Alysa will join the Cybils 2011 as a...

...judge on the Round One panel for Graphic Novels!

I'm so excited about this! The list of my co-panelists looks fantastic.

I was on this panel not last year but the year before (2009) and it was a fantastic experience. It was Graphic Novel immersion and I learned so much.  This year I'm thrilled to be back with that knowledge.

I'll be working closely with

You (yes, you!) can nominate your favorite graphic novel published in the past year. I and my fellow panelists will read all the nominees and create a shortlist of titles to pass on to the Round Two judges. They'll pick the year's best graphic novels (one for YA, one for Kids) based on Kid Appeal and Literary Merit.

Of course you can also nominate your favorite books of the year that fall in other categories (not just graphic novels).  Nominations open on October 1, and I'll be sure to post a link to the nomination form. (EDIT: Here is the link!)For round one, each book nominated is read by two panelists. They read at least the first fifty pages of the book and evaluate it based on the Cybils criteria -- kid appeal and literary merit. In my experience, nearly all of the books are read completely by more than two panelists.  We have a great time debating the merits of the nominees via emails and group chats, and inevitably come up with a list of stellar books.

Just itching to start,

Sophisticated Dorkiness: An interview with Kim

Taking part in the Book Blogger Appreciation Week interview swap has been kind of like having a pen pal! That is to say: awesome! In a get-to-know-you-through-text-only kind of way. I was lucky enough to interview Kim, whose blog is titled Sophisticated Dorkiness. Isn't that a great name for a book blog? Here, Kim answers the interview questions. On her site, you can see my answers to the same.

How long have you been blogging?

I’ve been blogging since May 2008.

Why do you blog?

I started out blogging because I was graduating from college and wanted someplace to talk books, since I’d miss that after I wasn’t an English major anymore. I keep blogging because of the great friendships I’ve developed and because of how the blog has positively impacted my career as a journalist.

If you could meet any author, which one would you want to meet and why?

My initial answer was Margaret Atwood, but if I met her I’d be so tounge-tied I’d have no idea what to say and would look like a total idiot. So, on reconsideration I pick Jon Krakauer, a journalist and narrative nonfiction writer I admire because I’d love to pick his brain.

What is one challenge you frequently face when blogging? How have you tried to overcome it?

I run out of time and energy to blog after a long day at work. I’ve tried to remedy that by writing more posts on weekends, getting up early in the morning to blog, and scheduling posts ahead of time. It only sometimes works!

What is one book you wish everyone would read?

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. This is a truly amazing work of narrative nonfiction that I just love.

If you were stuck on a desert island, what three books would you want with you?

  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace because I read it once and didn’t really get it. I assume I’d have lots of time to read on a desert island.
  • Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood because Atwood is one of my favorite authors and I haven’t read that one yet.
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder because that book gives me hope when I’m feeling down.

Where is your favorite place to read?

I have two places. The first is in my reading chair, which is one of those big 1.5 size chairs I bought used for $100 about a year ago. It’s so comfy. The other place is in a lawn chair facing the lake at my cabin. It’s serene and beautiful.

That sounds lovely! I can just picture myself reading at a cabin on the lake.

If one were to take a sample of the reviews on Everead and Sophisticated Dorkiness, there would not be many books in common. However Kim and I both enjoyed The Happiness Project.

Thanks Kim!

Happy Book Bloggers Appreciation Week!

This week is Book Blogger Appreciation Week!  Seriously. I'm not making this up. There are prizes for book bloggers and special topics you can post about and tomorrow I'm being interviewed and doing an interview in return! It's all so exciting. 

Today, at the suggestion of the BBAW blog, I'd like to "highlight a couple of bloggers that have made book blogging a unique experience" for me:

Reading Shannon Hale's blog, Stephenie Meyer's blog (which no longer exists), and participating on the forums at the Twilight Lexicon (ah, saying that makes me feel nerdy, it has been a long time) got me thinking about books online.  "Wait. There's an online book community?" I said to myself. After finding interesting information on their books, I started to look up other books online.  The first book blog I began to follow was Bookshelves of Doom

Leila of Bookshelves of Doom embedded a vlogbrothers video, and while they're not strictly book bloggers (or book vloggers) they are doing a Great Gatsby discussion these days. I do believe I have watched every one of their videos. I have been more faithful to their YouTube channel than to any television series. 

Many thanks go to Shannon Hale for highlighting Laini Taylor; I've followed her from Not For Robots to Grow Wings to her current blog.

Then I was a Cybils judge, and I got all kinds of new favorite blogging connections from that!  Melissa over at Book Nut remains a standout, and I can't help loving Sherry at Semicolon

And that's the way these things happen -- one blogger introduces you to another and suddenly your reader (google reader, in my case) is filled with all kinds of awesome author blogs and book blogs, and you have a conglomeration of friends you've never met. People whose lives you get to peek into. People whose taste in books is exactly like your own, crazily different, or to be taken with a grain of salt.  

I'm glad to be part of it. 


p.s. I finished reading Jane Eyre yesterday. Love it!
p.p.s. Permission to appreciate Everead in the comments? Granted.

My Hands Sing the Blues

I received this lovely book in the mail recently, and I sat down to read it to my three-year-old the night it came. My Hands Sing the Blues is a visual journey through the life of Romare Bearden (who, call me uncultured, I'd never heard of before reading this). Romare Bearden, I now know, was considered "one of America's preeminent artists" and was best known for his collage-paintings. The illustrations are inspired by his style, and the text is inspired by the jazz and blues that inspired his art:

Rocking on her creaky swing, we hear the crickets chirp.
We feel the humming Magnolia Mill and hear the crickets chirp.
We gulp down warm tomato slices, trying not to slurp.

The rhythm of the writing is mellow and fun, and the book touches on important historical events that I hadn't considered how to approach with my son yet. This book helped create a good atmosphere in which to discuss segregation and how the world is better today. It's a lovely book.

From the mists of time...

...I bring you this review that once was lost (among drafts), but now is found. And it's a good thing I found it, too, because I liked it!

Wildwood Dancing by Julliet Marillier. This is a retelling of that classic fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses. While I was recommending it to my sister, I accidentally described it as cute. Then I corrected myself, "actually, it's not cute at all. It's really creepy and atmospheric. I think I called it cute because it has a happy ending." Anyway, the writing is superb -- it imparts a sense of place better than any other fairy tale I've read. I also really enjoyed that I was able to piece together parts of the big reveal at the end, but not everything. I stayed up late reading this one, and want to read its sequel/companion novel, Cybele's Secret.

Cinammon Baby

Cinnamon Baby by Nicola Winstanley, illustrated by Janice Nadeau.

I love this book.

I checked it out from the library after finding it recommended on PlanetEsme. And her review is worth a read. (That Esme's so eloquent.)

Cinnamon Baby is a gorgeous picture book (watercolor, graphite pencil & paper collage) about the beautiful baker Miriam. Every day, she bakes. She saves the cinnamon bread for last, always, because it is her favorite.  She marries Sebastian, and they have a baby. A beautiful, wonderful, baby who will. not. stop. crying.  Are there any parents out there who are relating?

Oh! I just love Miriam, Sebastian and that baby! They love each other so well.

The text is straightforward and romantic: "After that he bought a loaf of bread every day for a year. Then he asked Miriam if she would marry him, and she said yes." Sigh. Love it.

The pictures are intricate and enhance the story so well. Sebastian is a violinist, though you wouldn't know it from the text. Like Esme, I adored the scenes of Miriam walking the crying baby around town.

I can't lie. I choked up on the last line -- I was reading it aloud to my boys, the first time I read it -- but it was okay because it was the last line, so I didn't have to read after it. This may be my go-to book for baby showers from now on.   (Though I still adore Marla Frazee's Walk On! for that purpose.)

Highly recommended, especially for parents.

Edited: I've now collected all my favorite books to give at baby showers in one convenient post. You're welcome.
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