Saturday, June 30, 2018

June In Review

My Reading

# of books read: 16
Best overall: There There
 Review coming soon, because yeah, it's as stunning as they say.

Best graphic novel: I Am Alfonso Jones
Best alternative history: Dread Nation
Best contemporary: Sidekicks
Best #ownvoices historical mystery: Murder on the Red River
Best translated work: Generations

Challenges progress:
Beat the Backlist: Added 10 (83), so I'm 17 short of my 100 goal. No problem!
Library Love: Added 10 (74), so I'm 14 over my goal of 60+. Yes, my library card IS on fire. It's just a fact.
Popsugar:  Added 4 (26/52!)
Discussion Challenge: I wrote 1, so 5/10.

Bookish Events and Happenings

I've got something kind of fun to tell you next week about this. Otherwise, I can't think of anything specific. I am writing this from a new-to-me library across town while my kid does training to volunteer at the Humane Society. It's the branch my dad would have gone to as a young man, so that's kind of cool.

On the Blog

Falconer's Library is three! Check here for my thank-yous and a giveaway.

And this is my tenth post of the month, which means I'm making my way back to regular blogging. Phew.

My most popular post was a TTT post about books set in summery locales. I also did a fun tag answering bookish questions, and a scattered kind of post sharing some of my messy bullet journal habits and silly tweets.


Have I mentioned how much I love summer? (Sorry, that's a running joke in our family. I like to say it every time we're doing something pleasant and make my kids roll their eyes.)

School ended for me for the year. It was a tough year in many ways, but when I had my kids put together and photograph their "books stacks," they were amazed to see how much they'd read this year. These are kids who told me they read 0-2 books last year.

Yes, graphic novels count as books. Don't @ me, as the kids say.

For our staff end-of-year potluck, I tried a cake I'd seen on Pinterest a few years ago.  Well, the cake itself was standard, but the campfire on top was fun. 

My son turned 14. All he wanted was a good RC car. So that's what he got.

He also got two small ones so he and his dad could race. So they did.

My daughter and I picked 15 pounds of strawberries in the rain, because we're Oregonians, dammit. We made a double batch of jam and enjoyed strawberry shortcake a few times.

We spent a long weekend at a rental home on Mt. Hood with a group of friends I've known since we were kids. We went camping together for about 20 years, and lately have been cabin-ing instead. It's still a blast.

And the other day my daughter got a bee in her bonnet about making a "beach cake." Since I started the month with a campfire cake, I couldn't stand in the way of her creative vision. 

Man, do I love summer!

My monthly summaries are always linked to the Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up on Feed Your Fiction Addiction, along with many other terrific blogs' monthly reflections.  Nicole usually puts together a fun scavenger hunt giveaway too, so go check it out!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Falconer's Library Turns Three and YOU can win a book!

Three year olds are the ones that insist, "I do it myself!" all the time, right?

Yeah, no. I don't do it myself. I am totally an introvert, and love the way this hobby combines reading and writing, two solitary pursuits. But every book has an acknowledgements page, because even we introverts need support from the world around us. Here's where I get mine:

  • My husband and kids, who give me space and time to read and write. 
  • My sisters, who actually read my blog and say nice things about it. *waves*
    • I have an unending fountain of gratitude for the writers of this world, past, present and future. It's like one of those infinity pool things. Water forever.
    • Also for the illustrators, designers, agents, editors, publishers, printers, and all others involved in taking the authors' words and getting them into a format I can get my hands on.
    • Librarians and booksellers, I want to be you when I grow up. Thank you for being you in the meantime.
    • Bloggers in general. I think Pioneer Woman was the first blog I read? A long time ago? Before she was a brand? And then I found the adoption blogs, and from there I found book blogs, and one day I thought--hey, maybe I could do this.
    • Book bloggers in particular. Those who run the memes and events I participate or have participated in: Top Ten Tuesday, Sunday Post, Discussion Challenge, Mt. TBR Challenge, Monthly Wrap-Up, Shattering Stigmas, Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon. Those who invent fun tags to do. Those who write with verve and passion and those who are way way WAY more organized than I'll ever be. Shannon and Nicole have created great welcoming spaces in this community. Cait amazes and beguiles us all. AJ and Deb model the type of blogging I enjoy reading and writing. Lory and Anne remind me what it's like to invest time and thought into challenging books. JUST TO NAME A FEW! Geez, now I know why acknowledgments either say "And everyone I forgot" or refuse to name names for fear of offending someone who got left out. 
    • Also Beth, whose blog makes me laugh and makes me feel understood, Pernille, whose blog inspires me to be a better teacher, and the entire Nerdy Book Club universe, which does all of those things and more. 
    • I know it has issues, but I've been on Goodreads for ten years this month, and I love being able to track what I read, when I read it, and how it struck me at the time.
    • You, right? What's the point of all this if nobody read it?

