Feb 4, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Fourthbook, or “Think Outside the Library Shelf”

Fourthbook, or “Think Outside the Library Shelf”

I own a lot of books.

Ok, ok.  To be more accurate, my husband and I own a lot of books.  Five or ten bookcases worth, in fact.  (I love this about us, except when we move.  Then, not so much.)  Some of these books were ours as children, some we’ve bought or had given to us, and some were free back in my Borders days.

Some of them I’ve read.

It’s been bothering me for years, however, that I haven’t read more of them.  I want to read them, mind you.  We keep them because they appeal to at least one of us.  As you may have noticed, however, I also check books out of the library, and you see–those books have due dates.

Ours don’t.

You see the problem?  We have stacks and stacks and stacks of books that I mean to read someday, and time marches on.  Which is why, back in May, I talked my best friend into making a deal with me.  She has her own library habit, you understand, and her own shelves upon shelves of unread books in her house, so we decided that every fourth book we read MUST be a non-library book.  (We did stipulate that you could count books in a series as one book, since stopping in the middle of any series more than three books long seemed unrealistic.)  Mostly my fourth book ends up being a book I own; occasionally it’s a book borrowed from a family member or close friend, the kind of person who is never, ever going to bug you about returning it.  Either way, in at least a small way, I have started to work my way through the books in my house that DON’T have a due date, and it’s a lovely feeling.  Yes, the other three books come from my library shelf, but really, baby steps. Right?  (If you don’t hear Bill Murray in your head right now, your father does not love “What About Bob?” as much as mine.)

I bring this up because despite having had two brand-new Newberys in my house for a week, I just finished Roald Dahl’s The Twits.  (Which was weird as only Roald Dahl can be, really.  It had entertainment value, but I’m never going to love it the way I love Fantastic Mr. Fox.)  When I picked up the two new Newberys I was finishing up a series; once I finished the series I had two books that weren’t going to be renewable at the library; when I finished those, it was my fourth book…although I did use my contingency plan.  I’ve got a stash of SHORT books that I pull out to choose from when I’ve got library books that are calling to me more forcefully than usual.  (You may wonder why I don’t just cheat a little, but let me tell you what, that does NOT work for me.  I can govern my vices by rigid rules; I can’t do it with guidelines.  (There’s a very good reason that I don’t allow myself to play ‘Words of Wonder’ after dinner unless I’ve already had my shower for the night.  It’s amazing how much less time I waste when I have to leave my bedroom again to do it.))  Anyway, I bought a Roald Dahl box set years ago–off of one of Borders’ many bargain tables–and I’ve now read the three shortest books in the set as fourth books when I’ve been in a hurry.  I’m not always in a hurry, but it’s still nice to have shorter books available!

Anyway, to make a long story short (too late!  and if you don’t think of “Clue” there, well, you should), The Twits was my fourth book, and now I am beautifully, completely free to start on this year’s winners.  Which is why I’m leaving.  Goodnight!

Feb 3, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Of Sharon Creech and Limited Edition Oreos

Of Sharon Creech and Limited Edition Oreos

I just finished The Boy on the Porch, and I’m feeling kind of torn about it.  I ended up really liking it, mind you…it’s a brief, simply-worded book about the children we take into our lives (NOT our own, in this case), and I found it beautiful.  Sharon Creech at her best is very good at tugging at your heartstrings, and while this wasn’t quite her best (can you top Walk Two Moons or Love That Dog or Heartbeat or Granny Torelli Makes Soup?), it was hardly her worst, either (and her worst isn’t exactly BAD).  I was torn for two reasons for much of the (admittedly short!) book, but the spareness of the writing and the plot ultimately worked for me, if barely.  The second reason is why I still feel torn, and it’s quite a different problem.  As a teacher, a parent, an aunt, an occasional tender of friends’ children…as all of these things I loved the book.  And perhaps if I’d read it as a child, I’d enjoy it in a completely different way, but–I’m having trouble seeing the appeal for young readers.  What will they get out of it?  Will they see and understand the pathos?  If a child has always had a reasonably happy, stable home–and yes, I know that that’s not the norm nowadays, but IF–will he or she relate to this story in a meaningful way?  It’s such a short, simple book.  I’m afraid that by the time a child is old enough to appreciate what’s going on emotionally, he/she is going to dismiss it on sight as a younger child’s book.  Has anyone out there read this one?  What do YOU think?

