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Answering the question

AnsweringtheQuestion

Last week was the first week back to school for us in upstate New York. Staff were back on Tuesday and Wednesday, Thursday was Freshman First Day and then Friday all students in grades 9-12 came back. And with the first week, that means the age-old question “so, how was your summer?”

SomeplacetoGo

Like “hello, how are you?” where how are you is usually rhetorical, “how was your summer?” fills the hole of something to say when you’ve been away from students and colleagues for a gap of time. Most don’t really want a play-by-play of your summer, but for those that do, mine could be summed up in one Pinterest-worthy quote: “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”

Between house remodeling and a family business, vacations and activities are usually done in short bursts and were not expensive (I do want a kitchen sooner than later). So I filled my days with reading from a twenty-four hour readathon to reading the Harry Potter series, I got lost in books and let them take me places when I didn’t go anywhere. And if you were to ask me whether I had a wonderful summer, the answer is yes.

My sons would likely answer the same: having read endless Calvin and Hobbes comics along with Harry Potter, Dog Man, and Stick Cat. Yes, we biked and relaxed along Lake Ontario, but what’s important is that they also felt fulfilled with adventuring in books too.

In thinking about our students returning, I hope that it is the same for them. If they did visit the beach or attend a festival, great, but if they did not get to every county fair or get to visit family in the city, I hope that they went places in books. And I’m going to make it a point to recognize that when we speak.

Where did you go in your books this summer?

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Posted by on September 10, 2018 in Miscellaneous

 

My six sensational summer reads + one

SixSensationalSummerReads

I did make a significant dent in my to-be-read pile. I feel accomplished but as always lament not reading more, but I like living life as well. As I transition back into school library life, I’m pausing this Labor Day to share my six favorite books from this summer.

As a disclaimer, these books weren’t necessarily published this summer nor are they summer themed.

  1. Seafire by Natalie Parker– A daring group of lady pirates led by the fantastically illustrated Caledonia who is out for revenge against an evil man whose army killed her brother year ago. I wrote a full post here.
  2. The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King by Holly Black– I couldn’t have picked a more opportune time to start the first book, during my 24-hour readathon in July where I slowly indulged in Black’s world and language and characters then quickly jumped to the second book after much praise from students and colleagues alike. Jude has been stolen away to fairy after her parents were murdered and now as dangerous liaisons are threatening her and her sister, she needs all of her own weapons and power to either ascend to the throne or put people there she can control.
  3. Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner– We need more funny in books and this has a campy element with serious undertones when Rayne and Delilah aka Josie and Delia run a late-night public access show adding skits and commentary for old-style horror classic flicks. It was delightful but still mad me cry. Read about it here.
  4. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling– Yes, I waited nearly twenty years to actually read the series but I do not regret it. Reading alongside my rising fourth graders as they both completed the series between spring and last week, I have an epic appreciation for the world that Rowling built. Here were my reflections. 
  5. The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee– Notice a theme with some of the others? It was the summer of the woman. This was a late night read like Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee where I laughed and fought alongside Felicity where she rages against the patriarchy while saving another on her quest to be a licensed medical doctor way back in the 18th century.
  6. (A tie between these two adult novels) An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi– I always make some time to read adult novels and because of my participation in an adult summer reading program through a local public library, both of these were on my long list to be read and then appeared on the challenges, so I threw caution to the wind and adored both for their intricate storytelling that was atmospheric and languid for all of the right reasons. A slow unfolding of generations or the passage of time and its affects on the character’s lives. In the former, it was imprisonment and whether a marriage could survive and the second, a historical novel about the passage of time and the connection of families from 18th century Ghana to contemporary America.

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Zentner’s three-peat

ZentnerThreePeat

The minute I finished Jeff Zentner’s Goodbye Days, it solidified Zentner’s talent for wordsmithing and character development for me after the explosive beauty of his debut (and William C. Morris award winning) The Serpent King. Move over because Josie and Delia aka Rayne and Delilah will absolutely melt your heart and you’ll fall in love with Zentner’s words again. I’m going to venture a guess that including “midnite” in the title is an indicator that like the public access channel watchers of Josie and Delia’s horror show, you’ll be up past your bedtime to finish it as I did. And not because their old-timey, horror-movie-watching-commentary television show is truly scary enough to keep you up at night but because you don’t want to leave the characters because they become your friends. You want them to succeed where they might fail and gets the answers to the questions that have gone unanswered.

And it’s all because Zentner has created the most beautiful, feeling female characters. Yet while they are the title characters and their bond and banter is precious, the romantic lead, Lawson, is my memorable character. There was nothing more lovely than reading his hesitance at asking Josie out or asking her to attend a bout. And when he tells her that he wants her to see him as a champion because that is how he sees himself is a positive message about a growth mindset in which you envision your success and then live it out. Loss happens, but pancakes happen too. And life goes on.

