Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I'm two!

Not really, but this blog is.  Which makes much more sense, right?  Since babies can't type.


A couple of summers ago, I realized how much I was enjoying reading and commenting on book blogs and thought--hey, maybe I should make my own instead of hogging people's comment sections!  And so it began.

This blog, and the blogging/reading community, has given me a lot.  I wrote a bunch in last year's first anniversary post about what a lifesaver it's been to develop a creative outlet and something that's just for me during this very busy season of my life. Actually, having just now re-read that post, I am kind of tempted to just link to it and call it a day.  Looks like I was a little more organized this time last year.  Or a little more stunned to have made it a year.  By now the blog feels like part of my life.

Instead of repeating myself, then, let's trot out a few stats.

  • I have published 435 posts in the past two years.  Them's a lot of words.
  • I've had 35.533 page views, according to Blogger.  I have no real idea what this means, especially since it wasn't too long ago the stats thing told me I'd had 36 page views in one week but over 300 views of a specific post on that day.  I'm no mathematician, but something is definitely fishy about that.    
  • My most viewed post remains the one linked to Modern Mrs. Darcy, about what was saving my bacon last February.
  • I've read 433 books during the time I've been blogging, per rough Goodreads count.
  • In two years, I've written 32 individual reviews and 19 review sets
  • I've participated in the daily Slice of Life challenge twice, Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon three times, been a round 2 Cybils judge twice, attempted but failed the A-Z challenge once, guest posted for Nerdy Book Club a handful of times, linked up a post with Shannon's Shattering Stigmas event last August, beaten my Goodreads goal into submission repeatedly, messed around with Top Ten Tuesday (often), Monthly Wrap-ups (faithfully), Discussion posts (infrequently but steadily), Sunday Posts (steadily for awhile, then I kind of stopped), and attended six author events at my local bookstore.
Later this week I'm going to share some goals I have for my blogger-self in the next year.  Why later this week?  Well, because first I have to think of some, then I have to write them down...but no, "blogging ahead" is probably not going to be one of my goals.  This seat-of-the-pants thing works for me, and keeps this blog a hobby instead of a chore.  

For now, I will leave you with some photos of our recent weekend near Mt. Hood and--hooray!--a giveaway.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Confessions of a Bad Reader

I checked out a brand-new book (put it on hold at the library months before it came out).  I read it by the pool.  The bottom of the pages got damp from resting against my tummy after I'd been in the water.  You know how thin paper wrinkles even after it's dried?  I did that.  To a brand new book.  That isn't mine.

The scene of the crime.

This got me thinking about all the other, um, problematic things I do (or fail to do) as a reader.  Once I got going, it was hard to stop.

I place books open and upside down to hold my spot.  I don't care about the spine getting broken.

I eat while I read, and I leave smudges (usually chocolate).

I let my kids watch movies before they've read the book.  Then I don't even make them read the book.

If I visit a blog, and don't recognize any of the books, instead of thinking, "Oh, I could learn so much on this blog!" I think "Not interested" and never come back.

It took me way too long to see the racism and genocide lurking in every single pioneer/ covered wagon/ Oregon trail story.  I still have to fight the urge to make excuses for cultural appropriation and insensitivity in Eleanor and Park and Ghosts.

I have spent well over a thousand dollars buying books for my classroom library this year, then I turn around and tell my kids we're too broke to go out for dinner.

Of all the attributes of youth I've lost--eating like a pig without gaining weight, having energy all day long, not having any serious responsibilities, doing headstands, drinking strong men under the table and waking up feeling fine the next day--the one I miss most is being able to read in a car without getting nauseated.  Well, okay, it's really the "not having serious responsibilities" one, but reading in a car is definitely second.

I don't read to my kids every day.  I don't even read to them every week, although when we're involved in a book, that's not the case.

When I was a teenager, someone casually referred to me as "well-read" and I was so flattered that I spent the next ten years trying to prove them right.  Most of my classics and serious lit-ra-chur reading came during this time period.  Okay, this sounds like a humble-brag to me, because I still can't quite shake that feeling that a) being "well-read" is an actual, quantifiable thing and b) it's something that would make me better than other "less well-read" people.  WHAT IS THIS NONSENSE?!?

Ursula Le Guin is my literary idol.  I accidentally sold a book she'd signed to me because when the buyer said, "oh, and it's signed!" I was too embarrassed to snatch it back from him. *Kicks self.*

I totally believed the whole "story behind the story" thing with The Princess Bride and actually argued about it with a colleague who was teaching the book.