Anyway.  BEFORE all the kiddos were in bed and I got to finish my book, I did my Monday grocery shopping, and I must confess that the two new Limited Edition! varieties of Oreos sucked me in.  Friends, it did not used to be so.  I didn’t grow up eating a lot of junk food, and while I’ve always had a sweet tooth, I never used to buy cookies.  (Mostly because I like to taste the BUTTER when I’m eating a cookie, and to do that, you have to either spend more money or make them yourself.  Nothing tastes like a homemade chocolate chip cookie.)  In fact, when I got married (to man who’s fond of pretty much ANY cookie containing chocolate), I could take or leave an oreo most of the time.  But then–then–then, my friends, my third pregnancy happened.  It was–the oreo pregnancy.  I spent my second and third trimesters craving the homemade cookies and cream ice cream I had growing up, and I never found anything that tasted half as good (we don’t have an ice cream maker), and it was very, very sad.  And even though that baby is now 19 months old (today!), I still find I can’t resist trying whatever new flavor of oreo I see.  (Most of them I only try once, especially since my husband has NOT liked the banana split oreos OR the berry burst ice cream oreos.)  Today I got sucked into the cookie dough oreos AND the marshmallow crispy (read:  Rice Krispie Treat) oreos, and I couldn’t resist.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I BARELY resisted the lemon oreos, which were originally a limited edition flavor but have no such phrase on their package now.  I mostly resisted them because I figured they could wait for another shopping trip.)  I have now tried them both, and I am–drum roll!–undecided.  The marshmallow ones are golden oreos, and they are very, very sweet.  You must be in the mood for a LOT of sugar.  The cookie dough kind were actually not as sweet as I expected them to be, which wasn’t really a problem, but they weren’t quite what I expected (in some vague, undefinable way).  I’m still deciding how I feel about them.

I shall probably have to eat quite a few more before I can come to an informed decision.  It’s so very hard to be me…

 

The Boy on the Porch


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Feb 2, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on This Post Has Nothing To Do With The Super Bowl

This Post Has Nothing To Do With The Super Bowl

Although it does involve treats, but only of the sweet variety.  (I’ve always thought of the Super Bowl as a salty sort of day.)  Last night I tried a recipe for Caramel Apple Blondies; I often bring treats when we do Sunday dinner at my in-laws’ house, and I’ve been eyeing this recipe for quite a while.  The verdict?

I don’t know.

They tasted good, they absolutely did, but boy, mine sure looked darker on top than the ones on the blog!  The texture was also kind of funky…they were similar in a lot of ways to a Betty Crocker Cookbook recipe we made a lot when I was growing up–for butterscotch brownies–but the pieces of apple and weirdly not-gooey Kraft caramel bits made for an odd mouth feel.  (Which sounds stuck-up and Food Network-y.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the Food Network, but to be honest, I only said mouth feel because it felt like such bad writing to say “texture” again so soon.)  They were also really, really sweet.  And rich (one and a half sticks of butter for a 9 by 13 pan).  I think the bottom line is that they were no hardship to eat, but I’m probably not going to bother making them again.

Luckily, I was not so ambivalent about the book I finished while I was sneaking a few bites of the aforementioned blondies.  I picked up Serafina’s Promise on a whim at the library–it just happened to catch my eye–and it turned out to be a lovely, sometimes heartbreaking, ultimately hopeful glimpse into a Haitian girl’s life before (and during) the recent earthquake.  (My definition of “recent” tends to be what feels “not that long ago” to me, by the way.  This does not always correspond to actual chronology of events.)  It’s a verse novel, which is always a plus for me; I love being able to fall into a world so quickly, and while I love other styles of writing as well, less can certainly be more.  I was near tears for quite a bit of the last third of the novel, but it ended on a realistically hopeful note (I was relieved.)  I know I was going to review old Newberys this past week, but I’ll get to that; this book was worth spending time on (in every way).  Check it out!  (Unless, that is, you’re pregnant or have a newborn baby.  Parts of it are going to be too hard to read in that particular emotional state.  Put it on your list instead.)

 

Serafina’s Promise


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Feb 1, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Dear Gibbs: There IS Such a Thing as Coincidence.

Dear Gibbs: There IS Such a Thing as Coincidence.

