"The executive falls deep into Steve's reality distortion field..."

Steve Jobs: Insanely Great

I had heard good reviews of a Steve Jobs biography (probably this one), so when I saw this graphic novel at the library I snagged it. Hadn't heard anything about it. It is a biography of Steve Jobs, and runs the full length of his life.

I feel like this book has both strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths: This book is both matter-of-fact and to the point. I feel like I know a lot more about Steve Jobs now. I appreciated that the book didn't moralize or draw conclusions from Jobs's life and experiences. The pacing is very well done -- we didn't spend a lot of time mired in details. Things move along nicely. And it brought up questions for me that I didn't know I had; it made me want to learn more about Jobs and his life.

Weaknesses: While I feel like I know a lot more about Jobs (and Apple), I don't feel like I know Steve Jobs better. "Jobs liked this, Jobs liked that, Jobs did this next..." My English teacher would have exhorted the author to Show, Don't Tell. In the end I feel less like I read a biography of Steve Jobs and more like someone else read the biography and told me about it. But, hey, I wasn't invested in his life enough to want to read a thick book about it, just a thin one. So, there you go.

The art: The art was really interesting. It's a very casual style and the sort of sketchy that makes me think "If this is all it takes, I could draw a graphic novel!" But upon looking closer I saw more detail and planning than originally greets the eye. The book is in black and white, and all hand-lettered. The panels are hand-drawn. This all contributes to a messy look, of which I can't help but think Jobs would not approve. Do I approve of it? Yes. Although I couldn't tell if Jobs was supposed to look like a wild maniac in one or two of the panels (He definitely was supposed to look like that in some of them, but there were a couple I found ambiguous.)

Overall, I recommend this book. I'm still thinking about it a couple of days after finishing. Benjamin (age 9) picked it up and read it. While it is shelved in the YA section of my library, the book didn't contain content I thought would disturb him. Do I think he picked up on everything? No. But he did ask me about the current price of Apple stock after reading it.

Some Writer

Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White

I'm enchanted! I just finished reading this book and it was lovely! The art was fascinating; the life of E. B. White was fascinating. I want to send this book to my friend Tara because she would love it. The book really highlights the simple life and the pleasures of days gone by.

This is a biography of famous children's author E. B. White. And it answered my most burning question: what does the E. B. stand for again? It talked about his name and how what he went by changed a bit as he grew up. But this book did so much more that that.

The book dug into all of the parts of White's life that were most interesting to me. How he grew up, how he became a writer, what he wrote besides the three children's books he is best known for, and some of the backstory on those books. I loved that the book showed (truly, with writing samples) that White was a writer from a young age. I loved the quotes from White that were sprinkled throughout, especially the quote about not trying to convince anyone of your love for chickens. I had to call my mom and read her that one. And I think that is part of the reason that she bought Some Writer. Mostly, I just loved looking at this book! Every page had either a fascinating piece of information or a beautiful little piece of art by Melissa Sweet and most pages had both in abundance.

I found this book inspiring. Here's how it inspired me: I want to go canoeing! I want to write poetry! I want to start a children's literary magazine. I want to learn more about E. B. White and more about Melissa Sweet, who authored this gem of a book.

Conversation with a librarian

My librarian: Are you doing the graphic novels again this year?
Me: Yeah, that's my plan.
My librarian nods, continuing to check out books to me.
Me: But that's not until October.
My librarian: Oh I know. I just have to prepare myself.
Me: laughing We're in this together, right?
My librarian: serious I won't plan a vacation during that time.

Librarians are the best.
Cybils season is the best.

Beginning to read!

Today I was tidying up the house, getting it ready for Jacob's lab group to come over for an end-of-semester lunch. Jubilee was home sick, but not too sick (just the worst sort of sick child to have at home, you know? But also the worst sort of sick child to have at school, which is why I didn't send her.) While I was putting something away, I saw our bag of BOB books, and pulled it out for Jubilee.

"Here are some great books for someone your age!" I told her. She turned five a few days ago, and has been showing signs of reading readiness*. I set the books in front of her, and as I continued to clean I helped her begin the series. But then I had to stop cleaning and take a video, because watching a child learn to read is so magical.

