Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Book Review: Book Scavenger

Book Scavenger
By Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Henry Holt and Company, 2015
Reviewed from NetGalley
Audience: Grades 4 to 8
ISBN:  9781627791151
Publication Date:  June 2, 2015

Emily's family moves often, but her one constant is Book Scavenger, an online book hunting game that combines literature and treasure hunting.  Now that she is moving to San Francisco, she's excited to learn about the new game from Garrison Griswold, the founder of Book Scavenger.  While on his way to the game unveiling, he is mugged, and ends up in the hospital.  Emily, with her neighbor James, end up at the BART station where the crime occurred and find a book-a book that is part puzzle, part treasure, and part target.  Emily tries to play the new game and learn the ropes at a new school while also trying to dodge men that seem to be after the book.  A fantastic bookish adventure along the lines of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library and The Westing Game.

If you know me, you know that I do not use the phrase "like The Westing Game" lightly, but I do feel that this is a fair comparison.  It has a similar feels to TWG due to the game aspect, which was by design.  Garrison Griswold does resemble a charitable Samuel Westing, although Emily is not as feisty as Turtle.  I would still say that Greenglass House has a little more magic, but Book Scavenger is a little more accessible, and more fast paced.

Ignoring the game for a moment, there is also a good friendship story at play here too.  Emily has never made friends before since she knows that she will be moving on.  This time, she does bond with James over his love of puzzles and she learns that it's nice to have a friend, but she doesn't know how to be a good friend when James needs her help on the cipher challenge.  This message isn't heavy-handed, even though as a secondary plot point it could have easily become so, and readers will likely understand the importance of this message.

Like so many adventure novels today, it strikes me as funny that authors have to always explain why the characters cannot use their cell phones to get out of trouble.  You can imagine that this book hunt does get Emily into trouble, and together with James and her brother, Matthew, they are on the run.  Of course Matthew's cell phone battery dies and they are left at the mercy of their enemies.  The message kids, never leave home without a fully charged cell phone!  This is an epidemic in children's literature, right up there with dead/missing parents!  Or, if you choose to write a book, you could set it in the 80's before cell phones were a thing, then you don't have to constantly explain why the characters can't just call the police.

Tangent aside, I would recommend Book Scavenger to readers that love a good puzzle or just love books in general.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Missed It: Happy Father's Day

Even though I failed to publicly declare it, or share it in a timely manner on this blog, my hubby and Ali's grandpas did get their Father's Day wishes from Ali on time.  This photo shoot went much like the Mother's Day photo shoot, except this time Ali's Grandma Erickson played the part of assistant instead of Doug so he could be surprised by this shot.

We used the chalkboard just like last time, but I didn't know what to draw.  I tried a goldfish, but that didn't look right, so I just wrote the message and went without a drawing, until Ali pawed at it the second I put it down, that's what lead to her little hand prints.  Then I drew the best heart of my life in the other corner.  Too bad her darling head is in the way!

There aren't as many outtakes this time.  It was the kind of annoying overcast day outside that makes it look perfect for pictures, but your still squinty, so that's why her little eyes are nearly closed.  She was also playing with an Easter egg the whole time, but she's happy.  And did you notice that she's in basically the same pose as the Mother's Day photo?  She knows what looks good!

Just like last time, we have a scheming kind of photo.  More accurately, she's watching Lucy our beagle run amok in our yard.

I love this little bonus picture.  When Ali gets really excited, this is kinda her look.  Mouth wide open and laughing.

For Daddy and Grandpa Erickson, we did a quick costume change and put her in a Cubbie Bear tee.  It's a little big, but still adorable.  She was getting a little tired of being outside, so I just went with this pic.

Happy Late Father's Day to all of the dads, grandpas, uncles, and friends out there.  I hope you had a great day and got lots of snuggles from your little ones!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sing a Book

Have you noticed that Every Day in May has dissolved into Maybe If By Chance in June?  Summer does have a way of running away with you.

But today I share a singable story time!

Continuing with the Read to the Rhythm theme, my story time last week was all in song.  Some children were delighted, others dismayed, but since I can carry a tune in a bucket, it went over pretty well.

I kicked things off with She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain by Jonathan Emmett.  This sassy cowgirl rides into town with style, and plenty of audience participation.

