Sunday, January 25, 2009

TSS: What I Like About Challenges


Yes, I know. People get carried away. You can end up reading something awful like Xena Warrior Princess just to add an X title to your challenge list.


But there are good things about challenges, too.


I only signed up for two challenges last year: Newbery Challenge and Around the World in 80 Books. The idea behind ATWIB is to read books set in 80 different countries. I thought I was reading books that were set all around the world. Well, I discovered I was reading books set in countries outside my US, but over and over and over I found I was reading in China and India and Iraq. And that was all. I needed to push myself a little more.


I completed the Newbery Challenge. I read all the Newbery books last year. Believe me, there were some I wanted to give up on. And that was the good thing about the NC; I stuck with it. I found a lot of wonderful books, many unknown to me.


This year I signed up for a dozen challenges. That sounds like a lot of challenges. But many of them are easy for me. If I can't complete the Young Readers Challenge (12 children's books) by the end of January and me a primary school librarian, then something's wrong! And because I read so many children's books, it is a piece of cake for me to read 52 books, even 100 books.


Some of the challenges will be more, well, challenging for me. The World Citizen Challenge, which encourages readers to try to read from the categories of economics, politics, worldwide issues, sociology, history, and memoirs, will probably be my biggest challenge.


I am going into this with the mindset that this is all just for fun. I'm really not interested in the prizes some challenges offer (though they are a nice added incentive). If I can't finish the challenge, oh well. But I've already read lots of great books I'd never have encountered if I hadn't ventured out into unknown waters. Even if I never reach land, the swim is delightful.

Friday, January 23, 2009

No More Bad Books: A Manifesto

When I was a little reader, I read books my mom read. What did I know about books? Lots and lots of gothic novels. Good girl meets bad guy. Falls in love with bad guy. Finds out bad guy is not really bad. Lots and lots. Every single gothic novel, maybe.

I will never read another awful book. I will never finish another I-know-on-the-first-page-how-it's-going-to-end book. I don't care if you send it to me free. I won't read another dull textbook. I don't care if you loved it and gave it to me to read. I don't care if it is on the bestseller list. I don't care if I paid full price. I don't care if my best friend wrote it.

I'm not going to read another bad book.




















Sunday, January 18, 2009

TSS: Do You Bookcross?



I'm a new blogger (only since last summer), but I've been bookcrossing since 2002. There are now close to 3/4 of a million Bookcrossers around the world.

Why, then, I wonder, have I never run into a BCer in the book blogging world?

Bookcrossing is my favorite book site. I've registered over 5,000 books. By the end of this year, I plan to have released 5,000 books. One of my books, Book Lust, has traveled to over 75 people around the world.

Do you know what Bookcrossing is?




The idea behind it is that people read books and then pass them on, instead of leaving them on their shelves to gather dust. Each book is registered with a number and then is left somewhere. If someone else finds it and reads it, he can go to the site and make comments about the book.

My most successful release day was at the Texas Book Fair in Austin, Texas several years ago. I released 75 books and about 20 were logged in.

I am getting ready for the Texas Library Association meeting this spring in Houston. It is always a great place to release books.

Here is my shelf at Bookcrossing. My name there is debnance. Take a look at my available books. I am always happy to trade (though, sadly, I can no longer trade internationally due to rising postal costs).






Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday Salon: Gulliver or Gulliver?


Gulliver?


Or Gulliver?


Will the real Gulliver please stand up?

Is it an authentic Gulliver experience to read the children's picture book?

Or is it a more genuine experience to read it, unedited, without pictures, on a Kindle?

I read both this week. I liked the children's version better. The pictures were fun and the edited text included the best of the original and omitted the extraneous material that seemed irrelevant to the heart of the book.

I'm happy I read the original as well as the edited version. I can see the appeal of this book for readers. Funny. Thoughtful. Gulliver visits places in the world that make his entire worldview shift and crumble and, finally, evolve.

A wonderful book.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunday Salon: How Fiction Works


Tomorrow it's back to school. Sigh.

