Seal of Inevitable Fate

October 21, 2016 @ 4:30 pm | Filed under: These People Crack Me Up

I came home from the drugstore to find Huck in tears. His friends across the street have been away for a week, and just got late last night. He’d been eager to get through lunch so he could go play with them. Lunch, under the supervision of his big sisters, was what was happening while I ran to the store. Upon my return, he was waiting at the door, the picture of tragedy.

He poured out his tale of woe: something had gone wrong at lunch, and Rose had decreed that he wouldn’t be allowed to play with the friends today. This sounded…unlikely, so I sought out Rose for clarification.

She burst out laughing. “The boys were squabbling at the table,” she informed me. “So I told them if they couldn’t get along, they wouldn’t be able to play.”

Because, you know, if you’re a seven-year-old boy of tumultuous emotions, “if you can’t get along with your brother” is an injunction tantamount to “never.”


October 21, 2016 @ 2:50 pm | Filed under: Games


Favorite new game: Prune. It’s on sale in the app store this week. Gorgeous graphics. You lop off branches to train your trees around obstacles and into rays of light, where they burst into bloom.

The soothing music and mellow gameplay were a peaceful way to pass the time during the boy’s MRI yesterday, after I’d gotten annoyed with my attempt to sketch the waiting room. (Scott can read during that kind of wait. Me…not so much. My attention goes sparking off in all directions.)

(The MRI is an annual event for our boy. Nothing to be alarmed about.) 🙂

Cybils YA Fiction Nominee Suggestions

October 13, 2016 @ 2:22 pm | Filed under: Books, Cybils

Only two more days until the end of the public nomination period for the 2016 Cybils Awards! If you haven’t nominated your favorite books of the year yet, please consider doing so. And if your picks have already been submitted by someone else, here’s a roundup of “wish lists” shared on the Cybils blog. (See the comments of that post for more category lists.)

Eligibility criteria refresher: Books must be published in the U.S. or Canada for the children’s or YA markets between 10/16/15 and 10/15/16. Full list of rules here, as well as a link to the nomination form.

The YA Fiction candidates (so far) can be found here. (Just remember you have to use the nomination form to submit your pick—you can’t just leave a comment on the post.) I’m pretty excited by this list of nominees, but there are some other eligible titles that haven’t been submitted yet. Here are some suggestions compiled our panelists:

Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung
With Malice by Eileen Cook
Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten
Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh
Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard
Rodent by Lisa J. Lawrence
Fifteen Lanes by SJ Laidlaw
Dan Vs. Nature by Don Calame
Scar Girl by Len Vlahos
Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw
Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin
Flannery by Lisa Moore
All the Feels by Danika Stone
Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson
Everyone We’ve Been by Sarah Everett
Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
The Last True Love Story by Brendan Kiely
My Kind of Crazy by Robin Reul
Thicker than Water by Kelly Fiore
Wanderlost by Jen Malone
You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody
Summer of Supernovas by Darcy Woods
Aftermath by Clara Kensie
The Killer in Me by Margot Harrison
Something in Between by Melissa Cruz
City of Spies by Nina Berry
Look Past by Eric Devine

(Note: these are possibilities for the category I’m chairing, YA Fiction: realistic/historical. YA Speculative Fiction is a separate category, and you may nominate one book in each—and in all the other Cybils categories too.)

This month’s Creativebug daily challenge

October 1, 2016 @ 2:56 pm | Filed under: Art, Fun Learning Stuff

Full disclosure: in this post, I’m going to rave about Creativebug. The links are affiliate links, which means if you use them to sign up for a subscription, I’ll get a small commission. This is not, however, a sponsored post—I have not been paid to write it. I’m speaking out of my personal experience with the excellent classes offered by Creativebug. At the bottom, I’ll put an affiliate banner ad that will give you a month’s free trial of the service. 

I’ve posted about Creativebug many times before. Of all the online arts-and-crafts learning sites, Creativebug is the one I use most regularly. (But if you have questions about Skillshare, Big Picture Classes, Craftsy, or my beloved Sketchbook Skool, please feel free to ask. What I really need to do is post notes on all the classes I—or we, because Rilla and I spend a lot of time on these sites together—have taken. Okay. There’s another project to add to my list.) At $4.95/month, I consider Creativebug the best deal around: your subscription buys you unlimited access to the library of over 700 classes in knitting, crocheting, baking, cake decorating, sewing, paper crafts, decorating, painting, drawing, quilting, and jewelrymaking.

The Creativebug classes I enjoy the most are the Daily [drawing/painting/art journaling] Challenges. There’s a new challenge almost every month—but if the current month’s medium doesn’t speak to you, your subscription gives you access to all previous challenges and other classes. This month’s Daily Creativity Challenge is unique in that the 31 short lessons are taught by the behind-the-scenes members of the Creativebug staff, rather than a single artist. Unique, too, is the broader topic: instead of daily drawing or painting challenges, this topic list is an eclectic mix of activities such as: mail art, stenciled t-shirts, scarf tying, paper beads, hand turkeys (LOL), and even “iPhone app re-org,” which is tomorrow’s topic.

How I approach these daily challenge classes:

Do I keep up with every single day’s assignment? Oh heavens no. I’m a fits-and-starts kind of person. A creative binge-er. One might even describe my tendencies as, dare I say, tidal. Ahem. But for this very reason—the way my interest and commitment ebbs and flows—I appreciate the daily-challenge framework. The recurring ping of a new lesson helps bring me back to a creative practice when my attention has wandered. Sure, I might wind up doing a whole week’s worth of drawing challenges in one go—that’s quite all right. In fact, that’s a pretty common way for Rilla and me to spend our Saturday night art dates. The daily videos are short, just a few minutes each. We can work through several in an hour, filling a  page or two in our sketchbooks.

To share or not to share:

A lot of participants post each day’s work on social media, especially on Instagram, where there is a lively, supportive community of artsy folks. I share my own work…not very often. I’m pretty shy about it, to be honest. And it’s much better for me to work under the assumption that no one will see my artwork except me (and Rilla)—or else I’ll feel inhibited and perfectionist. But when I draw something I actually like, I sometimes post it.

Creativebug daily challenge classes I have taken and thoroughly enjoyed:

30 Things to Paint with August Wren ***SUCH A GREAT CLASS! Jennifer Orkin Lewis, aka August Wren, is wonderful.

31 Art Journal Prompts with Dawn DeVries Sokol

31 Things to Draw with Pam Garrison

29 Things to Draw with Molly Hatch and Heather Ross

31 Things to Draw with Lisa Congdon

I’ve (we’ve) taken a lot of other Creativebug classes besides the daily drawing challenges, but I’m tired of pasting in links. 🙂 However, I will say that the watercolor classes taught by Yao Cheng are entirely splendid. Rilla and I have spent many a Saturday night absorbed in Yao’s assignments. Oh, and I quite enjoyed Flora Bowley’s “Intuitive Painting” class, which focused on acrylic paints.

This new Daily Creativity Challenge promises to veer into some territory I’m not spending much time in these days (textiles, for example), but I’ll enjoy watching the videos nonetheless, and I look forward to the sparking of new ideas as we go. It’s all fodder.

Cybils Nominations are Open

October 1, 2016 @ 7:30 am | Filed under: Books, Cybils

It’s time! It’s time! Head over to the Cybils Awards to nominate your favorite children’s and YA books published in the past year (between Oct. 16, 2015 and Oct. 15, 2016). You may nominate one book in each category, including YA Fiction, which I’m chairing this year.

Here’s the link: And… Go! Cybils Nominations are Open | Cybils Awards

All Clear

September 23, 2016 @ 4:50 pm | Filed under: Books

Midmorning. Beanie comes into my room, slams Blackout down on my bed. She’s wild-eyed, almost trembling.

“You were right,” she said. Bursts out with a laugh. “I…I…”

“You need All Clear.” I’m grinning.

“Yes. Immediately.”

“It’s in the library basket.”

She’s been reading Blackout in between other books for weeks now. I had several false starts with it myself, and I’d warned her that it can be slow going at first, while you’re getting a handle on who everyone is and where (when) they are. “But you’ll hit a point,” I’d predicted, “maybe two-thirds of the way through the book, where you won’t be able to put it down.”

And I knew from experience—actually, I think some of you warned me here—that the second she finished Blackout, she’d be desperate to leap into the sequel. It’s really more of a Part Two, and you can’t get that cover cracked open fast enough.

“Enjoy,” I tell her. We both know I won’t be seeing much of her today.

