Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday Post #26


Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer hosts the weekly (duh) Sunday Post link-up.  I haven't participated in nearly a year, but I'm still in that post-New Years "I'm going to do better in all things" glow, so here I am.  *waves* I've made myself a quick template to help me stay more concise. Part of why I drifted away from the Sunday Post was because a) I wrote too much and then b) my month-end summaries felt redundant.


What I Read
I am deep into the Cybils judging process. My category is "Jr. and Sr. High Nonfiction" and I'm enjoying diving into various topics. I can't say much about the books yet, other than they all deserved to make it to this round of judging. This week I made it through:
Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, a Monumental American Man by Tonya Bolden
The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler, written and illustrated by John Hendrix
The Grand Escape: The Greatest Prison Breakout of the 20th Century by Neal Bascomb

If you have any interest in learning more about Douglass than "escaped slave turned powerful orator," or if you enjoy nonfiction graphic novels about great moral struggles, or if you are a fan of daring POW escapes, I recommend each of these books, respectively.

The nonfiction I'm reading is all for a younger audience, but it still challenges my attention more than my usual steady diet of fiction, so I'm balancing these with some middle grade books I can fly through and then add to my Book Talk repertoire at school.  I shared three of them with you last week, but the one I read this week was one I've heard so much buzz about, especially on Twitter from other educators. It is:

The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden. Hoo boy. I really don't want to spoil anything, but this portrayal of a tween girl living in poverty, trying to keep everything together, is powerful, thought-provoking, and just all around wonderful. I find that middle grade novels either fall into the "This is a great book for kids, but kind of boring for me," or "HOLY MACKINOLY; THAT WAS AMAZING." Octopus is the latter.



What I'm Reading/What's Next
I just started (for Cybils) We Are Not Yet Equal, which is the YA edition of White Rage. The book posits that on a societal level, the white power structure is determined to stamp out any sign of black (or other iPOC) signs of success. I'm just a few chapters in, and already very fired up. I think it's going to be really good, if really depressing and painful.

I have a few other Cybils books I hope to get to this week--probably Spooked and/or Just Mercy (young readers' edition). A couple of recent additions to my classroom library that I'd love to read IF THE DANG KIDS HADN'T ALREADY CHECKED THEM OUT are Slave Day and To Catch a Killer, or I might read one my two dozen library books, like The Rosie Project, Olive Kitteridge, or Tyler Johnson Was Here.

Three Terrific Things
1. A definite highlight of my week was Skyping with author Sarah Cannon in each of my reading classes. We met through a Twitter project, #KidsNeedMentors, which is all about matching published authors with classrooms, so kids can learn more about real world writing. I teach reading specifically, not language arts, so we don't do a lot of writing, but I still wanted to participate. Sarah was lovely, and funny, and had really interesting information about writing and publishing. For example, the first book she published (the bizarre and hilarious Oddity) is actually the fifth book she wrote. Which is so encouraging, right? Like, you can write a book and have it be crappy, and it's okay because you are JUST LEARNING. So then you can take what you learned and write another book and hopefully it's less crappy, or at least crappy in different ways. Do I want to write a book? I don't even know, but I sure am thinking about the idea a lot now. 

2. My husband made me some dangerously delicious granola from scratch. Like, just for me, just because I said I wanted some. 

3. Saturday was unusually (for me) social because my oldest sister and her husband were visiting from out of town, so we all got together, something that hasn't happened in a few years, and THEN we went to the wedding reception of one of my co-workers. Good people + good food = worth losing a day of reading (every once in awhile).






Keeping it Real
Because the whole business of curating your life so it looks perfect is highly overrated, I figure I'll share something less than impressive each week. Last weekend I took down Christmas, except I forgot a) the door wreath, b) the festive tins in the downstairs bathroom and c) the large ornaments on a tree in the front yard. 

And they are all still there. And probably will be at least another week. My neighbors love me.


Have a great week!




Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Serendipity

serendipity

If you find good things without looking for them, serendipity — unexpected good luck — has brought them to you.
Serendipity does not come from Latin or Greek, but rather was created by a British nobleman in the mid 1700s from an ancient Persian fairy tale. The meaning of the word, good luck in finding valuable things unintentionally, refers to the fairy tale characters who were always making discoveries through chance. You can thank serendipity if you find a pencil at an empty desk just as you walk into an exam and realize that you forgot yours.

I don't believe in fate. Nor do I believe in divine intervention. God doesn't care who wins the Superbowl, who beats their cancer and who doesn't, or even who can or can't "handle" the various miseries life throws their way.  
But I do believe in serendipity. I have a long, affectionate relationship with the word. In fifth grade, my "reading group" had maxed out the 1970s basal readers and anthologies provided by my school district, so our teacher found a new one. It was called "Serendipity," and when I asked what it meant, it was the first time in my life and adult couldn't answer that question. We looked it up together, and agreed that it was a wonderful word. Obviously, learning a word that GROWN-UPS DIDN'T EVEN KNOW made me feel like a genius, which might say more than I want it to about my school smugness at that age. But I freakin' OWNED that word. When my best friend and I found a secret hideaway near a drainage creek in the new housing development that had popped up between our neighborhoods, we, fresh from reading Bridge to Terabithia, decided it needed a name, and that was, of course, Serendipity. 
A few weeks ago, during winter break, my family was driving to the beach for the day. We'd heard it was prime whale watching season, and the weather was decent, so why not? As I drove, I imagined us stopping for lunch when we arrived at the Dory Cove and ordering clam chowder. Mmmm. But then, some 10 miles before then, I suddenly thought I'd like to stop at the Otis Café, which is not even quite to the coast yet. "Let's just see how crowded it is," I told the family when suggesting it.
File:Otis Cafe.jpg
Photo by Visitor7 from WikiMedia Commons
The parking lot wasn't as full as it can be, so we stopped. But when we went in, every place was full, and most people were clearly either just starting or still waiting for their order. It was going to be awhile, and there was no place indoors to wait. I was dithering, my husband was making his "Just decide already" face, and our daughter was going "What? What?" because she couldn't hear what we were saying. In the midst of all that, I saw someone seated at the counter smiling at me.
It was the husband of a woman I used to work with. We were good friends some ten years ago. She helped me with my hiking club, and when my husband and I spent a year abroad, we rented her and some friends our house for the price of just our mortgage. She met her husband that year, and we made a cake for their wedding reception potluck. But then she'd changed districts and moved across town, and then we adopted our kids and they had their kids, and it'd been years since we'd seen each other. They don't even live in Oregon any more, but were in Portland visiting his family over the holidays, then slipped away for an anniversary trip to the coast. 
We hugged and exclaimed and laughed and hugged some more, standing in the middle of the crowded café. We made sure we had current contact information and made tentative plans to get together again on purpose. We slid into their empty seats as they headed out on their way and had a terrific lunch, and I was left smiling with the joy of reconnecting with two of the most genuinely joyful and kind people I've ever known.  

Had I stuck with my original lunch plan. Had they eaten a little bit faster. Had my husband not seen an article about whale watching. Had they not been visiting family. So many little factors went into our chance meeting. 
Yesterday my sister sent me a picture of a red breasted sapsucker eating suet in her backyard. We've seen flickers and downy woodpeckers and hairy woodpeckers all our lives, but this spectacular red head was really something. Today I was just turning a corner in my car when I saw the same species working over a tree in the traffic meridian. I gasped. 

Serendipity.

Photo by Gillphoto on WikiMedia Commons



And now I have two discussion questions for you!
1) What are some words that you love?
2) What are some moments of serendipity you've enjoyed?

Monday, January 14, 2019

TTT: New (To Me) Authors from 2018



With the delightful bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish moving on to other things, TTT is now hosted by just one of their contingent, That Artsy Reader Girl .  If you want to quadruple the size of your TBR AND find a bunch of great book blogs to follow head on over and check it out!

The topic this week is: NEW TO ME AUTHORS IN 2018 which is great, because I am nowhere near done reflecting on my reading year. I also like that it's not just debut authors, because let's face it, we don't always read debuts in the year they're written. There are some debuts from 2014 on this list. Or sometimes we read an author's fourth work ten years after they publish it, and that's okay too. If any of these authors are new to you, I highly recommend them, and if they are not new to you, I grant you permission to feel quietly smug about having discovered them before I did.