2018-08-23 21.24.20And the commentary Zentner provides about life is precisely why his books are Post-it material as evidenced by my initial tweet: within the first chapter, I already earmarked a quote to return to. So while it’s hard to pick just one, a memorable quote that sets up Delia for her eventual critical decision to seek out her dad: “I’ve come to believe that everyone gets five or six perfect days in their life. Days with not a single wrong note or thorn, days that ripen like a peach in your memory as years pass. Every time you go to bite it, it’s juicy and sweet.” Won’t every reader stop and think about whether they’ve already lived a perfect day and what it was like and then savor the thought of a few more ahead of them?

So when epic fails happen and a few sweet successes, readers will take the good and the bad because they’re along for the ride with these vividly-detailed, persistent young women and it’s exactly the times when it’s hard to move on that scenes like the last pages of the book completely melt hearts.

2018-08-22 23.18.12-1I can’t, nor would I want to give away too much about the ending, but a picture is worth a thousand words and this was my Instagram post just minutes after finishing the book… a tear-stained page that other than the saccharine visit to Lawson’s house by Josie post-fight is the most memorable scene. Delia is struggling hard because abandonment seems to be a trend from people in her life and it’s the most critical one that comes through for her. Like memorable names such as Beyonce or Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you only needs to say “Dolores Darkwood” and I will be putty in your hands.

Ultimately, this story of a bond of friendship in which both hold a piece of the puzzle that completes the other, pushes the other, motivates the other, lifts up the other, it’s easily compatible with the likes of girl-positive stories like Seafire by Natalie C. Parker that pass the Bechdel test. My advice is to be first in line this February 2019 to purchase a copy, but be sure to have taken a nap because you’ll be up all night to finish it.

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Posted by on August 23, 2018 in Authors, Fiction, Upcoming Releases, Young Adult

 

Words

Words

For close to two weeks in August, my mother in law visits from Minnesota. The days are typically filled with activities and family time leaving little time for me to read independently but the one thing that is substituted is time to play Bananagrams.

By far, this game is an all-time favorite. On par with rummy and now chess (see previous post here), I love the challenge of making words. The competition is secondary. As a reader, words have deep meaning. Sentences move me. Paragraphs are photographed and saved in folders for me to reread. I have pages from The Lovely Bones photocopied just to go back to read when I want. I have bookshelves of books that have changed me.

IMG_1542One of my favorite slides to end on during book presentations is the reminder that all books are made up of just twenty-six letters– think of the magic that just twenty-six letters rearranged can have on people and for writers, the magic they weave with them. There is a power of one word or in a dozen words. And Bananagrams allows you to appreciate it. There are some games where I want to take pictures to remember the words I used. To clarify, not that they’re overly intelligent words or pulled from a huge lexicon I have, instead, because I’m proud of the English language. The game keeps me mentally sharp and reminds me that in a time when words are being replaced by emojis and abbreviations that words a beautiful. And they’re built through reading.

Today I used words like quotidian and shamrock. Yesterday I used words like toxin and extensive. Again, not overly complicated or long, but sometimes just their meaning or usage is a reminder of how words can hurt or help, tear down or build us up. Words are powerful. Remember that. Then play a round of Bananagrams. And if you don’t have anyone to play with, give me a shout and I’ll bring my A-game.

 

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2018 in Miscellaneous

 

Call me Harry Potter

CallMeHarryPotter

This post was originally published on the Times Union Books blog here

I had two goals for this summer: learn to play chess and read the Harry Potter series. And goal two was a formidable one. With seven books totaling 4,111 pages (the longest being the fifth book that clocks in at 870 pages), I would have to be strategic. But I’m also a librarian and reading is like, part of my job. It’s a skill. One in hone daily.

HarryPotterI began on July 20th not for any reason other than I was ready. I finished on August 7th. With some dedicated reading time, a few late nights, and encouragement from my elementary-aged kids (one who has finished the series and one who is on book five), I met that goal. What did I do on August 8th? I borrowed my kids’ Gryffindor robe, Potter glasses and tie, used eyeliner to make my scar, and took a picture to commemorate this feat. As was done when said child finished the series back in March and I will do when other said child finishes.

The goal came from several things. First, I have two kids who have become obsessed over this past year with them– waving their winds and casting spells. So, I wanted to enjoy the books alongside them. Second, I’ve already mentioned that I’m a librarian. I would have to have actually tried hard not to read it all these years. And that’s true because I was the perfect age when the series was launched twenty years ago to be one of Rowling’s Potterheads. I read the first one in college and thought, eh. Then never continued. Now was the time. And the third reason is just because. I like a good challenge. I like having goals.

And I can say that it feels pretty darn good, like I was channeling all of those non-readers out there that were turned into readers because of this series. There’s a reason Rowling is a billionaire because the books, the characters, the world she created is breathtaking.

There were instances where I had to sit back and marvel at her storytelling and commend her genius. She was building an empire. It’s the reason there is an entire website (Pottermore) dedicated to the books where you can be sorted into your house (proud Ravenclaw), discover your wand (10” English Oak with unicorn hair core and unbending flexibility), and find out what your patronus is (husky). You can visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Studios in Orlando. You can buy Lego sets and tshirts. You want to be (fill in the blank character). All because of these seven books.

Now, I’ll be the first to say that the books are doorstoppers and readers can get bogged down in the details. But as a whole, it’s an experience and makes me appreciate Rowling’s statement

“I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book”.

