Thursday, February 28, 2008

Leap Day

Happy Birthday Drew-boy! I know you haven't had many "real" birthdays but they sure are fun!! I hope that you know how much we love you, love your kind and gentle influence and value your opinions and insight. You have grown into quite a gentleman!

Reading for pleasure has taken a back seat to work, class and family. Unfortunately sometimes my spirit calls out to be fed through the written word!! I miss the hours of reading and sailing away with my imagination. I have enjoyed the brain research books though, it's always nice to be able to apply what I'm reading right away. Several "work" books are also in progress. I keep hoping that some of it will just sink in if I carry them around with me long enough.

I started Playing for Pizza by John Grisham this weekend. I love football so it seemed like a natural. We'll see how I like it. The premise is that a down and out NFL quarterback travels to Italy to play for a local team. It should make for some interesting diversion and some good bedtime reading. I was sucked into a local bookstore though. I swear my car just turned itself into the parking lot via the magnetic forcefield!! I figure if it can happen in Star Trek it can happen here. It was pretty amazing as books just jumped into my arms too. Quite a phenomenon if you think about it. I swear it happened that way, "that's my story and I'm stickin' to it!"

The weather here is beautiful! 82 degrees today. It's just darn hard to work. The kids in class either have spring fever or the flu! One way or the other it is hard to keep 'em focused. The teacher seems to be working hard and is tired - it should be the other way around. I should work them so hard that they are tired and I am just the leader. Well, who ever really said that probably wasn't a 1st grade teacher.

I would love a day at the park, a day by the pool with a book, gosh, I do have Spring Fever!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Oh My Goodness!

Oh my golly gosh, what a great way to spend an afternoon; with Dashti, of Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale. I was lick-your-lips satisfied, full tummy replete, and just durn happy to be reading and then to have finished this tale. Why oh why did it sit on my shelf for so long?

Shannon Hale, I kiss your feet again, oh exalted one! You have done it !! What a great tale, a clear-voiced narrator, and an illustrated journal of the young mucker maid, Dashti. I think the author peeked into MY journal full of little drawings, thoughts and one-liners. Oh well, she sure makes it sound much better than I could ever dream of.

Because my words are so inept I will pull from the dust jacket for help in the synopsis:

"When Dashti, a maid, and Lady Saren, her mistress, are shut in a tower for seven years for Saren’s refusal to marry a man she despises, the two prepare for a very long and dark imprisonment.
As food runs low and the days go from broiling hot to freezing cold, it is all Dashti can do to keep them fed and comfortable. But the arrival outside the tower of Saren’s two suitors—one welcome, and the other decidedly less so—brings both hope and great danger, and Dashti must make the desperate choices of a girl whose life is worth more than she knows."

With Shannon Hale's prose she can make these pages sing. I envy the young adults of today who have this as a standard for writing. How lucky to have a tale told like this!

I enjoyed the tower writing and the progression that the characters had during months of black, dark days. I also enjoyed the start of Part II and noticed that all was not well just because freedom was available. Shannon must have lived, dreamed and breathed these characters. What fun bedtime stories her kids must have!

After some mediocre reading so far this year I feel light and happy having finished a great story. If I were a star giving reviewer I would definitely give this one 5 stars, kudos, and kisses!

Oh My Goodness!

Non-Fiction Ramblings

After reading this non-fiction meme on many blogs recently I began to ask myself these questions. What was my non-fiction ratio? What kinds of books was I reading? In my in-person book group we have tried to have at least 3 books in the year be non-fiction but I really wanted to ponder what I liked, what intrigued me. I checked back in my book journal and realized that I am quite a well rounded reader so I thought I would piggyback my own thoughts on my blog.

In school we have to balance our narrative and expository texts at least 50/50 in both our classroom libraries and read-alouds. When little girls read they gravitate to the narrative genres and little boys cling to expository books. Because little boys may struggle more as readers, or slow down in their reading interest and progress in the middle grades, we educators need to be aware of both their interests and ways to encourage them to keep those interests alive. By loading our bookshelves with an equal distribution of both kinds of books we have a better chance at keeping those struggling readers excited and interested. (Yes, when the State Dept of Education comes on monthly observations of my classroom they actually count and compare the proportion of narrative to expository texts available to the kiddos!) My books range from the pre-primers to adult books on non-fiction subjects such as animals and dinosaurs, weather and nature. They love it all! In first grade everything is about discovery. I love the oohs and ahhs! I guess that's why I enjoy non-fiction too. I still want to have my own ah-ha moments!

a). What issues/topic interests you most--non-fiction, i.e, cooking, knitting, stitching...?
I am a sucker for anything with print! Cereal boxes, receipts, advertising, notes, you get the picture. Non-fiction seems just an extension of that! I guess I also enjoy non-fiction because I'm so darn curious. I enjoy memoirs, biographies, and have a love for women's histories (especially those women who came west.) I also enjoy micro-histories, science discoveries, and how-to books. I am currently reading lots of brain-research books on how our brain continues to change (nueroplasticity.) I started reading some of these books for additional education for work and now I'm kinda hooked. I am also reading a great book called Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, the woman who coined the phrase!! It's fantastic and reads easily. How blessed I am to have so much around to intrigue me!

b). Would you like to review books concerning those?
I will review non-fiction books here as I finish them. I think reading about all the books someone chooses to read gives us just a small glimpse into what they are like. I love that!

c). Would you like to be paid or do it as interest or hobby? Tell reasons for what ever you choose.
If someone wanted to send me an ARC that would be great and I have written small reviews for them, however; the book would be payment enough.

d). Would you recommend those to your friends and how?
I do recommend all sorts of books to my friends. It all depends on their interests, but quite often I will comment on a book I just finished or I may refer to something they said and link it to a book. I also have taken to giving books to people when I have enjoyed them. I loved the book, Freakonomics, and gave copies to my boys and a few friends for Christmas that year. It was a great conversation starter and every time we met after that we had a little mini book group! My philosophy is that I share many of the things I like and if they want to read it, great, if not just pass it on.

