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Monday, September 22, 2014

What I'm Reading Right Now . . . and Finding the Time.

 by Brandon Sanderson

Fiiiiiinally. I've talked about how I'm going to read Words of Radiance. I reviewed the first book a while back. And yes, I really am going to go read it, right now. I've done Story Club edits tonight and I've written a post (Behold! It lies before you! So meta.) complete with affiliate links. I'm being very good and now I get some time to read.

How do you find time to read? Everead

"How do you find time to read?" Friends ask me this with regularity. I'll tell ya the answer: I just do it. Instead of doing something else. I don't find the time to read, I make the time to read. Sometimes I read too much, sometimes I read too little, but mostly it works out.

P.S. I did read a short book after finishing the mammoth Gone with the Wind and before starting this beast. I read Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge. It was a lovely graphic novel about teen crushes and processing grief. Exceptional artwork. Recommended.
Laura Lee Gulledge also wrote Paige by Page,
which I reviewed here
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Friday, September 19, 2014

What is a Graphic Novel? Here's my take.

"What is a graphic novel, exactly?"

The first graphic novel I ever read
Hooked for life!
My friend asked me that this morning and I'll share with you what I told her:

"It's like a comic book, but not published a little bit at a time. The story is published all at once." 

The first GN memoir that I read.
I don't know if that is a complete definition. I'm sure we could expand on it. In fact, I was reading a Salon article just yesterday that touched on the definitions of "comics" and "graphic novels" (and talked about why they don't get taken seriously). But generally comic books are published one issue at a time, whereas graphic novels are published all bound together.

When I was looking at the schedule for the Decatur Book Festival I noticed that one of the speakers was vetted as a teacher of "Sequential Art" at a university -- which brought Scott McCloud's definition of comics rushing back to me; it's the first thing he talks about in Understanding Comics.

Love recommending this one to adults who
haven't read GN's before. 

Basically, McCloud defines comics as "art in sequence" (I'm using the quotation marks loosely here. I don't have a copy of Understanding Comics on hand.) Obviously not all "comics" are comical. But a broad definition like "sequential art" encompasses other forms than what I consider comics or graphic novels. Everything from comic strips, to picture books, movies, and well-done shop windows is art in sequence.

Anyway, basically, I consider it a graphic novel if it is "comics style" art (meaning it has panels) published in one volume that has a complete narrative arc. Of course there's another kind of physical element to it -- I do distinguish between a graphic novel and a wordless picture book, though the lines get blurry: it's totally legitimate for each page to be a panel of it's own. That's called a "full bleed."

This is the Graphic Novel I'm dying to read.
"So hot right now!"
I'm interested in exploring this more in depth. You? What questions should I ask? Leave me a comment, because I'm not yet capable of reading minds.
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The pictures above are affiliate links -- some to Amazon, some to Barnes and Noble. If you make a purchase through these links (and all of these titles are worth owning), I'll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Win-win. :D

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

2 Great Ways to Find Good Books: Cybils 2014 & Favorite Authors

Surprise! A special announcement today:
 I'm a Round 1 Judge for the Cybils this year!
And I'll be judging in the graphic novels panel.

I'm super excited for this! What this means for me is that I'll be reading a lot of awesome graphic novels in the coming months -- striving to read every one that is nominated (and YOU can nominate between Oct 1-15) in my category -- and then picking my favorites. Then I'll debate with my fellow judges and we will discuss the Literary Merit and Kid Appeal of each title until we come to a consensus on 5-7 of the best graphic novels of the year! It's so fun!

What this means for you is that you'll be hearing about some of the best graphic novels here on Everead. I hope you'll read along! You can also nominate books in any category, as long as you think they are 1) super awesome and 2) published between Oct 16, 2013 and Oct 15, 2014. 