    So...whaddya say we do a giveaway? Sorry, US only due to shipping costs. But if you want to enter internationally, I can send you a postcard! 

    Wednesday, June 27, 2018


    I just spent the afternoon curating a list of books I need multiple copies of in order to offer students a more exciting range of choices for book clubs next year. Then I put together a Donors Choose project (like GoFundMe for teachers) to see if I can get some help making this happen.

    If you like what you see, go here to donate. I wouldn't ask for it for myself, but for my students I'm shameless.

    Book Clubs Galore!

    My students need a lot of great selections for book club options. Having many titles in a range of genres and formats lets each group find a great fit!

    My Students

    I work with middle school students, which is just as thrilling and crazy as you may imagine. My classes are made up of kids who are identified as reading below grade level. Many of them have recently exited an ELD program and lack some fluency and vocabulary that native language speakers would have; others have just never developed a passion for reading. That's where I come in!
    The best part of my job is seeing kids get excited about a book, especially kids who thought they hated reading.
    I've worked hard to develop a classroom library that reflects my student population, including lots of books about Latinx and other kids of color, kids who are differently abled, kids from a range of social, economic, and religious backgrounds, GLBQT kids, immigrants and refugees, etc. My students also love reading humor, graphic novels, thrillers, and books that have been made into TV shows and movies. All kids deserve to find books they can connect to.

    My Project

    Book clubs are a great way to support students' development as readers and community members. By reading and discussing in small groups, they build confidence, stamina, insight, and empathy. True choice is needed for buy-in, though!
    Options ranging from historical fiction to fantasy, from graphic novels to nonfiction, from humorous to wrenched-from-the-headlines ensure that every small group can find a book to dig into and explore deeply.
    Many of these titles will bring the outside world into our classroom and get the students thinking about how they want to live in our society. These books will build students' understanding of the interplay between world issues and personal struggles. They will also pull students in with great storytelling and beautiful writing.

    Tuesday, June 26, 2018

    Some Top-Notch #OwnVoices

    I was recently lamenting how many great books there are compared to how much time I have to actually read them all, but I have been able to read quite a bit lately, and I've had great experiences for the most part. Three of my recent favorites are #ownvoices novels that speak with the authenticity implied by that term. As I read them, I knew I was looking through a clear window into the lives of people whose America is very different from the one I thought I knew. Even as I learned from my reading, I realized that there were cues and allusions I was missing. Which is okay, because those are the very pieces that make these books also powerful mirrors for people who identify directly with the characters. (The windows and doors analogy is from the work of Rudine Sims Bishop, Professor Emerita of Education at Ohio State University.)

    Dread Nation is Justina Ireland's highly anticipated zombie historical fiction. I follow Justina on Twitter, where she's talked directly about how her African American readers will get different things from the book than other readers will. This book is terrific because it works absolutely fine as a rip-roaring adventure centered around a kick-ass young woman, but if you take a few moments to think, it also serves a searing social critique. Like Hunger Games (but only in that dual aspect; plot and mood are quite different).