It should be on bucket lists and scored alongside other significant life events not only to marvel at them like a famous painting or classic car but to kick start out imaginations young or old.

I’ll make one last point for those that haven’t read the series and might consider it whether you’re fifteen or sixty-eight: know that there are many who would give anything to be in your place. A friend made a passing comment about my reading the series that I took to heart: what she wouldn’t give to go back and read them for the first time. Surely you have at least one book that you would kill for the opportunity to go back and read for the first time.

Harry Potter enriched so many lives and continues with each generation of kids. With translations closing in on one hundred languages, the series won’t go out of style. Many would argue that it belongs in the top five for best children’s literature of all time, maybe even #1.

Now, let’s see if I can squeeze in the Harry Potter movie marathon before summer’s end. It’s entirely likely based on all this rain we’ve been having…

 
 

8 ways to prepare for a readathon

8WaystoPrepare

If you look back at some of my posts like Fin or #RiotGrams Challenge Complete and even the recent Sandwiches!,  I like the feeling of setting a goal and completing it.

Enter the readathon.

This 24-hour readathon site and initiative was established in 2007. Why I’ve only heard about this in 2018, I’m not sure, but I’m penciled in for the foreseeable future.

And since I was going all in, I set a stopwatch to track how much time I was actively reading. I knew I’d need to stop, but it wasn’t going to be for sleep if I could help it. In total, I read for 17 hours and 30 minutes, stopping for one 45 minute nap at 2am (quickly followed by tea to wake me back up) and another 20 minute nap at 2pm. The rest of stoppage time was for social media check-ins and family needs.

Here’s a list of how to prepare for your first (or fiftieth):

  1. Buy something special like a set of pajamas to make the occasion special (I did!) and either stay in them for 24 hours, but if that’s impossible at least rock a bookish tshirt. Or, maybe it’s your favorite snack, a new throw, the most recent book by your favorite author.
  2. Organize your book pile (or sync up your audio and e-books) with a variety of options to suit your mood and the time of day. There’s something to be said for mixing it up and keeping it interesting throughout the time.
  3. Pick your poison. Like your book pile, what will sustain you? Regular meals, themed snacks, what are you going to drink? I bought my favorite candy for a late night snacks, drank a few pots of tea, but then ate meals with my family, celebrating with a bowl of ice cream in the last half an hour.
  4. Make it a team effort or a group sport. The cheering section was loud on social media through the readathon outlets, but I also included my family. My two boys read with me for the first hour, randomly throughout the day, and the last half hour it was a full family affair. Meanwhile, the dog spent most of his time trying to figure out what I was doing, but he was the most faithful cheerleader.
  5. Change your scenery. 24-hours is a long time and the sun sets and rises again, so mix up where you’re reading. I read outside, inside, on the couch, in the tub.
  6. Cheer on others! This was my favorite part of checking in. I even created a public Instagram a few days prior so that I could share throughout the readathon and use it for new challenges and some amateur bookstagramming.
  7. Set a realistic goal. I wanted to make my first one epic, so I knew I was going to try to read as much as possible and sleep as little as possible. But for some that’s improbable because of work, home, or life in between. So know your limits and have fun in between with whatever you contribute.
  8. Read! Isn’t that the whole point? Of all of the books I read during that time, I was immersed in Holly Black’s faerie world in The Cruel Prince. Then there were some duds too, but that’s all in a 24-hour day’s work.

And as the readathon came to a close and thank yous were messaged and final page counts tallied, they announced the next one. October 20th. Who’s in?

 

Doing it backwards: My first readathon is a reverse readathon

DoingItBackwardsAfter beginning on the William C. Morris Award Committee this past winter, I became a follower of my fellow committee members on social media. Sarah, who blogs here at Sarah Reads Too Much on WordPress blogged recently about various readathons and activities she does with her reading and one of the recent posts intrigued me about a readathon. I’ve never participated in one and it’s summer time, so why the heck not!?

ReadathonButtonI got on the Dewey Twitter page and their website and discovered that their traditional readathons start in the morning and ends the next morning but they threw in a summer REVERSE marathon that will begin at night and end the next night both because it is friendly to folks on the other side of the world, and why not?!

And I never go half in to anything I do (Sandwiches! here’s looking at you), so I am going to try to read for as much of the 24 hours as I can. I know I have one obligation that will take me out of commission for an hour and a half tomorrow afternoon and aside from a family meal, I want to get as close to 24 hours as I can. I’m actually going to run a stopwatch of reading time to let you know in a follow up post how much time I dedicated because why not?! 

Part of being a member of this community where you sign up is to also connect with fellow bookworms, checking in on your social media outlets. I’ll update on Twitter and Instagram. Be on the lookout for updates to what I’m reading, a cute pajama outfit I bought for the occasion, my snacks, day reading attire, and more. Yes, I did buy a pajama outfit for this. Tell me why wouldn’t you?! 

So follow me on my bookish adventure with the hashtags #reversereathon and  #readathon, see what I’m reading, where I’m reading, what I’m wearing, what I’m eating. Why not?! 

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2018 in Events, Librarian Life, Miscellaneous