Coloring to Learn Math Concepts!


I’m super excited about something I’ve been working on lately — posting Mathematical Coloring Sheets on my Sonderknitting webpage.

Why Sonderknitting? Because the ideas in the coloring pages come from my mathematical knitting projects, which all began with my Prime Factorization Sweater.

PF Sweater

I wore the sweater to the library today, for our Family Math Games event. (We have lots of board games and card games that build math skills and ask only that parents play with their kids.) I also printed out some copies of the Prime Factorization Coloring Sheet — the one that matches my sweater — and brought some crayons.

A girl named Ana who is a regular at our Crazy 8s Math Club was there. She got tired of playing games with her little brother, and her Mom showed Ana the coloring sheet, and Ana became the first actual child to color one!


I explained the idea to Ana, using my sweater as a visual aid.

There are different ways you can approach it, but what I suggested was to choose a color for 2, then color a section of every second number. Then choose a color for 3 and color a section of every third number. Then I had to explain you use the color for 2 again to color a second section in the square for 4, then give every 4th number a second section of the color for 2. Then you choose a new color for 5, and she quickly caught on that all the multiples of 5 were in columns….


I can’t tell you how happy it made me to hear what she’d say as she was understanding how to do it (“Oh, I see!”) and seeing the patterns come out.

I think Ana’s in 2nd grade (Crazy 8s is for Kindergarten to 2nd grade.), so she can’t have studied much multiplication in school yet. So it made me all the happier to see the wheels turning and the connections forming.

But my favorite thing she said? “I like this! This is fun!”


Review of Another Day, by David Levithan

another_day_largeAnother Day

by David Levithan

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2015. 330 pages.

Another Day is the same story told in Every Day, but this time from the perspective of the girl Rhiannon.

Every Day is an amazing book about someone who calls himself “A” who wakes up in a different body every day of his life. He gets each body for one day and only one day. The person whose body and life he inhabits is the same age as he is, and this has happened to him since he was a baby.

Things change when he inhabits the body of Rhiannon’s boyfriend Justin, has a wonderful day with her, and falls in love.

Rhiannon knows that Justin is different that day, more considerate, kinder, and enjoying her more.

Things go back to normal the next day. But then Rhiannon meets a girl visiting her school with whom she hits it off quickly. Then there’s a new boy at a party. He emails her and wants to meet. Someone totally different shows up and tells her a strange story.

What disappointed me about this book is that it’s exactly the same story and ends at the same place. I was hoping we’d find out more about A and the choices he makes, or maybe about the life Rhiannon lives after A.

It’s been awhile since I read Every Day, and it’s a truly great book, but I came away feeling like you really only need to read one of the two books — and Every Day is the more insightful one, showing you what it’s like to live inside the skins of many different teens.

Sure, it’s fun to think what it would be like to try to have a relationship with someone like A who is never in the same body two days in a row. But this book made me feel worse about how she treated Justin, because I did see a little more why she was dating him in the first place.

He still brilliantly shows you what Rhiannon was missing with Justin by describing what happens when A is in Justin’s body:

He sees me crying and doesn’t make fun of it. He doesn’t get defensive, asking what he did this time. He doesn’t tell me he warned me. He doesn’t tell me to stop. No, he wraps his arms around me and holds me and takes these things that are only words and makes them into something more than words. Comfort. He gives me something I can actually feel — his presence, his hold.

The whole idea behind these books is brilliant. The execution is outstanding. My only complaint with Another Day is that I already heard this story, with a little more punch.

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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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Review of Ira’s Shakespeare Dream, by Glenda Armand

iras_shakespeare_dream_largeIra’s Shakespeare Dream

by Glenda Armand
illustrations by Floyd Cooper

Lee & Low Books, New York. 40 pages.

I love picture book biographies about interesting people I’d never heard anything about. The subject of this one is Ira Aldridge, an African American born in 1807 who went on to have his name inscribed at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, England – the only African American among the thirty-three actors to have received this recognition.

The book tells his story. He was born in 1807 in New York City and attended the African Free School. This was a time when the majority of African Americans were enslaved. He first discovered Shakespeare at the Park Theatre, but there he had to sit in the balcony. Then he discovered the African Grove, and African American theater.

At the African Grove and the Park, people took notice of the stagestruck young man. Actors often sent Ira on errands in exchange for tickets to plays. Some of the stagehands taught him set building and costume making. They all encouraged Ira to become an actor and cheered him on as he auditioned for a small role at the African Grove.

Eventually, Ira traveled to England to study acting rather than go to a ministry college, as his father wanted him to do.

As Ira gained success, he began to use his fame as a platform for preaching the evils of slavery and raised money for abolitionism.

Ira gained more and more fame and recognition and traveled all over Europe.

By the 1840s, Ira was one of the most celebrated Shakespearean actors in Europe. His most famous role was the lead character in Othello. The dark-skinned tragic hero was commonly played by a white actor wearing black makeup.

Ira did not need this makeup. And the emotions he expressed as Othello were as real as the color of his skin. Like Othello, Ira knew despair. He had seen it in the eyes of enslaved people. And like Othello, Ira knew sadness and regret. He had felt both when he received news of Pa’s death.

This book stands out to me because Ira’s is a truly amazing story. Here is someone who followed his dream despite tremendous obstacles and achieved great success. I’m delighted that more children will learn about this amazing person through this wonderful picture book.

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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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Review of Emma, by Alexander McCall Smith


A Modern Retelling

by Alexander McCall Smith

Pantheon Books, New York, 2015. 361 pages.

Oh Emma, Emma – I was reminded by reading this book that she’s really an annoying character.

But I’m a huge Jane Austen fan, and I’ve been eagerly following the new modernized Jane Austen retellings as they’ve come out, and on top of that I love Alexander McCall Smith’s writings, so of course I wanted to read this one.

But I almost stopped reading in the middle. Emma’s snobbishness and superiority was a little more tolerable in the original, somehow embedded in the English class system. For a modern young woman to assume she has the right to manipulate people because she can? Not so endearing.

It was somewhat endearing to occasionally notice Emma sounding like the ladies from the No. 1 Detective Agency or philosophizing like Isabella Dalhousie, but the characters put into the modern day weren’t as likable to me.

Also interesting was that the modern author took more time with the backstory than Jane Austen did, and spent about half the book before the classic novel even got started. Then some of the crucial scenes in the classic were skimmed over rather lightly.

I have to say, though, that I did enjoy a small twist at the end, as the tables get turned a bit on Emma. It’s also a much nicer ending for her father than the original.

I don’t think of my problems with the novel as Alexander McCall Smith’s fault. Emma really is an annoying character, an interfering, manipulative busybody who thinks herself better than everybody else. Somehow I bought her view when it was dressed up in a historic period in England’s history. Weren’t the gentry actually better than everyone else? But modern day Emma I wanted to slap.

Still, I did like the way this Emma thought over her shortcomings at the end. I felt like she gave them more weight and took things more to heart than classic Emma did.

But most of the retellings have made me want to revisit Jane Austen’s classics. This one made me realize that next time I see a reworking of Emma, I’ll be much happier giving it a miss.

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Review of Numbed! by David Lubar


by David Lubar

Millbrook Press, 2013. 144 pages.
2015 Mathical Honor Book

I read this book while waiting for the Metro on the way to the National Book Festival – where I got to meet the author at the Mathical booth! I already knew I enjoy his sense of humor because of his Twitter posts as well as his writing, and I’m happy that he turned toward numbers with this book.

In Numbed!, the kids from Punished! get into new trouble at the Math Museum. They go into an experimental area where they’re not supposed to go, and an angry robot zaps them so they’re numbed. First they can’t do any math at all; when they fix that (by solving a problem in the matheteria, where a special “field” helps them), they can only do addition and subtraction, but not multiplication and division. When they fix that, they still can’t do word problems or apply mathematical reasoning to anything.

