Sunday, February 28, 2016

February Wrap-up

My Reading

Books read: 17, which is fewer than last month, but a) I didn't get sick and spend extra time at home, and b) I read some lengthy grown-up novels this month.  I remain happy with the amount of reading I'm getting to.


Orbiting Jupiter was a re-read for me, but this was my first time reading it to students.  As often happens, I became more aware of the writer's craft by reading aloud--between the slower pace and the aural element, I can actually appreciate what the author does with rhythm and repetition.  Jack's simple language and viewpoint reveals as much as it hides.  One class in particular loved it--many of the same kids that were so passionate about Margaret Peterson Haddix have now become obsessed with Gary D. Schmidt.  One student has a CASA who gently reminded me that this book might be triggering for some students who have gone through their own version of Joseph's hellish childhood, so I tried to create a safe space for having strong emotional responses to the book.  But really, this sweet group of kids made their own safe place for each other, so passionate were they in their feelings of protectiveness towards Joseph and Jupiter.  I'd given it four stars when I first read it last fall, but it was a five star read-aloud.  

I finished two books I'd started reading to my kids last month.  My daughter and I made a triumphant finish of the illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone I got her for Christmas, and have begun the next book in the series (a used paperback, but the story IS THE SAME regardless of packaging).  My sister and brother-in-law gave my son two "Ghosts of War" books, and we finished The Secret of Midway.  This was pretty much NOT something I would have read otherwise--a  middle grade battle book.  My son was rapt.  I would have found it boringly informative at his age, but he was fine with it.  We have not rushed on to the sequel.  In fact, he likes to come in and listen while I'm reading the next Harry Potter, having seen the movies and therefore able to follow the story even if he's not there each time I read to his sister.

Mildly Disappointing

Rules is a much praised book that I started as a read-aloud last semester.  We didn't quite get through it, but we were far enough that I figured I may as well take a half hour and finish it.  It was okay.  I thought the narrator was a little weird in her obsession with making the new girl next door into Diana to her Anne.  I also thought my students were a little disingenuous when they were upset that she didn't see the kid with CP as a potential crush.

I bumped The Accident Season up my TBR list when I noticed a girl in my advisory reading it.  But it turned out to not be a book I'd really want to discuss with a student I don't know well.  I think the premise is awesome, but the execution was a little weird.  I had trouble with the sense of place also--other than all the teens smoking, it didn't seem very non-US to me.  


Lots of books I liked this month!  I buckled down and caught up on my Uppercase subscription books, and Wolf by Wolf and Starflight were both fun reads.  I Am Princess X caught my eye months ago, and I'm glad I talked our librarian into ordering it for the school library.  I've been wanting to read Me and Earl and the Dying Girl ever since I heard Jesse Andrews speak at NCTE last fall, and I was not disappointed.  The protagonist/narrator is hilarious and awful, as promised.  Walter Dean Myers' Lockdown is one I think my students will really like once I get one of them to try it and back me up on that.  It's grim, but offers some hope as well.  I also read the latest Sophie Hannah mystery, Woman with a Secret, and thought it was great.  The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was a bit of an impulse read, with no idea of even the premise, and it was one of the most enjoyable vampire books I've come across.

Double wow!

There were several books that were terrific, but not all-time favorites.  I listened to Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, and I'm so glad I chose that medium.  Not If I See You First is definitely my favorite Uppercase offering so far.  When I was booktalking it, I noticed what a terrible case of "absent YA parents" it has--"Well, this girl is blind because of an accident when she was younger that killed her mom too, and then when she's in high school her dad dies, so she's living with her aunt and uncle and a cousin that she hates..."  It is powerful, and a great example of a "diversity book" that isn't ABOUT the thing that makes the protagonist a "diverse" character.  I learned some stuff about blindness and how not to approach blind people, but the actual story is about the character dealing with human emotions and relationships, forgiveness and friendship.  Marcelo in the Real World is my first read by the marvelously named Francisco X. Stork, and I will definitely be reading more by him.  Finally, I stretched myself a little and read a book of Mary Oliver poetry, A Thousand Mornings.  Reading poetry collections is like reading short stories in that it's next to impossible to be equally impressed with every single offering, but there were many poems in here that I found moving.

Wow, wow, wow!

Have I mentioned my book-crush on Matt de la Peña? A few times, you say?  Well, you can keep your book boyfriends; I'm more likely to have author boyfriends (or girlfriends--I have SUCH a crush on Ursula le Guin, even if she's older than my mom would be were she still alive).  So it was pretty much a given that I would adore Ball Don't Lie.  I need a bunch of more copies so I can keep pressing it into kids's hands.  Sticky's life sucks.  Sticky (like de la Peña) might be able to get to college on a basketball scholarship.  Sticky makes some good choices and some bad choices.  You might think it's either going to be a heartbreaking tragedy, or possibly a triumphant sports book.  It is neither.  Sticky learns (spoiler) that while basketball might really be his ticket out of the hellishness of poverty and the loneliness of life bouncing from foster home to foster home, it is not what makes him worthy of love and happiness.  That sounds SO LAME when I say it, which is why Matt de la Peña is an author and I'm not.  