The Cybils shortlists and winners lists are some of my favorite resources for finding good books. When a friend asks me for a recommendation in a genre I don't know much about, the Cybils lists are the first place I go. If you're looking to build your home library, books on these lists are a great place to start. They're current, they've got high literary merit, and they've got high kid appeal. You're guaranteed to find a book to love over there. (Read more of what I've written about the Cybils, here.)

Speaking of finding books to love...

I'm a little late on this, but I'm going to post for yesterday's Top Ten Tuesday (this lovely meme is hosted by the bloggers at Broke and Bookish). See, the prompt is... 

Top Authors I've Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More

...and using authors is another of my favorite ways to find good books! 

I'm one of those bookworms that always makes note of the author's name, but I've noticed that another breed of bookworm (just as voracious as my own) doesn't usually take note of author names. It's such a great resource! So, again, if you're in the "Aquisitions" phase with your home library, grab a couple of your favorites off the shelf and head to the catalogs to find what else they've done.

In no particular order...
Your turn! Whose book are you going to pick up? What are your favorite ways to find a good book you've never read before?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Gateway Books -- Benjamin reviews the Magic Tree House series

"Hey Mom, do you still have the list of, like, 'You Should Read These' books?"

"Yes." I could tell Benjamin was referring to a guest post I put together a little while back.

"Because I want to put Magic Tree House on there, because if you don't like reading, you read one of those and it just, like, changes your life."

books for 6 year old boy


BAM! When your 6 year old says something like that? That's book recommendation GOLD right there. I knew I was going to have to interview him about Magic Tree House books



"What do you mean it changed your life?"
"When I actually read a book and found out what it was, then that actually changed my life."

He brought me one of the Magic Tree House books, as corroborating evidence:

books for 6 year old boy
"See, Mom? Like that."
Magic Tree House series
by Mary Pope Osborne
includes 52 fiction books and 29 non-fiction companion books, series still in progress.

Let the interview begin!


Tell me about the Magic Tree House books.
They're really fun. Once you like know what they are you're like "Wow, I love reading them." They can get whisked back to a time of true places and false places. And in Midnight on the Moon (which is in one of the pictures) they get whisked forward in time! Kind of weird. You don't know what's going to happen then, right? They're just awesome!

books for 6 year old boy
My mom sent us a big stack of Magic Tree House books a couple months back.
Featuring Midnight on the Moon.
Who would you say would like the Magic Tree House books? Hm. People who love to read; people who don't love to read. They're great.

How do you feel about the characters in Magic Tree House? I feel like they're nice. And like they're really good. They actually make better choices than you would probably make. [Agreed! Jack and Annie are definitely models of good behavior] What are their names? There names are Jack, Annie, Morgan, Teddy, Kathleen. . . . Teddy and Kathleen are in the "Merlin Missions." Merlin. I think that's all.

What do you think of the adventures that Jack and Annie have?
Exciting. Cool. Awesome!!!

What is different in your life now that you've read the magic tree house books?
That now I love reading them! Do you read more now, than you used to? Because of the books? Yes. [He definitely does. These books were his gateway into independent reading.]

Levi jumped in at the end: "Mom, I want to tell you something. Kathleen can actually turn into anything."
Benjamin: They met Kathleen in the library book that I have! Summer of the Sea Serpent


books for 6 year old boy
"Take some pictures of me pretending to read."

These books really are popular for good reason. Jacob commented, "They're nice because they're short." And I have to agree. The last two nights I've read Summer of the Sea Serpent out loud to the boys before bed. Levi wanted in on the action, you see. Two nights of not-too-many chapters, and we are more than halfway through this little adventure.

There is something to be said for the way the books are structured: Each book is short, about 10 chapters, less than 100 pages total. A nice, short chapter book. However, continuity is kept in larger arcs across 4 books at a time. The Merlin Missions, mentioned above, begin with book 29, and signal the end of an arc across books 1-28. My point here is that you can read as much or as little as you like in the series, and that flexibility is really liberating.