Now, as a math person, I really have to work hard at suspending disbelief for this story! Multiplication is repeated addition, so the idea that the kids would be able to add and subtract but not multiply didn’t work for me. Of course, the kids figured that out – that was how they got around the problem. But that areas of math are so distinct? No, I couldn’t quite handle that! And then the hand-waving involved in the robot being able to “numb” them and the matheteria having a “field” making it easier to do math problems? Aaugh!

But I really wanted to like the book. It won a Mathical Honor! And I like the author! So let’s point out all the good things about it. First, I do like the characters – boys who can’t stay out of trouble. At the start of the book, they don’t see what math is good for – and they definitely find out it’s good for many, many things when they lose the ability to do it.

I really enjoyed the high-level problems the boys had to solve to break their curse. The boys applied creative reasoning, and the problems and solutions were all explained clearly – and we believed that the boys could figure them out, at least in the enhanced “field.”

In general? The premise was a little hard for me to get past – but in practice, the book was a whole lot of fun. It’s also a quick read – I only read it while I was waiting for the Metro, not while the Metro was moving, and finished the whole thing on National Book Festival day.

Punished! has been very popular with kids in our county. I hope they’ll also find out about Numbed!. A silly school story – with math!

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Sonderling Sunday – Heidi Discovers Snow

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books.


This is a snowy weekend, so I wanted to find a snow passage to use this week. I was thinking I’d like to use Heidi and bemoaning that I have a German edition, but not an English one, and my son pointed out that I could probably easily find a copy online. Sure enough! I checked out a copy right away through Fairfax County Public Library.

Instead of starting at the beginning, I’m going to start on Chapter 4, where Heidi first sees snow. Since Heidi was originally written in German, I’ll list the German text first. This chapter is called Bei der Grossmutter in German, and “The Visit to Grandmother” in English. As usual, I’ll translate interesting phrases:

den Geissen = “the goats”
der Weide = “the high meadows”

so ging es Tag für Tag = “and so it went on day after day”

und Heidi wurde bei diesem Weideleben
= “till Heidi, passing her life thus among the grass and flowers”
Aha! It seems that sometimes it’s just the translated language that is longer. German just uses “meadow-life.”

der Wind lauter zu sausen anfing
= “the wind blew louder and stronger”

Missgeschick = “mishaps”

English translated this with two words:
störrig = “naughty and obstinate”

den es sah immer irgend etwas Erfreuliches vor sich
= “for wherever she was she found something to interest or amuse her”

Raubvogel = “great bird”

herumrührte = “stirred”

das Wogen und Rauschen in den drei alten Tannen hinter der Hütte
= “the waving and roaring of the three old fir trees”

dieses tiefe, geheimnisvolle Tosen in den Wipfeln da droben
= “the deep mysterious sound in the tops of the trees”

hauchte in die Hände
= “blowing on his fingers to keep them warm”

den auf einmal fiel über Nacht ein tiefer Schnee, und am Morgen war die ganze Alp schneeweiss und kein einziges grünes Blättlein mehr zu sehen ringsum und um
= “for one night there was a heavy fall of snow and the next morning the whole mountain was covered with it, and not a single little green leaf was to be seen anywhere upon it.”

schaute ganz verwundert
= “looking out in wonderment”

den nun fing es wieder zu schneien an = “for the snow was beginning again”

die dicken Flocken fielen fort und fort
= “the thick flakes kept falling”

bis der Schnee so hoch wurde, dass er bis ans Fenster hinaufreichte
= “till the snow was up to the window”

und man ganz verpackt war in dem Häuschen
= “and she and her grandfather were shut up fast within the hut.”

den nun schneite es nicht mehr = “the snow having ceased”

und schaufelte ums ganze Haus herum
= “and shoveled away the snow round the house”

und warf grosse, grosse Schneehaufen aufeinander, dass es war wie hier ein Berg und dort ein Berg um die Hütte herum
= “and threw it into such great heaps that they looked like mountains standing at intervals on either side the hut.”

Dreifuss = “three-legged stools”

hohen Schichten = “deep snowdrifts”

zu tauen = “to thaw”

ein gelinder Wasserfall = “a trickling waterfall”

Griffel = “pencil”

Wissbegierde = “curiosity” (“knowledge-desire”)

trocknen von oben bis unten = “thoroughly dry”

I love this phrase:
die Mundwinkel gezuckt
= “a twitch of amusement at the corners of his mouth”

als es draussen knisterte und knarrte vor Kälte bei jedem Schritt
= “when with every step one took the ground crackled with frost”
(“as it crackled and creaked out cold at each step”)

und die ganze grosse Schneedecke ringsum hart gefroren war
= “and the whole vast field of snow was hard as ice”

Heuboden = “hayloft”

Ah! Except for the “after him” part, this is what I did today!
In grosser Freude hüpfte das Kind ihm nach in die glitzernde Schneewelt hinaus
= “The child skipped out gleefully after him into the glittering world of snow.”

in dem Sonnenschein schimmerte und funkelte es überall von den Bäumen in solcher Pracht
= “they looked so lovely as they glittered and sparkled in the sunlight”

Heidi hoch aufsprang vor Entzücken
= “Heidi jumped for joy”

Stossschlitten = “hand-sleigh”

laut aufjauchzte = “shouted aloud with delight”

I’ll have to stop there, where Heidi just arrived at the grandmother’s house. But this was a perfect section for today — I like Heidi’s delight in the glittering, snowy world — die glitzernde Schneewelt, and yesterday we certainly had die dicken Flocken fielen fort und fort.

Till next time, bis bald!

Review of Dog Train, by Sandra Boynton

dog_train_largeDog Train

Music by Sandra Boynton & Michael Ford
Lyrics and drawings by Sandra Boynton

Workman Publishing, New York, 2005. 64 pages. 16 songs.
Starred Review

I so love Sandra Boynton’s songbooks and CDs. How did I not know about this one until now?

What I love about her songs is the wonderful child-centered lyrics – treated with complete seriousness. I can so easily imagine a child in a Broadway musical bursting into song with “Wave Bye Bye” or “Broccoli” or “I Need a Nap” telling Mom what to do. (Time to leave the party. “Don’t give me that broccoli. Yes, I know I’ve never tried it, but it doesn’t look right. I want no brocc’li tonight.” And “I Need a Nap” speaks for itself, but to hear the plaintive singing! “I just can’t take it any more. I need a nap!” If only our kids were so articulate – but you know this is how they’d put it if we lived in a world where everyone expressed their emotions in song.)

These books make me wish I still had young kids and an excuse to play these songs over and over. As it is, they brightened up a few commutes! They simply make me laugh.

My favorites of the 16 songs: “Sneakers,” “Boring Song,” “Penguin Lament,” “Pots and Pans,” and “I Need a Nap.” I also love that she always includes a love song, perfect for singing to your child, in this case, “Evermore.”

The songs on this album are rock and roll, but include a wide variety. One of my favorites, “Boring Song,” is an old-fashioned schmaltzy song with backup singers, and a man with a wonderful velvet sound singing, “And though you find me boring, I’m still adoring my voice.” So funny, but played completely straight.

I so relate to the Penguin’s Lament! “I’m a little too cute. Oh yes, I know. I’m all dressed up, but I’ve got no place to go. I want to be cool, like the polar bear guys. I want to be tall and somewhat mysterious. But nothing profound comes in penguin size. Can anyone small be anyone serious? I’m serious!”

The song “Sneakers” is about a bear’s favorite shoes. “When you’re unaware that a bear is there, well, here’s the reason why: it’s the SNEAKERS. Now you know.”

And they’ve gotten a great line up of talent to sing the songs. People like Weird Al Yankovic, the Bacon Brothers, and Hootie and the Blowfish.

But I can talk on and on about it and you won’t get the idea nearly as effectively as from five minutes of listening. Check this out from the library, and if you have kids, I predict you’re going to want your own copy. Too much fun.

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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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Review of Finding Winnie, by Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall

finding_winnie_largeFinding Winnie

The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

by Lindsay Mattick
illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2015. 52 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Caldecott Medal

I didn’t think I’d review a second book about the true story of the real bear after whom Winnie-the-Pooh was named. The first one I read was complete and most delightful.

But then I read Finding Winnie and fell in love. In the first place, it’s got Sophie Blackall’s wonderful illustrations, which won me over quickly. But as well, the story is told with the frame of a mother telling the story to her son – and that son happens to be Cole, the great-great-grandson of Harry Colebourn, who bought the bear Winnie in Winnipeg on the way to World War I.

Besides giving all the facts, there’s a lilt to the storytelling and interruptions along the way by Cole, which are reminiscent of Christopher Robin’s words at the start of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Here’s where Harry sees the bear cub at a train station:

Harry thought for a long time. Then he said to himself, “There is something special about that Bear.” He felt inside his pocket and said, “I shouldn’t.” He paced back and forth and said, “I can’t.” Then his heart made up his mind, and he walked up to the trapper and said, “I’ll give you twenty dollars for the bear.”

“Is twenty dollars a lot?” asked Cole.
“Back then?” I said. “Even more than a lot.”

The photograph album at the back is especially charming. I like the picture of Harry’s diary turned to the page for August 24, 1914, where it says, “Bought bear $20.”

Of course, after Harry’s story, we hear about Christopher Robin Milne and his friendship with Winnie. But then Cole brings it back to Harry, and his mother tells him that Harry had a son named Fred, and Fred had a daughter named Laureen, and Laureen had a daughter named Lindsay.

Framing it all as a story of a mother to her child is what sends it over the edge into wonderful.

And then I had a son.

When I saw you, I thought, “There is something special about that Boy.” So I named you after your great-great-grandfather: Captain Harry Colebourn.

I named you Cole.

“That’s me?” said Cole in a whisper.

“That’s you.”

“And that’s Winnie?”

“Yes,” I said. “That’s Winnie.”

“And it’s all true?”

“Sometimes the best stories are,” I said.

Sometimes they are.

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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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Zoe’s Prime Factorization Blanket!

Back in November, I finished my little niece Zoe’s Prime Factorization Blanket!


What is a Prime Factorization Blanket? Why, a blanket that shows the prime factorization of all the whole numbers up to 99, using a color for each prime number.

This is the same set-up as my niece Arianna’s Prime Factorization Blanket, as a matter of fact. But I used new colors for Zoe’s blanket, going with a lot of pink, because we already knew she was going to be a girl. (With Arianna, we found out she’d be a girl right when I got to the number 17, so in that blanket 17 is pink.)

The blankets don’t really need a pattern, but here are the specifications: I used Tahki Cotton Classic yarn, because it has so many shades available. Each square is a garter stitch square with 12 ridges and 12 stitches, which is easy to divide in 2, 3, 4, or 6 sections. For 5 sections, I did a plain row at the beginning and end. It’s done in entrelac, so you go across and knit the square for each number individually, then go back making the white squares, then do the next row of numbers, then a row of white. It’s much nicer than making the original sweater, because you can work on one number at a time, and don’t have to carry yarn across.

Here is Zoe’s Prime Factorization Blanket laid out flat (or sort of flat):

Zoes Blanket

Here’s how it works. Starting in the bottom left corner (because graphs always have the origin in the bottom left), there’s a missing space for zero. Then 1 is pale pink, the background color:

Zoes Blanket bottom left

2 was assigned the color pink.
3 was assigned the color red.

Zoes Blanket bottom middle

4 is our first composite number, 2 x 2. So I used two sections of pink. (If you look at the actual blanket, you can tell there are two sections, but it’s harder to tell in the picture.)
5 is prime, so it’s assigned a new color, yellow.
6 is composite, 2 x 3. So it gets a section of pink and a section of red.

Zoes Blanket bottom right

7 is prime, so it gets a new color, purple.
8 is composite, 2 x 2 x 2. Three sections of pink.
9 = 3 x 3, so it gets two sections of red.

New row, so look back at the photo of the bottom right.
10 = 2 x 5, so it gets a section of pink and a section of yellow.
11 is prime, so it gets a new color, turquoise.
12 = 2 x 2 x 3, so two sections of pink and one section of red.
13 is prime, so it gets a new color, sea foam green.

