More Summer Books

Chantress (Chantress, #1)Chantress by Amy Butler Greenfield
When Lucy turns 15 on the island where she and her guardian were shipwrecked years before, she gives in to the temptation to sing to the music she hears in the air, even though she’s been warned never to sing. Her singing has strange consequences, whisking her back to London. She is a chantress–one who can sing spells–and she has landed in a place where the powerful ruler kills all chantresses. amygreenfield writes a beautiful book about living in a 1600’s London filled with magic and adventure.

The Whole Stupid Way We AreThe Whole Stupid Way We Are by N. Griffin
Dinah and Skint and their worries during a cold, Maine winter will fill your heart. Why won’t Skint wear a coat even though it’s freezing outside? What is the secret he keeps from even his best friend? How can anyone help someone else? N. Griffin leaves you with lots to think about.

Above World (Above World, #1)Above World by Jenn Reese
Aluna, belongs to a race of future humans that have adapted to living underwater, but the tech that allows that is failing. Because Aluna and her friend Hoku are young enough that they haven’t yet grown their tails, they decide they are the best ones to attempt to go on land and find a solution. With Aluna’s martial arts skills and Hoku’s intelligence, the two team up with others to help save the world. Lots of adventure and intrigue!


I always watch the birds on my feeder and try to figure out what they are. In the last couple years, I went on a couple actual birding trips and saw how much I hadn’t been seeing–how many birds there were out there that I didn’t know. I’m constantly surprised. These birds are in my backyard in Vermont–if I stop and look for them!

This is a Black-throated Green Warbler that was in the willows along my deck this weekend–a new bird to add to my life list.

And a little closer:
                            Black-throated Green Warbler2

Summer Books

As the summer winds down and a more regular schedule begins, I thought I’d mention a few of my favorite books from the summer.

Unwind (Unwind, #1)  UnWholly (Unwind, #2)I began the summer rereading Unwind  so I could read the sequel, Unwholly by Neal Shusterman. I loved reading Unwind for the second time. Great action, characters, and idea. Unwholly takes place immediately following the end of Unwind so I’m glad I read it again.

Doll BonesDoll Bones by Holly Black is just the right amount of spooky and just the right amount about growing up. What’s not to love about a spooky doll locked in a glass case?

Lincoln's Grave Robbers I loved Steve Sheinkin’s Bomb last year. I love that he always makes me understand a time in history better than I did before. He does it again with Lincoln’s Grave Robbers. I had no idea how popular grave robbing was or why it was done. I also didn’t know the impact of counterfeiters at the time of Lincoln and how counterfeiting and robbing Lincoln’s grave were connected.

Perfect Scoundrels (Heist Society, #3)Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter is #3 in the Heist Society books, a series I look forward to. Kat is a teen from a criminal family and is very good at planning and carrying out involved heists. This latest installment is as much fun as the others, but read them in order!

Vampire BabyFinally, a picture book: Vampire Baby by my friend and classmate Kelly Bennett is about a young boy who believes his baby sister has become a vampire when she gets teeth and begins biting everything. He sets out to prove this to his parents. Funny and oh, so true. Youch!

Here’s a fun book trailer for Vampire Baby:;

Friday Five

1. Bagels–We made bagels for the first time using the King Arthur Flour recipe. They have a great site for recipes and a great blog showing you how to do the recipes. Here’s the link to the blog: We used Parmesan instead of Asiago cheese. Delicious!

2. Lists–I love the ALA and NCTE awards. I love lists like BFYA and Notables. I find lots of new books to read on these lists–and love seeing friends on them as well. Special congratulations to my friend and writing partner Jo Knowles for making both BFYA and Notables with her book See You at Harry’s. I love this book!

Product Details
3. Not a lot of variety of birds around in January. Here’s a frequent visitor to my feeder, a red-breasted nuthatch:

4. During January I read 34 picture books! I’ve found some fun ones in my random-pulling-off-shelves. A couple favorites: Little Bird by Germano Zullo, Henry and the Cannons by Don Brown, Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger.

5. And now it’s February! Better get those taxes done!

Literary Resolutions

Sometime around the end of December, someone (Carrie Jones?) posted on Twitter about literary resolutions. At the same time donalynbooks and the Nerdy Book Club talked about Reading Gaps–areas or genres that are gaps in usual reading.