Assorted Stats

I don't know how to disaggregate my stats without doing it by hand, which kind of defeats the purpose of keeping track on a spreadsheet, SO...I'm going to just update my 2016 stats each month.  
Of the books I've read this year,  20% earned 3 stars, 50% earned 4 stars, and 30% earned 5 stars.  I'm liking or loving everything I read!  

I get nearly half of my books from the public library.  In descending order, I get the other books by buying them new, from my Uppercase subscription, from my classroom library, from the school library, and buying used copies.  

66% of the books I've read were written by women, 75% of the books I've read were written by white authors, and 82% of them are by Americans.  31% of what I've read have been authorial debuts, and 67% of the authors have been new to me.  

Well over half of the books I read are YA, with the rest being MG, picture books, and adult books in fairly equal measure.  I've read 24 realistic fiction books, 5 mysteries, 8 fantasies and 3 historical fiction.  "Funny" and "magical realism" are two write-in categories I've used.  

My Writing

This will be my 15th post this month.  Given that my goal when school started up in September was to continue posting twice a week, I'm happy with how much I'm able to produce for the blog. I've also started writing ahead for the A-Z blogging challenge in April, and have posts A-F already written, which makes me feel very accomplished and ahead of things.  (Don't ask about my housekeeping, okay?  It's a mess.  We don't care.  Move on.)

I participated in three Top Ten Tuesday memes, writing about my ten favorite book couples, ten songs I'd like to see made into books (boy did that week's blog hop make me feel ancient!), and (fewer than) ten books I'd enjoyed that were outside of my comfort zone.  I reviewed Ball Don't Lie, Marcelo in the Real World, and Life After Life, as well as a comparison of the small towns featured in All The Rage, I'll Meet You There and Sharp Objects.  My participation in Modern Mrs. Darcy's "What's Saving Your Life Right Now?" linkup garnered the most page views, and my TTT about favorite couples earned the most comments.

I talked about my classroom a few times, listing the most popular authors in my classroom library, reflecting on an author's visit I took students on, and describing the development of one of my students, who likes horror/romance, a genre I'm not well versed in at all.

In addition to committing to the upcoming A-Z challenge, I pushed myself a little with a blog improvement survey, and by volunteering to host the giveaway for one of Nicole's Discussion Challenge linkups at Feed Your Fiction Addiction.   


I have mixed feelings about February as a month.  There are many important people in my life who have birthdays this month, plus my first date with my husband was on Feb. 3rd.  February can be depressingly cold and rainy here in the Northwest, but we also get the first primroses, forsythia, and crocuses (croci?) blooming this month.  My dad died two years ago in February, and this year two friends lost parents in this cold, dark month.  Another friend at work got bad news about his dad's health AND about his job security.  What would have been my sister's 32nd wedding anniversary took place almost a year after her divorce.  My kids kept getting sick and/or injured, and my husband's insomnia kicked it up a notch.  I feel like I spent a lot of the month vaguely worried about people.

There were some good times this February.  My husband and I finally rented and watched Mockingjay Part 1, then realized part 2 was showing at a local second run theater.  He went and watched it last Friday while I took the kids to Cinderella at the library, then I met my sister and nephew there the next night to see it myself.  They hadn't read the books or seen the prior movies, which I think speaks clearly to HER urge to get out of the house and HIS appreciation of Jennifer Lawrence's hotness.  My other nephew's wife had a baby two days ago, so I'm now great-aunt to both a girl and a boy.  

We finally pulled ourselves together as parents and instigated a Mon-Thurs screens ban for our kids, and it's making our evenings more productive (if not always more peaceful), PLUS it means they are quite content to veg out on the weekends if that's all the adults have energy for.  

My kids attend two different schools, so their conferences are spread out across the next two weeks, meaning SHE was off two days this week and HE will be off two days next week.  My husband is taking each kid in turn up to the mountain for an overnight, while the other child gets to hang out with me at home.  We all enjoyed it this weekend and are looking forward to next weekend.

They worked on creating our family in snow.  I'm digging the glasses, but my husband does not have a goatee IRL.

I still love my job.  :)  I've had some kids get really into their books lately.  As Gary D. Schmidt himself says in Orbiting Jupiter

“You know how teachers are. If they get you to take out a book they love too, they're yours for life.”



  1. I love the new font and color! I loved the old look, but the new look totally caught my eye today! You also have so many books listed above that I am very eager to read so it was great to hear so many wonderful reviews! I was able to meet Gary Schmidt in person last fall, and he is truly a remarkable person!

    1. Thank you! I like blue ever so much more than orange and brown. I had a great reading month for sure.

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  3. Wow - it does sound like February's a month of mixed emotions for you. Lots of things going on, both good and bad. Hope that March is full of lots of highs with less lows!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  4. It sounds like February was a busy month for you! You read so many interesting books; I'd never heard of Matt de la Pena before but I shall have to check out his books now. Also, that's amazing that you've written 15th posts for the month! Good luck with all of your challenges and hopefully March will be a wonderful month!


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