Wiggle by Doreen Cronin might seem like a dance book, but not when you sing it to the tune of Do Your Ears Hang Low?.  A friend in librarian school taught me this neat trick and I've loved using this book ever since.

Next, we did some more rock star stretching, because you have to warm up to sing!

I Miss You Everday by Simms Taback is based on a Woody Gutherie song, but when I first read the book years ago, I started singing Taback's lyrics to a tune of my own design.  We sang along to this lovely book next.

And what would story time be without a tale about accidental arson?  Mrs. O'Leary's Cow by Mary Ann Hoberman recounts the barn burning that may (or may not) have caused the Great Chicago Fire.  Just so all the kids know the truth, I did tell them that the poor cow was not to blame.  But this lively book offers some great sing-along parts for the audience and nonsense verses.

Due to another ear infection, my baby girl was with me the whole time, and thankfully she napped through her first mommy-led story time.  Don't worry, there will be countless others!

Go check out these books and sing along to the rhythm!

Friday, June 12, 2015

5 Things: Summer Days

5 Things to Brighten Your Day
Despite the BS that May Get in Your Way

1.  Easy summer days, so quiet and peaceful.

2.  Today is not oppressively hot, maybe oppressively humid, but not bad enough to keep me from taking a couple mid-day walks.

3.  I'm looking forward to some epic baked pasta tonight.  Ali was playing in the cookbooks and recipe sheets and pulled out this recipe that looks amazing.  This might be how I meal plan from now on.

4.  Lunch with Lucy.  I love going home to see my furry baby.

5.  It's Friday!  Enjoy it.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Strike Up the Band!

This year libraries around Illinois are participating in Read to the Rhythm and celebrating all things musical.  I'm back doing story time at the lovely Colchester Library on Mondays and I'll be sharing my story time outlines with you here.

These story times are the highlight of my week!  There were roughly 15 kids this week, and we meet outside by a busy highway, but they still pay pretty great attention.  The ages are 4 to 10, so it's a broad range, but I always have fun, and I think that most of the kids do too.

First up, Strike Up the Band!

I opened with Punk Farm by Jarrett J Krosoczka.  This is a go-to book for me.  The kids really loved the punk rock flavor of this book.

Then, we did some Rock Star Stretching.  This is an activity that I totally made up in the car on the way over.  We reached for the high notes, bent low for the low notes, arranged our keyboards and stretched to reach them all, played the drums, and did some pretty epic air guitar.

Next, The Remarkable Farkle McBride.  I'm not normally a fan of celebrity books, but this one is great, and it has a nice meter along with some wonderful sound words.  Plus, how many books introduce children to the orchestra?

Our next movement activity was a marching band.  I split the kids into three rough groups, gave each a sound to make, and we were off.  We marched a bit, made our noises, and sat back down.

Finally, I read Thump, Thump, Rat-a-tat-tat about a marching band that comes closer, and then moves farther away.  The kids did help me with the refrain and got louder and softer.

I have three more weeks of musical fun ahead of me.  My next story time will be all about singable books, and I am planning one on dance as well.  Stay tuned!

Happy Reading

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Whomp Whomp: An Every Day in May Update

I knew vacation would be the end of me!  I fell short of posting every day in May by 4 posts!  All while on vacation.  I did manage to post twice from a hotel room in Oklahoma City while rains pounded outside, but after that I was having entirely too much fun to think about this little blog.  But 27 posts in 28 days is pretty great, and when you think about it, I got an 87% for the month.  I'll take a B on this assignment.  And with the curve, I'm way over an A.

My other social media offerings were not as successful.  Instagram, which should have been a no-brainer during vacation, went completely silent.  Twitter is still dead to me.  I think I should just delete my twitter profile.  I just don't get it and don't have time or desire to learn.

Even though I didn't post at all while on vacation, thus ruining my Every Day in May resolution, I did something even more important, I unplugged.  I'm not a big social media girl on the best day, obviously, but even so, it's nice to not check email, not peek at Facebook, let you phone sit untouched for hours on end.  I barely managed to keep the thing charged because I paid so little attention to it.  But I did play with Ali, take long walks, get a much needed massage, and see some family that I never see.  And it was much better without a phone in my hands. 

So while I failed (but a B is not failing!) I enjoyed this past month.  It's shown me that I can be social and active online but that it's better to be social and active in the real world.  That's a lesson we should all learn!

Look for more posts to come, including a wrap-up of our road-trip vacation, summer reading plans, and VBS updates!

Happy Reading

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Book Review: Circus Mirandus

Circus Mirandus
By Cassie Beasley
Dial, 2015
Reviewed from NetGalley
Audience: Grades 3 to 7
ISBN:  9780525428435
Expected Publication Date:  June 2, 2015

Micah Tuttle is dismayed at his aunt's behavior.  Ever since she has come to live with him and his grandfather, she's been changing everything and she's nothing like them.  Micah and his grandfather Ephraim believe in magic.  Micah adores hearing his grandfather's stories about the magical Circus Mirandus, and as things are looking very bleak, Ephraim asks the circus' Lightbender for a miracle.  Micah, with the help of the very rational Jenny, must find the circus and try to find the miracle, whatever it may be.

Do you know how annoying it is to love a book, then have someone say "If you liked X, you'll love this book", then you don't love it?  Not here, folks!  If you were an adult that loved The Night Circus, then hand Circus Mirandus over to your children, but not before you read it first!

The circus itself is sufficiently magical.  I'm especially fond of the elephant that can do long division.  She's feisty.  And all of the tents are described in such stunning detail that you can't help but long to go.  The circus also brings up some wonderful questions about childhood.  It's long been believed that children can believe things that adults just can't, and no where is that shown more than the brief moment when the circus is discovered.  It's a sad fact, adults are too rational for our own good.

Micah's story was compelling enough, but the undercurrent of Victoria was heartbreaking.  Here is a woman with talent, but she's cruel and only seeks power.  What a villain!  This isn't really an adventure novel, but it could easily become one if her character was teased out a little bit more.  Instead, it's a quiet novel about family, belief and belonging.

And a giant gorilla balloon, but you should really read the book to find out why.

This was another home run for NetGalley.  I've been quite lucky with them lately, and I can't wait to see what comes next.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I Read YA

Big confession here people.  I read YA.  GASP!  Reading YA, middle grade fiction, and picture books are kinda what my free time is all about, and while I sometimes noticed the angst before, it never really bothered me.  I was always able to connect to my inner fourteen year old and appreciate it for what it was.  That's changed just a little bit.

I've heard that you are never really an adult until you have a baby.  I've also heard that you're never really an adult until you've lost a parent.  I think that both are true, and by both counts, I'm now an adult.  (Which is a major bummer.  It's kinda like the day I discovered that I might be a Republican.  Just typing that makes me want to vomit.)

Being an adult sometimes means being more practical and sensible - something that the main characters in most YA novels are not.  It really hit me while I was reading Daughter of Deep Silence.  Here is Frances still in love-love with Grey four years later, and Shepard is also still in love-love with Libby after four years and blows Frances' cover because of it.  I was telling this to my husband and saying that I found it totally unbelievable that these characters could still love each other that much after four years completely apart, and he actually thought it was possible.

So wait, not only am I an adult, I'm the adult in my marriage?  Not cool!

What I failed to remember, but which my young-at-heart hubby does, is that an 18 year old is still very much a teen, and will likely fall for that first love or even major crush if they come a callin' four years later.  I think he's right.  Check in with your own inner 14- and 18-year olds and find out.

Young adult literature is great for escaping, at least the type I read most often.  I'm escaping into a privileged world, or a fantastic world, or a world where Tiny Cooper exists, and that's great in and of itself.  But I'm also checking out on being an adult, because it just stinks.  As long as the angst is well-written, I'm okay with it, and I'll actually find my inner teen jumping for joy.

Happy Reading

Monday, May 25, 2015

Book Review: Daughter of Deep Silence

Daughter of Deep Silence
By Carrie Ryan
Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2015
Reviewed from First Reads
Audience: Ages 14 and up
ISBN:  9780525426509
Publication Date:  May 26, 2015

Frances Mace was pulled from a lifeboat, only hours after watching her friend give in to dehydration and  exhaustion, and surviving a violent attack on the Persephone which killed her parents and nearly everyone on board.  Now an orphan, Frances accepted the offer to become her friend Libby when her father asked to her help him find out the truth about the ship's demise.  There were two other survivors who both claim that the ship was hit but a rogue wave, not armed gunmen, and one of them is Frances' first love, Grey.  After four long years of living as Libby, she's come home to find out the truth and exact her revenge, for Libby, for her parents, and for herself.

