Sunday, November 19, 2017

It's Finally Fall Break...and I'm Sick...Again (With Lots and Lots and Lots of Book Reviews)

SICK AGAIN

It's finally our fall break at school, and guess what? I'm sick again. A cold this time, with congestion, and sneezing, and coughing. 

That's what happens when you work in a germ swarm, I guess.

If my calculations are correct, I'll probably start feeling better about the time school resumes.

Sigh.

I will think of this time as a time to do quiet things like reading and writing and blogging and taking photos and drawing and...I can't remember when I've done this!---thinking. Obviously this old body is weary or it wouldn't keep getting sick every week. 

It's time for a little rest. And today, the official day of rest, Sunday, is a good day to start.


CYBILS STATS

I've read 232 of 357 Cybils-nominated fiction picture books and board books. That leaves 125 books to go. 


WHAT ARRIVED LAST WEEK

My stack of Cybils has started to look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. How many books are in the stack? Thirty? Fifty? I just know that nine boxes of books arrived on Wednesday and seven more on Thursday. That's a lot of books.


WHAT I'VE FINISHED LATELY

I haven't posted reviews in a long time. A long, long time. So I'm catching up today. Just know that I also have read 232 Cybils books, though I hesitate to post reviews until we have had the final sorting out at the end of December. 

To keep this under control, I will put books in categories....


HAPPINESS BOOKS




Happiness is an Inside Job by Sylvia Boorstein
Sylvia Boorstein knows happiness and she knows how we can all, big and small, crazy or not so, can get there. It's simple practices, really, but practices that are all deeply grounded in habits developed over hundreds of years. What are they? Thinking kindly about others. Wise speech. Mindfulness. 

Very, very helpful.

It's Easier Than You Think by Sylvia Boorstein
I've found a new writer on happiness, and that's a happy thing. Sylvia Boorstein shows us how to take a step back from our thoughts and reflect on our reflections before we jump into anger or frustration or annoyance. And it really is easier than I thought.

Find Happiness Now
Fifty solid ideas for pulling a little more happiness into your life.

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
A good book changes us. This book changed me.

Brown takes on the hostile climate in our world, and offers ways to soothe it, temper it, and, in the process, befriend the hostility. I often find myself getting angry with those who (as I see them) are sitting, fully armed, in the I-don't-want-to-listen room. I want to speak out against their hatred by spewing my own (good) hatred. But that's no answer. Brown suggests civil and true conversations, and I love that. 

I also took away this beautiful quote, from one of Brown's friends:
"Tonight we will exhale and teach. Now it's time to inhale. There is the in-breath and there is the out-breath, and it's easy to believe that we must exhale all the time, without ever inhaling. But the inhale is absolutely essential if you want to continue to exhale."

I think I need to do a little more inhaling, a little more gentle conversing.

The Blue Zones of Happiness
Dan Buettner shares research on the happiest places on earth and uses that research to help all of us make our workplaces, our homes, and our communities happier places to live. 

There are several wonderful lists in this book, including the Blue Zones Happiness Test, the fifteen "cowbell" factors that signal true happiness, and the Community Blueprint for Happiness, that are alone worth the price of the book.

The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life
After reading this book and seeing how far we in America go wrong when it comes to health care (eek!), education (double eek!) and happiness (oh my!) in comparison to the Nordic countries, my only thoughts are:

(1) America! How far we are from where we could be!

(2) Education! Read about the Nordic countries and you will weep in thinking about what we do here.

(3) Could I convince my husband to ever leave his beloved homeland/country of Texas for Finland? And, if so, how much cold can we stand?

At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe
This is a woman who dares to go where no mom has gone before...a round-the-world, year-long trip with her husband and three young children. China. Thailand. Sri Lanka. Africa. Italy. France. Germany. Amazingly, their biggest trouble was probably losing a treasured blankey in Africa, and it was returned. They visited with friends, saw the world, and reflected on the meaning of home, and Oxenreider was able to return to Texas and create a new home spot for herself and her family.

The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey
Want wisdom? Go to the wise. That's what Oprah does. She's a master at asking questions and listening deeply. When you talk to the wise, that's all you have to do...ask questions and sit back and listen. I couldn't wait to get into the car each day for my ten-minute drive to work so I could listen to these amazing conversations. 

I want more Super Soul conversations.



1001 CHILDREN'S BOOKS YOU MUST READ


Charlotte Sometimes
Charlotte inexplicably finds herself trading spots in time and space with a girl named Clare. Back and forth the two girls go, trading, returning, trading again, returning again, on and on. 

I was disappointed, I think, as I was hoping for a deeper story, something more than simply occupying a bed with wheels, and...

SPOILER ALERT...SPOILER ALERT...SPOILER ALERT...

...a richer and more satisfying ending.

Grimpow: The Invisible Road
This has to be the longest book at over 13 hours that I have listened to as an audiobook. We actually started this book on vacation a year ago, but it took me a while to find the time to listen to the last half of it. 

It’s a fantasy, of a sort, and it’s historical fiction, of a sort. Other people compare it to The DaVinci Code, but since I haven’t read that, I don’t know.

Grimpow is off on a quest to find the secret of a mysterious stone owned by a dead knight. It’s a thoughtful story, with more thinking than action, but that is probably what I like best in a fantasy.

Bill's New Frock
Bill wakes up to learn he is a girl. His mom dresses him in a lovely frock and he is off into his day.

Never heavy-handed, never pedantic, this book is a nice excursion into another gender, and a thoughtful one.



BOOKS ABOUT ITALY


La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind
Beppe Severgnini takes us on a tour of the Italian mind, and what a mind it is. Intelligent. Intuitive. Good intentions. Intimate. Genius. Gusto. Guts. Generosity. 

Clever. Funny. Paradoxically true, which is always the truest sort of true.

A Thousand Bells at Noon
Want to know what Rome is like? Ask a Roman.

G. Franco Romagnoli explores his Rome and his people via eating, health, fountains, death, and faith. 

It's a deeply personal and deeply true book.

That Fine Italian Hand
Paul Hofmann takes on Italy and Italians in this close look at all the quirky elements of Italian families, Mafia, food, espresso, and red tape.


SHOULD-I-NOMINATE-THIS-BOOK-FOR-A-CYBILS READS



When the Sky Breaks by Simon Winchester
I live along the Gulf Coast of Texas and I've experienced Hurricane Carla, Tropical Storm Claudette, Hurricane Alicia, Hurricane Ike, and (a few weeks ago) Hurricane Harvey. 

I know a lot about hurricanes. 

Or so I thought.

Simon Winchester takes on hurricanes along with tornadoes and other storms in this book. He's a clever fellow who does research (lots of it!) and is also able to explain difficult ideas to those of us who weren't really listening carefully in science class. 


The Best We Could Do by Thi Gui
Vietnam was a curse word during my childhood and teen years. I have friends and relatives and neighbors who died there, without ever really knowing much about it. 

This book is a story of Vietnam and the story of a family from Vietnam and the story of a girl from Vietnam. It's full of beauty and happy moments and awful times and death and cruelty. And it's told in graphic novel format, with powerful illustrations to accompany the words.


Warcross by Marie Lu
I know nothing about video games. I know nothing about hackers. I know nothing about coding.

But I know good writing. And this book is good writing. A dynamite plot. Fascinating characters. Gripping suspense.

Kid Authors: True Tales of Childhood from Famous Authors
Do you love to hear the backstories of people? Do you like to find out about the stories in people's lives that other biographies leave out? Are you a person who likes to see the human side of celebrities?

That's me. And this is the book for you. 

Kid Authors shares stories about the divorce of the parents of poet Langston Hughes, Sherman Alexie's hydrocephalus, and Roald Dahl's love affair with candy. All the stories you didn't know you wanted to know.

Wishtree
Red is an oak tree who has been around for many years, and he has many stories to tell. He understands a lot about the world, so even when a boy slashes a cruel command to the recently arrived immigrant family in the neighborhood into Red’s bark, even when a neighbor threatens to cut Red down, Red does not falter or weary.

