Archive for March, 2018

Review of Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve, by Ben Blatt

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve

What the Numbers Reveal about the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing

by Ben Blatt

Simon & Schuster, 2017. 271 pages.

In the final paragraph of this book, Ben Blatt tells us:

The written word and the world of numbers should not be kept apart. It’s possible to be a lover of both. Through the union of writing and math there is so much to learn about the books we love and the writers we admire. And by looking at the patterns, we can appreciate that beautiful moment where the pattern breaks, and where a brilliant new idea bursts into the world.

Anyone who reads that paragraph and knows anything about me will understand that I loved this book. It’s a big data approach to literature, a statistical look at good books.

Seriously, what the author did here was take a huge amount of digitized texts from the classics (award-winning books or books on “best” lists) and from bestsellers and (for comparison) from fan fiction. Then he ran the numbers, asking a wide variety of questions. And discovered some fascinating things.

Do great writers actually use fewer -ly adverbs? Can you tell the difference between books written by women and books written by men simply by the words used? Can you figure out who really wrote a book, the big-name author or the coauthor? Do people follow their own advice (such as leaving out exclamation points and getting rid of “very”)? Are bestsellers getting dumber? Do Americans write “louder” fiction than British writers? Who uses the most cliches? And the one hinted at in the title: What are a writer’s favorite words?

You can probably learn something about what makes good writing from these insights, but mostly they’re just a lot of fun to think about. Who knew, for example, that Danielle Steel has begun 46% of her books with a sentence that refers to the weather? Or that Neil Gaiman’s favorite word is “unimpressed”? But that wouldn’wwwt have made as good a title.

SimonandSchuster.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/nabokovs_favorite_word_is_mauve.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of When a Wolf Is Hungry, by Christine Naumann-Villemin, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

When a Wolf Is Hungry

by Christine Naumann-Villemin
illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers, 2017. 32 pages.

I have a thing for books where someone gets eaten – or eating gets thwarted. When a Wolf Is Hungry falls into the latter category.

This is a book for sophisticated readers – more for elementary school readers than preschoolers. What’s going on is subtle, and a lot of fun when we finally see what’s happening. Here’s how it begins:

One Sunday morning, Edmond Bigsnout, lone wolf, left his home in the woods with a great big knife in his paw.

Edmond had a hankering for some rabbit.

Not just any ordinary cottontail, though. What he craved was a grain-fed, silky-haired rabbit, one with just a hint of sweetness. A city bunny.

So Edmond heads into the city.

He stopped in front of a tall apartment building.
He checked the names next to the buzzers and found exactly what he was looking for:
Max Omatose, miniature rabbit
5th floor

Oh, Edmond was so happy!
With the point of his knife,
he pressed the button for the elevator.
Ding!

Inside the elevator, he set down the knife and adjusted his bow tie.
(Just because a wolf is hungry, that doesn’t mean he can’t be fashionable.)

But of course, he forgot his knife in the elevator.

A turkey finds the knife in the elevator and says it’s just what she needs to cut this cake. So when Edmond comes back, it’s gone.

So he returns to try again with a chainsaw – and a bear asks to borrow it to trim a hedge on the roof. Similar fate befalls a rope, a big pot, and his barbecue grill. That one is borrowed by a lovely young wolf who thinks he’s a new neighbor.

When he’s had too much and decides to just eat the rabbit with some mustard, there’s a note on the rabbit’s door saying “I’m on the roof.” When the wolf reaches the roof, he finds all the apartment residents he encountered before, including the lovely young wolf. He finds out why they wanted to borrow his things – and let’s just say he makes some new life choices.

This one isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s understated and lovely and a happy ending for everyone.

krisdigiacomo.com
Eerdmans.com/youngreaders

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/when_a_wolf_is_hungry.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Newbery Notes!

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

As anybody who’s talked to me in the last year knows (I might have mentioned it a few times!), I’m on the 2019 Newbery committee.

Now, I’m also someone who likes to blog. A lot of people have expressed interest in how I got on the Newbery committee and what the process is like now that I’m serving, so I’m going to try to blog about the process.