I realized that I always make literary resolutions: # of books I’m going to read during the year, # of adult or nonfiction, things like that. I always have piles of books to read and never enough time to read them. My little notebook is filled with lists of books I’ve heard of and am excited about.

Here’s evidence. These are the books on my “I want to read them right now” pile:


There are more piles behind them. And on the next shelf. And by the bed. And the last thing I need is another list/pile of books to read.

But I like the idea of literary resolutions. And I like thinking about my reading gaps (besides adult and nonfiction).

I’m already reading the Newbery winners in order from 1965 forward with jbknowles. That’s an easy literary resolution to continue and one I’m really enjoying. (We’re up to discussing Summer of the Swans, the 1971 winner.)

Carrie had made a resolution to borrow and read two books off a shelf in the library every week for this year. I liked that idea, but changed it to fit a reading gap as well. I will take out 5 random picture books from a new shelf in the library each week and keep track of what I read. So far, I’m enjoying this. I’ve taken out my 5 each week plus a few on display. And, because I’m thinking about picture books, I seem to notice them more in reviews and bookstores, so I’ve tried to find some of the ones I hear about.

My other reading gap is graphic novels. I’m going by librarian recommendations on this one since I feel like I know nothing about them. Last week I read and enjoyed Mercury by Hope Larson. I’ll read any by Raina Telgemeier. If you know graphic novels I should read, let me know!

Happy reading!

Current Books: Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli
                         Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking by Erin Dionne

The Power of a Book

Yesterday I walked home with my kindergarten nephew G after school. He was telling me about his day (both real and imagined, that’s how he is) then stopped and asked, “Do you know the song ‘Follow the Drinking Gourd’?”

I told him I did, and he proceeded to tell me about it. His class had read the picture book and they were singing it in school. Through his snack, he kept asking me questions: Which side were the good guys? Did brother fight brother? What were slaves? Were there slaves in Vermont? Why didn’t the slaves fight their masters?

pink and sayI had a copy of Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco, so we read it. It took us almost an hour. “Wait,” he would say. “I have a question.” He had lots. Why didn’t Pink’s mother follow the drinking gourd? Why was it against the law to learn to read? Why? Why? Why?

At the end of the book, I read the closing words that ask the reader to say Pink’s name before shutting the book and vow to remember him.

“Are we going to do that?” G asked.

“Sure,” I said.

He hopped off the couch and stood very straight. “Aren’t you going to do it with me?” he said. “You have to do it with me.”

I wasn’t sure what he wanted me to do. We needed to say Pink’s name and remember him. But I stood up next to him.

“Let’s do it together,” he said. He stood up as tall as a five-year-old can. We said “Pink” together, and with one arm in front and one arm in back, he took a deep bow.

He will remember Pink.

Five things on a Friday

1) This red-breasted nuthatch has been a regular visitor at my feeders.    IMG_0002

2) Son T was on CNN! That’s his red plaid shirt and voice measuring the turtle:

3) He was also in a very short video someone at work made to explain the stranding of sea turtles on the Cape:

4) I’m having fun knitting for my sister’s 6-month old and my brother’s upcoming new addition. Little projects are fun!

5) My first book for the year is Marcus Zusack’s The Underdog. This is the book that comes before Fighting Ruben Wolfe, and Getting the Girl, both of which I love. 

The first line is great (and the rest of it; I’m almost done.)
“We were watching the telly when we decided to rob the dentist.”

I recommend this whole trilogy.

Books Read 2012

Here are the books I read this year:

