Tuesday, December 29, 2009


We did it! All of the books have been unwrapped, as of 6 p.m. yesterday. Stay tuned for talk of the favorites and the ones that fell flat.

I'm working to post more here in 2010 -- one of my new year's resolutions -- and I'm prepping the blog by updating sidebars and such. If a link doesn't work, it's probably something "in progress."

One of the books I gave Felix came with the poster below, which is a pretty accurate visual representation of me this Christmas.

Hope you've all had yourselves a merry little Christmas -- full of the gifts of sharing stories, enjoying words and language, and reading together.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy Book Stacks!

I went overboard with the book stacks this year. Throughout 2009, I collected titles I found that caught my eye at the used book store, in the Scholastic flyers, and at my favorite independent bookshops. And it is so easy to find a rationale for buying a book for a child: Oh, this was a favorite when I was her/his age! Ah, s/he keeps checking this one out from the library; better get our own copy! Wow, this is a children’s classic, and at this price, I can’t pass it up! And heck, I really should throw in some of those just-for-fun titles s/he circles in the book flyers.

As I type, the book stacks remain under the tree, the only unopened gifts, patiently waiting for the kids to put down their Nintento DS gaming systems and delve into their rich and varied contents.

I obviously made them too big. They look intimidating, like homework stacks or research stacks. Or maybe they just look dull, like a-gift-that’s-really-for-mom stacks.

Last year, Skye tore through her book stack, smiling and shouting with glee at each title. Then she called to Felix and commanded he do the same, helping him along the way. He indulged her, sitting back and admiring her indefatigable joy at ripping off all the wrapping for him and announcing each new book as it was revealed.

That wasn’t quite the vision I had for the stacks. I’d thought the kids would leave them for last, and then, at each moment on Christmas Day when they needed a gift-opening fix after steamrolling through the main event, they’d migrate to their book stacks, open one, and then, if the book felt right for the moment, they'd open the gift they found inside and settle into a story. (“Read this, Mom! Please?” my sweet little Felix would command.)

Lovely picture, isn’t it? And maybe that’s what will happen today. There are lots of goodies inside all that wrapping, books I’ve been saving, some for close to a year, peeking at them on the shelf in the closet and looking forward to seeing which covers make their eyes light up the most.

(And yes, I’ll share the stacks with you, too... perhaps a little at a time would be best. For now, you can enjoy last year's book stacks post, in case you missed it.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Infinite Summer

I'm taking the plunge. I'm going to dive into Infinite Jest this summer, along with a whole bunch of other bibliophiles. If I'm going to read it, this is the way to do it. Infinite Summer is sponsored by The Morning News, who brought us the Tournament of Books.

Last night, I began exercising the David Foster Wallace area of my brain by starting A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, an essay about a Caribbean cruise he took in order to write about it for Harper's. I'm twelve pages in, and already I've laughed out loud several times.

I expect Infinite Jest will be much different, being that it is fiction and over 1000 pages long (including footnotes/endnotes.) We'll see. I'm going to give it a try. My expectations for myself are not too high: See what it's like and enjoy the ride. Even if I determine IJ is not my style and decide to abandon it, I will learn a bit more about why DFW is so admired, and I will have discovered his essays, which already makes this endeavor more than worthwhile.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Reading Circle Group Reads

I'm finally back. I'm going to be lazy and copy some posts I wrote about the group reads we picked for the Reading Circle. I am actually proud that I've read and posted about all three of them for 2009.

January: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

SPOILER ALERT: There are some spoilers below for this book.

I enjoyed Cold Comfort Farm. It was a bit different from what I expected, but once I got into the rhythm of the story, I settled in. Flora was a wonderful character. I don't think I know anyone quite like her. She's so contradictory, in a way: you wonder at the start if she's terribly lazy, preferring to live with strange relatives rather than work and be independent, but then she goes to work on the people at Cold Comfort Farm, making all of their lives better.

I loved the transformations, and how Flora was able to pinpoint exactly what each of them needed. Amos should go round the country in "one o' they Ford vans," preaching. Seth should be a movie star. Elfine and Dick Hawk-Monitor belonged together. Reuben needed to run the farm himself. Etc., etc.

