Archive for May, 2013

Book and Blogging Blitz Begins!

Friday, May 31st, 2013

So, when I was doing my Unpack-a-thons, it was partly to get unpacking out of the way before the annual 48-Hour Book Challenge. It’s always at the beginning of June, so I was hoping it would hit this weekend. When I learned it’s going to hit next weekend, when I am scheduled to work both Friday and Saturday, I decided I will have to celebrate this weekend on my own.

I got to thinking: I still want to participate in the official event. So why don’t I use this weekend as a sort of warm-up? But I will use my own rules instead of the official rules.

For starters, I will count time reading picture books. I have a big stack of picture books I’ve been meaning to review for quite some time now. I will tackle that stack.

I also think I’ll make a concession to the unpacking that still needs to be done by unpacking one box of books per hour.

And I will try not to stress out if my totals are not so impressive as in previous years. As I write this, I have a mild vestibular migraine, and if that gets worse, I will take naps as necessary, without guilt. I will not set an alarm in the morning, and if I sleep late, that’s all good. I recently started a walking program, and I will go out walking both days this weekend. I will do the grocery shopping, and I really should go driving with my son, who needs several more hours practice before he can get his license. (I am probably looking for excuses not to do that.) I will do my weekly ironing — but I will probably listen to an audiobook while doing it, instead of the usual movie. Hmm. I can listen to an audiobook while cooking dinner, too. (Though maybe I can talk my son into cooking.) I have a new audiobook checked out, all ready to listen. (The Plantagenets, by Dan Jones, based on Liz Burns’ recommendation.)

Now, with the 48-Hour Book Challenge, it’s a lot more fun if you spend most of the time actually reading. That’s what makes it an indulgence. But the thing I really want to get around to doing is posting reviews. I have reviews still waiting to be posted that I wrote in 2012! And I have that aforementioned stack of picture books. And another of children’s nonfiction. So I’m thinking I’ll focus on writing reviews this weekend, and then for the Actual 48-Hour Book Challenge, with what time I have, I can indulge myself and simply read.

All that said, here’s my plan for Sondy’s Book and Blogging Blitz:

1) Each hour, I will begin by posting a review. (Or, in this case, a post about progress.)

2) Each hour, I will then unpack a box of books. (Yes, despite two Unpack-a-thons, I can safely say I have more than 20 boxes of books left to unpack. If I finish, great!)

3) Then I will spend the rest of the time writing reviews, with this rotation:
— Novels (I only have 2 to review)
— Picture Books
— Children’s Nonfiction
— Short Fiction (graphic novels, short chapter books)
— Adult Nonfiction
I’m thinking I’ll spend the rest of an hour on an item in the rotation, alternating back to the top of the list. (I really want to get that stack of picture books done.) Like this: Novels (which I’ll finish up the first time), picture books, children’s NF, picture books, short fiction, picture books…. Once I finish all the picture books, I’ll cycle back to children’s nonfiction. And so on.

4) Bedtime or naptime reading will be exceptions to the above. I’ll just read a novel until I fall asleep. Other exceptions will be my quiet time in the morning (nonfiction reading) and the aforementioned listening to an audiobook while cooking or ironing.

5) After I’ve gone through all the categories above, like in the 48-Hour Book Challenge, I’ll spend the remainder of an hour visiting other blogs. In that hour, instead of posting a review, I’ll write an update post and a post for one of my series.

And at the end I will post all my stats.

Now, I admit, it’s much more fun to do this along with others. So this will be my warm-up, to build enthusiasm for participating next week, even though I have to work.

I’ve also been hesitant to post more than one or two reviews in a day, since they get buried in a blog. But I’m just going to go for it! I want to get caught up! Of course, what takes me so long to post reviews is that I also post them on my main site, which takes some html fiddling. But at least there, I can highlight ALL of the weekend’s reviews, and the ones at the start of the weekend won’t just get lost on the second page of the blog.