So, does it surprise you that Benjamin has requested some more of the Magic Tree House collection from Grandma's shelves? My younger sister (now all grown up and not even a teenager anymore) enjoyed these books for a long time. You're probably familiar with them if you have a child in school. But if you aren't there yet and you're looking for something a little more grown up than Mercy Watson and a little more adventurous than Junie B. Jones, this will hit a sweet spot.

These books are super easy to find used -- I bought several at Goodwill a couple weeks ago. But if you'd like to purchase them new, you can do so through my affiliate links below and I'll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. (In fact, I earn if you purchase anything after clicking through my affiliate links.) Thanks for helping to support our reading lifestyle!

Here's an Amazon link for books 1-4
in the Magic Tree House Series.



Here's a fun collection I found from Barnes & Noble.
It includes Magic Tree House, Junie B. Jones, and others.

So, what is your take on Magic Tree House books? (If they changed your life, I really must hear about it.) What books were your gateway into independent reading?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

One Unbreakable Storytelling Rule from Matt Phelan

Hurrah! The first draft of Story Club is done! It took me a lot longer than I thought it would. So much longer. It felt like running a marathon, when I'm used to running 5K's (a.k.a. writing blog posts). But that's all in the past, now. Onward!

I "finished" last Thursday and this week I'm working on making it actually presentable. At the end of the week I'm sending it to my lovely, in-house editor Ashley. (She really is a free-lance editor, did you know?)

While I go work on eliminating typos and creating parallel structure across chapters, you can read this lovely storytelling tip that Matt Phelan shared at the Decatur Book Festival:
Matt Phelan Storytelling Rule
 "You can't say NO."- Matt Phelan #DBF2014

Matt Phelan spoke on a panel with Amy Krouse Rosenthal (R) and Kelly Light (L), moderated by Laurel Snyder (far L). It was great. And when it was time for audience Q&A I had the chance to ask the question "What tips do you have for storytelling?"

Kelly Light talked about how bedtime stories with her daughter became serial. She started out telling a story one night and wrapped it up neatly. But the next night her daughter opened it up again and wanted more. What she thought was going to be a standalone turned into a series.

Matt Phelan springboarded right off of this and talked about how he went to college for drama, not for writing, where he played improv games. The only rule with improv games (when someone is on stage with you and the two of you are making up the story as you go along) is that you can't say "NO."

"That deflates the balloon" as Matt put it. When someone comes up with something, you have to roll with it and say "Yes! And..." So that is his tip for storytelling with your kids. If they jump in and start to improvise, (mine have) you can't say, "No, no. This is what happened really..." you have to just roll with it and move along.

Funny thing is that I knew this rule, but I still tried to break it a month or so ago. Levi was like, "And then, [wacky tangent]. . . " and I listened politely and was like "Well actually . . . thus and so . . . The End." Levi listened politely himself and then was like, "No, it actually went like [my way]." I let it drop, because I knew I was trying to break a rule that really can't be broken. Also, I knew you can lead a horse to the Kool-Aid but you can't make him drink.

What has been your experience with this?

p.s. You know I like Matt Phelan's books! I've collected my reviews of them here. I haven't yet read Kelly Light's book, Louise Loves Art, but I intend to. It comes out today, in fact! It sounds fabulous and she seems very smart. Amy Krouse Rosenthal was also lovely to meet, and I reviewed one of her titles here.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Better Parenting: Backtalk taught me 7 things (at least)

I found the book Backtalk by Audrey Ricker at a used bookstore and picked it up off the shelf. Once I realized that I had read several chapters just standing there, I thought,"I should probably just buy this." So glad I did.
why is all my frosting gone?

 7 things I learned from Backtalk


1. It doesn't have to be talk to be backtalk -- turning away, rolling your eyes, obeying only at a snail's pace, all that stuff counts because it affects the mood of the home.

