"Create More" one day at a time.

A photo posted by Alysa Stewart (@everead) on
Hello there! I just wanted to pop on for a minute and tell you what I'm up to.

A couple of years ago a great phrase came to my mind when I was making New Years Resolutions:
Create More, Consume Less.

Though it's been a little while, this little mantra has stuck with me; and when I decided to write about drawing it came to mind. I love the feeling of creating something, so I've really been enjoying participating in a class on creativebug.com It's called "Daily Drawing Challenge: 31 Things to Draw" and the instructor is Lisa Congdon. Every day in January a new short video of her goes live and she demonstrates how to draw something. The class is ongoing, so you can join any time you're reading this, but I will say it has been very fun to participate as each day is rolled out.

A photo posted by Alysa Stewart (@everead) on

I'm drawing daily and posting the work on my Instagram.

A photo posted by Alysa Stewart (@everead) on

I've been super good about it for a couple of reasons:
1. If you post along with the challenge every day in January, you can win a prize (some fancy pens and art paper). I am highly motivated by prizes.
2. I got myself a buddy. When I knew I wanted to do this challenge, I also knew I would shortly feel discouraged if I didn't feel accountable to someone else. Sure, there's a teacher in the class, but it's not like she's handing out grades. I took Gretchen Rubin's quiz and it said I'm an "obliger" and I kind of believe it. So I asked Melissa Wiley if she'd be my buddy for the class. She and I were on a Cybils committee together a few years back and since then I've just fallen in love with her blog. It was through her that I discovered creativebug and Lisa Congdon's work, which I love. She said yes, and even though she's been out sick for a good chunk of the challenge, just knowing she was my buddy was enough for me.
3. I love that it is a short, daily exercise. I'm really jiving with that right now.

A photo posted by Alysa Stewart (@everead) on

So above are a few of the pages that I've done so far, and you can see them all (and more) on my instagram account. Check them out! Share your thoughts with me! Because I love feedback and comments. You can leave comments here or on instagram or whatever floats your boat.

At the moment I've got to go get my boys from the bus stop. After that I'll need to do some more Cybils reading and today's daily drawing challenge. Talk to you soon!

related books:
Better Than Before
 by Gretchen Rubin (Have read parts of this, but haven't yet reviewed it)
Fortune Favors the Brave
 by Lisa Congdon (haven't read this, but I want to!)
Fox and Crow Are Not Friends
 by Melissa Wiley (my review)
*These three links are affiliate links and if you make any purchase on Amazon after clicking through them, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Win-win. :)

Newbery and Caldecott winners 2016!

Newbery winner announced today! 
I know you rely on me for your bookish news...maybe.

The book is Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson. It's a picture book!!!

I'm not sure if a picture book has ever won the Newbery Medal before, though I know a picture book has got a Newbery Honor.

I was watching the livestream of the announcement ("This is how you know you're into children's literature," said Jacob) so of course I immediately clicked over to put the book on hold at my library. Bad news: issues with the system mean no new holds this week! Even worse: my city library doesn't own a copy of the book yet! I called to tell the librarians this, at 9:24 a.m. but the library doesn't open till 9:30.

Leave it to librarians to have their biggest awards ceremony -- their Oscars, their Grammys -- before work on a Monday morning. hahaha. :D

Other interesting facts: Last Stop on Market Street is the first book by a Latino to win the Newbery. Last Stop on Market Street was also recognized as a Caldecott Honor book (different committees select each award, and aren't allowed to communicate), and a Coretta Scott King Honor book. The Coretta Scott King award went to the illustrator, because that award is made for "recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books from children and young adults."

Newbery Honor books:

The War That Saved My Life, which I have not read yet. It's audiobook also won the Odessey Award today, so that's promising! I love a good audiobook.

Roller Girl, which I just read and loved, and is a contender in the Cybils graphic novel category. It was remarkably fun.

Echo, which I know nothing about!

That's it for the Newbery Awards, now on to Caldecott!

Caldecott winner was Finding Winnie, which looks excellent, especially since I enjoyed Sophie Blackall's work in A Fine Dessert. The kids and I even made the dessert.

Caldecott honors went to Trombone Shorty, Waiting, Voice of Freedom, and of course Last Stop on Market Street. I look forward to reading all of these!

The one I have already reviewed that was recognized today is Symphony for the City of the Dead, which was recognized as a finalist in the YALSA Award for Excellence in Non-fiction for Young Adults. Full review of that one here.

I'll put in cover images that are Amazon links so you can go read reviews about these and "look inside" and shop for them etc. When you buy anything through my links I earn a small commission, just fyi.

Full list of winners can be seen here, at the American Library Association website.

Do you like knowing what the new Newbery books are? What do you remember about the Newberys and Caldecotts from your childhood?

Go Set a Watchman: Starting thoughts

So, as you remember, my friend Ashlee asked me to read Go Set a Watchman for her, and tell her whether or not to read it. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of her all-time favorite books, and she didn't want to read Go Set a Watchman if it was going to ruin TKAM for her in any way.

I started GSAW just before the craziness of Christmas. Because it's a new release, the loan period at the library was short, so I only got to page 77 or so before it came due. I haven't got back to the library to check it out again yet.

Here's my judgement so far: Don't read it Ashlee.

photo & art by Alysa Stewart

I will keep reading it, because it's the book club book this month, and because I feel like I should read the whole thing to evaluate it fairly. But if it weren't for these two things I'd be content to let it lie.

The writing: The writing is unequivocally not as good as the writing in TKAM. As I was rereading that one I was like "Yeah, there's a reason this one won the Pulizer. Darn right." GSAW . . . not so much. One of the huge differences between the books is that Scout narrates in one and a third person narrator does the job in the other. There are definitely awesome books that use both of these perspectives, but GSAW is falling flat for me and this is part of why.

The continuity: It's obvious to me that this book was written before TKAM, because some of the continuity is odd. Aunt Alexandra has come to live with Atticus now that it's just him at home. And Scout and Aunt Alexandra rubbed each other the wrong way when she first showed up. It's like Aunt Alexandra never came when Scout was young. Because yeah, Harper Lee hadn't decided that that would be better yet. Also Aunt Alexandra and her husband (what's his name again?) lived in Maycomb all along? Not at Finch Landing? So . . . that's kind of weird.

I don't know how Harper Lee felt about Go Set a Watchman being published -- the publication of GSAW was controversial. But I can tell you that GSAW definitely reads like an early draft of TKAM. It feels more like watching all the outtakes from a movie than like watching a sequel or even a companion piece.

Aaand now I just read this spoilerific article that was linked to from the other New York Times article. Maybe I won't finish it. Ain't nobody got time for that. Correction: only English majors who want to compare a first draft with a final draft have time for that. I feel like some of GSAW is probably a legitimate representation of how Harper Lee feels the story turned out (I'm thinking of one specific spoiler here, do you want to hear it Ashlee?) but I feel like most of it was just what she had to write in order to get to the masterpiece she eventually published.

Leave me your thoughts, below. Especially you, Ashlee, but I want to know what the rest of you are thinking, too.
previous posts in this series:

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