Holiday Reading

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I’m running a bit behind on this year’s Christmas-y listens, and haven’t quite finished The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen, but since it’s about the 12 Days of Christmas and those go beyond Christmas Day, I figure I’m good. The Twelve Clues of Christmas is the 6th installment of Her Royal Spyness series, and one of the most grisly. Our fearless gang finds themselves in a quaint English village for Christmas were a death a day occurs in the order of the 12 Days of Christmas song. Doesn’t sound very Christmas-y, nor very quaint, but I love it. Probably because Georgie and Darcy finally make some headway in their “relationship.”

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I started with my annual re-listen of Lauren Willig’s Mischief of the Mistletoe. I believe I’ve mentioned my love of Willig’s Secret History of the Pink Carnation series before, and I think this is one of my favorites! It’s so hard to decide sometimes… Mischief of the Mistletoe is the only one in the series not to include Eloise and Colin, our modern day frame story couple. When I first started reading the series I really enjoyed the Eloise storyline. I was also a student in England and could appreciate several of the dilemmas Eloise found herself experiencing. However, as the series went on, I found myself skipping the Eloise and Colin chapters (much harder to do in audio), so I really appreciate not having to deal with them in this version. Also, I love Turnip. He certainly isn’t a swashbuckling hero, but a nice, loyal, (if goofy one), which is a nice change of pace.

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Since my parents moved up north we have a 4 (ish) hour drive each way. To pass the time I checked out The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, which is my husband’s favorite Christmas book. Maybe it was lack of sleep (we hosted my high school friend’s annual holiday party the night before), or maybe it’s the cultural/political climate today, but I almost cried at the end. I don’t remember having that kind of reaction in the past.

*updated for pictures and links*

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Worth Reading: Round 2

Another collection of articles and blog posts about libraries and librarianship that are particularly relevant today.

#OwnVoices

Kayla Whaley writes elqoently on the subject in “#OwnVoices: Why We Need Diverse Author’s in Children’s Literature.” Whaley writes, “Sometimes the characters and stories they create are wonderful! But many times, they’re rife with stereotypes, tropes, and harmful portrayals. Time and again, marginalized people have seen their stories taken from them, misused, and published as authentic, while marginalized authors have had to jump hurdle after hurdle to be published themselves.”

“The Power of a Series”

I needed this post. I often lament the plethora of series in Juvenile and Young Adult lit. I want to tell kids, “read outside of Magic Treehouse or The Selection!” Part of it is because I want our young readers to experience different books and different characters and part of it is because I think it’s a marketing ploy on the behalf of the publishers (especially with The Selection series). However, Katie Muhtaris makes an excellent argument for the necessity of series.

Muhtaris wrote, “I wasn’t a reluctant reader, but I was a fair weather one.  Reading came easily to me. It was no effort, it was just there.  It seemed to please others when I read aloud nicely.  It wasn’t for me.” This description sounds an awful lot like my brother, who was a steady series reader (Bailey School Kids and Captain Underpants when he was in elementary school and Redwall and Harry Potter as he grew older). I can’t say he is an avid reader now, but it took investment in those series to encourage his individual pleasure reading, and make reading his.

Just like the box of Nancy Drew books opened up Muhtaris to reading for her: “That, my friends, is the power of the series.  The power for stories to become a part of who we are.  As a teacher I know that to help readers I often need to get them hooked on a series.  The predictable plot structures, the familiarity with characters, setting, and genre all help support developing readers.  But they help kids like me, too.  I was a developing reader.  Maybe my assessments were high, my letter was good, my lexile was fine, my standardized numbers were acceptable.  But I was still a developing reader until the moment when I realized I could take charge of my reading life.  That reading wasn’t for anyone else but me.”

“The Secret Life of the Librarian”

My friend over at No1Librarian posted this article on her blog. The outreach librarian vision is something my current library is working towards (although we all still have desks), and I love this mentality. We serve the community, not just those that walk in our doors, and with library usership dwindling, we need to make our presence known even more.

Anonymous writes, “The only regret I have about my long career in public libraries is that I have not been able to convince more librarians that they should be less book-focused and more people-focused; that they should look outward to the community rather than inward to the library; that they should get rid of desks and counters and do more active roving inside the library and outside in the community; that they should put less emphasis on the excellence of the collection and more on providing books that people actually want to read; and, most important of all, that libraries should be community-led and based on the needs of the public they serve.”