I used to sneak-read the smut books my dad kept by his bedside.  I was appalled by some bits ("She put his WHAT in her mouth?  Why would she do that?") but fascinated overall.  Then my parents caught me showing my best friend, and they told her parents, and her mom laughed at us.  It was horrifying.

I pretend I shop at local independent bookstores because it's the right thing to do, but actually it's because I can't stand waiting for books to be delivered, and I love wandering around looking at books.

Look at those awnings.  Wouldn't you rather walk down this street than fill a cart online?

Which of these confessions horrify you the most?  Which can you relate to?  Best of all--WHAT NEW AND DIFFERENT BOOK CONFESSIONS do you have?

I don't have a pool, by the way.  My kid wisely made friends with a kid who lives in an apartment complex with a pool, and in exchange for being the adult in charge, I got to spend a few hours there yesterday.  This is what we mean when we tell our children "Make good choices."

Monday, June 19, 2017

TTT: Incomplete Series

The delightful bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish host this weekly list challenge.  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 them out!

The topic this week is Top Ten Series I've Been Meaning To Start But Haven't.

This is perfect timing because just last weekend I made a series tracker in my bullet journal, and included a few I haven't actually started.  Although I may be contrary and fill out my ten with some series I haven't started AND HAVE NO INTENTION OF EVER STARTING mwah ha ha.

Oh, and one more thing--I'm writing this while sitting outside at my reading nook, drinking my second cup of coffee, while my children are at school but I am not, so my general smugness happiness level is pretty high right now.  

1.  Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
I'm also writing this on the chromebook my school just issued me, and I don't know how to do accents on it.  
2.  The Reader by Traci Chee
I actually read the first few chapters, but the library wanted it back before I could get very far.

3.  Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.

4.  Serafina by Richard Beatty.  Okay, yes, I JUST NOW realized these are two different series.  What's up with that?!?

5. Willow Falls by Wendy Mass.  First, there's the Wendy solidarity.  Next, I have at least half a dozen books by her in my classroom library, but have not read a single one.  Must fix.

6.  The Selection by Kiera Cass is not something that sounds interesting to me, but so many of my students have loved it that I kind of feel like I should at least read the first one.

7.  Not gonna read Mortal Instruments.  I've tried my Cassandra Clare with the Clockwork Princess series, and while I liked them, I hear the two series are fairly interchangeable, so I'm going to move on to new things.

8. Might read Emily of New Moon by Lucy Maude Montgomery.  I will always love Anne, but I'm not sure that I can fall in love with Emily at my age and with the constant background noise of comparing her to Anne.  Still, some claim Emily's story is even better, so I'm curious for sure.

9.  Never gonna read 50 Shades.  Please don't make me justify this.  Not judging anyone who read it.  Well, not too harshly.

10. Not planning on reading any of Sarah J. Maas's series.  I tried the first book twice before realizing it just wasn't going to work for me.

Okay, now I'm off to work on my re-read of Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series so I can read the fifth installment all freshened up.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Summer Book Nook

I brought so many books home from my classroom library that I haven't had a chance to read yet.

Too many to find room for in the house, really.   So I took some other stuff I'm storing over the summer and created a book nook on our front (covered) porch.  

There are fewer than 100 books on here, so, no problem, right? RIGHT?

I'm sharing the porch with broken bikes, the lawnmower, and my kids' random junk. But it's okay!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Matching Kids to Books (Putting the Brakes on Summer Slide, Part 3)

That, right up there in the title, is what I think of as my job description.  There's more to it--like teaching them transferable academic skills--but the piece I'm passionate about is putting the right book into the hands of the right student.

So when I started thinking about combatting summer slide, the idea of sending each kid home with a book chosen specifically for them made my mind start buzzing with ideas.  I spent all spring collecting books, hampered by my inability to afford a new hardcover release for each kid.  I had to be a little more creative, seeing what I found that I knew was good, and then figuring out who would like it most.  In some cases I had a general idea, e.g. "fantasy graphic novel" and looked until I found something that fit the bill.  And in a few cases there was One Book I wanted to get a kid, and I was able to find an affordable copy.

Today was the day of unwrapping.  I hadn't told the kids what I was doing, so when I started pulling butcher-paper encased rectangles out of a box and calling out names, there was confusion and excitement.

For me?

Oh, it's a book.  Is yours a book too?

Oh, they're ALL books.  Did we all get the same book?

Wait, do we get to keep these?

