Monday, January 28, 2013

a winner!

The results are in and the winners are:

Caldecott (essentially best pictures)

Honor books: Creepy Carrots  (yay!!)
Extra Yarn
Sleep Like a Tiger
One Cool Friend

All excellent choices though I would have given the high honor to one of the others, just sayin'.

Newbery (essentially best words)

Honor books: Splendors and Glooms
Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--The World's Most Dangerous Weapon
Three Times Lucky (yay!!)

There are also awards given for best teen books, best beginning readers and more. You can find the complete list here.

Friday, January 25, 2013

an award show!

Over here at the library we're gearing up for the ALA announcements Monday of 2012s Newbery and Caldecott Awards.** This year is the 75th anniversary of the Caldecott so we've set up a patron populated art gallery recreating their favorite book covers, along with a mock Newbery vote.

There's always a lot of buzz about potential winners and underdogs, surprises and sure-things just as there is with any award show. Eligible books that come out at the beginning of a judging era are at a bit of a disadvantage compared to those that are new and fresh and on everybody's minds. Then again, there are the rare books that are released early in the year and do nothing but build or slowly creep out of the woodwork along the way and might have been missed if they'd been released right near the end of it all. But basically all one can do is speculate.

Our votes at the library for Newbery included (in no particular order):
Liar & Spy  by Rebecca Stead
What Came From the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt
Wonder by R.J.Palacio
Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sarah Pennypacker
Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine

The only one of these I haven't read yet is Lions of Little Rock but my vote would have to go to Three Times Lucky, it was one of the most delightful books I've read in a long time. I might also have to throw Steve Sheinkin's Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon in the mix since we're a little light on the non-fiction (okay, so the non-fiction is non-existent!) And a dark horse vote goes to 12 Kinds of Ice, a little gem of a memoir by Ellen Bryan Obed.

My personal Caldecott picks sort of follow the trends as well, though I'd have to give my number one shout out to Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds. So great in so many ways!  And my second choice would be A Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead. Other votes would go to:

Green  by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff
Extra Yarn  by Mac Barnett
Unspoken  by Henry Cole

If you're interested in a few more (and more educated) opinions, Hornbook has a reader ballot for Caldecott choices on their blog Calling Caldecott. School Library Journal does a great mock vote for the Newbery at their blog, Heavy Medal and SLJ blogger Betsy Bird does her own forecasting for both the Newbery and Caldecott.

Or if you're super excited and have nothing else to do this weekend you could host your own 'Mock Caldecott Party'.  Abby the Librarian has all the ins and outs of throwing a bash here on her blog.

I'll check back in on Monday and reveal the actual winners...stay tuned! (And stay warm!!)

**There are also awards given for teen reads, beginning readers and others but these are the ones I've chosen to focus on. You can go here for a full list of youth awards offered by ALA.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

looking forward in anticipation.

That title could mean a host of things. There are changes on the horizon and I'm trying to convince myself that they are all things to be looked forward to. But alas, the gloom and chill we are experiencing weather-wise has sunk into my bones and my brain and thrown me into a bit of a funk of late that no amount of hot cocoa or fuzzy socks has been able to cure. So, I've been forcing myself to look beyond the limits of my life as it currently is to find the good things that are to come and here's what I've come up with.

First, our book club made a final decision and our first read will be:
An adventure on the Amazon sounds perfectly warm and cheery, snakes and poison arrows be darned!

And second, my favorite tousle-haired crooner is coming out with a new album in a few days. Here's the first single.

Ah, I can feel the bones starting to melt already!

What are you doing to keep warm?  And how do you beat the winter blahs?

Friday, January 18, 2013

an old friend.

Today marks the 131st anniversary of the birth of AA Milne, creator of the Winnie the Pooh characters. I grew up poring over a small but prized collection (which I still have in storage somewhere) of both the Pooh stories and his volumes of poetry making friends with beetles named Alexander, feeling very sorry for poor King John, dreaming of a visit to Buckingham Palace and of course, bonding with Christopher Robin and Pooh Bear.

