There’s a large stack of books next to my favorite chair, waiting to be read. Most are for upcoming book groups, but I’m also starting to accumulate some “fun reading” books in anticipation of the June break from book groups (and then the August and September break from book groups, which allows me a lot of time to read other things!).
Here are the books that are piled next to me:
- The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (5th grade book group)
- Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (6th grade book group)
- The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan (Teen book group)
- The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown (Teen book group)
- Years of Dust by Albert Marrin (Teen book group)
- The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
- The Outcasts by John Flanagan
- Marmee & Louisa by Eve LaPlante
- My Heart is Boundless edited by Eve LaPlante
- The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie
- Curtain by Agatha Christie
- The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
- And assorted magazines, long neglected by me: The Atlantic, many New Yorkers, and Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country.
Any other must-read suggestions for me for my upcoming season of fun reading?
In the last few months, I’ve read a lot of Agatha Christie mysteries – and I do mean a lot – in addition to my usual book group books. I’m cooling down a wee bit on the Agatha Christie books now, partly because I have less time available for “fun” reading now that book groups are in full swing again (each group met only once over the summer, and not at all in September, which was a lovely gift of “fun” reading time for me) and partly because I seem to have exhausted the supply of Christie books at our two local bookstores.
This weekend I need to read The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for next Tuesday’s Teen Book Group meeting; I have great memories of reading the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was in highschool, and am looking forward to an adult re-reading of The Hound of the Baskervilles. This reading of it will be tinged by laundry soap and dryer lint, since I need to spend a couple of hours at the laundromat today washing our comforter, but hopefully that won’t wreak the book for me.
I’m also reading The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda, a book which has happily surprised me. I really only brought it home to read because the reviews written about the book have a wide range of reading levels – from 4th grade and up to 8th grade and up – and thus placement of the book in the library is difficult. I placed it in our advanced reader section, which is for grades 5 & 6 and up, but now the book’s sequel is about to be published, with similarly divergent age recommendations in the reviews, so it was time for me to read the book myself and thus make a totally informed decision about placement. It turns out that the book is well-written, engaging, full of action (which kids today demand above all else), and also gently educational as it introduces Indian mythology and culture. I like the book enough that I may even choose it for a book group…hmmmm…
Other books in my to-be-read pile right now:
- Atlantis Rising by T.A. Barron
- The Outcasts by John Flanagan
- The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan
- Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass
- Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus
- The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion
- Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
- Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie
And I’ve officially given up on the Megan Whalen Turner series that begins with The Thief. I loved the first book, hated the second, and am luke-warm on the third at the half-way point. Frankly, the character of Eugenides got on my nerves early in the second book, and it’s tough to finish a series when the main character drives you nuts. I’ll be taking the whole series to the used book store soon, just to get it out of my house.
On that note, time to get to the laundromat and start reading The Hound of the Baskervilles…
Thanks to N—-, I had a sizable gift certificate to the Concord Bookshop burning a hole in my pocket. The Concord Bookshop is my favorite bookstore, and I can’t think of anything more fun than having a guilt-free shopping trip there.
Monday was the day I got to use my gift certificate, and for the first time in years (more years than I can count), I didn’t make an immediate beeline for the children’s and young adult section at the back of the store. In fact, I realized that I had absolutely no interest in looking at books in either of those sections; I wanted and needed to avoid them for a change. One bad side effect of being a children’s librarian is that you need to read gobs of children’s and young adult books, and it becomes very hard to have enough time left to read grown-up books. And, for the first time in years, I think that I’m actually burnt-out on juvenile literature.
So here is what I ended up buying: two Agatha Christie books, The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side and The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and a Philip Pullman book, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, A New English Version (which was shelved in the adult section). Admittedly, fairy tales are often viewed as children’s literature, but I like to remember that they were not always intended for just children; I’ll be reading Pullman’s versions of the tales from that perspective. And, admittedly, Agatha Christie’s books aren’t necessarily deep and challenging novels for adults, but oh how I do love them. Nothing like a good murder mystery to keep you company by the woodstove on a winter’s evening.
It’s been lovely reading these books the last few nights, knowing that I don’t have to read them, and that I can savor and enjoy them just because I want to. I’ll need to kick into gear this evening and reread Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon for tomorrow’s book group, but then I’ll move right back into one of my new purchases for a little study break before I dig into next week’s book group book. And I have a feeling that I’m entering a phase of obsessive reading of Agatha Christie…
At last Tuesday’s Teen Book Group meeting, we discussed Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. I have to admit that I was unable to finish the book myself, much as I usually like Westerfeld’s writing, because I think I have read the maximum amount of steampunk fiction that my brain can handle and absorb. Maybe I’m just a little too old to “get” steampunk, or maybe my taste has never gone down those lines, but by half-way through Leviathan I was done – fed up – annoyed.
Luckily, all seven of the book group members who came to Tuesday’s meeting were enthusiastic about the book (whether they had been able to finish reading it or not), and the conversation was terrific. We discussed the book for an entire hour, and probably could have gone on for much longer if we’d had the time available.
All of the teens enjoyed the steampunk genre, and several of them had already read a few other steampunk books. And the ninth graders in the group had an additional attraction to the book, since it is an alternate, steampunk style version of the events leading up to and the beginning of World War I: the ninth graders had been studying WWI in school, and their test on WWI was earlier in the day on Tuesday. I was blown away by their intelligent comparison and contrast of the real history of WWI and the version presented in the book. Smart, smart kids.
And I loved hearing the enthusiasm they all felt for the steampunk style. Things that I found rather revolting and hard to visualize (like the giant genetically modified jellyfish that exhale hydrogen and thus are used as hot air balloons) greatly intrigued the members of the book group, and I was able to better appreciate certain aspects of the book after hearing their perspective.
This is such a great book group, and I really look forward to their meetings each month. And it will be sad when we bid good-bye to the ninth graders at the end of this school year – they’ll be moving on up to Lisa’s 10 – 12th grade book group – all of the ninth graders have been in my book groups for many years, and I’ll miss their insights and enthusiasm.
On my weekends lately, I’ve been doing a LOT of reading, mostly for book groups, but also for fun (not that book group reading isn’t fun, because it is), and I’ve also been creating a lot of new storytime lesson plans. I’ll talk about the storytime lesson plans in an upcoming post, but meanwhile, here is an update on the books that I’ve read this fall for the various book groups at the library:
- For the 3rd grade book group: Dying to Meet You by Kate Klise, The Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, and The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin. All great books for this age group, and all were quite successful with the 3rd graders in the group. I love each of these books, and for quite different reasons. The Klise book is approachable and funny; the Pennypacker book has a wonderful, true-to-life main character, and the Lin book is poignant and lovely.
- For the 4th grade group: Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief by Wendelin van Draanen, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, and Dominic by William Steig. DiCamillo’s book remains one of my all-time favorites, but I very much enjoyed the Sammy Keyes book and was glad to have finally read Dominic, though I’m not sure that I’d want to use Dominic again for a book group (the kids were a bit baffled by it, and it didn’t make for the best discussion we’ve ever had, despite this being a group of Readers who love to Discuss).
- For the 5th grade group: White Sands, Red Menace by Ellen Klages, The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John, and Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator by Jennifer Allison. I enjoyed The Green Glass Sea much more than its sequel, which disappointed me, and I was a bit taken aback by the Gilda Joyce book, having expected it to be more juvenile than it was. And I enjoyed my re-reading of The White Giraffe, of course, a book that is unique today in its brevity, considering its intended audience of upper grade readers.
- For the 6th grade group: Whales on Stilts by M.T. Anderson, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, and The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen by M.T. Anderson. After having connected with M.T. Anderson at the Simmons College Children’s Literature Summer Institute this year (see my posts on the Institute here, here, here, and here), I was delighted to be able to bring two of his books to the 6th grade book group this fall. I’ve also been reading The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing (Volume I – The Pox Party) in my free time – it’s a terrific book, one of the best I’ve read in a long time.
- For the Teen Book Group: Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, Uglies by Michael Scott, and The Alchemyst by Michael Scott. This group is still quite large, which means that we can’t read the hottest new young adult books, since we wouldn’t be able to get enough copies of the books for everyone in the group. But I presented the group with one of my favorite books, Elsewhere, and they all loved it (and none of them had yet read it, even better), and with a book that had been a success with this group in past years, Uglies. Surprisingly, none of the group members had read Uglies yet, and it too was a huge hit. As for The Alchemyst – I had very high hopes for this book, and it didn’t quite live up to those hopes. But, once again, none of the teens had read the book, and many of them have gone on to read the rest of the series (or, at least, what’s been published so far in the series).
It’s been a good fall and early winter for reading, and I’m now looking forward to the next batch of book group books that are sitting next to me, waiting to be read: Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins (3rd grade), The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley (4th grade), Spy Mice: The Black Paw by Heather Vogel Frederick (5th grade), Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng (6th grade), and The Prophecy of the Stones by Flavia Bujor (teen book group). The last three of these books were all chosen by kids in the book groups, which makes the whole process – reading and discussion – that much more fun. Happy reading to me!!
I had plans to take another look through my book collection this year to find more books that have been given to me as Christmas gifts – but last winter’s ice dam which caused a roof leak which made us take out the sagging damp ceiling in the porch which means that most of our bookshelves are currently under tarps…all of that means that I can’t access a large portion of my book collection at the moment. (Ah, home repairs!)