This story takes place in a world of privilege, excess, and secrets.  Frances (I'm going to call her that for the sake of argument) has completely made herself into Libby, but Libby's first love Shepard notices the small differences that cannot be faked, and she's thrust into a dangerous position.  Meanwhile, Grey is slowly falling for new Libby, all part of the plan to expose the truth, and a local detective seems to be too interested in new Libby as well.  Plots abound, danger is everywhere, and emotions run high.

There must be something about girls with multiple personalities, like Vanishing Girls and The In-Between.  While Frances is this Libby hybrid, but she keeps referring to Frances as a girl that's locked up and wants to get out.  The revenge plot is quite well-planned and with Shepard's help, Frances is able to understand why the Persephone was a target in the first place.  Surprisingly, that plot point didn't feel forced.  Sometimes a detail like that can feel too simple once explained, but I actually thought that was well thought-out.

I blew through this book, something I alluded to the other day, and I do feel like some of the revelations lacked a punch.  Then again, I was left wide-eyed at the ending, so there was still obviously plenty of punch left.

One aspect of this book felt off to me.  Every love story (Libby and Shepard or Frances and Grey) was so intense that it left a mark for four years, even when Frances and Grey were only really together for a week or two.  It didn't feel believable to me, but maybe that's my adult side showing.  More on that to come.

For a plot driven revenge novel with come pretty compelling characters, look no further than Daughter of Deep Silence.

Happy Reading!  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Born to Read?

Ali was playing with her books a couple days ago and she actually started flipping through Guess How Much I Love You.  The book is actually the right direction, she's flipping the pages nicely, and her expression is thoughtful.  If I were a different kind of person, I would post this on Facebook bragging about how my baby can read at nine months old.  If I were a really dishonest person, I would create some type of Your Baby Can Read program, and use this picture as proof that it works.

But I'm an honest person.  Ali isn't reading at 9 months.  She won't read at 3 years, and I'll be happy if she can read simple books in kindergarten or first grade.  Babies aren't born to read, they are born to be read to.  I read to my Ali, and that's why she likes books.  She likes the bright pictures, the smooth pages, and the sound of my voice.

And books taste pretty amazing too.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

5 Things: Travel Edition

5 Things to Brighten Your Day
Despite the BS that May Get in Your Way

Hello from the road!  This is the biggest hurdle I will face during my Every Day in May challenge.  I'm on traveling across the country, baby in tow.  Challenging for many reasons.

But there are still plenty of reasons to smile.

1.  Morning cuddle time.  Ali woke up at 5 am and being in a strange place means it's totally cool to sleep curled up to her in bed for an hour.  She's a little bit of a difficult sleep partner.  

2.  Pretty good travel conditions.  Very little rain, reasonable traffic, overall about the best we could have expected.

3.  Ali was a good traveler today.  Again, about the best that we could have expected from her.

4.  Great dinner at a tapas place.  My favorites were the asparagus and bacon wrapped dates.  

5.  Making it back to the hotel before flooding rains poured down.  It was raining as we walked back, but luckily, not horribly bad.  And Ali just smiled the whole time.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Historical Fiction for Boys

I have a weird relationship with Historical Fiction.  On one hand, it's not my thing.  I'm not a big history person for the most part, but I will become intrigued by random time periods or stories or people.  But on the other hand, I love period novels like Diamonds and Deceit, The Luxe, and The Diviners.  It also helps if there is something other than just history to get me hooked.

However, historical fiction has a big place in school curriculums.  My favorite reference question ever was a boy that called the library asking for an autobiography by Dracula.  After several questions, I learned that his assignment was to read a historical fiction.  He left with Blood on the River.  Good choice.

My sister contacted me with a librarian question, she needs "living books" for my nephew.  The example she gave were the Little House on the Prairie books.  Something that makes you feel like you are there.  Then, a friend at church was telling me that her son really like historical fiction too, and was blowing through books like crazy.  That was enough motivation for me to come up with a completely non-comprehensive list of historical fiction books.

Miss Tiff's Historical Fiction Picks:

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman.  Adventure, funny, historical-this book checks all the boxes, and it won a Newbery.  It's basically the perfect book.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Lawson.  This is a book for a slightly older crowd than my target audience of 3-4 grade, but particular chapters would make a great read aloud.

Bud not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis.  1936, Flint, Michigan, and jazz.

True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi.  It's about a girl, but this seafaring adventure defies gender.

Emily's Fortune by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.  Another girl, but she's got a great side-kick and they are all trying to outrun the orphan train.

One-handed Catch by Mary Jane Auch.  WWII and baseball, with a little meat grinder accident.  You want to know, don't you?

A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck.  Again, maybe a little old, but a must for any central Illinois kid, and Grandma Dowdel is perfection.

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick.  The Civil War and tall tales combine for what is ultimately an honest look at the difficulty of way.

And since truth is stranger than fiction check out these non-fiction titles:

The Giant and How He Humbugged America by Jim Murphy

Brothers at Bat:  The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team by Audrey Vernick

The Camping Trip that Changed America by Barbara Rosenstock

I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat by Carlyn Beccia

Now go out there and make some history!!

Happy Reading

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Babies: Furry and Otherwise

The relationship between Ali and her furry sister Lucy is pretty fun to watch.  Once Ali started being aware of the world around her, Lucy became a source of constant interest, and that's still very much the case.  She laughs when Lucy runs into the room, tries to get at her water dish, and wants to pet her all the time.  Now that she is mobile and a bit more coordinated, Ali loves to interact with Lucy, or at least try.  We've even let her play tug with Lucy just a little bit and it makes at least one of the babies very happy.

Lucy is a pretty well-behaved dog, but she has her flaws.  She sniffs all over everything and still gets at Ali's toys, although she has yet to ruin one.  Lucy wants attention very badly and will bark and howl when we come home, even with a sleeping baby.  And she begs and jumps up on Ali's high chair constantly.  It doesn't help that Ali finds this hilarious and intentionally feeds her.  These two are already partners in crime!  To her credit, Lucy is amazingly gentle with Ali.  She does jump around and race past her, but I have yet to see her knock her down.  Plus, Ali loves when Lucy sniffs her.  It's just a funny puppy kiss to her.

Slowly but surely Ali is gaining the coordination to be gentle with Lucy and pet, not grab, her hair.  I can imagine that once Ali starts to walk, they will really gang up on us.  I can't wait to see them chasing each other around the yard and play.

They are sisters already.  When I take the two for walks, Ali will reach her hand out of her stroller to hold on to Lucy's leash.  It's a sight that melts this mama's heart!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Confessions of a Reformed Board Book Snob

Board books abound in my home.  They are in the living room, the nursery, my bag, the diaper bag, my bedroom, the kitchen.  THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!  

And I love it!  Books should be everywhere, especially with a young child in the house.  Ali should never be far from a book.  But the kind of books that I have let her read and play with have changed.  Once I realized how destructive little uncoordinated hands can be, I came to love the idea of board books.  Tough and sturdy mini replicas of all my favorite picture books like The Napping House, Guess How Much I Love You, and The Three Snow Bears are just perfect for babies.  But I wasn't going to let lesser board books in my house.  No, nothing but the finest in board book literature for my little biscuit.

Then I realized that Ali doesn't actually read the books, she plays with them.  They are chewed and thrown and sat on.  When I try to read them, she grabs for them, not letting me finish a page.  The only time that I can get through reading an entire book to her is when she's playing with another toy, or book.  I usually give her a book to hold while I read her a book, and it's a system that has worked out just great.  

While her library collection is full the best in picture book board books, it's also full of simpler, less fancy books.  I love the books in the above picture because of the handle.  The pictures are simple, the text is pretty marginal, but they are easy for her to carry.  And she'll pick them up, and spin herself on her bottom in a clockwise circle.  Never counter-clockwise.  Only clockwise.  It's adorable.  

Having some less-than-stellar books in Ali's collection means that I'm not afraid to let her play with books.  She is learning that books are fun, and that's the most important lesson of all.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

5 Things: Sleep

5 Things to Brighten Your Day
Despite the BS that May Get in Your Way

1.  Ali slept until 6:15 this morning!  She's sleeping through the night now, but mornings are very early, so this is a victory.