I fell in love with Ernest Shepard's deceptively simple sketchy pencil illustrations and played games of Pooh sticks every time I came to a bridge or gutter filled with water.

This might be a bit blasphemous but I love the Disney incarnations almost as much as the originals. The first animated episode so brilliantly incorporated the book format; Pooh climbing through the paragraphs, the letters washing away in the rain, the narrator interacting with the characters. Amazing stuff.

A year or so ago when I was in NYC I made a trip to the public library where the stuffed animals that were the inspiration are now housed. And it was an experience I won't forget, taking me back to my childhood in an instant, yet looking at their worn and shabby appearances made me feel older than my years.

Happy birthday to a literary genius and the shaper of many a childhood.

Let's finish things off with a clip of the catchy theme song to get stuck in your head. You're welcome.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

a great book discussion.

Guess what? I started a book club. I convinced a group of friends that I needed help branching out and discussing more grown-up books (I'd started out using the term 'adult books' and got a few somewhat worried emails back from the invitees wanting to know just what kinds of books I had in mind!) When the terms were made a little less hazy most people jumped at the chance and we held our first meeting earlier this week.

I've been attending a church organized book club for the last few years but several changes in congregational boundaries made it so there were very few people that I really knew. We also had to be a bit more selective on what we read (not that it's a bad thing but several times we chose a book that none of us had ever read before only to get a few chapters or pages into it and decide that we'd probably better pick something else.) Being in charge gives me the opportunity to pick who is invited and have a little more flexibility in what we choose.

I'd also hoped to develop my culinary skills a bit so I decided to serve a light dinner at the inaugural bash. I spent the day before chopping and prepping to make three different soups (this potato soup, a variation on this apple pumpkinand my fave this tomato basil) a loaf of roasted garlic bread and some pear pomegranate crumble for dessert. (All recipes found via Pinterest.)

Because of so many rampant cold and flu bugs running wild at the moment we only ended up with 8 in attendance but 15 or so that are on the list and hoping to participate as we go on. Everyone was told to bring a few books to suggest (some favorite reads and some they'd hoped to read) and we had some great discussion at the outset. I think it bodes well for future gatherings.

Here are some of the books we discussed:
  • The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker
  • Possession by AS Byatt
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  • The Little Prince by Antione de Saint-Exupery
  • Act in Doctrine by Elder Bednar
  • The Chosen by Chaim Potok
  • My Grandfather's Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen
  • Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer
  • Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
  • Daughter of the Forest by Juliette Marillier
  • Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
  • The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
  • The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
  • Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald
  • Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
  • Savvy Auntie by Melanie Notkin
  • Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That by Henry Alford
  • 1000 Names for Joy: Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are by Byron Katie
  • Zhuangze: Basic Writings
  • A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
  • Quiet: The Power of Intorverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  • Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Wild Swans: Three Daughers of China
  • Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  • Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosentrach
  • The Violinist's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code by Sam Kean
(If I was awesome I'd have linked all of these for you...sorry, I'm not!) Have you read any of these? Which would you recommend? We're each voting for our top 5 and then the host for next month will have the honor of choosing their favorite from the final three.  I'll let you know the winner when it's decided.

To go along with all of this I’ve recommitted myself to making more regular book posts, at least once a week. I'd also like to branch out beyond just book reviews so I'm going to try to include a few features found on actual book blogs such as story time spotlights, author profiles, and literacy news as well as keeping you abreast of our book club choices/discussions. And in an effort to drum up a bit more traffic here I’m going to be trying to comment on others' blogs at least once a week. There’s a great community out there and sometimes I still feel as if I’m peeking in the window watching instead of truly participating.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

words of wisdom.

I've been in the process of making some life altering decisions for the past few months.  Each time I think I've got it all figured out something comes up that makes me rethink everything and I find myself starting over. Needless to say it's left me feeling very, very frustrated.  I've had a couple of conversations recently that have given me much to think about and have me leaning more and more in one direction than I have for awhile now. And then today I came across this article that a friend had posted on facebook and I had a bit of an aha moment. While there are a lot of factors at play and it's in no way a black and white choice, I've realized that, in many ways, this issue is at the heart of my decision making.

