Tuesday, January 26, 2021

TTT: New To Me Authors in 2020


 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: authors that were new to me in 2020.

Sounds pretty clear, but there were sixty authors I read for the first time this year, so I couldn't keep it to ten. Some of these are authors who have been around for awhile; others released their debut. All are authors I hope to read more from!

Most of the list is in alphabetical order, because not only are they all amazing, it's also hard to compare YA fantasy to adult nonfiction to middle grade graphic novels. But there is one author who stood out to me this year in an even more significant way. 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Sunday Post #53/Sunday Salon #27


Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer hosts the weekly Sunday Post link-up, and Deb at ReaderBuzz expanded Sunday Salon from a FB group to a link-up as well.

What I Read

These were all read either for choosing next year's middle grade OBOB titles (Oregon Battle of the Books) or for round 2 judging for Cybils for YA fiction. As such, they were all good. One was my first "all the stars" book of 2021, but I'll tell you which one later. :) 

I will say, however, that I love this cover, done by Fabio Consoli. 

What I'm Reading/What's Next
 I've started reading my final two Cybils books. I'm listening to Furia on Overdrive and just started Sia Martinez and the Moonlight Beginning of Everything. They both seem good so far, but there are some AMAZING books on the list already so I'll have to see what I think.

I also have a bunch of OBOB books to keep reading this month, and picked up several at the library the other day, with more coming soon. I am kind of looking forward next month when both of these duties are done and I can read whatever I want. I've gotta say, for all that I've read some terrific middle grade books for OBOB, I hope I can shift to the high school group next year.

Three Things

  1.  My sister and I spent about four hours this afternoon/evening sitting by a fire in my backyard, bundled up in blankets. We started with tea and moved on to wine, and it was wonderful. 
  2. My family got an Echo Dot for Christmas, and my favorite thing to do with it this week is to ask it every day, "Alexa, who's the president?" It makes me happy every time she tells me. 
  3. All my book orders came in at once, and I processed about 35 new books for my classroom. I get to share them with my students next week, and I hope they'll be excited!
Have a good week! 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The Bookmobile

I've been dropping off books at students' houses since we went into lockdown last spring. Today was my twelfth bookmobile run this school year--I didn't keep good records of last spring, when I thought this would all be more temporary. 

I don't live in the town I teach in, which is actually two towns that run into each other without any break between them. Forest Grove has a small college and two fancy parts of town: the part near downtown with lovely homes from the early 20th century, and the part up on the hill with McMansions built in the last twenty years. Cornelius has a majority Latinx population and no part of town that could be called anything more grandiose than "pleasant." Both towns also contain areas that run somewhere between "run-down" and "grim." Each town has a solid library, but our county's libraries have been closed to the public since March, and not all of my students are able to navigate the online order and pickup system. I've delivered books all over both towns, though students whose families are able to buy books are less likely to need my services. Today's drive was typical enough that I thought I'd document it.  

 I put 49 miles on the car from school to home (usually an 18 mile trip). Today was a little extreme, as one student lives 17 miles from school, in the opposite direction from my home. (I'm not even sure why she goes to our school, since I have to literally drive through another town to get to her house.) Usually my trips are concentrated within 3 miles or so of the school in any direction.

Today was also a little extreme in that the radio on my ride to school was all "Democrats win Georgia!" and "Here's an interview with an author who says being kind helps you live longer," and by the time I left school with my car full of books, it was more "Would you call this sedition, insurrection, or terrorism?" and "Number of dead yet to be confirmed." 

My first stop was at an apartment I've been to often enough now that I know where to park and don't have to triple check the number on the door before knocking. Nobody answered, so I left I Wish You All the Best on the doorstep, but as I walked back to the car, I heard my student open the door and call, "Thank you!" She's been waiting for the book for awhile, and I finally bought a second copy when I realized I was never getting my "classroom" copy back from my daughter.

The next stop was at a trailer in the park that runs for a solid mile or so behind the Walmart overlapping both towns, unnamed roads interconnecting in a confusing web that Google Maps handles better than Waze or Mapquest. I knocked on the door and was greeted by a younger brother, maybe 10. "I have books for E," I told him, and he nodded and wandered off leaving the door open. I noticed the placement of the gas grill right outside the front door, quite convenient for winter cooking. An even younger brother came to take a peek at me, and ducked away again when I said hi. I can only assume no parents were home since nobody yelled "We're not trying to heat all of Cornelius!" as the door stayed open. My student finally appeared, juggling a stack of returns, and we traded. She now has all of my Walking Dead comics, the complete Sunny series, and several other graphic novels.

Next I went to a new-to-me house, always a bit unnerving as I try to peer at addresses without steering into the curb. This home is set up something like an old time motel, with eight one-story attached dwellings in two C shapes.  Nobody answers the door, but I know they've recently recovered from Covid-19 at their house, so I'm not sure if they are just being cautious. This student had asked for books for a younger and older sibling as well, so I leave picture books as well as the requested Matilda and Divergent on the doorstep and continue on.

It's only a few blocks to the next stop, the girl who's requested books every time but one. She lives in a one story home, and her two dogs bark their eagerness every time I come by. Her parents are flustered by my arrival, not sure if the stack of books she left out are meant to be given back to me or not, trying to pull the dogs away from the door. My glasses have steamed up from my mask, and I can't see through their screen door, so I'm equally awkward. I leave her new books on the little bench outside (The Book Thief for her, Roller Girl for her younger sister), and quickly grab the returns from her mom while her dad hangs onto the dogs. 

I head to another new stop, also nearby, also a one story home from the late 70s or so. I'm admiring the hanging wreath that dangles from a wire on the porch, and I hear a little voice say, "Who's there?" then a bigger voice say, "OH!" and the door flies open. Since it's my first time dropping off books here, it's my first time seeing this student in person, and he's much taller than I'd realized. "Hi, Ms Gassaway!" he says, beaming.

"I had two My Hero Academia books, so I brought them both," I tell him, and also, "I like your wreath!"

Next up is a stop for a kid who'd specifically asked me "Please don't leave after books are dropped, I really need to get the books you gave me, off me." So when I knocked on the door of the tall, narrow house he seems to share with a bunch of brothers, I waited longer than I usually would for a response. I'd just headed back to the car to get a plastic bag to put his books into so I could safely leave them out front when he came to the door, holding those books he needed to get off of him. He reads a lot of Chinese books and prefers manga in English, so I dropped off the first volume of Naruto, two random manga books, and Amulet book 1.

Then it was time to head out into the country, past dairy farms and fields, along a muddy brown river, past the "no gas for 40 miles" sign, to my most distant student. Her home is only reachable via a private bridge across the river, and a gate blocks it from the highway. Her dad was outside and he and a big yellow lab and a small black and white shepherd came to see what I wanted. I passed the books through the fence and resisted my urge to ask him if I could stay and get a better look. Dogs and dad were friendly, but there was a definite "no trespassing" vibe. She'd only asked for one specific book, but I know she's a big reader and I don't want to have to make the drive every week, so I added Exit, Pursued by a Bear, Internment, and Cinder to the one she'd requested, Pumpkinheads.

It started pouring as I drove back to town, Douglas firs dripping on either side, then swampy fields opening back up as I got closer to civilization. NPR kept up a steady stream of polite outrage, broken up with an interview recorded during happier times--aka this morning--of a founder of Black Voters Matter, who broke into song. In addition to the books students gave back to me, I brought home another two dozen or so books from the classroom to tell them about next week.

This year my little bookmobile has made 112 drop-offs altogether, for 52 separate students. Over 200 books are currently checked out, after picking up 19 returns today. Six kids have requested books five or more times, and I'm still adding more "customers," with two first-time requesters today. 

I refuse to calculate how many miles overall I've put on the car for much the same reason I don't calculate how much money I spend on books for my classroom. Instead, I focus on the benefits--the students who are happy to actually see their teacher in person, the dogs I get to pet, the books that are being read instead of sitting on the shelf, the discoveries students make. Who knows, maybe it will even help me live longer? 

Friday, January 1, 2021

Challenged by Challenges

After struggling with challenges throughout the life of this blog, in 2020  I set myself a low Goodreads challenge, and midway through the year I started trying to read 2 books by a BIPOC author for ever book by a white author. That went better than any previous vague goal of "reading more authors of color." 

As I've said before, I like the idea of challenges, but I don't like feeling boxed in by them, and I get annoyed with having to post updates and check-ins. For someone who a) started a book blog of her own free will and b) who has spent the last nine months mostly sheltering in place, I sure do resist being forced to socialize. Still, there are so many fun ones out there. My current tentative plan (2020 showed all of us the foolishness of thinking any of our plans are final) is to sign up for a few, track on my own, and just check in at the end of the year.

We'll see.

First, the basics. 

I always sign up for the Discussion Challenge at the Dabbler level, since it only requires 1 post, and I KNOW I can do that. Plus, Shannon at It Starts at Midnight and Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction are two of my favorite bloggers, as well as being lovely human beings. The discussion posts people share are usually great reads too! 

I'm also still a fan of setting my Goodreads goal at 100. Less than I'll read, but big enough it will take some time to get there. I even remembered to update the widget at the bottom of my blog!

On to the more challenging challenges. 
I found two that seem nice and flexible, and if I can make one book overlap into both, all the better. They are the Pick Your Poison challenge on Gregory Road and the Book Bingo 2021 on Unruly Reads.  With categories like"Who's in Charge?" (subtopics: books about empires, social movements, being a first time parent, or cats) and "Rabbit Hole," I'll be both inspired to pick up new things but also to think about the books I'm reading anyway in a different light.

Finally, I've culled several book challenges and put together a list of topics I like. I think I'll keep those as an ongoing challenge, much like my Printz Project, which is not something I have a deadline on. There's also Classics Club, which I am attempting in a very desultory way. (Yes, it took my several tries to spell that right.)