Monday, December 2, 2019

The 2019 Holiday Recommendations Post [Post is OPEN!]

I have already started making some recommendations over on Facebook (see my post here), but I'd like to make sure you get the chance for a personalized recommendation right here on Everead.

Comment if you want a book recommendation! (person's age, a little info about the person.) 

This post will be updated all during the holiday season. Past years: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018.

Let's just talk about this picture for a second. What is even going on? Are those turkey glasses? Yes. Are they so big and crazy that they're casting a literal shadow on the face of my cute companion? Yes.

For a child age 6-8 and a child age 8-10:  
The Clementine series by Sara Pennypacker
The Alvin Ho series by Lenore Look
If the 8-10 year old wants something longer/thicker, Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass. 

For Comics Fans
Strange Planet by Nathan Pyle. His instagram cracks me up, and apparently I'm not alone because it got him a book deal.

For Chemists' Children (older elementary and teen)
Super Science: Matter Matters. It's a pop-up book! With tabs and flaps and tons of amazing facts. 

For an extended family book club
Man's Search for Meaning. It was the book for discussion in my extended family's most successful book club to date. 

For a second grader I have a second grade girl who reads at a fourth grade level!
The Penderwicks series
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series

Young reader finishing Harry Potter
Perhaps the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series would intrigue her! Both of my boys are into them. I haven't read them, but they are not "cute animal" books. There is peril on the order of Harry Potter.

7th and 8th grade boys Nonfiction, please
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World for the narrative non-fiction reader. 
Elements, Molecules, Reactions by Theodore Gray - This series for the reader who loves an encyclopedia. My 6th grader has worn out our copies of Elements and Molecules. I think we'll get him Reactions for Christmas.

Young Mythology fan My kids and I are about to finish the Percy Jackson series plus my daughter is reading about Greek and Roman mythology in class and loves this kind of stuff. Got any more like this that’s still age appropriate?
I always recommend Anubis Speaks to mythology fans. I loved it! And since I read it the author has written two others (Hades and Thor) that take you through what different mythologies purport will happen after life on earth ends.

8 year old boy (has read Harry Potter)
For big bro: Two Truths and a Lie: It's Alive. This is a book that presents three short articles in each chapter. Two are true, one is a lie. Analyze! Research! Take your best guess! Stump your sisters! There is a second book in the series, but the first book is cheaper now that the second book is out!

6 year old girl
My 6 year old girl just got kind of bored with the Rainbow Magic series and asked the librarian for a recommendation. The Secrets of Droon! Benjamin also loved these. I also highly recommend the Princess in Black series.
4 year old girl
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

2 year old girl 
For the fourth child...the perfect book for a fourth child. Heartily approved of by my own two year old fourth child: Shh We Have a Plan (board book version).

For High School boys who love Brandon Sanderson
What If? by Randall Monroe - Not a Sanderson read-alike, but seems to appeal to the same people. People who like to ask "what if" and take the answer very seriously.

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer - An oldy but a goody, The House of the Scorpion. It's like Sanderson in the sense that the characters get inside your head and have to overcome a lot. It is sci-fi, rather than fantasy.

If they're already favorites, I guess I'd better try again! I asked Jacob to recommend something, and he said he's read the first book of the Powder Mage Trilogy and enjoyed it, although the writing (at least of the first book) isn't on par with Sanderson's (McLellan was a student of Sanderson's). Have they read Promise of Blood?

Friday, October 18, 2019

9 Scary Books I Survived Reading (And Actually Recommend)!

I'm not really into scary books. I don't watch scary movies.

I was terrified and haunted by a Goosebumps book I read in my childhood, so I steer clear of those, but I can recommend these scary books.

Every once in a while I read a scary book and I like it!

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

A mix of realistic fiction, fantasy and horror, Spirit Hunters has nice balance between tension and happier moments. With strong, well developed characters and a very satisfying ending, it sets up well for a series and book two is already out. Graveyards, possessions, super creepy! Ultimately a hopeful book. Late grade school and up, depending on how brave you are. Benjamin and I both read this one. More of our thoughts here.

