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I'm an actress, singer, dancer, and writer. I'm also a freelance journalist, a publicist, a bookseller, and a webdesigner. This LiveJournal, for the most part, pertains to books - book reviews, exclusive interviews with authors, press releases, and booklists. My journal has an emphasis on teen fiction, though there are plenty of items for adult fiction and for juvenile fiction (or "kidlit") as well.
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1. Poetry Friday: The Awakening of Dermuid by Austin Clarke

Sleepy moths fluttered
In her dark eyes,
And her lips grew quieter
Than lullabies.
Swaying with the reedgrass
Over the stream
Lazily she lingered
Cradling a dream.

- the final stanza of The Awakening of Dermuid by Austin Clarke

Read the poem in its entirety.

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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2. Eric Luper's Website




Eric Luper's website has a brand-new look!

Eric Luper is an author for young readers. In addition to two series with Scholastic Books called Key Hunters and The Chocolate Lab, Eric writes for Cartoon Network for shows including The Amazing World of Gumball, The Regular Show, and Teen Titans Go! He also has written titles for Scooby-Doo, Star Trek, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as well as young adult novels, including Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto and Big Slick.

Visit ericluper.com

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3. Best Books of January 2016

January 2016: 43 books and scripts read

I read a great deal of unpublished scripts and manuscripts this month, so I cannot include those titles on this list. I do have two recommendations: Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson and Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, both full-color graphic novels for kids and tweens. Click the titles to read my reviews.

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4. Poetry Friday: The Sedges by Seumas O'Sullivan

I whispered my great sorrow
To every listening sedge;
And they bent, bowed with my sorrow,
Down to the water's edge.

But she stands and laughs lightly
To see me sorrow so,
Like the light winds that laughing
Across the water go.

If I could tell the bright ones
That quiet-hearted move,
They would bend down like the sedges
With the sorrow of love.

But she stands laughing lightly,
Who all my sorrow knows,
Like the little wind that laughing
Across the water blows.

- The Sedges by Seumas O'Sullivan

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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5. Poetry Friday: Happy Ending? by Shel Silverstein

Happy ending?
There are no happy endings.
Endings are the saddest part,
So just give me a happy middle
And a very happy start.

- by Shel Silverstein

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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6. #tothegirls2016

Last year, author Courtney Summers posted:

"I write about girls.

"I write about girls because every girl deserves the opportunity to pick up a book and see herself in its pages.

"I write about girls because girls, and their stories, matter.

"It's my way of letting them know."


On April 14th, 2015, she posted this with the hashtag #tothegirls to tell girls all over the world that they are seen, heard, and loved. People all over the world chimed in on social media, posting messages of support and encouragement, sharing thoughts and quotes both funny and profound.

Today, January 21st, it's time to spread the word again. Use the hashtag #tothegirls2016 along with your personal message of support and encouragement on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, your blog, your vlog, wherever you see fit. Write a note on your wipe-off board on the door of your dorm room or stick a Post-It note on your family's fridge or bathroom mirror. Share the message, and share the love.

From Courtney's article today in The Guardian:

Sometimes, I think of my novels as letters to their readers.

The difficult, often hard-to-like female protagonists and the particular set of challenges they face may change from book to book, but the underlying message - the heart of the story - is always the same: whatever you're going through and however you feel, you’re not alone.

One of fiction's greatest powers is its ability to reveal the parts of ourselves we're most afraid to show; both the ugly and the beautiful. When a reader sees their secrets on the page, there's a chance it can make a world of difference for them. It can lessen the weight of those secrets to the point the reader can breathe just a little bit easier and to the point, even, the reader might be able to say their secrets out loud.

Sometimes, saying a secret out loud changes a life.

Sometimes, saying a secret out loud saves it.

I'm not the first person to express this and I won't be the last: a book can be a lifeline.


Read the full article at theguardian.com

For more information, visit http://tothegirls2016.tumblr.com and follow Courtney Summers on Twitter @courtney_s

A few thoughts from me to the girls in 2016 and beyond:

You are awesome.
You can do this.
Just breathe.
Just believe.


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7. Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Sunny (real name: Sunshine) is spending the summer in Florida with her grandfather. It's the first time she's been away from her family for such a stretch of time, and hanging out with retired folks in Snoozeville is not exactly how she envisioned her summer. Luckily, her lively grandpa has lots of activities planned for them - like going to the grocery store! hanging out with the neighbors! eating dinner super early! His sunny disposition gives his granddaughter a newfound appreciation for the simple joys in life. Sunny also makes a friend in Buzz, a boy her age who introduces her to the wonderful world of comic books. Together they dream up fun and easy ways to help others and earn some pocket money.

Throughout the story, flashbacks to the previous year reveal important things about Sunny's home life with her parents and two brothers. It's easy to keep track of the then and the now thanks to simple text tags with the month and year as well as a different haircut for Sunny - longer hair last year, shorter hair this year. The dialogue is simple and straightforward, allowing this to be a quick read for kids who naturally fly through books or a more contemplative journey for kids who really sink into the story and/or pay attention to the details in the illustrations. When Sunny discovers her grandfather is "trying" to quit smoking, it brings up a problem with another one of Sunny's relatives, forcing her to confront a family secret that's been bothering her for a while.

Some books shy away from tackling issues like substance abuse and smoking in an effort to 'protect' young readers, but the truth is, kids are aware of these issues, especially if someone in their immediate family is battling addiction or similiar problems, and this book can potentially help kids deal with those in-house secrets and perhaps make them confident enough to broach the subject with their parents, teachers, or other trusted adults. Sometimes, it is easier to deal with something you're going through when you see it presented in a fictional setting, be it a book, a film, or a TV show. Those stories can encourage readers and viewers to ask for help or get closure (if possible) on something that's been hurting or haunting them. This is just as true for adults as it is for kids.

This full-color graphic novel written by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrated by Matthew Holm, and colored by Lark Pien is a great fit for Scholastic's Graphix line. The bright colors in the Florida pictures really pop, while the panels and pages that feature comics are lovely tributes to both the superheroes and their enthusiastic fans.

I recommend Jennifer L. Holm's novels as well as her collaborative efforts with her brother Matthew. Click the links below for my reviews of other Holm works!

Related posts at Bildungsroman
Review: The Creek by Jennifer L. Holm
Review: Middle School is Worst Than Meatloaf by Jennifer L. Holm and Elicia Castaldi + Matthew Holm
Review: Eighth Grade is Making Me Sick: Ginny Davis's Year in Stuff by Jennifer L. Holm and Elicia Castaldi
Interview: Jennifer L. Holm

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8. Poetry Friday: Wind-Wafted Wild Flowers by Muriel Strode

I will not follow where the path may lead, but I will go where there is no path, and I will leave a trail.

Infinitely will I trust nature's instincts and promptings, but I will not call my own perversions nature.

Each receives but that which is his own returning.
Each hears but that which is the echo of his own call.
Each feels but that which has eaten into his own heart.

I do not bemoan misfortune. To me there is no misfortune. I welcome whatever comes; I go out gladly to meet it.

It is no stigma to wear rags; the disgrace is in continuing to wear them.

Say not that this or that thing came to thwart you; it only came to test you.

There is hope for that genius who must overcome poverty, but there is almost none for that one who must overcome wealth.

A great work demands a great sacrifice, and who is not capable of a great sacrifice is not capable of great work.

Wishing will bring things in the degree that it incites you to go after them.

Better than tiaras - the diadem of freedom.
Better than broad acres - a garden of hearts-ease.
Better than mines of gold - a mint of dreams.
Better than bars of molten silver - the silver of a laugh.
Better than strings of pearls - the crystal of a tear.
Better than bands of choristers - a lute in the soul.

I am life's mystery, - and I alone am its solution.
I am the dreamer of dreams, - and I am dreams come true.

- selected lines from Wind-Wafted Wild Flowers by Muriel Strode

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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9. Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Twelve-year-old Astrid is often dragged to "enriching" events by her mom, who calls them "evenings of cultural enlightenment," aka ECEs. Thankfully, Astrid's best friend Nicole is usually by her side, making it possible for her to endure the opera or poetry reading or whatnot. One night, Astrid's mom brings them to the roller derby. Astrid is immediately taken by it; Nicole is less enthused. When the girls learn about a roller derby summer camp, Astrid can't wait to sign up, while Nicole, who has been taking ballet for years, would prefer to stick with dance camp. There, she hangs out with Rachel, a former classmate that Astrid cannot stand. For the first time in years, the girls are separated, and the distance between them grows wider as the summer goes on.

The first week at roller derby camp, Astrid falls down - a lot. She is frustrated and bruised and she wishes she was as skilled at the sport as the other girls. She starts writing anonymous notes to Rainbow Bite, an adult derby player she admires who shares the same practice space. Bite responds to the notes with advice and support, keeping Astrid's spirits up with the going gets tough.

And Astrid toughens up: she makes an effort to get better, to get stronger; she puts in extra practice time; she learns more about the sport and about the skills necessary to be a good player and a good teammate. Even though she's not the best one on the team, she's having fun, and that's what's important. Along the way, she makes a new friend in her teammate Zoey and makes some changes in her own life.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson is a realistic and refreshing read. If this graphic novel was a person, I would give it a high-five. Bonus points for the diverse cast, characters of all different colors and shapes brought to life by lively full-color illustrations that show both action and emotion. Many characters have strong spirits, including Astrid's mother, a Puerto Rican single mom who works hard to put a roof over her daughter's head and food on the table. She works as a librarian at a college so that her daughter can attend that school in the future. Astrid has hand-me-down clothes and rents some of the required sports equipment rather than buying it outright, and these things are never regarded as shameful; I deeply appreciated that. I also loved the roller derby names (Rainbow Bite was my favorite, because the original Rainbow Brite rocks!), Astrid's determination and focus, and Zoey's love for musical theatre.