    Murder on the Red River is a much quieter book, despite having "murder" in the title. I also don't think it's a YA novel. Cash is 19 and has a casual-sex-and-pool-only relationship with a married man, which doesn't seem very YA to me. And I am leaning more and more towards not accepting NA as a category, but that's for another post. Marcie Rendon is an enrolled member of the White Earth Anishinabe Nation, and she writes Cash as a young woman who is disconnected from her history, yet rejected by the white world around her. If you go in expecting an intense thriller, you'll be disappointed. If you like novels that are steeped in a specific time and place, and you're prepared to think about our country's history of ripping apart non-white families, you'll most likely love this book.

    When asked what book everyone in my town should be reading this summer, I answered with I Am Alfonso Jones. (Why was I asked that? That too is the topic of an upcoming post.) The story is heart-breaking in its familiarity as well as in its specificity. As I said on Goodreads, I would show this graphic novel to anyone who dismisses the literary value of the form. With a non-linear structure, elements of magical realism, allusions to Shakespeare, well embedded history lessons, and nuanced story-telling, it tackles everything a literary novel would--oh, and also uses visual cues to enhance the story and the reader's emotional responses.  I admit that I get more emotionally involved in traditional books--I have yet to be brought to tears by a graphic novel--but that says more about my reading preferences than the relative value of the techniques. Alfonso Jones is a biracial (Latino and African American) trumpet playing, Hamlet-acting, local black history-studying, hard-working young man who gets shot by an off duty cop who confuses the hanger in his hand for a gun. It should be unbelievable. It's not.

    I gave all of these books 5/5 stars. I am so excited to live in a time when we have access to these stories. Keep 'em coming, publishers!

    Monday, June 25, 2018

    TTT: Series I'd Like To Finish

    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: Series I’ve Given Up On/Don’t Plan to Finish (Submitted by A Book and a Cup). (Feel free to switch this to Series I’d Like to Finish Someday)
    It was not very long ago when I talked about books I'd accidentally stopped reading, including several series. I will try to vary the titles in today's list. 

    Ready? Let's go!

    Mystery authors seem the most likely to write long-running series. Ever since Miss Marple's village became a veritable murder factory, authors have found joy in taking one recurring detective (professional, freelance, or accidental) and throwing them in harm's way over and over. I have tired of many series over dozens of iterations, but there are a few that have stayed fresh, and that I plan to keep reading as their authors keep writing. Alas, there will be no more Sue Grafton or Reginald Hill.

    The Kopp Sisters
    Inspector Lynley
    Easy Rawlins
    Maeve Kerrigan

    Fantasy is the home of the trilogy, of course. A lot of the fantasy series I've read were finished before I started, so I read them all in turn. There are a few series that are currently on-going, and I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment of each of these:

    Strange the Dreamer
    The Queen's Thief
    The Villains
    Gentleman Bastard
    Dread Nation
    Arc of a Scythe
    Three Dark Crowns

    This genre doesn't call for series in the same way others do. But I did just read and thoroughly enjoy A Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, so I'd like to read the next book as well.

    Another genre that doesn't really scream "series." For the sake of my middle schoolers, I'm glad some of these MG and YA authors do write series though, because they are a great way to keep kids reading once they've discovered a story they love. And by "kids," I mean "all of us."

    Openly Straight
    Giant Days

    Always so much to look forward to! 

    Sunday, June 24, 2018

    So Many Books, So Litle Time, Money, and So On

    I "had to" go to Powell's the other day. My youngest was ending fifth grade a the school she's been in since kindergarten, and I wanted to give a gift to her teacher and her principal. Gift cards for books, obviously. While I was there, I figured I could also spend the $23 in credit I had on books for ME. Which is to say, books I want to read but can then put in my classroom library. It's the only way I can justify spending money on books when I have such a great library system.

    $23 in books is not a lot, although the 20% off I get as an educator helps, as does my habit of scanning the remaindered books table first. As I browsed, I noticed one result of my being so disconnected from the book world this past spring--I didn't recognize most of the titles on the New Releases displays. Last year, I was always so excited to finally see these books I'd been waiting for.

    I gathered up a supply of possible purchases and found a table so I could sort. This is what I started out with:

    SO not going to fall under $23. Sigh. 