I will be very happy to be back at school but it was such a lovely holiday. I read lots and lots of delicious books.

I just started one such delicious book. Much more delicious than the bland cover or bland title had prepared me for. How Fiction Works. Okay, I've only read the first chapter, but I've already learned about a hundred things.

More later...

Friday, January 2, 2009

Brutal Facts


At my last school, our principal's favorite buzzword, taken from Jim Collins' book, Good to Great, was "brutal facts."

I read a humdinger of a brutal fact yesterday. I’m still thinking hard about the last chapter of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, which concludes with a study done on students’ reading and math acquisition over the summer months and during the school year. The study splits up children according to their SES: low, medium, and high. Here’s the startling conclusion: low and middle SES kids learn MORE during the school year than high SES kids. Odd. And, further, in the summer, low SES kids learn little or even lose ground while high SES kids make tremendous gains.
Still thinking about this....

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Announcing the Cybils 2008 Nonfiction Picture Book Finalists

I am proud to have served as a judge on this panel.




2008 Nonfiction Picture Book Finalists

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams written by Jen Bryant illustrated by Melissa Sweet Eerdmans Books for Young Readers This biography follows "Willie Williams" from his days as a smart, athletic youngster to his later years as a physician. As readers see him aging, they also see the inexplicable pull of poetry in his life and the making of a man as a poet. The multimedia illustrations closely compliment the text, making for a book that exudes the spirit of Williams in every way. The book concludes with timelines of both Williams' life and world history during Williams' lifetime.


Astronaut Handbook written and illustrated by Meghan McCarthy Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
How does one become an astronaut? McCarthy opens the door to astronaut training and lets readers in on all the secrets. The eye-popping illustrations offer ways to understand information that would be too difficult for the target audience had it been presented only in text. The back matter includes a page of fascinating facts and a bibliography of books, web sites, videos and places to visit.





Duel! Burr and Hamilton's Deadly War of Words written by Dennis Brindell Fradin illustrated by Larry Day Walker Books for Young Readers
Fradin's historically accurate telling of the story of the duel between Hamilton and Burr is dramatically told. Both men are cast as well-rounded human beings with flaws and strengths, and both are shown to be at fault for the duel. The book concludes with a lengthy bibliography.


Fabulous Fishes written and illustrated by Susan Stockdale Peachtree
This Seuss-like look at the world of fish uses bold illustrations and rhyming text to introduce young readers to the wide variety of ocean fish. Stockdale follows up her textual overview with a few pages of additional information about each fish pictured. A long list of resources is also included.

Nic Bishop Frogs written and illustrated by Nic Bishop Scholastic Nonfiction
Jam-packed with amazing and sometimes quirky facts, and gorgeous photos, this book takes readers on a journey through the wonderful world of frogs. Scientifically, Bishop doesn't talk down to young readers, but rather helps to make the mystery that is life and science more understandable. A glossary and index are included.

Wanda Gag: The Girl Who Lived to Draw written and illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray Viking
Using Gág's own words, Kogan Ray tells the story of a woman born into an art-loving family who followed her own dream to create art, no matter what obstacles stood in her way. This biography follows Gág from her childhood years up through the publication of her Newbery award-winning book, Millions of Cats.



Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter Harcourt
Winter's bold illustrations and straightforward prose tell the story of this Nobel Peace Prize winner's efforts to bring the green back to Kenya. Focused on her early life, this biography introduces readers to a girl who loved nature, decried its destruction, and worked tirelessly to reforest her beloved homeland. The back matter includes an author's note and quote from Maathai.

2009 Challenges

I will focus on these for 2009:


Book Awards Reading Challenge...COMPLETED

Read 10 award winning books, with 5 different awards.

Choices are here.

1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Nobel Prize for Literature) 12-08

2. Praying for Sheetrock by Melissa Fay Greene (National Book Award finalist) 11-08

3. Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder (Pulitzer Prize) 11-08

4. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (Man Booker Prize) 10-08

5. The House of the Scorpions by Nancy Farmer (Printz Honor Book) 10-08

6. Lady Liberty by Doreen Rappaport (Bluebonnet 2009) 10-08

7. The Gathering by Anne Enright (Man Booker winner) 10-08

8. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (Arthur C. Clarke Award) 09-08

9. The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Pulitzer Prize) 09-08

10. A Death in the Family by James Agee (Pulitzer Prize) 09-08


11. The Word for World is Forest by Ursula LeGuin (Nebula) 01-09


12. Foundation by Isaac Asimov (Hugo) 01-09


13. The Moved-Outers by Florence Crannell Means (Newbery Honor) 01-09


14. The Loner by Ester Wier (Newbery Honor) 03-17


15. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi (Newbery Honor) 03-29-09


16. Dogsong by Gary Paulsen (Newbery Honor) 03-29-09


17. The Loner by Ester Wier (Newbery Honor) 03-09


18. Dragonwings by Laurence Yep (Newbery Honor) 03-09


19. The Noonday Friends by Mary Stolz (Newbery Honor) 04-09


20. Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer (Newbery Honor) 04-09


21. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka (Booker) 04-09


22. The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss (Newbery Honor)

23. The Great Fire by Jim Murphy (Newbery Honor)





Dewey Decimal System Challenge - COMPLETED

000 - Generalities - Better than Life by Daniel Pennac
100 - Philosophy and Psychology - Wabi Sabi Simple by Richard Powell
200 - Religion - The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus by Peter J. Gomes
300 - Social Sciences - Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
400 - Language - See It & Say It in Spanish by Margarita Madrigal
500 - Natural Sciences + Math - Tyrannosaurus Math
600 - Technology Stuffed: An Insider's Look at Who's (Really) Making America Fat by Hank Cardello
700 - The Arts - Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton
800 - Literature and Rhetoric - The Trouble Begins at 8 by Sid Fleischman
900 - Geography and History - I'll Never Be French No Matter What I Do by Mark Greenside

Around the World in 80 Books - COMPLETED

Read 80 books from 80 different countries. Perpetual, but I'd like to aim for five books this year.
1. Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida (Finland)

2. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha by Sarah Erdman (Ivory Coast)

3. A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul (Zaire)

4. Radiant Girl by Andrea White (Ukraine)

5. Red Sails to Capri by Ann Weil (Capri)

Young Readers Challenge - COMPLETED

Read 12 children's books in 12 months.

1. The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers

2. The World That Loved Books by Stephen Parlato

3. Martin Kalmanoff's The Big Bell and the Little Bell

4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

5. Radiant Girl by Andrea White


6. The Moved-Outers by Florence Crannell Means

7. Matilda by Roald Dahl

8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

9. Abe's Honest Words by Doreen Rappaport

10. The Loner by Ester Wier

11. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

12. Red Sails to Capri by Ann Wiel



13. Dogsong by Gary Paulsen



14. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi



15. The Noonday Friends by Mary Stolz



16. Meet Kirsten: An American Girl by Janet Shaw



17. Happy Birthday to You by Dr. Seuss



18. Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee



19. Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer


Read all the winners and the honor books, too.
2007 Winner...American Born Chinese
2007 Honor...The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing
2003 Honor...House of the Red Scorpion
2001 Honor...Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging
2000 Honor...Speak


Well-Seasoned Reading Challenge - COMPLETED


1. Read three books. After that, it's up to you how much you want to read.

2. The books must be middle-grade on up, but can be either fiction or non-fiction.

3. The books must:


*have a food name in the title, OR


*be about cooking/eating, OR


*have a place name in the title, OR


*be about one (or more) person's travel experience, OR


*be about a specific culture, OR


*be by an author whose ethnicity is other than your own


*runs January 1 through March 31


1. Black Coffee by Agatha Christie

2. Stuffed: An Insider's Look at Who's (Really) Making America Fat by Hank Cardello

3. The Amateur Gourmet by Adam D. Roberts


4. Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuchsia Dunlop


5. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister


TBR Lite - COMPLETED

Read 6-12 books from my list of TBR books.

1. Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathaniel West

2. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha by Sarah Erdman

3. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

4. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

6. A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul

7. Rabbit, Run by John Updike


8. Black Coffee by Agatha Christie


9. The Moved-Outers by Florence Crannell Means


10. The Word for World is Forest by Ursula LeGuin


11. Foundation by Isaac Asimov


12. Matilda by Roald Dahl


13. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi


14. Dogsong by Gary Paulsen

15. The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter


16. The Noonday Friends by Mary Stolz


17. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka


In Their Shoes - COMPLETED

Read any 4 memoirs in 2009.

1. My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen

2. I'll Never Be French by Mark Greenside


3. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha by Sarah Erdman

4. When Wanderers Cease to Roam by Vivian Swift


5. Scratch Beginnings by Adam Shepard


6. Epilogue by Anne Roiphe


7. The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan


8. Stargazing: Memoirs of a Young Lighthouse Keeper by Peter Hill


9. PostSecret compiled by Frank Warren


10. The Passion on the Vine by Sergio Esposito


World Citizen Challenge - COMPLETED

Read seven books, including one from each category. Runs all year.

1. Politics - Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation by Jacqueline Jules

2. Economics - Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life: A Story of Sustainable Farming by Jan Reynolds

3. History - The American Revolution from A to Z by Laura Crawford

4. Culture or anthropology or sociology - Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell; Whatever It takes by Paul Tough

5. Worldwide issues - Stuffed by Hank Cardello

6. Memoirs/autobiographies - Nine Hills to Nambonkaha by Sarah Erdman

Read and Review Challenge

Read and review every book you read in 2009 - 283

Book Around the States - COMPLETED

Read from all 50 states. I'll aim for five. Perpetual.

1. The Trouble Begins at 8 by Sid Fleischman (Missouri)

2. Rabbit, Run by John Updike (Pennsylvania)

3. The Moved-Outers by Florence Crannell Means (Colorado)

4. Scratch Beginnings by Adam Shepard (South Carolina)


5. Dogsong by Gary Paulsen (Alaska)


6. Meet Kirsten: An American Girl by Janet Shaw (Minnesota)

7. Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams (Utah)


Ignite Your Faith Challenge - COMPLETED

Through March 31, 2009. Read any three spiritual books.

1. My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen

2. Wabi Sabi Simple by Richard Powell

3. How to Change Your Life by Doing Absolutely Nothing by Karen Salmansohn

4. What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America by Tony Schwartz


5. The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus by Peter J. Gomes


6. A Generous Or+hodoxy by Brian D. McLaren



100+ Reading Challenge - COMPLETED

All year. I'm trying to read over 100 books - 150

Book-a-Week Challenge

Read 52 books in one year - 150

Support Your Local Library Challenge - COMPLETED

All year. I'm trying to read 50 books from my library.

1. Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida


2. My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen


3. I’ll Never Be French (No Matter What I Do) by Mark Greenside


4. The Traveler by Daren Simkin


5. The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West by Sid Fleischman


6. The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude by P. M. Forni


7. Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton


8. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell


9. Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver retold by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Chris Riddell


10. How Fiction Works by James Wood


11. The Waitress Was New by Dominique Fabre


12. Scratch Beginnings by Adam Shepard


13. Between the Covers by Margo Hammond


14. What It Is by Lynda Barry


15. Factory Girls by Leslie Chang


16. Epilogue by Anne Roiphe


17. The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan


18. Whatever It Takes by Paul Tough


19. What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America by Tony Schwartz


20. Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuchsia Dunlop


21. Stargazing: Memoirs of a Young Lighthouse Keeper by Peter Hill


22. (un)FASHION by Tibor + Maira Kalman


23. Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center


24. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister


25. Little Beauties by Kim Addonizio


26. PostSecret compiled by Frank Warren


27. A Lifetime of Secrets compiled by Frank Warren


28. The Secret Lives of Men and Women compiled by Frank Warren


29. How to Live by Henry Alford


30. The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus by Peter J. Gomes

31. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

32. The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

33. Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City by Janet Schulman

34. Help Me, Mr. Mutt by Janet Stevens

35. The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster: A Tale of Picky Eating by A.W. Flaherty

36. Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look

37. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

38. The Hound of Rowan by Henry H. Neff

39. The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman

40. Piper Reed, Navy Brat by Kimberly Willis Holt

41. Surprises According to Humphrey by Betty Birney

42. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

43. Savvy by Ingrid Law

44. Maybelle in the Soup by Katie Speck

45. We Are the Ship by Nelson Kadir

46. Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli

47. Martina the Beautiful Cockroach by Carmen Deedy

48. ¡Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico! By Pat Mora

49. Two-Minute Drill by Mike Lupica

50. Someone Named Eva by Joan Wolf

51. Home by Marilynne Robinson




Keep Them Moving Challenge - COMPLETED



Read and pass along books registered by another BCer at BookCrossing. I'll try for 4.



1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe


2. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck


3. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha by Sarah Erdman


4. Gulliver's Travels and Other Writings by Jonathan Swift


5. Rabbit, Run by John Updike


6. How to Change Your Life by Doing Absolutely Nothing by Karen Salmansohn


7. Black Coffee by Agatha Christie


8. The Moved-Outers by Florence Crannell Means


9. The Word for World is Forest by Ursula LeGuin


10. Foundation by Isaac Asimov


11. The Mammy by Brendan O'Carroll


12. Five Little Peppers by Margaret Sidney


13. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick


14. The Curriculum Vitae of Aurora Ortiz by Almudena Solana


15. Matilda by Roald Dahl


16. Testimony by Anita Shreve


17. 13 Clocks by James Thurber


18. The Homecoming by Ray Bradbury


19. Dogsong by Gary Paulsen


20. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi


21. Meet Kirsten by Janet Shaw


22. Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer


23. Happy Birthday to You! by Dr. Seuss

24. The Black Pearl by Scott O’Dell

A Novel Challenge Mini-Challenge - COMPLETED

1. Read a collection of short stories and either blog about it, OR tell the group about what you read. Tales of Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan (on readerbuzz)

2. Read a play. Blog about it, OR tell the group about your experience.


The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter: A book of eight plays. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve read a play. And these are wonderful plays, plays that seem to capture the existential spirit of our modern world.



3. Read a nonfiction book; write a review on your blog or post it to the group.


Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell



4. Read an 2 essays from the same collection; write a review on your blog or tell the group about what you read.

Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction edited by Lex Williford

5. Go to a book event; blog about it or tell the group about it.

Texas Book Festival 2009

6. Borrow a library book, read it and review it on your blog (or tell the group about it).


Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton


7. Read a book by a new to you author. Do a little research on the author…do they have a blog? How many books have they written? Have they won any prizes? Where do they live? etc… Blog about the book you read and the author OR tell the group about them.


The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery


8. Make a donation. You can either donate to an organization that supports reading OR make a physical donation of a book (or books) to ANYONE. Blog about it or tell the group what you did.


A Death in the Family by James Agee


9. Promote literacy. This is wide open - use your imagination. You could give a child a book, or read a book to someone who cannot read, or volunteer at an event which promotes literacy, or donate to your local library, or write something on your blog with a link to a group which promotes literacy, or anything in between. The only rule with this one is that you must PROMOTE literacy in some way…


I helped organize Meet the Author Night at the public library. I found an author, invited her, and distributed information about the author to encourage attendance.


10. Participate in a buddy read or Group discussion. This can be a face to face group, an on-line group or a one on one discussion with a friend who read the same book. Either way, blog about your experience or share with the group. Did the discussion give you greater appreciation or insight into what you read?

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

11. Read a book outside your comfort level or from a genre you don’t normally read. Blog about it, or tell the group about it.


Black Coffee by Agatha Christie


The Word for World is Forest by Ursula LeGuin


Foundation by Isaac Asimov


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick



12. Read a classic (defined as anything published before 1970). Tell us why it fits the category of being a classic. Write a review or tell the group about the book.


Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck