Archive for December, 2011

2011 in Books

December 31, 2011 @ 7:39 pm | Filed under:

I guess Huck thought Rilla and I needed to add a little Charlotte Mason to our diet of picture books

Compiling this year’s reading list is going to be difficult; I didn’t write monthly recap posts, and I didn’t crosspost my ongoing reading log on a page here like I usually do: this year, it’s all at GoodReads. GoodReads tells me I read 173 books 175 books** in 2011, but more than half of those are picture books (and since I didn’t record all the picture books we read, this figure isn’t of much use).

I cross-referenced my booklog at Diigo, using the tag “Rillabooks” for picture books and “booklog” for everything else, including the Cybils graphic novel nominees I read. There are 69 books 71 books**under the booklog tag. That is probably the most accurate total of my personal reading for the year. I have 104 books tagged under Rillabooks. The math works, at least!

**While compiling the list below, I discovered I’d missed recording at least two books I read this year. Amusingly, they were two of my favorite books of the year (Wonderstruck and Nursery Rhyme Comics). What this means is that all bets are off where accuracy of numbers is concerned. I wonder what else I forgot to record.***

***About an hour after I published this post, I realized I left out nearly all of my Bean-Rose-Rilla read-alouds, including The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and The Strictest School in the World. I also omitted a ton of NetGalley reads. Don’t know why I so often forget to log those at GoodReads.

Of course these lists never reflect the many books I began and didn’t finish, a goodly number of which I hope to pick up again. (Chief among those: Ready Player One and Blackout, which I set aside precisely because they were so gripping—I had foolishly begun each of them at a time when life busy-ness was eating up all my reading time.) Nor does my 2011 log include the books I read as research for my current novel. My brain tucks those away on another mental shelf.

Looking back over the year’s pleasure reading is itself a great pleasure. I read some staggeringly great books this year. It makes me giddy, really, thinking of what riches are in store in the year ahead.

Here, sans picture books (which I may try to compile in a separate post), are (most of) the books I read in 2011. Asterisks indicate Cybils graphic novel nominees. Sparse months indicate times when I was most deeply immersed in research, and fiction had to take a back seat.

If I posted about a book, I’ll include the link.


Bird by Bird by Anne LaMott
Room by Emma Donoghue (post)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Love Letters by Madeleine L’Engle
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm


Shadow Box: Poems by Fred Chappell
Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom (post)
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
The Eternal Smile: Three Stories by Gene Luen Yang


The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Sunken Treasure by Wil Wheaton
Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton


Mercury by Hope Larson
Notes from the Underwire: Adventures from My Awkward and Lovely Life by Quinn Cummings


The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (post)
Level Up by Gene Luen Yang*
Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol*
Growing Up Amish: A Memoir by Ira Wagler
Why Darwin Matters by Michael Shermer
The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God by Carl Sagan
Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity by Dave Roman*


84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (posts here and here)
The Penderwicks on Gardham Street by Jeanne Birdsall
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall

July (I wrote a recap that month)

Letter from New York by Helene Hanff (post)
The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt (a reread; here’s my 2010 post)
Nursery Rhyme Comics, edited by Chris Duffy (post at GeekMom)


The Riddlemaster of Hed by Patricia A. McKillip (post)
Heir of Sea and Fire by Patricia A. McKillip
Harpist in the Wind by Patricia A. McKillip

?? Very strange—my GoodReads shows no entries for September or October. September is befuddling me; surely I read something. Aha, and having written that, I have suddenly remembered about Ragnarok. I received an advance digital copy of A.S. Byatt’s latest work via NetGalley in August and made a dogged but ultimately incomplete effort to accomplish the reading of it. I phrase it that way because it’s the sort of book you have to work at. I intend to finish it. I set it aside for Cybils reading and did not remember, until this post, that it was there waiting for me.

My Cybils reading began in mid-October, so I suspect some of my entries dated November 1 were actually October reads.


Sidekicks by Dan Santat*
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch*
In Trouble by Ellen Levine (via NetGalley)
Kind (The Good Neighbors, #3) by Holly Black*
True Things (Adults Don’t Want Kids to Know) (Amelia Rules! #6) by Jimmy Gownley*
The Ferret’s a Foot by Colleen AF Venable*
Binky under Pressure by Ashley Spires*
Swamp Sting by Blake A. Hoena*
Squish: Super Amoeba by Jennifer L. Holm*
Squish #2: Brave New Pond by Jennifer L. Holm*
Lunch Lady and the Field Trip Fiasco by Jarrett J. Krosoczka*
Babymouse: A Very Babymouse Christmas by Jennifer L. Holm*
The Little Prince Graphic Novel by Joann Sfar*
Mameshiba: On the Loose! by James Turner*
Sita: Daughter of the Earth by Saraswati Nagpal*
Bake Sale by Sara Varon*
Drawing From Memory by Allen Say*
I Love Him to Pieces by Evonne Tsang*
Made for Each Other by Paul D. Storrie*
Zahra’s Paradise by amir*
Ivy by Sarah Oleksyk*


Flight, Volume 8 by Kazu Kibuishi*
Age of Reptiles Omnibus by Ricardo Delgado*
Americus by M.K. Reed*
Amulet: The Last Council (Amulet, #4) by Kazu Kibuishi*
Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum, adapted by Eric Shanower, art by Skottie Young*
The Sign of the Black Rock by Scott Chantler*
Luz Sees the Light by Claudia Davila*
Frankie Pickle and the Mathematical Menace by Eric Wight*
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (mentioned here)
Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey
Dragondrums by Anne McCaffrey
The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey
Lost and Found by Shaun Tan*
Bad Island by Doug TenNapel*
The Renegades of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
Ashfall by Mike Mullin
The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen*
The Cottage at Bantry Bay by Hilda Van Stockum (read-aloud to Rose, Beanie, Rilla)

I suspect I’m not the only Pern fan who experienced a powerful need to binge on Anne McCaffrey’s books after her death. All the Weyrs of Pern is still sitting on my nightstand.

I love the fresh start of a new year: love it particularly when contemplating All the Books I Am Going to Read, Because This Is the Year I Am Going to Read ALL the Books. Here are a very few of the titles on my TBR list. Check back a year from now to see how many of them I squoze in.

Blackout/All Clear (for real this time! I am not usually one for delayed gratification, but in this case I’ve enjoyed the delicious anticipation)
Ready Player One (sooo good so far)
Bigger than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder
The Map of My Dead Pilots by Colleen Mondor
Pure by Julianna Baggott (I don’t even know when it comes out, but I’m looking forward to it already. Jane got to read it in manuscript, the lucky duck.)
David Copperfield (a book I adore, which I intend to launch as a family read-aloud come Monday)

I’ll stop there. The list of my hope-to-reads could go on for miles. Happy New Year, friends. Thanks for another delightful year of comparing booknotes.

Ways I Have Spent the Week

December 30, 2011 @ 7:49 am | Filed under:

• nursing my husband back to health (and he is better now, hooray)

• cleaning, sorting, purging (prepping for a dose of FlyLady come the New Year)

• weeding the front-yard flower bed, in the sunshine, with three of my girls

• planning for high tide

• reading reading reading, finishing up my work for the Cybils

• learning chords on Scott’s new ukulele

• helping a friend with a writing project

• hunting for my camera, which I haven’t seen since Christmas morning

• enjoying year-end booklists, celebrations, and news

[insert charming Christmas photo here]*

*since I haven’t actually seen our Christmas photos, I must assume they are charming

Whoops, I forgot to title this post.

December 27, 2011 @ 9:27 am | Filed under:

Well! I didn’t mean to absent myself from the blog for so many days, but Christmas will do that to you. I hope you’ve all had lovely holidays. Ours was mellow and merry: just right. But I fear the wave of strep that flattened so many of us two weeks ago is making a resurgence. Two wicked sore throats here today, and one of them is Scott’s. For poor Beanie, it’s round two. Not good. It may continue to be quiet here for a bit…

Not to mention, tonight is my Cybils panel’s Big Discussion to finalize our shortlist! I’ve been reading like crazy and have a few last books to finish this morning between rounds of soothing fevered brows.

But here, I won’t leave you with nothing. Over at GeekMom, we’ve been talking about Pinterest. This was my take:

It’s funny, for all I’m such a social media junkie, Pinterest hasn’t grabbed me. I occasionally crosspost my “daily swoon” G+ posts there, but when I start clicking around other people’s pins, it pretty much just creates a mountain of want–so much gorgeousness out there to admire and yearn for!

But I have a number of friends who have never been keen on Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc—but they love Pinterest, LOVE it. I think part of it, for me, is that I’m a word person, not a picture person. When I go to Twitter, I’m sucked right in. So many conversations! I’m in heaven. But Pinterest doesn’t absorb me in that way. I get overwhelmed by all the beautiful visuals and find myself clicking away.

OK, now I’m LOL because I just went to Pinterest to follow those of you who’ve chimed in on this thread, and the first post I saw was this one about how to draw hair.  Which I know my manga-drawing daughters will be interested in—so it just occurred to me to create a pinboard especially for them, a place where I can share things they’ll enjoy. Now *that* I might be able to get into…

Other GeekMoms are using Pinterest in clever and useful ways, and by the end of our discussion I was really starting to warm to the site. My new “Stuff for My Kids” pinboard (where I’ve begun sticking things I think they’ll be interested in) may prove quite useful—if I remember to use it.

(Big if.)

“For my heart’s a boat in tow…”

December 21, 2011 @ 8:32 pm | Filed under: ,

I’ve posted this song before, I think, or mentioned it, at least. “The Broom of the Cowdenknowes”—one of those good old Scottish folk songs that makes something well up within me. This intense emotional response seldom has to do with lyrics; it’s something in the Celtic melodies, the yearning, the slurred notes melting into each other and reaching for something never quite graspable. That sea-swaying cadence at 22 seconds undoes me every time. I remember in dance classes when they told us (coaching better posture) to imagine a string pulling upward from the top of our head: the effect this music has on me is as if there’s a string attached to my heart and the notes are pulling.

A song that pulls me with both melody and lyrics is one I know I’ve shared here before, The Loch Tay Boat Song. Oh, it devastates me. In a good way.

Duke Ellington Meets Tchaikovsky

December 19, 2011 @ 7:05 am | Filed under: ,

Swiped from Scott’s Facebook:

“I know that song,” says the five-year-old, eyes lighting up. She bobs her head. “That’s jazz.”

He’d looked this clip up because I got excited when Julie Danielson mentioned (also on Facebook) that she was working on a review of this picture book for SevenImp:

Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite
by Anna Harwell Celenza.

Looking forward to Jules’s review, and to checking out this book!


December 17, 2011 @ 8:20 am | Filed under: ,

It’s early on a Saturday morning. We’re still in bed when Rilla goes padding past our door, headed for Saturday-morning cartoons. Scott mumbles something into his pillow.

I’m baffled at what I just heard. “Did you…” I say, “did you just call her a harpy?”

“What??” Now he’s the baffled one.

“Did you just say, ‘Hello, harpy.'”

He’s sputtering. “No! I said ‘Was that our Bean?'”

Ohhh. That makes more sense.”

Rilla hears me giggling and reverses her steps: having mom and dad all to herself is way better than anything on TV. She snuggles in on Scott’s side, chortling this low, throaty chortle she has when she is feeling especially triumphant.

“Hello, my harpy,” Scott murmurs into the top of her head.

She pushes up on her arms, peering down at him.

“What did you call me, Daddy? Did you call me…your heartbeat?”

We’re both laughing. “Yes,” he says. “That’s exactly right. My heartbeat. Hello, Heartbeat.”

I suppose they do look like candy

December 16, 2011 @ 9:01 pm | Filed under: , ,

Craigslist did the trick, and a guy with a truck delivered us of the very bulky Ikea TV cabinet we bought—possibly our first furniture purchase ever, come to think of it—way back in our NYC days. We can’t fathom, now, how the moving men got it down the stairs of our apartment in Astoria, especially the narrow landing bit at the top. The thing served us well, and we’re glad it’s gone. The living room feels spacious now, and that’s with Christmas beginning to fill its corners.

We got about half the decorations up yesterday during Huck’s nap: the lights (two strings outside, three strings inside; I like to see them shine in the darkness), the stockings, the nutcrackers, the nativity set, the wooden Santa in the traditional red garb, the ceramic Santa in his unusual and gorgeous hunter green suit. Huck played with the creche figures all afternoon, but I guess he forgot about the decorations overnight, because this morning when he came trotting down the hall into the living room, he gasped and stopped in his tracks.

“The ’Ristmas room!” he shouted, literally jumping for joy.

Oh, he is funny these days. When I was first untangling the strands of lights I’d pulled out of the bin in the garage, I heard a sudden crunching sound and looked up to the sight of my little boy sticking out his tongue, upon which lay shards of broken green Christmas light. He’d bitten it right off the strand. He stood there calmly, nose wrinkled in disgust, unfazed by my shrieks. I picked the shards off his tongue, finger-swept around his gums. Terrifying. No cuts (the lights must be made of plastic these days? not glass?), no blood. “No taste good,” he informed me. You don’t say.

During today’s nap—we time everything quiet or fragile to coincide with his naps—we finished The Cottage at Bantry Bay, which I’ve been reading to the three middle girls. That last chapter is a doozy and I kept getting choked up, which always seems to tickle them. When Paddy tells what happened with the box of old poems in Dublin—you see it coming six chapters away, but still, it gets me—I really thought I might have to hand the book over to Scott for the last few pages. But he’d had to slip back to his desk, so I got myself together and faltered out the end.

Then we opened the last of the ’Ristmas boxes, the one with the ornaments, and the girls trimmed the tree. Rilla looked alarmed when those words were uttered at the outset of the endeavor: she thought it meant cutting the tree to make it smaller, and ours is already quite small. “It means hanging the ornaments,” we explained, and her relief was immense. They took great pains to hang all the breakable things up high, well out of Huck’s reach. Not, I suspect, that it will matter. A kid who’ll bite clean through a light bulb (egad, just writing it gives me the shivers) will stick at nothing. Glass baubles, we hardly knew ye.

You will get a sentimental feeling when you hear voices singing

He’s standing in the kitchen surrounded by the blur of the dinner he made and served. He’s a little grumpy; we’re all a little grumpy because everyone’s been sick. Four of the kids have strep; we missed the big piano recital yesterday; the guy who was supposed to pick up a large piece of furniture we’re giving away hasn’t called back and the thing is parked in the middle of our living room and I can’t put the tree up until it’s gone. That kind of week.

And because I’ve been the grumpiest of all, and because he made this dinner I’m about to eat, I slam into him on purpose, throw my arms around him, rock side to side in a parody of dancing.

“Are you trying to Rock-Around-the-Christmas-Tree me?” he asks suspiciously, and I gasp.

“What?” laughs the sixteen-year-old.

“I think your mother is mocking me.”

“No!” It wasn’t an ironic gasp. It’s not like I’d hummed out loud to the music in my head. “I was Holly-Jolly-Christmasing you. I can’t believe you could TELL.”

“Well, technically—”

“No, no, seriously. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree and Holly Jolly Christmas lie within a very narrow margin of error. How did you know??”

It no longer surprises me when he knows exactly what I’m thinking, but now he’s hearing the department-store holiday soundtrack in my brain. Spooky.

Do you know this book?

December 13, 2011 @ 6:40 pm | Filed under:

My friend Mary Alice is trying to track down this book:

It is a longer picture book about a Jewish girl who leaves Russia alone and lives with her tailor aunt and uncle in America, then marries a young man she meets on the boat, and I think saves up and sends for her elderly mother?

Not ringing any bells for me, but it sounds great…