2.  Reading time today.  I'm finishing up Daughter of Deep Silence.

3.  Manicure time today.  I wish that I had time for a proper manicure with polish and everything, but I'll take nicely filed nails instead.

4.  It's grilling season, which means shish kabobs for dinner tonight.  

5.  Bright, bright sunshine makes everything better.  

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Perils of Reading Quickly

It's marathon season!  I am one of those people that thinks marathons only apply to reading and watching TV.  Running is not my thing, but 24 hours of Park and Recreation is right in my wheelhouse!  And hours of uninterrupted reading is a beautiful thing as well, but I wonder if I am going about my reading marathons all wrong. 

Normally, I'm all about one book.  Sit down with a good book, come up for air every hour or so, finish it off quickly.  But right now I am reading Daugther of Deep Silence (quite good-review to come) and I am curious if my quick reading of it is dampening some of the emotional heaviness.  Believe me, I'm still feeling it.  A girl stranded in the ocean, watches her friend die only to take on her identity to learn the truth about event that sealed her fate, it's pretty heady stuff.  But since I'm taking it in so quickly, some of the events are not quite hitting my core, and are thus, not as earth shattering.  I could explain it better if you'd already read it and we were talking about it without the risk of spoilers, but I can't very well do that.

I do think that the books that I read during my marathon reading sessions don't quite get the headspace that I book I take my time with does.  Plus, I'm somewhat of a chain reader, going from one book to another to another.  Talk about an unhealthy way to live!

I suppose that the books that I really care about I treat with a little more respect.  I buy the physical book, or only read sparingly so I don't burn out on the plot and characters.  I take my time, wine and dine the book if you will.  That's the only way to grow a relationship.

I think that my metaphors are getting a little messy.  Is reading a race or a relationship?  Maybe that's the real question!

Happy Reading!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Book Jackets

While I was packing up my Children's Book Week display the other day, I noticed how many of my books had book jackets.  Just that morning, I was reading Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site to Ali (she'd pulled it off her bookshelf, then pulled about 10 others off too, but I still take it as a sign that she'll be an engineer like her daddy) when I noticed that the book jacket was super annoying.

As a librarian, I'm pretty protective of books.  It's hard to let Ali play with books like they are toys.  But everything is a toy to a baby.  Plastic cups, spoons, cell phones, bracelets, Altoids tins, those little ribbons in the hymnal for marking your place, these are all just toys to a baby, because play is real work.  Book jackets are often the first causality in baby book play, so why not remove them?

I love books like Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus with its clean, jacketless cover, and if you take the jackets off of most of your books, that's what you're left with.  So I took the plunge and scrapped all the jackets from my display book.  It wasn't easy, but it was necessary.

A couple of the books had covers that differed from the jacket, but I went for it anyway!

Forgive the glare, but you can still see that The Birthday Box cover is actually nicer without the jacket in my opinion.

Old school favorite If You Give a Mouse a Cookie has a very vintage cover, but I have two copies of this one, so one can keep the jacket, while the other goes away.

I didn't toss the jacket for First the Egg, because you'll see that when you remove it, it becomes First the Chicken.  The philosophical debate continues!

That's how I broke up with book jackets.  Now I just have to go after the books on Ali's bookshelf.  I think that I'll leave the jackets on my chapter books for now, but they might get the boot too.  After all, these are books that will be read and loved, not collected.  It's not like I'm planning on sending Ali to college with my vast collection of valuable middle grade chapter books.  No, that's what Beanie Babies are for!  (JK-Is that even a thing?)

Happy Reading!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Half Way Through May: Progress Report

So, I embarked on this Every Day in May campaign with a head full of dreams and a heart full of hope.  Half way through the month (what the what?!) let's see how I'm doing.

Miss Tiff Reads Blog:  Have you been reading everyday this month?  Because I've been blogging!  Yep, 15 posts in 15 days, or 16 in 16 if you are counting today, and going strong.  The big challenge is going to be the last week of the month when I'm on vacation, but hopefully I'll schedule some great stuff for you and post from the road.

Miss Tiff Reads on Instagram:  Started pretty well, then didn't go so great, then didn't really post.  I like Instagram, I really do, so I need to try harder.