I love living in Washington, DC. It's vibrant and colorful and filled to overflowing with opportunities to be enriched through food and culture and art and politics and knowledge and life. But it's a busy place. And the people I associate with are a busy people. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but I think, like the author of the article, I am a basically lazy person. It's not that I don't want to do important and productive things, because I do.  And I'm a hard worker.  But at my core I long for a slower pace of life, time to breathe and connect with people and sometimes just do nothing. And that is at odds with the life I'm currently trying to live.

There's a peer pressure (as was more eloquently stated in the article) to be 'doing' all the time. If your calendar isn't packed then you are obviously failing as a person. Why aren't more people clamoring for your company or skills? Why are you not taking advantage of all that life has to offer? You are missing out on hundreds, thousands of opportunities at any given moment.  Have you no conscience?!

Part of me needs to be fed with the energy and diversity and experience found in a city but my deepest soul needs respite and quietude and downtime and I find that I don't have the chance to fully appreciate and absorb the experiences I have when I'm multi-tasking, mentally going over my lengthy to do list and rushing from place to place, event to event.

And in case the stress alone isn't enough there's science to prove that we are doing damage to ourselves when we fail to give ourselves time to do nothing.  I read the book Last Child in the Woods a few years ago when it came out and it talks about the detrimental position we are putting our children in by not giving them unstructured time, specifically in nature. Again, as was more eloquently stated in the article, how many of history's great discoveries and creations were birthed in those moments of 'idle dreaming'? Our minds and bodies are not programmed to be deprived of those moments.

Eastern religions/societies are much better at this than we in the west tend to be. Zen and nirvana and all that. And while I'd made a resolution to start a daily meditation regime I have yet to actually do anything about it. So, as I continue to try to make decisions and find peace in my existence I will be striving at the same time to recommit myself to meditating, to breathing, to recreating myself more as a human being than as a human doing, even for just a few minutes each day. Join me, won't you?

Here's a bit of inspiration for you. Breathe deeply and imagine yourself here. Since most of us are suffocating under gray skies and feet of snow at the moment this is almost guaranteed to be an improvement. (See, the sun does still exist!) Feel better yet?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

a musical discovery.

Earlier this week my sister sent me a forwarded email from the 9:30 Club with the injunction: if you don't have anything to do this Saturday you have to go see this guy.  As it happened I didn't have anything pressing to do Saturday night so I conned a mutual friend (we'll call him Mr. B) into going with me.  "This guy" refers to Martin Sexton, a musician I'd never heard of and wouldn't have (and hadn't) made it onto my radar but I'm glad to have had no great plans and a pushy sister 'cause the concert was great.

Now go with me on this 'cause it's not going to sound like a complement and isn't going to accurately describe him but with my limited pool of influence to draw from this was how I kept thinking of him in my mind.  If John Mayer and Aaron Neville had a baby, baptized him in heavy blues and beat box, sprinkled him with some jazzy scat and soul and added a pinch of yodeling for kicks the final creation would be Martin Sexton. An odd mish mosh to be sure (and I for one cannot stand Aaron Neville) but somehow it all worked in his favor. And I'm serious about the yodeling. He started his set with a yodeled song. It was downright lovely and had an improvised sort of feel to it.  A minute or so into it Mr. B leans over and whispers incredulously, "Is that the national anthem?" By golly, it was! There was enough playing with rhythms and notes that at first it was almost unrecognizable but once you picked up the underlying melody there was no denying it.

Here's a taste:

His opening band was a duet group called Alternate Routes who were relatively generic in sound but who won me over when they pulled out a harmonica and then some electric toolbox with rocks in it.  I'm sure there's a name for it but I'm too lazy to research right now so if anyone knows what it's called please feel free to enlighten me. Whatever it was though it added a lovely earthy flavor to the mix and made me admire the guy's arm strength and rhythm as he hefted it over and over throughout the entire song. The longer they played the more I loved them.

