Literary Tastes

Literary Tastes
(arrived late)

This was a session where various authors talked about their books. We were given signed copies of the books at the end.

Amy Belding Brown, Flight of the Sparrow

King Philip’s War
Found an account, and originally planned to just retell the Puritan woman’s story
Her individuality was cloaked in social hierarchy.
First war with Indians.
She studied colonial life and Puritans. Wanted her historical novel to be as richly detailed as possible.
She went overboard, because she loves research. Got to spend time in libraries!
Found good books about the Native Americans in the area.
Finally she writes a character.
Her writing process is very messy.
For her, the big part of the enjoyment is discovering the story and characters as she goes.
Didn’t like the character. Then read that her account may have been heavily edited.
So she put things in the novel that made Mary more likable. Gave her a native American friend, which got her thinking about the issue of justice.
Uses a circular process in her writing, alternating between research and writing.

Stuart Rojstaczer, The Mathematician’s Shiva
What happens when a famous woman mathematician dies.
His debut novel — but that’s not true, it’s his first published novel.
Wrote his first novel at 19 — then got a PhD in geophysics instead.
In his 40s, his daughter urged him to write a novel with her, a father-daughter experience. Wrote about a crazy college president. He also thought it was bad.
In his 50s, he started writing short stories and they were actually good. So he tried again. Based on an experience with a Hungarian mathematician when his daughter was 3.
She dies with the solution to a million-dollar problem reportedly solved.
His secret to writing — earplugs. He locks himself in an office until he has 800 words per day.
He loves libraries. His daughter works in the Library of Congress.
Got interested in libraries because they let him look in the 4th grade library when he was in Kindergarten.
Learned how to be an autodidact in college.
Math library at Stanford is where he wrote his PhD.
Almost all novelists are autodidacts.
Wrote a song, “The Library” Can find it on spotify under Stuart Rosh.
20% of book was written in libraries — where he started before he found his dingy office.
It’s been a book club choice because it’s at libraries.
Whatever it takes!

Jo Walton: My Real Children
Surreal for it to be listed as women’s fiction — It’s science fiction.
A woman with Alzheimer’s who remembers two different versions of her life.
It’s the close up story of one woman’s two lives.
Genre is a phenomenon. It’s the set of things a book is in conversation with.
SF & Fantasy are constantly in conversation with books across boundaries.
A bunch of crossovers with romance, comedy, etc
Genre is fun to play with.
SF likes to reach across boundaries.
It’s relatively recent that people outside SF have started joining the conversation inside.
Recent successful in-genre crossovers.
Was a crossover with women’s fiction.
Her character’s personal and romantic decision has changed the world.
Women’s Fiction is a reflection on the importance of women’s lives.
SF is historically a male-dominated genre, but this is changing.
Still often have the kick-ass woman protagonist — a woman in a male role.
Rethink the message if you only show the same roles.
SF is the genre of changed worlds.
SF isn’t often interested in women’s issues. — marriage, parenting, families, divorce, getting older.
SF seems to demand an adventure plot.
Are women’s lives only important if they look like men’s lives?
This book has two different versions of the last half of the 20th century.
When you write a crossover, the concern is that it won’t work in dialog in both genres. Getting a women’s fiction award has validated it.

Ashley Weaver: Murder at the Brightwell.
Winner of the 2015 Reading List Mystery Category
She’s also a librarian.
Her life of crime started early, and libraries have aided and abetted her all the way.
Loved mysteries all her life from Richard Scarry on!
Agatha Christie was her first murder, and from there there was no turning back.
Got her first job at a library. That was the year she wrote her first novel.
Got the character’s name in a dream.
Has an ideas file on her computer. If she likes them, they get their own document.
30s is her goto setting. — sophisticated, glamorous era.
Two types of writers: Outliners or pantsers. She’s a pantser.
Doesn’t know who the murderer will be until toward the end.
She got her good news when at the library.
2nd book is Death Wears a Mask.
She got to catalog her own book.
Looking forward to seeing where her life of crime takes her next.

ALA Annual Conference: Libraries and Book Collections as Essential Cultural Institutions

Libraries and Book Collections as Essential Cultural Institutions:
A Historical and Forward-Looking Perspective

These are notes from a Saturday afternoon session at ALA Annual Conference.

How do we preserve what we have, and how do we move forward into the digital era?

Sasha Abremsky: The House of 20,000 Books
Truly interesting and informative account about his grandparents — an expert on Jewish and socialist history. A vision of stewardship

Scott German: Patience & Fortitude: Fight to save a public library
Efforts to gut the NYPL Like a nail-biting corporate thriller

Matthew Battles: Library: An Unquiet History
Polipsest: A History of the Written Word
Writing is constantly evolving.
Our brains have changed all the time, anyway.

Preserving and going forward:
Sasha: Approaching it from his grandparents’ library. His granddad amassed one of the best private libraries on modern Jewish history.
The importance of the library as the fabric of civilized life.
His grandfather got fascinated with the web of ideas behind socialism.
He started collecting anything printed, anything illuminated, and on it went.
Contacted more and more collectors. Included handwritten notes by Marx, Lenin, etc
Yiddish texts, books written in the 1500s.
Wasn’t just utilitarian. Was concerned about the texture of the page. Was interested in mistakes in the printing techniques. Fascinated by the minutaie of printing. They told him stories.
Where it was printed told him where there were centers of intellectual life.
The grade of paper told him about the intended audience.
Granddad collected books and grandma collected people. Conversations developed around the great ideas collected in those rooms.
The rooms had different intellectual trajectories with how they were laid out.
You gained an understanding of a world vision.
He took it for granted that his granddad would grab a book to prove a point.
All of that was the physical texture of the library.
A library is a place that nurtures conversations and a world view.
How do you preserve libraries as cultural institutions?
A library is inherently a public thing. In a house, it tells you about who that person is. Provides an opening point for an interesting conversation.
Online, there would have been no way to spark those conversations.
In the house the books were the social lubricant.
Online preserves things that would otherwise die, which is good.
Don’t forget the majesty of paper or vellum or parchment or cuneiform. They provide a public entry point to a conversation. And all those nonverbal clues to history.
Paper is still an important, vital, and wonderful part of knowledge.

Scott German heard that stacks were going to be destroyed at NYPL. Heard they’d be “removed” not “demolished.” He was there when they got $100,000 for renovation. of the 42nd Street building. 88 branch libraries. For centuries NYPL has been cash starved. They planned to sell branches to raise money.
In early 2012, the plan became controversial.
His book outlines the battle. The stacks are still there, but they are empty — books had been removed to make way for demolition.
What is the best way to preserve?
For government officials to regulate it before the trustees destroy it.
Librarians need to learn to manage trustees.
Trustees see librarians as serfs. Librarians weren’t consulted. The plan came from the mind of a real estate developer on the board.

Matthew Battles: Widener Library at Harvard. His job involved spending lots of time in the stacks. Part of the structural support of the building itself.

Layers of social history are written into the shelving of the books. LC system and also the Widener system. It was topical in nature. A proverbs class, Moliere class, war, Descartes, etc… They told the story of the institution and how the people from the past were in dialog with our own time.
Started working the same time the card catalog was being converted.
Forensic traces of history of the use of the collection on the cards.
He was seeing marks of previous disruption to the schemes.
They’d used printed bound catalogs before the card catalog.
Interested in the archaeology of the library.
Libraries have been many things materially, socially, culturally…
The library has never been one thing. Yet it’s also an archetype.
When we wonder about the future of the library, we do well to look to the past.
There were libraries before there were books, if we mean things that look like these.
Remember out history and it’s a road to a rich and diverse future.
Librarians preserve, but we also shape collections. Should we be selling that more?
Remember libraries don’t have the same meaning for everyone.
Ethics of librarians developed and evolve.

Sasha: When you catalog something, to an extent you depersonalize it.
One of the greatest joys of a library is the unpredictability.
The more you digitize, the less it becomes unpredictable.
Matthew: That depends on the way it’s done. Gave a story about a finding aid that was digitized that allowed you to discover more.