My fiction reading also drives my non-fiction reading. I finished a book this weekend that involved Mongolia and a character similar to Genghis Khan. Now I want to learn more! I love it when it all comes together!!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

Today is a National Holiday in 1st Grade! Little hearts pitter patter when they see any heart, making Valentine's bags and delivering one to each student just about sends some little ones over the edge with excitement. What a fun day for pink, red, and white in first grade!!

To celebrate Valentine's Day in full fashion I recently read The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright. Sad to say though I was disappointed. The book had a great premise; Laurel and Jack run a Bed and Breakfast in rural Virginia, are happily married and have three grown children. One night they die in each other's arms, but not before Jack pens one last "Wednesday letter" to his wife. When their three grown children return home for the funeral they find boxes filled with saved letters, written by Jack during the marriage.
But a long held family secret nearly tears the family apart when one of the letters is read. Of course all winds up well and the letters teach life lessons to each of the children as a new insight is gained into their parents and their lives.

I can't say I wasn't intrigued or that the book was awful. It just fell so flat. I did shed a tear when the couple died - I guess I just think of the age of my parents and I begin to worry a little about all of that. But beyond that I really didn't like the characters much or care about their situations. They seemed little developed with the exception of one, and his story seemed more unbelievable and contrived. I feel like I was supposed to like this book, many of my friends have, but it was too drippy and you knew that all was going to end well. There were no twists or turns. It just felt vanilla and plain. I was hoping for dark, rich, truffle, or filled chocolate!! I am neither eloquent or richly blessed with talent in writing reviews but a blogger friend says it so well on her blog when she reviews the author's other book, The Christmas Jars. ( Read her take on that book and apply the same comments. When you consider that her blog about a whole different book applies to this one one kind of "gets" the idea of formula writing. That's it! That's what this book really felt like.An applied formula.

I am reading a terrific non-fiction book entitled, Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History, and it reads more like a novel. It's my nightstand book and I wish I could keep my eyes open longer each night. The Book Group book this month is called Code Orange by Caroline B. Cooney. It was a quick read but quite well done. A Young Adult novel, it deals with a post 9/11 New York and a medical scare that involves smallpox and a private school student named Mitty Blake. Based on a real incident, I enjoyed the development of a slacker teenager to a young man who developed not only a conscious but a deeper sense of self and community. It should make for some interesting conversation at Book Group.

This year I have not really set many reading goals but have decided to read from the stuffed shelves in my bedroom. I have committed to reading at least 8 of the book group selections for the year, the rest will just be whatever wind or whimsy brings! Hmmm. I think I feel a Shannon Hale wind blowing by ....

After hearing of a friend's tragic death yesterday I was touched with the thought that I need to hug more, kiss more often, and make sure that my family and friends know I love and appreciate them. Consider yourself hugged!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Library Lovers Month

How do you plan on celebrating Library Lovers month? I'll do leisurely visit a few times this month and have my kiddos at school write thank you notes that I can drop by!

How often do you accidentally spell library as 'libary' when you're in a hurry? Never - it's one of my pet peeves.

What is the most amount of books you've ever had checked out at one time? Probably about 50 or so. I couldn't believe the limits that the library allowed on each card so we had a "family limit" or 7 per kid. In those days I came home and we wrote down all of the titles that everyone brought home in our "Library notebook" and we kept all of the books in a large crate in the living room. What good memories that brings back.

What is the longest you've ever gone without visiting the library? Probably a month. This summer we were on an extended vacation across the United States. We did however visit bookstores from sea to shining sea!! As a kid I went weekly with my mom. Our local library shared an old building with a fire station. It was a wonderful old and creaky building and visiting it weekly was a highlight for our family.

What is the biggest fine you've ever had? Over $9,000,000. Yep, that is what it says! Nine Million dollars. One of my babies got a late notice when he was about 10. We tried to have each one be responsible for their own fines so he was a little chagrined when a late notice arrived in the mail. You should have seen his face when he read the amount!! We were all astonished. The librarians at our library laughed and laughed when we took it in to verify it. They asked if they could make a copy of it!! (original is in my son's baby book!) As it turned out we had received the total dollar value of fines in the whole county for that day! Isn't that astounding as it is?? What a funny memory!

When you go to the library, do you plan ahead and make a list? Or do you browse? Both. I love days when I can just browse and let myself roam from shelf to shelf, but I usually am on a time limit and have books waiting for me on the hold shelf. I love to use the on-line perks that the library offers and inter-library loans are a fun gift too. My library has made accessing books a piece of cake!

Have you ever been shushed or hushed by a librarian? Not yet!

What is the worst (against-the-rules) thing you've ever done in the library? Taken my shoes off while reading at a table. The little security guard came by and "disciplined" me. I was embarrassed as my feet had swollen and I had a hard time getting my shoes back on. What a crime!

What's the worst thing you've ever done to a library book? I dropped it in the bathtub!!

Have you ever had a "favorite" librarian? Sheila, at our local branch, is a doll! She remembers everything!

If you could change one thing about your library it would be Just more hours!! As budget cuts have hit our city they have cut back to the weirdest hours at the branches. They are a pain! We do love our branch's only a little over 2 miles away and makes for a fun walk. (The only drawback is carrying the books home !)

Thanks for sharing the great meme , Book Nut, I had a great walk down memory lane - and now I'm late for work!! Thanks again!