I’m not going to say ONE WORD about any book I’m reading for the award, until the winners are announced next January. But I thought it would be fun to make a record of the process.

My plan is to post something once a week, probably on Tuesday nights (though that’s not when I’m starting). I’m going to set a timer for a half-hour and not go past that, so that I don’t take too much time from reading time.

Blogging may very well slow down as the year progresses and I need more reading time. But this is how it will start out.

Now, I want to catch people up with how I got on the committee, but I’m going to start with where I stand now.

I’ve been reading since October, when the Youth Materials Selector at the library found me some Advance Reader Copies of 2018 books so I could get a head start. Up to today, of eligible books, I’ve read:

84 picture books (3,204 pages)
55 middle grade books (11,302 pages)
20 young adult books (6,333 pages)

For a grand total of 156 books and 20,839 pages.

I began receiving books from publishers, mailed to my doorstep, a couple weeks ago. Now almost every day brings some more. So far I have received 53 books. Of those, I’ve only read 21.

So I need to step up my reading! At the start of 2018, I was trying to read at least 7 hours per week, and that’s simply not enough.

One of my favorite things I’m doing this year is I started a Silent Book Club. I heard about it from an email for librarians that referenced the site silentbookclub.com. I realized that here was a social activity I could add to my life while reading for the Newbery! At the same time, my church had just finished our new building, a community resource center – and they were looking to fill it with community activities.

So, every Thursday night, from 7 to 9 pm, at Gateway Community Church in South Riding, Virginia, I meet with friends, and we read! We talk the first and last fifteen minutes, and we show each other what we’re reading, but it’s mostly an appointment for reading.

Last week, I wasn’t able to attend – and I was thinking about how I get so much reading done on Thursday nights. Then I thought – what if I read from 7 to 9 every night? I get home from work about 6:45 most nights.

Of course, I couldn’t do that on Wednesdays, the day I work the late shift. But wait – why not set my alarm on those days (after all) and read from 7 to 9 in the morning? And on my days off, I can do both am and pm!

So I’ve been doing this new system for a week, and it’s been going great! We even had a snow day on Wednesday, and I got 5 hours of reading in, with one extra hour in between the morning and evening 7 to 9. This should help!

At this point in the process, I’m simply trying to read as many books as I can, in hopes that between the 15 committee members, we’ll find all the worthy books.

I’m also a member of Capitol Choices, a group that chooses the best 100 children’s books of the year, and it’s interesting what a different mindset it is to read for the Newbery. In that group, any good book is considered – for the Newbery, we’re looking for a *few* good books. (Each committee decides how many honor books to name.) And only one Medal winner.

Today I was at the first Capitol Choices meeting of the 2018 reading year. It was fun to go to a meeting where I’ve read most of the books! (Since I’ve been reading 2018 books since October, it was easier for me than everyone else.) These meetings will help me hear other librarians’ opinions on the books and help me notice things I missed. They also may help me notice books I might have overlooked.

The Newbery committee also submitted our first round of suggestions in March – committee members submit titles that they think are contenders. Our chair told us that if we can resist submitting a book, to do so – we want to look at only the best. So I really worked at refraining from listing every good title I’d read. To my delight, quite a few of the titles I’d thought about submitting were submitted by someone else.

In fact, I looked at the list of suggestions for March and realized that if we were to choose the winner today – I believe I would be happy and proud of our list. And it’s only going to get better as we read more books!

So if anyone ever says this isn’t a “good Newbery year,” I beg to differ.

And I am having tremendous fun searching for books that are contenders.

Review of ABCs from Space, by Adam Voiland

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

ABCs from Space

A Discovered Alphabet

by Adam Voiland

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017. 40 pages.

The author of this book is a science writer for a website called NASA Earth Observatory. He found the shapes of all the letters of the alphabet – in satellite images of the earth!

Some of the images look more like the letters than others. This would be an excellent book for a child who already knows their letters, but might be more difficult for one just learning the shapes.