Guy asked a question who wrote a forthcoming book about public library. He talked with library users. Look at why people love public libraries.
Public discourse around the library is so vital.
We should cultivate a sense of ownership in the public.

Canada: Asking auditor general to declare libraries and holdings as cultural resources.
Relationships between writer, publisher, libraries, shift with every technological change.

The Raising of America

The Raising of America
Early Childhood and the Future of our Nation

First of a five-part film series
Situation of childhood in America
How can we invest in children?
Better for everyone
Companion website
Begin to have these discussions.
How can we make our place healthy for children to be raised?
Bringing people together, having the discussions — What can we do?
Public television broadcast at the end of the year.
This film is the opening umbrella hour.
Book to accompany the film – Westa – research is so strong that something needs to be done: Book: For Our Babies
Forming book clubs and discussion groups about it.
Point is to work together and to think long term. We have to do something.
Chapter 7 is free and downloadable online.
Good place for pieces of information for writing grants.
DVD series comes with public performance rights — special low price for libraries.
Not the kind of thing we have a blueprint. It’s a tool for local conversations.
It’s so much deeper than kids being ready to read. Parents may know what they should do, but not have the resources.
Libraries should be helping facilitating these conversations.
In San Diego they’re working with the Brazelton Institute to build on parental strengths — parents tend to be afraid they’re not enough.
They were trying to reframe the conversation about early childhood — the larger context of policy.
Why do we accept all this as normal? Why do we make parenting so much harder?
Why is it acceptable for government to make a favorable climate for Wall Street but not for children?
Who are the stakeholders? Maybe start with companies who are starting to get concerned about this. They started in San Diego with the largest employer.
Anything you can do to improve the lives of young families.
Build slowly, but it will grow.
For Our Babies campaign is trying to link together people behind this.
The only way to create change in this country is to speak loudly.
Not spending a lot of time with the naysayers.
Like them on Facebook

Leadership and ALSC

Leadership and ALSC


I’m taking notes on the programs I’m attending at ALA Annual Conference. This one I was invited to because I’m going to chair ALSC’s Grant Administration Committee this coming year.

Here are my notes!

Media Mentorship White Paper — get a copy!
2016 Bill Morris Seminar coming up next Midwinter
Applications due August 13, 2015 Joining with colleagues at CSK committee.
2016 ALSC Institute coming up in Charlotte
New semester of ALSC online courses available. Start Monday July 13.
ALSC book lists
Building STEAM with Dia
Summer Reading Lists
Graphic Novels Reading List
ALSC Professional Awards Applications due Fall 2015.
2015 ALSC Awards Presentation Monday 8-10 3006(W)
Membership Meeting 10:30-11:30
Monday 1-2:30 President’s Program about common core – Melissa Sweet and Julie Cheatham
Look at for conference in NYC.
Met everyone!
Thank you for saying Yes!

Kevin Maher — Washington Office Update
Appropriations bills moving through Congress now. House bill was bad for education, cutting funding for education. IMLS was level funded, though. Library funding slight boost to leadership grants. Eliminated some programs. Head Start gets a boost. Innovative Approaches to Literacy kept funding. IDEA gets a boost.
After this, becomes murky. This is just appropriations bills. Controversial things get added to this. There will be fights over appropriations bills.
e-rate funding — need to get ready to apply for it.
FCC has proposed expanding the Lifeline program. Broadband to low income.
Sen Jack Reed — Effective School Library program bill in the works. Allow schools to spend money in library programs. Include library and librarians in definitions.
Probably won’t see a final bill this year. Regulations will probably come from a new administration.

Lisa Guernsey, author of Screen Time
Authors of white paper on media mentor (Cen Campbell, Amy…)
Lisa was their inspiration.
Mentoring can be like planting a seed.
We may not always see the results.
Important, worthwhile work.
What better place to find media mentors than at your library.
Amy Poehler — Main takeaways
“It is a fundamental …”
We tend to be attuned to our communities.
Children and families are using digital media in increasing numbers.
Content developers are marketing digital content to children more and more every day.
Experts in child health and development have been weighing in on appropriate use.
We’re not necessarily seeing those three things overlap.
Some informed children and parents and some less informed.
Parents and children need support to make the best use.
It’s a chaotic, emerging field.
What families need is a guide. Think librarian!
Affirms vital role of librarian in media advice.
Children require mediated and guided experiences.
Kids need mediated access, even with alphabet books.
Media mentors support children & families in their media decisions.
Lisa Guernsey:
A constant and continual supporter of libraries and librarians.
Commitment to action in the Media Mentorship white paper is inspiring.
Literacy and Equity:
The Critical Role of Media Mentors
Equity needs to be at the core. We need to reach all kids.
Ability to be creators and expressors. — from New America, a thinktank in DC. (Education policy)
new book: Tap, Click, Read, with Michael Levine
What does it mean to be literate in the digital age?
2 years of research on this book.
Michael Levine is on Joan Ganz Cooney Center
The Quiet Crisis: So many kids today are struggling to learn to read proficiently.
numbers have been flat since 2009 — 2/3 of American 4th graders are not reading proficiently. Numbers for children of color and children with free & reduced lunch — over 80%

Even if you look at state tests, still in 40-50% range.
Technology can be the elephant in the room when we’re talking about this.
How do we bring that in?
Four principles:
1) When it comes to literacy, becoming literate isn’t just the skill of decoding. Also need knowledge.
2) Parents are critical in children’s lives, though they don’t have to be strong readers themselves.
3) If we were to ignore where technology fits, we’ll miss opportunities to reach them.
4) If we think technology is the answer, we’re lost. It’s an assistant to human beings.
What parents get instead: Mixed messages.
Look at all these apps! Or NO! Don’t expose young children to that!
Middle to upper income strata worry about it and grapple with it.
Lower income want tools for their kids.
Touchy subject — American Academy of Pediatrics statement. (Some really good stuff) Recognizes need for families to have a media plan. They discourage screens under age of 2. This is based on research for Passive Media Use.
What about skyping with Grandma, interactive media use?
Start grappling with these issues!
Media overload? Apps in itunes store — over 1 million apps now
Education section — 80,000 apps.
“Educational” apps explosion.
What Science Tells Us —
Ecological Perspectives on Development — idea that there are many different pieces that come into children’s lives. Many different layers.
There’s more research than you might think.
It’s about a lot more than time limits.
3 Cs framework: We have to recognize the Content, Context, and the individual Child and what they need.
Content: A lot of studies now on educational TV.
Even Barney helped kids interact better — were more civil to each other on the playground.
Plenty of research that shows adult content is not good for little kids. Kids between 1 and 3 with a lot of exposure to adult programs are performing worse on executive function. Controlled for economic level.

