Monday, October 18, 2021

TTT: Favorite Illustrators


 TTT (Top Ten Tuesday) is hosted by 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: Online Resources for Book Lovers
But I don't really have any, so instead I'm going to follow a thought prompted by last week's TTT, and share some of my favorite illustrators. This means this will be another mostly nostalgic, definitely children's and MG book post. I'm listing the books these illustrators worked on that I have read myself, although of course many of them did many other projects as well. Some are author/illustrators and some strictly illustrate the words of others. As I worked on this list, I started thinking of modern illustrators I also really love, so I'll save those for a later post. 

Garth Williams: The Rescuers, A Cricket in Times Square, several Little House books, Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, several Little Golden Books, etc.

Arthur Rackham: Alice in Wonderland, A Christmas Carol, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, A Midsummer Night's Dream, etc.

Ernest Shepherd: The Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh

Tasha Tudor: The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, A Child's Garden of Verses

Robert McCloskey: Blueberries for Sal, Make Way for Ducklings, Homer Price

Maurice Sendak: Where the Wild Things Are, Higgledy Piggledy Pop!, In the Night KitchenLittle Bear, What Do You Do, Dear?, Chicken Soup with Rice

Kate Seredy: The Good Master, The Singing Tree, The White Stag, Caddie Woodlawn

Mercer Mayer: A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog series, Beauty and the Beast The Great Brain series. (But not the Little Critter stuff.)

Kate Greenaway: Mother Goose, Under the Window

Clearly, I've always been a sucker for pretty dresses and for pen line drawings. Do you recognize any of these? 

Monday, October 11, 2021

TTT: Favorite Settings from my Childhood


 TTT (Top Ten Tuesday) is hosted by 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: Favorite Book Settings. As I worked on a list, I realized that the settings that live the deepest in my heart and imagination are from books I read  as a child. Maybe it's because I definitely re-read favorite books dozens of times when I was a kid, so they really sunk into my memory. Maybe it's the lack of cynicism, both in me and in the books, that allowed me to idealize these places. Regardless, here are ten settings that I've carried vividly with me since I was in grade school.

1. Prince Edward Island, as featured in the Anne of Green Gables books. Anne's own descriptions are what sells it, of course. Who wouldn't want to ride a buggy down the White Way of Delight?

2. The Hungarian steppes of Kate Seredy's The Good Master and The Singing Tree. I can't even explain what a hold these books have on me. Racing horses across the wide open spaces, sausages hanging from the rafters, embroidered vests and skirts on fancy occasions, and a family with so much love to spare that they take in prisoners of war during WWI. 

3.  Would it be a list on Falconer's Library without sneaking some Le Guin onto it? The islands of Earthsea, the tombs of Atuan, Ged's boat and Tehanu's home on the cliffs, though that came later than the original trilogy. This series is why I mispronounce archipelago, since I learned it in print long before I heard it in person. 

4. The Shire. Many of the other Hobbit settings are vivid as well, from the town of Dale to Gollum's underground caverns and Smaug's lair, but c'mon, we all know we'd really only be happy if we lived behind a round green door.

5. The alpine cabin where Heidi's grandfather lived. Falling asleep to the sound of the wind in the pines, watching the meadows explode with wildflowers in the brief mountain summer...yes please.

6. Skating along the frozen canals of Holland with Hans Brinker and his sister Gretel, who really should have been included in the title too. It's as much from her point of view as his. Hmph.

7. The Secret Garden. Sadly, the book is chock-full of racist and classist and ableist thinking, but when I was a kid, those Tasha Tudor illustrations made me want to dig in the dirt and birdwatch with Mary and Dickon and Colin. I guess I was preparing for middle age.

8. Vermont, as described in Understood Betsy. I went to college in Vermont, and not gonna lie, this book fueled at least 25% of that decision. I have yet to tap a maple tree though. #BucketList. #AccidentalPun.

