"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

TTT: Halloween-themed books I've never read (but may consider reading in the future)

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween-themed books I've never read (but may consider reading in the future)

I am not much for scary books but these books keep showing up on must-read lists so I might consider reading them in the future. Please let me know if you think any of these books are worth the effort and the fright they will cause me.

1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959) it is considered one of the most terrifying tales of the 20th century.

2. The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales by Edgar Allan Poe (1839) I think I read a bit of Poe in junior high but haven't touched it sense. The title story is supposed to have one of the ghastliest conclusions of any ghost story.

3. The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton (1937) I haven't heard of this book before but I like this author and would consider giving one of the stories a try.

4. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897 I actually have the audiobook version of Dracula so I have no excuse for not listening to it.

5. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898) considered to be quite unsettling but not overtly creepy.

6. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (1962) probably not the creepiest book on the list so I might pick this one up first. I like Bradbury's writing style.

7. It by Stephen King (1987) I put this down but I sincerely doubt I could ever make myself read it. I get scared by the previews of the movie.

8. Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories by Roald Dahl (1984) Perhaps this collection would be tame enough for me to conquer but Dahl said this about the books: "Spookiness is, after all, the real purpose of the ghost story," Dahl writes. "It should give you the creeps and disturb your thoughts."

9. The Girls by Emma Cline (2016) Not intended as a ghost story but described as "haunting."

10. The Worst Best Halloween Ever by Barbara Robinson (2004) I actually want to read this book. I loved Robinson's first book, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

What is your favorite scary book!


Monday, October 30, 2017

Nonfiction November 2017...begins today

What a perfect challenge for me: Nonfiction November 2017

As you know I am a round one judge for the Cybils, for the JH/SH Nonfiction category. Since I am reading nonfiction at a ferocious rate, why not join in with others who are also reading a lot of nonfiction?

Here are the particulars: Nonfiction November 2017 is co-hosted this year by Sarah at Sarah's Bookshelf, Katie at Doing Dewey, Lory at Emerald City Book Review, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, and Julz at Julz Reads. Every week there will be a question to answer or a topic to discuss. Today's topic is:

Your Year in Nonfiction: Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

Number of nonfiction books I've read all or part of so far this year: 31.

My favorite nonfiction read of the year so far:

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
I love learning new things when I read nonfiction and this book was a treasure trove of new information to me about plants, especially tress, and how to operate a scientific experiment. Hope Jahren is also a woman who struggles with aspects of her mental health and this book provided insights into the creative side of the mind while balancing it with good self-care. I thought this would also be the nonfiction book I recommended the most to readers but after I ran through recommending it to my Science-teacher-type friends I haven't told anyone else to read it. (Published in 2016)

I also suspect that my current audiobook: You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie will become my favorite nonfiction of the year once I am done with it. It is powerful and moving.

The nonfiction book I've recommended the most:
A Dog in the Cave: Wolves Who Made Us Human by Kay Frydenborg
This book does a fantastic job of summing up all the research on mankind's relationship with wolves and the evolution of wolves into dogs. I learned so much and was so fascinated by all the information she shared about the fossil records of dogs, the possibility that dogs actually allowed us to be human, and current research on dogs, man's best friend, today. I have found myself talking about this book to just about anyone who will listen.


The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Secret to Happy Living by Meik Wiking. I didn't especially like the book but I have talked about the concept of hygge endlessly since I finished it. Click the hyperlink if you are curious about it.

What topics haven't I read enough about yet this year?
  • Politics...I am so upset about the state of affairs with our current President, one would think I would read more on the topic to make myself more conversant. Any recommendations?
  • Memoirs...I've read several biographies but not really any memoirs this year
  • The Beatles...ha! I am on a total Beatles kick right now and I have read four books on the Fab Four already, am currently reading another, and have one in the wings. But I am sure that I haven't read enough. It seems to be an insatiable topic for me.
What I hope to get out of participation in Nonfiction November: since I am a Cybils judge for nonfiction I am going to attempt to read at least 50 pages of all of the nominated books, which right now numbers 65. I already had that goal before signing up to join in with Nonfiction November activities but I will keep it as my goal.  Currently I shall attempt to read enough of five books per week to evaluate them properly. Right now I am reading Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal'd by Mary Losure. Next up: Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution. 

I shall close now and will go sign up on the Linky so that others know I am participating and then...back to the books!  Join me.