I liked the story but I didn’t love it. It felt a bit thrown together too quickly, I suppose, and Red seemed to lack some of what I expected from a long-lived oak tree. Probably just me.


POETRY-ISH


Upstream by Mary Oliver
I liked most (but not all) of these essays of Mary Oliver's. She writes essays like she writes poems: tentatively walking around things, examining them, and kindly talking aloud about them.


Why Poetry by Matthew Zapruder
If you have to ask this question, you probably aren't interested in reading this book.

And if you are simply curious as to the answer to this question, you might be able to write a better book.


FOODIE READS


The Comfort Food Diaries
Emily Nunn loses her brother to suicide and breaks up with her fiancĂ©, and in one night she finds herself without a family or home or income. She sets out on a quest to put her world back together again by visiting friends and learning how to cook their favorite comfort meals. 

I loved the stories, and I loved her quest, and I loved the recipes she discovered. It’s a comfort of a book, and I think you will find yourself happier just for reading it, and even happier if you try a few of the recipes, especially Great-grandmother’s Mean Lemon Cake or Aunt Mariah’s Rolls or a Pot of Pinto Beans.

Finding Yourself in the Kitchen
The idea of meditation is comforting but daunting for many people. How about meditating in the kitchen? Dana Velden proposes that, for many of us, that is what happens when we cook, and that, for many of us, meditation in the kitchen is something we can easily do better. I love how Velden offers extremely simple ways to move more of your eating habits away from restaurant eating and into home cooking. I also love how she takes away the stresses that we often impose upon ourselves as we cook, and proposes simplifying cooking to focus on enjoying the process rather than criticizing our end product. 


BOOKS I PLANNED TO READ THIS AUTUMN (AND DID)



Sourdough: A Novel by Robin Sloan
Four stars for this very, very strange little book. 

A synopsis first: Lois is a software engineer at loose ends. She works day and night at a company that makes robots. Every night she orders dinner at the same place, and it is amazing. The two brothers who make the dinners have to leave town fast, and when they do, they leave Lois their sourdough starter. Lois starts to bake...and bake...and bake....

Odd things about this book:
(1) The sourdough must have music to thrive.
(2) Lois belongs to a Lois Club made up of people named Lois.
(3) Lois builds a robot arm to help her make bread.
(4) There is a secret market combining food and technology. Lois is invited to become part of it.
(5) The brothers.

Yes, an odd book, but a strangely satisfying one.

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
After all these years I finally got around to this book. We took it along as an audiobook on our last long trip. It was just as wonderful as I've always heard. Seinfeld, folks. Seinfeld a hundred years ago. Clever. Smart. Funny.

The story is simple: three friends head out on a boat trip down the Thames. All three are a bit lazy and negligent and self-centered. It's all in good fun. A great read. Mustn't miss it.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century
Well, that was depressing. Who knew there were all these folks, mostly retirement age and older (that is, my age) living out of vans and campers and working anywhere they can to be able to afford to buy food and a place to park? Downright scary. Especially at my age.

These Schools Belong to You and Me: Why We Can't Afford to Abandon Our Public Schools
I am a person who is terribly worried about our schools. Maybe you are, too. I feel so strongly about the importance of public education in a democracy that I could have written the title of this book. 

This author has many, many years of experience working in the schools of America. Early on, she worked in a small experimental school and the experience was life-changing. She draws on that time as well as many subsequent times in experimental schools to share what she has learned about schools that work. Some of the key ideas are deeply involving the families and communities in education; student-driven learning; authentic learning; democracy and equity. 

Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgaard
You know how a camera can zoom in on a small object or a faraway object and you can see everything about the object? That’s what Karl Ove Knausgaard does. He chooses objects—-randomly, it seems—-and closes in on them—-wasps, chewing gum, the sun, porpoises—-and just looks at them. And looks. And looks. And you suddenly see the object and it seems like something you have just seen for the first time.

Now I can’t wait to read Winter.





What are you reading today?