1. As I mentioned in one of my many attempts to sum up my 2018 reading year, Dashka Slater amazed me with not one, but two books in not one, but two genres and not one, but two formats. Which is a messy way of saying she wrote THIS

33155325

and THIS

26796138



The 57 Bus details the events leading up to and then stemming from an incident on an Oakland bus in which a black teenaged boy set fire to the skirt of a white nonbinary teen. The cover says "Two sides of the same crime / Two ends of the same line," which hints at both the balanced reporting Slater does and at the poetic sensibility she brings to the story. The Antlered Ship is a picture book, beautifully illustrated by the Tan brothers, about a curious fox setting sail with some deer and pigeons.

Dashka Slater




2. I would not have expected a charming NA graphic novel about a southern, gay hockey player to have been written by a Ngozi Ukazu, which just goes to show that stereotypes exist to be smashed. It is a ton of fun as well as very engaging, and I look forward to seeing what she does next.

Ngozi Ukazu        37534577




3.  It's pretty much impossible to choose a favorite book out of the 180+ I read in 2018, but Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a serious contender, which means Gail Honeyman definitely needs to be on this list. I now know that "debut" does not actually equal "first thing the author ever wrote," but even given that, I am still in awe that this book is as achingly beautiful as it is.

Gail Honeyman  31434883




4. Justina Ireland has been publishing for awhile, and I've been following her on twitter since before I started hearing about Dread Nation, but it's the first of her books I've read, and now I'm basically just sitting around waiting for the next book in the series to come out. 


Related image         30223025




5. K. Ancrum wrote the beautiful, heart-breaking, and did I mention beautiful? Wicker King. I am very interested in reading more of her work.

 . 33158541


6. I loved S. K. Ali's debut, Saints and Misfits, and I'm excited to learn that she has both another novel and a picture book coming out this year. I also adore this author photo of her looking kind of excited about drinking out of a mug with her book cover on it.


S.K. Ali    31123249



7. I picked up Orphan, Monster, Spy at ALAN in 2017, but didn't get around to reading it until last summer. Matt Killeen's debut is, to quote my succinct Goodreads review in its entirety, "Intense, violent, exciting, and moving." And hey, look! I did not read only women this year! 

Matt Killeen  35575184

8. Marcie Rendon's debut novel (she's a published poet already) was another ALAN gift. The hardscrabble characters of Murder on the Red River have stuck with me for months now, and I hope she writes more and more and more. 

Image result for marcie rendon     29633624



9. I had never heard of In The After, its sequel In the End, or their author, Demetria Lunetta before a new teacher in my building started reading the first book to her students. The ones we share could NOT stop talking about it, so I borrowed it from her. It's a fast-paced and tense dystopian series with solid characterization, weakened only by the Inevitable Love Triangle, and all I can figure is that it got lost in the great Dystopia Flood of 2010-2015. Check her books out! 


Demitria Lunetta .  12157407 . 18140842

10. Fine, fine, I'll let another white guy onto the list. I only picked up Paul Durham's The Luck Uglies because it's a title in the 6-8th grade Oregon Battle of the Books, and I'm trying to support my teams by reading as many as I can. (Remind me to tell you about how I accidentally agreed to host 14 schools at my school despite never having participated in this event before and having no idea of what I'm supposed to do.) I don't like the title, and I don't like the cover, but I really, really liked this middle grade fantasy. Rye is a delight, and the world is just odd enough to hold surprises without being confusing. 

Paul Durham  18635085



Below are ALL the new-to-me authors whose books I read and rated 4 or more stars in 2018. 



Dashka Slater
Gail Honeyman
Ngozi Ukazu
Justina Ireland
Nnedi Okorafor
Jennifer Latham
Tommy Orange
K. Ancrum
S. K. Ali
Esther Ehrlich
Frank Viva
Matt Killeen
Mike, Linda, and Louise Carey
Will Kostakis
Mark Long
Marcie Rendon
Flavia Biondi
Jonathan Tropper
Demitria Lunetta
Stphanie Tromly
Paul Durham
Molly Ostertag
Sarah Tolcser
Emily Lloyd-Jones
Karen Blumenthal
Mark Dunn
Margot Harrison
Karen M. McManus
Tara Altebrando
Demetra Brodsky
Ibi Zobio
Rachel M. Wilson
Benjamin Renner
Vicki Grant
Tara Westover
Michelle Knudson
Jen Wang
Aisha Saeed
Melanie Gillman
Alexandra Bracken
Elizabeth Acevedo