Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Must-Read Kids' Books from NPR

I think I'm suffering from list overload. Most of my Facebook friends are readers, and we love to post lists and check off how many books from each list we've read. Because we're well-read, yo. But I got tired of seeing lists prominently featuring gems like the Twilight series (okay, I actually did read the first book), and my scores were suffering because of this, people!

So when I started seeing links to the Ultimate Backseat Bookshelf: 100 Must-Reads For Kids 9-14, I was like, yeah, right, whatever, and what's up with this BACKSEAT business, anyway? I can't read in the car. I didn't even click. So the list is a couple of days old now (forever in internet time) and I'm just now getting around to looking at it and HOLY COW, this is actually a good list.

The Backseat Book Club is apparently NPR's book club for young readers. To create the list, they did solicit audience nominations, but they also recruited a stellar panel of experts to curate and create the final list. And it's worth perusing, printing, and posting prominently wherever children are to be found. It includes books from the 19th century (Little Women) to present day (Bomb) and a variety of genres/subject areas (American Stories, Animal Kingdom, Biography/Memoir/History, Everyday Magic, Family Life, Fantasy Worlds, Friendships and Finding Your Place, Good For a Laugh, Graphic Novels, Mysteries and Thrillers, Myths and Fairy Tales, Poetry, Science Fiction, Survival and Adventure).

Several of my favorite series are included, although the Betsy-Tacy series is missing, and for some reason only The Saturdays is included from Elizabeth Enright's Melendy Quartet.

For the record, I've read 57 out of 100. And I'm adding at least some of the others to my to-read list.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fangirling

I've had the opportunity to see a favorite author two weeks in a row now!

Last Saturday, I logged onto Twitter and happened to notice that Laurel Snyder (author of Penny Dreadful and Bigger Than a Bread Box) was in Portland to do a reading! The reading was only a couple of hours from then, and across town, but I managed to get my husband to come home with the car in time, and convinced two of my daughters to come along.

Ms. Snyder was an excellent speaker for participants of all ages. Her reading was actually part of an event sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, so she read from one her picture books, Good Night, laila tov, as well as Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher. But she also showed us some of her earliest writing, from when she was a child, and encouraged the children to do their own storytelling, saying that any time they are playing and making up stories, if they write down those stories, they are authors! I bet she does excellent classroom visits. She was also kind and approachable and we were happy to meet her. I would have gotten a book for signing, but unfortunately Powell's did not have her novels available (only the picture books).

This weekend, we had tickets to a free lecture by Lois Lowry, who was in town for the world premiere of a stage adaptation of her book, Gathering Blue (second book in The Giver Quartet, but stands alone perfectly well). The lecture was actually a panel with Lowry, playwright Eric Coble, and director Stan Foote.  It was interesting, but I was also on the verge of tears the entire time, because, LOIS LOWRY!  The panel discussed the process of adapting a novel as a play, as well as the banned/challenged books issue, and took questions from the audience. Lowry mentioned, in response to questions, that her favorite of her own books is Autumn Street, which she said is very autobiographical and tells about a significant time in her family. She also shared that she never meant to write sequels to The Giver; she didn't even connect Gathering Blue with The Giver until she was nearly finished with it. And, she said that she broke into publishing children's fiction because a publisher read a magazine story she'd written for adults that was told from a child's point of view, and asked her to write a novel. And so, she wrote and published her first novel, A Summer to Die, which was one of my favorites for a while.

We stayed for the play as well, which was excellent, but afterward I got to have my fangirl moment. Lowry had also stayed to watch the play (even though she'd already seen the dress rehearsal), and afterward she took a picture with the cast in the lobby. Yes, I snapped my own picture, but I also waited around to say hello, and to thank her for the talk and for her books. I didn't want to be obnoxious, so I didn't ask for an autograph or for my own picture (they'd announced before the event that she wasn't signing, too). But I did get to speak to her! Yay!






Monday, December 31, 2012

Kathleen's 2012 in Books

None of us has posted much this year, but we've definitely been reading. My goal was to read at least 100 new-to-me books this year, and I made that easily -- I've read 111, not including re-reads (and I do re-read a good number of books each year; I just don't track them).

So, here are some of my stats from Goodreads:

Books I rated 5 Stars
There are 11 of these, which is more than I thought there were. Toward the end of the year I felt like I was being really picky and hadn't given out five stars for a LONG time. You can click the titles to see my reviews

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, Heidi W. Durrow
The Mighty Miss Malone, Christopher Paul Curtis
Ish, Peter H. Reynolds
The Dot, Peter H. Reynolds
A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness
Greensleeves, Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Anastasia on Her Own, Lois Lowry
How Girls Can Help Their Country, Juliette Gordon Low
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed
Countdown, Deborah Wiles
The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Rae Carson

Books I rated 3 and 4 Stars
I gave 56 books four stars, and 40 books three stars. You can click the links to see which books.