If you're not familiar with the BOB books, they're a paperback set of books that build upon each other and introduce new letter sounds and sight words in each book. They're terribly boring to read if you already know how to read, but if you are learning to sound words out they are just what you want. The set I have is incomplete, since I found it some years ago at a yard sale, but it has enough of the books that Jubilee read 5 or 6 of them in a row today.

The illustrations in the BOB books are "meh" for me. They get the job done (the job being, to give context clues so that the words can be sounded out properly, and to add some continuity to a story that must have very limited words). I like that they're sketched, black and white, and pretty timeless. I don't like that sometimes I think "What is going on there? Oh that's a hat!" or "Oh that's curly hair!" I appreciate that they do some things right, but part of me always itches to draw my own illustrations whenever my kids read the books.

*The signs of reading readiness Jubilee showed were 1. Holding books properly and turning through them to look at the pictures and words 2. Recognizing most letters and knowing most letter sounds 3. Asking me how to spell words when she was writing notes 4. Figuring out what one or two words were without my help, when we were out and about.

It is so fun to be beginning this new leg of the reading journey with Jubilee!

I caught Jubilee "reading" this book to Samuel.

Also of note: Hot Cross Buns!

Bitten by the bike bug!
Gotta love this girl

The Skinny on Game Night

Jacob and I go to a game night about once a month. Do you do a recurring game night? This one is organized by a friend of ours named Chad and originally it was just the guys, I think, but some of us wives like games too. So, it has been a mixed group for a while now.

This last month six people were in attendance, and we played two games. (At least, two games were played while Jacob and I were there. . . .We are usually among the first to leave when we both attend, since we have a babysitter on the clock!) The games were Codenames and Libertalia.

I've played Codenames a couple of times before with this group and it's fun. It's a good one to play at the start of a game night because it's a fairly short game. So, while you've got part of the group and are waiting for the rest of the people to show up, you can play Codenames. In it, you have a grid of a bunch of word cards, and two teams (you need at least 4 players, 6+ is better). Each team has their cluemaster and their guessers. The cluemaster for Codenames looks at a little map that shows which cards his team is supposed to guess, which cards the other team must guess and which cards cause no points or sudden death. Then you come up with clues! There's a little more to it, of course, but it's got the fun of Taboo and the fact that the opposing team might guess one of your cards and earn you a point is really interesting. Being the cluemaster is totally a nail-biting experience, especially if your guessers are chatting amongst themselves and headed in the wrong direction!

Libertalia is one I hadn't played before, but Jacob had. (He went to a previous game night without me, you see.) It is one of those board games with tons of pieces and a complex turn-taking sequence, like 7 Wonders. This group loves those kinds of games. In Libertalia you've got a pirate ship and you're ranking and out-ranking each other and splitting the booty and taking certain actions "morning," "noon," and "night." What I liked about it was that you needed to look and be able to plan a few "days"into the future, but not very many rounds ahead. I'm good at that middle ground, and came in a close second place. It's also a good game to jump into the middle of. I was helping the baby while the rest of the group played the first of three "weeks," but they just let me take Jacob's week 1 score and jump in for weeks 2 and 3.

We had a good time playing both of these games, and have talked about buying Libertalia. I think our kids are too young to successfully play Codenames with us, but I could really see the boys getting into Libertalia. At ages 7.5 and 9.5 they're enjoying Dominion and getting some of the strategy down pretty well.

photo credit to Jubilee, age 4

I'd love to hear what games you've been enjoying lately!

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book 1: The Mysterious Howling
by Maryrose Wood

Ages and ages ago, Ashley told me to read The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. But I didn't. Then, last week when I went to the library I saw book one The Mysterious Howling on display and it looked like just the perfect thing to pick up. So I snagged it. I loved it.

I'd like to think this is the sort of book I would write, if I wrote a middle grade novel. It's a little silly, our main character has just graduated from The Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. And it's very sweet, she is a thoughtful governess and loves her three new charges dearly. It has intrigue, but I don't find it particularly suspenseful. I knew at once what the "mysterious howling" must be. I still love it.

It reminded me of The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry, and that's a high compliment. I read the beginning of it to Jacob and it reminded him of Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett- another compliment.  I've put the second one on hold at the library; it looks like there are 5 in the series, and the final volume will be published this year. I heartily recommend this book to intelligent readers young and old.

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