9. Midcentury New York City. Harriet the Spy, Corduroy, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Lyle Lyle Crocodile, The Snowy Day, The Cricket in Times Square, Stuart Little--I wanted to live in a building with a super, walk down busy sidewalks, ride the subway, pop into the library with the two huge lions out front, and buy food from corner stores or hotdog carts. 

10. In a similar vein, Victorian London. Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, A Little Princess, Black Hearts in Battersea. There are more, but I can't remember them--just a general sense of fancy dresses and pea-soup fog. 

Two books I've read much more recently with a fantastic sense of place are Ramona Blue and Firekeeper's Daughter. I've never been to the Mississippi Delta and seen the lingering effects of Katrina, nor have I ever spent any time in Michigan's Upper Penninsula, on or off reservations, but because of these books I feel like I have. 

Monday, September 27, 2021

TTT: YA Mysteries


 TTT (Top Ten Tuesday) is hosted by 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.. a freebie! 

When people ask me what my favorite genres are (and I'm a reading teacher, so this is actually something people ask me), I usually say, "Adult mysteries and YA fantasy." I find that adult fantasy can get to bogged down in politics and battles, and YA mysteries lack a certain gritty reality. However, I'm always open to having my prejudices challenged, so I do read out of my go-to standards. I feel that I've read a number of really good YA mysteries lately, and here they are. I'm not sure what it says about me and/or the experience of being a woman, but I sure love the ones where a young woman turns the tables on a killer. I'm all, "YES, MURDER HIIIIM!"  I'm also noticing that this is a fantastic set of covers. 

The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson. 
Loved the whole Truly Devious Series, and I am delighted to report that this stand-alone novel featuring the same teen sleuth is also fantastic.  This time Stevie is looking into a 1978 multiple murder at a summer camp. 

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin
I've raved about this updated McBeth story told from the point of view of a young woman who brings down the powerful.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
This is dark. Revenge, murder, and revenge murder. McGinnis is so good at every genre she graces us with!

Spin by Lamar Giles
In a variation on the "unlikely partners forced to work together to solve a crime" trope, two girls who both considered the murder victim their best friend, but loath each other, try to get to the bottom of their friend's death--and life.

Sadie by Courtney Summers
From its creative structure to its growing sense of doom, I loved everything about this book. 

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
It's hard to pick a favorite from Roherig's mysteries and crime stories, all of which are Very Gay and manage to be both funny and scary.

Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
Jackson's brand of twists and shocks is never better than in this book about a girl who is the only person that seems to care her best friend has disappeared. 


Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus
She's a leader in teen mysteries, but if I'd only read One of Us Is Lying, I wouldn't be that impressed. I really enjoyed this one though, enough that I'll take a look at The Cousins if my students every stop checking it out.

I'm an unabashed fan of this Portland author and her well structured, solidly PG thrillers. I will always have a soft spot for Girl, Stolen, but this kidnapping story gets creepier, AND involves friendship, which I appreciated. 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Manga Mania


My students are obsessed with manga.

For a long time, I've had students who want to read Naruto and Dragon Ball Z ("NOT Dragon Ball, Ms. Gassaway, that's a different series!") But in the past two years, the interest in those titles has exploded beyond a few nerdy boys, and the titles students want have increased in number as well. Here are some of the series I've started trying to stock:

  • Naruto
  • Boruto
  • Dragon Ball Z
  • Bleach
  • Legend of Zelda
  • Assassination Classroom 
  • Attack on Titan
  • HunterXHunter 
  • Death Note
  • The Promised Neverland
There are a couple of problems with this. First, I have yet to read a single manga, though I'm a big graphic novel fan and have read a few of those with similar art styles. But my understanding is that manga is the print adaptation of anime (correct me if I'm wrong!), and I don't watch anime. This means I have zero idea as to what's appropriate, let alone what's good. I try to flip through and make sure no nipples or genitals are portrayed. The series I've started to accumulate have all been by the request of multiple students, which also makes me feel more confident. 

