Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Big Brave Writer News!

November 7, 2016 @ 6:24 am | Filed under: Books

I’ve been a fan of Julie Bogart’s Brave Writer writing program and classes since the first launch of The Writer’s Jungle. In fact, that fabulous resource was one of the very first things I reviewed on this blog, way back in February 2005. I’ve used Writer’s Jungle and other Brave Writer materials such as The Arrow with my own kids, and I’ve pointed many friends toward the excellent online classes offered each term.

And now I’ll be joining the roster of Brave Writer teachers myself! After that incredible experience at the BW Retreat in July, Julie talked me into joining her team as an instructor. I’ll be taking on some of my favorite topics: comics and historical fiction. The new course line-up was announced this morning, abundant as always with enticing classes I know my own kids would enjoy.

bravewriterlogoWhat I’ll be teaching:

Comic Strip Capers — March 6-29, ages 9 and up

Penning the Past — May 8-June 2, ages 11-14

Please click the links to read more about my classes! Registration begins December 5.

I’ll plan to hop on Periscope on Wednesday afternoon (2:30 Pacific time) for some Q&A.

Cybils YA Fiction Nominee Suggestions

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

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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.)

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

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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.