Ok, I suppose it COULD be some mysterious government conspiracy, but that seems even less likely.  Here’s what happened…

A month or so ago, my husband got summoned for jury duty (a first for him).  He’s always been sort of interested in the possibility, but it’s hard to get unexpected time off work when you work for a small company, and he wasn’t super excited about the timing.  And THEN he found out that it was expected to take three weeks–because it was a murder trial.  Of a 7-year-old.

Did I mention that we HAVE a 7-year-old?

At this point, as you might expect, he decided that he really, really hoped he wouldn’t get picked.  He doesn’t get any paid time for jury duty, so he was worried about the financial aspect as WELL as the obvious emotional one.  We prayed, quite literally, that he wouldn’t get picked.  And he didn’t.  Hallelujah!  It took at least two days of waiting around the courthouse to NOT get picked, but he didn’t.  (We both believe in civic duty, by the way, and under different circumstances he would have served willingly.  That particular trial was just a really, REALLY bad fit.)  We actually had to wait to schedule our anniversary celebration until we knew for sure he wouldn’t be on a jury somewhere, which is why I found it so ironic when, the day after we got home, guess what came in the mail for ME?

Uh, huh.  You guessed it.  What are the chances?  It’s not even as if I’ve never been summoned before; this is my THIRD letter, as a matter of fact.  The first time it settled out of court and I didn’t have to go in.  The second time my mother-in-law got my kids for two days at the very last minute, because I got picked to serve on the jury of a child pornography case.  (For the record, even though my kids slept at my mother-in–law’s and I had almost no responsibilities when I got home at the end of the day, those were two of the most exhausting days of my life.)  I’d like to think the odds are against having to do something like THAT again, but then again, if you’d asked me yesterday what the odds were that I’d get a summons today…

Blech.  I’m going to go read and NOT think about it.

And by the way, for those who can’t sleep at night for the suspense, the Tooth Fairy wrote in her letter to my 7-year-old that while different families like to call her different names, my daughter could call her Tansy Faith.  (She likes having the same initials either way.)

 

 

Jan 31, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Back to Real Life

Back to Real Life

And….we’re back!  More specifically, we’re back from a VERY brief (read:  less than 24 hours) belated anniversary trip sans children.  (Just so you know, don’t get married on December 30th if you want to celebrate your anniversary ON your anniversary every year.)  And it was heavenly, I must say.  We wandered around little stores for a while, we went out to dinner, we watched the pilot of Sherlock, and we SLEPT IN.  Without, you know, staring at the clock and thinking–is that the baby?  Is he awake?  Is he going to wake up his sisters?  Or, in the case of complete quiet past 7:30–are they really all still asleep?  Does this mean the baby’s diaper’s leaking?  Will I have to change the jammies, or just the onesie?

It was heavenly.  Because not only did we get a break from everyday life, I knew my children were being loved (and spoiled!) by Grandma, and I got to come home to squeezes all around.  Life is good.

I also finished a book, started a book, and bought a book.  What’s not to love?  I finished the last book in the All-of-a-Kind Family series, which is a fun period series for children up UNTIL the last book.  The last one is still written for children–stylistically, with illustrations–but the plot is firmly an older teenager plot.  A dedicated-to-finishing-the-series young reader is going to read it, shrug, and forget about it.  A not-so-dedicated-to-series-completion young reader is probably not going to bother.  Anyway.  I am LOVING the book I started, but I’ll wait to review it until I’m done, with leaves me with my purchase (a belated anniversary present, I told my husband.  He told me that if I was getting a book he was getting fancy chocolate, since the store billed itself as a bookery, chocolaterie, and…something else that was clearly not quite as memorable.  I told him I was good with that.)  I pulled “Y is for Yorick:  A Slightly Irreverent Shakespearean ABC Book for Grown-Ups” off the shelf to browse, and I fell in love.  In fact, I’m going to leave you with a couple of excerpts from it, because when my hubby gets home from working late I’m hoping to finish the second episode of Sherlock, and there will only be time for that if I’m ready for bed!

“D is for Desdemona.  Desdemona was a virtuous and beautiful woman.  Many people admire her for choosing her own husband rather than letting her father arrange the marriage.  Unfortunately, it did not turn out too well for her in the end.”

“H is for Hamlet.  Hamlet was a young man who had a hard time making decisions.  He was also a prince.  Young people should not be like Hamlet, who was responsible for the deaths of his fiance, future father-in-law, brother-in-law, stepfather, and mother, all because he had a lot of trouble with follow-through.”  (Please pretend that fiance has the appropriate accent mark.)

“P is also for Prospero.  Prospero was a bit of a control freak who liked the special effects.  But who knows what any of us would do with unlimited time on a deserted island and a book of magical spells?”

For more, go buy the book!

Jan 29, 2014 - Uncategorized    3 Comments

Kate DiCamillo and the Tooth Fairy

I was checking Facebook today and noted a thread about the Newbery winners, which seemed to evolve into a brief discussion of Kate DiCamillo (I say seemed because my teething 18-month-old may or may not have been climbing on me at the time, which makes for some very quick skimming before he gets hold of the mouse).  I deemed it bad form to jump in and disagree with people I didn’t know at all, but argumentative thoughts rarely just leave my head because they seem inappropriate to express, and then I thought–wait!  I’ve started a blog!  A blog is all about MY thoughts, right?  It can’t possibly be inappropriate to voice those thoughts here!  So here goes…

To the Random Person who dismissed “Tale of Despereaux” as a lightweight compared to other Newberys–you’re wrong.  Ok, well, I THINK you’re wrong.  I didn’t necessarily love the book, mind you…I came away from it with the sense that my ambivalent feelings about soup in general made it impossible to fully appreciate the story.  (Which should make sense to you if you’ve read it.)  Even not loving it, however, I could appreciate what it had to say about how we view ourselves and how that affects our actions and who we become.  It was a strange fable, yes, but I could feel the power of it.  As for the person (possibly the same person, but I’m not sure–again with the 18-month-old) who was peeved that Edward Tulane got passed over for a Newbery, yeah, well, I didn’t love Edward Tulane.  I wanted it to be another truly meaningful fable, and IT wanted to be another truly meaningful fable, but it left me kind of flat.  “Because of Winn-Dixie (see below),” on the other hand…yes, Random Person, the Newbery powers that be like Kate DiCamillo, but how can you NOT love “Because of Winn-Dixie”?  It’s short, it’s heartfelt, it takes its heroine on a journey that brings her a little closer to happiness (and adulthood)…if only all first novels were so beautifully poignant!

I realize, of course, that what this boils down to is the age-old “How can you not love the books that I love?  And how can you possibly love THOSE books instead?”  Feel free to disagree with me.  I’m going to hope, though, that when Flora and Ulysses comes in at the library, that I love it like Winn-Dixie, or at least appreciate it like Despereaux, and that it reminds me not much at all of Edward Tulane.

Speaking of hopeful expectations, the Tooth Fairy will be visiting my house tonight, and my older daughter wants to know what the Tooth Fairy’s name is.  Since I didn’t know, she asked her in the note that accompanied the tooth.  The note was, in turn, accompanied by an endearing little poem (free verse), and my earnest-eyed 7-year-old is probably dreaming even now of what her answer will be.  And I?  I am left with a lump in my throat as I contemplate with gratitude the magic of being part of my daughter’s childhood.

Stay tuned for the Tooth Fairy’s name.

Because of Winn-Dixie


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Jan 28, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Of Maxed Library Cards and Good Ideas

Of Maxed Library Cards and Good Ideas

Is it bad that all three library cards currently in use by this household are maxed out?  Should I be concerned?  And if so, should I be more concerned about keeping track of the NINETY LIBRARY BOOKS that are currently floating around this house, or about when I’m going to find the time to read all of them?

Don’t answer that.

They’re not all for me, mind you.  Not by a long shot.  We currently have all of the Ladybug Girl books, most of the Harold and the Purple Crayon books, most of the Library Mouse books, and the next book in AT LEAST 10 different series (I counted in my head but didn’t go into my sleeping daughter’s bedroom to check) that my 7-year-old is reading.  We also have a myriad of other children’s books that we just renew until we can’t anymore…Wombat Walkabout (see below), The Day the Crayons Quit, etc.  (These have recently started including books that focus on pictures of wheeled vehicles, since my 18-month-old son can look through an entire book about farm animals with a very serious face before pointing delightedly to the tractor on the very last page.)    I must admit, however, that close to 30 of them are mine.  What can I say?  I have a stash of mass markets, mostly romance, that I read on the treadmill to take my mind off of the fact that I loathe exercise, I have a stack of non-fiction that I really want to read but keep putting off because the kiddos make it hard to muster the necessary concentration, and then I have the collection of fiction that accumulates faster than I can actually read it.  I was so excited to realize that our county library’s new computer system allows MORE than 10 holds at a time that I wrote about it in my first-ever letter to my missionary nephew.

This sounds sad, I know, and yet I’m ok with this about myself.

(If you’re interested, by the way, his name is Zach and he’s currently in Asuncion, Paraguay, serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Yes, we’re both Mormons.  And yes, I know there’s supposed to be an accent over the “o” in Asuncion.  I’m currently too lazy to walk downstairs and ask my husband how to make that happen.)

Anyway, after I maxed out all three cards today at our favorite local library, we stopped at the grocery store (for the second time in two days) to pick up French bread and pepperoni, because my husband had A DINNER IDEA.  This is noteworthy, you understand, because while he thinks about computers AT LEAST as much as I think about food, he probably thinks about food about as much as I think about computers (in a “I’d really miss it if it weren’t there, but how much is there really to think about?” kind of way).  At any rate, he suggested we try French bread pizzas this week, and they were really pretty tasty.  I’d post the recipe, but we completely made it up as we went along, although I did use this post as a starting point.  We even managed to get in a couple of rounds of this cool marble game he found for his iPad–good fun for the whole family, even if I lost tonight.  (I completely blame the fact that I was keeping the 18-month-old from jumping on the iPad during the game.)

And now the question awaits–after I finish All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown, which is part of a very cute period series I completely missed as a child, what do I read next?  How to choose?  I did pick up two of yesterday’s Newbery winners at the library today, although I can tell you right now that Doll Bones looks too creepy for tonight.  I’m sure you’ll be on tenterhooks as you await my decision…

 

Wombat Walkabout


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Jan 27, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on My Newbery Madness (with links to today’s winners!)

My Newbery Madness (with links to today’s winners!)

Have you ever just decided, in an offhand, I-really-haven’t-given-this-any-thought sort of way, to DO something?  Something specific?  Well–I have.  Once upon a time, in my salad days (or something), I decided to “read the Newberys.”  ALL of them.  Not just the medal winners, you understand, but the Honor books as well.  The whole shebang.  I didn’t consider trifling details, such as, say, the number of books involved (398 as of today), or how difficult it might be to get my hands on some of the older titles (QUITE difficult, even with an amazing inter-library loan system), or the time commitment it might involve (I’m still not really thinking about that one), or even the obvious catch (if I don’t die BETWEEN finishing the previous year’s winners and the announcement of the next year’s winners, the goal is unattainable).  Nope.  In a VERY uncharacteristic “why think too hard about this?” kind of way, I just jumped in.  I’ve learned a few things since then, such as…

1)There is ONE “R” in Newbery.  ONE.  Spell check does not like this, but it’s true.  And with every book I read, seeing the word misspelled in, say, a NEWSPAPER ARTICLE becomes more painful to see. Many people have no reason to know how to spell it, and that’s totally cool. A journalist, though? Really?

2)Almost none of the (considerable) time spent in pursuit of this goal has been wasted. I’m 280 books into this by now, and I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve actively disliked. Some have been forgettable, but I’ve loved a goodly number of them. I’ve also discovered quite a few of my favorite authors this way.

3)As a parent, I now have a much longer list of books to give my kids to try.

4)I’m never out of ideas for books to read. I don’t read ONLY Newberys, not by a long shot, but if I don’t have anything else I’ve been thinking about, there’s always my (dog-eared) list to browse.

5)Who am I kidding? I worked at Borders for TEN YEARS. I have a to-read list a mile long. Still, if I’m undecided, the list helps.

Are you interested in my brand of insanity? The 2014 Youth Media Awards were announced today (at 8 am Eastern, which means I missed it because I refused to get up at 6, which STILL means I’m a geek for knowing and thinking about it!), and the Newbery winners are not the only good books on that list by a long shot. (I’m just too chicken to expand my goal to include the rest of the awards that interest me!) Look here  for this year’s winners and here  for the complete Newbery list.

I will start reviewing past Newberys this week (I have all the new ones on hold at the library, but even the always awesome Salt Lake County library system isn’t THAT fast). I will also probably talk a lot about food (something that occupies my thoughts to a disturbing degree) and my family (that’ll cover my three passions right there!), which is, of course, the reason I named my blog what I did. If you’re interested–stick around!