The names made me laugh, plus the little details, like Flora suggesting to Adam a little mop for "clettering" the dishes instead of using a twig. (The made-up words had me giggling, too.) The ending, with the wedding, and Flora *almost* getting her questions answered, then being interrupted, then Flora and Charles flying off in his plane, was perfect.

I saw the movie afterwards, and it was quite well done. The actress who played Flora was so likable, and the other characters were almost all how I pictured them. I especially enjoyed Stephen Fry as poor Mr. Mybug and Ian McKellan as Amos.

Here are some great quotes from the movie.

February: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

This novel was also different from what I expected; for some reason, I thought it would be a bit funny, or maybe quirky is a better word. The characters are a little quirky in that they are all quite unique, but Baker doesn't take advantage of their quirkiness, and that's a great thing.

There is a sort of mystery that you learn more about as you read. Actually, there are several mysteries, but this isn't written as a mystery novel. I thought Baker did a great job with the plot, showing us glimpses of the full story, just a bit at a time. The story is told by Truly (the "Little Giant" of the title), but sometimes Baker lets us in on something Truly doesn't know yet, and she was quite skillful in working the point of view in order to do this.

I loved the themes Baker explored, and the little places where the themes showed up surprised and delighted me. Even the packaging of the book (the cover, chapter headings, and page breaks, etc.) had fun with the themes.

I thought this was a very good first novel. There was one event that I didn't quite believe, but maybe it's just that I didn't see it coming. I don't want to say much more about this, just in case anyone reading this would like to give this book a try.

March: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

SPOILER ALERT: There are some vague spoilers for this book below.

I loved this book. My IRL book group met in March, and when they asked what I was reading, I was in the middle of this. Since I raved about it, we chose it for our next book. I think it will be a great one to discuss.

I loved how many of the chapters could work as a short story: the friendship with Scarlett, the trip through the ghoul-gate (yikes, that was scary!), dancing the Macabray, etc. Gaiman is so skilled with words; he chooses them so carefully, and there's never too little or too much. And I love his sense of humor. The poet, Nehemiah Trot, especially made me laugh: "Hola, young Bod! I hear that excitement is the master of the hour, that you fling yourself through these dominions like a comet across the firmament. What's the word, good Bod?"

What fun Gaiman must have had creating this book. I watched him read the Interlude: The Convocation chapter here, and he looks to be having a blast. See the twinkle in his eye?

He was recently on The Colbert Report. He linked to it in this journal entry. Brave man! He wrote more about the experience here.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Morning News Tournament of Books, 2009

Jennifer told me about the Tournament of Books a few years ago, and every year I watch it more closely. The idea is this:

...take 16 of the most celebrated and highly touted novels of the year, seed them in a March Madness-type bracket, conscript them into a “Battle Royale of Literary Excellence,” and, in honor of David Sedaris’s brother, present the author of the winning book a live rooster.

The contenders have been announced, the judges are ready to go, and you can even download and print out the brackets to fill in your own guesses.

The Tournament begins on Monday, March 9th, and will launch here.

Which book do you think will win?

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Newbery Medal, 2009

The Newbery Medal

I have a great fondness for this award, the first book award I ever knew of; I recall as a young adult noticing the Newbery Medal seals on special books. Starting a few years ago, my parents have made it a tradition to give me the Newbery and Caldecott winners for my birthday, which is conveniently in February. They've added some past winners to my collection, too, and hope to see it complete someday.

Here are this year's winner and honor books, with notes:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
I'm pretty happy for Gaiman! I've read and enjoyed his Coraline and Stardust, plus a couple of his Sandman comics. I've recently felt in the mood for some more Gaiman, and, why look, here it is.

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
I first heard of this book from my friend Susan, who hadn't read it but thought it looked interesting. I looked it up and put it on my TBR list. Now it's moved closer to the top.

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle
Our library has only one copy of this one. (I bet they'll be ordering more now!) It looks fantastic.

Savvy by Ingrid Law
What a great idea for a story! I want to read this one with Skye. It looks like her kind of book.

After Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson
Woodson is such a prolific writer, and this gives me reason to move her closer to the top of my "must read" list.

Congrats to all of the winners!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Persephone Books: Happy Birthday to Me!

I just received my annual order of Persephone books, and I'm so excited to dig in! But no, let's just gaze at them awhile first, because they are so gorgeous....

Okay, now on to the decriptions of this year's books. (Make sure to admire the lovely, unique endpapers for each of the books when you click on the links.)

~ No. 3: Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple
Every year, I order one starting at the beginning of their list, and as this is my third year, I ordered #3. It's the story of "an ordinary family... struck by disaster when the husband, in a moment of weak, mid-life vanity, runs off with a French girl," and the Spectator calls it "A very good novel indeed about the fragility and also the tenacity of love." I've never read any Dorothy Whipple, and I look forward to this one.

~ No. 16: Saplings by Noel Streatfeild
I should someday read Ballet Shoes by this author. For now, I'm going to try one of her books for adults. This novel is about children being separated from their families during World War II in Britain, something that was necessary in many cases for physical survival, but psychologically had many consequences. In the afterward, Dr. Jeremy Holmes says Streatfeild's "supreme gift was her ability to see the world from a child's perspective" and "she shows that children can remain serene in the midst of terrible events as long as they are handled with love and openness."

~ No. 38: Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey
This one sounds like a lot of fun: "A brilliant, bittersweet upstairs-downstairs comedy." (Shena Mackay, The Guardian) It is about a wedding, of course, but perhaps not a cheerful one. The soon-to-be bride knows she is about to make a big mistake.

~ No. 81: Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson
This is one of the newest Persephone publications, and it looks delightful. Miss Buncle is an single woman (hence the "miss") who writes a novel based on the village she lives in. She does this for practical reasons: she needs to earn some money. I can imagine the hijinks that might ensue... Her granddaughter says Stevenson's books are "a soothing balm." Lovely.

And now, the big question: Which one should I read first?

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Cybils were announced!

The Cybils: The Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards
You can read more about these awards here.

The 2008-9 winners have just been announced. So many great titles here! Several of them are already on my TBR list, and of course I'm adding the rest, plus some titles from the finalists list and past winners/finalists (see sidebar on the site.)

Here are the winners of this year's Cybils, with notes:

Easy Readers:

I Love My New Toy
written by Mo Willems

Around here, we love Mo Willems, and the Elephant and Piggie books have brought us lots of giggles. Felix chose one for his library summer reading program reward. I don't think we've read this one together yet.

Fantasy and Science Fiction:

Middle Grade:
The Graveyard Book
written by Neil Gaiman

Gaiman's book won the Newbery Medal this year. I've enjoyed other Gaiman stuff (Coraline and some Sandman comics, and especially Stardust.) I'm really looking forward to reading this one.

Young Adult:
The Hunger Games
written by Suzanne Collins

I've heard really good things about this one. I'm happy to see it here, and I can't wait to read it.

Fiction Picture Books:

How to Heal a Broken Wing
written and illustrated by Bob Graham

This one is new to me, and it looks lovely. I'll have to try it with Skye and Felix.

Graphic Novels:

Elementary/Middle Grade:
Rapunzel's Revenge
written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
illustrated by Nathan Hale

I just read this one, and then immediately told Skye she should read it, too. We both loved it! So much fun. Shannon Hale is a wonderful writer, and I bet she had a blast writing this with her husband. The illustrations by Nathan Hale (no relation) are fabulous.

Young Adult:
Emiko Superstar (Minx)
written by Mariko Tamaki
illustrated by Steve Rolston

I never would have heard of this one, and I'm going to see if my library has it. I'm glad graphic novels are starting to really be recognized as a legitimate literary form.

Middle-Grade Fiction:

The London Eye Mystery
written by Siobhan Dowd

I doubt I'd have heard of this one if not for these awards. It looks like something I'd really enjoy, too. I'll have to check it out.

Non-Fiction MG/YA:

The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir
written by Cylin Busby and John Busby

I'm positive I wouldn't have noticed this one but for the Cybils, and now I think I should check it out. I'm not much for crime fiction, but this one seems to be more about family than anything else.

Non-Fiction Picture Books:

Nic Bishop: Frogs
written and illustrated by Nic Bishop

I don't go looking for award winning non-fiction for kids, and now I think, why not? I'll definitely make a point to check out Nic Bishop.


written by Naomi Shihab Nye

I love Naomi Shihab Nye (Nineteen Varieties of Gazelle, Habibi), and I expect I'll love this, too.

