readers. Love the facial expressions and simplicity of statements such as, “First pig was not happy.” Your basic three little pigs have undergone a makeover, and it looks good.

Just Ducks
by Nicola Davis, illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino

Just DucksWith an irregular pen-sketch style, even the font is artistic. (Cold Mountain Six, which could also be a band name.) The slight story of a girl visiting the ducks on the river is enhanced with facts about ducks, each a concise sentence. The illustrations are lovely with gentle watercolors. The colors evok the natural world with greens, browns, and grays, that pop against the white background. There are lovely details to the pictures, like the armful of toys the mom holds in the child’s bedroom or the tiny ants crawling along the grass. Simply beautiful informational book that reads like a story.

One Cool Friend
by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by David Small

One Cool FriendA very proper boy with tuxedo and good manners, goes to the aquarium with his father and loves the penquins who look formal like him. He politely asks his father for a penguin, and dad – looking at the plush display – agrees. Given permission, Elliot takes the smallest penguin in his backpack and takes good care of it at home with his father never noticing. When he does – and you know he will – his reaction is a nice surprise. No lesson of taking something or misunderstanding, just a clever silly story. Nice cameo of the pink-haired librarian who doesn’t even blink when presented with a live penguin on their research trip. The artwork is black and white with accenting colors – the boys red backpack, dad’s green jacket, the aquarium's checked blue walls - that really works with humor style. Lots of fun.

Sophie’s Fish
by A.E. Cannon, illustrated by Lee White

Sophie’s FishWhen Sophie asks Jake to babysit her fish for a weekend, he agrees. But then he begins to worry, coming up with all sorts of unlikely problems, humorously illustrated. He is sure he will back out until he sees Sophie’s smile and think “How hard can it be to babysit a fish?” But there is a nice twist at the end where the fish does turn out to be more than expected. Interesting and amusing illustrations with mixed media flair add to the older kid appeal. And I love a book that takes on childhood anxiety and does it well.

You Are a Lion! And Other Fun Yoga Poses
by Taeeun Yoo

You Are a Lion! And Other Fun Yoga PosesSimple descriptions of yoga stances pair with drawings of a child in that stance, with the page turn revealing the name of the pose along an illustration of the creature with poetic phrases like: "Lion: King of the Jungle/Roaring so loud/Make the woods rumble.” The imaginative element puts the child in the scene of a jungle or field of flowers while the use of cool colors and soft tones reflects the sense of calm and peace. A diverse representation of kids add to the accessibility. Pretty, lyrical, and even a bit practical.

Z is for Moose
by Kelly Bingham

Z is for MooseAn ABC book with a excited and persistent Moose trying to get into the show and a Zebra trying to keep things in order. Moose tries for a feature with the Ice cream, Jar and Kangaroo – each time asking “Now?” The disappointment when M is reached- they decided to go with the mouse – is a great storytime moment. It leads to an angry moose, a controlling zebra, and finally a time of forgiveness. (Parallel to parenting, perhaps.) Cleverly done and very funny, especially as a read aloud where the kids will yell out where the moose has appeared or what he is doing now. A big standout in the world of ABC books.

Bonus video!

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Family Update

If you've been following my involvement with my mom's health issues, I have a positive update. We went to a follow-up visit at Johns Hopkins that started early and ended late, but yielded some good news along the way. The whole story is in the middle, but jump to the end if you want.

In review, my mother had a stroke two years ago that primarily damaged her language and cognition centers. She recovered language elements pretty quickly and improved steadily. The cognition aspects made some basic things confusing, but again improved quickly and steadily. Two years out her language issues are primarily in mixing up names or having some trouble finding the right word, but is generally good. The cognition problems are minor in everyday life as they are established with routine. New things can still be a challenge and numbers are difficult for her.

In the MRI for the stroke, they found a large, benign tumor that caused the stroke by closing a main artery. The slow growth of the tumor probably constricted the artery over time, allowing other arteries and blood vessels to compensate. Otherwise the effects from her stroke would have been worse. However, the tumor was pressing on her optic nerve, and unless it was done growing would eventually damage her vision, perhaps entirely.

Thus started two years of visits to one of the premier medical institutions available to us, Johns Hopkins, which is about an hour and a half away from my house. After numerous visits, tests, and consults, the best advice was to watch and wait, hoping that the tumor didn't grow and press further on the optic nerve. Surgery was extremely risky and radiation would be very difficult, given that she would have to live in Baltimore for weeks.

Things didn't change significantly with the tumor until this past spring, when a deterioration in her visual field was noted. At this point she could do nothing and accept that she could go blind or go through the radiation process with hopes of stabilizing her vision. Over the summer she went for radiation treatment every day for six weeks. Since neither of us live in Baltimore, it involved an expensive hotel stay and a series of extended visits from my brother and me to help. It was not pleasant for anyone and we couldn't even know if it worked.

But finally,good news. While the new MRI didn't show a significant change in the tumor - which would be vaguely positive - the extensive visual tests show a slight improvement in her visual field and in the image of the optic nerve itself. The best we had hoped for was a stabilization, which would have always left the question of whether the radiation had stopped/shrunk the tumor or not. But the slight improvement, while not obvious to my mom, shows that the tumor is not pressing on the optic nerve as much as before. So the radiation - and that terrible summer - was worth it.

She will continue with six month follow-ups, but hopefully we are done with this aspect of her health issues. It's a great relief and an answered prayer.

Poetry Friday: National Geographic's Book of Animal Poetry

These past few weeks I've been working on two separate and important lists of books. Well, three if you count my 150 Ways to Give a Book. The first you know about as a blogger, the Cybils, where the picture book panelists will bring over two hundred nominations down to a shortlist of seven. Crazy. The other is for my actual job, where I am working on a selection of titles to promote during our summer reading program. These committees add a lot to my full plate, but I can't object when they introduce me to books like today's selection.

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!
Complied by J. Patrick Lewis

National Geographic, 2012, review from library copy

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar! Honestly, I could probably just make the cover photo larger and point you to Amazon's Look Inside feature and sell you on this book. The poems about animals vary in style from the quick silly musings of a purple cow to deeper contemplations about the loss of the buffalo. Every poet you would expect is in there. Yes, even her. But it's the photography - it's National Geographic, remember - that will bring in the readers and make this book a favorite. Absolutely stunning. In my time crunch, I had to share this title now as a perfect present for any child in your life, maybe with a promised trip to the zoo. (One way to give a book.) Or give it to a teacher as a gift that will be enjoyed personally and for the classroom. If I haven't sold you on this book, seriously, visit the Look Inside feature at Amazon and I dare you not to buy a copy on the spot.

With poetry books, I include a poem as an idea of the style. Here you don't really need a sample, but it's a tradition and it is Poetry Friday.
The Pasture

I'm going out to clean the pasture spring;
I'll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I shan't be gone long. -- You come too.

I'm going out to fetch the little calf
That's standing by the mother. It's so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I shan't be gone long. -- You come too.

-Robert Frost
Poetry Friday is hosted today at Read, Write, Howl. Head over there for more poetic thoughts.

Thanks to all for your compliments, support, and promotion of my 150 Ways to Give a Book! It's a lot of work, but one of my favorite things to pull together. I hope it helps you find ideas and maybe makes your shopping a little easier.

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