So, enough rattling on! This constitutes a blog post, so now I’m going to unpack a box! Let the Blitz begin!

Show Me the Awesome: Math at the Library

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

This month I’m excited about Show Me the Awesome: 30 Days of Self-Promotion, hosted by Liz Burns, Kelly Jensen, and Sophie Brookover. The Awesome artwork is by John LeMasney.

The idea is wonderful: Librarians talking about the awesome things they are doing.

Now, I’ve long believed that Librarians, as a whole, are tremendously undervalued. I have a sporadic series on my blog I call Librarians Help, trying to spread the word about the good we do. Read all the 30 Days of Awesome posts! If you’re a librarian yourself, you’ll get some great ideas. If you’re not, you’ll learn about some truly awesome things librarians are doing.

Mind you, I signed up to post in this series before I moved to a new home. Surely, a full month after moving, I’d be all settled in my new place, right? (Cue hysterical laughter here.)

I also signed up before booktalking season began. Today, for the first time in four years, I went to a local elementary school and talked with all seven grade levels about our Summer Reading Program and whet their appetites for some of my favorite books. I remembered how exhausting it is, but I had forgotten just how awesome it is to see all their faces listening to you tell about the books, and getting feedback that they are now determined to read some of the books you shared. I took a nap when I got home tonight, but I’m in a great mood. Getting kids excited about reading is such a mood booster!

But for my Awesome post, I already had in mind something I wanted to talk about: Math in the Library.

Before I got my MLS, my first Master’s degree was in Math. I taught college-level math for 10 years. And though I love math, the teaching job never felt like a calling, the way librarianship does. Part of what I love about the library? We don’t have to test anyone! No, at the library, we’re all about learning, and we assist learning for people who want to learn.

What’s more, I’ve always believed there’s no need whatsoever to “make” Math fun. Math *IS* fun! And we get to show that to kids!

So, what are some awesome ways recently I’ve gotten to show people how much fun Math is at the library?

Fresh in my mind, this morning I booktalked You Can Count on Monsters, by Richard Evan Schwartz, Great Estimations, by Bruce Goldstone, and Just a Second, by Steve Jenkins. But let me tell you about some programs.

First, I took Every Child Ready to Read‘s program, “Fun with Science and Math for Parents and Children,” and I changed it to “Fun with Math for Parents and Children.”

We did have fun! We emphasized the practices parents can use to build a foundation for reading in their children: Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, and Playing. And we talked about how you can apply those things to Math as well. I outlined some things I did in an earlier post. I am hoping that some of these parents are all the more eager to count with their children as they go about their days, to talk about math, and to play games with their kids. I made sure to introduce them to, and I hope some of the parents are starting a bedtime tradition of math problems at bedtime.

See how we can take a totally different focus than a teacher has to in the classroom? I can give the parents ideas of ways to have fun, and they can choose the ones they go with. (For example, when picking up toys, ask your kids how many toys they think are on the floor? Count as you pick them up, and it will go faster!) Did you know that setting the table or matching socks are early math activities?

My other Awesome Math program that I’m excited about is called Colors and Codes. In this program, I show the kids my crazy Prime Factorization knitting projects and Prime Factorization t-shirt, to give them the idea that you can use colors to represent numbers. Then, if you use numbers 1 to 26 for the letters A to Z, you can use colors to represent letters. Which means that colors can be used to write messages.

I start with showing them prime factorization color codes and move on to other bases. Base 6 and Base 5 work well for the 26 letters, but I also show them Binary (Base 2). I show them they can also use shapes. With binary, they can use practically anything: sounds, lights, dots & dashes…. Then I have lots of foam shapes available, and let them make craft projects. They can devise their own codes using these ideas and decide what they want to say.

The program uses very sophisticated mathematical concepts — and it’s totally fun! If they don’t quite get it, well, they can make a pretty picture, and I bet later some of the ideas will come together for them. (I did give them all a hand-out to color themselves.)