As each class worked out what was happening, there were laughter and thank you's.  I'd actually forgotten most of what I'd picked out, so it was fun to see kids discover what I'd chosen.  And it was absolutely fulfilling to see kids realize I'd picked a book FOR THEM.

For my Twilight fan who was intimidated by the novel--a graphic novel version.  She almost cried.

For the kid who only liked one book all year--its sequel.  He held it up to me, wordlessly beaming.

For my Disney fan--a fairy tale mash-up.  "Did you know what it's about?" she gasped in wonder.

For my lowest reader--Spy Vs. Spy.  He was jokingly complaining about me giving him a book, but as he flipped through it, his jaw dropped, and he started grinning.  "You got me a book WITHOUT WORDS?!? And it's FUNNY?!?"

I could tell how seen they felt.  They could tell how much I value them continuing to read this summer.  And I don't mean to write this post as "Oh look at me, I'm so nice I gave my students books." I just wanted to be able to share how much FUN it was to see their wonder and delight at getting a book picked just for them.   It's enormously satisfying to know I got it right for many of them.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer Reading, I'll Have Me A Blast

Okay, that was kind of a stretch.  Sorry.

Now that I've talked about all the reasons and ways I'm trying to get my students to read over the summer as well, its time to focus on ME.

Sometimes I think that now that I'm blogging I spend more time thinking about and reading about books than I do actually READING books, but then I realize that I'm actually reading about 3 times annually what I used to read when I was "just" a bookworm.  That makes me feel better about all the book-related stuff I do.  Besides, it's fun!

For example, I made a list of some books I really hope to get to this summer.  Some were on last summer's list.  And that's okay!  And I know I'll read plenty that's not on this list.  I'm just trying to focus my enthusiasm a tiny bit.

I've also made a (not very pretty) series tracker.  I hadn't realized how many series I'm behind on!  And this is the whittled down version--I left off some that I might get back to some day and tried to focus on the ones that I really do intend to keep reading.

I brought home a case of three dozen books from my classroom library, all books I've been meaning to read all year but never got to.  Again, I probably won't read all of them, but I will read some of them for sure.

THEN I committed to the book-a-day challenge started by Donalyn Miller.  I'll be tracking those books here.
(and here)

It really does make me happy that there are so many great books to look forward to!  Have I mentioned yet how much I love summer?

Not actually related, but I borrowed a friend's botanical sketch book and came up with this.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Imaginary Falconer's Library Grant

Linking up with the Two Writing Teachers for the Tuesday Slice of Life challenge.

I was half asleep on the couch today and had what seemed like a brilliant idea.

You know how there are MacArthur "Genius" grants that allow people to basically not worry about money for awhile so they can just do their amazing thing?

I think there should be some sort of foundation or grant for parents.  I was thinking specifically moms, but I guess dads could qualify too.  Either way, it's specifically for parents who are introverts.

You get sent away for a week.  I'm picturing some sort of woodsy campus with those tiny houses scattered around.  During the time you're there, you do not deal with any people.  Meals are dropped off at your doorstep.  If you choose to cook, someone shows up when you're out and does the dishes.  Screens are discouraged, but you can watch up to two movies or 4 hours of TV on Netflix per day if that's your thing.

You sleep.

You read.

You take a leisurely stroll.

You take a nap.

Maybe you color a little, or listen to music.  There might be piano around that you can play without anyone listening or commenting.  There might be a swimming pool and a sauna.  If you go there, you get your own lane, and nobody tries to socialize with you.

There might be flowers, or pets, or other things you enjoy.  They are there to keep you company, but someone else is in charge of all litter boxes, and you only have to feed them, let them in/out, and walk them if you choose to.  

But the main point is you don't do anything for anyone, and you don't do anything productive--but neither do you do anything that makes you feel bad about yourself.

You just be.

Rest.  Recharge.  Come back ready to do your thing.

I can't even tell you how much I want this to be a thing.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Putting the Brakes on the Summer Slide, Part 2

For part one, in which I explain what the heck I'm talking about, go here.

During my spring break in March, I participated in a Twitter chat about combatting summer slide, and immediately fired off an enthusiastic and possibly incoherent email to my principal and our library aid.  Somewhat to my surprise, my principal responded by scheduling a meeting with the three of us plus our assistant principal, in which I laid out my suggestions in more detail.

Many reading specialists ask what good it does to keep the thousands of school library books locked away for the summer, blocks from where the kids are sitting without books.  Why not let kids check books out over the summer?  Whelp, said my principal and our library aid, because we can't afford to lose books.