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt 

Breaks your heart, scares you to death and  is so so read-aloud-able. Somewhat mystical, but mostly realistic. I don't even know what age to recommend this for. This is about a dog and a cat who are friends and live under the house of a very scary man. I have wanted to read it to my kids, but not sure they're ready for it . . . sounds like it's time for a re-read!

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll 

Suuuuper creepy stories in graphic novel form. I mean these ones are just "WOW!" well written and drawn. They are definitely my favorite creepy stories since I first heard Edgar Allen Poe audio productions when I was in about 4th grade. Middle school and up.

Suee and the Shadow by Ginger Ly 

A fun creepy graphic novel about a new girl in town who thinks there is something off about the school, and she is SO right. Friendship, bullying, suspense! Recommended for second grade and up.

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland 

I was so fascinated and creeped out by this two-book graphic novel. I loved it. There has been a mysterious Spill of some kind. Our protagonist's parents died in the big accident, and now she takes care of herself and her sister by going into the Spill Zone and taking pictures to sell to collectors. Awesome motorcycle scenes, just the right amount of mystery and I recommend it for teens and adults.

Apocalypse Taco by Nathan Hale

The latest from Nathan Hale (of Hazardous Tale fame). When some kids take a break from drama club rehearsal to grab tacos for the group, things go wrong. I got to read an advance copy of this one and though I'm sure my science-savvy husband would roll his eyes . . .ahem . . . at the impossibility of some of the explanation for the apocalypse, I was thoroughly creeped out and finished it in one sitting.

Closed For the Season by Mary Downing Hahn 

It's been years since I read this book, but I remember thinking "Wow, that was dark! But, actually really good!" and also wondering if I had kudzu in my back yard, because of this book. I did NOT wonder if I should explore an abandoned amusement park. Mary Downing Hahn is prolific and I would definitely re-read this or try another one of her books. Closed for the season won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award. When I was at the bookstore the other day they had a table out for Halloween and it had 4 or 5 titles by Hahn on it, including this one.

Hidden by Helen Frost

This is a novel in verse, so a very quick read. The premise is that a convenience store holdup goes wrong and turns into a car heist. When the perpetrator gets home, the terrified girl who had been hiding in the back seat meets his own daughter. Years later, the two girls meet again at a summer camp. No fantasy element. I love the way that Frost's poetry activates the imagination for maximum tension. Appropriate for grade school and up, recommended for all ages.

Kindred by Octavia E Butler 

This graphic novel adaptation was absolutely unputdownable. A modern black woman is sucked into the past and back again. The mystery of why and how she time travels intertwines with the character development in such a perfect way. I was on the edge of my seat for the whole book. It would've been a top contender for me in the Cybils except I thought (and the ohter panelists agreed with me) the themes of this amazing adaptation are more "adult" than "YA." Recommended for adults.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Both Disgusting and Delicious: Compare 2 Yummy Board Books

Sam is officially two years old! I don't know if I can believe it. In some ways the time seems longer and in others I feel like he was just born yesterday. Our whole family loves this kiddo with all our hearts and he loves us back.

Our local library is running the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program. Is yours? When I attempted the program with Jubilee a few years back, I got discouraged and off-track. I would fill up a reading log for her, but not have the next one ready to go. I learned from that experience (growth mindset!) and decided to try the program again with Sam. I asked the librarians to give me multiple reading logs at a time, so that I could tape them all to my walls (next to the bookshelf) and just keep the log running, even when we had to peel one down to return it to the library (and it ended up lingering in my bag for a while before it got turned into a prize.)

Well, Sam loves to read and not only did he read 1000 books before kindergarten; he read 1000 books before age 2. I read a lot with my kids but I didn't know we were that good!

In celebration of Sam's second birthday, and his increasing discernment between edible and non-edible objects, here is a comparison of two board books on the subject. Spoiler: We love them both! 

Yum Yummy Yuck by Cree Lane + Amanda Jane Jones - The title of this one makes it certain to be compared to Yummy Yucky by Leslie Patricelli. Both books are super cute, and they're quite different. 

Both books take you through a pattern. In Yum Yummy Yuck, two delicious foods (usually fruits and veggies) are presented, then the authors bring up one non-edible item that babies like to stick in their mouths, like bandaids, soap*, and crayons. The words follow the title closely, "Yum. Yummy." until the "Yuck" section. Then you get commentary on what the item is actually for, since it shouldn't be eaten. The surprise deviation from the pattern in the middle of the book is my children's favorite part, and they all chime in on the big OoOoo!

Yummy Yucky's pattern is to compare one food and one non-edible on each two page spread. The items compared usually have similar sounding names. "____ is yummy. ____ is yucky." Levi (my 9 year old) absolutely loves the page "Burgers are yummy. Boogers are yucky." and quotes it all the time.

In Yum Yummy Yuck there are more words.  I would say Yummy Yucky is better for emerging readers, and Yum Yummy Yuck is better for vocabulary building. It's aimed a smidge more at the adults who are presumably reading it to the child; it contains humourous, higher vocabulary phrases like "If you try to eat sand, you'll immediately regret it."

In both books the illustrations are top notch. Yum Yummy Yuck, illustrations are graphic and spare -- just the item in question. This does cause a disagreement for us on one page, when Levi joins in my reading to Sam. We all agree that the strawberry is a strawberry, but is that one illustration a corn cob or a pea pod? Colors are not necessarily true to life in this book, so that each set of three can match in color. It makes the book beautiful. And it gives us a chance to talk about how both peas and corn are yummy. In Yummy Yucky, illustrations also include a child interacting with the items. This really tickles the funny bone for my older kids.

Yum Yummy Yuck has matte pages, and Yummy Yucky has slick pages. The matte pages do match the look and feel of the modern board book, but I confess that I worry more about the book getting dirty and not coming clean. We treat our books pretty rough around here.

We've liked Yum Yummy Yuck so well over the last few months that I nominated it for the Cybils awards (I got a free copy, for review). Yummy Yucky we don't own, but I would own it.

*Benjamin was always trying to eat soap and lotion!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Flutter and Hum - highly recommended!

Jubilee: Did we read the last one?
Mom: Yes, the fish was the last one.
Jubilee: Darn! I wanted there to be more! I wanted there to be a hundred million poems!

Well that's a pretty strong recommendation coming from a 6-year-old!

Flutter & Hum: Animal Poems
Aleteo y Zumbido: Poemas de Animales

This book is beautiful! Julie Paschkis is an illustrator who began to learn Spanish and decided as part of her learning and practice, to write some simple poetry. Each poem is given in Spanish and in English, though not all are "exact translations." And the illustrations are exquisite.

Some of the poems I liked better in English, others I liked better in Spanish.

I've been thinking more about adding Spanish books to my home library, since I've got two kids in the bilingual program at school. Thanks to the Cybils award for putting this book on my radar! It was the 2015 winner in the Poetry category.

Friday, September 6, 2019

You Should Definitely Read This Book: Mindset by Carol Dweck

I have just finished reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck.

I loved it.

I confess, I only read this book because it was picked for our book club. I had heard about how good the book was -- I even posted Lindsay Call's review of it four years ago, (see here, and see how I said that I wanted to read it to help me work more effectively with Levi! Ha!) but I didn't pick it up until now.

I guess because the concept of growth mindset took off like wildfire, and because I felt I agreed with it and did a pretty good job of living it, I didn't need to spend a lot of time reading a book about it. In fact, I was afraid this book would be a bit of a slog.

It was awesome.

Reading the book in it's entirety helped me to grasp the concept much more firmly. It helped me to immediately pinpoint some ways in which I could improve. It gave me an abundance of anecdotes and examples to think on.

As I was reading the book a couple of nights ago, Jacob came in and asked how I was liking it. I said I was loving it. Since I was reading his copy, one he had got for a discussion group with fellow professors, I thought he had read the whole thing. "Hm, maybe I should read all of it," he said. Apparently they had only read selections. I do wholeheartedly recommend reading the whole book and in order. Some non-fiction books are organized so that you can flip to a section that interests you and pick it up from there. I tried that, a little bit. Mindset is best read from front to back.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone. I highly recommend you read the whole book. I'm glad we own it, and I'll be lending it to some of my book club friends in hopes that everyone gets a chance to read it.

In the book, Dr Dweck talks breifly about the course she teaches to college students and I was wishing for more detail. Then she mentions that she has helped develop a course for parents and children to take at home. I looked it up online; it's called Brainology. It costs $50. I'm interested.