Best Books of 2016: Goodreads (picture books)

While voting on the Goodreads Best of 2016 lists this year, I realized I’ve read very few. Given that I noticed this in late November or early December there was not a lot I could do to alleviate the problem. The wait list for The Underground Railroad and Truly, Madly, Guilty and The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo are massive! I could, however, read all the picture books my library owned. And so I did.

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My thoughts are as follows. Starting with the winner:

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

I love Elephant and Piggie, I really do. I’m so sad they are leaving us. And while I think The Thank You Book is a sweet tribute to the readers of the series, it’s not my favorite of the bunch. However, We are in a Book! Is pretty hard to top.

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel, illustrated by T. Ryder Smith

The concept is great– everyone sees the same thing a bit differently. The illustrations are also wonderful. But, for whatever reason, it didn’t wow me like it did my coworker.

Are We There Yet? By Dan Santat

This is a very clever story about boring car rides and the passage of time. I especially enjoyed the use of the book itself (having to turn the book itself upside down).

What do you do with a Problem? By Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom

I’m torn, because I love the illustrations and the idea of facing problems is something kids should learn and discuss. I especially like that the problem is not named, so it can be anything.

However, it seems overly didactic to me. Not all problems affecting kids can be tackled as simply as this book implies.


Ida, Always
by Caron Levis, illustrated by Charles Santoso

An absolutely beautiful story about friendship and and the loss of said friend. I cried.

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers, illustrated by Sam Winston

My library doesn’t carry this book and I apparently am awful about remembering to pick up holds at non-work libraries.

Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke

A fun story about a goblin and other fairy tale villains. While not bad, it wasn’t anything special.

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

This is another my library doesn’t carry, which is unfortunate, because I’m already loving the female scientist.

Otter Goes to School by Sam Garton

How did I not know about Otter until now? She’s adorable! I want an otter! I love the clever humor that’s fun for adults but still accessible to children. Also, the illustrations are amazing! To me it reads very much like Winnie the Pooh (which makes sense, Garton is also British).

We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

Not bad, but hard not to compare We Found a Hat to the previous I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat, which are delightfully dark.

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales

I absolutely love Alexie’s YA novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, but this is the only other piece I’ve read by him. This picture book about a boy who doesn’t like his name is a fun, relatable read. However, there are some criticisms, which are worth mulling over.

When Green  Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Julie Morstad

I love the illustrations! Many of the poems are wonderful.

I especially like “December 29.”

“and I woke/ to a morning/ that was quiet/ and white/ the first snow/ (just like magic) came/ on tiptoes/ overnight.

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato

When I first started reading I was bored. The words are simple and so are the illustrations. However, as I kept reading, it struck me. This book is deep! It also subtly promotes acceptance of different sexualites and orientations and differences in general, without being “a teaching book.” The worms are what they are.

Snappsy the Alligator by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Tim Miller

This was by far my least favorite of the  bunch. It felt like Falatko and Miller tried to be Mo Willems and failed. This type of humor is difficult to pull of successfully and breaking the fourth wall is oftentimes very confusing (unless you’re Mo Willems or William Goldman). Also, the illustrations were way too busy, with no clear focus.

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson

I’ve already written about this picture book, but it’s seriously one of my favorites. Almost makes me want to go back to school. Also, I adore Christian Robinson’s collage like illustrations.

A Hungry Lion, or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins

The title alludes to it all. Gotta love a dark picture book when it’s so tongue in cheek.

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo

This is a very sweet bed time story, but the best part is the diverse family. It’s just there. I love that it’s never mentioned because diverse families are everywhere and books with diverse families shouldn’t only be “issue books.”

Flora and the Peacocks by Molly Idle

Beautiful wordless picture book. The only issue I have (solely  from a library point of view), is that those poor pull out pages will get destroyed. Other than that, the illustrations and dance tell a lovely story about sharing and friendship.

King Baby by Kate Beaton

Yet another (only three!) that I did not get my hands on.

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael Lopez

I like that this book is based on true events, and the illustrations are very interesting (and very reminiscent of the original murals). However, the story is so-so.

The Ms. Elizabeth’s Libraryland winner? It’s hard to choose, because many are so wonderful. But, currently, my favorite is Ida, Always by Caron Levis, illustrated by Charles Santoso.

Best Books of 2016: Publishers Weekly

Picture Books

There are many repeat books on the various lists. Here are a few I read (and some that I enjoyed) that are not on School Library Journal’s list.