My earnest idealism--0: Reality of school funding in Oregon--1.

What about setting up a Little Free Library by our school, since we're also a site for distributing lunches over the summer?  Maybe one of our handy teachers could build one?

My principal ordered a pre-built one.  I didn't even know you could do that.

My boss's "get-er-done" approach to life-1.

Other teachers on the Twitter chat (did I mention I actually managed to participate in a Twitter chat? Oh, three times already?  Sorry/not sorry) talked about giving each student a book.  I've seen this happen before--Scholastic Books offers books for a buck and other such great deals for exactly this purpose.  But you know how the clearance rack contains a lot of items that make you go, "Well, I can see why nobody bought THIS!"?  That's kind of what the cheap books are like.  So these teachers actually think about "What book would this student enjoy?" and then go buy that book, instead of just buying a bunch of books and handing them out.

Who can afford to do that for 70 kids though?  Hmm.  Maybe the person who has spent somewhere around a thousand bucks this year, give or take a few hundred, buying books for her classroom library.  So this spring, instead of adding to my library (well, in addition to, but I definitely added books at a slower rate than usual) I kept my eyes out for books for specific students.  Sometimes I found a good deal on a good book and then decided who to give it to.  For a few kids, I knew exactly which book (or author or genre) I wanted to get them, and I held out for that.  I spent as little as a dollar and as much as ten, but I think I held my average close to five.

I kept a careful list of kids and books, and my TA has spent weeks wrapping them in butcher paper and scrawling names on the outside.  I know some kids won't even read their books, but I also know that many of them will, and that some of them will be blown away with excitement when they see what I picked for them.

My love of matching books to kids--1: my budget--0

"Can we ask the local library to send someone over to get kids signed up for library cards?" my boss asked.

"They won't come," our library aid told him.  "I've asked them for years, and they say kids need to come there."

"I've emailed them three times this year to talk about cooperating on stuff, and nobody ever gets back to me," I added.

The next day, a warm but assertive email went out from the principal's office to our local library, and the teen librarian got in touch right away.

White man suggesting firmly--1: White women asking nicely: 0. 

While they were not able to issue cards at our building, they were able to bring application forms, suggest using school schedules as proof of identity and residence, and waive the requirement to have parents sign as well.  The librarian who came in let them know that the library will work with them to resolve old fines and that they've reduced overdue fines on DVDs and eliminated them on juvenile material.  She talked up both the summer reading program and all the activities the library offers over the summer, from "Escape Rooms" to scavenger hunts to movies.  I kept prompting her, "And how much do these activities cost?" and kids jaws dropped when she clarified they are free.  I also talked up how the kids can check out audiobooks on their phones, just like I've been doing for them using my own library card all year, and you don't even  have to go to the library, AND--the reason why I was comfortable sharing my account like that--you never have to worry about fines or losing anything.

Awesomeness of libraries--1,000: The two boys that kept saying, "Do we HAVE to get a library card?  Reading is dumb."-- minus 50

As we enter the final handful of days in our school year, I'm asking students to list every book they've read this year and make a visual of it.  Take a photo of the books, pose with your stack, make a digital collage of the covers, draw a bookshelf with your books on it--some way of representing their achievement.  Nearly all of them have been surprised to see how much they read this year, from the straight F student who read 42 novels (proving once again that compliance, not brains, drives grades) to the kid who said, "I've NEVER read a book!" who ended up putting three books in his pile (one he re-read this year and two books that were read aloud.  He specifically chose the two read-alouds he'd paid attention to and left out two others he'd tuned out.)  Then I'm going to have them spend a class period exploring the chain of Goodreads--Amazon previews--library website--TBR list.  I'll show them how to place holds and how to download ebooks.

And MY books will be available for checkout over the summer.  I've been telling kids, "It's okay to start a new book, because if you like it you can take it home.  Just get it back to me someday."

My earnest idealism: 2, so it ends up a positive number.  

And now, just for fun and to brag, some photos of my students' book piles from this year.

one of my most struggling readers' stack


Can you tell she loves graphic novels?


This young man made some real progress this year.


This guy fake read a few of these, but last year he spent literally all year on one book, so this is HUGE.


Last year she was where the previous kid was this year--a mix of fake reading and skimming.  This year she had a breakthrough, and I will never dis James Patterson again.


This kid--he's all about Horizon, and can't wait for the next book in the series.