Yesterday afternoon I embarked on the grand adventure of teaching my son Levi, age 9, to ride a bike. We dropped his older brother off at swimming practice. I was so glad to be deep into reading this book. He has a pretty fixed mindset about bike riding (Fixed mindset says "You either can or you can't, and since I've tried it once or twice, I obviously can't.") This book gave me some great things to say. I think my favorite, which immediately lit up his eyes, was this exchange:

Me: Hey, Levi. I'm not going to give up on you.
Levi: Well I already have!
Me: I'm not going to give up on you even when you give up on yourself.
*Levi's eyes filled with wonder and love*

He got on the bike.

He started to push along, and so did his 1-year-old brother on his toddler motorcycle.

Levi: "Augh, Sam's faster than me!"
Me: "Hey, Sam has put a lot of hours into this. Don't discount that."

He rode on.

We rode for a bit, then Levi saw his 6-year-old sister Jubilee leaving him in the dust and decided to take a break. He shouted for me to take care of his bike.

I tried to convince him to ride again, saying "Come on, it's fun!" Oops. I know that's not going to help him want to learn. I've tried that before, and never with success. An individual is obviously the best judge of what is and is not fun for them. And the fixed mindset says "It's fun? Well it's not fun for me, so therefore I have failed. And if I have failed there is no sense in trying again."

What's more: by saying "it's fun!" I broke my own rule-of-thumb which I summarize this way: NO SPOILERS, MOM. I've found that if I give my kids spoilers like "you're going to fall" or "it will be fun" half of the time they don't even happen. And then when they do, the kids aren't able to learn from those things because they're annoyed that I was right and they were wrong. So. No spoilers, mom.

Levi left me and his bike and ran along side of his sister until she clearly pulled ahead. He tried to block her path, but she went around him. He came back and attempted to convince me to sabotage Jubilee's riding efforts. The fixed mindset says "If someone else is better than me, I need to hold them back."

I let it go for a while and walked Levi's bike up to him. We all made it to our destination, a little bookstore. The kids bought themselves some candy. By the way, I was seriously tempted at the beginning of our biking to bribe Levi with some candy from this store. If I had not been in the middle of reading Mindset, I would have done it. I was sorely tempted to add an incentive anyway! But I remembered that I could tell him I wouldn't give up on him. And that helped him shift his mindset.

After we had bought and eaten some candy, I decided to try instilling a growth mindset in Levi once again. I said, "You know, a good skill to learn is how to coast down a hill."

"I know," he retorted . . . but he then tried it.

Aaaand then he promptly dismounted and walked away from his bike. A minute or two later I decided it was a good time and place to practice our cartwheels -- one of Jubilee's hopes for the day. I led off with the first cartwheel attempt. I haven't done a cartwheel in probably 10 years, and it showed.

I said, "I'm going to have to practice!"

I tried my other hand and was much more successful. "Ah yes, I had forgotten which was my better hand," I said. "I'll have to practice a lot on this side to make it as good as that side..." Growth mindset praises effort, isn't afraid of a challenge, and takes failure as a stepping stone to future success.

We had a lot of fun, and I was modeling the growth mindset for a good 15 min or more.

When we were ready to head back toward the swimming practice, Levi did some of his best, most persistant riding of the day.

Is it possible I could have had a day just like this, without having read this book? Yes, it's possible. But I feel like reading the book gave me a huge boost that I needed. The irony is that four years ago when Lindsay told me how awesome this book was, I judged myself as a "growth mindset person" (which is a false growth mindset -- something Dr. Dweck explores in this updated edition) and decided I didn't need to put in the effort to read the book. D'oh!

In the final chapters of Mindset, which I read today, she details more of the journey a person has to take to increase growth mindset and decrease fixed mindset on a regular basis. Super awesome. One of the steps she recommends is giving your fixed mindset a name, so you can separate it from yourself, talk to it, and help it help you instead of letting it rule when what you need is a growth mindset. I've decided I should name my fixed mindset Spoilers.

Have you read the book? Have you named your fixed mindset? I'd love to hear. I'm very excited to see how book club goes! Thanks for picking it, Meghan! Thanks for telling me how good it was 4 years ago, Lindsay! Turns out I was astute in my observation that reading the book would help me work with Levi.

And thanks to everybody who made the book possible.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

KidLitCon by the Books!

Well, I'm back from KidLitCon 2019! This year the conference was held in Providence, Rhode Island. This was my third KidLitCon, because I attended in NYC in 2012 and in Baltimore in 2015. See my previous posts about KidLitCon here.

New books I bought at KidLitCon
The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul - My new favorite picture book.
Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper by Debbie Michiko Florence, illustrated by Elizabet Vuković - I helped select Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl as the Cybils winner this year in Early Chapter books, so I'm excited to read another book in the series.
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson - recently read and was very impressed by The Parker Inheritance, so I thought I'd pick up another one by Varian Johnson.
The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare (#6) by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham - Y'all know I love the Princess in Black. Aaaand my husband is a scientist. So.

Free Books I got at KidLitCon
Where the Heart Is by Jo Knowles (advance readers copy)
Ballpark Mysteries #15 The Baltimore Bandit by David A Kelly - a gift from the author! How kind. He spoke on two panels that I enjoyed.
Apocalypse Taco by Nathan Hale (advance readers copy)

Books I want to read now that I've been to KidLitCon
see above! Also...
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T Cook by Leslie Connor
The Truth According to Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor
Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman
BunnyBear by Andrea J. Loney - I started reading this picture book at the booksellers table, but someone distracted me and now I really want to finish!
Me Myself and Him by Chris Tebbets - It was fun to hear about his work with James Patterson on the Middle School series.
We Are Grateful by Traci Sorrell
The Infamous Ratsos series by Kara LaReau
Science Comics: The Brain by Tori Woollcott and Alex Graudins
Following Grandfather by Rosemary Wells - I adore Rosemary Wells and apparently she asked Christopher Denise to illustrate this one on her behalf, since it was too close to her.
Grounghug Day by Anne Marie Pace and Christopher Denise
Firefly Hollow by Alison McGhee and Christopher Denise
Also there was a book about emanata mentioned, but I can't find it anywhere... Emanata are the bits that come off of characters heads in comics.
Bruce Block apparently writes great books about filmmaking which one should read if they plan to make graphic novels.

Books I gave away at KidLitCon
Apocalypse Taco by Nathan Hale -- I brought the advance readers copy I got home on Friday night and read it, then passsed it along for someone else to read when I arrived on Saturday. Loved it! Much apocalypse! Many taco! Look forward to seeing it in it's final form, since the arc was uncolored and the final will be two-toned. It's a horror story and I imagine it will be a big hit with fans of his Hazardous Tales books.

The Book of Mormon -- Eight Copies, wow! I brought many copies to KidLitCon Baltimore, but only one was taken from the table. This time all 8 of the copies I brought walked away. I wonder how many people would've taken one if I had brought more.

Books LeUyen Pham loved, as a child new to the USA.
Amelia Bedelia ("Finally someone worse at English than me!" and "So helpful for learning idioms")
The Witch of Blackbird Pond (In 4th grade, her teacher gave it to her with the words, "you are a tropical flower among daisies and roses.")

Other highlights

Seeing sketches for PiB #7 and Best Friends:

Bethany and I drove back and forth to the conference because it was held at Hotel Providence, just about an hour from where we live. I wanted to be certain to be on time for the very first talk on the program -- a keynote speech by LeUyen Pham. Well, sick kids prevented me from leaving as early as I had hoped to, and we arrived right at 9:00 and quickly ducked into the dining room for breakfast. I had planned to inhale my scone and carry my juice with me, so that I could be on time for the keynote, but who should appear right behind me at the breakfast buffet? Uyen Pham! Tada! I said, "If you're here, I know I'm not late!"

Bethany and I sat down with Uyen and ate our pastries. I introduced Uyen to Bethany and reminded Uyen that we had met before, in Decatur, GA (see my post about that, here) and reminisced that she had showed me the Princess in Black book before the first one had come out. "Wow, I can't remember my life before the Princess in Black!" Uyen said, and then, "Well, I'll have to show you the sketches for book 7!" I couldn't turn that down, and made sure to follow through with her when she had a moment the next day. She also showed some slides of artwork she has done for Best Friends, the sequel to Real Friends, in her presentation on Saturday. I sat by her while she was signing and took photos of her with attendees on Friday evening. What a pleasure! Uyen is so gracious and spunky! When she popped across the hotel lobby to hug me goodbye at the end of the conference, I felt like I had made a friend. 