Upcoming topics: 
Week 2: (Nov. 6 to 10) — Sarah @ Sarah’s Book Shelves — Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.
Week 3: (Nov. 13 to 17) — Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness — Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).
Week 4: (Nov. 20 to 24) — Katie @ Doing Dewey — Nonfiction Favorites: We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.
Week 5: (Nov. 27 to Dec. 1) — Lory @ Emerald City Book Review — New to My TBR: It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

My Beatlemania...Part Two

As promised (You haven't been holding your breath, I hope) here is my second installment or report on the progress of my latent Beatlemania. (In case you missed it, here is the link to the first Beatlemania report.)

Since Sirius Radio introduced a Beatles Channel in May I've been all about the Beatles...again. I say AGAIN because I was all about the Beatles when I was young and then, like almost everyone, I got over their breakup and got on with my life. But I decided that this new Beatlemania brings me back to the original question, "Why, oh why, did the Beatles breakup?" Ultimately, I have decided, that is the question people want an answer to and yet no answer is adequate because, after all, whatever the answer they never got back together.

Several years ago a married couple whom we were good friends with suddenly got a divorce. We were in shock. We didn't know anything was wrong with their marriage, yet they were unwilling to reconcile and that was it. We were  devastated. It was as if we were thrown out at the same time as the divorce. Of course we looked around to blame someone for our loss and decided it was the wife's fault, since she had been unfaithful to her husband. Whoever was guilty, the relationship was over and we never had any chance at a good resolution as far as our friendship was concerned.

I tell this sad little tale just to remind myself that is what happened to most of us when the Beatles broke-up in 1970. None of us saw it coming and we weren't prepared for it. We loved all four of the Beatles but we needed to blame someone so for many people it was either Paul's fault or John's. We let our anger reside on that person and looked around for confirmation of our position. I decided that I needed to read about the Beatles to find our what I could to answer the breakup question once and for all.

The first book I read was The Beatles: the Biography by Bob Spitz. The print edition of the book is nearly 1000 pages yet the audiobook I listened to was only eight discs long. That means I listened to a deeply abridged version of the book. Though I learned quite a bit, especially details of the boys beginnings:  John's abandonment by his parents and his mother's early death; the death of Paul's mother at a young age; Ringo nearly dying several times from diseases we seem to have conquered today; George's seemingly regular life to a loving mother; and the early iterations of their band with several other friends playing other instruments, even though none were particularly musical. I learned a bit about how their summer gigs in Hamburg really laid the framework for the band we know today because of the sheer volume of music they had to put out. They had to play for four to six hours a day. Can you imagine?

When the boys returned to England, George because he was too young,  Paul and Pete (their drummer) because of fighting, followed eventually by John, they played the Liverpool scene and caught the attention of Brian Epstein, who became their manager and was the one who got a recording session organized. And the rest is history.

Here are a few other things I learned as I listened to this biography:
  • None of the boys could read music. John and Paul would write the words to their songs down on a scrap of paper and compose a tune which they would teach to George and Ringo. The producer, George Martin, of the music studio  where they recorded their music was the one who wrote out the music and the orchestration. This blows me away. Such talent and yet no musical training.
  • Brian Epstein was a closeted gay man and would act out on his impulses, which caused him great anguish. He also took tons of prescription pills like amphetamines. Ultimately it was these drugs that killed him on August 27, 1967. His death was probably the beginning of the unraveling of the Beatles since they tried to operate without a manager after his death placing responsibility on Paul's shoulders to keep the Fab Four together. This caused resentment
  • Both John and Ringo married their first wives because of pregnancy (Cindy and Maureen), Paul dated Jane Asher for five years but they broke up due to his infidelities after they had announced their engagement. George asked his first wife, Pattie Boyd, to marry him the first day he met her, on the set of "A Hard Day's Night."
  • Drug use really did play a role in The Beatles demise. They were introduced to pot by Bob Dylan in 1965, LSD by a dentist who had them over for dinner and he "spiked" their dessert with it. cocaine and uppers were common as was alcohol. John and Yoko were smoking heroin around the final year of the Beatles. I have to believe that drugs played a bigger role in the breakup than anyone wants to admit.
  • Song-writing jealousy and competition played as a wedge in the relationships. Lennon, McCartney and Harrison were all composing so many songs that there is no way all of them could find a way onto an album. Lennon-McCartney, the most prolific song writing duo of all time, weren't used to sharing the limelight with Harrison. That caused resentment, obviously. In the beginning Lennon and McCartney would compose their songs face to face, working out with guitars facing each other, later on they would compose a song and then get minimal tweaks from the other.
  • Paul is credited with breaking up the Beatles, but he was really the last to go. Before that Ringo had quit and then come back (during the recording of the White Album); George had walked out and had to calm down before returning; John was now with Yoko Ono who pushed her way into recording sessions, etc., had told the group he wanted a 'divorce' but was talked into staying through the release of the album. When Paul finally threw in the towel over management of the group, he was the very last to want to go. It was just a three-on-one situation at that point and he was odd man out.