I've been wanting to read one, probably The Promised Neverland or Assassination Classroom, based on jacket descriptions of the plots, but here is problem number two: they are SO POPULAR they are impossible for me to snag before they have flown off the shelf. There is no lag time between one student returning a book and another student leaping upon it. Especially with the earlier entries in the series, which is obviously where I'd like to start.

The third problem is perhaps most concerning. Even before the "supply chain issues" of 2020-21, it was remarkably difficult to track down sets of these books. Everywhere from the used book store to Amazon constantly has "out of stock" as their response. You can get Attack on Titan #2 and 3, for example, but not #1. I have The Promised Neverland 1-5, but 8 is the next available one. It is frustrating to me, and infinitely more so to my poor students, who just want to read what happens next.

I recently saw an online teacher conversation in which a teacher said that although she'd come around to the value of graphic novels, she didn't let her students read manga in class because they consumed them so fast they were unable to talk about them with her. She felt they were just flipping pages and watching the action. Well, ask me about the dozens of Nancy Drew books I read as a kid, and I guarantee you I won't be able to tell you much besides Nancy had a convertible and no mom. And when I have a student who is supremely disgusted to realize they are in a reading class, but then I show them the manga and their eyes light up--that's gold. Reading is reading is reading, and building stamina and confidence takes many forms and paths. 

Any manga readers out there? If yes, any suggestions for how to track down hard-to-get installments, any recommendations for 12-15 year olds, and/or any introductory series for middle aged ladies with no anime background?

Monday, September 20, 2021

TTT: Fall Reading List


 TTT (Top Ten Tuesday) is hosted by 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 on my fall to-read list.

As I've said often enough, while I have a thousand book TBR, I don't really read based on any set order. 100% mood reader, baby. So instead, I'll give you the ten books I've most recently added to my TBR. Again, adding a book to my TBR does not mean I'll ever get to it, and I also don't mean to say that these ten are highest on my wish list. It's just--ten books about which I've recently thought, hey, I should remember that I might want to read that, and then added them to my list.

Some are sequels to books I loved, some have great covers and synopses, some are by writers I like, and some I've already forgotten about, which is the entire reason why I have a TBR in the first place. Anything on here that you're interested in?

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Where I've Been and What I Just Read

 Hey. Hi. It's me. I'm back. Maybe. We'll see.

I'm just dipping my toe back into the water here with two things.

1. I just finished Firekeeper's Daughter, and it is absolutely amazing. It's very ambitious, combining a mystery, a strong #ownvoices Native American character and setting, grief and healing, meth addiction, family fault lines, sexual assault,  and oh, a very sweet yet complicated romance. It's a lot, so the book is nearly 500 pages, and it is all really well done. All the stars, highly recommend, go read it.

2. One part of the many reasons why I've been offline since June is that my family took a trip to Lithuania and Latvia this summer. I'm glad we went before Delta really took off. Here are a few pictures.

My friend Aija and I crossing Europe's widest waterfall. I fell an embarrassing number of times, but it was still fun.

Reflection of a fortified set of low cabins in the middle of a lake--dating from the 10th century. 

Latvian flat, windmill, and stork nest.

We were reunited with friends we hadn't seen in 14 years. Aija and I met in 1994 when she hosted me at the beginning of my Peace Corps assignment.

She's grinning because she was standing on a rock and was taller than me. 

I've always loved this art nouveau dragon in Riga.

A forest megaphone in Lithuania.

My beachcombers at the Baltic Sea.

Cold beet soup and crispy garlic toast with cheese.

Wood carving is a major Lithuanian folk art.

Russian orthodox church and a small monument to the local Jewish population, which was completely decimated during WWII. 

Peak Soviet Architecture.

Sunset view of Vilnius

Seems like every city in the Baltics has a Museum of Illusions. 

Trakai Island Castle

The Vilnius bell tower and the view from its top: the statues on top of the cathedral and Gediminis Castle.

"Here in 1991-92 stood defensive barricades." Reminder of the USSR's last attempt to regain control of the Baltic states, when unarmed civilians stood against them.

We went to a cat cafe. 5/5 stars, would visit again.