Feast your ears:

And that's how I spent my weekend. How was yours?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

a good book.

I've just finished reading this delightful memoir about a couple who move to Big Stone Gap, Va and start a used book store. (the former coal mining town was made ‘famous’ by local author Adriana Trigiani’s series Big Stone Gap in which a single 30 something orphan comes into her own and finds love with the help of some meddlesome townspeople.) It's full of quirky small town characters, the ups and downs of running a small business, the pains of watching the book industry shift and crumble all interspersed with references to authors and books for all ages and covering a variety of genres.

If I could do anything in the world (besides be independently wealthy!) I'd run a children's book store ala Meg Ryan's in You've Got Mail. Mahogany shelves filled to the brim with old and new favorites, child-sized (and maybe an adult-sized or two) overstuffed chairs for curling up in and getting lost in Narnia, Wonderland, Hogwarts and more. There'd be a hint of coffee shop ambiance as well with afternoon tea for teddy bears, story and craft time, visits from local authors and more.

But the moral of that story as the movie so brutally showed is that independents just aren't making the cut these days. Big Box retailers and online stores like Amazon (ignore the ironic links to said online store above!) are driving them into the ground and the advent of ereaders isn't helping either. Which is why this book is such a breath of fresh air. Granted since they are a used rather than new store they have a different set of challenges and parameters to deal with but the fact still remains that they've made it work. And in a small town, no less. You've got to admire their gumption.

And I wish my brain could spout literary references the way the author’s seems to. She’s got a book/author for every situation and I found myself smiling over references I could relate to and jotting down a list of books and authors I haven’t read yet so I could be on the inside of the corresponding joke. I found myself nodding my head in agreement when I read this:

The best moments in reading are when you come across something --a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things--that you'd though special, particular to you. And her it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out, and taken yours. --Alan Bennett (from the play The History Boys)

She also has a way with her own words. I loved this quote:

Selling books is not like selling most other things. Food must be palatable' clothes should fit; paint has to the be the right color. But books? On the one hand they are all things to all people, on the other a different thing to every person who bug one: entertainment, information source, inspiration and motivation, talisman of wisdom, even a mile marker on one's journey. The reason someone wants a book can vary widely, from household decor to seeking enlightenment.

I've just added a visit to the bookstore in question to my list of things to do while I'm in the general vicinity so I can see it all for myself. Are any of you frequenters of independent stores? (book or otherwise?) what keeps you coming back?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

a poem to match the mood.

I've been trying to get a little more poetry in my life and made a goal to read a poem a day. It hasn't exactly worked that way, some days I read 5 or 6 and some days I don't read any at all.  But yesterday I was flipping through my Dickinson collection and came across this poem.

Frequently the woods are pink,
Frequently are brown;
Frequently the hills undress
Behind my native town.

Oft a head is crested
I was wont to see,
And as oft a cranny
Where it used to be.

And the earth, they tell me,
On its axis turned, --
Wonderful rotation
By but twelve performed.

And then today this was my view during my lunch walk. Fitting, yes?


Thursday, January 3, 2013

a sign.

Today while I was doodling at work (don't tell my boss) I suddenly realized that my two lucky numbers, 2 and 13, figure prominently in this year's date. Duh, I know. Blame it on holiday hangover. No matter. I'm taking it as a sign of amazing things to come.  This is my year!

Happy late birthday to me!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

looking ahead.

At the dawn of each new year I spend hours contemplating the highlights of the past and strive to make goals and resolutions to help the coming year surpass the old. Yesterday you got a glimpse of last year's highlights, today you're going to be subject to some of my goals for this year!

When I was a teenager I started a tradition of writing a letter to myself on each birthday. I'd recount some of the great things of the past year and set some goals for the coming year. I've done this ever since. I pulled out last year's letter to read yesterday and realized that I've fallen into a giant rut. The things I've been hoping will change haven't changed for the past few years, my complaints and wishes are much the same and while I am busy and spend most waking moments doing things I haven't really accomplished all that much. Let me explain.