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Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes

I love the woodblock like illustrations. It reminds me a bit of Betsy Bowen’s picture books (which I love). However, the story itself is not my favorite. It’s not bad, but not mindblowing.

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The Journey by Francesca Sanna

The illustrations are breathtaking. As is the story. And it is so so so so relevant.

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Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol

A simple and clever story with folktale inspirations. Would make a fantastic storytime book.

Middle Grade

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Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Not my favorite of Telgemeier’s. My review here.

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Ms. Bixby’s Last Day of School by John David Anderson

I haven’t read this yet, but I’m really excited about it! Just picked it up today.

Young Adult

The only one the list I read is Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, but I already talked about that here and here.

I just picked up Unbecoming by Jenny Downham from the library today and I’ve heard great things about The Sun is Also a StarWhich is now officially added to my TBR list.

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Best Books of 2016: School Library Journal

It’s that time of year! All the bigwigs are publishing their “best of lists,” and unfortunately, I have read very few! Between trying to give my best Readers Advisory for adults as well as teens and children, participating in the PopSugar Reading Challenge, and attempting to read the Maud Hart Lovelace nominees, the new books slipped right by me.

However, it looks like there  are a lot of good ones! I know what I’ll be doing this crazy, cold winter…

Best Picture Books (Now, I have read some of these!)

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Flora and the Peacocks by Molly Idle is delightful. I love a good wordless picture book.

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We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen is nice, but I miss the subtle darkness of the first two.

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School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex is lovely. I love the different take on a “back to school book” and it definitely made me tear up at work.

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They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel takes a very deep, intricate concept, and turns it into a beautiful picture book.

Best Chapter Books

Only two books made it in this category. I didn’t read either.

Best Middle Grade

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A colleague of mine read Pax by Sara Pennypacker and loved it, despite its sadness. The cover is lovely, but I don’t know if I have it in me to read a sad animal book right now.

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Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo is definitely on my list. I absolutely loved Flora and Ulysses, and I have to support a local author!

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Wild Robot by Peter Brown immediately intrigued me with it’s beautiful cover (I’m sensing a trend here), and I currently have the audio on hold.

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Louise Erdich’s Makoons is on the list, and I should read it, but The Birchbark House didn’t wow me like it did others. Maybe her writing for children has improved over the years?

Best Young Adult

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Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys was amazing! It takes great skills to weave together a story told from four different perspectives. Also, how I can claim to be a historical fiction fan without knowing about this aspect of WWII is beyond me. Maybe I need to reconsider my self prescribed title. My review here.

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Asking for It by Louise O’Neill is on many lists. It sounds very intriguing. Perhaps on the same lines as Speak?

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The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry is also one I see on many “Best Of” lists. Given that very few historical fiction books are checked out at my library (or at my previous libraries) I’m very surprised (and delighted) to see so many historical fiction titles on this list.

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Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson is the 3rd in the Seeds of America series. I read Chains when it came out in 2008 but haven’t read the others. I really enjoyed Chains and actually recommended the series the other day. I should read the rest!

Best Nonfiction

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When Green Becomes Tomatoes:  Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano is a beautifully crafted and illustrated book of poetry for all ages. I don’t usually like poetry, but Fogliano’s are deep and thoughtful without being wordy or sappy.

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Bubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America by Gail Jarrow sounds very intriguing. Nonfiction about the seedier side of life is fascinating!

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I just love the cover of Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet.

Read Like Rory Gilmore

Unless you live under a rock, or do not know any female between the ages of 15 and 45, you probably know that Netflix hosted a revival of the 2000s classic Gilmore Girls. The revival, officially called Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, aired on Thanksgiving weekend and most people I know dedicated full days of their holiday weekend to binge watch the mini series.

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I won’t go into details about the show (but holy cliffhanger!), but I will brag about my awesome way to incorporate the library into the Gilmore Girls hullabaloo.

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Again, unless you live under a rock, you are aware that Rory Gilmore is a voracious reader. I found many a Rory Gilmore Reading challenge checklist online, so I printed one out, and looked for as many of the 300+ as I could find. I then printed out a fresh list and several pictures of Rory Gilmore reading and called it a display.

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Surprisingly, a few of the books have gotten checked out! I was afraid none would circulate since they’re mostly school/homework type books, but so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised. For those curious, I’ve read 79 of 339. Bad Librarian.

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