Meeting online friends:

Speaking of friends, it was such a pleasure to meet some friends that I had only known online to this point. I got to meet several fellow Cybils panelists, including Mel Schuit, Ben Hutchinson and Heidi Feidler. And I loved reconnecting with friends I had met at previous KidLitCon conferences! Ten fabulous pictures are on my instagram. There are always a few that I accidentally miss taking pictures with. That's life, I guess! And don't let me forget to mention meeting so many amazing authors and illustrators. I feel like KidLitCon this year had a higher percentage of authors attending this year than any other year I have attended.

How about you? Been anywhere lately? Got any books on your radar?

Thursday, January 3, 2019

What I've been reading!!

Hey! Hi! Howdy! Happy New Year!

I don't really have time to blog, but then when did I ever? But I can't resist. I've gotta tell ya what I've been reading.


Firstly, Cybils shortlists just got announced. This year I've been the Graphic Novels chair, but not on the Graphic Novels panel. So I've been listening in on all their discussions about the best books and now I'm reading like crazy to catch up on all these great graphic novels!

So far I've read the following that are on the shortlists:

Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation - this one was SO GOOD. I read the Diary of Anne Frank back in 9th grade and thought it was amazing, of course, but had no particular interest in rereading it. So I thought I'd give this a shot and just abandon it if it was meh. Oh. I could not put it down. Perfect marriage of text and illustration. Amazing job condensing the diary and disclosing what was condensed. I highly recommend it for adults and young adults.

On a Sunbeam - I just finished this one moments ago! It's about a girl, Mia. The setting is the far future. It's a coming-of-age/adventure/romance. One of the panelists described it as a whole trilogy in one book, and I could totally see that. It's quite thick, and I found it compelling to read until the natural breaking point in the narrative, then compelling again. Another panelist said it had a Firefly vibe -- yep. Super well done, and lotsa spaceship adventures. Many of the characters are LGBTQ+, including the main romance and all the relationships of supporting characters. Lots of swearing, which I suppose probably made the dialog more believable, but I like living in my bubble where swears are few and far between. If it were a movie, it'd be PG-13 but with more F-words. Still, I recommend this one for appropriate audiences, because of its excellent plotting, pacing, character- and world-building. I'm glad I read it, but I won't be buying it for my home library.

The Cardboard Kingdom - My kids loved this book. I checked it out of the library and they read it first of the whole stack. I got a little ways into it, and it got heavy for me. The story of the whole neighborhood -- the kingdom -- is told in short stories. Some of them have themes like fitting in, being creative, working things out with a friend, but others have heavier themes like same-gender attraction, parents splitting up, and bullying. Soo, I guess I needed a little more time to digest it than my kids did. Which exactly mirrors the kids and adults in the book. Haha. Anyway, it came due at the library before I finished it, so I returned it, but checked it out again a couple of weeks later. I did want to finish it. Once again my boys snatched it up and both of them reread it. Safe to say it's got kid appeal! And it is well done.

Anne of Green Gables - This one I read a while back -- I had heard good things about this adaptation, including from trusty Amy at Sunlit Pages. So I picked it up. It was really good. I read the whole series of books when I was a kid, and watched part one of the mini-series a couple of years ago, but I had definitely forgotten a lot of the plot. The art is beautiful in it's own right and I don't feel like I can really compare the graphic novel to the actual novel since it has been so long since I've read the original. But I loved the graphic novel and I hope they make a sequel and do the rest of the series in graphic format too.

Tea Dragon Society - This one is a large format, so it's bigger than a big picture book. It's gorgeous. I liked it but didn't love it. It's been a while since I read it, actually, and I'm having a hard time remembering all the details, except that I found it a little bit preachy, like it had something to prove. Since I can't remember more I'll leave it at that. It is available as a webcomic, but I hear that holding the paper version makes it even better. I've only read it on paper, and it was indeed beautiful.

Be Prepared - This is a memoir of Vera Brogsol's time at Russian Orthodox summer camp. It was really good! I could relate, having been to some religious summer camps, and I bet kids who haven't been to religious summer camps could relate, too. It's on the Elementary and Middle Grade list, but I'm guessing it will appeal most to middle schoolers and high schoolers. It has a "looking back" vibe at the end that wouldn't really be applicable to elementary schoolers, I don't think.

As the Crow Flies - Read this one quite recently and wow! It's a good book with some interesting things going on. Would make for a good book club discussion. Gorgeous art. The main character in it is a half-black christian lesbian. The scene is a christian young women's hiking trip, led by a woman with a big feminist chip on her shoulder. So themes of faith, race, weight, gender, sexual identity, and more are explored. And I think what I liked about it is that they were explored and not preached. The book doesn't guide you to a lot of conclusions... in fact even the plot itself ends quite suddenly. But, I liked it. It felt very realistic. 

The Prince and the Dressmaker - I read this one a while back and wanted to loved it, but it employed some "movie moments" -- some of those plot devices that seemed a little too unbelievable. I mean, I just can't imagine being surprised by a kiss and having it go over that well. And the fashion show? Ehhh. But I'll tell you what I loved. I loved absolutely true-to-life way that friendship and deception played together. I loved how things couldn't work out right until people were being honest.

That's all the ones on the shortlists that I've read so far! Will keep you posted as I read the rest. And I'll be reading all of the Cybils Easy Readers and Early Chapter books, but becuase I'm a round 2 judge I won't be allowed to tell you my thoughts on those until after Feb 14.

Not on the Cybils shortlist, but still a really good graphic novel that I recently read:

All Summer Long by Hope Larson. This one also explored themes of friendship, through the eyes of 13-year-old Bina. I liked how Bina's family was a big part of her experience, because families so often are (unless you're away at summer camp, ha!) I liked her personality and how she was figuring out boundaries and relationships, learning to babysit and becoming an aunt and getting good at her hobbies. I recommend this book and would totally love to own it.

And I also read the entire Book of Mormon in 3 months! I participated in a challenge extended by the worldwide president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M Nelson. So glad I did this. It was a completely different experience to attempt to read the book at this pace. It's sort of like I was accostomed to walking in a flower garden, and all of a sudden I started running on the race course that happened to be in it. At first I was like "I'm tired and this is so hard and I can't see the flowers!" but then it was like "oh, this is exhilarating and I can see connections I never saw before and I'm stronger than I thought I was!" So, it was great! The Book of Mormon is available free online, and hard copies are also available for free. If you order one, a missionary might deliver it to you! My little brother Abe is on a mission right now. He's serving in Argentina.

Before Christmas I read a couple of great non-fiction books from the children's section of my local library. Proud by Ibtihaj Muhammad (Young Readers Edition) and Terrible Typhoid Mary by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.

Proud (Young Readers Edition): Living My American Dream is the memoir of the first Olympic Athlete to compete for the USA in hijab (the Muslim modesty practice uder which women cover all but the face). It was fascinating! I read a lot of it aloud to the kids and they loved it and took off with it, so I had to finish it on my own. I wonder how the Young Readers Edition (which I read) compares to the regular. There was one part where there were a bunch of generalizations and I was like "hmmm, I wonder if there is an interesting story at this point..." Ibtihaj is Afican American, Muslim, and a woman, and talked at various points in the book about the discrimination she faced because of each of these (and, sometimes, the intersection of them). Part of me wants to read the regular version, another part of me is fine. Anyway, I highly recommend it.

Terrible Typhoid Mary is about the discovery of what are now known as healthy carriers -- people who appear to be well, but are spreading infectious germs. Mary Mallon was the first healthy carrier discovered in the US, but her discovery and treatment was unethical. The pace of this book didn't clip along as quickly as Proud, so I found it a little tougher to love, but I'd still recommend it. Absolutely fascinating story, but I guess I felt like it could have been condensed into a good long article? Or really expanded into a meatier book? The book as it is is good, and I'm sure it will hit a sweet spot for some. My 10 year old read it and we talked about it a little bit.

What've you been reading lately?

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