Things we did on a Monday morning in September

September 19, 2016 @ 2:05 pm | Filed under: Art, Books, Fun Learning Stuff, Homeschooling

Lion Man art day

• Earworms German (Rilla and Huck)
• U.S. Presidents song
• 7 times table practice
• Visited a neighbor (Rilla and Huck)
• Read “The Lion Man” chapter in Vincent’s Starry Night and Other Stories: A Children’s History of Art (Rilla and me)
• Scooter and walk (Huck and Rose)
• Did art journal pages inspired by the Lion Man chapter (Rilla, Huck, me)
• Listened to Mozart’s 40th symphony while painting
• Read Frederick by Lio Lionni because it tied in so nicely to the Lion Man text (Rilla, Huck, me)
• Beanie did a lot of her usual Beanie stuff—German, geometry, working on a paper for British lit, reading cool books, taking a Photoshop class, piano practice
• Falconry test prep: studied five questions (Rose, Beanie, me)
• Looked up taxonomy mnemonic (King Philip Came Over For Good Soup)(Rose, Beanie, me)
• Boisterous game involving all Mom and Dad’s pillows (Huck and Rilla)
• Read-aloud: two chapters of A Lion to Guard Us (Rilla, Huck, me)

And then it was time for lunch. 🙂

The art history book landed on our doorstep as an unexpected review copy from Laurence King Publishing—and in a flash Rilla and I had a new history plan for the year. This book was love at first sight for both of us. Of course, it’s early days yet; as you can see above, so far we’ve only read the first chapter. So consider this a first impression, not a review. But I’m loving the format. The art prints and photos are augmented by gorgeous handpainted illustrations, and the text is engaging and fresh. We learned about the Lion Man carving (c. 40,000 BC!) in the context of the daily lives of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers. The depiction of the unknown artist laboring for hundreds of hours on the mammoth-tusk carving reminded me of Lio Lionni’s Frederick the Mouse soaking up sunrays, colors, and words while the other mice bustled to collect food, so of course we had to pull out Frederick afterward.

We decided to make pages in our sketchbooks inspired by the Lion Man. I copied the illustrations in the book; Rilla invented her own mammoth-and-lion scene. Huck painted a happy guy. 🙂 Rilla and I are hoping to fill our art journals with drawings based on our Vincent’s Starry Night readings through the year. I’ll try to post updates here if we stick with the plan.

Lion Man

Our current read-aloud is Clyde Robert Bulla’s chapter book A Lion to Guard Us, the adventures of three English children who travel to Jamestown after their mother’s death to reunite with their father there. Huck expresses less enthusiasm for this book than our last few readalouds—he expresses it, and yet every time I start reading (“You don’t have to listen, buddy, you can go play”) he gets sucked right in and has lots of commentary to add. We were amused to note the book’s similarity to our last readaloud (The Family Under the Bridge, which was a rousing success)—down-on-their-luck kids, big sister, middle brother, little sister.

Scott and I took Jane back to college over the weekend (sniffle), so summer is officially over in Chez Peterson. I’m more than a little freaked out by how deep into the month we are already. Too fast, y’all.

How I entertain myself

September 8, 2016 @ 11:29 am | Filed under: Books, Cybils

Blog Odds and Ends

September 1, 2016 @ 6:56 pm | Filed under: Bloggity, Books


Several of you have written to ask how to subscribe to my newsletter (my curated links, similar to the ones I share in the “Caught My Eye” part of the sidebar here). I had mentioned you could receive it via email, but it turns out that option is no longer available for free accounts like mine. Sorry for the misinformation! Best way to follow it is, I guess, to look for the link on my Twitter each Monday. Or just pop over here to peruse the sidebar.

Also in the sidebar, as you know, is my running booklist. This year I’ve broken it into sections: what I’m reading myself; what I’m reading to the kids (well, sort of—I’m only listing the novels because tracking all the picture book and nonfiction readalouds would be a full-time job); and audiobooks.

Every January, I move all the year’s books out of the sidebar onto their own dedicated Booklog page. This year I’m ahead of the game and have set up the page already. If you prefer a more visual approach to booklists (cover photos), here’s that link.

But it, too, is missing the picture books, comics, folk and fairy tale collections, nonfiction, and poetry that make up such a large segment of our literary diet. I’ve been inconsistent at logging those books in a format that others can view. This fall I’m making another stab at tracking our picture-book readalouds via Goodreads. Takes a lot less time than putting together a post! If I can stick with the practice long enough to make it a habit, I’ll think about adding our nonfiction and poetry picks as well.