    I skimmed Beloved Dog and Fetch. I got onto Goodreads and checked out reviews for Wildman and Look Who's Back. I examined The Bride Was A Boy back to front to be sure there weren't any images I'd get hauled in front of he school board to defend.

    I read The Prince and the Dressmaker in its entirety, and enjoyed it. This caused some consternation when I was filling out the Google form I fill out after I finish each book. I neglected to create an option under "source" for "read it without buying it," so I went with "borrowed."

    My final decision was to buy The Bride Was a Boy, Be Prepared, and All Summer Long. I can never keep enough graphic novels in my classroom. I figure I was on the right track, because my personal 12 year old has already read one and a half of them.

    From there, I started to get ready for a 3 night weekend at the mountain with a group of friends. This was the initial stack I was looking at for that trip:

    It seemed just a tiny bit ambitious. Even I can't read a George R. R. Martin book in a weekend. So I ended up just taking A Storm of Swords, the two new graphic novels, and I Am Alfonso Jones, a graphic novel I'd brought home from my classroom to read this summer. Then literally as we were walking out the door I realized I should bring the book I was currently reading (duh) too, so I added Murder on the Red River. My husband gave me a bit of a bad time when he saw my initial book stack, asking me if I'd just as soon go stay in a tent by myself and read instead of actually socializing with the friends we were going to spend time with, but joke's on him--the place we stayed had a TV and cable, so while everyone else was watching world cup soccer, I got a good chunk of Storm of Swords done. (And finished my mystery, and read one of the graphic novels.)

    It is so impossible to ever get to all the books I want to read. There are so many good ones out there. Whether it's a new book by a beloved author, a book that will challenge my preconceptions, a fun read, the one everyone is talking about, one that sounds right up my alley, one that speaks to me for unknown reasons--every book has the potential to be a great find and an amazing reading experience. I have, presumably, only one lifetime, and people keep writing and publishing books, so there's no way to ever catch up. Still, of all the benefits of living in the modern world, the problem of too many books, not enough time, is one of the best aspects.

    How do you handle the struggle? What influences your decisions about what to buy, what to borrow, what to read, and when? 

    I'm sharing this on the Discussion Challenge link-up that Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon at It Starts At Midnight run.

    Monday, June 18, 2018

    TTT: Summer Locales


    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:
    Books to Read By the Pool/At the Beach

    I decided to go super literal with this, and chose titles that were related to beaches, pools, and other summer pursuits.

    For years I would have told you this fishing and God book was my very favorite. Not because I'd ever been fishing, and not because I read a lot of books about faith. But I loved this coming of age story set in my state, and its journey from broad comedy to philosophical musing. I haven't read it in 20 years, but I like to think it would still hold up.

    I read this one for the Cybils judging last winter, and was utterly charmed. Life in a boat is all a river pirate princess needs.

    I was never a fan of Frog, and didn't love his chapters as much, but Ratty and Mole drifting on the river on a summer day are true #squadgoals.

    Ramona not only shares a name with a lovely waterfall on Mt. Hood, she's also a swimmer. Heck, the cover art shows her sitting underwater in her swimsuit. I adore this book so much.

    Chris Crutcher is a swimmer and a damn fine human being. Both of these things make themselves known in every book he writes. Whale Talk was the book that first made me a fan of his. (His foul-mouthed and spot-on Facebook diatribes against the current political climate in this country are currently cementing his status as a personal hero too.)

    This well-researched and fascinating story is about a man in Maine who spent 27 years living in the forest, without any human interaction. Thoreau on steroids.

    This one is somewhat based on a true story that I remember reading about in the news at the time. A dad and early teenaged daughter were discovered to be living wild in Forest Park, Portland's huge natural area, for four years. I read the first half of the book, which is told from the daughter's point of view, and shows their woodsy life and how they eventually get discovered. It turns out that they disappeared a week or so after being set up to work on a horse farm in a rural area, so the second half of the book is purely speculative.