The second book I read was Wonderful Tonight by Pattie Boyd. It was a autobiography by the woman who was the muse for the wonderful Harrison hit, "Something" and later two hits by Eric Clapton, "Layla" and "You Look Wonderful Tonight". Since this book wasn't specifically about the Beatles but about a person tangentially related to them I didn't learn that much about the Fab Four but did gain some insights about George Harrison, her husband. One thing that struck me as I read this book---George and all the Beatles were so young when they got started. In 1960, when they officially became the Beatles John was 19, Paul 18, and George 17. Ringo didn't join them until 1962. But when they formed up in the groups that predated the Beatles, John was 16 and Paul was only 15. I say this because when I think about all the immature behavior that is reported in this book, I have to remind myself how young the boys were. No wonder they fell into such a wild lifestyle.  We know about George's interest in Indian music and meditation, for example, but Pattie reports here that he would meditate for days, then emerge and binge on cocaine. It doesn't sound like they had the happiest marriage, for obvious reasons.

My next selection, which I confess I skimmed, was Lennon Remembers: The Full Rolling Stone Interviews of 1970 by Jann Wenner. Less than twelve months after the breakup, Rolling Stone magazine meets with Lennon several times and writes it up in interview format. It was too soon. Lennon was angry and egotistical. He wasn't ready to think of anything outside himself and he spoke with no filter. He pretty much slammed everything and everyone except himself. Did McCartney write any good songs? Well, maybe "Yesterday" was pretty good. That's it. Pete Townsend? Terrible?  Just about everyone involved in music in the 60s? Rubbish.  He had just recorded his first single album and was talking up his song "Mother", which he felt would be his next big hit. It may not have been a huge hit but it revealed Lennon's deep sadness and anger at being abandoned as a child. Yet, I didn't feel any pity for Lennon after reading this book but it did confirme what I was thinking about 'divorce.' Lennon was sad that the Beatles dissolved but he wanted to blame others and not look inward at all. I'd say skip this book unless you want a rude awakening.


Lastly I spent a little time with a graphic biography called The Beatles: All Our Yesterdays. No new ground was plowed here and I am not even sure that all the facts are reported correctly but it was fun to "see" The Beatles according to Jason Quinn's imagination. One thing I did like was the lists of special Beatles stats. For example: at one point in April 1964, they had five songs in the top five slots on the charts.

I still have one book in the wings, Sgt Pepper at Fifty. Enough on The Beatles for one night. Do you have any good books on the Fab Four that you recommend?



Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday Salon, Oct. 22, 2017

Fall is definitely here.
Weather: Raining. It has been a windy, rainy week. The weather station says we've had three separate storms. The word "storm" is relative, of course.

Super Sad/Worried/Distressed: I don't know about you but the state of affairs in our country is really, really making me distressed, or worried, or sad, or angry. I don't even know what to focus on anymore---the news is always so bad. // The other day a friend posted a comment on Facebook about how progressives are just like Nazis and just as violent. What? // Another friend said that after the horrific shootings in Las Vegas that killed 59 people that citizens of our country feel the same about guns as they did before the shooting. How can that be? // Our president doesn't think that the people in Puerto Rico need more assistance than they have. Yet, some still don't have drinking water and most don't have electricity. And there are more people from FEMA in Houston still than in Puerto Rico. Argh! // After the conference Trump attended this week, it appears that Evangelical Christians are aligning themselves with white supremacists in terms of support and ideals. Will this be the end of the church as we know it? // And don't even get me started thinking or talking about the possibility of a nuclear war. Our president seems unhinged enough to imagine that he could start such a war...one to end all of mankind. // Psychologists are diagnosing Trump with Malignant Narcissism. Click on the hyperlink if you want to know more about that disorder and to make yourself more terrified.  // I could go on, but I will stop.