I've made resolutions for as long as I can remember and I jumped head first into the whole 'bucket list' phenomenon. I spend a lot of time admiring people (alive, imagined, historical) and their accomplishments and adding things to my lists to hopefully measure up in some way to their greatness. And I fall prey to the religious trend of feeling guilty for not being 'good enough'.  And I've already mentioned more than once here the tendency to get caught up the whirlpool of social media pressure (blogs, pinterest, facebook etc.) and the quest to outdo everyone's perfect and exciting lives. But while this all keeps me very busy doing things I've stopped (or at least significantly slowed down) in my progress to become someone.

Most of my complaints in life are about my job and my relationship status, things I can more easily blame on others or circumstances. Seriously flawed thinking, I realize this but there you have it. Between that and the comparison game mentioned earlier I spend a lot of time doing, doing and doing in an effort to forget about the things I don't have or trying to compensate for them in some way. It's easy to look at someone else's seemingly perfect life and feel discouraged about your own failings. This is in part why I started this blog in the first place, to help me focus on all the great things I do have in my life. And it has helped, but my natural tendency is to measure myself against others and even my own expectations for things rather than trusting in God's will and his plan and simply learning to accept life's circumstances and doing the best I can with what I have. So, this year I've vowed to make some changes.

A friend posted this article a few weeks ago that hit me pretty hard.  It's full of awful language but if you can get past all that it's a great read. If you'd rather not wade through the f-bombs I'll give you the gist of it...

You are (to an extent) nothing more than the sum total of your useful skills.
What you are inside only matters because of what it makes you do.  Who you are is your 'dirt', what it makes you do is your 'fruit' and 'by their fruits ye shall know them...'
Everything inside you will fight change.
Focus on giving yourself a skill that would make you ever so slightly more interesting and valuable to other people.

Another thought I just love comes from Gordon B. Hinckley:

“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey…delays…sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling burst of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”

Armed with these thoughts and a few reminders from other sources I'm determined to focus on becoming, not just doing, developing skills, attributes and habits that will help me to change the world around me for the better and learning to more fully enjoy the ride while I do so.

So, this year I'm going to try to:

  • be not just on time to things but a few minutes early (I'm compulsively 5 minutes late --at least-- to everything!)
  • do my darndest to stop swearing!
  • send birthday and/or thank you cards to strengthen relationships with people far away
  • find a new outdoor activity that will force me to meet people and step outside my comfort zone (kayaking and rock climbing are at the top of the list at the moment)
  • focus on prayerfully studying my scriptures instead of just reading them
  • make a point to sit by someone new at church each week, introduce myself and then remember their name!
  • find a new job that will push me and give me more opportunities to grow
  • start a daily meditation program
  • perform one random act of kindness each day
  • find a cause to champion (I have a few charities I donate money to but no one that gets my time)

I still have a few 'experience' type goals that will be more cross off the list type things than actual development but a girl's gotta have a little bit of fun, right?

  • complete a Pinterest project each month (some good does come from the Internet, I promise!)
  • attend at least one live performance each month
  • re-read a favorite book each month
  • read a poem a day
  • travel to a new country and visit at least 2 new states (Thailand, Texas and Kentucky are leading the list of options so far)
  • see the POTUS live and in-person
  • hike Old Rag
  • finish writing my book
  • make my own pickles

and a few that are not so much fun as important:

  • stick to a budget!
  • set up a retirement fund
  • learn to tailor my own clothes

That's not every goal but it's most of them. It's going to be tough but I'm hoping it will be worthwhile, that I'll stick with it and keep the effort up (something ongoing is always harder than a one shot event) and make some much needed changes in my life so that in next year's letter I'll have something new to say!  And I'm relying on you all to check up on me every now and then and keep me motivated!

Do you make goals and resolutions? How do you go about doing it? How often do you stick with them? What are your tricks for success? I'd love to hear about it! Oh, and Happy New Year!