Miss Tiff Reads on Twitter:  Is Twitter really still a thing that people do?  Really?  I've never gotten into it.  Maybe I'm missing out but I would rather spend my internet time looking up stuff on Pinterest or checking out Instagram, so Twitter, I've failed you.

Of the 15 posts that I've put up so far this month, 5 have been book reviews, 4 have been all about the baby, 2 have been librarian randomness, 2 have been my daily 5, and 1 has been totally random.  Pretty good range, I'd say.

Here's to another 15 days of posting!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Children's Book Week Experiment: The Results

This lovely collection of books has been sitting on my office counter for two weeks, waiting to be read by college students desperate for a break from studying for finals.  The semester ends today, so I thought I would give you a recap of how this little experiment went.

In a word, poorly.

Not poorly exactly, just very few people even glanced at these books.  Maybe it has something to do with the basket full of candy placed right next to it.  I guess candy trumps books any day.

A couple of students did come it to drop off homework one day and delightedly flipped through my collection, and we have a 15 minute conversation about their favorite children's books.  That was a great time.  Another student will have his first child later this summer and was saying that he needed to read up on these books so he'd be ready for his baby.  Yes, babies enjoy Mo Willems much more than Richard Feynman.

I've caught a couple other students or faculty browsing, but not taking a book off the shelf to read it.  But maybe it triggers a happy memory for a moment.

I guess my original statement is rather false.  While this experiment wasn't a resounding success, it did make me happier just looking at these books for the past two weeks.  And who wouldn't be happy when lovable, furry old Grover is waving at you all day long!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ali Pie: An Explanation

Like the royal baby, Ali has quite a name.  I mentioned the full story behind Alice Rose before, but this is the story of her nickname:  Ali Pie.

Let me set the scene:  It's early August.  We've been home with Ali a matter of days, so we are both slap-happy with exhaustion.  We're sitting in the cool basement on a hot summer day trying to relax and watch TV while Ali nurses and naps.  Here's the conversation:

Doug -- I'll hold Ali Pie.

Me -- (giving him a "what" look) -- You've called her that a couple of times, why do you call her Ali Pie?

Doug -- (in a "duh" kinda of tone) -- Because it rhymes.

Me -- (I wait a beat, say it in my head just to be sure that my sleep deprived brain remembers what a rhyme even is) -- No it doesn't.

Doug -- (he waits a beat, I'm assuming he is also trying to remember what a rhyme is) -- Oh, it doesn't.  Well, okay, Ali Pie is a higher order of Cutie Pie.

Me -- Okay, so it's like all Ali Pies are Cutie Pies, but not all Cuties Pies rise to the level of an Ali Pie.

Doug -- That's right

Me -- Nice save

Doug -- Thank you

And that little mistake in rhyming lead to our daughter's nickname.  Now she is most frequently called Ali Pie around our house and sometimes I lengthen it to Ali Pie born in July.  Some how it just fits.  She's a little Ali Pie and I wouldn't have it any other way.  

What's your name story?  I'm sure there is a story behind your given name, but often the nickname stories are much more fun.  For instance, my childhood nickname was Loulabelle.  My sister called me Lou all though college and now I'm Aunt Lou to her son.  However, my aunt never could get a handle on Loulabelle and instead called me Little Lil.  I'm not sure where that came from, but it worked.

I've love to hear your name story, just share it in the comments.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Book Review: Flora and Ulysses

Flora and Ulysses:  The Illuminated Adventures
By Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press, 2013
Reviewed from paperback
Audience: Grades 4 to 8
ISBN:  9780763660406
Publication Date:  September 1, 2013

Holy Bagumba!  Comic-lover and cynic Flora sees a squirrel in danger of being sucked up by a runaway vacuum cleaner and steps in to save the day.  And because Flora reads comics, she's knows what to do in an emergency, but also knows that the smallest incident can cause a hero to be born, and such is the case with simple squirrel turned superhero, Ulysses.  Because of this squirrel, Flora gets to know her neighbor and her great-nephew William Spiver, learns her mother is a villain, but maybe rather misunderstood and sees her father smile again.  While not heavy-handed, this novel is beautiful, funny, and engaging, and the squirrel is perfection!  A wonderful Newbery selection that will be an easy sell to readers.