Today in church: I was thinking about these quotes from Jim Wallis

 "Why did 81 percent of white evangelicals support Donald Trump? The polling shows it was not mostly about abortion, gay marriage, and religious liberty, as some of their leaders suggest. ...But those “moral issues” were not the main motivators for the white evangelical vote. Instead, it was guns, taxes, how much they would make from the economy, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment, and anti-terrorist and anti-Muslim visions of national security.

Fox News seems to have set the white evangelical political agenda, more so than the Bible all evangelicals claim to believe."
“When Christians ally their faith with bias and exclusion, they are influencing how the public sees Christianity itself. "

     Fortunately, our scripture lesson and the sermon were based on Psalm 145, which has some strong reminders that God is bigger than Trump and God's precepts are stronger than the unloving ones espoused by some of his "believers" today. It was good news I needed to hear.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does. -Psalm 145:13
Cybils Nonfiction Judging: I have been a reading fiend.  I am attempting to read, or judge, five books a week. As a judge I am allowed to stop after 50 pages if I can adequately evaluate the book at that point. So far I haven't evoked the 50-page rule but I am sure I will i the future as I try to read all 55 of the books by the end of December. So far I've read 15. Not bad, huh? So far I've read two books on Alexander Hamilton, four others on rights for women (past and present), three books on animals (extinct and living), one on weather, another on a space flight to Pluto, and few biographies of famous people. I find it all fascinating. I love learning new stuff.

Books completed in the past two weeks:

  • Eyes of the World: Robert Capa and Gerda Taro and the Invention of Modern Photojournalism by Marc Aronson
  • When the Sky Breaks: Hurricanes, Tornadoes, and the Worst Weather in the World by Simon Winchester
  • Almost Adulting by Arden Rose
  • Alice Paul and the Fight For Women's Rights by Deborah Kops
  • Girl Rising: Changing the World one Girl at a Time by Tanya Lee Stone
  • Mission to Pluto: The First Visit to an Ice Dwarf and the Kuiper Belt by Mary Kay Carson
  • Beastly Brains: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk, and Feel by Nancy Castaldo
  • De-Extinction: The Science of Bringing Lost Species Back to Life by Rebecca Hirsch
  • Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of a Legendary Nurse by Catherine Reef
  • ----------------------------------------------
  • The Beatles: All My Yesterdays by Jason Quinn---a graphic biography of The Beatles. Print.
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green---a favorite author and his new book. Audio.
  • You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins---a multi-generational immigration story. Audio.

(Can you tell what I have been doing in my retirement?)

Carly meets Ian. Ian meets Aunt Carly.
Carly met her nephew: And it was love at first sight from both sides. They just seemed to have that really special "something" right away.  It was good to have her home for a few days!

Movie: "Battle of the Sexes." It is excellent. (The 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs became the most watched televised sports event of all time. Trapped in the media glare, King and Riggs were on opposites sides of a binary argument, but off-court each was fighting more personal and complex battles. With her husband urging her to fight for equal pay, the private King was also struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, while Riggs gambled his legacy and reputation in a bid to relive the glories of his past.) 




Saturday, October 21, 2017

Girl Rising...another nonfiction book review

Several years ago a documentary film was made called "Girl Rising." The producers of the film traveled around the world looking for girls who were eager for education but unable to go to school for a variety of reasons, usually economic. They eventually told the inspiring story of nine of these girls. Tanya Lee Stone, a nonfiction author watched the film with growing excitement. "I had a sense of the enormity of the topic." As she thought about this, she said her "book brain" clicked in. She wondered how many girls the producers interviewed before narrowing down to nine. She started thinking of ways to explain the obstacles to education and to highlight more stories untold my the documentary. With permission from the producers, Stone used their resources, added some of her own research, and wrote this nonfiction narrative inspired by the film.

Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time is divided into three parts: the stakes, the stories, and the solutions.

The stakes: In many impoverished families worldwide girls are not sent to school. If there is a little extra money, families are much more likely to send sons for an education. But if a girl is educated:
  • with seven years of schooling, she is likely to delay marriage by four years, and will have 2.2 fewer children.
  • and delays child-bearing until after age 19, her babies are more likely to survive.
  • she is much less likely to be forced into an early marriage. Girls, aged 10-14 and married, are five times more likely to die in childbirth compared to women in their twenties.
  • she has increased earning potential. For every extra year of primary school her earning potential goes up 10-20%.
  • she will make sure that her own children are educated.
"The act of educating girls is the single most powerful tool societies have to make the world a safer, healthier, and more functional place."

The stories: Every girl has a story. Yet often they are not valued as much as boys and not offered the same opportunities as their brothers. There are also lots of obstacles which keep girls out of the classroom: modern day slavery where girls are sold into servitude by their parents, sometimes at very young ages; early marriage; limited access to required fees due to poverty. Over twenty girls have their stories told in this book. All of them have had some sort of assistance to help them get to school.

The solutions: What can we, just regular people, do to help? This is a very short section of the book but contains several powerful examples of solutions a few people have found to help. And there are success stories, too. Girls who have been educated, giving back to their communities as nurses, teachers, radio programmers. The book is inspiring and a call to action.

When I retired last June everyone asked me what I planned to do with my time and I didn't know. I knew what I didn't want to do, but I didn't know what I did want to do. I got very excited about this idea proposed in the solution section of this book. Is there something I can do to help make sure that girls around the world have the opportunities they deserve to be educated? The idea is taking hold and I am ready to start my own research process to discover how I can get involved. I want to start by looking into the UN's program, GirlUp; Room To ReadLet Girls Learn, an Obama initiative; and, of course, Girl Rising. Maybe I have found my new vocation. We'll see.

All quotes from----Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time by Tanya Lee Stone. Wendy Lamb Books, New York. Print.

My rating: 5 stars



Friday, October 20, 2017

BSD 2018 Mock Printz list

It is with a bit of trepidation that I publish the Bethel School District Mock Printz list for 2018 because it still feels like a work in progress. We have settled on fifteen books so far, and are leaving ourselves open to adding additional books once we get a chance to read them. Our list is static. Once we make our selection we publish it for our students, purchase additional copies of each book, and finally discuss these books only during our workshop. 

This year, as a retired employee of the district, I am butting in on the process because I have loved it so much in the past. I've read most of the books but have deferred to the other librarians if a conflict over a book has arisen. The workshop where the students select their favorite books of the year will be held February 9th at the three participating schools. It is later than usual as the ALA Mid-Winter conference is very late this year.

B.S.D. 2018 Mock Printz list of books.
(In alphabetical order)


1. Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson
With four starred reviews we felt this book with the plot twists had a psychological thriller feel to it. 
We thought the students would enjoy debating it.


2. American Street by Ibi Zoboi
A five starred review book. I haven't read this one but I understand that it brings forward some important thoughts about immigration, family, and racial issues.


3. Bull by David Elliott
Another 5 starred review book. We loved the way that Elliott played with a variety of poetic forms as he retold the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. It is very clever. One student remarked that he could hear the rap in his head as he read some of the poems.


4. City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson
Weighing in at over 400 pages in length this book may not be a favorite of the student readers. But we felt that the mystery and the cultural elements, it is set in Kenya, made this four starred review book worthy of our nod.


5. Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Lantham
Another book which I haven't read yet. The librarian that pushed for it did so on the strength of the historical aspects of the story. 3 starred reviews.


6. The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby
Finally a YA book which doesn't have a romantic aspect to it. All of us thought this book was worthy of consideration due to the strong writing and character development. Another book with three starred reviews. (BTW- We are all in agreement---the cover is unfortunate)


A genre-less book: historical, humorous, LGBT. This was a great favorite of ours and hope our teen readers agree. With four starred reviews, others agree with us.


8. Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
This is one title I fought for. The story unfolds in backwards time. Another psychological thriller. 4 starred reviews.


9. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
With six or eight (depending what reviewers to count) starred reviews this is not only our favorite but everyone else's, it would seem plus is in an important book. We want to encourage all students to read it.


10. Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Another genre-defying book. Is it historical fiction or Sci-Fi. We all liked the historical aspects better than the futuristic bits. 5 starred reviews.


11. The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein
We are wondering if this book may be the sleeper this year. A fabulous book with tons of starred reviews (5) yet it seems like no one is gushing about it as much as it deserves. Wein is an amazing writer and I am over-the-moon about this book. It is a prequel to the award-winning Code Name Verity, but it does stand alone.


12. The Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld
OK. Maybe not really award-winning stuff but a fun graphic novel, the first of a series by the master Scott Westerfeld. Wonderful Sci-Fi with fun illustrations. (4 stars)


13. Thick as Thieves by Megan Whelan Turner
None of us have read Turner's Queen of Attolia series, of which this book is the 5th, but it also stands alone and we all enjoyed it. Good fantasy takes the reader into its world and lets them move around a bit. This book does this in spades. We are concerned that the it may be targeted at bit lower reading level than for our high school readers but decided to let it in. (4 stars)


14. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
We just finished reading this latest book by a teen-favorite author and LOVED it. It has at least three starred reviews. Not bad for just being published last week.


15. An Uninterrupted View of the Sky by Melanie Crowder
Another book that I pushed. Crowder includes poetry into her prose, which I adore. This story is based on real events set in Bolivia in the 1990s. We want our students to be good global citizens. (3 stars)


-----
A possible additional book: 

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds.
None of us have read it yet. But once one of us does, we will consider it for the list. With five starred reviews, we expect to like it. (5 stars)

------
Books we seriously considered but decided to leave off the list:

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge
We've included her last two books on our past Mock Printz lists and the students didn't get too excited about them. This one seemed like a slow-starter so we left it off the list without any of us actually reading the whole book. Bad us. (5 starred reviews)

Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman
I lost the debate on this one. I really like this biography of the Van Gogh brothers. Others felt its was too long for general teen appeal. I bet this one gets attention from the RealCommittee, though, or at least a good hard look. (6 starred reviews)

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitaki Perkins
The book crammed a lot into one volume: multi-generational immigrants, racial issues, American culture. It is solid book, just not whiz-bang. So we left it off the list. (4 stars)


Note: When I refer to starred reviews I am referring to stars awarded by trade publications: Booklist, Horn Book, Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books; Kirkus Reviews, Publisher's Weekly, and School Library Journal. 

I have hyperlinked titles of the books on the list reviewed by me.

What are your favorite YA titles published in 2017? 
Do you have any favorite books which you hope will win an award this year?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Friday Quotes: Turtles All the Way Down

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
Th
e Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now---



Title: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Book Beginning:
At the time I first realized I might be fictional, my weekdays were spent at a publicly funded institution on the North side of Indianapolis called White River High School, where I was required to eat lunch at a particular time---between 12:37 PM and 1:14 PM---by forces so much larger than myself that I couldn't even begin to identify them.
Friday 56: (not sure what page this quote is from because I listened to the audiobook):
It’s a weird phrase in English, in love, like it’s a sea you drown in or a town you live in. You don’t get to be in anything else—in friendship or in anger or in hope. All you can be in is love.
Comment: I have been a John Green fan since I read his first book Looking for Alaska. He is so literate and adds so many quotes and thoughts from literature, this time there is is a lot of Shakespeare included, that I feel refreshed or renewed just reading his books. This book has a very serious topic, though, mental illness and its treatment, hence the first quote where Aza starts thinking of herself as fictional.  It is very well done.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

TTT: Books which mention yummy-sounding books

Top Ten Tuesday: Books which mention yummy-sounding foods.

1. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel---this magical realism novel is chalk-full of recipes since the main character is forced to make the wedding feast for the man she loves as he marries her sister.

2. Harry Potter novels by JK Rowling---though not expressly about food there are many, many references to fun-sounding foods like pumpkin punch, butterbeer, chocolate frogs, and Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans.

3. Fried-Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg---the cafe cooks up all kinds of delicious-sounding food (if you don't think too much about the BBQ). I make fried green tomatoes because of this book.

4. Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray---we read this book for book club years ago and it ignited our imagination about cake, and the value of comfort-foods.

5. Chocolat by Joanne Harris---the book is very much about food, especially chocolate. One can't read the book without drooling.

6. Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber---the main character sets up a cafe to cook up food from her homeland, Lebanon. The food is described in mouth-watering ways.

7. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh---a retelling of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, the king and his bride (the story-teller) eat luscious food prepared with care fore them.

8. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Ron and Judi Barrett---Okay, the food goes crazy, but doesn't this children's book make you want pancakes, meatballs, even Gorgonzola cheese?

9. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss---the most famous food book? I loved this as a child.

10. I realized, as I wrote this, that I can't remember most books which mention good-sounding food. this is very frustrating because I know I've read books which contained great foods. Sigh.

Do you have titles you remember mentions of food?


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Alexander Hamilton, compare and contrast reviews

This past week my daughter, who lives in New York, finally got to see the Broadway musical: Hamilton. She has entered the daily lottery for tickets since her arrival in the NYC last year and finally won the chance to buy two tickets. She and her roommate readjusted their schedules, headed into the city to see the show and loved it. This musical has done more for an interest in US history than just about anything before this time. Alexander Hamilton, the face on the 10 dollar bill, now has come alive in our minds and imaginations. Suddenly we are interested in what happened during those founding days of our country. We knew a little bit about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, but not much else. Now we know a whole lot more...or at least those people lucky enough to see the musical know a whole lot more. A person who played a big role in those opening years of our country was Alexander Hamilton. In fact, without this man and his prolific writings we might not even have a country, or a country as we know it today.

While Carly and Jennifer were enjoying the musical, I was home in Washington State reading two different books about Alexander Hamilton. It was just a weird coincidence that we were doing something related to Hamilton at the same time. (Something tells me that Carly had more fun than me, though.) The two books I read were Alexander Hamilton: The Hero Who Helped Shape America by Teri Kanefield and Alexander Hamilton: Revolutionary by Martha Brockenbrough. Both books have been nominated for a possible Cybils award in the JH/SH Nonfiction category for which I am a judge. Since I read two books one right after the other they are a little muddled in my brain. Therefore I thought I'd do one of those school-y activities: a compare/contrast of the two books.


 Compare (Similarities):
  • Both books did a nice job outlining details of Hamilton's early life on St. Kitts/Nevis in the Caribbean. He and his younger brother were illegitimate, which was a much bigger deal in those days compared to today. His mother and father were not married. His father abandoned them and when his mother died, the boys were left on their own. Hamilton distinguished himself working in the office of one of the island's sugar traders. His first published work was an article about a hurricane which devastated the island.  Because of this and his strong work-ethic, Hamilton was offered a scholarship to go to school in New York. Hamilton was always concerned/self-conscious about his lowly beginnings.
  • Each author did a nice job making readers familiar with the time line of Hamilton's life and accomplishments from his early days in school where he finished his program in two years which would normally take a person four years; as a personal assistant to General George Washington during the Revolutionary War; as a prolific interpreter of the US Constitution, writing more than 50 essays compiled today in a document known as The Federalist Papers; his role as the first Secretary of the Treasury; and as a family man and well-regarded lawyer in New York.
  • Both told us about the duel with Aaron Burr which ended Hamilton's life.
  • The Hero Who Helped Shape America and Revolutionary were both very readable and interesting. History was brought to life in these two books.
Contrast:
  • Kanefield's book is marketed to middle grade students, grade 5-8. Brockenbrough's book is targeted at older readers, high school aged students and above.
  • Both books used old illustrations and maps, but Brockenbrough's book had many, many more of them than Kanefield's. I thought that was odd since the latter book is aimed at younger readers so one would think it would use more illustrations than the book designed for older readers.
  • A controversial aspect of Hamilton's life was his affair and attempted cover-up with a Mrs. Reynolds. This problem played a pivotal role in Hamilton's life. Kanefield did not mention it at all in her book for middle school students. Brockenbrough's book was full of it and the consequences that affair had on Hamilton and his reputation. It colored everything up to the end. Can't middle school kids handle this kind of information?
  • Though both books covered the life-ending duel, only in Brockenbrough's book do we learn about why Hamilton would agree to the duel, especially since it was illegal. His motivations to be thought of as an honorable man colored all his decisions.
  • The Hero Who Helped Shape America is 208 pages long; Revolutionary is 372 pages long. Though much longer, the second book has much better end-notes, bibliography, and appendixes on a variety of related topics. These are helpful tools for prospective researchers.
  • Oddly, Brockenbrough's book, Revolutionary, is printed using brown ink. I wonder if the publisher thought that color ink would make readers feel like they were reading an old document. Also, irritatingly, the book did not give attributions to most of the artists of the illustrations. There was a tiny, little note of where most of the illustrations came from, but no particulars of the artists were given, with one or two exceptions. This really irritated me.
  • Kanefield's book about Hamilton wasn't as attractive or as inviting as the other. There were many pages full of text only and the quality of the paper and the illustrations were poor.
Overall: I wouldn't hesitate to recommend either of these books to teen readers. I liked Brockenbrough's book better, but that may be because I tend to think of high school researchers and I think her book is a better research tool. I learned a lot about this famous American from reading these books. Now if I could just score a few tickets to see the musical!

Carly outside the Hamilton theater on Broadway.
Until them I will have to satisfy myself with listening to YouTube videos like this one. Enjoy!