And this is the kid who told me on day one how much he hates school in general and reading in particular.  He would not allow any talking while I was reading Ellie's Story to his class.  None.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Putting the Brakes on Summer Slide: part 1

One of my mom jokes (like dad jokes, only they mostly consist of me saying intentionally annoying things to entertain myself) is asking the kids, "Have I mentioned how much I love summer?" every few days all summer long.

Because I LOVE summer.  My birthday is right smack dab in the middle of it.  You can go swimming outside.  There are campfires and ice cream and wildflowers and road trips.

And yes, I'm a teacher, so I do get vacation.  It's not three solid months of sitting by the pool, but it is two solid months of not having a set schedule. It's actually the best time to do professional reading and long term planning, since my brain isn't constantly fried by the work/home hamster wheel.

But the best part (well, one of the best parts) is having time to read.  I can tackle longer works, or plow through an entire mystery series.  Get caught up on what my students are reading, or what my mother-in-law recommends.  Read in bed, read on a hammock, read at a campsite, read on a lawn chair.  Summer is the perfect time for reading.


Have you heard about the summer slide?
Like this, but not at all cool or fun.  So, not like this.

It's a term used to explain what happens to kids' knowledge and learning over the summer.  Not kids like I was, who go to summer camp and grandma's house the next state over and to the library and the park and pottery classes.  But the kids whose folks can't afford any of that.  The kids who are home alone with the TV (dating myself there!) on their devices all day.  The kids who are NOT home alone, but are responsible for younger siblings.

During a typical summer, middle class kids (as defined by not qualifying for free/reduced lunch) make minimal progress in their reading level and other academic areas.  Low income kids, however, go backwards.  This means that even if they are learning at the same pace as their peers, they get further and further behind each vacation.

from PartnerForChildren.org

How to combat this?  Read!  Studies show that kids from low income families with access to plenty of books actually make more gains than not just book-deprived peers, but high income kids who have access to books.  However, getting books into kids' hands is the big challenge.  "Book deserts" a term developed by Unite for Literacy, describes homes with fewer than 25 books available.

"But the library is free!" we say.  Which, it turns out, is easy for us to say.  We have a car to get there if it's more than a mile away.  We are comfortable asking the questions and filling out the forms to get a card issued.  We aren't anxious about providing id in this time of hostility towards immigrants.  If we rack up a few dollars in fines, we can pay without cutting into our grocery budget.

But for many, if not most, of my students, very little of this is true.  I can't tell you how many times I've surveyed my students to find out who has a library card and heard a lot of "no" and several "I used to, but then we lost a book and now we can't use it any more."

A couple of months ago I participated in my first Twitter chat (I know!  I'm proud of me too.) which was about how to combat these issues.  I got a lot of ideas. Now, I tend to be a person who gets a lot of exciting ideas but struggles with the follow through.  So in part 2 of this riveting series, I'm going to talk about what I got excited about and what I actually ended up doing to help my students keep reading over the summer.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Books Take You Places/Tell Me Where!

My library, as I have mentioned many times, is absolutely fabulous in every way.  Their latest innovation is a maker space, dubbed The Collaboratory, where patrons can use 3D printers, sewing machines, robotics, stop motion video sets, die cutters, digital drawing pads, art supplies, and more.  FOR FREE.  My daughter and I checked it out soon after it opened, and we made a few seconds of animation and some die-cut vinyl stickers.  My husband went next, and he and our daughter designed t-shirts with a computer program which then cut out the vinyl pieces, ending up with using the library's heat press to transfer their designs onto t-shirts.  All they had to supply was the t-shirt.

Since then, she's sewed a velvet bag on a machine (a first for her), he's made a 3D-printed fidget spinner, and I've been mulling over what to put on a t-shirt, since they bought me one in my favorite shade of purple when they were getting theirs.

You can't get too elaborate, so after much hemming and hawing, I've decided my shirt will say "Books Take You Places" on the front, and on the back have a list of fictional settings, almost like a concert t-shirt.  Something like:

Attolia Narnia
Thisby Middle Earth
Ketterdam Red London
Earthsea Weep
Hogwarts Tortall

Only I'm a little worried I forgot someplace important. I decided to stick to fantasy/sci fi, because once I've added Green Gables and Camp Green Lake, I start wanting to include New York and Alaska and now we're no longer differentiating fiction from geography. But what about places I wouldn't want to visit, like Panem or Prentisstown? Hmm.

So we're going to take a survey. Yay! I love surveys. After you take the survey, I'll tell you which ones I already know I'm going to include for sure, but until then, let me know what settings you would definitely include on a shirt like this.

Okay, as to what I already know I want to include: Thisby, Ketterdam, Attolia, Ankh-Morpork, Earthsea, and Weep. I'm curious to see what you come up with!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

!4 Paragraphs about 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

This part doesn't count--it's just where I explain that this is not a review so much as a reflection on what the book got me thinking about.  Hence no summary or rating and very little analysis of the writing.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl was a complicated, thought-provoking read for me.  I feel like my life has the opposite trajectory of Lizzie/Beth/Liz/Elizabeth's. There are areas where we intersect, areas where we are fun-house reflections of each other, and areas where I don't recognize myself in her at all.

I was never a fat girl.  I was what I then thought of as "normal" and now think of as "thin."  I wore size ten clothes, but bought tops in small because I was so flat.  I never dieted, and although I was active--hiking, dancing, swimming--it was only for fun, not for exercise.  My mom and three sisters were the same.  If Mom put on a couple of pounds, she'd cut back on sugar in her coffee, and that would do the trick.  The rest of us basically didn't worry about it.  

But bodies change as they age.  I remember Mom having a soft, rounded tummy when she was in her 40s, although she became a stringy old lady later on, whittled thin by a season of training to walk a marathon and kept that way by daily brisk walks with her dog.  Two of my sisters, the ones who had babies, also put on some pounds in their 40s.  One got  really sick and lost a bunch of weight, then kept it off by dint of active living--still not going so far as to "work out," but making conscious choices about walking more, gardening more, and generally moving her body daily.  The other eventually went on one of those serious diets that require specific meal plans, and it seems to be working for her.  Our oldest sister, the tallest one, has always stayed thin, always been disciplined in her eating habits.  Still not a dieter or gym rat, although she went through a stage where she and her husband were going dancing 6 nights a week, and they are still stay active with dance.

In my 30s, I put on some 15-20 pounds over time, went up a size, lost most of the weight while living overseas for a year, then put all of it back on within months of returning, back to driving instead of walking everywhere.  Size 12 correlates to Large in most sizing, but I still didn't think of myself as a large woman.  Larger than some, sure, but not objectively LARGE.

Then, three years ago, I went up from a size 12 to a size 20 in about eight months, and I've only gained since then--more slowly, but still.  I'm not thin.  I'm not average.  I'm not even large.  I am XXL, a fat American woman.   Obese.  

And it means something, to be fat.  But it doesn't mean the same thing that it would have meant to grow up fat.  I am constantly surprised to see photos of myself--is that what I look like?--because I still haven't internalized the reality of my appearance.  I hit middle age before I got fat, so I'd already lost whatever amount of male gaze I attracted, which honestly was never all that much in the first place.  I'm married to someone who thinks I'm wonderful, and we've been together long enough that "hotness" isn't something we evaluate each other on.  I don't need to be convinced that I am worthwhile at any size, because--duh.  I know  There are things I like better about myself at this point in my life than even five years ago, and my weight has no bearing on that.  Colleagues and friends don't treat me any differently.  I look different, but that's the only change.

And yet.

Somehow growing up, I was taught that women who work out are trying to hard, that women who diet don't know how to enjoy life, AND that women who are fat are lazy slobs.  This obviously makes no sense, on top of being misogynistic and judgmental.  But you see my quandary, right?  I'm a lazy slob but it's beneath me to diet or work out.  I'm pretty sure that I could just bury this in another bowl of ice cream and live in denial, but it turns out there are down sides to being fat besides self-image and cultural shaming.  

It's hard to tie my shoes, clip my toenails, pick up what I dropped, and anything else that requires bending over my copious midsection.

I'm tired all the time, so I don't do even "my" forms of exercising, which means I'm getting weaker and weaker, which I'm pretty sure is why I'm tired all the time.

Bras suck.  I went a good 15-20 years braless, because there was no need.  Now there's a need, and I hate wearing bras.  

Chub rub is real, and it hurts a lot more than you'd think.  

My kids totally notice my weight, and I feel like I'm being a poor role model for them.

So to read a book like this, in which the main character has such a complicated relationship to her fatness, and in which she gives up so much in her pursuit of thinness, gives me pause.  I can't see myself going to the extremes of diet or exercise the main character does--is it worth it?  Why do other people get so invested in her weight or weight loss?  Is it harder to be the recently slimmed down daughter of a fat mother, or the recently obese daughter of a thin mother?   Was her husband attracted to her because of or despite her bulk, and does their relationship falter because of her internal or external changes?  The author has a lot to say about female friendship and weight, and this is an area where I feel like I was on the opposite side of the equation for the stages of life covered here.  But now, a colleague says, "You know how it is when you're heavy" as she's telling her story of being dragged along on a hike, and I wonder what to make of that.  