2. You are responsible for the mood in your home. When somebody messes that up, you need to help them learn how it's done right. If you let it slide, you're giving them control over your responsibility.

Barnes and Noble affiliate link*
Eye-catching cover image, no? Hehe.
3. The consequence for the backtalk has to be immediate; it doesn't have to be perfectly logical --  it's completely reasonable for you to not want to do nice things for someone who has been rude to you.

4. Ground zero is key. In other words, what you're doing and what kind of life you're creating for your kids will affect their backtalk. The idea is to have a life so filled with goodness and love (and a healthy amount of fun) that it is easy for the kids to lose a privilege. I have caught myself saying, "That is backtalk. You have lost a privilege. . . . Hmm. What are you looking forward to?" At which point I realize that the kids are probably acting up because they're bored to death. In this case I still find a consequence to give, but I recognize that my behavior is exacerbating the problem and I try to fix that. Funny story: when you ask a three-year-old "What are you looking forward to?" He might say, "Your face." Because he was, in fact, looking at your face.

5. First, recognize backtalk. Second, determine the consequence. Third, enact the consequence and fourth, disengage.
Are we there yet?

6. Disengaging is where I was failing before. I was probably doing it only half of the time. The other half I was either letting the kids "earn back" their privileges or escalating the conflict. Jacob helped me to realize that I was escalating the conflict one memorable evening. You enact the consequence and then you drop it. If the kid won't let it drop, you separate yourself.

7. The four steps in this book work from age 3 to adulthood. I particularly liked the chapter about college-age kids. To paraphrase: "this is the same stubbornness that leads them to camp out all night for concert tickets..." :) I've also used the tips on dealing with your kids friends when they come over and use backtalk in your home. Pure, empowering, awesome that has made family life (and the mood in our home) better all around.


Note: This is a slim book. The ideas in it were not new for me and didn't cause a total turn-around in my parenting. But the book really has refined the way I deal with my children and their behavior. I highly recommend it. Also, it's one of the very first parenting books I've been able to get Jacob to peruse. He's usually happy to take my word for it when I want to implement something new in our parenting. How glad I am that this book was short enough and engaging enough to be worth his time!

What questions and comments do you have for me, friends?
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*If you purchase this book through one of the links above, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

These are my people!: Decatur Book Festival 2014

I had so much fun at the Decatur Book Festival this year! Since it was my second go 'round I knew what to expect for #dbf2014: get there early, plan to stay a long time, and prepare for the heat. There was absolutely no way for me to see all the authors I wanted to see, of course. But I did get to hear lots of awesome presentations and meet many great book people. Let me give you some highlights:

My favorite part of the day (I could only attend Saturday events) was meeting LeUyen Pham. She is my favorite illustrator, and when I told her that she jumped up for a hug. She is as lively and fun and sweet in person as you would expect from her work. It was a real treat to meet her!

Me, and my favorite illustrator, LeUyen Pham.

Uyen (which is pronounced "Win") even busted out her finished copy of
The Princess in Black
when I mentioned that I was super excited for it.
It looks EVEN MORE AWESOME than I had anticipated!

We met Amy Krouse Rosenthal, whose picture books we love. She has a special embossing stamp thing that she does on your book after she signs it. 

We just HAD to get a picture of Jubilee with Jenni Holm. I mean, Benjamin has one and Levi has one.
(Just kidding! Benjamin has two, none for Levi. Mommy memory fail.)
Turned out to be one of those "Santa's lap" experiences, but someday she'll laugh about it.
And Jenni totally won her over with peekaboo right after this photo, when she was safely back in my arms.

I also met Eleanor Davis, author of Secret Science Alliance, one of the great
graphic novels I helped select as a Cybils finalist in 2009.

There's more (lots more!). Of course there is. These are the photos I just had to post right away.
Levi, with the Little Bus of Stories

Me and Jubilee, standing in line for a book signing.
I hope you had a wonderful Labor Day Weekend!
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