But here is the link to last year’s Christmas post on books that I’ve received as gifts over the years. And please, in the comments section do share any books that you received yourself this year (or in years past)!!
Today several of us on the library staff were able to attend parts of the Library Journal/School Library Journal webinar on e-books and libraries. There were a lot of good statistics about current e-book usage in libraries, and lots of good ideas and lots of questions. But not many answers.
Many of the questions were questions that I’ve been thinking of myself: with the rise of e-books, what happens to people who can’t afford e-readers? What about the different formats of e-readers that don’t talk to each other? How can libraries incorporate e-books into their budgets and their collections? How is the advent of e-books going to affect the structure and existence of libraries? What about the long waiting lists for popular e-books at libraries, when the e-book medium is perceived by the public as being an instant one – instant gratification? How can libraries explain the need to wait on a list for a certain e-book title, even though that is the way it works for a popular, recently published print version of a book? And, more specifically for library staff, how to decide which titles to spend limited available funds on? And which e-book formats are worth investing in?
I had two favorite parts of this e-book summit: several speakers mentioned that libraries will need to change their focus from being solely book-based, and these speakers mentioned that libraries can pump up their programming (storytimes, book groups, etc.) in order to retain a wholly relevant place in the community. As a programming-ambitious children’s librarian, that’s a lot of what I do.
And the other favorite part for me of the webinar was M.T. Anderson’s closing address. It was very similar to the closing address that I heard him present at the children’s literature summer institute at Simmons this summer, but I was glad to hear it again. Anderson is an intelligent, wise speaker, and his talk on e-books is dense and packed with information and meaty thoughts to digest; a second hearing only helped my understanding. I won’t attempt to summarize his nearly one hour talk in a few sentences here, but I will say that I left both hearings of Anderson’s address feeling hopeful about the future for books and libraries and authors and literature. Change is nothing new, and change could bring great things to our culture. It could also bring unpleasantness, but despite Anderson’s balanced presentation (both hopeful and pessimistic), I came away feeling good about my career and my passion for books. A good way to end an enlightening day.
Just got home from a lovely author visit at Willow Books in Acton – we went to see T.A. Barron, who just happens to have lived for the first ten years of his life in the town in which I work. A year and a half ago he graciously came to our library for an evening event, and it was such a fabulous evening, with many people coming to hear him speak who had grown up with him or known his parents. Truly the most unique and special event we’ve had at the library, in my opinion. And it was so nice to see him this evening: he’s an incredibly intelligent, well-spoken, kind, and gracious man, and it’s so neat to watch him interact with his younger fans. He remembers their names, he references letters that they have written to him, and he encourages them in their love of reading and their dreams of becoming writers. In this age of technology it’s heartening to witness old-fashioned human connection, especially with books, real books, as the backdrop.
I’ve been reading lots of book reviews the last two weeks – trying to catch up on my book ordering after a busy summer – and from those reviews it’s clear that it’s the fall season, and a good fall season at that. I have found dozens of books that sound absolutely terrific, and I’m more excited about this order than I have been about an order in a very long time. There are many additions to popular series (even a new adjunct entry to my favorite series, Ranger’s Apprentice), as well as new books by masters like Jerry Pinkney, and also books by some new authors that sound fabulous. Some authors, like Gabrielle Zevin, are branching out into new genres (I just brought home her book All These Things I’ve Done – can’t wait to read it) and other authors and illustrators, like Maurice Sendak, sound like they’ve produced their best work in years.
Keep your eyes out for this batch of books to be on the library’s shelves in a couple of weeks – allowing time for me to finish my order, the books to be shipped, and the books to be processed. And then it will be happy reading to all, and to all a good read. (Or something like that…)
Today is the third day of my vacation – yay – and just a quick check-in from the land of projects and reading.
Projects scheduled for this vacation include filling the dumpster that arrives tomorrow (thus gaining much space in garage, yard, and basement); preparing for our upcoming yard sale; finish painting in our glorious new bathroom; and final coats of paint on the front and back doors. And maybe we’ll be able to build those front steps that we’ve been procrastinating on – Jim dug and poured the cement footings last year, so it shouldn’t be too hard to complete the project. Plenty of stuff to keep me very busy!
Reading that is planned for this vacation includes: The Glorious Adventures of the Sunshine Queen by Geraldine McCaughrean; Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos; The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente; and a few books from that pile of to-be-read books that has been dejectedly glaring at me from the shelf in the living room for two years. And if anyone has a suggestion of a *fabulous* book that I simply *must* read, please do list the title in the comments…
I’ll post reading and project updates as time allows!