Monday, May 28, 2012


Sometimes days come around when you don't like yourself very much. When you see faults written like tattoos all over your soul, and no matter how much you scrub, they never fade, never fall away. Faults like pride and fear and ignorance and jealousy and insensitivity. Things that make you ugly inside. Things that make you want to crawl out of your skin and into someone else's.

That desire to be different from who you are, a different person altogether, only comes at you once in a blue moon. You know deep down that you have it pretty good--besides freedom, democracy, and religion, you've got good health, enough intelligence to guide you through three college degrees, a dollop of creativity, a supportive husband, sweet children. What more could you ask for?

Still, you wish you were different. You wish you were more. You sometimes look around at the people you come in contact with and wish you could pluck bits and pieces of them and add these things to your personality. If you could put yourself together like a Mr. Potato Head with a body, a hat, a pair of feet, a nose, some angry eyes--you'd pick some different traits: spontaneity, strength, memory, courage, satisfaction, cheerfulness, confidence, and maybe a few extra inches of height, too.

If you could do this, maybe you could do something of real value instead of the nonsense that you do each day. But you can't pick your own character. You're stuck in your spiderweb, struggling to free yourself of one character trait, while at the same time trying to develop another. You're a package deal, a smorgasbord of insecurities and doubts.

Lucky you.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Sometimes you just need an afternoon spent on the hammock, cocooned together with the gingerbread boys and the gingerbread man, one foot hanging down, pushing at the ground to sway all four of you back and forth.

Sometimes you just need the sun shining down in between the unfurling leaves, and the blue, blue sky above you, and the singing of the birds, while simple thoughts flit in and out of your mind.

Sometimes nothing is better than something, especially when life has been far too full of many, many somethings and your head has been full of complexities.

Sometimes you think that a day of rest is the most compassionate gift God could give you, far better than riches or fame or success or even the ability to type really fast.

And the swaying of the hammock, and the feel of the gingerbread man's shoulder under your head and the wisp of one gingerbread boy's hair on your face and the chatter of the other gives you just enough strength to carry on through another week of somethings.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book Recommendations/Lee Library Presentation

From young to old:

Elephant and Piggie series, Mo Willem
Minnie and Moo series, Denys Cazet
Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same, Grace Lin (series)
Anna Hibiscus series, Atinuke
Mercy Watson, Kate DiCamillo (series)
Bink and Gollie, Kate DiCamillo and Allison McGhee (series)
Half Magic, Edward Eager (series)
Dick King-Smith (farmyard fantasy)
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick (heavily illustrated)
The Whipping Boy, Sid Fleischman
The Secret Life of Owen Skye, Alan Cumyn (trilogy)
The Way Things Work, David Macaulay
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Grace Lin
The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Robert C. O'Brien
The Penderwicks, Jeanne Birdsall (series)
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg
Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson
Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle
A Long Way from Chicago, Richard Peck (has a sequel)
Whales on Stilts, M.T. Anderson (series)
Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick
Aliens on Vacation, Clete Barrett Smith (series)
The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, Uma Krishnaswami
The Amulet of Samarkand, Jonathan Stroud (Bartimaeus series)
Holes, Louis Sachar (sequel)
Saffy's Angel, Hilary McKay (series)
The Underneath, Kathi Appelt
Savvy, Ingrid Law (companion novel)
The Giver, Lois Lowry (companion novels)
Skellig, David Almond
Catherine, Called Birdy, Karen Cushman
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Stop the Train!, Geraldine McCaughrean
Cheaper by the Dozen, Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (sequel)
Words in the Dust, Trent Reedy
Keturah and Lord Death, Martine Leavitt
Airborn, Kenneth Oppel (sequel)
The White Darkness, Geraldine McCaughrean
Feed, M.T. Anderson
Matched, Ally Condie (trilogy)
Life as We Knew It, Susan Beth Pfeffer (trilogy)
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
A Brief History of Montmaray, Michelle Cooper (sequel)
The Adoration of Jenna Fox, Mary E. Pearson
Unwind, Neal Shusterman
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party, M.T. Anderson
A Northern Light, Jennifer Donnelly
The Sky is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson

Other goodies
Though we didn't speak about the following, I'm including these extras for your perusal.

Early Readers and Early Chapter books:
Frog and Toad, Arnold Lobel (series)
Little Bear, Else Holmelund Minarik (series)
Henry and Mudge, Cynthia Rylant (series)
Clementine, Sara Pennypacker (series)
The Hundred Dresses, Eleanor Estes
The Littles, John Peterson (series)
Nate the Great, Marjorie Weinman Sharman
Encyclopedia Brown, Donald J. Sobol
Rapunzel's Revenge, Shannon Hale (graphic novel, sequel)
The works of Roald Dahl

Animal books:
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
101 Dalmatians, Dodie Smith
The Trumpet of the Swan, E.B. White
Rabbit Hill, Robert Lawson
A Cricket in Times Square, George Selden
The Incredible Journey, Sheila Burnford

Historical books:
One Crazy Summer, Rita Williams Garcia
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, Gary Schmidt
Lassie Come Home, Eric Knight
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Twenty-one Balloons, William Pene du Bois
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Avi
Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963, Christopher Paul Curtis
A Single Shard, Linda Sue Park

Realistic books:
Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh
Rules, Cynthia Lord
Framed, Frank Cottrell Boyce
Millions, Frank Cottrell Boyce
Room One, Andrew Clements
Because of Winn-Dixie, Kate DiCamillo
Shiloh, Phyllis Naylor

Magical books:
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken
The Borrowers, Mary Norton
The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Ian Fleming
Tom's Midnight Garden, Philippa Pearce

Young Adult books:
The Amaranth Enchantment, Julie Berry
Secondhand Charm, Julie Berry
The Wednesday Wars, Gary Schmidt
The Discworld series, Terry Pratchett
The works of J.R.R. Tolkien

Great Authors:
Dick King-Smith
David Macaulay
Brian Selznick
C.S. Lewis
Hilary McKay
Edward Eager
Russell Hoban
J.K. Rowling
Susan Cooper
Lloyd Alexander
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Katherine Paterson
Madeleine L'Engle
Shannon Hale
Grace Lin
Beverley Cleary
Kate DiCamillo
Geraldine McCaughrean
L.M. Montgomery
Linda Sue Park
Joan Aiken
Natalie Babbitt

Especially for boys:
Frank Cottrell Boyce
Rick Riordan
Kenneth Oppel
Gordon Korman
Andrew Clements
Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan series)
Gary Paulsen
Robert McCloskey (Homer Price)
M.T. Anderson

Other resources:
The Read-Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease
100 Best Books for Children, Anita Silvey
500 Great Books for Teens, Anita Silvey  Anita Silvey’s daily recommendations the social media of book sharing
Link to the Caldecott list:
Link to the Newbery list:
Link to the Great Stone Face Awards:
The Horn Book, a publication about books for children and young adults
The March Madness of Children’s Books

Monday, May 14, 2012

Into the Woods

I live in the forest, where the moss bids you to look down, and the trees bid you to look up. The woodpeckers bid you good morning, and the blue jays just want you to shut up and listen, already. At nightfall, the stars lay so dense in the sky, that you can wrap yourself in them, if only the trees wouldn’t get in the way. The hooting of the barred owls lulls you to sleep.
In the woods, anything can happen; all you need is a handful of magic beans, a conversation with the infamous immortal goldfish, a drink from a clear, cold spring, the flash of a fox’s tail. If you’re lucky, you can dance with a lady’s slipper, but only in June.

The immortal goldfish

It’s the stuff fairy tales are made of.
But there’s always room for wishing, even in a fairy tale. There’s no pizza delivery here, nor is there a house built out of candy for those midnight cravings. The trail of crumbs can only lead to one of a handful of places: the river, the cemetery, the library, and town hall–or, of course, deeper into the forest. You might find a woodcutter, but more likely, you’d just find wood.
Still, I like living in a fairy-tale world. There’s always a little bit of magic and an adventure waiting out the back door, even if it’s just on a rope swing.