Oh, and one more low-key but totally fun program I do at our branch is “Brain Games at the Library.” Playing games builds logic skills and mathematical thinking. But see how there’s no pressure, no testing, and only fun? For the Brain Games program, we give them gently used books as prizes. It’s fun to watch the kids thinking they’re getting away with something when they take a pile of books home from their wins!

All this is to say that I’m so happy I still get to teach Math! Only now I get to show people how much fun it is!

Librarians Help! Showing how Awesome Math is!

Review of The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

The Raven Boys

The Raven Cycle, Book 1

by Maggie Stiefvater

Scholastic Press, 2012. 409 pages.

I adored The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater, so I picked up this book eagerly. It’s not quite as much my cup of tea, but I still am eagerly looking forward to the next book.

The premise is powerful. Here’s the first sentence:

Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.

The narrator goes on to explain that Blue’s mother and aunts are psychics. They tell people’s fortunes, always explaining that the predictions are accurate but not specific.

But this was not what Blue was told. Again and again, she had her fingers spread wide, her palm examined, her cards plucked from velvet-edged decks and spread across the fuzz of a family friend’s living room carpet. Thumbs were pressed to the mystical, invisible third eye that was said to lie between everyone’s eyebrows. Runes were cast and dreams interpreted, tea leaves scrutinized and seances conducted.

All the women came to the same conclusion, blunt and inexplicably specific. What they all agreed on, in many different clairvoyant languages, was this:

If Blue was to kiss her true love, he would die.

The Prologue ends with Blue meeting her mother’s half-sister, Neeve, a much more famous psychic.

“You’re Maura’s daughter,” Neeve said, and before Blue could answer, she added, “This is the year you’ll fall in love.”

That’s in the Prologue. In Chapter One, we find Blue in a small churchyard with Neeve on St. Mark’s Eve. Blue is not psychic, has never had visions. Blue’s presence, however, enhances the powers of psychics she is with. Her mother normally goes to the churchyard on St. Mark’s Eve to see the souls of those who will die in the coming year march past. She gets their names, and generally gives these people a warning.

But this year, Blue sees one of the souls. The first time she has ever done so. He’s wearing a sweater from Aglionby Academy, the rich kids’ school whose students wear a uniform with a raven emblem. He says his name is Gansey.

Neeve has an explanation for why this time Blue can see the dead-to-be:

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve, Blue. Either you’re his true love,” Neeve said, “or you killed him.”

So, that’s some mighty heavy foreshadowing. Blue does meet Gansey, and a group of his friends. Her mother warns her to stay away, which of course eggs her on. (Though I would think all these predictions might just do the trick.) We also spend time with Gansey and his group of friends, misfits in some ways. Ronan is angry, has a horrible past, and is in constant danger of being kicked out of Aglionby. Noah is very quiet and hardly ever speaks. Adam’s a kid on scholarship with an awful family background and sensitive about spending time with people rolling in wealth. He’s the one who seems to have a crush on Blue, and I found myself wanting her to return it.

Gansey is on a quest. He is looking for a dead Welsh king who promised to return, who promised a wish come true for whoever awakens him. Gansey has strong reason to believe the king’s body was hidden in the hills of West Virginia. One of the ley lines is what Blue knows as the corpse road, where she was on St. Mark’s Eve.

Why didn’t I warm more to the story? In the first place, I’ve got reservations about fortunetelling, having grown up in a conservative Christian home. Now, I realize that it makes a fine storytelling device, but this had an awful lot of occult practices. I know, I know, it’s a story, but that kept me a bit at a distance.

Now, the portrayal of the friendships is done wonderfully, and the way Blue gets to know the Raven Boys is realistic and fun. Each of their back stories is well-drawn and these characters are each interesting individuals. There’s a mystery, and a revelation about two-thirds of the way through the book that is positively brilliant.