But there’s more fun at the end. He gives details at the back of where and when each picture was taken and what type of image was used, whether Natural-color or false-color. A map shows the locations on earth that are covered. There are FAQs about the images and about the science (weather and geology, especially) at the back.

Mostly, I couldn’t stop looking at this book because it’s gorgeous and amazing. We have a beautiful planet!

adamvoiland.com
earthexplorer.usgs.gov
earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/FalseColor/
science.nasa.gov/ems
earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/ColorImage/
simonandschuster.com/kids

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return, by Ian Doescher

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

William Shakespeare’s

The Jedi Doth Return

by Ian Doescher

Quirk Books, Philadelphia, 2014. 168 pages.
Review written in 2016.

This third volume in William Shakespeare’s Star Wars was published quite some time ago – but I finally finished reading it because my son graduated from college and is living with me again for awhile.

These books simply must be read out loud! I loved the way my son did the various voices – It’s awfully amusing hearing Darth Vader and the Emperor speak in Shakespearean English. I think my own Chewbacca voice isn’t too bad.

Ian Doescher knows his Shakespeare. There are many references to Shakespeare plays in the text – most of which, I’m sure I didn’t pick up on.

We read one Act at a time – which ends up being approximately a half-hour of reading, just enough that our voices didn’t get too tired. I grant you there aren’t a lot of female parts, but we mostly alternated characters. There are Five Acts, so once we got restarted (We read Act One months ago.), it took us about a week to finish.

I still say these would be magnificent plays for a middle school to put on, or for a middle school or high school English class to read aloud in conjunction with studying a Shakespeare play. There’d be plenty of food for discussion about Ian Doescher’s adaptation, and I’m guessing students wouldn’t complain about the archaic language when they already know the story.

This is another brilliant installment. I admit I was losing steam and wasn’t sure I was going to get it read – but the opportunity to read it aloud reminded me what fun this series is.

IanDoescher.com
Quirkbooks.com
Starwars.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/jedi_doth_return.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Pets on the Loose! The Great Pet Escape, by Victoria Jamieson

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Pets on the Loose!

The Great Pet Escape

by Victoria Jamieson

Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2016. 64 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a graphic novel just right for kids who are ready for chapter books. It’s by the brilliant Newbery-Honor-winning Victoria Jamieson.

This book is about the classroom pets of Daisy P. Flugelhorn Elementary School. GW, a mouse, explains his fate at the beginning:

Three months,
two weeks,
and one day.

That’s how long I’ve been stuck in this terrible prison, otherwise known as . . .
a second-grade classroom.

I was captured along with my friends Barry and Biter. I haven’t seen them in months. We’re being held in separate cells.

GW has devised a clever plan to escape, including an elaborate contraption to get the door open. When he escapes one night, he goes to rescue Barry, a rabbit, and Biter, a guinea pig, as well.

Barry’s the first grade classroom pet, but he seems to have gone soft in prison. Still, when GW breaks him out, he goes along.

Barry tries to warn GW about Biter:

She’s . . . she’s doing hard time in the worst cell block in this place. Her jailers torture her nearly all the time with stupid songs and crazy behavior . . . .

You don’t mean . . .

Yes, I’m afraid I do . . . .
Biter is in KINDERGARTEN.

Sure enough, Biter has even changed her name to “Sunflower.” She says, “Here in kindergarten, we talk a lot about feelings, and, well . . . I’ve come to realize I have some anger issues.”

Well, that’s the beginning. GW and Barry do convince Sunflower to come along, on the strength of their friendship. But then they meet the fourth grade class pet, Harriet, and her mouse minions. Harriet is planning to sabotage the school lunch.

What follows is a grand and dramatic food fight.

Classroom pets on the loose! Jokes about school! Mayhem in the school cafeteria in the night! All in graphic novel format! There’s not one kid you’ll have to coax to read this book.