Monday, June 5, 2017

TTT: Recent(ish) Graphic Novels I Want To Read

The delightful bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish host this weekly list challenge.  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 them out!

The topic this week is 10 Books From X Genre That I've Recently Added To My TBR List

I decided to share some graphic novels I'm hoping to read this summer.  The first graphic novel I ever read was Watchmen, which I read back in 2009 for my book club.  I didn't care for it.  The first graphic novel I really go into was Brian K. Vaughan's series Y: Last Man Standing, which I picked up in 2011 while I was waiting for my tutee to show up at the library and then devoured all of.

My current relationship with graphic novels is:

  • don't get manga
  • usually don't enjoy superhero comics
  • struggle to follow comic-format stories even if I like them--I prefer stand-alones
  • get super frustrated with graphic novels that read like condensed, illustrated novels instead of full stories in their own rights
  • love how quickly I get through them
  • am stunned at how emotional and engaging some of them are
  • love the variety of genres they come in
  • still struggle to focus on the art as much as is probably needed to fully appreciate each book
  • prefer full color, but willing to read b&w
  • sometimes need my reading glasses to deal with tiny print
There are some extended-volume series I've begun that I would like to get caught up on:

March, books 2 & 3 by John Lewis 
Saga vol. 7 and Papergirls vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughan
Princeless vol. 3-5 by Jeremy Whitby
Ms. Marvel vol. 2-7 by G. Willow Wilson
Giant Days vol. 3-5 by John Allison

There are some MG/YA graphic novels from my classroom library that I want to finally read myself:

Around the World by Matt Phelan
The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan
Level Up by Gene Luen Yang
Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge

There are some graphic novel memoirs that sound interesting:
Everything is Teeth by Evie Wyld
Flying Couch by Amy Kurzweil

and then there are some other adult novels that look good:

We Stand on Guard by Brian K. Vaughan (I really like his stuff, okay?!?)
Roughneck by Jeff Lemire
The March of the Crabs by Arthur de Pins

See what I mean about the variety of genres and styles within the umbrella "graphic novel" term?  So cool.  It obviously lends itself to the fantastic and imaginative, but works equally well for memoir, historical fiction, satire, contemporary, etc.

What are you hoping to read a bunch of this summer?

Sunday, June 4, 2017


FOMO. Fear of missing out.  It's what makes me always feel slightly panicky about all the books I want to read.  It's what makes me check out library books even when I have dozens of books at home.  It's what makes me say, "Oh, I've GOT to read that one" even though I still haven't read the last three books I said that about.

TBR. My to-be-read list, which is driven almost entirely by that FOMO.  I add to it constantly.  I sort it (urgent, less urgent, and maybe someday lists).  I read books that aren't on it, but are on my mental list.  I read books that aren't even on my radar just because I stumble across them at a good time.  And then I can't even cross them off the list!  Such a waste.

OATSMO.  Other acronyms that stress me out.  (IRS?  ISIS? At least NCLB is fading away.)  Okay, my other book-related stressors don't actually have acronyms, although now I'm tempted to start using OATSMO as a catch-all for anxiety inducing entities.  I have this lingering sense of books I should read, or at least should want to read.  I've picked up Night so many times, but even though it's slim, and even though I've read plenty of Holocaust literature, I just haven't been able to read it.  I've never read Kite Runner or anything by Salman Rushdie.  And I feel oddly guilty about this.  I have no shame about the copious amount of YA or lighter adult fiction I read, and I'm pretty sure that by dint of reading as much as I do I have read a larger than average amount of "serious" work, but it bugs me that I can't get myself to pick up books that look challenging even if I think I will actually enjoy it.

Of course, all of this makes me think of something my parents would say from time to time--"Are you bragging or complaining?"  Because seriously, as tragic as it is that I will never read all the good books in the world, how much worse would it be if I already had?  I've always thought hot running water and medicine are the two major perks of living in the modern era, but really, humans survived for millennia without BOOKS, and I would not be willing to accept that.

What acronyms are your nemesis?  (Nemeses?  Hm.)  

Friday, June 2, 2017

Impressions of Printz

I'm guessing it was three or four years ago when I slowly became aware of the Printz award for Young Adult literature. I noticed the sticker on a book I enjoyed, and then I noticed it on another book, and then I started to suspect that this award might go to good books. I still haven't sought out Printz winners specifically, but I did start factoring it in when making decisions about what to check out or read next.

Then I saw Carrie at Cat on a Bookshelf's discussion about whether or not awards matter, which in turn reminded me of Anne at My Head is Full of Books, who offers and participates in challenges specifically around the range of YA book awards that exist. I've tried to tackle her ALA Young Adult challenge the past two years, but really, I find awards more useful as pointers for what might be good than as guarantees that something will be to my taste, no matter how objectively "top quality" they may be.

Still, I as curious now as to what it would look like if I investigated how many Printz winners and honor books I've read. I pulled the list off their site, reformatted it because ARGH YOU CAN'T HAVE "BY" IN SOME YEARS AND "WRITTEN BY" IN OTHERS AND WHY ARE NONE OF THE TITLES UNDERLINED?, and highlighted the ones I've read.

Some observations:
  • Not only have I not read any of the 2008 winners, I haven't even heard of them. 
  •  On the other hand, I've read every single 2004 winner already.  
  • Authors with multiple wins: Marcus Sedgwick, John Green, M. T. Anderson (with a duology), Margo Lanagan, Terry Pratchett, and Markus Zusak.  It seems your odds are higher if your first name begins with "Mar" or at least an M.
  • I always find it interesting which of a prolific author's books win awards.  There are arguably more popular books by Green, Stiefvater, King, Yancey, and Smith.  
  • Awards are SO SUBJECTIVE.  There are books on here that I absolutely love and think are well deserving of every award ever.  There are books on here that I thought were good, but not unusually good. There are books on here that I felt were overhyped, and there are books on here that I have no interest in reading.  
  • The list has decent variety.  Magical realism, historical fiction, contemporary, sci fi, mystery, fantasy.  Graphic novels, nonfiction, novels in verse and even a few books with a sense of humor made the list.  
  • It is, however, a shockingly white list. Out of 79 titles, I only see 7 authors who are POC.  I may have missed a couple because I don't know every author on the list, but I know many of them well enough to say there's a definite lack of diversity and own voices represented.  I suspect the same would hold true if I gathered data on other types of diversity as well. 
  • All of the books, even the ones I don't care for, are well written and creative, the work of excellent writers.
  • I'd be super curious to know which of these are most popular with actual young adults, not just the teachers, librarians, and other adult book fiends who buy so much YA literature.

Which of these have you read?  Any favorites?  (Mine are Eleanor & Park, Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Scorpio Races, A Northern Light, House of the Scorpion, and about a half dozen others.)  Have you ever undertaken an award-based challenge?  Do awards have any influence on your reading choices?

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Honor Books:  
The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick
Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Honor Books:
And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
Honor Books:
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal
MAGGOT MOON by Sally Gardner, illustrated by Julian Crouch
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

In Darkness by Nick Lake
Honor Books:
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein;
Dodger by Terry Pratchett
The White Bicycle by Beverley Brenna

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
Honor Books:
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, art by Maira Kalman
The Returning by Christine Hinwood
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Honor Books:
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Please Ignore Vera Dietz  by A.S. King
Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick
Nothing by Janne Teller

Going Bovine by Libba Bray
Honor Books:
Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman
The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
Punkzilla by Adam Rapp
Tales of the Madman Underground: An Historical Romance, 1973 by John Barnes

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Honor Books:
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 2: The Kingdom on the Waves by M. T. Anderson
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Nation by Terry Pratchett
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean
Honor Books:
Dreamquake: Book Two of the Dreamhunter Duet by Elizabeth Knox
One Whole and Perfect Day by Judith Clarke
Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins
Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Honor Books:
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; v. 1: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Surrender by Sonya Hartnett
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Looking for Alaska by John Green
Honor Books:
Black Juice  by Margo Lanagan
I Am the Messenger  by Markus Zusak
John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth, a Photographic Biography  by Elizabeth Partridge
A Wreath for Emmett Til, by Marilyn Nelson
how i live now by Meg Rosoff
Honor Books:
Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt
The First Part Last by Angela Johnson
Honor Books:
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Keesha’s House by Helen Frost
Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
Postcards from No Man’s Land by Aidan Chambers
Honor Books:
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr
Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos
A Step From Heaven by An Na
Honor Books:
The Ropemaker by Peter Dickinson
Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art by Jan Greenberg Abrams
Freewill by Chris Lynch
True Believer by Virginia Euwer Wolff
Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond
Honor Books:
Many Stones by Carolyn Coman
The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci
Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison
Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Honor Books:
Skellig by David Almond
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger