Monthly Archives: December 2014

Annabelle’s 2014 Book Roundup

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Every minute today brings us closer to 2015, which means a new year of resolutions, most of mine having to do with reading (naturally).

As promised, my chickadees, here’s my 2014 Book Roundup – in it, I hope to share some of my literary winners and losers from this past year, to help make your 2015 year of reading a little bit more interesting.

Using my handy-dandy Google doc – most of my work friends use Goodreads, which I’ve never gotten into – I keep track of what I want to read, what I have out, and what I’ve read (and the date I’ve finished it). Looking at this oh-so-scientific method of keeping track, I can see that in 2014, I have read…. drum roll please…

142 books. Not quite hitting my goal of 150, but close.

Of these books, 26 were young adult and 7 were juvenile chapter books (I’m not counting the endless picture books I’ve read) – both of these numbers are unacceptably low, given what I do. They’re going to have to go up in 2015.

18 of them I read in ebook format.

In no particular order, some of the winners from this past year (which, NB, may not have actually been written this past year,):

Kindred, by Octavia Butler – an incredible mix of fantasy and historical fiction from a talented writer. A top-three candidate.

Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh – Brosh turned her hilarious, thoughtful, and uniquely drawn webcomic into a graphic novel this year. Both Sister A and I loved it.

Dodger, by Sir Terry Pratchett – I love books that combine fictional characters (in this case Dickens’ Artful Dodger) with real-life figures. This was a young adult novel.

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman – A modern classic.

The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith – Not as good as The Cuckoo’s Calling, but still a hearty page-turner.

The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker – Sumptuously written and gloriously original. One of my top three from this year.

Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell – She just gets young adults and what it’s like to be a fan. Another young adult novel.

Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher – An epistolary novel written in mostly letters of recommendation.

The Phantom of Fifth Avenue, by Meryl Gordon – A fascinating biography of heiress-hermit Huguette Clark.

Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith – A look at small-town teenagerdom, with murderous grasshoppers thrown in. Another top-three book.

The Martian, by Andy Weir – The movie “Cast Away” set on Mars, with a lot more interior monologue. Going to be a movie.

Belzhar, by Meg Wolitzer – Notice that Meg Wolitzer has made both lists! This is her YA book from this year.

The Bees, by Laline Paull – A book that takes place in a beehive. Cool and interesting.

Here are some losers from the past year:

Threats, by Amelia Gray – a mystery I couldn’t care enough about to unravel.

The Interestings, by Meg WolitzerNot interesting.

The Good Girl, by Mary Kubica – Go ahead, abduct her. I don’t care.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan – It wasn’t bad; it was actually good, but I don’t think I was smart enough to understand 75% of what they were talking about.

Links:

In the top spot, well, cats love libraries too, dammit.

Do the books we used to love still hold up?

Sing, talk, and read – those are the keystones to early literacy, and it’s about time parents realized that.

From Friend D:

Iceland does Christmas right!

Casting news on a new adaptation of War and Peace.

Children’s books still have a way to go in terms of gender stereotyping (you don’t need to tell me that, sigh).

From Mama Bear:

The 50-page rule is actually A THING. (It’s okay. I won’t tell.)

These are nothing. You should see the stuff I get – and I’m just in children’s.

My library does this, too. And I belong to a few!

A happy and healthy new year to you all, my dear readers. Stay safe tonight.

Holiday update

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Happy holidays, my dear chickadees! I hope you’re reading this while you’re snuggled in your new sweater, you have toasty toes in your new socks, and you’re drinking your tea from the cool new mug that Uncle Herbert and Aunt Mildred gave you (so much better than last year’s misspelled mug).

I’m back at work today. They apparently didn’t tell my town that the library’s open, because practically no one is here. It’s honestly quite nice to get back into the groove.

Hanukkah is over, and Mama Claus came through with some excellent gifts. She made gifts in my and Sister A’s names to help digitize the 1816 Emma (and we got tattoos and buttons and stationery) – how cool is that? It’s really exciting to be part of this project. She and Daddio found – and this is a true Hanukkah miracle – DVDs of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which has been out of print for. Ever. EVER. One for each of us. We are very excited. It was directed by Elia Kazan, did you know that?

I must say this one, though, is my faaaaaavorite, even though no one gets it (sigh). I had asked for a few books, too, and learned that the easiest way to creep out one’s mother is to ask her to buy you a graphic novel about a serial killer. “Amazon probably now has me on some sort of watch list,” she said.

The things a mother does for her child, huh?

Links!

SPOT ON.  (Poor Addy, she was always so one-dimensional.)

Edmund Bertram, except for that whole wanna-be-a-preacher thing. He was always so very gallant.

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How awesome would it be to be a cruise ship librarian? I am utterly, completely serious.

From Friend D:

I really think the hand-knit (wand-knit?) sweaters should have been ranked higher.

Forgot to ask for this for Hanukkah. Oh well.

A truly good graphic novel is more than just a well-written comic book on thick stock. This looks like it’s going to be one of those.

From Mama Bear:

Seriously, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? Really? 

I always read my own books with a pen in my hand. And I love reading my own annotations years later. You should see my copy of Their Eyes Were Watching God, which I had to read in ninth grade, twice in college, and once in grad school. It’s marked up in many colors, with marginalia in varying degrees of maturity. My copy of Annie John has the word “bitch” in the margins so many times, I can’t even tell you.

In What’s Annabelle Reading, I finished the last of my pile of Lizzie Skurnicks – all the ones that aren’t All-of-a-Kind Family, at least – with And This is Laura, by Ellen Conford, who I had forgotten I loved. (The Jenny Archer books and A Royal Pain, particularly. What girl didn’t want to discover she was secretly a princess? I’m STILL waiting!) Then I read two short-ish memoirs: In the Sanctuary of Outcasts and Cut Me Loose (because I can never resist a memoir by anyone who was once ultra-Orthodox.)

Coming up in my next post: Annabelle’s 2014 Book Year in Review! Don’t miss it!

Toddlers, Wednesday, December 17, and Babies, Friday, December 19

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Today’s the last day of programming for 2014. I got lucky, thanks to a sick coworker, and got to pick up her baby lapsit, which as you know is my favorite.

I had the Toddlers on Wednesday, and our theme the whole time was counting. We have a (and “plethora” seems so inadequate)… boatload of counting books, so it’s easy to find one you love and then plan the rest of the storytime around it.

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Pete the Cat is always the most popular book, no matter what else I’m reading. This time it was Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons. If you hear children under the age of five use the word groovy, thank Pete the Cat. Eric Carle is a winner on my end (the kids don’t appreciate the history of his work, but all of his books are classics), and 1, 2, 3, To the Zoo is a wordless book that works well if you’re talking about animals or numbers. Finally, of course, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, but I forgot to bring my shirt. Annabelle fail.

On Thursday we had a school group of fifth graders come in to pick out some books for winter break. Thursday’s our busiest morning with two high-volume storytimes, preschool and ones, so we knew we wouldn’t be able to give the kids the kind of booktalks that they deserved. Instead, Coworkers J and Z and I pulled some of our favorite books from when we were fifth-graders, and put in slips about the books’ plots and why we loved them, and put them on a cart. Here’s mine from one of my favorites:

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There were some on which I just wrote, “Please, please read this, I love this book, do yourself a favor,” or something. The kids had a ball! They didn’t choose a lot of our books, but they still had a ball! (The books they didn’t choose? We put them back on the shelf with our slips still in them.)

Also, their teacher had a tattoo that made me go apenuts.

Bet you can guess why.

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Today I just pulled some books for babytime at the last minute (it happens, give me a break), but I had a small group of regulars and a new new new baby, so we had a lovely time.

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Karen Katz, I’m telling you. She’s the best. So is Jan Thomas.  I usually use Jan Thomas books for preschoolers, but this one was easy for babies, about wiggling and dancing and jumping, and it worked nicely. Another one to add to my tried-and-true for babies list.

It’ll be strange to have a few weeks off from storytime, but it’ll be nice, too. We’ll be able to focus on weeding our chapter books a bit, on displays, planning some new teen programming, and other projects we have to do.

Remember how Tuesday was Jane Austen Day? I hope so. It is, after all, the most important day of the year. I had lunch with Friends P+D, and ohmygoodness guess what they gave me?

A bag from the Jane Austen Centre in BATH!!! (I mean, the bag had a gorgeous white nightgown in it because they remember me talking about it once, BUT STILL), they sent away to the JAC for it! I spent about five minutes just looking at that bag. I teared up, even, because that’s something that I do now, but just looking at that bag brought back so many memories. Here’s me still looking a bit dazed and gleeful with the nightgown and the bag.

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My friends know me really well. I can’t wait to wash that nightgown and get into it when we have a bit of snow.

Links:

In the top spot, ave atque vale to Norman Bridwell, creator of Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Clifford wasn’t the only dog in town, you know.

Care for your books, you careless people.

Casting news for Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.

For all you last-minute gift-buyers

STANDING OVATION FOR JKR.

Also, Anthony Goldstein represents!

From Friend D:

Bookstores are magical places.

Works of art, these are.

Someone tries to make Ayn Rand funny. Ayn Rand is never funny. One star.

From Friend L:

Book always wins.

Oh, Amelia Bedelia, you’ve gone from kooky to effing scary.

From Friend P:

What if Voldemort had won the Battle of Hogwarts?

From Mama Bear:

If you cannot find inspiration in Jane Austen’s world, then you are dead inside and I weep for you.

Of course she was ahead of her time, she was Jane Austen, get with it, Buzzfeed.

The next time you think YA is just a placeholder from kids’ books to adult reading, think again.

From Sister A:

Dibbly fresh New year’s resolutions from the Babysitters club.

In What’s Annabelle Reading, I took a short break from my YA bonanza to read the world’s most boring true-life murder mystery. WE GET IT. ARSENIC IS POISON. You don’t have to spend 75 pages talking about arsenic. Seriously. Then it was back to my tower of Lizzie Skurnick’s YA with Sandra Scoppetone’s Happy Endings Are All Alike.  Just reading it, it seems like, in the 1970s, “lesbian” was a dirty word.

It’s a holiday!

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Today is a very special day.

Celebrated by people the world over.

A holiday celebrating the bringing of light to people in darkness. (By sheer coincidence, tonight’s also the first night of Hanukkah.)

So what is the holiday to which I refer?

It’s Jane Austen Day!

And it’s not just some random group that has decreed this day the holy of holies.  Jane Austen Centre says so, so it is. (The JAC is based in Bath, England, where I studied abroad. I spent a lot of time over there doing Jane-related stuff.)

To celebrate today, here are some moments of wit and wisdom from Jane.

Want to read The Books, but not sure of what order? Begin at the beginning, with Sense and Sensibility.

I have one of these, as all devotees of Jane should. (New in the box, because, obviously.)

At some point, I will join these hardy folk.

If you love Jane, and the history of Janealia (? is that what I mean? I don’t know), Goucher College, in my hometown of Baltimore, has the largest collection of Jane Austen books, memorabilia, etc. in North America. It’s amazing. (Mama Bear and Sister A are both alumnae, but I promise I’m not biased on that score. This is solely about Jane.)

On a personal note, Austen has been one of those authors I keep gravitating back to, when I just can’t decide what to read, when I’m cranky or sad or frustrated or happy or quiet or joyous, when I want comfort in the familiar, when I’m sick and need some literary chicken soup, and when I feel like coming home to a friend.

Happy birthday, Jane!

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Ho ho ho!

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Saturday was our holiday party. Given that we had just planned and put on our Halloween party a scant 6 weeks before, I’ve been a little holiday-partied out, but time cares not one whit about what I think.

Our decorations were fantastic. Disagree if you like, but they were super-jolly.

We had Santa…

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and his sleigh…

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and some presents, of course.

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We had paper chains (don’t worry, they were made from books that were in poor condition).

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Even my cruddy dreidel from last year made an appearance.

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It was amazingly festive.

On the agenda were crafts, games, storytimes, and a visit from a special visitor from the North Pole.

Representing the Tribe, I read two of my favorite Hanukkah books:

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The Hanukkah Mice is a bright, easy book for younger children, full of colors and simple words. They loved it. Later, when we had some older kids, I read THE Hanukkah book, the #1, best ever, king of the mountain of Hanukkah books, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins Of course, it’s still a long book, so I had to skip some of the main parts, but the kids loved the pictures (Trina Schart Hyman FTW, and it was a Caldecott Honor), and I explained a little bit more about the holiday and the traditions. (I read one book, then Coworker J read The Snowy Day, and then I read the other book.)

We wanted to keep the crafts fun and easy. It had hit us that we hadn’t done anything for New Year’s Eve last year, so why not do a noisemaker? (Why not send home something loud with the kids? What parent wouldn’t love that, right?) So with beans, paper plates, glitter glue, and a popsicle stick, you too can make a rattle to ring in the new year.

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Because our city is also so diverse, we wanted to make sure we had a Kwanzaa craft, too, and we found a great one that turned out to be exceptionally popular:

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But then, but then, but then, what are crafts and stories compared to Old St. Nick himself? One of our security guards, who is, and this goes without saying, a massively good sport, put on the Santa Claus costume and chatted with our little boys and girls as they visited him one by one.

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It was a sweet day. We had a great turnout and a lot of fun was had, by everyone, even your Grinchy Blogger.

In other news, friend J stopped by today for a surprise visit, because he was in the area, which was fun. I knew him at my pre-library job, and it’s always fun to show pre-library job friends my new self at my new job.

And then! We (us library folks, and everyone else in the city government) received an email from the mayor, who said that because we were all good little boys and girls, the government would be closed on December 26!  Hurray! Personally, I don’t mind working on the 26 (I take one for the team, the good Jew that I am, and work so that everyone else who really wants to be off for Christmas and the surrounding days can be), but I won’t say no to a bonus day off!

Links:

In the top spot: Clear your calendars – Toni Morrison has a book coming out in April, and Judy Blume has a book coming out in June.

When I sent this link to Mama Bear, she said, “Without a doubt, the books had a tremendous influence on me as a girl. I can’t think of any series that meant as much to me,” because they were so relatable.

There are sooo many hot buttons touched off with this one article. But let me say here: I support filters on public library computers for children and teens, and I support the right of adults 18 and over to watch pornography on public library computers, if that’s what, er, tickles their pickles. I’ve said that here before. But it is the library’s responsibility to think carefully about the building’s layout – in my library, the adult computer lab is in a room on the first floor; children’s and teen spaces are on the second floor – and the parents’ responsibility to be aware of their and their childrens’ surroundings. (If you are taking your children into the adult computer lab, you need to be aware of what they might see on screens.) I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Accio booty call!

Words are things of beauty.

I could definitely see Hermione listening to The Breeders.

The only HP character Rowling felt guilty about killing off is…?

From Friend D:

This could be great, depending on casting.

Never date a writer!

From Mama Bear:

By the Book… on Pamela Paul. Oh, how the tables have turned.

Some big (and new) names have books coming out in 2015.

Rowling starts off her days of awesome with some Snape.

From Sister A:

I never knew this! What a completely different spin on one of our favorite books.

In What’s Annabelle Reading, the Lizzie Skurnick streak continues with The Son of Someone Famous by M.E. Kerr. Meh.

Toddler storytime, Wednesday, December 10

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You may be thinking to yourself, “Annabelle, you’ve been working at your library for over a year now. Haven’t you figured out by this point what’s going to work with each group?”

The answer is: not exactly.

I mean, yes, to an extent. For instance, babies and ones are pretty easy. I’m most comfortable with those two groups, and I have a strong Spidey sense of what will work with them, and I’m usually right.

But also, not necessarily. My toddler and preschool groups are a bit more fluid (unfortunately). Babies are babies and one-year-olds are one-year-olds, but a lot of parents and daycares are vague about what constitutes toddlers and preschoolers. We may put out our preferred/recommended age groups on our flyers, but parents and caregivers may bring in their kids whenever a storytime best fits their schedules.

Also, kids grow and mature like crazy in the course of a calendar year. I’ve certainly seen the difference, in years of working with children in various capacities, between a fresh three-year-old and a three-year-old who’s about to turn four. Or a new two versus an older two.

So, back to the original question: I don’t know what’s going to work because a) I don’t know who’s going to show up and b) I don’t know what level those kids are at.

Today’s group was a perfect example. It was split quite neatly down the middle: a group of very young toddlers – some barely talking, not doing a lot of the hand movements or anything, and a group of much older toddlers who were practically preschoolers. The former group hardly participated at all, and the latter group were all over each other (literally; there was some mini-wrestling going on at one point) shouting out answers.

Which brings me to the theme of the day: questions!

I was all over questions today – starting with the hello song (Hello and how are you?), and in the title of each of the books.

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Melanie Walsh’s books are always a hit, and I got a lot of laughs to Do Donkeys Dance?  I liked Who Says Moo? when I pulled it to use, but realized it’s a good one-on-one book, maybe better suited for bedtime reading. I probably won’t use it again, or will make the final decision after trying it on my (generally verbal) preschoolers. We didn’t have time to get to How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?another entry in the prettily-illustrated Jane Yolen How Do Dinosaurs…? series.

I was trying to think of a good question song, and realized I had two in my arsenal: “Where is Thumbkin” (although I am now leaving out Tall Man – Mr. Middle Finger – for courtesy reasons, and the parents laughed as I explained that). I also have “Did you ever see…” with flannels. Have I posted it before? I don’t remember. If I have, well, sorry, bear with me:

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Just cut-out flying things on felt, and we sing a verse about each to the tune of “Did you ever see a lassie” or “The more we get together,” depending on how old you are:

Did you ever see a butterfly

A butterfly, a butterfly

Did you ever see a butterfly

Fly this way and that?

Fly this way and that way?

And this way and that way?

Did you ever see a butterfly fly this way and that?

Then in the next verse you hold up the next piece of felt and substitute “butterfly” with whatever you’re holding up.

Easy peasy.

Tomorrow I have a training all day, so no second storytime for me this week.

Links:

In the top spot from Mama Bear,  you can’t feel Grinchy when there are NEW HARRY POTTER STORIES COMING OUT.

(Also, I am wearing this shirt today.)

Can’t wait to watch this. (The LoC has its own Chorale. My library does not have a Chorale. It should, frankly.)

Amy March, Josie Pye, and any of the frilled-up gals of literature never really appealed to me.

Why don’t any vicars propose to meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee?

More on the BSC next, but also related to the above.

One of Sister A’s and my traditions when we travel internationally is to pick up foreign iterations of our favorite books. One of our best acquisitions came about when we were at a flea market in Helsinki and we came across a pile of Finnish Babysitters Club books. I had been a fan, and when A came of age, I ensured she was a fan, too. (Years later, on our first trip to England, we would write each other quizzes about BSC trivia.) In Helsnki, we each had to buy a book, of course, and no matter what else we acquired on that trip, those were the coolest things we bought. We had a lot of fun comparing the differences to the American books, between the names and the handwriting and all that. Anyway, I saw this BSC snark – I subscribe to a lot of BSC snark #sorrynotsorry – and of course had to send it to her. (And the funny thing? Which Finnish BSC book did I buy? Dawn on the Coast – exactly the book snarked above.)

There will be more Stephen King adaptation news below, but this one involves Matthew McConaughey, he of the chiseled abs.

From Friend D:

Call me naive, but that’s not what I would have expected the modern-day Library of Alexandria to look like. Personally, I expected scrolls.

When I was taking my Storytelling class in library school (yes, that’s a real thing and yes, it was my favorite class), we started every class session with passing around a book of Grimm’s fairy tales and each reading a few lines. So I know full well just how freaky some of these classic fairy tales and nursery rhymes are.

Silly, but legitimately hilarious, Harry Potter puns.

From Friend E:

This makes me glad I’m not on Tinder.

From Mama Bear:

OH WELL ISN’T THAT JUST GREAT. (You know I can’t keep the book in my house, right? Legitimately cannot have it in my home.)

For the record, that’s not me in the picture.

So much more to Katherine Paterson than I ever knew – and to Bridge to Terabithia.

H.L. Mencken is a hometown hero – and always someone worth reading.

How dare you besmirch the name of my Birthday Twin in such a way?

From Sister A:

Mark your calendars for the second holiest day of the year, December 16 (you know what the first one is, John Green’s birthday).

I don’t know any librarians who don’t rock the socks.

This news is VERY exciting!! More Simon Snow!!!

In what’s Annabelle reading, I finished Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and I don’t think I was smart enough for it. I loved the characters, and their passion for their quest (can’t tell you much more about it or else I’ll spoil it), but there was a lot of tech-y stuff that made me question my I.Q. results. Still, a lot of fun.

There’s a huge, now tottering teetering pile of Lizzie Skurnick books on my bedside, so it’s time I made a dent. I’ve started off with Lila Perl’s Isabel’s War, and it’s a melange of Dirty Dancing (the Catskills), Sonia Levitin’s Journey to America/Silver Days/Annie’s Promise trilogy, which you should read immediately (Jewish-German immigrants to the U.S. during WWII), the American Girl “Molly” books (particularly Happy Birthday, Molly!, in which an English war refugee comes to stay with Molly’s family), and the 1942 Roddy McDowell movie “On the Sunny Side.” Of course, Lila Perl may be best known for the Fat Glenda books, so you should read her anyway, as those are a staple of early YA lit.

Baby Lapsit, Friday, December 5

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I love my babies, yada yada yada, they’re so cute, moving on. You’ve heard this before, so no reason to keep gushing.

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It was smooth sailing all the way (two smooth, easy storytimes in one week? What’s going on? Should I be listening for the hoofbeats of the Four Horsemen?), but had one hilarious moment of confusion when I got to Two Little Monkeys. I had monkey puppets – it’s apparently puppet week, boys and girls! – on my hands, and realized turning the pages would be like turning pages with oven mitts on. Luckily, one parent* got up and offered to be my page turner. What luck. It worked nicely.

* This is the parent who, often (and I’m not sure if I mentioned this) would come in with his kids, take zero interest in the proceedings, and often open a book and read it right in front of me while storytime was going on. To say that I was gobsmacked by the eagerness with which he offered to turn the pages today would be an understatement.

Links:

The top spot goes to a revolutionary idea, sent from Friend P: libraries lending hotspots.

Dirtbag Shakespeare: The Tempest

Sadly, I often find myself doing readers’ advisory for parents with absent children based on their children’s genders. I would love to have that NOT be a factor.

Always my outcome on every Choose Your Own Adventure book, no matter which path I chose.

From Friend E:

Jacqueline Woodson (and recent National Book Award winner) writes on a painful topic.

From Mama Bear:

Who wouldn’t love an original Geisel hanging in the living room?

In What’s Annabelle Reading, I finished The Book of Life and thus the All Souls trilogy. It gave me a slight book hangover from the number of the characters (can there be some additional books about some of the peripheral characters, please?) and the history and the depth of the story. It’ll take some time and other books to clear my head.