Young Adult Fiction:

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
written by E Lockhart

This one looks delicious! It was also a Michael L. Printz honor book, and is a contender in the Morning News Tournament of Books. I've got it out from the library now, and plan to read it soon.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Readolutions 2009

1. I will read at least 50 books.
2. I will read some of my shelf-sitters, including Newbery winners, Persephone books, poetry and short stories, parenting books, and something in French.
3. I will read every day with my kids, use my book lists (from Under the Chinaberry Tree, The Read-Aloud Handbook, and Book Crush) to request books for them, and take them to the library regularly.
4. I will keep my reading journal/calendar up-to-date.
5. I will keep a monthly TBR list, and start a list of books I'd love to read someday.
6. I will keep lists for "books purchased/received" and "books lent."
7. I will keep my Amazon wish list updated.
8. I will post on this blog regularly, hopefully at least weekly, and keep my sidebar updated.
9. I will post on friends' blogs.
10. I will participate in BAFAB week at least once this year.
11. I will participate in some reading challenges.
12. I will participate in several book clubs, online (the Reading Circle and maybe Chicklit) and offline (women's book club and mother-daughter book club).
13. I will read all of this year's Reading Circle group reads, and reply to all of the discussion threads.
14. I will post every week on the Reading Circle, and post at least monthly on Chicklit.
15. I will buy fewer books.
16. When I buy books, I will do my best to buy independent/used, or to buy in support of a charity (public library, school, etc.).
17. I will order some Persephone books for my birthday!
18. I will work on organizing my book shelves, and find a new home for some of my books.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

My Best of 2008: Young People's Literature

I decided to give young people's literature its own category in my favorites, as I read so much of it this year. It's been wonderful to have two kids that enjoy books and ask me to read with them often. (I did ask Skye to help me put together a list of her top five or ten books this year, but as we looked through her 2008 book list, she couldn't choose. She loved them all!)

I am not going to include picture books here, just books for older readers, middle elementary and up.

Favorite book:

The Watsons Go to Birmingham -- 1963
Christopher Paul Curtis

How do I sum this one up? It's one of those books that makes you laugh a lot, and cry a lot. It's about so many things: what it means to be a family, where home is, racism in America. I was especially impressed with how Curtis explains the "why" of racism. That's the question every kid asks, and a question adults have a hard time answering: Why are people racist? Why do some people have such strong racist feelings that they do horrible things, hurting innocent people, even children? In the book, when the main character asks this tough question, his parents have a difficult time explaining why. It's his older brother that helps him process the sad things he's learned.

Favorite (start to a) series:

The Penderwicks and
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street
Jeanne Birdsall

Skye and I read these for our mother-daughter book club. These stories of a family with four girls are reminiscent of classic young people's literature. Jeanne Birdsall was a great reader as a child, and she says in this interview that "the first Penderwicks is really a love letter to the books I read as a child." She lists some of them: "Noel Streatfeild’s books, All of a Kind Family, Edward Eager, E. Nesbit." I love the list at the end of that interview of all the books mentioned by Jane, the biggest reader in the Penderwicks family. My daughter's online nickname here, Skye, comes from her favorite Penderwicks girl. Birdsall plans on three more Penderwicks books, and we look forward to them.

Favorite author discoveries:

Sharon Creech
One of Skye's friends always sings the praises of Sharon Creech when we talk books. In working on a Brownies Try-It badge, they were challenged to read something recommened by the other. Skye and I both read and enjoyed Granny Torrelli Makes Soup and Pleasing the Ghost, and we look forward to more Creech stories.

Ellen Raskin
This author is a re-discovery for me. Skye and I read The Westing Game and The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) for her school book club last year. I remember carrying that second one around with me in elementary school, facinated by it. I love Raskin's quirky sense of humor and creative puzzle stories.

Andrew Clements
What a great writer for kids! Frindle was Skye's choice for our first time hosting mother-daughter book club. I've read another of his since (The Landry News) and Skye's read at least two more (The Janitor's Boy and Lunch Money). We don't think you can go wrong with a Clements book. (And how cool is it that Brian Selznick does the illustrations?)