What is the Sunday SalonImagine some university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them,and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake....That's what happens at the Sunday Salon, except it's all virtual. Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book. Click here to join the Salon.

The Sunday Post is a meme hosted by Kimba at Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It's a chance to share news and recap the past week.

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share books that we found in our mailboxes last week. 
 It is now being hosted here.

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews in which you can share the books you've acquired.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is where we share what we read this past week, what we hope to read this week…. and anything in between!  This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from! I love being a part of this and I hope you do too! It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is now being hosted at The Book Date.





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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Cowgirl Peg

We love author visits at our school. Is there an author we love to have visit us more than Cowgirl Peg? Peggy Sundberg writes stories about dogs and horses, and children at our school are crazy about both.

Sundberg has visited us two times in the past ten years and we are currently planning to have her return in the spring. 


Sundberg grew up in our town, and rode horses down the road where our school now lies. She ran a horse farm for many years in Wyoming, but she has returned to the Texas Gulf Coast to live.


Sundberg currently has written six children’s picture books, including Lonesome the Little Horse, Isabelle Lives a Dream, Shortstuff Bucks, Jasmine’s Incredible Story, Oakey-Dokey Oakie, and Cowgirl Peg and the Big Race.


She is scheduled to have her latest book published in three weeks.


Cowgirl Peg is a big hit at our school here in Texas.




For more wordless photos, go to Wordless Wednesday.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by West Metro Mommy ReadsTo participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken and then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky at West Metro Mommy Reads.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Books Children Should Know: Great Readalouds

I can't wait to share these with my granddaughter...with my great-nieces and great-nephews...with all children, really.



Here's the list and the why:

Green Eggs and Ham...You can probably learn to read if you just have this book.
A Kiss for Little Bear...Share a kiss and see what happens.
Make a World...Let's learn to draw while we are at it.
Life-Size Zoo Animals...A little nonfiction is great, too.
Because of Winn-Dixie...Everybody loves a dog story.
Half Magic...A coin that will accomplish every wish...but only halfway. I love magic, and half-magic.
Where the Sidewalk Ends...The real wishes and hopes of people.
Harry Potter...Everything we want in a story—adventure, humor, danger, delight.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland...Mysterious and surprising.
The Little Prince...An outsider’s perspective on life.
A Wrinkle in Time...the universe is in danger...can a nerdy girl and her family save it?


What would be on your list?


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

My Week in Books: The Texas Book Festival, Inprint Reading Series, and Cybils, Cybils, Cybils

I spent last weekend in book heaven, also known as The Texas Book Festival. I'm working on a post all about the wonderful time I had there, so prepare to be filled with envy soon.

I returned from the book festival late Sunday night and Monday night I headed to Rice University to see two brilliant authors, Jennifer Egan and Claire Messud, read from their latest books and discuss writing and their books and other equally enchanting topics.

And I gathered up more and more Cybils as my mailbox started filling with nominees. I'm reading fast and furiously and I'm happy to report I've hit 185 books read and reviewed. That only leaves me with another 165 to go. Whew.

I've got stacks of Cybils books all over the place...

...on the kitchen table...

...on the floor...

...in the trunk of my car...

Cybils...Cybils...Cybils...I think I can...I think I can....



What is the Sunday SalonImagine some university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them,and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake....That's what happens at the Sunday Salon, except it's all virtual. Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book. Click here to join the Salon.

The Sunday Post is a meme hosted by Kimba at Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It's a chance to share news and recap the past week.

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share books that we found in our mailboxes last week. 
 It is now being hosted here.

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews in which you can share the books you've acquired.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is where we share what we read this past week, what we hope to read this week…. and anything in between!  This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from! I love being a part of this and I hope you do too! It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is now being hosted at The Book Date.

Could We Replace the Liquor Billboards Around My Town With a Few of These?

















All photos are from the 2017 BookExpo in New York City.

I could live happily in a town with ads like these on every street corner.




For more wordless photos, go to Wordless Wednesday.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by West Metro Mommy ReadsTo participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken and then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky at West Metro Mommy Reads.