Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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

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Several of you have written to ask how to subscribe to my Paper.li 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 Paper.li 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.

Cybils Call for Judges

August 22, 2016 @ 6:03 pm | Filed under: Books, Cybils

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I’ve been involved with the Cybils (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards) on and off for the past eleven years, serving multiple stints as a first-round panelist in Young Adult Fiction, Picture Books, Graphic Novels, and Book Apps. This year, after a decade of brilliant service, longtime YA Fic category chair Jackie Parker is stepping down, and I’ve been asked to fill her shoes. That means Cybils season begins early for me this year! The call for judges went out today and I’ll be reviewing applications for my category (realistic and historical YA Fiction; YA SFF is a separate category) as they roll in. I’m honored to be serving in this capacity and look forward to exploring the blogs, vlogs, and podcasts of YA panelist applicants.

There have been a few other changes in the Cybils this year, including the addition of board books to the Fiction Picture Books category; an expansion of Nonfiction into two age groups; and a new Audiobooks category (also with two age groups), which is very exciting! You can read all about these changes on the Cybils website.

Tidying the digital shelves + a bunch of mini-reviews

August 20, 2016 @ 2:25 pm | Filed under: Books

I’m sitting here tidying up my Goodreads and Netgalley accounts—a task long neglected. I’m terrible about submitting Netgalley feedback, in part because so much, so VERY MUCH, of my book recommendations come in the form of casual answers to blog comments, Facebook questions, speaking engagement Q&As, and word of mouth. You can’t always point to a permalink for that stuff.

But still. I’m turning up a lot of gems I’ve talked about in passing but never wrote proper posts about. But to quote Goldie Hawn in Overboard, there’s no time now.

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So let me just share some capsule reviews of books I read during the past couple of years, books that stand out in my mind for one reason or another.

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando. Read this as a first-round judge for the 2014 CYBIL Awards in YA Fiction. It was a standout for me that year–the story of two incoming college freshmen roommates getting to know each other via letters the summer before they move in together. At first their connection misfires—they come from quite different backgrounds—but gradually as they learn more about each other and grapple with their own doubts and hopes, they forge a friendship. What really struck a chord for me was the roomie who is oldest kid in a large family, ready to launch a more independent life but torn up over leaving her younger siblings behind. Since that was the year my own oldest-of-six was a freshman in college herself, at a school six hours from home, I loved the candid, at times heart-wrenching exploration of what that particular separation might be like.

Blue Gold by Elizabeth Stewart. This one’s a bit harder to write about because the prose is flawed, which is a hard thing for me to say in public. The thing is, my strong feeling the whole time I was devouring this book (also a 2014 Cybils YA Fic nominee) was: EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS. In three alternating narratives, we see behind the scenes into dramatically different worlds linked by the technology we rely on: a Chinese factory worker struggling to keep the pace of soldering smartphone parts together; a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo trying to keep her family together under threats from a local militia gang; and a North American girl whose imprudent cellphone photo becomes a tool for public shame. Powerful stuff, even if the writing is a bit choppy and inelegant.

Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar. Gorgeous book. Couldn’t put it down and of course I had to go read a ton of Woolf afterward. What a beautifully rendered, respectful portrait of these two women and their circle—Virginia Woolf and her sister Vanessa. Vanessa’s complex, fraught relationship with her challenging sister was masterfully and lovingly wrought. And the gentle glimpse of E.M. Forster—wonderful. Highly recommended.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. Victorian lady botanist working out a theory of natural selection on her own? Talk about having me at hello. And this was gorgeously written. I loved it and know I’ll return to it again.

Okay, that’s four. Enough for now. Only nine more pages of Netgalley ARCs to click through. 😉

Meanwhile, in Goodreads land, I’ve renamed a bunch of my lists and am attempting (again) to do a better job of logging picture books and incoming review titles. And a new addition: a “didn’t finish” list for books I’ve read at least three chapters of. Most often these are things I mean to return to when time permits, like Wolf Hall and The Buried Giant, both of which expired on Overdrive before I had a chance to finish. Other times it’s just a book (often nonfiction) that I read a significant chunk of but chose not to complete. Those chunks still inform my reading and thinking life, and I want to track them.

Assorted Friday notes

August 5, 2016 @ 1:18 pm | Filed under: Books, Family, Fun Learning Stuff, Periscope, These People Crack Me Up

I did a Periscope yesterday on a topic that had been requested by a Brave Writer mom: How I make time to pursue my own interests and hobbies while homeschooling, writing, juggling doctor appointments, etc. Great topic!! Had a lot of fun with this discussion.

And here’s the book I mentioned in the scope: Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. As I said, this was my second time reading it, so you know it was enjoyable. A comic yet touching epistolary novel in the voice of a beleaguered, earnest, overly frank, romantically inept English professor at a second-tier university. Now, you know I’m a sucker for an epistolary novel! This one’s academia setting gives it a unique flavor. You’ll never read letters of recommendation like these in the real world (alas).

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What’s happening in my house today:

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Receiving a fax from Grandma and Grandpa. Today’s lesson in technology brought to you by 1992. (I’m amazed the thing still works!) Huck really wanted to reply by putting his piggy bank through. Perhaps we’re still a tad fuzzy on how the tech works. (Let’s face it, it always seemed like magic to me.)

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This one’s for Emily:

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My “things that influenced my homeschooling style” slide from the Brave Writer Retreat.

 

 

Kids’ Comics and Graphic Novel Recommendations

July 19, 2016 @ 10:06 am | Filed under: Books, Comics

The recommendations in this post also appear on my Brave Writer Retreat Resources page, which includes books and materials mentioned in my other talks at the Retreat (Tidal Homeschooling and Read-Alouds).

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The following comics and graphic novels are recommendations from my “Comics Make You Smart” talk, presented at the Brave Writer Retreat in July, 2016.

Part of this talk was broadcast on Periscopeyou can view it here. Note: For now, what follows is simply a booklist—no mini-reviews. I’ll add those as time permits. I promised the retreat attendees I’d put together a post of all the comics I mentioned in my talk, so here it is for easy reference. Commentary to come later!

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Gotham Adventures by Scott Peterson (my brilliant hubby)—Batman comics aimed at young readers. These came out monthly in the ’90s and are now available in digital editions. (The books at this link that say “by Ty Templeton” were edited by Scott; the others were written by him.)

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Holy cats, we’re a week into July

July 7, 2016 @ 10:13 am | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, Books

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retreat-round-smallThis time next week, I’ll be in Cincinnati for the Brave Writer Retreat. I’ve known Julie Bogart online for over 15 years and we have Skyped several times, but this will be our first time getting together in person. Can’t wait! Looking forward to meeting other internet chums as well. This week I’m busily working on visuals for my talks. I’ll be speaking about Tidal Homeschooling, children’s literature, and comics. Can’t wait!

I also have a big post about skin care almost ready to go—hopefully tomorrow.

Five of my children are sick today—a rather vicious cold, much coughing and hacking. Scott is making me keep my distance because when I get a cough, it hangs around for weeks. And after Brave Writer, there’s SDCC and then my high school reunion. But mah babies! Okay, so they’re having a grand movie fest and playing loads of Terraria, and nobody needs me at the moment, but still. At least I have work to keep me busy. SO MUCH WORK. Fun stuff, though: no complaints.

I haven’t read much so far in July. In June I came down with a fierce case of I Need to Reread Riddlemaster Yet Again syndrome. Before that, I tore through a bunch of contemporary thrillers thanks to NetGalley. I need to write proper booknotes on them, but for now, if you’re looking for harrowing summer reading, these kept me glued to the page: The Girl on the Train, Security, Before the Fall, and Beware That Girl. Oh, and ever since I finished Connie Willis’s Passage, I keep going back and rereading bits of it. It has become one of my favorites of her novels.

Right now I’m a chapter into Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which has been on my list for ages. I may have to save it for the plane next week, though.