Honorable mention:

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Excellent! I missed this one as a kid, so it was a treat to read it with Skye.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Another pick from our mother-daughter book club. Beautiful writing, beautiful story.
Babymouse books by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
These comics are great! I love that a sister/brother team writes them. Check out Babymouse's neat website.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
How can you not want to read a book with a title and cover art like that? MBS did not disappoint.
Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath
This is a possible future mother-daughter book club read. Think of the food possibilities for this party! Great story; I want to read more Horvath.

Friday, January 30, 2009

My Best of 2008: Nonfiction

Part two of the best books I read this past year will focus on nonfiction. I read a lot more fiction than nonfiction, so this will be a shorter list, but it was hard to pick favorites because they were all quite good.

Out of the eleven works of nonfiction I read this year, I think my favorites would have to be these two:

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs
Jacobs is both funny and earnest in his pursuit, and his account of this year is very entertaining as well as enlightening. I love people like Jacobs, who jump so completely into a project, and I love people like his wife, who bring people like Jacobs back to earth with firm, funny, needed reminders of what's truly important.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
A friend lent me her copy of this memoir, telling me it was a facinating read. I'm not big on stories of horrible childhoods, but this book is much more than that. Wow, what a childhood! Walls' parents were brilliant, self-absorbed, creative, neglectful, and eccentric idealists. Walls writes about them and about her growing-up years truthfully, from her point-of-view as a child, living in this sometimes confusing, often dangerous, always exciting family. It's facinating, heartbreaking and inspiring. (Are those enough adjectives for you?)

Honorable mention goes to many of the others I read this year:

The Soup Peddler's Slow and Difficult Soups: Recipes & Reveries by David Ansel
Cool book. Yummy soups! Jen and I made one together.
Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan
You can read my review of this book here.
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
Gilbert's search for self is funny, honest, and sweet. (Of course I loved the Eat section the best.)
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
What a neat graphic memoir for young adults.
Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
I loved reading this memoir of his childhood and young adulthood, exploring identity and race. Really thoughtful, insightful, and honest, as well as funny at times and touching -- not in an overly sentimental way, but in a quiet and important way, if that makes sense.
French Milk by Lucy Knisley
This graphic memoir of a mother/daughter trip to Paris brought me back to my year in France, and I'm grateful to Knisley for the lovely visit!
Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas by John Baxter
Another vicarious trip to Paris for me, and a perfect book to read in December. Slowed me down again when things got hectic.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Best of 2008: Fiction

How do I write this post? I've been avoiding it for almost a month now. Choosing my favorite books read this year has been a delightful challenge. I read some really good stuff.

I've taken my friend Jennifer's idea and decided to split this into three different posts: favorite fiction, favorite nonfiction, and favorite literature for young people. (This way, I can include more books and won't have to cut my list too ruthlessly.)

My absolute favorite of this year is actually not a choice. It's an "of course, what else would it be?" The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a wonder. If you haven't read it yet, you must. Now to the challenging picks....

Favorite Fiction

If The Book Thief belongs in a category all its own (Almighty Winner of 2008, perhaps?), then the first place prize for my favorite fiction books has to be split between these two:

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
I scooped these stories up like spoonfuls of ice cream. Well, no, not exactly like ice cream. They go down easy, but they aren't happy stories. Many of them are painful or melancholy, but she writes them so beautifully that they made me happy. I'd read one and then sit with it awhile. Lahiri shows exactly what a great storyteller can do.

The Rain Before It Falls by Jonathan Coe
My Uncle Charlie introduced me to this lovely novel. Again, the story is painful and melancholy, but the telling is gorgeous. I was so engrossed in this book that I dreamed of the characters and settings every night that I read it.

Second place for fiction goes to these three winners:

Hens Dancing by Rafaella Barker
Now, this one was a happy book. It's perhaps the book that made me laugh out loud the most this year, and for that it gets second place. It's written in a wonderful style with a great voice: Venetia is a hoot.
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
I smiled my way through this novella. It's smart and funny and an absolute treat for a book lover.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
"A book that's fun to read, and that teaches you something" -- that's how this one was described at Conversation with Books this year, an annual event put on by my alma mater. I loved this very satisfying epistolary novel, and I expect I'll reread it someday. I borrowed Jennifer's copy, but I think I'll get the paperback when it comes out.

Honorable Mention:
The Girls by Lori Lansens
Conjoined twins?? Yes!
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Rightly a classic. I put it here, but it is often categorized as YA lit.
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Stories of an important book -- a work of art -- and the people whose hands it passes through.
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
Historical mystery (before and after World War I in England); a great start to the series. I want to learn more about Maisie.
Donna Leon's Inspector Guido Brunetti mysteries
I love spending time in modern-day Venice with Brunetti (and his family). I read the first three this past year.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What I Read in 2008

1. The Year of Living Biblically (A.J. Jacobs)
2. The Sweet Far Thing (Libba Bray)
3. Mr. Popper's Penguins (Richard Atwater)
4. A Book of Coupons (Susie Morgenstern)
5. Summer (Edith Wharton)
6. The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse (Bruce Hale)
7. The Soup Peddler's Slow & Difficult Soups (David Ansel)
8. Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren)
9. Death at La Fenice (Donna Leon)
10. Granny Torrelli Makes Soup (Sharon Creech)
11. Pleasing the Ghost (Sharon Creech)
12. Heart in the Right Place (Carolyn Jourdan)
13. Secret Letters from 0 to 10 (Susie Morgenstern)
14. Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen)
15. The Thirteenth Tale (Diane Setterfield)
16. Death in a Strange Country (Donna Leon)
17. The Westing Game (Ellen Raskin)
18. Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert)
19. Interpreter of Maladies (Jhumpa Lahiri)
20. The Girls (Lori Lansens)
21. The Crucible (Arthur Miller)
22. The Painted Veil (W. Somerset Maugham)
23. The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) (Ellen Raskin)
24. American Born Chinese (Gene Luen Yang)
25. Words Under the Words (Naomi Shihab Nye)
26. Garden Spells (Sarah Addison Allen)
27. Lulu's Hat (Susan Meddaugh)
28. Frindle (Andrew Clements)
29. The Watsons Go to Birmingham -- 1963 (Christopher Paul Curtis)
30. Harriet the Spy (Louise Fitzhugh)
31. The Mystery Guest (Gregoire Bouillier)
32. Project Mulberry (Linda Sue Park)
33. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
34. Hens Dancing (Raffaella Barker)
35. The Abbess of Crewe (Muriel Spark)
36. The Landry News (Andrew Clements)
37. The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)
38. Whisper and Shout: Poems to Memorize (Patrice Vecchione)
39. Mouse Guard #1: Fall 1152 (David Petersen)
40. If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? (Erma Bombeck)
41. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (Christopher Moore)
42. The Victorian Chaise-Longue (Marghanita Laski)
43. Habibi (Naomi Shihab Nye)
44. Warriors #3: Forest of Secrets (Erin Hunter)
45. Gods in Alabama (Joshilyn Jackson)
46. Committed to Memory: 100 Best Poems to Memorize (John Hollander)
47. Three Good Deeds (Vivian Vande Velde)
48. Punished! (David Lubar)
49. The Penderwicks (Jeanne Birdsall)
50. The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
51. Empress Orchid (Anchee Min)
52. James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl)
53. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (Jeanne Birdsall)
54. Little Vampire, Volume 1 (Joann Sfar)
55. People of the Book (Geraldine Brooks)
56. Paddington Here and Now (Michael Bond)
57. The Uncommon Reader (Alan Bennett)
58. Dreams from My Father (Barack Obama)
59. Dressed for Death (Donna Leon)
60. The Lace Reader (Brunonia Barry)
61. Esperanza Rising (Pam Munoz Ryan)
62. Babymouse #1, #2, & #3 (Jennifer Holm & Matt Holm)
63. Maisie Dobbs (Jacqueline Winspear)
64. Crispin: The Cross of Lead (Avi)
65. The Mysterious Benedict Society (Trenton Lee Stewart)
66. Everything on a Waffle (Polly Horvath)
67. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)
68. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows)
69. The Rain Before It Falls (Jonathan Coe)
70. French Milk (Lucy Knisley)
71. Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas (John Baxter)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Christmas Book Stacks, 2008

Finally, I'm posting our book stacks from this Christmas. I had such fun putting them together. I got some at a local used bookstore, several used from Powell's, and many through the kids' Scholastic book orders. Most of them are paperback copies. I picked a few of the past year's favorites to add to the family library, as well as some new books to explore.

Without further ado, here they are!

