Sunday, January 31, 2010

1001 Children's Books to Read Before...

...1001 Children's Books to Read Before You Grow Up. Whew! I've got lots of time then.

I'm quite determined to read all 1001. And reading through this book gave me a great idea for my Hundred Day t-shirt for next week's celebration of the 100th day of school. I spent hours (many, many hours, to tell true) finding books on the list that we have in the library...copying...pasting...flipping...printing...ironing....

And so, this shirt:

This week and last week's reads, with short reviews.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Stone Angel

I decided this morning that I wasn't going to do anything today except read.

And I did. I spent most of the day reading an amazing book. I just finished it. And it was so amazing that now I want to talk about it. Process it. Think about it more. Tell everyone I know to go read it.

Would others love it as I have loved it today?

Here's the basic plot: An old woman, Hagar, is at the end of her miserable life, living with the son and his wife she never much cared for. Her son and his wife want to put her in a home. Hagar goes in and out of the present and the past, remembering what has happened, thinking about what is to come. Hagar is quite unhappy and almost always has been so. Her mother died when she was born and her father was unbearably strict. She married a man more to spite her father than for any other reason. She loved only her youngest son and he was a bitter disappointment to her.

So, here she is, at the end of her life, unloved, mean-spirited, cruel.

An amazing portrait of a old woman, a not-very-nice woman, the truest portrait I can ever remember reading.

My online book group is reading this book together this month. I must zip over there now and see what others have to say about it.

Has anyone else read it? Heard of it? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The 2010 ALA Children's Book Award Winners

The announcement of the children's book award winners is always a big day for me. Here are my favorite awards:

The Caldecott Medal ("the most distinguished American picture book"):
"The Lion and the Mouse" illustrated and written by Jerry Pinkney

Caldecott Honors:
"All the World" illustrated by Marla Frazee, written by Liz Garton Scanlon
"Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors" illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Joyce Sidman

The Newbery Medal ("the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children"):
"When You Reach Me," written by Rebecca Stead

Newbery Honors:
"Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice" written by Phillip Hoose
"The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate" written by Jacqueline Kelly
"Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" written by Grace Lin
"The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg" written by Rodman Philbrick

The Sibert Medal ("the most distinguished informational book published in English"):
"Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream" written by Tanya Lee Stone

Sibert Honors:
"The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors" written by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tony Persiani
"Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11" written and illustrated by Brian Floca
"Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice" written by Phillip Hoose

The Belpré Award ("a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience"):
"Return to Sender" written by Julie Alvarez (author award)
"Book Fiesta!: Celebrate Children's Day/Book Day; Celebremos El día de los niños/El día de los libros" illustrated by Rafael López, written by Pat Mora (illustrator award)

Belpré Honors:
"Diego: Bigger Than Life" written by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, illustrated by David Diaz (author and illustrator awards)
"Federico García Lorca" written by Georgina Lázaro, illustrated by Enrique S. Moreiro (author award)
"My Abuelita" illustrated by Yuyi Morales, written by Tony Johnston (illustrator award)
"Gracia Thanks" illustrated by John Parra, written Pat Mora (illustrator award)

The Geisel Award ("the most distinguished American book for beginning readers"):
"Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!" written and illustrated by Geoffrey Hayes

Geisel Honors:
"I Spy Fly Guy!" written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold
"Little Mouse Gets Ready" written and illustrated by Jeff Smith
"Mouse and Mole: Fine Feathered Friends" written and illustrated by Wong Herbert Yee
"Pearl and Wagner: One Funny Day" written by Kate McMullan, illustrated by R.W. Alley

So, what do you think?  I've read 8 of the 22. I think I need to get to reading!

For a complete list of all ALA Youth Media Awards:
The ALA 2010 List of Youth Media Awards

For the complete webcast of the presentation of the awards:
The ALA 2010 Youth Media Awards Webcast

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Salon: I Like Short Books

"I often joke," children's author and illustrator Eric Carle says, "that with a novel you start out with a 35-word idea and you build out to 35,000 words. With a children's book you have a 35,000-word idea and you reduce it to 35. That's an exaggeration, but that's what's taking place with picture books."*

I'm focusing on happiness in my reading this year. One of the precepts of happiness is knowing yourself, knowing what you like, knowing what has the probability of making you feel happy.

So what kind of books do I like?

I find I am full of contradictions, but....

I like short books best. Most of my favorite books are short books.

I like books with pictures.

Rhyme. Repetition. Simplicity. Depth.

Children's picture books, then.

I like children's picture books best. I've often thought that if I ever became a high school librarian, I would dump all the awful enormous and boring books and replace them with children's picture books. Just to see what happens.

I'm working my way through 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up. I've joined a Yahoo group that's reading these. I've been shocked at how few of these I've read (only about 200!)

How about you? Do you read many children's picture books? What are your favorites? 

A second busy reading week in 2010. Seven fantastic reads:

*From an article in The Guardian

Sunday, January 10, 2010



I was looking forward to tidying up my blog this weekend. Then, wham. I got hit with an ugly cold, with lots of coughing and sneezing and the inevitable accompanying whining. Then, wham again. I got hit with bad winter weather that knocked out my Internet all day.
So I'm late to the game.
It's late, but it's not over, so I'm jumping in.

Why Do I Blog?
I started my blog for a summer class. Who'd have thought I'd still be at it a year and a half later?!

I know I'll never be a serious blogger. I'm very happy with my once-a-week post. And that's my goal: Post once a week and visit ten blogs a week. And it's all about books.

2010 Blogging Resolutions?
I'd like to find and connect with other bloggers who read the books I like. And what do I like? Kids' picture books...wonderful fiction...books about books...books about narratives...classics...books that others rave about.

How Can I Improve My Blog?
Here's where I could use help! Any ideas?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Best of the Decade

Have I ever read some fantastic books this decade?!

I didn't start reviewing and keeping track of all my reads until 2003, so the early years are a bit of a blur. Let's just say I read 50 books for each of those years...that's a low estimate, I'm quite sure. And I lost half my book log in 2004 (it only goes up to the end of July and I was at 126 then) so I'll have to estimate 175. So here are my numbers:


That gives me a total of 1538 books in the last ten years, an average of about 150 a year! Whew! That's a lot of books. It certainly helped that I gave up tv in 2003. And moving to a K-2 school has definitely pushed up my numbers since I read lots and lots of children's picture books now.

The highlights:

2000...A complete blur. This was when I was reading on my own, whatever I could find at the public library that looked interesting. No online reading groups. No place to see reviews of books except the Houston paper.

2001...I joined bookgrouplist online and the companion group All_Nonfiction and my reading choices soared. I still hadn't started reviewing my books, but I definitely remember reading many good books with the groups: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Norwegian Wood, The Red Tent, and Girl With a Pearl Necklace.

2002...I continued reading with my online groups but still hadn't started keeping records. I remember reading and loving Bowling Alone, Fast Food Nation, Founding Brothers, John Adams, My Own Country, Nickel and Dimed, Paris to the Moon, River Town, Seabiscuit, The Tipping Point, Traveling Mercies, all nonfiction choices, along with The Stone Diaries and A Fine Balance, choices from bookgrouplist.

2003...I joined Book-a-Week and set a goal of reading and reviewing 52 books in a year. No problem! I ended up with 250 books read. Favorites were Reading Lolita in Tehran, Speak, A Short History of Nearly Everything, Lord of the Flies, Easter Parade, Fahrenheit 451, Sloppy Firsts, The Color of Magic, Shooting the Boh, The Monk Downstairs, The Center of Everything, My Name is Asher Lev, The Hours, Civility, The Phantom Tollbooth, Mrs. Bridge, Woman: An Intimate Biography, Dreamers, Good Poems, A Child's Christmas in Wales, No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and Independent People.

2004...I read so many books that I was asked to join a 100+ group that, sadly, disbanded after the first year....Thus, I have a book log that only goes to the end of July. I also benefited from joining bookrings and bookrays for fantastic books at Bookcrossing. I'll say I read 175 in 2004 and the ones I loved were: Namesake, The Death of Vishnu, How to Read Literature Like a Professor, My Family and Other Animals, You Are Not a Stranger Here, The Kite Runner, Brideshead Revisited, Family Matters, So Many Books So Little Time, Stiff: The Curious History of Cadavers, Blue Latitudes, Ex Libris, and Eats Shoots and Leaves.

2005...I began to actively give up on books that didn't grab me and ended up reading fewer but better books. Total for 2005: 158. Here's a list of memorable reads: An Invitation to Poetry, Truth and Beauty, Sahara Special, Oryx and Crake, Gilead, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life, 1776, No Country for Old Men, English Passengers, Mountains Beyond Mountains, Freakonomics, Kafka on the Shore, The Ginger Man, and A Christmas Memory.

2006...First year I read all twenty of the Texas Bluebonnets, a nice new tradition. A grand total of 175, with these I loved: The Photograph, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Garlic and Sapphires, Dark Star Safari, The Accidental, Suite Francaise, Small Island, Night, The Lightning Thief, Eat Pray Love, Encyclopedia Prehistorica, If the World Were a Village, Criss Cross, Black Swan Green, Half of a Yellow Sun, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and Yoon and the Christmas Mitten.

2007...Moved to a new school library and only read 125 books. I also did not have as many memorable reads: Invention of Hugo Cabret, entire Harry Potter series, Then We Came to the End, Grace (Eventually), We Need to Talk About Kevin, Bless Me Ultima, and Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont.

2008...Year of the Newbery as I read all 72 Newbery winners. Read 197 books, with favorites: Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, Olive Kitteridge, The Giver, Out of the Dust, Sounder, Last Night at the Lobster, A Single Shard, A Wrinkle in Time, Bud Not Buddy, A House for Mr. Biswas, The Great Gatsby, My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro, Holes, Unaccustomed Earth, The Westing Game, Because of Winn-Dixie, A Voyage Long and Strange, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, a Death in the Family, The Things They Carried, Adam of the Road, and Crispin.

2009...Ridiculous total of 357 books. And what a year! Best reading year yet: Bend in the River, Member of the Wedding, Streetcar Named Desire, Blind Willow Sleeping Woman, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep, Great Expectations, Gulliver's Travels, 14 Cows for America,Home, Little Women, Of Mice and Men, Rabbit Run, Tales from Outer Suburbia, The 13 Clocks, Elegance of the Hedgehog, Redwoods, Hunger Games, The Once and Future King, Moonshot, Eleanor Quiet No More, Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude, Whatever It Takes, Zeitoun, Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction, and Columbine.

Mercy! Have I left anything out?

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Post In Which I Brag About How Many Books I Read in 2009

I read a lot of books in 2009. A LOT.

I stopped last week at 357. A nice round number.

(Oh, are you one of those people who doubt me? Well, I did read 357 books. I read every book and reviewed every book.

I see. You think I should not count children's picture books. Please. Some of these I read not once, but 35 times. And that shouldn't count as a book?)

I read fast. (Too fast, I often think.) I miss details, symbols, clever word play at times. I have tried many times to slow down but I can't. I'm like a speedy driver; I just like to go fast.

So, what were my favorites? Here are my choices for Best of 2009:

Why We Call Some Books Classics
Of Mice and Men
Rabbit, Run
Little Women
Secret Lives of Walter Mitty
The Once and Future King
A Streetcar Named Desire
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Great Expectations
The 13 Clocks
Good-bye, Mr. Chips

Best Going-Here-and-There
Nine Hills to Nambonkaha
Lois on the Loose
Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven
When Wanderers Cease to Roam
Blue Highways

Best of the Bleak
The Word for World is Forest
The Year of the Flood
Hunger Games and Catching Fire
Radiant Girl
The Sea

Best Women's Reads
Everyone is Beautiful
Still Alice
The Group
Perfect Fifths
School of Essential Ingredients
That Night
The Housekeeper and the Professor
The Help
Finger Lickin' Fifteen

Best Books with Challenges
The Guinea Pig Diaries
Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper

Best Poetry
Staying Alive
Poetry in Motion from Coast to Coast

Best Memoirs
Stargazing: Memoirs of a Young Lighthouse Keeper
Desert Solitaire
Crazy for the Storm
What I Thought I Knew

Best Surprises
Six-Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak
Tales of Outer Suburbia

Best for Teachers
Work Hard. Be Nice.
Whatever It Takes
The Reading Zone

Best Children's Books that Grownups Will Love (though not, necessarily, kids)
The World That Loved Books
Abe's Honest Words
Absolutely Maybe
Life-Size Zoo
The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West
One Beetle Too Many
Martina the Beautiful Cockroach
The Box of Delights
Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude
You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!
14 Cows for America
Jackson and Bud's Bumpy Ride
Eleanor, Quiet No More

Best New-To-Me Children's Christmas Stories
What Dogs Want for Christmas
Uncles and Antlers
An Orange for Frankie
Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas
Pirate's Night Before Christmas
Great Joy

Best Recent Fiction
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name
Elegance of the Hedgehog
Out Stealing Horses
The Thing Around Your Neck
The Sea
Royal Ghosts

Best Recent Nonfiction
Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction
What I Thought I Knew
A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge
Strength in What Remains