And best of all, it shows all the signs of being the first book of a new series, Pets on the Loose!

victoriajamieson.com
mackids.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/great_pet_escapes.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of A Message of Hope from the Angels, by Lorna Byrne

Saturday, March 17th, 2018

A Message of Hope from the Angels

by Lorna Byrne

Atria, 2012. 183 pages.
Starred Review

After I read Lorna Byrne’s biography, Angels in My Hair, about how she has been able to see angels all her life, I liked it so much, I ordered two more of her books from Amazon.

This one isn’t autobiographical, but it passes on to the reader things angels have told her. And yes, this book is especially about Hope.

Here’s a section from the first chapter:

Hope brings a community together to make things better, and when it does, I see people get brighter, shine more, and then they can go on to achieve greater things. People who believe things can be changed for the better are beacons of light for us – and need to be supported.

Hope can be given to others. It gives strength and courage, and then hope grows. We all have a part to play in growing hope. In the past, people looked to leaders of churches, communities, businesses, countries to provide a vision of hope for the future, but now many of our leaders are struggling. They are failing to see all the ways in which we can make our world a better place to live.

The angels have told me so much about hope and how much we have to be hopeful about, and have showed me so many different ways in which they help to give us hope.

When I reread that section, I thought, “No wonder this book uplifted me so much!” She covers many different things in this book, but the overall message is that we are loved unconditionally, and there are angels all around us, ready to help.

I’ll quote from a few sections that especially struck me.

One section I liked was where she talked about teacher angels.

Sometimes, on a sunny day, walking through the grounds of the university near where I live, I see students sitting on stone seats opposite the library or sitting on the grass studying, and I see teacher angels with some of them.

Teacher angels always seem to be holding something – a symbol of learning that is relevant to whatever they are teaching. Sometimes they are holding a book or a pointer or a board with writing on it with the words constantly changing. I once saw a bricklayer’s apprentice with a teacher angel who had a trowel in his hand. Teacher angels exhibit the mannerisms we associate with teachers.

I have often seen a teacher angel standing in front of a student, book in hand. The book would look similar to the one the student was working with and seem to be open at the same page. Occasionally I see the teacher angel turn to another page and I smile, knowing that the teacher angel is having difficulty with his student, who is finding it hard to make progress. I have seen teacher angels gently stretch out their hands and touch a student gently on the head with one finger, trying to get the student’s attention. Most of the time this seems to work, but sometimes not. Teacher angels never give up, though, and never lose their patience. I have seen teacher angels blowing on a student’s book and making the page turn, or causing a strong breeze, which blows some of the student’s books and pens onto the ground. That is the teacher angel trying to bring the student’s attention to a particular page or subject, or to simply stop them daydreaming. Teacher angels work very hard to get their students’ attention.

I am always amazed at how few people have teacher angels. After all, all they have to do is ask their guardian angel for help with whatever they are learning and their guardian angel will invite a teacher angel in. In the college I know best, only about one student in ten has a teacher angel with them.

This bit encouraged me in thinking about my many Empty Nester friends:

You can also ask for a teacher angel to help someone else. Just ask your guardian angel for a teacher angel to help the person. Many parents have told me that they have asked for a teacher angel to help their children with their studying – this is so much better than fretting and worrying.

Another special angel she talks about is the Angel of Strength:

When you are exhausted or feeling physically challenged by a task, you can call on the Angel of Strength and ask for his help. He is one angel, but he seems to be able to help many people at the same time. He won’t stay with you, but will come and help you for that particular task where strength is needed.

She concludes the chapter about the various types of help she’s seen angels give with this reflection:

Angels are such a sign of hope. There is always an angel that can help us, regardless of what is going on in our lives. All we have to do is ask. You don’t need to know what angel to ask for; just ask, and your guardian angel will call in the help you need. Isn’t it wonderful to know that there is such an abundance of help there? To me it seems so strange, and sad, that so many people don’t make use of this gift.

I loved the chapter about prayer angels. Here are some sections from it:

I talk and ask the angels to help; I ask the angels to intercede, but I don’t pray to them. I pray only to God. Prayer is direct communication with God.

No one ever prays alone. When you pray to God, there is a multitude of angels of prayer there, praying with you, regardless of your religious faith or how you are behaving. They are there enhancing your prayer, interceding on your behalf and imploring God to grant your prayer. Every time you pray, even if it is only one word, the angels of prayer are like a never-ending stream flowing at tremendous speed to Heaven with your prayers….

I know it’s hard to believe that I see hundreds of thousands of angels of prayer flowing like a river toward Heaven, bringing a person’s prayers and presenting them at the throne of God. But that is what I am shown; it’s as if angels of prayer bring every bit of the prayer – every syllable that is prayed for – up to Heaven. When the person stops praying, the flow stops, but as soon as the person starts to pray again, the stream of angels of prayer resumes.

I loved this part, too:

Every time I go into a church, mosque, synagogue, or temple – or any other holy place – I see hundreds of angels praying, quite aside and separate from any angel of prayer. It doesn’t matter what religion the place belongs to – if any. Whether it’s a building or a space outside, even if the place is no longer being used for prayer, it is still a holy place, and there will be angels there, praying to God.

She talks about a lot of things I’d certainly never thought about this way, but that actually make sense put this way, and encourage me to have confirmation that such things exist and someone has seen them. The grace of healing is one of these.

Each and every one of us has the grace of healing within us – and it is a wonderful gift God has given us. I see it at work every day. It’s beautiful when I see a mother or father holding a child in their arms and comforting them. The child might have a physical hurt, like a scratched knee, or an emotional hurt like sadness, but the parent, usually unbeknown to himself or herself, is pouring out the grace of healing. It is wonderful to see the grace of healing flow from the parent to the child and to see the child stop crying and go back to playing happily.

There was a whole chapter about angels encouraging us to enjoy life.

I’ve said elsewhere that I hate the question, “What is my destiny?” It seems to imply that life is about one or a few big tasks or goals. My understanding from God and the angels is that each and every one of our destinies is to live life to the fullest. This means living every minute of every day to the fullest and trying to be aware and conscious of every moment and, where possible, to enjoy them all. Your life is today. It’s not yesterday or tomorrow. It’s now. This moment….

In seeing beauty around you, you will appreciate life more, and recognize more the beauty that is within yourself. Appreciating beauty helps you to slow down, and the more beauty you notice, the more beauty you will see. Much of the time we just don’t notice what is around us. We are lost in our thoughts or fail to give any importance or value to the idea of seeing beauty.

Yet another beautiful chapter is called “No one dies alone.” She’s had experiences with seeing people die – and she sees those souls gently being held by their guardian angel and surrounded by other angels, and surrounded by love.

I can go on, and it’s tempting to talk about every single chapter. But this gives you the idea. Lorna Byrne’s words are inspiring and uplifting.

The American edition (which I read) has an appendix at the back with a particular message of hope for America. However, it made me a little sad. This edition was published in 2012, long before the election of our current president. It tells how she sees special gathering angels, gathering people from all over the world, sending them to America. She says that she’s been told that America has a special purpose.

We need to start to pray together. I have been told that praying together is the cornerstone of creating a peaceful world. For far too long religious differences have been a cause of discord and war. Ordinary Americans praying together will allow people of different religions to get to know and understand each other. It will help them to lose their fear of one another, to see just how much they have in common, and to become friends.

I have been told that the first place that big numbers of people of different religions will start praying together regularly is America. This is one of the reasons that the American gathering angels have been bringing people of all religions to this country. It is a part of America’s destiny to help bring all religions together. America will serve as a role model: a beacon of hope for the world. From America this form of praying together will spread across the world, helping to unify peoples and to build world peace.

You can see why this discouraged me in our current climate. However, the chapter does continue with stories of seeing the Angel of Hope working extra diligently in America. I’m going to choose hope and choose to believe that in the big picture, people will listen to God through His angels and forces of good will win out.

And I can’t think of a better way to bolster hope than to read this book.

lornabyrne.com
SimonandSchuster.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/message_of_hope.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, purchased via Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Dad and the Dinosaur, by Gennifer Choldenko, illustrated by Dan Santat

Friday, March 16th, 2018

Dad and the Dinosaur

by Gennifer Choldenko
illustrated by Dan Santat

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Nick wants to be brave like his dad. And people think that he is when he goes rock climbing and faces down a big, tough goalie on the soccer field.

But what other people don’t know is that the reason Nick can be brave is because of his companion, a toy dinosaur that goes with him everywhere. The dinosaur gives Nick the courage of a dinosaur.

So when the dinosaur falls out during a soccer game, Nick loses all his courage.

But it turns out that Dad knows exactly what to do.

This is a charming story of a kid who admires his father and wants to be like him – and a father who knows how to treat his son’s feelings with deep respect.

The illustrations are perfect. While Nick is holding his dinosaur, we see a shadowy dinosaur in the background, big and bold and brave. When Nick has lost the dinosaur, the world is a scarier place, with tentacles coming up from under a manhole cover ready to pull him down.

Together the story and illustrations hit just the right note. We see a kid who’s brave like his amazing dad, with the help of his friend the dinosaur.

gennifercholdenko.com
dantat.com
penguin.com/children

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/dad_and_the_dinosaur.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Newbery Notes – Finishing March 48-Hour Book Challenge

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

Okay, it’s the end of my 48-Hour Book Challenge for March 2018. Alas! My stats are nothing like I hoped they’d be.

But to be fair – I had a vestibular migraine the whole time, and I had some household tasks I wanted to get done. The migraine meant I took long naps each day. But bottom line is that I got more reading done than I would have if I’d spent the day at work, so it’s all good. I’m taking 4 days off in May, so my next 48-Hour Book Challenge, I should be able to devote it more fully to reading. (And do other things on the other 2 days off.)

I did spend 13 and a half hours on book-related activities.
7 hours and 40 minutes was reading.
1 hour and 35 minutes was writing reviews.
1 hour and 50 minutes was my regular posting reviews on Sonderbooks. (I like to do one per day – these are old reviews I wrote in the past. I really hope that while I’m reading for the Newbery and can’t post reviews of 2018 books, I’ll catch up and get all my old reviews posted!)
1 hour was other blogging (like this post).
And 1 hour and 25 minutes was messing with spreadsheets! You’d better believe I’m keeping track with spreadsheets all my Newbery reading. Now I’m starting to get books from publishers, so I made a new spreadsheet to track that.

I did finish 4 books that are eligible for the Newbery, though I’d started 2 of those before the challenge. But in the 7 hours and 40 minutes, I read a total of 957 pages.

Speaking of spreadsheets, let me give some totals for all my Newbery reading.

So far I’ve read 129 eligible books, but 64 of those are picture books and 65 are novels, for a total of 23,305 pages.

It’s interesting to me – I’ve read far more middle grade books – 49, than young adult books – 16, but I’ve actually read slightly more pages of young adult novels – 10,648 as opposed to 10,205 pages of middle grade books. I’ll probably be focusing more and more on middle grade books to change that. (But reading a young adult book now and then does break that up, and technically they are eligible if they have a 14-year-old audience.)

So – I’m going to treat my days off as a success. I’m plugging away, getting lots of reading done.

But I also want to announce a blog series I hope to start posting weekly – Newbery Notes.

I’ve had a lot of people ask about how I got on the committee and how the committee works and what it’s like to be on it. So – I thought it would be fun to blog about it.

Now, I’m way behind – I want to talk about how I got on the committee in the first place. But there’s plenty of time to talk about that. To keep from trying to catch up all at once, I’m setting my timer and plan to spend only 30 minutes per post. Plus, I don’t want to take time away from reading!

I will *not not not* talk about anything I’m reading or even if I read a book I enjoyed. People might try to guess based on when I read the book which book it was. I will talk about stats and fun things like so far, I have received 15 books from publishers – and they only started arriving last week! This is going to be more about how I’m arranging my life during my Newbery committee year.

I mentioned on the last post that my initial goal is to read 7 hours per week – but that’s a minimum. Then I’m doing one 24-hour Book Challenge per month and one 48-hour Book Challenge per quarter. I’m trying to take at least one day off to read each month. Toward the end of the year, I’m going to use 16 hours of Volunteer Leave to read. (I do have to check how my leave balances are doing. But so far, so good.)

Fortunately, I love to read. So far, I’m having fun doing this.

I’ve also gotten to talk about being on the Newbery committee in local schools. I’ve talked to a 4th grade class a 5th grade class, groups of 5th and 6th graders, an entire 6th grade at a school, and a Newbery Book Club I’m running at the library. So far, I’m just having that club try to read eligible books and give me their opinion, but by the end of the year, I hope we’ll be able to have the attendees vote on which book they think deserves the medal. Oh, and the “County Conversations” podcast interviewed me about being on the Newbery committee.

One of the most fun things I’ve added to my life is a Silent Book Club, every Thursday night from 7 pm to 9 pm. I read about Silent Book Clubs at silentbookclub.com just after I’d gotten my first advance reader copies of 2018 books last fall. I realized with delight that this was something social I could add into my life during my Newbery year! The timing was perfect – my church had just finished our new building, a community resource center, and was looking for activities that would appeal to our community. So they were happy to host the Silent Book Club as an “Activity Group.” You can sign up for it by joining our Facebook Group, “Dulles South Silent Book Club.”

We talk for the first and last 15 minutes and spend the hour and a half in the middle reading. You bring your own book. Several people use this to get books finished for another, talking, book club. We started out slow, but now regularly have 5 to 7 people there. There are now 11 people who have come at least once.

And my half-hour to post about life on the Newbery committee is done. Next week, I will try to tackle how I got on the committee.

Happy Reading!

Review of Peas and Carrots, by Tanita S. Davis

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

Peas and Carrots

by Tanita S. Davis

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2016. 279 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a contemporary novel about a teen in foster care. It’s been years since Dess has lived with her baby brother. She got kicked out of her last foster home and has been in group homes ever since. But now, when she asks to see her brother – she ends up getting placed in the home he’s in. There’s even a sister who is fifteen, just like Dess.

Just because two teens are the same age doesn’t mean they’ll get along. The book alternates perspectives between white-skinned Dess and African-American Hope, her new foster sister.

Here’s their meeting from Dess’s perspective:

The girl looks right at me, and her eyes get all wide. She’s darker than Foster Lady and shorter, but thick like her, with a crinkly mess of puffy hair in a sloppy bun. She’s all baby fat and big cow eyes, which I’m about to slap out of her damn head if she doesn’t stop staring at me.

“What are you looking at?” I snarl at the same time that she blurts out, “Um . . . I’m Hope. Hi.”

And here it is from Hope’s perspective:

So this was Austin’s real sister – his birth sister. This girl, with her pale-blue eyes and dragon-lady nails, looked nothing like Austin, whose skin was a sandy brown, whose eyes were a dark hazel, and whose hair was tightly furled golden-brown curls. Hope searched for any trace of resemblance to Austin’s sharp-chinned, round-headed adorableness in the single wary eye, ringed hard with liner, that glared out at her from beneath the sweep of stiff, blond bangs. Half siblings could still look alike, but . . . no, nothing.

Dess isn’t used to a loving family, and is skeptical of the “rule” of acting with kindness. Hope isn’t used to having a foster sister her own age who isn’t, actually, very nice to her. Then at school, Dess seems to be able to make friends more easily than Hope, which is completely disorienting for Hope.

But eventually, through the ins and outs of everyday life, the girls learn to care about even someone so different.

This story had me reading until far too late in the night. Your heart goes out to Dess, with her tough family situation, but also to Hope, just trying to be kind but also wanting to be noticed in a family that is so much about service, sometimes Hope gets overlooked.

The people, the friendships, and the school situations felt true to life. You’re pulled into caring about these girls. The reader gets to see both perspectives, and it’s beautiful to watch them slowly inch toward each other.

TanitaSDavis.com
randomhouseteens.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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