    Bill Bryson is a funny, funny man. I don't love this one as much as his travelogues Neither Here Nor There and Lost Continent, but it has some brilliant moments as he describes attempting the Appalachian trail as a out of shape middle aged guy, accompanied by an even more out of shape guy he used to be friends with.

    Heidi is living the dream. Well, my dream, anyway. A cabin in the Alps, wind rushing through the trees, cute local goatherd hanging around. Plus she gets to wear dirndls.

    I know I've talked about this book before, but I really think it's a crying shame Harriet the Spy gets all the press. Beth Ellen takes center stage in this book, as both her family and Harriet's vacation in the same beach town.

    You'll never guess where this book is set. A homeless teen helps track down a runaway, and all of a sudden he's the junior detective in town.

    This picture book is about a barnacle. To say more would spoil it. 

    Oh, and one more thing-

    Friday, June 15, 2018

    Lists, Crosschecks, and Bullet Journaling for the Un-Cute

    Welcome to the smorgasbord that this blog post will be, as evinced by the title.

    I made a (I think) rather lovely summer reading list for myself last month. I varied genres and difficulties, library books with already owned. Books I'll fly through, and books I'd only attempt during my school-free days of summer.  Since making the list in late May, I've read about 11 books. Only one was from the list. (Dread Nation.)

    (Well. I also started to read All the Crooked Saints, and after about two chapters decided it wasn't for me. So I've at least addressed two of the books.)

    All of which is to say, I don't do a very good job at following my own plans.

    So it only makes sense, then, that I have a shelf on Goodreads called "Buy for my classroom," a wishlist at Powell's called "Classroom Wishlist," and a wishlist at First Book for my classes, AND that all of those lists include both overlaps and unique items. So I went through all three of them, plus the list of books students never brought back this year (well, the ones they checked out and didn't bring back--I don't have a good list of books that just sort of drifted out of my classroom), and put together this list, which I will most likely ignore as well:

    The circled ones are my tippy tippy top priorities. I will probably get at least a couple of those. I still struggle with buying books I think students SHOULD read (Ramona Blue, Amina's Voice) instead of what they WANT to read (Milk & Honey, horror). It's not so much that I'm a snob, just that I am a confident enough reader to tackle things that require some investment of time and thought to get to the payoff, while many of my students just go, "Oh, it looks really long, and when I read the first two pages I was confused" and pick up Smile again instead.  A lot of the books I think they should love they do love, if I read them aloud. 

    I couldn't help but notice the difference between the aesthetics of these two layouts. My summer reading list is something I planned (look! alphabetized!) and even sketched elements of in pencil before committing. The spread I made today is just jotted down as I perused lists online. I made the title somewhat neat, although I didn't bother to think about spacing, and I threw down some washi tape to make it cute. 

    This is why I've stuck with bullet journaling for a year and a half, despite being chronically unorganized and constitutionally resistant to plans. Even though the ones on Instagram are (duh) gorgeous and themed and scrupulously laid out, mine doesn't have to look like that to work for me. If I feel like playing around with color and form I can do this:

    and if I just need to get some thoughts down before I forget them, I can do this:

    Okay, so I stuck some washi tape on again--what can I say, my kid and I saw a sale and caved! And I sketched a bucket next to my summer bucket list, but then again, I scrawled that list sideways next to the other lists I was doing, so clearly this was something I just tossed together as I thought. 

    And if I really hate a spread--I can turn the page and keep going. No need to be precious about it. 

    I know some people wonder why anyone would sit down and create their own planner week by week when there are already planners one can buy, but this method actually does more for my organization than buying a planner and using it for 2 weeks would. I think my bouncy brain actually needs the variety that I get in my bullet journal. I don't feel hemmed in by it, so I don't have to resist it. 

    Okay, since this has been such a random post, I'm just going to end by sharing some tweets I saved recently for various family members.

    For my sister, who has moved in with us for a couple of months while she tried to find a new place to live:

    For my daughter, who made us perfect omelettes during spring break and has yet to successfully recreate that experience:

    And for my husband, who recently asked me if I'd clean out the fridge because he was getting overwhelmed by all the yogurt containers that don't actually contain yogurt any more: