Monday, July 30, 2012

Little Free Library, Day 3


Two books were taken today:  If You're Reading This, It's Too Late (Pseudonymous Bosch) and Frankenstein (Mary Shelley).

People left these today:  How the Tiny People Grew Tall, a hardcover picture book by Nancy Wood & Rebecca Walsh; In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories, an I Can Read book by Alvin Schwartz & Dirk Zimmer; a big, fun book – one of those with lots of flaps and envelopes and such -- called Ghost Files:  The Haunting Truth; The War of the Flowers, a fantasy novel by Tad Williams; and the four Amulet graphic novels by Kazu Kibuishi!

And later, If You're Reading This, It's Too Late was returned.  (I wonder if these quick returns are taken by parents, and returned when their child says, "I'm not interested in that," or, "I've already read that.")

Also:
~ I found notes in two of the books that were left.
~ I talked to two more neighbors and a few people I saw passing by, encouraging them to use the Library.
~ I posted a quote in the window of the Library, the same one I recently posted on the sidebar of my blog:  "The beginning is always today." -Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
~ I made a welcome note, telling how to use the Library, and put some copies of it inside. (See photo above.)

It's fun to host a busy Little Free Library!  I'll update more at the end of the week.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Little Free Library, Day 2


Here's a photo of our Little Free Library.  Gorgeous, eh?  My dad does great work!


When I checked it around 10:30 on Saturday morning, the following books had been taken:
Ten, Keith Haring
Miss Child Has Gone Wild, Dan Gutman
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, Gary D. Schmidt
Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green & David Levithan

And the following books were left inside by others:
Pooh’s ABCs – a board book
All the World, bilingual version (English/Spanish) by Liz Garton Scanlon (Author) & Marla Frazee (Illustrator) – one of those little books that comes in a Cheerios box, I think

Cool!  I wonder if the people who took/left the books will be back.  I expect so.  I saw my neighbor outside today, and she said, “Everyone’s admiring your Little Free Library!”  I should have said, “It’s not mine, it’s ours!” but instead I excitedly told her that people were using it already.  She said she knows someone in Milwaukee who has one.

Today, I plan to make a little info note for the library, and pick up some flyers about our library’s fall celebration to include for people to take.

Later…

I checked the Little Free Library several times on Saturday.  In the late afternoon, I noticed that three more new books were added:
Save Me, Lisa Scottoline
Blood Canticle, Anne Rice
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

And Will Grayson, Will Grayson was returned.

One neighbor who was outside doing yard work stopped by, exclaiming that she loved the idea, that she'd thought about making one but wasn't sure how to do it, and told me she’d bring some books over soon.

I picked up some flyers at our library about our fall celebration of community that we hold there every year. This year, we are starting the day with a 3K Fun Run. The flyers give the date and information on how to register; I thought sticking some flyers into the Little Free Library could be another way to let people know who might be interested.

I also wrote some little notes on Post-its and stuck them in books, things like “We love Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle! Enjoy!” and “I finally read this classic novel and thoroughly enjoyed it. What took me so long?” I left the pad of Post-its and a pen in the Library and wrote on the top one, “Add a note to a book, if you like!"

Another neighbor stopped by as I was adding notes to books to tell me she’d brought her granddaughter over.  She’s the one who took Ten, and then left the Pooh’s ABCs board book.  I encouraged her to take a book for herself, and we decided on The Magic Thief, as she enjoyed Harry Potter.  She said she’d seen some of our neighbors paying a visit to the library.

Later that evening, I noticed that the Jonathan Kellerman mystery had been taken.

It's so fun to watch its activity every day!  I hope to post more tomorrow about Sunday's Little Free Library excitement.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Little Free Library, Day 1

Sorry I've been gone.  Life got very busy after spring break -- end of the school year and now summer vacation -- and I just haven't figured out how to sneak blogging into my daily life recently.  But we've got something new I am very excited about, and I want to keep a record about it here, at least for a little while.

We just installed a Little Free Library!  My dad made it for us, and it's adorable.  When he was putting it in for us, some neighbors stopped by to admire his work.  Because it's so beautiful, they worried a bit about vandalism.  (It's a common concern; click on the Little Free Library link to read their wise words on this topic.)

"I bet some people will just take a book and never return it," another neighbor worried.  My dad stopped in the middle of his work, looked right at her, and said, "That's the point.  That would be great!  If they keep it, that means they have it in their home to read again and again."  Then he told a story of when he was an elementary school principal.  Everyone worried about books not being returned to the school library.  Money was a concern, of course, but he often chose to look at the silver lining:  "Those books are now out there in the world, in homes where they can be read and enjoyed."

Here's what I put out in our library today:

~ Some board books:  Ten (Keith Haring), *Lola at the Library (Anna McQuinn & Rosalind Beardshaw), and *Max's Bedtime (Rosemary Wells).
~ Some picture books and an early reader:  *Frederick (Leo Lionni), *Mrs. McNosh and the Great Big Squash (Sarah Weeks & Nadine Bernard Westcott), and Piglet Feels Small (Jennifer Liberts).
~ Lots of middle-grade chapter books:  The Sunday Horse (Marie Gibson), *Miss Child Has Gone Wild (Dan Gutman), Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic and Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (Betty MacDonald), Runaway Ralph (Beverly Cleary), The Magic Thief (Sarah Prineas), If You're Reading This, It's Too Late, (Pseudonymous Bosch), The Battle of the Labyrinth (Rick Riordan), Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (Gary D. Schmidt).
~ A young adult novel:  *Will Grayson, Will Grayson (John Green & David Levithan).
~ Several other books:  *50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth, *Gravity: Poems (John Minczeski), Frankenstein (Mary Shelley), The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck), An Incomplete Revenge (Jacqueline Winspear).

My parents also left some inside:  Mysteries by Jonathan Kellerman, James Patterson, and John Grisham, Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter, and The Trellis and the Seed (Jan Karon).

Later in the day, I couldn't resist stopping at the used bookstore and picking up a supply of cheap but good books.  I picked out ones that we'd already read, or that I've heard good things about.  Now I've got a backup stash, to reload the library as people take books.  (The starred titles above are ones I bought there.)  I'd like to keep the selection broad, with books for readers young and old.

When do you think the library will start being used?  Which books do you think will be taken first?  Which one would you take, if any?  Do you think anyone will leave a book?

I will post a photo of our library tomorrow, and let you know it's gotten any attention yet.  I'll try to update daily for a couple of days, and then maybe weekly.  (By the way, this post was written about Friday's experience; I'll post about Saturday tomorrow.)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What I've Watched in 2012

This will be my running list of the movies/television I've watched this year. I'll link to it in my sidebar, and keep it updated.  I'm hoping to do a few posts about my viewing, too, as the year progresses.

For me:
1.  Winter's Bone
2.  An Education
3.  Inception
4.  Downton Abbey (Season 1)
5.  The Hunger Games


With dh:
1.  Doctor Who (Series 3)
2.  Doctor Who (Series 4)
3.  Doctor Who (The Complete Specials)
4.  The Artist

With the whole family:
1.  The Muppet Show (Season 2)
2.  Puss in Boots
3.  Enchanted
4.  The Sound of Music
5.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
6.  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Where I've Been

Friday, March 02, 2012

What I Read in 2012

For me:

1. The Story of Beautiful Girl (Rachel Simon)
2. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot)
3. The Scorpio Races (Maggie Stiefvater)
4. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
5. Between Shades of Gray (Ruta Sepetys)
6. State of Wonder (Ann Patchett)
7. Chime (Franny Billingsley)
8. My So-Called Life (Joanna Nadin)
9. The Life of Riley (Joanna Nadin)
10. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (Gary D. Schmidt)
11. Bossypants (Tina Fey)
12. Big Girl Small (Rachel DeWoskin)
13. The Kitchen Boy (Robert Alexander)
14. 15 Minutes Outside (Rebecca P. Cohen)
15. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (Jeanette Winterson)
16. Peace Like a River (Leif Enger)
17. Dorrie's Book (Marilyn Sachs)
18. Pure (Julianna Baggott)
19. Hoping for More (Deanna A. Thompson)
20. Mudbound (Hillary Jordan)
21. The Long Secret (Louise Fitzhugh)
22. When She Woke (Hillary Jordan)
23. Vietnamerica (GB Tran)
24. Summer of Fear (Lois Duncan)
25. The Grounding of Group 6 (Julian F. Thompson)
26. Daughters of Eve (Lois Duncan)
27. Fatal Remedies (Brunetti #8) (Donna Leon)
28. Fractured (Will Trent #2) (Karin Slaughter)
29. Pardonable Lies (Maisie Dobbs #3) (Jacqueline Winspear)
30. Imagine: How Creativity Works (Jonah Lehrer)
31. Wonder (R.J. Palacio)
32. Friends in High Places (Brunetti #9) (Donna Leon)
33. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Cheryl Strayed)
34. Doc (Mary Doria Russell)
35. This Dark Endeavor (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #1) (Kenneth Oppel)
36. Ransom (Lois Duncan)
37. Triptych (Will Trent #1) (Karin Slaughter)
38. Liar & Spy (Rebecca Stead)
39. Such Wicked Intent (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #2) (Kenneth Oppel)
40. Through Tempests Dark and Wild (Sharon Darrow)
41. Ellen Tebbits (Beverly Cleary)
42. More Baths Less Talking (Nick Hornby)
43. A Girl from Yamhill (Beverly Cleary)
44. Arcadia (Lauren Groff)
45. Silhouette of a Sparrow (Molly Beth Griffin)
46. The Raven Boys (Maggie Stiefvater)
47. The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)
48. Half Broke Horses (Jeannette Walls)
49. Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn)
50. Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers (Anne Lamott)
51. The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds (Isabel Dalhousie #9) (Alexander McCall Smith)
52. Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores (Jen Campbell)
53. The Round House (Louise Erdrich)
54. The Rhythm of Family (Amanda Blake Soule and Stephen Soule)
55. Crossed (Ally Condie)
56. French Lessons (Alice Kaplan)
57. The Chaperone (Laura Moriarty)

For/with Skye (grades 7-8):

1. The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
2. Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher)
3. Dear Bully (ed. Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones)
4. Amelia Lost (Candace Fleming)
5. Breadcrumbs (Anne Ursu)
6. Boy Meets Boy (David Levithan)
7. The House on Mango Street (Sandra Cisneros)
8. The Wednesday Wars (Gary D. Schmidt)
9. Hidden (Helen Frost)
10. Americus (M.K. Reed)
11. The Wee Free Men (Terry Pratchett)
12. A Mango-Shaped Space (Wendy Mass)
13. The Order of the Stick #1: Dungeon Crawlin' Fools (Rich Burlew)
14. The Order of the Stick #2: No Cure for the Paladin Blues (Rich Burlew)
15. Spera, Volume 1 (Josh Tierney)
16. The Order of the Stick #0: On the Origin of PCs (Rich Burlew)
17. Diamond Willow (Helen Frost)
18. Amulet #1: The Stonekeeper (Kazu Kibuishi)
19. Amulet #2: The Stonekeeper's Curse (Kazu Kibuishi)
20. Amulet #3: The Cloud Searchers (Kazu Kibuishi)
21. Amulet #4: The Last Council (Kazu Kibuishi)
22. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Grace Lin)
23. The Ogre of Oglefort (Eva Ibbotson)
24. The Giver (Lois Lowry)
25. The Order of the Stick #3: War and XPs (Rich Burlew)
26. Love Rides the Rails (or Will the Mail Train Run Tonight?) (Morland Carey)
27. The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie (Tanya Lee Stone)
28. Mercury (Hope Larson)
29. Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli)
30. Drama (Raina Telgemeier)

+ Cybils Graphic Novel Finalists:

  • Nursery Rhyme Comics (ed. Chris Duffy)
  • Sidekicks (Dan Santat)
  • Zita the Spacegirl (Ben Hatke)
  • Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword (Barry Deutsch)
  • Page by Paige (Laura Lee Gulledge)
  • Anya's Ghost (Vera Brosgol)
  • Level Up (Gene Luen Yang)
  • Bad Island (Doug Tennapel)


  • With Skye (grades 7-8) & Felix (grades 1-2):

    1. Darth Paper Strikes Back (Tom Angleberger)
    2. Half Magic (Edward Eager)
    3. Magic by the Lake (Edward Eager)
    4. The Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum)
    5. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #1: The Mysterious Howling (Maryrose Wood)
    6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (#1) (J.K. Rowling)
    7. Matilda (Roald Dahl)
    8. Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren)
    9. The Borrowers (Mary Norton)
    10. Dying to Meet You (43 Old Cemetery Road #1) (Kate Klise & M. Sarah Klise)
    11. Over My Dead Body (43 Old Cemetery Road #2) (Kate Klise & M. Sarah Klise)
    12. Nate the Great and the Lost List (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
    13. Nate the Great and the Sticky Case (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
    14. How to Train Your Dragon (#1) (Cressida Cowell)
    15. Nate the Great and the Fishy Prize (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
    16. Nate the Great and the Boring Beach Bag (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
    17. The Secret of the Fortune Wookie (Origami Yoda #3) (Tom Angleberger)
    18. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #2: The Hidden Gallery (Maryrose Wood)
    19. Henry Huggins (Beverly Cleary)
    20. Time Cat (Lloyd Alexander)
    21. Little House in the Big Woods (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
    22. You're a Bad Man, Mr. Gum! (Andy Stanton)
    23. The Cricket in Times Square (George Seldon)
    24. Comet in Moominland (Tove Jansson)
    25. The Tale of Despereaux (Kate DiCamillo)

    With Felix (grades 1-2):

    1. DSA #1: The New Kid at School (Kate McMullan)
    2. DSA #2: Revenge of the Dragon Lady (Kate McMullan)
    3. Bad Kitty Gets a Bath (Nick Bruel)
    4. DSA #3: Class Trip to the Cave of Doom (Kate McMullan)
    5. Happy Birthday, Bad Kitty (Nick Bruel)
    6. DSA #4: A Wedding for Wiglaf?
    7. Bad Kitty Meets the Baby (Nick Bruel)
    8. DSA #5: Knight for a Day (Kate McMullan)
    9. DSA #6: Sir Lancelot, Where Are You? (Kate McMullan)
    10. Bad Kitty vs. Uncle Murray (Nick Bruel)
    11. Bad Kitty for President (Nick Bruel)
    12. The Trouble with Chickens (Doreen Cronin)
    13. DSA #7: Wheel of Misfortune (Kate McMullan)
    14. Ricky Ricotta's Giant [Mighty] Robot (Dav Pilkey)
    15. The School Mouse (Dick King-Smith)
    16. DSA #8: Countdown to the Year 1000 (Kate McMullan)
    17. A Mouse Called Wolf (Dick King-Smith)
    18. DSA #9: 97 Ways to Train a Dragon (Kate McMullan)
    19. Garfield Minus Garfield (Jim Davis)
    20. DSA #10: Help! It's Parents Day at DSA (Kate McMullan)
    21. Alvin Ho #1: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things (Lenore Look)
    22. Ms. Krup Cracks Me Up! (My Weird School #21) (Dan Gutman)
    23. Mr. Burke Is Berserk! (My Weirder School #4) (Dan Gutman)
    24. Jake Drake, Class Clown (Andrew Clements)
    25. Alvin Ho #2: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters (Lenore Look)
    26. Calvin and Hobbes (Bill Watterson)
    27. Jake Drake, Teacher's Pet (Andrew Clements)
    28. Martin's Mice (Dick King-Smith)
    29. Smasher (Dick King-Smith)
    30. Mayor Hubble Is in Trouble! (My Weirder School #6) (Dan Gutman)
    31. Calvin Coconut #1: Trouble Magnet (Graham Salisbury)

    For Kids Book Club (ages 8-12):
    1. Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally) (Lisa Yee)
    2. Bobby the Brave (Sometimes) (Lisa Yee)
    3. Matilda (Roald Dahl)
    4. The Borrowers (Mary Norton)

    For Teen Book Club (ages 12+):
    1. Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher)
    2. Breadcrumbs (Anne Ursu)
    3. Boy Meets Boy (David Levithan)
    4. The Wee Free Men (Terry Pratchett)
    5. Sweetblood (Pete Hautman)
    6. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)

    Maud Hart Lovelace nominees, 2012-13 (for Kids and Teen Book Clubs):
    1. Dying to Meet You (43 Old Cemetery Road #1) (Kate Klise & M. Sarah Klise)
    2. Diamond Willow (Helen Frost)
    3. Matched (Ally Condie)
    4. Extra Credit (Andrew Clements)
    5. Go Big or Go Home (Will Hobbs)
    6. Calvin Coconut #1: Trouble Magnet (Graham Salisbury)

    Thursday, March 01, 2012

    Book #9: Magic by the Lake

    Next came a horrid interval of unloading and unpacking, but few would wish to hear about that. Suffice it to say that at last the four children emerged in their new bathing suits, and the lake was waiting. ~Edward Eager, Magic by the Lake, pp. 6-7

    After reading Half Magic aloud with my kids, they really wanted to read the next of Edward Eager’s tales. After checking out a few websites to see which one is considered “Book 2,” I learned that we could either go with Knight’s Castle, which was published next, or Magic by the Lake, which is a continuation of the story of the four children in Half Magic. I knew the kids had grown attached to this family, so I went with Magic by the Lake.

    Eager’s language is wonderful, so wonderful that I must quote him again. The family has rented a cottage for the rest of the summer, thanks to the wonderful Mr. Smith, who understands children so well. Eager explains:

    After the half magic was over, they wondered if they’d ever have any magic adventures again, and in the book about it it says it was a long time before they knew the answer. And here it was only three weeks later, and already Katharine was ready for more. But if you think three weeks isn’t a long time for four children to be without magic, I can only say that it seemed a long time to them. (p. 7)

    A few of my kids’ favorite things:
    ~ The magical turtle, who brings the magic of the lake and sometimes (grudgingly) helps the children control it.
    ~ The children’s summer adventures. It reminded my kids of their vacations at the lake!
    ~ The ending, which holds a nice and satisfying surprise.

    There were a few parts that I think scared my seven-year-old. By the middle of the book, he was starting to ask, “Everything will be okay, right?” In the book, the youngest of the children, Martha, is often afraid of the magic, and it does get a little scary. The chapter titled “The Island” was especially harrowing, not to mention being uncomfortably full of stereotypes. (I edited the language of that chapter as I read, but it was tough!)

    But overall, they enjoyed this book, and we definitely plan to continue with Eager and read Knight’s Castle, which I’ve heard great things about.  And my kids are excited to learn more about the mysterious children that these four siblings meet on one of their adventures.  Eager gives us a sly hint that we will find out more about them in another of his books.

    Be sure to check out the other Read Aloud Thursday posts at Hope Is the Word.

    Tuesday, February 28, 2012

    What's On My Nightstand: February 28

    Like last month, I am just going to post photos of what our nightstands look like right now.  Here's a peek at recent reads, what we're reading now, and what we're looking forward to.  You can also check out my sidebar for lots of my book lists.  (I love lists!)

    You can check out more What's On Your Nightstand posts here at 5 Minutes for Books.


    my nightstand, including reading with kids & DVDs
    kids' nightstand
    bottom shelf of kids' nightstand

    Monday, February 27, 2012

    Book #8: Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

    I'm on a roll with great nonfiction this year!  What's a good follow-up to Henrietta Lacks, a very readable, page-turning nonfiction book?  Well, Amelia Lost, a YA biography of Amelia Earhart, impressed me just as much.

    Candace Fleming makes Amelia's story so compelling. After a brief piece titled "Navigating History," she starts the book with the coast guard's wait for Amelia in the Pacific Ocean.  After we read about this particular landing for a rest/refuel stop -- it's a tricky one on an island in the Pacific, and so was carefully planned -- we learn that she hasn't arrived when expected, and they are beginning to worry.  Yikes!  We know the ending to this, don't we?  Or we at least know the mystery.

    Then we jump all the way back to Amelia's birth and early life.  Surprisingly, Fleming makes this story just as compelling as the disappearance.  Lots of photos and quotes from Amelia and others help her story zoom along.  Fleming alternates chapters about Amelia's life with chapters about her disappearance, and this back and forth works extremely well.  I hated to put the book down, even though I knew how it would end.  There were lots of surprises and facts that were new to me, however.

    Amelia was a unique, complicated, admirable, and extremely human person.  I think Fleming really got to know the whole Amelia while working on this book, and I could feel her excitement in sharing the story of this fascinating person with us.  I highly recommend watching the video on Candace Fleming's website, where she discusses how she works on a biography.

    I look forward to reading more of Fleming's works.  Ben FranklinEleanor RooseveltThe LincolnsP.T. Barnum!  What an interesting group of people to explore.  I can't wait.  And I am excited to see who she will bring to us next.

    Happy Nonfiction Monday!  Be sure to check out more great nonfiction today at The Children's War.

    Thursday, February 23, 2012

    Picture Books: Cybils Fiction Finalists

    My kids and I recently read all of the Cybils Fiction Picture Book finalists, and thoroughly enjoyed them.  I already wrote about Press Here and Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? here in this post, but thought I'd write a bit about the others.

    Me...Jane, a picture book biography of young Jane Goodall, won the Cybils Award for this past year.  It's truly a beautiful book, using different kinds of art:  cartoonish drawings with soft (water?)color; engravings from the 19th and early 20th century depicting animals, natural objects, and more; a few photos of Jane; and some drawings and puzzles created by Jane herself when she was young.  My kids really liked it, and I've been meaning to take a look at Dr. Goodall's Roots & Shoots program with them.

    I Had a Favorite Dress reminded me of Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (except that it's about a modern-day girl!)  When this girl discovers her favorite dress has become too small, her mother helps her cope with the loss by making it into a shirt instead.  It then becomes a tank top, then a skirt, etc.  I think all three of us were intrigued to see how this story would end.  And it's a very sweet ending.  The illustrations are cheerful and fun, imitating child's art a bit, and incorporating stitching for some of the words.

    Blackout is such a fun story.  A family and their neighbors in the city experience a blackout.  What do they do when the phone, computer, and video games no longer work?  They find some fun to experience together, of course!  And what do they do when the lights come back on?  Another sweet ending.  The artwork is fun, sometimes using a comic book style to tell the story, sometimes using a lovely two-page spread picture.  My kids loved it, and we vowed to have some family "blackout" nights together.

    I Want My Hat Back is big like a picture book, but written like an early reader; it did win a Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor.  It's a lot of fun to read aloud, and I was giggling from the start at the simple language reminiscent of Dick and Jane, but with a sardonic yet silly humor behind it all.  My kids were a bit shocked at the ending, but eventually were won over by it.  The simple drawings have a goofy humor to them, too.

    The Princess and the Pig was a book they read again and again.  This story, where a princess switches places with a pig in a far-fetched accident, had them laughing and spotting little details in the illustrations and trying to guess what would happen next.  I loved the play with fairy tales; different characters would make assessments of the crazy situations, decisively announcing, "It's the sort of thing that happens all the time in books," while holding a famous one, like Puss in Boots or Thumbelina.  The illustrations are always fun and sometimes stunningly beautiful.

    Wanna know my kids' favorites?  When asked to vote, they couldn't decide between I Want My Hat Back and The Princess and the Pig.  They announced it was a tie.

    And then they asked me to read them both again.

    Be sure to check out the other Read Aloud Thursday posts at Hope Is the Word.

    Saturday, February 18, 2012

    Book #7: The Scorpio Races

    We chose The Scorpio Races as a winter group read on the Reading Circle (see link in my sidebar).  Each season, we choose three or four books to read and discuss together, and we almost always include a young adult novel.  When we read about Maggie Stiefvater’s newest, about a community that holds deadly races on water horses every year, we were curious.

    I hadn't heard of the myth of water horses before. Stiefvater jumps right into the story, letting her characters’ voices describe their community, the water horses, and their experiences with the races.  Gradually, as I got to know the characters and the island of Thisby, I settled into their world and accepted their life and their choices.  I grew to understand the beauty, danger, and mystery of the water horses, and I felt like they were real.   I think it worked to let us get to know this place and its people (and animals) slowly, through their words and actions, instead of having a narrator set up the world for us at the beginning of the book.

    I really liked the story.  It made me think about what it might be like to live in a remote area in a small community, what people do in order to survive, and what human beings find attractive and beautiful about danger and mystery.  Also, it made me want to go horseback riding again.

    The two main characters are nicely drawn -- interesting and likable.  I could also picture many of the minor characters in my mind.  I found them and their choices all very believable.

    I listened to parts of this book on audio, and I enjoyed actually hearing the characters’ voices.  The Scorpio Races won a Michael L. Printz Honor this year, and its audiobook won an Odyssey Honor.

    Maggie Stiefvater explains her (long!) process of writing this novel here on her website, and I found it fascinating.  She also includes a book trailer, with pictures she drew and music she wrote and performed.  I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next from her.  (It looks pretty cool!)

    I haven’t yet read the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, but I think I will.

    Thursday, February 09, 2012

    Book #6: Half Magic (Edward Eager)

    Still, even without the country or a lake, the summer was a fine thing, particularly when you were at the beginning of it, looking ahead into it. There would be months of beautifully long, empty days, and each other to play with, and the books from the library. ~ Edward Eager, Half Magic

    Our local, independent used bookstore has a birthday club, and both of my kids signed up for it before they had to close the list.  Each year near their birthdays, one of the owners sends them a book and a $5 gift card in a packing envelope she decorates herself with beautiful drawings.  We fill out a card every few years with some of their favorite books, and she picks out a book just for them based on what she knows about their reading tastes.

    Half Magic is the book that came in the mail for Felix this year.  Skye had read it several years earlier and remembered enjoying it, so they both requested it as our next read-aloud.  What a lovely, magical book!  We all enjoyed it tremendously.

    As you can see from the above quote, the book is definitely a fun one for book lovers.  Eager thought E. Nesbit (who I have yet to read) was the greatest children's author of all time, and he admires other books, too, like The Wizard of Oz.  He references these directly and indirectly in his own stories.  In the first chapter of Half Magic, we learn that this summer, Jane, Mark, Katharine, and Martha have read all of E. Nesbit's books but one, and they are finally able to check out her last one from the library, The Enchanted Castle.  They read it aloud together over the next two days, and upon closing the book, Martha, the youngest, asks:
    "Why don't things like that ever happen to us?"
    "Magic never happens, not really," said Mark, who was old enough to be sure about this.
    Don't be so sure, Mark! we all thought on reading this.  Just look at the title of the book you are in!

    Of course, the children soon find some magic, and proceed to experiment with it.  Each chapter describes a magical adventure they have, and I love Eager's chapter titles:  How It Began, What Happened to Their Mother, What Happened to [insert each child's name here], How It Ended, and How It Began Again.

    Eager's writing style reminded me immediately of Jeanne Birdsall and her Penderwicks books, which Skye and I love.  After reading Half Magic, I think Felix may be ready for them soon, too.  Goody!  Jeanne is definitely a fan of both Eager and Nesbit; she posts quotes from both of them on the pages of her website, including this one from Eager's Seven-Day Magic:
    “Why couldn’t she have lived forever?” said Abby, taking that best of all Nesbit books, The Enchanted Castle, down from the shelf and looking at it with loving eyes. “We’ve read all of hers, and nobody seems to do books like that anymore.”
    So, like most good books, we not only enjoyed this one, but have added many more to our To Be Read list, including all of Edward Eager's books, some E. Nesbit, The Penderwicks (again), and The Wizard of Oz, which Felix says he wants to read next.  Can't wait!

    Be sure to check out the other Read Aloud Thursday posts at Hope Is the Word.

    Wednesday, February 08, 2012

    Book #5: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

    I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, and books like this encourage me to give more of it a try. I think this has to do with the way Rebecca Skloot tells this story. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a book about science and medicine, law and ethics, American history and race relations. Skloot takes us along with her as she learns about HeLa cells and their origin.

    In her introduction, Skloot describes how she first heard about the HeLa cells in a community college biology class when she was 16. Her teacher was explaining cell division and how normal cells can become cancer cells. He then wrote HENRIETTA LACKS on the board, and announced that Henrietta's cells helped us to understand how cancer cells work.

    From the book:

    Henrietta died in 1951 from a vicious case of cervical cancer…. But before she died, a surgeon took samples of her tumor and put them in a petri dish. Scientists had been trying to keep human cells alive in culture for decades, but they all eventually died. Henrietta’s were different: they reproduced an entire generation every twenty-four hours, and they never stopped. They became the first immortal human cells ever grown in a laboratory.

    “Henrietta’s cells have now been living outside her body far longer than they ever lived inside it,” Defler [Skloot’s professor] said. If we went to almost any cell culture lab in the world and opened its freezers, he told us, we’d probably find millions—if not billions—of Henrietta’s cells in small vials on ice.

    Her cells were part of research into the genes that cause cancer and those that suppress it; they helped develop drugs for treating herpes, leukemia, influenza, hemophilia, and Parkinson’s disease; and they’ve been used to study lactose digestion, sexually transmitted diseases, appendicitis, human longevity, mosquito mating, and the negative cellular effects of working in sewers. Their chromosomes and proteins have been studied with such detail and precision that scientists know their every quirk. Like guinea pigs and mice, Henrietta’s cells have become the standard laboratory workhorse.