Straightline storytelling (helps)
Participation – where children can talk back
Labeling on screen
Repetition, review, routine
Not as much research as you’d think, because it’s unethical to put violent content in front of children
A long way to go in the research about what interactive content even means.
We have learned if the interactivity is tied to what you’re trying to teach them, that helps. Not indiscriminate clicking!
Avoid background TV!!!! Distinguish between purposeful foreground media use.
It affects the way children are playing and parent-child interaction.
Promote good sleep. Light from screens isn’t good.
Hour before sleep shouldn’t have a lot of light on their eyes.
Other healthy routines (like physical play!) How do you want your child’s day to go?
Think about the whole healthy routine for a child
Interact with Media together! This may be critical for young children
Dialogic questioning techniques with reading
Parents can be distracted by cell phones — not good for kids.
A lot of judging and judgment calls that go into this.
Is it spoiling kids to give them constant attention?
Individual Child:
Under Age Two:
Can they learn from screen media without an adult around? Can they learn from a children’s book without an adult around.
A few studies: a mixed bag. Mostly, they need adult interaction.
Tune into individual needs!
Science is still evolving, but needs to underpin what we do.
The Field is Responding (of Early Childhood)
“Take a Giant Step” — about early childhood teachers.
“Strengthening Teaching and Learning”
*NAEYC — “Position Statement on Technologies” guidepost for the field.
Be professionals. Think about what you’re using
“Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years”
Paper out from 0 to 3.
“Pioneering Literacy in the Digital Wild West”
Evaluating Apps & ebooks.
Looked at a sample of apps from a two-month period. Do some analysis
Many are aimed at 3 to 5 year olds (55%)
Most say they’re teaching basic literacy skills. (list of 23 literacy skills and looked for evidence)
Alphabet apps especially high. Narrative and story-telling, not as much.
App developers gave almost no info about who they were. Less than 5% mentioned any literacy or language expert.
Putting Human Interaction (not Tech) first.
Allow technology to be an assistant.
Texting, video, and tablets — Using new tools to encourage families to talk & learn together
Ready Rosie — video modeling for parents
Media Mentors
A new position for the 21st century — help families find these things!
Children’s librarians can become that!
A lot of organizations are trying to play this role. (Commonsense Media – but they’re not in communities, working with families directly.)
Public Resources – We should be making sure all families have access and can find these resources.
Powerpoint is available at mediamentorship under ALSC.
Questions: Crucial to be interacting with the parent. For under twos, it’s the joint moments that are so important.
Reading on screen versus reading a book: Research is mostly on people who already know how to read.
Highlighting words might help with fluency. It’s not clear how long to use them.
We’re at the beginning of some very interesting questions.
Another issue: Learning to keyboard versus learning to print and write.
National Association of Media Literacy Education meeting – Finland is phasing out cursive writing.
Keep the interpersonal in interactive! Say this to parents! (Saroj Ghoting)

2015 Printz Program

imageMichael Printz Award Program

I made it to ALA on Friday and got registered and witnessed the Running of the Librarians — the opening of the exhibits. My roommate and I tried to go to Saroj Ghoting’s program at 3:00 on Friday afternoon, but there was no room whatsoever — people standing at the doors trying to listen. So we got to the conference, registered, found some food, and then tackled the exhibits.

I showed more restraint grabbing ARCs than I did at Midwinter. Though I’m still going to have to manage to get them home by mailing them.

I’m used to the Printz program being held on Monday night, rather than Friday night. I don’t think I’m going to last very long, still on East Coast time.

Daniel Kraus & Diane Colson moderated.

Jenny Hubbard — And We Stay
Jessie Ann Foley — The Carnival at Bray
Andrew Smith — Grasshopper Jungle
Mariko and Jillian Tamaki — This One Summer
Winner — Jandy Nelson — I’ll Give You the Sun

Jandy Nelson gave a speech first:
Happy Historic weekend in San Francisco
Lunatic screaming when she got the call.
The greatest honor of her life. “Because of you my heart’s bigger than a blue whale.”
First thank you for the librarians in the room.
It was books that secretly subversively taught me to fly.
Books open the world to young people. They find the books because of librarians.
We make libraries the lighthouse for so many young people.
What is the inspiration for the book?
Process was odd — in a black room. A book about color and light.
Took a stone carving class to better understand the characters.
She talks about all kinds of crazy and complicated love.
What she really thinks inspired it: When writing The Sky Is Everywhere, about devastating grief, kept sliding into ecstasy. She discovered writing fiction.
Grief and love, grief and joy are inextricably conjoined.
Art and healing go together.
Has always liked mystics.
Got to thinking about creation as a mystical process.
Began to think about the ecstasy of great artists. Looked at their creative processes.
Meant to write a nonfiction book about ecstatic mysticism of artists.
We are indeed remaking the world, people. No time to waste; nothing to lose.

Panel (Daniel Kraus)
Was there anything that felt different about this project?
Jandy: Characters had more agency, and she had less control.
Her character appeared in a dream. A collaboration between her and the characters.
Mariko & Jillian: A literal collaboration (they’re cousins) Mariko got excited when she saw the drawings.
Emotion overflowing. No hiding behind people.
Andrew: What was different: Unemployment. Planned to get out of the writing business. A lot more reasons to stick with something than turn away from it.
Jessie: First novel she’s written, but not first she’s started. Excited motivation stayed with her throughout the process. It was a difficult year teaching — but the writing kept her sane.
Jenny: She couldn’t write when she was teaching. Started in the dark and moved to the light. First drafts were too depressing! But it slowly moved to the light. Was always haunted by Columbine and the side stories we didn’t hear about.