But I wasn’t onboard with the romance. Everything up to the first chapter would lead you to believe she’s going to fall in love with Gansey, she’s going to kiss him, and he’s going to die. That’s not a spoiler, since those predictions alone would give you that impression. What’s more, there are further visions and predictions about her and Gansey.

So what can I say to not give it away? Well, I’m just not satisfied about how that’s going so far. My heart doesn’t believe in her falling in love with Gansey.

Though it is possible Maggie Stiefvater will win me over in the next volume. But the further time goes by, the more resistant I am to that romance.

As far as the mystery, friendships, and dramatic climax? Excellent! So I will definitely keep reading The Raven Cycle. If the characters didn’t exactly warm my heart, I still want to find out what happens to them. And I want to know if Blue can evade what seems to be her destiny.

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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 an Advance Reader Copy I got at an ALA conference.

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.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Unpack-a-thon #2 Results

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

On Memorial Day weekend, I held another personal Unpack-a-thon. And though there’s still a long way to go, I think I got things to where I’m happy with unpacking a few boxes each night, and no longer feel that desperate need to clear more floor space so I can think.

Best of all, I completely finished the job of unpacking kitchen things. That was difficult — so much involved figuring out where doodads I’d put in drawers should now be stowed, with less drawers and less cupboards. But the job is done! Mind you, I then moved boxes of pictures into the kitchen alcove where they will be out of the way while I unpack everything else. But everything that belongs in the kitchen is now put away! Woo-hoo!

Here are the stats: Total time spent was 19 hours. A wicked migraine I woke up with on Sunday was what kept this number down — requiring a long nap Sunday afternoon. But I was happy with how much I was able to do anyway, and the headache did let up, and unpacking was a great distraction.

Total boxes unpacked: 34
Total bags, baskets, or suitcases unpacked: 9

The boxes are broken down into 19 boxes of books unpacked and 15 other boxes. The book boxes are much easier, and that’s what I’ve started focusing on now that I’m doing a little bit each night — progress is faster and more obvious. Those are what I took pictures of after the Unpack-a-thon was done.

In the living room, I unpacked 10 book boxes, 3 other boxes, and 6 bags or baskets.

In the office, I finished filling the bookcase of picture books and collections (Harry Potter, The Black Stallion, and Oz) This involved 6 book boxes and 2 other boxes.

In the bedroom, I unpacked 3 suitcases. This was difficult, since I had gotten rid of an old falling-apart sweater chest and had to figure out where to put things and what I could get rid of. I also did unpack 3 book boxes and one other box. And I put shelves in one bookcase.

Now, the 19 hours was not spent only on unpacking, I’m afraid. I ended up spending 4 hours the whole weekend cleaning. Since I hadn’t given the house a good cleaning since I moved in, this was overdue. And I spent 2 hours on Monday building a bookcase! Here it is:

I credit my son with the lovely excuse to buy a bookcase. He noticed that my two-shelf bookcase would fit at the foot of his bed and should be able to hold the books he’d brought back from college. I was annoyed at first, since I’d worked hard to fit all my books on shelves — until I realized I could fit a 3-shelf bookcase where I’d put the 2-shelfer. 🙂 Call him an Enabler.

So I still haven’t finished the job, but I’ve had enough of focusing on it for awhile. I’m trying to decide if I will just take it easy next weekend, or if I can find the time to treat myself to a Blog-a-thon and try to catch up on my blog posts.

Meanwhile, today at the library, I booktalked our Summer Reading Program in one of the local schools with my co-worker. It was my first booktalks in four years, and I’d completely forgotten how much fun it is to see all those kids’ faces and get to tell them about great books!

And when I got home, after resting an hour or so, I was treated to the sight of my son enjoying the balcony:

This made me smile as much as being out there myself! Truly, life is good!

Unpack-a-thon #2

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Last weekend, I held my first Unpack-a-thon moving into my new home. My results were good, but there’s still a long way to go.

So, for Memorial Day Weekend, I’m going to do Unpack-a-thon #2. And maybe make this place look more like a home and less like a warehouse.

Mind you, I would much rather do a Read-a-thon or a Blog-a-thon. But if I get a lot done on the Unpack-a-thon, that can be my reward.

The Unpack-a-thon starts tomorrow, Friday, since that’s my day off this weekend. My optimistic plan (It’s okay if I don’t reach it.) is this:

Friday: 8 hours
Saturday (after work): 2 hours
Sunday: 3 hours
Monday (Memorial Day): 7 hours

I managed 9 hours total last week, so it would be great if I could hit 20 this week, with the extra day in there.

Last time, I ended up rotating between rooms, always starting with the kitchen. You know what the hard part is? It’s finding a place for things. I have less storage in my new home than I did before, so the hard part is figuring out where I can fit things or if I can do without things.

So, this time, each hour I’ll start again with a box in the kitchen. Then I’ll rotate to other rooms, but in each other room, I’ll empty one book box and one other box. The book boxes are much much easier — because I made sure all my books fit on bookcases before I moved, and all the boxes are labeled with which bookcase they came from. A lot of these boxes sitting around are book boxes, so I want to let myself tackle the easy ones this time.

Another thing: After 4 hours unpacking, I’m allowed to spend the next half-hour cleaning, and count it as part of the unpack-a-thon. I have so many boxes in the way, I haven’t done much cleaning since I moved in — and it’s getting where it needs to happen! So if I hit 20 hours of unpacking, that would end up including 2 hours of cleaning, which should get things in much better shape.

I don’t have as many other things calling me away this weekend (at least not yet), so maybe I’ll hit the 20 hour goal. If I do, I may treat myself to one of the cool board games we unpacked with my son Tim, who’s home from college.

And if I get enough done, the following weekend, I was going to have my own personal 48-Hour Book Challenge.

However, I discovered today that this year it’s going to be hosted by Ms Yingling, and it’s actually scheduled for the following weekend — a weekend when I’m working both Friday and Saturday. So, I think the only solution is to do a Book Challenge both weekends, don’t you? I’ll do one on the weekend of June 7th following their rules, and I’ll do one the weekend of the 30th making up my own. For example, I’m going to allow myself to count time reading picture books, because I’ve got a big pile of picture books I want to review but never quite get around to. I also want to spend lots of time posting reviews I’d written earlier. So maybe my personal Book Challenge weekend would be a good weekend to do those things. I will be working out a plan this week….

Anyway, meanwhile, let the Unpack-a-thon begin!

Review of A Hero for WondLa, by Tony DiTerlizzi

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

A Hero for WondLa

by Tony DiTerlizzi

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012. 445 pages.

I had the privilege of having dinner with Tony DiTerlizzi and a group from Simon & Schuster at 2012 ALA Midwinter Meeting. He talked about how, with the WondLa books, he wanted to write an imaginative adventure story like The Wizard of Oz, a story that would appeal to boys and girls alike. When he was a boy reading The Wizard of Oz, he never minded that Dorothy was a girl. The adventures in a fantastical world completely captured his imagination. He wanted to add illustrations, like those books had when he was young. For the second book, he reread Brave New World in preparation for writing it.

I think Tony DiTerlizzi achieved those goals. I’ve been a fan since childhood of The Wizard of Oz myself, and the WondLa books have the same feel. They’ve got adventure, a quest, and exuberantly imaginative details. They are on the long side, but I don’t think a young audience will mind, and the wonderful illustrations help to move the story along and keep the reader entranced.

In the second book, A Hero for WondLa, Eva Nine has found a human city. She’s excited to find a place where she belongs. Her alien friend warns her, though, “A village of your kind does not necessarily make a home.” Knowing that the author had read Brave New World before writing it, I was not surprised when something seemed off. In fact, Eva felt a little slow to figure it out. What she finds there leads to further adventures.

I didn’t quite track with the plot all along the way in this book. It felt simplistic, which perhaps is appropriate for the young audience it’s meant for. But there were times when a simple explanation won people to Eva’s side, and there were other times when people irrationally opposed her. I didn’t really believe, for example, that she would have gone into the city without Rovender by her side, or then that she’d be able to find him as easily as she did. Yes, the author is wonderfully imaginative, but some of the events at the end seemed over-the-top. What do you think? I’d love to discuss details in the comments. (So please avoid the comments until you’ve read the book — then feel free to include spoilers.)

And despite those quibbles, like The Wizard of Oz, The Search for WondLa and A Hero for WondLa present an adventure saga that’s firmly kid-based and kid-friendly. I am looking forward to the series continuing. May it find many readers.

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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.

Review of Quintana of Charyn, by Melina Marchetta

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Quintana of Charyn

by Melina Marchetta

Candlewick Press, 2013. First published in Australia in 2012. 516 pages.
Starred Review

Quintana of Charyn is not merely a sequel to Froi of the Exiles, it’s the second half of the story begun in the earlier book. Both books are a sequel to Finnikin of the Rock. As such, you definitely should read these books in order, and I wish I had taken the time to reread the earlier books, as it would have been easier to keep straight the many characters and situations. I wasn’t wanting to take on that much time — but some day in the future I know I will want to reread all three books in order, and I’ll be in for a treat.

With both Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn, I was struck by how Melina Marchetta dares to introduce her main characters, particularly Quintana, as not very likeable. But they definitely grow on you. These books are intricate and complex. You have characters who do awful things who later do good things, with all the complexities of real life.

Since this book is the second half of an epic tale, I won’t talk much about the plot. If you’ve read Froi of the Exiles, you will want to find out what happens. Why is this book so grand?

— The epic scope. This is a fantasy series that creates a world with incredible complexity. There are many nations, and they have their own concerns, their own curses. We’re still dealing with Lumatere after the breaking of their curse, and the repercussions in their dealings with Charyn, which has its own curse to break.

— Dealing with racism, and cross-cultural relations. How can Lumaterans ever relate to Charynites? This book shows both parties overcoming their prejudices.

— Individual characters in all their complexity. Characters in these books are never flat. We see complicated and conflicting motivations. We find out about histories that affect them and new choices they have to make.

— Choosing the side of wonder. In the middle of bleak circumstances, some characters, and naturally cynical ones at that, choose to look at things on the side of wonder. I love this!

And there’s so much more. As I said, some time in the future, I’m definitely planning to treat myself to rereading all three books. I know I will discover even more riches — there’s too much to fully grasp in one reading. This is a magnificent tale with amazing complexity.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Unpack-a-thon #1 Results

Monday, May 20th, 2013

I did it! I devoted 9 hours to unpacking last weekend. I unpacked 32 boxes and 13 bags.

I still have a loooooong way to go!

However, it dawned on me that I can do another Unpack-a-thon on Memorial Day weekend. The following weekend, I want to do the 48-Hour Book Challenge. The weekend after that, I won’t have a weekend because I traded Fridays so that the weekend after that I can have my birthday off. So I hope I’ll make good headway on Memorial Day weekend.

And it’s already nice to have room to walk around in my kitchen! And to have found some things that were missing.

I ended up, except for the last hour, rotating between the rooms I was working in, starting each hour in the kitchen. So here’s how it went:

In the kitchen, I unpacked 7 boxes and 7 bags. Here was the before picture:

And here is the After picture:

Of course, the main kitchen is a galley kitchen, and I didn’t picture the boxes on shelves, or the four boxes still stacked right outside it. But good progress was made!

Next, each hour I worked on unpacking games, which went in my son’s closet. That is, until the last hour, when I focused on only that, and FINISHED the task! Woo-hoo! All games are stored, besides the ones I brought to the library for our monthly “Brain Games at the Library” program. That program is now well-stocked!

This involved unpacking 10 boxes. Here were some of them Before:

And the entryway is much clearer After:

Next on the list was the Living Room. I unpacked 10 boxes, mostly books, and 2 bags. They mostly went on my biggest bookcase:

Then I worked on my Office. I unpacked 5 boxes in that room, including some books:

Last in the rotation was the Master Bedroom. I only finished unpacking 4 bags from it. These took a bit longer, since I got rid of a sweater chest that had a broken drawer, and I’m trying to figure out where to put everything. Progress was made, but not worth photographing.

Anyway, my theory is that, knowing I’ll be doing lots more next weekend, I can get back to blogging and posting reviews during the week.

I am finding that driving just a bit farther in stop-and-go traffic instead of a freeway *really* makes me sleepy. I was hoping stopping the migraine preventative I’d been trying would clear that up, and maybe it still will, but all that is to say tonight I laid in bed for an hour after I got home, and then I had some bills to pay. (I made my *first* mortgage payment! What a big girl I am!) So — I hope to start posting reviews again *tomorrow*!

But it was nice to come home to a little bit less clutter of boxes. And remember that I really am happy with my new home.


Friday, May 17th, 2013

I mentioned last week that I need to devote some solid time to unpacking. I insist it’s *not* that I’m procrastinating! It’s that I’m working full-time and so far my weekends have had other priorities. This last week, I admit, I didn’t get reviews posted *or* much unpacking done.

Anyway, I’m hereby starting my Unpack-a-thon at 11:00 pm on Friday night. It will run for 48 hours, until 11:00 pm on Sunday night.

Now, I don’t really want to do as many hours as I typically do in the 48-Hour Book Challenge. I’m going to have one rule: I’ll work an hour at a time, and do the other things I need to do this weekend in between. My goals are an hour tonight, right after I finish this post, 8 hours tomorrow, and 3 hours on Sunday, for a total of 12 hours. I’ll keep track of how many boxes I get unpacked and hope things look a lot better by the end of the weekend.

This calls for some “Before” pictures:

Here’s my office, where I’m working right now:

And here’s the living room:

My bedroom:

The entrance way:

Yes, um, okay, that is a new bookcase I bought today. It’s my son’s fault! He wanted to use our small two-shelf bookcase at the foot of his bed. I wouldn’t give it to him, until I realized I could use it as an excuse to buy a three-shelf bookcase, which would fit under the wall with the kitchen.

The living room from the other side:

And the area off the kitchen:

Okay, it’s time to unpack! Ready, set, GO!

Review of Colorful Dreamer, by Marjorie Blain Parker

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Colorful Dreamer

The Story of Artist Henri Matisse

by Marjorie Blain Parker
illustrated by Holly Berry

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Artists make ideal subjects for picture book biographies, and Colorful Dreamer makes the most of the form.

The story of Henri Matisse’s life is simplified, suitable for very young readers. It opens with Henri living in a black-and-white world, but dreaming in color. Here’s an example of a page that shows the fanciful approach the author took (yet conveying the facts):

It certainly wasn’t the life Henri had dreamed about. Law clerks, he discovered, spent long days copying legal documents, word-for-word-for-word. When he couldn’t stand the boredom for another second, Henri amused himself with his peashooter. Soon, he was an excellent shot!

Growing a beard and wearing a top hat didn’t help. Though he looked like a law clerk, Henri couldn’t bear the possibility of such an existence. Just thinking about it tied his stomach in knots. And this time Henri ended up in bed for months — in a hospital.

After Henri discovered painting, the pictures change to wildly colorful pictures, and reflect the different artistic periods of his life, culminating in cut-paper collages.

A page of notes at the back gives older readers avenues to pursue to find out more. The book itself is a wonderful introduction to the artist for young children. A lot of picture book biographies focus on the subject’s childhoold. Since Matisse didn’t discover painting until he was twenty, this author decided to focus on his misfit childhood and his colorful dreams. The illustrator carries out her vision beautifully. This book gives the information but also entertains and inspires.

I’m posting this review today in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today at Instantly Interruptible.

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

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