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?


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.