Now the picture for the middle:
14 = 2 x 7, so pink and purple.
15 = 3 x 5, so red and yellow.
16 = 2 x 2 x 2 x 2, so four sections of pink.

Now the picture of the right side:
17 is prime, so it gets a new color, baby blue.
18 = 2 x 3 x 3, one section of pink, two sections of red.
19 is prime, so it gets a new color, olive green.

The next row starts at 20. The blanket goes all the way up to 99.

Here’s the top corner, so you can see some bigger numbers:

Zoes Blanket top corner

You can see the patterns nicely in the grid of the blankets. As an example of some simple patterns, the twos and fives line up in straight lines, but so do the elevens, in a diagonal line. There are lots more patterns which you can find the more you look at the blanket.

And Zoe likes it!


I’m gathering all my Mathematical Knitting links on my Sonderknitting page. (I hope to soon add coloring pages, too!) Check out the rest!

ALA Midwinter Meeting 2016, Final Day

After the Youth Media Awards on Monday morning, I checked out of my hotel and returned to the convention center for the Morris Awards and YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Awards.

These are always a delight. The Morris Award goes to a debut author, and all the Finalists speak. They are always so thrilled even to be published, to be honored on top of that is wonderfully affirming. And the Nonfiction Awards inevitably have some incredibly intelligent people talking about interesting things.

First up were the Morris Award Finalists.

Kelly Loy Gilbert, author of Conviction, wasn’t able to be there, so she gave a video speech.

Books are about connections in unlikely places.
She was a library lover and spent her whole childhood living other lives through books.
Her book asks Who are you when nothing in the world is like you believed?
All stories are redemption stories.
We’re forced to confront our shared humanity.

The next speaker was Anna-Maria McLemore, author of The Weight of Feathers.


It was at an ALA conference that she first found her voice about being a queer Latina author.
When she was a teen, she fell in love with a transgender boy.
She was taught to hate who she was. The boy she loved helped her get beyond that.
In her book, when her character sees the boy, she sees her own otherness as well.
Stories make us human to each other.
Each one of us is in 400 stories. (400 was her childhood word for infinity.)
Before librarians put books in her hands about Latina girls, she was disappearing.

Then came Stephanie Oakes, author of The Sacred Lives of Minnow Bly.

(Some authors did not hold still enough while they talked to get their picture!)

Her character Minnow Bly spent her life in a cult. Now she doesn’t have hands, and she’s in Juvie.
She never learned to read in the cult, but in Juvie, a teacher and a librarian teach her to read.
The author became silent after a childhood hurt.
She found reading at 12 years old, when she was handed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
She gathered and hoarded words.
Books put things into words she hadn’t known she believed.
Writing is like screaming at the top of your voice: “I exist! I exist!”
Librarians made a difference in her life.

Leah Thomas, author of Because You’ll Never Meet Me, was next.

There was an unspoken Voldemort rule about her high school librarian. She was “The Mean One.”
Leah found out that “The Mean One” was actually “The Cool One.”
Proximity has no relationship to distance.
Sometimes fiction is the only escape we get.
The power of words is tremendous.
Librarians destroy distance with every interaction.
Words are the death of distance.

Finally, the winner of the 2016 Morris Award, Becky Albertalli, author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda spoke.


She has a three-year-old at home, who thought the sticker on her book would be a train sticker. Not even Thomas the Tank Engine on the cover of her book could top this!
She decided to write when she had a baby and quit her job. Don’t throw away your shot!
She was more honest in this book than ever before — because she didn’t really believe it would get published.
Books saved her as a lonely, wistful teen.
Publishing a book is the fastest way to find your soulmates.
Her book isn’t epic, it’s life-size.
It’s her husband’s grandfather’s senior citizen book club pick.
Who made the rule that every librarian has to be awesome?
They care about connecting readers to books.

Next came the Finalists for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award.

First up was M. T. Anderson for Symphony for the City of the Dead.


It’s about Shostakovich’s symphony, which was smuggled around the world. By the 1950s, the addressees’ names were removed — a suppression of truth in our society, too.
If Communism has amnesia, Capitalism has ADHD.
Capitalism also hides history, as Communism did.
Nonfiction is about revealing what’s hidden.
No child thinks asking questions is boring.
It takes adults to convince people that learning about this fascinating world is boring.
Librarians take kids to the window and say, “See this reality? It’s yours!”

Margarita Engle spoke next about Enchanted Air, her memoir in verse.


Her book is pure emotion — emotions are facts, too.
This allowed her to communicate directly with readers.
Poetry makes her happy.
Beautiful language was the only way she could handle excruciating memories.
Last year, she dedicated the book to 10 million stateless people. Now there are 50 million.
She felt like an invisible twin was left behind.
This book is for any reader who feels divided, half belonging, half shunned.
The overriding message is hope.

Then Tim Grove spoke about First Flight Around the World.

He works at the National Air and Space Museum. The Chicago is there — one of the first two planes to fly around the world.
The museum’s archives had a handwritten journal of one of the pilots, along with photographs.
They flew over many countries. It was a race! In 1924, there was no guarantee that anyone would make it.
4 planes left, and only 2 returned. But there were no fatalities.
The planes were named New Orleans, Seattle, Chicago, and Boston.
He used journal excerpts as sidebars.
They tried to get the book printed in China, but China wouldn’t let them print the 1922 map!

Next was Nancy Plain speaking about This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon.


Audubon’s story includes Art, American History, and the Lives and Ways of Animals (3 things she loves very much).
Audubon was an incredible bird artist and water colorist.
He created a magnificent collection of paintings of 400 species of American birds.
His goal was to seek out all the wondrous things hidden since creation.
He was also the founder of modern ornithology and the first to band the legs of birds.
He was an over-the-top guy, stranger than fiction.
He was born in Haiti, raised in France, and saw the French Revolution. He came to America in 1803.
He had a country store on the Kentucky Frontier which went bankrupt, and he was thrown in jail for debt.
That’s when he decided to paint all the birds of America. He set out into the wilderness.
He had trouble finding an American publisher, so he went to Europe. He found a publisher — and fame — there.
He had an important legacy.
He predicted the extinction of the passenger pigeon and the near extinction of buffalo.
Audubon is an inspiration and invitation to protect and preserve our wildlife.

Finally, the 2016 winner of the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction spoke, Steve Sheinkin for Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War.

There’s always one thing that grabs him. This time it was a filing cabinet with a dent in it.
The cabinet belonged to a psychiatrist in Los Angeles. Two secret agents from the white house broke into the office to get damaging information about Daniel Ellsberg.
This story cooperated.
Daniel Ellsberg started out incredibly not dangerous, a skinny, nerdy kid.
He walked into the Pentagon as a new analyst right before the Gulf of Tonkin.
The author was able to talk with Daniel Ellsberg, he’s still alive.
He saw the government telling lies and was faced with an agonizing decision whether to expose that or not.
Steve Sheinkin uses the library as a second home.
We’re allies! (Writers and librarians) We’re all doing the same thing!


After those inspiring words, we were given a chance to get books signed by the authors. As long as I had four books, I decided to visit the exhibits one last time and get enough to fill a box and ship them all home.


Then my plan was to roam around Boston before my evening flight. Looks like a lovely day, right? It was the first we’d seen of the sun all weekend.


But it turned out to be bitter cold! So I ended up seeing an IMAX film at the Aquarium. And I got to the airport early enough to have a sit-down dinner right by my gate. And I had a lovely flight home, reading.

Within a couple of days, 101 books arrived for me, which happens to be the exact number I sent home from ALA Midwinter Meeting last year!


Total spent on books: $10 for two signed copies of Madame Martine for my nieces.
Postage: I didn’t add up exactly, but it was approximately $100.

55 children’s books
30 teen books
16 Adult books
3 tote bags
1 hungry tomato (Or a very angry Bob the Tomato?)
1 diorama
15 books signed by the author
Oh, and only 1 duplicate — and it’s a children’s book, so will be a prize anyway.

What a lovely conference!