Books I rated 2 Stars
Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
A Northern Light, Jennifer Donnelly
Little Women and Me, Lauren Baratz-Logsted

One Star and Lower
I didn't give any books one star. In fact, it appears that I've only got two one-star books in my entire Goodreads history. Why? I think I'm at least somewhat picky about what I read. I pick things I know I'll be interested in. But I also tend to put the book down unfinished if I really don't like it. I have only one of those this year - Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad. It just wasn't for me. And I've currently got Les Miserables unfinished and on hold. I plan to see the movie musical, and I'd never read the novel, so I thought I'd read it, but it's been quite a slog. I mean, I can see why it's considered a great story, but it's also a difficult read.

Other stats
Total pages: 32,355
Longest book: 11/22/63, Stephen King, 849 pages
Shortest books: Ish and The Dot at 32 pages each. Okay, I may have read a few more picture books as well. I have a 7-year-old to whom I read aloud. But I don't keep track of all of those books.
Publication dates: 26 of these books were published in 2012. Only 15 of the books I read were originally published in the 20th century. The remainder were published from 2000-2011.

Book formats
I didn't officially track how many paper books vs. e-books I read, but by my count I read 51 of 111 as e-books (most through library loan), and I think the amount of e-book reading I did increased over the course of the year. There are still many books not available through the library's e-book program, but it's gotten better. I don't have a full-size e-reader, but I usually do my bedtime reading on my phone now.

Books I re-read
I don't track the books I re-read, but I can tell you what some of them are. I generally re-read these each year.

The Betsy-Tacy series
The Little House series
The Dark Is Rising Sequence
Louisa May Alcott: Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys, Eight Cousins, Rose in Bloom, An Old-Fashioned Girl, Jack and Jill, Under the Lilacs
The Anne of Green Gables series
Tam Lin, Pamela Dean

I usually re-read several Madeleine L'Engle books (but not always the same ones), and there are many others that I will pull off the shelf and re-read, or read with my girls.

Currently Reading

As we prepare to ring in the new year, I'm reading Stephen King's Under the Dome.
























Saturday, December 8, 2012

Warehousing

Today I did something I've been wanting to do for years: I went to the Scholastic Books Warehouse Sale!

Now, I know Scholastic has had their problems. And they're not a local, independent bookstore. In fact, I felt a little dirty afterward, like I'd been shopping at Walmart or something. But, books! For kids! My kids, and students I work with. Half price, or even better!

Aside from Christmas presents, I wanted books for kids to read in the computer lab when they're finished taking tests, and also for my before-school reading area. This year, I'm on duty outside the front door for 15 minutes before school. There's one bench near the front door, which a lot of kids would like to sit on, so I made a rule that they could sit there only if they read (and if space allows). I have a bunch of books that were library discards, or that were left behind and never reclaimed, but many of them do not hold the kids' interest, or they have gotten tired of them. So I was specifically looking for high-interest books that could be read in short spurts. I ended up with some easy-to-read sports biographies, a book about President Obama, and another election-themed book (hey, the election's over, but I figure it's still a familiar topic), as well as copies of Holes, A Wrinkle in Time and Clementine's Letter.

But I'm disappointed by what I didn't find: non-fiction books about women athletes, or really, any prominent women or girls who aren't actors or singers. There are plenty of princess-themed books, High School Musical books, and biographies of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon stars. And Taylor Swift. But no Gabby Douglas, Venus Williams, or Missy Franklin? Not Michelle Obama or Hillary Clinton? J.K. Rowling? Or any of thousands of other women doing great things?

The only thing I saw was a nice, gift-type hardcover about Coretta Scott King, which appeared to be on an African-American-themed table. And that's great, but it wasn't what I needed -- I bought inexpensive and easy-to-read paperbacks.

Now, Scholastic does list books about some of these women online. I suppose it's possible they were there and I didn't find them, or that they'd already been bought out (which would be great!), but I did look pretty thoroughly, and I would have at least expected books about female athletes to be shelved near books about male athletes.

Aside from that, the warehouse sale was definitely worth shopping. I got everything for 50% off, including 50% off on books that were stickered with a special, final price of $2.50-5.00. My final total was $30.25 for 13 brand-new books. They also had a section where you could fill a box with books for $24.95, but I didn't like the selection available (mostly Disney and such). I was told that sometimes the selection is better, though.

The Portland warehouse sale is open through December 18 (closed on Sundays), and Scholastic does hold warehouse sales in many cities throughout the United States (check here for listings and info). Despite my concerns, I would recommend it as a low-cost option for gift-buying and to acquire books for classrooms.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

No Sunday Brunch

Once I tweeted "Does anyone else feel like they're just killing time on Sunday until Peter posts the Sunday Brunch?" And I know at least a few people felt the same way, because they retweeted it.

The loss of Peter D. Sieruta is a tremendous one, especially for his family, whom he mentioned frequently on his blog, but felt by many who never met him.

The influence of Collecting Children's Books on this blog can't be overstated. I wanted nothing but to be a pale cousin of Peter's blog. He wrote lovely, long posts without a hint of self-advertisement--or ANYTHING-advertisement, except the love of reading. It was always clear that his blog was just for reading and discussing books; he never tried to sell anything or convince anyone of anything. If he ever had any goals about "monetization" or increasing readership, it didn't show. Peter shared with the Six Boxes sisters a deep interest in the oldest books and the newest books. Like us, he seemed less interested in writing reviews and most interested in discussion of books in general, as well as in the little oddities that made his blog a frequent topic of conversation between us, when we wondered either "how can that be?" or "how can we not have known that?" We are greatly looking forward to his book, written with Betsy and Jules.

Peter knew a lot, but he was also quick to research any question that came up. It's hard to imagine going into Newbery Season without Peter here to answer questions about "would this be the first Newbery winner that---" and "has there ever been a year where---".

Every once in a while, I was able to pounce with glee on some small error or omission about Newbery history or the older books we both loved. Peter was never defensive or at all put out by this; rather than trying to minimize it, more than anything else, he seemed to delight in the new knowledge. This is uncanny in a blogger. It's uncanny in anyone.

I wonder whether Peter was working on a new Sunday Brunch post while he was laid up with his broken ankle. I wonder what he would have posted about--maybe the new movie of Madeleine L'Engle's Camilla Dickinson, which I would have loved discussing with him. I wonder whether he had already read this year's Newbery winner. Even though I know there will be many Newbery winners yet to come that he should have had a chance to read and won't, I have an irrationally sentimental hope that he did get to read the 2012 winner.

This post isn't particularly representative of Peter's work, but it is a delightful one that I have often thought of, with a smile. Do you remember the hat Aretha Franklin wore to President Obama's inauguration? I especially like the Giver wearing The Hat.

Thank you, Peter.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Now playing

This year's Seattle International Film Festival features adaptations of two young adult books which have little in common except that I really liked both the books--and the movies sound good too. Fat Kid Rules the World, based on the novel by K. L. Going, was filmed in Seattle. I missed it at SIFF, but look forward to seeing how the humor and punk rock music come through on film at a future screening.
Camilla Dickinson, based on the 1951 novel by Madeleine L'Engle, premieres tonight. I am so excited to see it, even though I have avoided all previous L'Engle film adaptations. Somehow I have high hopes for Camilla. It probably has something to do with how, upon first hearing about the movie a few months ago, I went to the movie website, and said, "OMG that's Pompilia Riccioli!" I look forward to seeing Camilla's New York, which I have walked so many times on the page, on screen.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hungry for the Hunger Games?

Wendy made me read The Hunger Games AGES ago (my Goodreads account says November 30, 2008). I enjoyed it and gave it four stars, but never sought out the sequels and read them (I think Catching Fire was never available at the library, and I never cared enough to put it on hold).

And so, I am not one of those who has tickets to see the movie at midnight. I probably won't even go to see it in a theater, unless my 12-year-old daughter insists.

She did insist that I read Catching Fire, though, which she just checked out from the middle school library and read. And so I did, staying up well after I was ready for bed last night to finish it. I liked it quite as well as the first one (which is to say, liked it a whole lot, but don't think it's the best thing ever), and we're moving on to Mockingjay over spring break.

I do see why people become obsessed with the world of The Hunger Games. It is a well-developed and well-described world, and one does become immersed in it, as well as the story, while reading. That's why I found this map of Panem, and the description of how it was made, intriguing. V. Arrow is also the author of the upcoming unofficial book, The Panem Companion. Arrow (and collaborator "badguys") combined what we know about the districts of Panem from the books with possible geological and climate-change catastrophes to come up with a spiral-based map of Panem (formerly North America). No, it isn't entirely plausible -- but it's fiction anyway, right?