61) HIDE AND SEEK by Kate Messner
60) BOMB by Steve Sheinkin
59) CAPTURE THE FLAG by Kate Messner
58) THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater
57) SOUNDER by William H. Armstrong
56) DRAMA by Raina Telgemeier
55) THE HIGH KING by Lloyd Alexander
54) GOBLIN SECRETS by William Alexander
53) FRIENDS WITH BOYS by Faith Erin Hicks
52) FOX FOREVER by Mary Pearson
51) A TANGLE OF KNOTS by Lisa Graff
50) NEVER FALL DOWN by Patricia McCormick
48) MOONBIRD by Philip Hoose
47) SON by Lois Lowry
46) THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray
45) UP A ROAD SLOWLY by Irene Hunt
44) I, JUAN DE PAREJA by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino
42) LIAR AND SPY by Rebecca Stead
41) SHADOW OF A BULL by Maia Wojciechowska
40) TRAIN DREAMS by Denis Johnson
39) KING OF ATTOLIA by Megan Whalen Turner
38) OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF TIME by Ally Carter
37) JANE-EMILY by Patricia Clapp
36) HOUSE OF SILK by Anthony Horowitz
34) MONSTERS OF MEN by Patrick Ness
33) CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein
32) BENEATH A METH MOON by Jackie Woodson
31) THE BIG YEAR by Mark Obmascik
30) WONDER by R. J. Polaccio
29) TRACING STARS by Erin Moulton
28) I HUNT KILLERS by Barry Lyga
27) WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU O.J. by Erica S. Perl
26) BLUEFISH by Pat Schmatz
25) HEART AND SOUL by Kadir Nelson
24) WATER BALLOON by Audrey Vernick
22) WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznik
20) TROUBLEMAKER by Andrew Clements
19) RUNNING DREAMS by Wendelin Van Draanan
18) HIDDEN by Helen Frost
17) THE CHESHIRE CHEESE CAT by Carmen Agra Deedy & Randall Wright
16) BLACK HEART by Holly Black
15) RED GLOVE by Holly Black
14) AMELIA LOST by Candace Fleming
13) WHITE CAT by Holly Black
12) SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen
11) ANYA’S GHOST by Vera Brosgol
10) THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE by Christopher Paul Curtis
9) CITIZEN SCIENTISTS by Loree Griffin Burns
8) THE BOOK OF BLOOD AND SHADOW by Robin Wasserman
7) WHERE THINGS COME BACK by John Corey Whaley
6) DEAD END IN NORVELT by Jack Gantos
5) THE ASK AND THE ANSWER by Patrick Ness
3) HOW TO SAVE A LIFE by Sara Zarr
2) EVERY YOU, EVERY ME by David Levithan
1) THREE RIVERS RISING by Jame Richards

By the numbers:

Total: 61 (plus several mss and a bunch of books that I’m in various places in.) My goal was 70, so I was pretty close.
Non-fiction: 9. I did better than I expected here.
Adult: 4. And worse here.
Graphic Novel: 3. This is a new category for me to look at. I’ll read anything Telgemeier writes. Who else should I read?
Newbery: 6. This year’s winner plus the winners from 1965-1969. It’s been fun to read the winners in order with Jo Knowles.

All in all, not a bad year. I’ve already stacked my January books!

Summer Reading: Tracing Stars

Tracing Stars

The summer she is ten, Indie Lee loses her pet golden lobster on the last day of school. Her older sister Bebe stops making the fish faces the two of them have always enjoyed in the past and instructs Indie on how to act and how to dress so she won’t embarrass her older sister. Indie must navigate her sister’s new rules for behavior, hide her friendship with Owen, a boy Bebe and her friends deem as weird, and wear the clothes Bebe lays out for her. It’s only at night, when she slips out to meet Owen and build a tree fort “boat”, that she can feel normal.

Tracing Stars by Erin E. Moulton captures perfectly what it’s like to be 10 or 11: the belief in magic, the literal thinking, the reasoning of what will make things better, and the ability to do something about a situation. The book shows the sweet relationship between sisters and what it’s like to be a younger sister in an older sister’s shadow. Indie worries about being friends with someone Bebe deems unworthy or doing something that embarrasses her sister, but eventually she has to learn to be true to herself. Spunky Indie can’t be held down long. This is a perfect middle-grade book to read in the summer!

Moments in Nature

Three great blue herons flew out of the fog by the churchyard this morning. They slowly circled the field and headed for the brook.

I’ve only seen them one at a time before (except in their nesting grounds) so was surprised to watch them fly together. Surprised and awed. It made me think of Annie Dillard and her statement about “one show to a customer”. These moments in nature are a gift.

A juvenile yellow-bellied sapsucker landed on the apple trees when I got home.

A pair of Carolina wrens trekked back and forth across my backyard yesterday.

A hummingbird flitted from the apple trees to the willows to the flowers, pausing to sit on on a wisp of willow.

I enjoy these moments. Each one gives me something to write about.

If you’re looking for something to write about, observe nature. Go outside and sit quietly for fifteen minutes or so. It’s amazing what you will see.