DK: What happens after you finished the first rough draft?
Jenny: Didn’t have the luxury of letting it sit around. Was under the gun to produce this second novel. Started the book over from a different point of view. Had been from the sister’s perspective. Switched to the girlfriend’s perspective. It opened a new avenue.
Jessie: Does her rewrites chapter by chapter. First person she gave it to was her husband, who is Irish. She was most nervous to have him read it.
Andrew: I don’t draft. I just write it, and then I’m done with it. Like a house, when I’m done, I want to live in it.
He let his son in college read it.
Jillian: Mariko writes as a dialog, not panel-by-panel. Jillian does a sketch version of the whole book. She can’t imagine not being horrified by the first draft. Then they edited it.
Mariko: In comics, you get this really incredible first read. The people become more real.
Jillian: You have to be not precious about what you hand over. Jillian fleshes it all out from a skeleton, but Mariko allows herself to be surprised about what’s layered onto it.
Jandy: Sick with jealousy over Andrew Smith and one draft. She does hundreds of drafts. Wrote Noah’s story start to finish, then Jude’s story start to finish. Then intertwined. Didn’t combine the narratives for 2 1/2 years, and didn’t show it to anyone until then.

DK: How do you approach emotional scenes?
Andrew: Because I don’t outline either, I”m so involved in my characters and their psychologies, emotional scenes are organic. When he wrote a crushing scene, it was crushing to him, too.
Jessie: One scene in particular was really hard to write. Reminded her how difficult it is to be a kid. Her editor asked her to rewrite it and heighten the emotion. Each time it got more difficult.
Jenny: She treats an emotional scene like a little play and says it out loud. A fine line between melodrama & drama. She mostly is backing herself up. Felt strangely bereft when she finished the book.
Jillian: Books are often about communication and non-communication. Some of that explodes in this book. She likes ambiguity in figures — this was harder to draw the strong emotions. It’s hard to let your characters not be nice people.
Mariko: I’ve done enough therapy now that I can cry when my characters do sad things. When she saw the pictures, it hit her a lot harder.
Jillian: She hates things to be too literal in the images.
Jandy: I love writing emotional scenes, with her heart racing and sweating. If she feels it, she thinks her readers. Mostly has to take down the emotion.

DK: Is there a new or fairly recent book you’d like to recommend.
Jenny: An adult book called “Some Day This Pain Will Be Useful to You,” by Peter Cameron. Felt like she did when she read Catcher in the Rye the first time.
Jessie: She loves books about music. “Scar Boys” by Len Vlahos. Sequel next year, “Scar Girl”
Andrew: Doesn’t like answering this question. But he does have a book coming out in September. Stand Off.
It’s your job, not us!
Jillian: read an old biography of a sumo wrestler
Mariko: Super Mutant Magic Academy by Jillian
When Everything Feels Like the Movies
Jandy: The Snow Child — but don’t read the blurbs or the back of the book.
Now reading A Tale of a Time Being

Review of Hope and Other Luxuries, by Clare B. Dunkle

hope_and_other_luxuries_largeHope and Other Luxuries

A Mother’s Life with a Daughter’s Anorexia

by Clare B. Dunkle

Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2015. 557 pages.
Starred Review

I met Clare Dunkle after I gave her first book a glowing review and then discovered she also lived in Germany. She’s one of those people I can talk with for hours, and I think of her as a friend.

When I saw she had another book out, I preordered it. When it came, I meant to read a little bit each night, but ended up reading a lot each night for quite awhile.

This is an honest — and painful — story about a mother dealing with her daughter’s anorexia. Even though my family does not have that particular issue, Clare’s writing pulled me in and made me feel like I knew what that would be like.

I especially related when she talked about how the voice that hurt the most was her own voice from the past, the voice of the extraordinary mother.

Good girls have good mothers. Extraordinary girls have extraordinary mothers. But deeply troubled girls? Oh, the old me knew all about them.

That’s how I used to be about marriages. Because I had an extraordinary and wonderful marriage. So whose fault must it have been when it all fell apart?

As I said, I had totally different circumstances from Clare, but she is open and honest about her journey, and I saw myself in her.

Clare also writes about her journey as an author. She describes her process — and honestly? Makes me feel like Not a Writer At All. I thought I had an imagination! But nothing like hers — distracted by her own imaginings. (At least when it’s going well.)

However, that didn’t surprise me. I already knew I love Clare’s books. And even in this nonfiction memoir, Clare writes words that pull me in and make me experience them. Hearing more about her process shone a light on her gift — even while the words she uses communicate so well, so pull you along and make you unable to stop reading.

Besides all that, I now feel I understand better the awful illness of anorexia. And I’m so glad that Clare and her daughter Elena have come so far with Hope intact. May this book supply Hope to many other families going through that. As someone who’s “only” been through divorce, I can say that I find this story of her journey honest, helpful, uplifting — and hope-bringing.

Thank you, Clare, for putting your heart in these pages.

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 my own copy, preordered from

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?

48-Hour Book Challenge Finish Line 2015

48hbcYay! This morning at 7:45 am, I finished this year’s 48-Hour Book Challenge just as I finished reading another book.

My grand total was 28 hours and 15 minutes reading and reviewing, my second most for the challenge.

I finished the most books ever during the challenge — 8, and reviewed the most books ever — 5.

Here’s how the time was broken up:

18 hours and 30 minutes spent reading. That includes 1827 books read.

The books I finished and reviewed were:
Gone Crazy in Alabama, by Rita Williams-Garcia
Read Bottom Up, by Neel Shah and Skye Chatham
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler, by Phillip Hoose
Jinx’s Fire, by Sage Blackwood
Maeve’s Times: In Her Own Words, by Maeve Binchy

The book I finished just as I reached the Finish Line and so haven’t had time to review:
Wearing God, by Lauren F. Winner

Books I finished but decided not to review:
The Art of Stillness, by Pico Iyer
Mirror, Mirror On the Wall, edited by Kate Bernheimer
Peanuts Every Sunday, 1956-1960, by Charles M. Schulz

Books I read parts of:
The Bible
Horn Book Magazine
Rilke’s Book of Hours
The Spirit of Saint Francis, by Pope Francis
The Real Thing, by Ellen McCarthy
The New York Times Book of Mathematics
Surfaces and Essences, by Douglas Hofstadter
The Annotated Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery
The Slow Regard of Silent Things, by Patrick Rothfuss

2 hours, 30 minutes spent listening to The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, by Julie Berry. 2 CDs completed.

3 hours, 45 minutes spent writing the reviews and blogging. 2465 words written.

1 hour spent networking.

2 hours, 30 minutes spent posting the reviews.

And I come away wishing I could make all this a priority for the rest of the week! How delightful to spoil myself! Now I’m going to have to take care of some weekend errands I put off and deal with mundane things like getting some sleep. But it was so much fun while it lasted!

Review of Maeve’s Times, by Maeve Binchy

maeves_times_largeMaeve’s Times

In Her Own Words

Selected Writings from The Irish Times

Edited by Róisín Ingle
with an Introduction by Gordon Snell

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2014. 383 pages.
Starred Review

This is a book for the many people who love Maeve Binchy’s writing and are so sorry she’s gone.

The book consists of articles she wrote for The Irish Times, beginning in 1964 (the year I was born).

Some of the articles might not seem relevant today — but you can hear Maeve’s voice in all of them. She was always curious, always with a sparkle of humor, always insightful. She saw the people around her, with all their foibles and quirks.

The most dated things here are the articles about royal weddings, but those are particularly fun. Maeve was a people-watcher from the beginning. She sometimes comments on her tendency to ask questions that end up being awkward rather than leaving well enough alone. She was always curious about people and their motives.

And oh my yes, she could write. Reading these, it’s no marvel how wonderful her novels were. She was constantly sharpening her skills of observation and insight and, simply, writing.

The articles are short. I was taking my time over this book, only reading an essay or two per day. Then I finished up in a splurge during the 2015 48-Hour Book Challenge.

This is a cozy, friendly book for those who, through her writing, had come to think of Maeve Binchy as a friend we’ll miss.

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.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Jinx’s Fire, by Sage Blackwood

jinxs_fire_largeJinx’s Fire

by Sage Blackwood

Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins), 2015. 388 pages.
Starred Review

Jinx’s Fire completes the story about Jinx, growing up in the Urwald, told in Jinx and Jinx’s Magic. Yes, you’ll want to read the other books first.

This book does bring things to a nice conclusion and reads like a complete story. I like the character things that happen as Jinx figures out his own magic and his connection to the Urwald.

In this book, three different kings are invading the Urwald, intending to destroy it, maybe “generously” giving them a small “preserve.” At the same time, the Bonemaster is growing in strength, causing Jinx not to be able to access the forest’s lifeforce. And Simon is still missing, and Elfwyn dangerously near the Bonemaster. Jinx also needs to get the people and creatures and wizards and witches of the Urwald to help against the invaders.

Basically, there’s much for Jinx to accomplish in this volume of the trilogy, and the author pulls it off in a satisfying way. There are many different kinds of magic in these books, but her descriptions of the magic don’t come across as vague and unclear as so many fantasy novels do. In fact, being able to describe multiple kinds of magic is one way Sage Blackwood stands out.

And it’s impossible not to love Jinx. He’s no saint. He gets impatient and can be overbearing. He sometimes has trouble figuring things out. But his gift of seeing the color and shape of people’s thoughts and his ability to listen to the trees makes him a distinctive character I will never forget.

A satisfying conclusion to a wonderful trilogy.

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.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Boys Who Challenged Hitler, by Phillip Hoose

boys_who_challenged_hitler_largeThe Boys Who Challenged Hitler

Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club

by Phillip Hoose

Farrar Straus Giroux, New York, 2015. 198 pages.
Starred Review

This year because of schedule conflicts, I’m not attending Capitol Choices (a local group that chooses the 100 best books of the year for children and youth), and I’d promised myself this year I’ll just read books I want to read, not books I feel I ought to read. So I thought I wouldn’t read much children’s nonfiction. This book came in, and I thought I’d just check it back in, unread. But I started dipping into it, and found I couldn’t stop.

The story is of a group of Danish teens who didn’t like that their government had handed Denmark over to Hitler. They formed their own resistance band before any other organized resistance. They went to prison for it — and their case galvanized other Danes to act.

Phillip Hoose spoke at length with Knud Pedersen in 2012, working on this book with him before he died in 2014. How wonderful that this information was captured. Much of the book gives Knud’s voice and perspective.

Here’s a summary from the author in the Introduction, which explains why this important story had to be told. He was visiting the Museum of Danish Resistance in Copenhagen.

Then I came upon a special little exhibit entitled “The Churchill Club.” With photos, letters, cartoons, and weapons such as grenades and pistols, the exhibit told the story of a few Danish teens, schoolboys from a northern city, who got the resistance started. Mortified that Danish authorities had given up to the Germans without fighting back, these boys had waged a war of their own.

Most were ninth-graders at a school in Aalborg, in the northern part of Denmark called Jutland. Between their first meeting in December 1941 and their arrest in May 1942, the Churchill Club struck more than two dozen times, racing through the streets on bicycles in well-coordinated hits. Acts of vandalism quickly escalated to arson and major destruction of German property. The boys stole and cached German rifles, grenades, pistols, and ammunition — even a machine gun. Using explosives stolen from the school chemistry lab, they scorched a German railroad car filled with airplane wings. They carried out most of their actions in broad daylight, as they all had family curfews.

This book tells the details of their story, a fascinating one about teens deciding to act for what they believed to be right, at the risk of their own lives.

The book is engagingly written, with plenty of photographs and sidebars to break up the text. It’s targeted toward people the same age as these daring young men were at the time of their resistance.

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.

What did you think of this book?