    “HeLa cells were one of the most important things that happened to medicine in the last hundred years,” Defler said.

    Then, matter-of-factly, almost as an afterthought, he said, “She was a black woman.” He erased her name in one fast swipe and blew the chalk from his hands. Class was over.

    As the other students filed out of the room, I sat thinking, That’s it? That’s all we get? There has to be more to the story.

    I followed Defler to his office.

    “Where was she from?” I asked. “Did she know how important her cells were? Did she have any children?”

    “I wish I could tell you,” he said, “but no one knows anything about her.”

    (You can read more of this excerpt from the book here.)


    These questions stayed with Skloot, and inspired her to pursue this story. Over the next 20 years, she worked to find answers to her questions, spending the last ten years doing intensive research. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks describes her research process, her experiences writing the book, and the many people she met and got to know.

    I am very excited to hear this book is being adapted into a Young Reader’s Edition; I think my daughter would find it fascinating and touching. Rebecca Skloot’s website is wonderful, with lots of resources for teachers and students, including more photos, audio clips from Rebecca’s interview tapes, information about her writing process, video of HeLa cells dividing, and more.

    Everyone I know who’s read this book feels the same way I did: Read it!

    Friday, February 03, 2012

    Book #4: Thirteen Reasons Why (+ Dear Bully)

    Since it's Poetry Friday, I’m going to start this post off with a little poem from this young adult novel:

    If my love were an ocean,
    there would be no more land.
    If my love were a desert,
    you would see only sand.
    If my love were a star –
    late at night, only light,
    And if my love could grow wings,
    I’d be soaring in flight.


    This book really touched my daughter.  We both read it for the teen book group I co-lead at our neighborhood library, and I'm really looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say about Thirteen Reasons Why when we meet this weekend.  It's a difficult read, telling the story of Hannah Baker, in her own words.  It's the story of why she committed suicide.


    Skye is only twelve, and so I wondered how she’d handle reading about such a painful topic. She read it on her own, and we discussed it every day or two. She was usually a little ahead of me in the story, and she’d tell me a bit of what was coming up (being careful to ask if I minded spoilers.) One day, she said, “Hannah wrote this beautiful poem, Mom. Want me to say it for you?” And she recited the poem above – she’d memorized it. It was lovely to hear it in her voice! She admired Hannah’s ability to describe a great big love, as well as her talent with rhyme and rhythm. She found the poem to be both happy and sad, expressing a bittersweet feeling.  In the book, Hannah makes fun of her poem a bit, but I love its innocence and pure beauty, and I love that my daughter saw that, too.

    After reading this book, I requested Dear Bully from the library, which I had heard about on on Lee Wind’s blog. It’s a book of stories, poems, and essays about bullying, written by 70 young adult authors. They describe their own experiences and observations, as well as their hopes and dreams. Some are from the point of view of the victim, and others describe what it’s like to be the bully. Still more discuss being someone on the sidelines, watching the bullying, unsure of what to do about it.

    Skye loves this one, also. She hasn’t come to any finite conclusions about bullying because of it – she’s still baffled by and angry with those who do it, and confused about how we can stop it. But both Dear Bully and Thirteen Reasons Why have certainly provided lots of opportunities for discussion between us. I think both books encourage and empower kids to speak out about bullying they experience or observe, and know that they aren’t alone in their feelings.  I think it's also a great book for adults to read.

    A huge thank you to Jay Asher, author of Thirteen Reasons Why, and Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones, editors of Dear Bully, for taking on these important topics to help our teens. Be sure to visit their websites – click on their names for the links – as there are some wonderful things there.

    And for more poetry this Friday, head over to Karissa’s blog, The Iris Chronicles.

    Sunday, January 29, 2012

    What I Read in 2011

    For me:

    1. Dash & Lily's Book of Dares (Rachel Cohn & David Levithan)
    2. Too Much Happiness (Alice Munro)
    3. Ethel and Ernest: A True Story (Raymond Briggs)
    4. The River Wife (Jonis Agee)
    5. Excellent Women (Barbara Pym)
    6. His Dark Materials #2: The Subtle Knife (Philip Pullman)
    7. His Dark Materials #3: The Amber Spyglass (Philip Pullman)
    8. Detective Kubu #1: A Carrion Death (Michael Stanley)
    9. Lyra's Oxford (Philip Pullman)
    10. Keeper (Kathi Appelt)
    11. A Visit from the Goon Squad (Jennifer Egan)
    12. The Outlander (Gil Adamson)
    13. Juliet (Anne Fortier)
    14. Next (James Hynes)
    15. Artemis Fowl (Eoin Colfer)
    16. The Dreamer (Pam Muñoz Ryan)
    17. The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie (Wendy McClure)
    18. Little House in the Big Woods (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
    19. Little House on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
    20. Aesop & Company: With Scenes From His Legendary Life (Barbara Bader& Arthur Geisert)
    21. The Sojourn (Andrew Krivak)
    22. The Tiger's Wife (Téa Obreht)
    23. The Blue Castle (L.M. Montgomery)
    24. Bad Marie (Marcy Dermansky)
    25. Lamentations of the Father: Essays (Ian Frazier)
    26. Empire State: A Love Story (or Not) (Jason Shiga)
    27. Because of Winn-Dixie (Kate DiCamillo)
    28. Skinny Dip (Carl Hiaasen)
    29. Warped (Maurissa Guibord)
    30. The Princess Bride (William Goldman)
    31. Wonderstruck (Brian Selznick)
    32. The Keep (Jennifer Egan)
    33. The Guy Not Taken: Stories (Jennifer Weiner)
    34. Inside Out and Back Again (Thanhha Lai)
    35. Through No Fault of My Own: A Girl's Diary of Life on Summit Avenue in the Jazz Age (Coco Irvine)
    36. Red Bird (Mary Oliver)
    37. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)
    38. The Brontes Went to Woolworths: A Novel (Rachel Ferguson)
    39. The Forgotten Affairs Of Youth: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel #8 (Alexander McCall Smith)
    40. The Talisman Ring (Georgette Heyer)
    41. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Brian Selznick)


    For/with Skye (grades 6-7):

    1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid #5: The Ugly Truth (Jeff Kinney)
    2. Flight Explorer, Volume 1 (ed. Kazu Kibuishi)
    3. His Dark Materials #1: The Golden Compass (Philip Pullman)
    4. Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword (Barry Deutsch)
    5. Enchanted Forest Chronicles #1: Dealing with Dragons (Patricia C. Wrede)
    6. Prime Baby (Gene Luen Yang)
    7. Please Write in This Book (Mary Amato)
    8. American Born Chinese (Gene Luen Yang)
    9. A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle)
    10. The Eternal Smile: Three Stories (Gene Luen Yang)
    11. The Saga of Rex (Michel Gagné)
    12. The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)
    13. Uglies #1: Uglies (Scott Westerfeld)
    14. Foiled (Jane Yolen)
    15. The Penderwicks #3: The Penderwicks at Point Mouette (Jeanne Birdsall)
    16. Leviathan #1: Leviathan (Scott Westerfeld)
    17. Uglies #2: Pretties (Scott Westerfeld)
    18. The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman)
    19. Epic (Conor Kostick)
    20. A Tale Dark & Grimm (Adam Gidwitz)
    21. Uglies #3: Specials (Scott Westerfeld)
    22. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
    23. Chasing Vermeer (Blue Balliett)
    24. Moon Over Manifest (Clare Vanderpool)
    25. Skellig (David Almond)
    26. Toad of Toad Hall (A.A. Milne)
    27. The Circuit (Francisco Jiménez)
    28. Anya's Ghost (Vera Brosgol)
    29. The Wild Girls (Pat Murphy)
    30. Crows and Cards (Joseph Helgerson)
    31. When You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead)


    With Skye (grades 6-7) & Felix (grades K-1):

    1. Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (Betty MacDonald)
    2. The Doll People (Ann M. Martin, Laura Godwin, & Brian Selznick)
    3. Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business (Barbara Park)
    4. The Boxcar Children (Gertrude Chandler Warner)
    5. My Father's Dragon (Ruth Stiles Gannett)
    6. Elmer And The Dragon (Ruth Stiles Gannett)
    7. The Dragons Of Blueland (Ruth Stiles Gannett)
    8. Mr. Popper's Penguins (Richard Atwater)
    9. Beezus and Ramona (Beverly Cleary)
    10. The Runaway Dolls (Ann M. Martin, Laura Godwin, & Brian Selznick)
    11. Winnie-the-Pooh (A.A. Milne)
    12. The Mouse And The Motorcycle (Beverly Cleary)
    13. Toys Go Out (Emily Jenkins)
    14. Runaway Ralph (Beverly Cleary)
    15. Toy Dance Party (Emily Jenkins)
    16. Ralph S. Mouse (Beverly Cleary)
    17. Toys Come Home (Emily Jenkins)
    18. Clementine (Sara Pennypacker)
    19. Betsy-Tacy and Tib (Maud Hart Lovelace)
    20. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Tom Angleberger)
    21. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Barbara Robinson)
    22. The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame, abridged & illustrated by Inga Moore)


    With Felix (grades K-1):

    1. Magic Tree House #8: Midnight On The Moon (Mary Pope Osborne)
    2. Magic Tree House #5: Night Of The Ninjas (Mary Pope Osborne)
    3. Magic Tree House #12: Polar Bears Past Bedtime (Mary Pope Osborne)
    4. Dinosaur Cove #9: Tracking The Diplodocus (Rex Stone)
    5. Junie B. Jones Is Captain Field Day (Barbara Park)
    6. Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy (Barbara Park)
    7. My Weird School #5: Miss Small Is off the Wall! (Dan Gutman)
    8. My Weird School #9: Miss Lazar Is Bizarre! (Dan Gutman)
    9. Bailey School Kids #47: Frankenstein Doesn't Start Food Fights (Debbie Dadey& Marcia Thornton Jones)
    10. Bailey School Kids #6: Frankenstein Doesn't Plant Petunias (Debbie Dadey& Marcia Thornton Jones)
    11. Bailey School Kids #24: Dragons Don't Cook Pizza (Debbie Dadey& Marcia Thornton Jones)
    12. Bailey School Kids #5: Ghosts Don't Eat Potato Chips (Debbie Dadey& Marcia Thornton Jones)
    13. Magic Tree House #9: Dolphins at Daybreak (Mary Pope Osborne)
    14. My Weirder School #1: Miss Child Has Gone Wild! (Dan Gutman)

    Thursday, January 26, 2012

    Book #3: Darth Paper Strikes Back


    My daughter Skye and I got to see Tom Angleberger last October at our local independent children’s bookstore. What a treat! He was funny and lively and great with the kids. He did some silly juggling tricks, drew pictures, folded a huge Origami Yoda, and made us all laugh a lot.

    He asked us which character we thought he was most like in middle school. (Do you know?) He told us there would be a third book, and had all of us guess who would be on its cover. (He couldn’t tell us yet – publisher’s rule – but told us to keep an eye on his website for announcements. Who would you like to see?) He signed books, drawing a picture in each one and taking the time to chat with every kid.

    Skye and I agreed that Felix would have had a blast at his talk, and that we should have brought him along. She got an Origami Yoda book signed for him, and told him all about our afternoon. I didn’t think a first grader would be interested in hearing a story about middle school students, but when they both requested Yoda for our next read aloud, we gave it a try.

    Felix loved it! He laughed a lot at my terrible Yoda voice (but Dwight’s is terrible, too, right?) and he enjoyed the format of the story, how in each chapter, Dwight/Yoda helped someone. (Hey, sort of like Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Just noticed that. Hmm. Kinda cool.)

    We had just as much fun with Darth Paper Strikes Back. This time, I got to do a terrible Darth voice, too. Felix enjoyed correcting my breathing technique. They both made me repeat any scenes where someone disagrees with Origami Yoda, so that they could squeal with laughter. Example:

    Dwight held up Origami Yoda and croaked, “Dress rehearsals you must start.”

    “But the play is three weeks away!” I said.

    “Dress rehearsals you must start!”

    “But—“

    “DRESS REHEARSALS YOU MUST START!!”

    “But—“

    “MUST!”

    So we did.

    Try reading that aloud in a terrible Yoda voice and see if it doesn’t make you squeal with laughter, too.

    And I don’t want to give anything away, but I loved the ending, especially when Dwight’s mom finally gets it. We’ll definitely be checking out the next book.

    Be sure to check out the other Read Aloud Thursday posts at Hope Is the Word.


    P.S.  In reading Tom's bio, I learned that his wife, Cece Bell, is also a children's author/illustrator.  Check out this great interview with her on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  She won me over immediately when I saw that first photo of her reading Miss Piggy's Guide to Life.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    What's On My Nightstand: January 24

    Via Hope Is the Word, I just discovered a fun meme:  What's on Your Nightstand hosted by 5 Minutes for Books.  Every fourth Tuesday of the month, bloggers share what they are currently reading and/or what they are looking forward to.  Click here to read more about this meme, and click here to participate today.

    This month, I'm just going to post photos of my nightstand and the kids' reading sidetable.  I thought it would be a fun exercise to see what these look like each month.  Some are books we read in January, some we're reading now, and some we are looking forward to.  Can't guarantee we'll get to them all this coming month, but we're optimists!  I also keep a list in my sidebar of past, current, and future reads, as well as yearly book lists.  (Still working on 2011, and hoping to post that soon.)

    
    my nightstand -- DVDs, too!
    
    kids' sidetable -- notice the origami yoda inspiration
    
    bottom shelf of kids' sidetable -- picture books
    

    Monday, January 23, 2012

    ALA Book Awards!

    I knew they'd be announced this morning, so I started by doing a Google search to find the winners.  Then I thought, "I should just check the blogs I'm following."  Annie Cardi's blog immediately popped up with this link to the announcement.  Hooray for book bloggers!

    Like I posted on Annie's site, I’m happy that Inside Out & Back Again got an honor; I love that book. And hooray for Wonderstruck — I hadn’t thought of it for the Schneider, but that’s perfect. Yay for the amazing Kadir Nelson!

    What are your thoughts on seeing the winners?

    Lots of titles new to me to explore. I think that’s what I love the most about book awards.  Off to place some library requests...

    Friday, January 20, 2012

    Poetry Friday: I Like Winter

    I woke up this morning to snow falling.  Hooray!  We've had so little of it here in Minnesota this winter, and it feels so strange, especially with the crazy warm temperatures.  But yesterday we braved sub-zero temperatures, and today we are supposed to get an inch or two of snow.  This is more like it.

    My mom sang to us a lot when we were kids.  She also read to us a lot.  She'd make up songs for the poems she'd read in books.  Whenever it snows, I hear my mom singing her made up tune for Lois Lenski's I Like Winter:

    I like winter, I like snow.
    I like icy winds that blow.
    I like snowflakes, oh so light,
    Making all the ground so white.

    Sometimes, I sing it to my kids.  And they don't complain too much, because they like snow, too.  They were so happy this morning!

    You can take a peek inside the book here at Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves, a blog I just discovered when looking for info about this book and Lois Lenski.  Isn't it neat (the book and the blog)?  I remember studying all the details in Lenski's simple, colorful drawings.  Looking at the sheet music for the song, I think my mom must have started trying to follow it with her tune, but then went off with her own  improvisation.

    To learn more about Lois Lenski, you can read about her here at the Ohioana Authors website.

    It's Poetry Friday!  This week, Wild Rose Reader is the host.  Head on over to her blog to enjoy some more poetry today.  It's a great way to find some blogs that may be new to you.  I love the idea of celebrating poetry every week.  I've needed that reminder.  I just got out our copy of I Like Winter, along with a poetry book we got for Christmas, to share with the kids when they get home from school today.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    Bring on the Book Battles!

    I love this time of year.  'Tis the season of the book battles!  I like to follow these four:

    The Cybils:  Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards

    They announced the finalists on New Year's Day, and the winners will be announced on Valentine's Day.  I know some bloggers are doing a Cybils Challenge, trying to read all of the finalists before they announce the winners.  I think the kids & I will read all of the picture books, and maybe I'll get to the elementary/middle grade graphic novels, too, which Skye may also read.  (Hey, I just noticed I've read two of the five nominees already, and I'm in the middle of a third!)  Check out past finalists and winners in the sidebar on the Cybils website.  They've been doing this since 2006.

    School Library Journal's Battle of the Kids' Books

    I've been peeking in here, hoping for some news, and guess what?  They posted a little update yesterday!  Hooray!  Can't wait to see the titles that will be facing off this year.  I'm not sure when they announced the contenders last year, but the battles started on March 15.  (While you're waiting along with me, check out the 2010 and 2009 battles.)


    The Morning News' Tournament of Books

    Currently, the link above sends you to the announcement about this year's contenders & judges in the tournament of books.  The website still shows the final battle from 2011, and if you haven't ever followed it, that's not where you should start, so instead I'll link you to the pre-game primer from last year.  From there, you can travel down the right sidebar (no peeking!) and relive the magic.  At the bottom of the sidebar you'll find links to all the tournaments; they go back to 2005.  Last year, the opening round started on March 8.


    The Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award

    This is a children's choice award.  There are two book lists of nominees, one for grades 3-5, and one for grades 6-8.  Kids need to read at least three of the titles, and then they can vote for their favorite through their library or school.  (We are doing this with the kids' book club I co-lead at our neighborhood library.)  The winners are announced every year on Maud's birthday, April 25. The list of past winners goes back to 1980.

    Have you been inspired to read any books because of battles like these?  I'm sure I'll be writing more about these contests as we progress through the winter.