I love Scholastic Weekly Reader!  Ali gets it at school so that means I get books too!  This paperback was only $5, so while Ali won't be reading it for another year or two (because she is a genius baby-wink wink), I wanted to read it.  Happily, my copy does not have the double-edged Newbery Award sticker.  Double-edged because it can simultaneously attract and deflect readers.  Newbery-esque has become an adjective meaning "a weighty and heavy-handed novel in which the main character's mother, father, pet, sister, second cousin or mailman dies as a plot device serving only to make readers cry.  See also Bridge-to-Terabithia-ish".  But a Newbery sticker also serves as a quick and dirty reader's advisory tool for teachers, librarians and parents everywhere, meaning "here read this, the experts said it's good!".  

But let's all be honest, Kate DiCamillo doesn't need a sticker.  She doesn't need a Newbery, just like Mo Willems doesn't need another Geisel Award.  Kate DiCamillo is the Newbery Award, and justly.  Her books are lovely and heartfelt and perfect and funny and make me never want to write a word because I just can't measure up.  

Flora is a delight.  She's a cynic yes, but she starts to open her heart up to possibilities once she meets Ulysses.  It's like she suddenly discovers that the world she loves in her comic books is possible.  William Spiver makes an interesting side character because he is intensely annoying, but likable.  Flora's father (George Buckman, how do you do?) is quite lovable, and it's beautiful to see him open up to Flora after he discovers that Ulysses is a superhero squirrel.

Ulysses might be the best squirrel in children's literature today and this is coming from a big Scaredy Squirrel fan!  Ulysses eyes are opened to the world and his delight in it is so refreshing.  I love his squirrel poetry and I think that would be a wonderful writing exercise for a class.  

Honestly, I loved the whole book, once I had 30 solid minutes to sit down and read it.  At first I was reading in fits and starts and it just didn't work, but once I was able to carve out some time, it was perfect.  This would be my new go-to Newbery book.  And it's a bit easier of a read than my old favorite Holes.  

Five beautiful, perfect stars to Flora and Ulysses!  I may just leave it in Ali's crib for her to absorb as she sleeps, but I am sure that she would just gnaw on it.  

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

5 Things: Breakfast

5 Things to Brighten Your Day
Despite the BS that May Get in Your Way

1.  Only four more days of finals!  Then town gets a lot quieter and the pace of life slows to a crawl.  I can't wait!

2.  "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz played on the radio this morning.  Such a happy summer song.

3.  Ali loves finger foods now, so life is pretty messy, and Lucy is getting lots of people food, but breakfast this morning went pretty well.  Ali didn't actively feed Lucy anything, and most of the Cheerios went in Ali's belly.

4.  Lunch with Lucy today.  It's great that I can go home most days and show my furry baby some love.

5.  With this lifestyle slow down, I have more time to read.  Right now I'm working on a galley for Circus Mirandus.  I've only been able to read bits and pieces, but I'm super intrigued and very excited to carve out some time for reading.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day: Getting the Picture

Yesterday, I shared this little gem of my Ali Pie wishing everyone a Happy Mother's Day.  I actually made this into a nice little card from Mpix to send to everyone in place of proper Mother's Day cards.  
I normally go big on Mother's Day cards.  They go to everyone-moms, grandmas, great-grandmas, aunts, etc. etc.  But since this year was my first year without my mom, I couldn't face the card aisle.  So, our homemade chalk board and camera became our way to say Happy Mother's Day.  And given how darling this turned out, I think we'll do it every year.  That way all the women in our families will see Ali grow over the years.  Pretty neat!

This photo shoot took all of 10 minutes, but it was a very fun 10 minutes.  The family had just taken a walk on a positively glorious day and it was getting late.  Ali really should have been settling down for bed, Lucy was amped from the walk, but this was the time.  Lucy was all over the yard and Doug was simultaneously trying to keep Lucy away from Ali and make Ali smile, while I was trying to keep Ali on the blanket and snap the picture.  Wouldn't you know that the last picture was perfect, but how about some of the others?  Enjoy some of my other shots, complete with captions.

Hey, what's this?  

What is that dog doing?

What's this crawly thing?  Can I eat it?

Mom, I think this picture would be better if it were a movie!  Watch me go!

Yes, most of Ali's waking hours are consumed with moving and putting things in her mouth.  I wonder how her Father's Day photo shoot will go!