Skye's stack:
~ Two Warriors Manga books: She devoured them both over break.
~ Stink #3: Stink and the World's Worst Super-Stinky Sneakers: Ditto the above.
~ Schooling Around: Treasure Fever: "I loved this book! It had a school that was crazy and a teacher that taught them fun things instead of their regular lessons."
~ The Ghost, the White House, and Me: In honor of a new president.
~ The Name of This Book Is Secret: Looks neat, in a Mysterious Benedict Society sort of way.
~ Salsa Stories: Could be a fun one for us to read together - and cook some of the recipes afterwards.
~ Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat: I love the rat crawling along the margins, flip-book style.
~ Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism: I keep hearing about this one; I think we should read it together.
~ Rocks & Minerals: A cheapie Scholastic science book.
~ Every Minute on Earth: Skye gives this one an A++++, "'cause it has cool facts."
~ The Giving Book: It would be fun for her to go through this one sometime this year. There are several of these books, so if she likes it, maybe next year...
~ My Amazing Book of... Autographs!: I found this one at the used book store. It was published in 1974, and hasn't been written in at all! (This was Skye's extra-special book this year.)

Felix's stack:
~ Legend of Zelda Manga, Volumes #1 & #2: Link from the Legend of Zelda is his favorite character for pretend. These books help fuel that magic.
~ Who Stole the Cookies?: A cheapie Scholastic book based on the children's rhyme/game. He loves it.
~ The Little Penguin: Penguins are a favorite animal around here.
~ Scaredy Squirrel: This one is a big hit. I can't wait to explore more Scaredy Squirrel books with him.
~ Say Hola to Spanish and Say Hola Otra Vez: These rhyming books looked like a fun way to introduce another language.
~ Sun Is Falling, Night Is Calling: A sweet bedtime read - you can never have too many of those!
~ Anno’s Journey: I've been waiting for Felix to be old enough to enjoy this one; I love the illustrations.
~ Skippyjon Jones, Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble, and Skippyjon Jones in the Doghouse: These are the best read-alouds!
~ The Little Red Bird: He loves this story and asks for it again and again.
~ Otto Runs For President: In honor of a new president.
~ I Love My Little Storybook: I love books about loving books!
~ Henry’s Amazing Imagination: I met the author, Nancy Carlson, at our local independent children's bookstore. It was great to chat with her, and she signed this book to Felix, including a cool illustration. (This was Felix's extra-special book this year.)

This year, we continued the tradition of opening the book stacks last on Christmas morning. The past two years, we took our time with them, opening one or two at different moments of the day. It was a nice, calm way to keep the surprises coming.

But when Skye started in on her stack this year, there was no stopping her. I watched with delight as she tore through the wrapping paper, exclaiming with glee at her discoveries. She then went to work with Felix on his stack, happily announcing each new title to him. I loved seeing her so excited about this, and it was such a treat to see the kids going to the two piles throughout the day to enjoy the new reads.

Because we love books around here so much, Santa knew to bring us a few:

For Skye:
~ The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Basil
~ The Klutz Encyclopedia of Immaturity: Santa hit the jackpot with this one. She's picked it up every day since Christmas.

For Felix:
~ Snowmen at Night
~ 365 Penguins: Skye loves reading this one to Felix.

For our whole family:
~ Free to Be You and Me and Free to Be a Family
~ Poetry Speaks to Children

And Mom just doesn't know when to quit, so the kids got these extras:

Night before Christmas gift:

To Skye:
~ When Santa Fell to Earth
~ The Christmas Party from the Black Lagoon
~ 101 Holiday Jokes

To Felix:
~ Deck the Halls
~ Toot & Puddle: I’ll Be Home for Christmas
~ You Can Do It, Sam

From Mom & Dad to kids on Christmas morning:
~ The Gingerbread Man with pictures by Karen Schmidt
~ The Gingerbread Man, retold by Jim Aylesworth, illustrated by Barbara McClintock
~ The Gingerbread Girl, Lisa Campbell Ernst
~ Gingerbread Baby, Jan Brett

Winter break involved lots of reading time this year. It's been great having these stacks of books to entertain us during this cold, snowy winter.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Felix recommends... (Autumn '08)

Felix and I are enjoyed books about fall and Halloween this season.

Favorite fall books:
~ Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
~ Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, also by Lois Ehlert
~ Leaf Jumpers by Carole Gerber with beautiful illustrations by Leslie Evans

Favorite Halloween books:
~ Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler
~ Boo! Made You Jump! by Lauren Child (a Charlie and Lola book)
~ Halloween Bugs by David A. Carter

Other favorites:
~ Mrs. McNosh books (Sarah Weeks)
~ the Froggy books (Jonathan London)
~ Fireman Small (Wong Herbert Yee)

A wonderful new discovery was author Amy Hest. Felix loved both her books about Baby Duck and about a little bear named Sam. I love that Baby Duck makes up songs, and they don't necessarily rhyme or have a particular form. They remind me of the songs in the Frances books, very true to what a little kid would create. The illustrations in the Sam books, done by Anita Jeram, are gorgeous. I love her artwork.

Skye recommends... (Autumn '08)

For our mother-daughter book group, we read:

~ The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, Jeanne Birdsall
~ Esperanza Rising, Pam Munoz Ryan
~ The Mysterious Benedict Society, Trenton Lee Stewart

We recommend them all!

On her own, Skye read Lunch Money by Andrew Clements, which inspired her to open a savings account and think of money-making tasks she could do. She also enjoyed Paddington Here and Now, the only book on the Roald Dahl Funny Prize shortlist that we could find at our library. She said, "This book is a very calming one to read, Mom. It makes me feel peaceful." I read it, too, and I think it's the London atmosphere -- "Let's have elevenses!" -- she's describing. Pretty sweet!

Other highlights this season were the Babymouse graphic novels and Bailey School Kids books for quick reads. She loved Diary of a Wimpy Kid and read it in one afternoon. She also enjoyed a re-read of Bunnicula.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Felix recommends... (Summer '08)

This summer, the kids and I read lots of books together. We did some themes (caterpillars/butterflies, chickens & ducks, birds) and Felix found a few favorites in these categories:

~ Bob and Otto by Robert O. Bruel & Nick Bruel
~ the Duck in the Truck books by Jez Alborough
~ Little Red Bird by Nick Bruel

We read a lot from the 20th Century Children's Book Treasury, and everything Mo Willems was a reading staple. (He's got some great beginning reader books now featuring Elephant and Piggie.)

More of Felix's summer faves:

~ The Little Cat Baby by Allan Ahlberg
~ Silly School by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
~ Max's Bunny Business by Rosemary Wells
~ the Skippyjon Jones books by Judy Schachner

Skye recommmends... (Summer '08)

This summer, Skye browsed through books about pet birds (she really wants a bird!), beginning knitting books (she's hoping to learn soon), Garfield comics, joke and riddle books, and books of magic tricks. She read easy series chapter books (Beast Quest, Pokemon), Warriors graphic novels, and a couple of titles nominated for the Maud Hart Lovelace award (Three Good Deeds and Punished!).

Together, we read Forest of Secrets, the third Warriors cats book. For me, this was the best one yet. I just checked, and it looks like this one was written by a different author from the first two, so maybe this is why. (The Warriors books are written my several writers; go here and click on "Meet Erin Hunter" to learn more about them.)

Our most exciting reading news this summer is that we started a mother-daughter book group! We are both really enjoying it. All of the titles we read and discussed this summer were excellent and made for great gatherings:

~ Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park
~ Frindle by Andrew Clements
~ The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

(More later on these titles and our meetings!)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Readolution #12

12. I will organize my book shelves, and find a new home for some of my books.

This was my last readolution for 2008. What a fun one! I didn't find much time for it, but this is a great task to carry over into 2009.

I'd love to have a place for books in each room of the house. I think I somewhat have that now, but I'd like to make these places more deliberate, as well as practical. Ah, that never-ending project: home organization!

Readolutions #10 & #11

10. I will buy fewer books.


11. When I buy books, I will do my best to buy independent/used, or to buy in support of a charity (public library, school, etc.).

I did quite well with this one. Always room to improve, of course.

I am going to reevaluate both of these goals for 2009. For one thing, I really don't believe there's anything wrong with aquiring books. It's a much healthier (and less expensive!) habit than lots of things I can think of. I love having lots of books around me; they are in integral part of my home. I also believe it's important, especially now, to support books and their authors, as well as libraries. Hmm. I'd like to come up with some readolutions around these thoughts for 2009.