Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Recently Read or Watched with Various Kids

January 16, 2015 @ 9:03 pm | Filed under: Books

little bear by sendak

With the boys:

Little Bear.
The original—Huck’s first time, though he’s seen the show of course. He loved the book so much. Although the text is less sophisticated—a bit more Dick-and-Jane—than contemporary early readers, it absolutely holds up. Beautiful pacing; wonderful humor; sweet, cozy tone; warm relationships; and fresh storylines. What a marvel it is. So glad we have more to enjoy together.)

Okay Andy and My New Friend Is So Fun.
Two of my fellow Cybils Early Reader finalists. Huck loved them both. Of course the Elephant and Piggie is a delight. Great plot in this one: Piggie has a new friend and naturally Gerald begins to worry he’s been replaced. Mo Willems is my hero.

 

With Rilla:

Understood Betsy.
It’s time, it’s time! Color me ecstatic. One of the best readalouds ever, and here’s my last little girl to read it to. Hmm, make that color me wistful. ;) A bit of both, I guess. She’s going to love it so much. I waited and waited until the time was right.

(Meanwhile, Scott is reading her Watership Down. One of his best readalouds. Rose and Beanie are listening in—they wouldn’t have it any other way. This book is a very big deal in our family culture.)

 

With Beanie:

Short stories: “The Gift of the Magi,” “The Most Dangerous Game.”
Billy Collins poem: “Marginalia.” (Delicious.)

 

With Rose and Bean:

Big History Project, Unit 1. This week had us reading origin stories from several cultures, watching some really breathtaking videos about space, scale, and various scientific disciplines, and reading a BBC article on Easter Island. Good stuff.

 

With Rose:

Paradise Lost. 
The whole shebang for her, selections for me. I listened to a number of these Yale Open Courses lectures last fall to prep for this study. Rose is finding it slow going but she enjoys the discussions and agrees that somehow Satan is the most likable character.

Downton Season 5, Episode 2 Recap Is Up at GeekMom

January 15, 2015 @ 2:31 pm | Filed under: Books

my what big gardens you have

Episode 2 recap, at your service! As always, feel free to discuss over at GeekMom, or here in the comments. I will talk about Downton anywhere.

January, Planuary

January 2, 2015 @ 1:45 am | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, Bloggity, Books

photo (50)

I made a surprising discovery recently: I realized that since moving to San Diego eight (eight!!) years ago, January has become my favorite month. When I lived in the east, I’d have said it was April—early spring, when you walk outside and feel it coming, a freshness in the wind, the redbuds and dogwoods beginning to flower, the daffodils running riot, the tulips jaunty. Oh, I loved that feeling. The Mary Lennox feeling. I’ve never liked the cold, and Eastern winters were much harder than the sunny-cold Colorado days I grew up with: all that lingering, blackening snow, the dull gray skies, the frozen ears and toes. So the first hints of change—the crocuses, the grape hyacinths, the fountains of yellow forsythia in March—exhilarated me. I love change; it makes my blood sing; and the change that meant spring is here was the best of all, even better than after spring had well and truly arrived.

But here in Southern California, our seasons are different. There’s the Season of Blistering Heat, the Season of Glorious Weather (this lasts most of the year), and That One Day It Rained. And the shifts come abruptly and sporadically, without warning. Any given day could be sandal weather or I-really-wish-I’d-succumbed-and-bought-those-boots. And so I realized that the sweet old sense of change in the air I used to associate with early spring now belongs to a shift less weather-related and more cultural. January, the New Year, the season of beginnings and fresh starts.

Looking through my archives I see I’ve rhapsodized about the Fresh Start over and over, this time of year. January is the month when I deep-clean my bedroom (which is also my workspace) and tidy up the garden. I launch projects (don’t we all): Reading Projects or Crafting Projects or Housework Projects. (This year it’s purging the books. I’ve appointed January the month I have a little conversation with every book in the house and discuss its future. For a lot of them, it’s time to head out into the world and seek their fortunes. Local friends, consider yourselves warned.) I love projects. Love planning them out, at least: as Anne would say, there’s so much scope for imagination in the planning stage. Completion is another subject entirely, best reserved for a different essay.

All through December I found myself looking forward to January—enjoying December, of course, which was particularly rich this year, what with my parents visiting and Jane home from school and a long-awaited visit with very dear friends—but enjoying the anticipation of the impending Fresh Start. I spent part of New Year’s Eve answering piled-up email, achieving Inbox Zero just about the time the East Coast entered 2015.

(Spent the rest of it playing Terraria with Rilla after the boys went to bed, while Scott and the other girls watched The Sting. Thus it was that my favorite moment of the holiday was hearing my pixie-like eight-year-old daughter remark, “Ooh, I’ve always wanted a Deathbringer Pickaxe.”)

My one real resolution for the year is to sketch every day, even if only for a few minutes. All my other plans are the sort that will take more determination to pull off, and I’m therefore afraid to spook them by calling attention to them too directly. I’m keeping my Reading Plans quite casual this year—mostly I intend to read whatever strikes me next, and to try to stick to what’s already on the shelves or the Kindle.

I do mean to choose one category of children’s books to focus most deeply on this year; I often fall into a specialization by accident—say, picture books because I read so many to my kids, or graphic novels because I have so many friends publishing them in a given year, or, like 2014, YA Fiction because I’m on a committee. I try to read broadly, of course—middle-grade and YA, fiction and nonfiction, prose and poetry—keeping reasonably abreast of what my peers are publishing. But I like having a kind of specialty category for the year, one area I can go really deep and try to read everything. As I said, this usually happens by accident; I’m not sure I’ve ever chosen the category in advance. This year I’m having fun thinking about it. Probably it will wind up depending on what kind of ARCs publishers decide to send me, since in the end, that’s the easiest way to keep up with the flood of new books.

alfreddoolittleAs for old books (“old” meaning anything published before this very minute), I have the inevitable nightstand pile, which is much like nightstand piles of previous years. It’s not actually on my nightstand, since I don’t have one, but the pile on my bedroom bookshelf serves that purpose—and the rather staggering queue on my Kindle. I think of these as my Alfred Doolittle books: Books I’m “willin’ to read, wantin’ to read, waitin’ to read.” Books I have probably listed here in the past.

This is also the year I intend to finish Infinite Jest, which may indeed take the whole year.

So:

Resolution—daily sketching

Casual reading plan—Doolittle books + some particular kidlit category

Determination—Infinite Jest

Household project—all the books

Brain food—right now I’m listening to The Sixth Extinction on audio; also a literary lecture series called A Day’s Read (lecture one was on Kafka’s “The Country Doctor” and was pretty good)

Writing goals—I dare not say, but I’ve got them

Blogging goal—the other day, Melanie of A Wine-Dark Sea and I were discussing the upcoming ten-year anniversary of our blogs. Ten! Years! We both began blogging on January 20, 2005—and met in the combox some time later. That anniversary was much on my mind all through December when I blogged so seldom, what with the aforementioned visitors and the holidays and my Cybils reading. This is another thing I’ve been looking forward to with January’s arrival: a return to steady blogging, and a chance to revisit my archives and reflect on what I love about this space and what I want to do more of. So that’s another quiet plan for 2015: a bit of a blogging renaissance.

This got long!

Starting the year off with a wee bit of squee!

January 1, 2015 @ 9:21 am | Filed under: Author stuff, Books, Cybils, Inch and Roly

Cybils-Logo-2014-Web-Lg

I woke up this morning all kinds of excited because I knew the Cybils shortlist announcements would be live by the time I peeled my eyelids open here on the West Coast, and I’ve been bursting at the seams to share our YA Fiction finalists with you. These books, THESE BOOKS, you guys. So incredibly good. I am thrilled with our list, which we curated via exhaustive and exhausting reading and spirited debate these past two months. Here it is: CYBILs 2014 Finalists: Young Adult Fiction.

Now the funny part: I’d been squeeing about this list on Twitter for a good ten minutes before I settled down to check out the other categories. Imagine my surprise when I got to the Early Reader shortlist and saw Inch and Roly there!

Inch and Roly and the Sunny Day Scare by Melissa Wiley2014 Finalists: Easy Readers & Early Chapter Books | Cybils Awards.

I’m beyond thrilled that Inch and Roly and the Sunny Day Scare is an Easy Reader finalist. I mean, lookit that list! Mo Willems is there!* Among other fabulous folks. I’m so happy. Knowing the challenge of being on the other side of the list—the difficult and sometimes wrenching decisions you make as a Round 1 panelist, whittling hundreds of nominees down into a tiny number of finalists—I’m deeply honored and immensely excited. A hearty congratulations to all the finalists, all around! And thanks to all the panelists who poured weeks of labor into the curation process.

*At this time I would like to issue a formal apology to the post-NYE exhausted teens I may have awakened with my shrieking. Ahem.

The Easy Reader finalists:

Extraordinary Warren: A Super Chicken by Sarah Dillard
Okay, Andy! by Maxwell Eaton
Clara and Clem Under the Sea by Ethan Long
Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey by Alex Milway
The Ice Cream Shop: A Steve and Wessley Reader by Jennifer Morris
Inch and Roly and the Sunny Day Scare by Melissa Wiley :)
My New Friend Is So Fun! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems

Book descriptions here.

The YA Fiction finalists:

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
Girls Like Us by Gail Giles
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
Pointe by Brandy Colbert

Book descriptions here.

To explore the shortlists in other categories, click here. You’ll probably want your library tab open before you begin. ;)

Reading Wrap-Ups

December 28, 2014 @ 8:52 am | Filed under: Books

Mental Multivitamin has posted her annual reading review, a post I always look forward to. In it, she mentions the 52 Books in 52 Weeks site, on which I’m a longtime lurker. I’ve never officially participated in that reading challenge but I’ve played along quietly from home. :) Here’s the Mr. Linky for 2014’s participants: 52 Books in 52 Weeks: 2014 Year End Wrap Up.

I like the questions posed by 52 Weeks hostess, Robin McCormack:

How many books did you read and did you meet your own personal goal?
Most thrilling, oh my goodness, I want to read it again, unputdownable book?
Top 5 favorite stories?
Least favorite book?
New author discovery? New genre discovery?
What countries or centuries did you explore?
Share a favorite character, story, quote or cover
One book that touched you – made you laugh, cry, sing or dance.
Are you ready to do it all over again?
Do you have any goals to check out different genres or authors, read translated books or stories in another language for 2015?

I may take a stab at answering these myself, but I think I’ll wait until after the first of the year when the Cybils shortlists have been announced. Some of my answers might be too revealing. :)

Another kind of book report I always look forward to is Julia Sweeney’s monthly recap. (She discusses movies as well.) Here’s her most recent. Like Mental Multivitamin, Julia’s blog poses a threat to the structural integrity of my shelves. (And my wallet.)

Another book challenge I quietly participated in this year was the 20th Century Reading Project. My ongoing list is here. Green entries were read in 2013; black in 2014. I haven’t updated it in a while, having spent the past two months exclusively reading young adult realistic fiction published between Oct 15, 2013 and Oct 14, 2015. (How’s that for specific?) When I get a chance, I’ll bring the list up to date and pick a new color for 2015 entries. I plan to continue this challenge at a casual pace until I’ve read a book for every year, no matter how long it takes. I’m enjoying seeing the clusters of books, such as the three (very different) novels published in 1963 I read in 2013, quite by chance.

Bonus book report: What Charlotte’s kids got for Christmas! Her kids and mine have kindred tastes in books, so it’s always fun to see what she came up with.

If you’ve got a reading recap to share (yours or anyone’s), please leave the link in the comments. I’m a junkie for these things—and coming off the Cybils, I’m way behind on blog-reading!

Related: My 2014 booklog. (Titles only, for now. Notes to follow.)

2014 Booklog

December 27, 2014 @ 8:12 pm | Filed under: Books

Sometime in October or November, I abandoned hope of keeping my sidebar booklog up to date. By then I was deeply immersed in reading YA Fiction for the CYBIL awards. Between 10/15 and 12/26, I read a total of 78 nominees. (In yesterday’s post I said 79. Counted wrong!) Ten of those titles are listed below, but the other 68 haven’t made it into this compilation yet. Was too busy reading to fuss with links and things. Eventually I’ll get them listed here. For now, I’m pulling the January-October(ish) list into this post to serve as my master book log for 2014. Time to wipe the slate clean for 2015!

Some of the links below go to GoodReads; others are Amazon Affiliate links because I have a hundred* children to put through college. You understand.

*More or less.

This list goes backward, with most recently read titles first. If I manage anything new before the end of the year, I’ll update this post. High high high on my list is Sarah Elwell’s novel, Deep in the Far Away, which she published as a serial these past few months. I subscribed eagerly and would have loved to enjoy it in periodical-fashion but the timing coincided with the Cybils onslaught. Also enticing: the prospect of another Forster binge (I know, I know, it’s only been six months since the last one) and maybe some Patricia McKillip. Heir of Sea and Fire jumped off the shelf at me yesterday and I thought ohhhh….(I think that one’s my favorite of the Riddle Master trilogy.)

A final note! I hope to come back here and add commentary to some of the entries below, or links to posts about them. But for now I just want to move the list out of my sidebar. :)

Without further ado:

Books I Read (or Listened To) in 2014

117. Matilda (audio with Rilla while we draw—we’re midway through as of this post but I expect we’ll finish by New Year’s)
116. Syllabus by Lynda Barry

Kortney tweeted me about this book, which she correctly pegged as being right up my alley. She caught me at the perfect time, with birthday money from my parents burning a hole in my pocket! And ohhh was she ever right. Utterly marvelous. Inspirational. Possibly life-changing (if only because I was already itching to head in this direction, having so recently resolved to make art journaling and sketching a daily practice).

48-115 (if my math is right): 68 young adult novels to be listed later. So many good books!! (Other Cybils nominees are starred below—some read earlier in the year before they were nominated.)

 

UPDATED TO ADD: 47. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination

(I read about half of this 768-page tome in 2014 and decided that’s enough to warrant inclusion in this list, especially since it inspired numerous lecture-watching rabbit trails, including this excellent talk on George Eliot: Intellect and Consciousness by Catherine Brown of Oxford. Perhaps I’ll finish next year the tome in 2015.)

46. Story of the World Vol. 3
45. Roomies*
44. Conversion*
43. She Is Not Invisible*
42. The BFG (audio)
41. OCD Love Story
40. I’ll Give You the Sun*
39. The Boxcar Children
38. Always Emily*
37. A Mad, Wicked Folly*
36. Girls Like Us*
35. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
34. Pointe*
33. Perfectly Good White Boy*
32. The First Bad Man
31. The Fourteenth Goldfish
30. The Importance of Being Earnest
29. Maurice
28. Dear Committee Members
27. The Blue Castle
26. The Life to Come and Other Stories
25. The Longest Journey
24. A Passage to India
23. We Were Liars*
22. The Rosie Project
21. The Turn of the Screw
20. The Secret Garden
19. The Wheel on the School
18. The Tuesday Club Murders
17. The Remains of the Day
16. The Giver
15. The Blue Flower
14. The Art of Writing, Lecture 1
13. Where Angels Fear to Tread
12. Queen of England: Elizabeth
11. Howards End
10. Howards End Is on the Landing
9. A Room With a View
8. Underfoot in Show Business
7. Q’s Legacy
6. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street
5. 84, Charing Cross Road
4. The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook
3. Gone Girl
2. Paperless Home Organization
1. The Fault in Our Stars

One of my best birthday presents

December 17, 2014 @ 7:24 pm | Filed under: Books

Our pal Chris Gugliotti posted this happy drawing of me on Facebook for my birthday. Makes me smile every time I see it!

by Chris Gugliotti

by Chris Gugliotti

Happy December!

December 1, 2014 @ 11:42 am | Filed under: Author stuff, Books

(direct link)

Every year at this time, my blog stats show dozens of searches for the Christmas picture book I wrote long ago. It’s been out of print for ages and tends to be pricey on the resale market, especially this time of year. Last year I decided to read it aloud on video so folks who can’t find it can watch it with their kids.

And here’s my video introduction to the book.

(direct link)

Santa Lucia Day is December 13. Coming up fast!

Huck-and-Rillabooks, October 2014 Edition

October 24, 2014 @ 5:16 pm | Filed under: Books, Huck, Picture Book Spotlight

It’s been a while since I did a big fat Rillabooks post. The books are piling up! Literally and figuratively. When I want to blog about a book, I leave it out after we’ve read it. This means:

1) There are stacks of books on every flat surface of this house; and

2) We keep reading those books over and over, because they’re out where we can see them.

Which is fine, because I wouldn’t have had the urge to blog about the book in the first place if it weren’t in some way delightful.

Another thing that’s happening a lot lately is that Huck collects favorite picture books to read in his bed at night. I could probably skip writing about them and just post a picture of his headboard every morning. No stronger recommendation for a children’s book than being made part of a five-year-old’s hoard, is there?

But here, I’ll do a proper post. Kortney, consider this my thank-you note for that lovely write-up the other day. :)

NEW:

mixitupMix It Up by Hervé Tullet. Here’s a book that beckons a child in and invites him to touch and “mix” blobs of color on the page. Drag some red into the yellow blob, and when you turn the page, naturally you’ve got orange. What interested me is how completely Huck entered into the conceit, touching and swirling those painted spots on the page just as if he were playing an iPad game. “Like this?”—tentatively at first, touching the dot as instructed, and then turning the page and crowing in glee at the change. He engaged just as thoroughly as if it were an app, red + yellow magically turning to orange under his finger. This thrills me, I have to say—the willingness to enter into a game of make-believe with a book when so much in his world trains him to expect animations for every cause-and-effect. The book is full of fun, with dots of color skittering across the page as if alive. Gorgeously designed, too: big bold colors against clean white space. We also enjoyed Tullet’s Press Here which similarly invites interaction. At five, Huck seems to be exactly the right age for these books. We’ve read Mix It Up together several times but most often he carts it away to his bed to enjoy solo.

(You’ll want your watercolors handy after you read this book. Or do as we did and whip up a quick batch of play dough: 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup salt, 1 cup water [add slowly; you may not need all of it]. Knead until it isn’t sticky. I go sparingly on the water and leave a lot of loose flour in the mixing bowl for the kids to rub their hands in before I start handing out lumps of dough. Then, for each lump, a drop of food coloring. They love working it in, watching it marble its way through the blank dough. After the colors are well mixed, I like to add a tiny drop of lavender or cinnamon oil, or a bit of vanilla extract. The smells make them so happy! “I’m probably going to play with this for one or three hours,” Huck informed me when I got him set up the other day—after I’d remembered such a cheap and easy cure for listlessness existed in the world. Why do I forget about this for months at a time? A batch will last in the fridge for about a week. Rilla can measure and mix it by herself. Very handy when, say, an older sister is wrangling with Algebra 2 and needs mom’s attention for a while.)

OLD:

borreguitaBorreguita and the Coyote by Verna Aardema, illustrations by Petra Mathers—over and over and over again! Beloved by Rilla too (and all her older siblings before her). Utterly satisfying rendition of a Mexican folk tale in which a clever little sheep outwits, repeatedly, with comic effect, a coyote intent on eating her for dinner. Might I recommend reading this one while lying down so that all of you can stick your legs in the air when you get to the part about Borreguita “holding up” the mountain.

 

creepycastleCreepy Castle by John S. Goodall. Out of print but if you can track one down you’re in luck. All six of my kids have loved this book to pieces. No! Not to pieces, fortunately! It’s got flaps inside, each spread flipping to become a new picture. An almost wordless book, which means the kids and I get to narrate the adventure as the two hero mice make their way through a seemingly deserted castle. There’s a sinister fellow hiding in the bushes; he locks them in a scary room with a dragon guarding the stairs, but they climb out the window and splash into the moat. My littles especially like the moment when the villain gets his comeuppance at the end. I can’t count how many dozens of times I have read this little book. They never seem to get tired of it.

Another book back in circulation these days is Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime. (Sniffle: two-year-old Huck in that post.)

Meanwhile, I’m making my way through the leeeeennnngggggthy list of Cybils YA nominees and will have some to recommend in a post coming soonish.