I recommend Roller Girl to all ages, especially for tweens who are making the transition from elementary school to middle school. If you liked Raina Telgemeier's graphic novels like Sisters, Smile, and Drama, you will definitely like Roller Girl.

Related booklists:
Hey There, Sports Fan!
Set in School and Transition Times

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10. Poetry Friday: Wait For It from Hamilton

Love doesn't discriminate
Between the sinners
And the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep loving anyway
We laugh
And we cry
And we break
And we make our mistakes
And if there's a reason I'm by her side
When so many have tried
Then I'm willing to wait for it
I'm willing to wait for it...

Death doesn't discriminate
Between the sinners
And the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise
And we fall
And we break
And we make our mistakes
And if there's a reason I'm still alive
When everyone who loves me has died
I'm willing to wait for it
I'm willing to wait for it...

I am the one thing in life I can control
I am inimitable
I am an original
I'm not falling behind or running late
I'm not standing still
I am lying in wait

Life doesn't discriminate
Between the sinners and the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise
And we fall
And we break
And we make our mistakes
And if there's a reason I'm still alive
When so many have died
Then I'm willin' to-
Wait for it.

- selected lyrics from the song Wait For It from the musical Hamilton

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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11. Poetry Friday: What If I Fall? by Erin Hanson

There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask "What if I fall?"
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”

- by Erin Hanson

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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12. Best Books of 2015

Total number of books and scripts read in 2015: 178

This year, as with last year, I wrote nearly as much as I read, if not more. I am so grateful for all of the opportunities I had to bring new characters to life, to speak and sing the words of others on stage, on film, and in the studio - and, in turn, to see and hear things that I wrote brought to life by others. Thank you to everyone who gave me the chance to do what I love, to everyone who wrote the stories and songs that I got lost (and found) in this year.

Here is my list of the best books of 2015, containing titles released and read in that calendar year. Please note that a title's placement within a category is not an indication of rank of any sort; titles are typically listed in the order I read them. Click on a title to read my review.

Juvenile Fiction
A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord

Young Adult Fiction
Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman (published in the USA in 2015; originally published in Australia in 2013)
All the Rage by Courtney Summers
The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Edgewater by Courtney Sheinmel
The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten (published in the USA in 2015; originally published in Canada in 2013)

Adult Fiction
Dead Ringers by Christopher Golden
Tin Men by Christopher Golden
A Deafening Silence in Heaven by Thomas E. Sniegoski

Notable New Series
Upside-Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins (juvenile fiction)

Notable Conclusions to Series
Beyond the Parallel, the fourth and final book in the Parallelogram sequence by Robin Brande (YA Fiction)

Non-Fiction
Sounds Like Me: My Life (so far) in Song by Sara Bareilles
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
The Wise Girl's Guide to Life: 100 Tips for Increasing Your Confidence and Happiness TODAY! by Robin Brande

Graphic Novels
Cemetery Girl, Book Two: Inheritance by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden

Best of the Backlist - Notable books and publications that I read in 2015 which were published in 2014 and earlier
The Apartment screenplay by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond (I've always loved this film and was quite happy to find the script)
I and You by Lauren Gunderson (stage play)
Yes Please by Amy Poehler (non-fiction)

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13. Best Books of December 2015

December 2015: 16 books and scripts read

Most of the things I read this month were unpublished and/or unproduced at the time of this posting, so I can't list many of them - but for those of you looking for a book to put in the hands of your middle schoolers in 2016, please put Project (Un)Popular by Kristen Tracy on your radar. It's the first in a new series for tweens, and it will be released in June 2016.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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14. GuysLitWire: Teen Survey: Calvin

It's time for another reader survey! I interviewed one of my teen customers for GuysLitWire. Here's what he had to say:

Name: Calvin

Age: 15

Grade: 10th

Books recently read for fun: Fall of Giants by Ken Follett - It took me a while, but it was a fantastic read and ultimately awesome! - and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - heart-wrenching, and you really want the main characters to get together.

Books recently read for class: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Books you want to read: Winter of the World and Edge of Eternity, the second and third books in the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett.

Books you read as a kid: Harry Potter! Book of choice; just great. My sister read the 7th book 13 times.

Why you like to read: I can't stop reading; it's a passion, and it takes my mind off school.

Favorite book genres/topics: Sci-fi/historical fantasy. Fantasy books transport me into new worlds (so) it's hard to stop reading.

Favorite authors: Ken Follett

Favorite playwrights and plays: West Side Story

Favorite movies: Airplane! My favorite movie by far. I love comedy movies.

Favorite musicians/music genres: Jazz

Anything else you want to say: Reading is awesome!



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15. Poetry Friday: A Mood by Winifred Howells

The wind exultant swept
Through the new leaves overhead,
Till at once my pulses leapt
With a life I thought long dead,
And I woke, as one who has slept,
To my childhood,-that had not fled,
On the wind my spirit flew;
Its freedom was mine as well.
For a moment the world was new;
What came there to break the spell?
The wind still freshly blew;
My spirit it was that fell.

- A Mood by Winifred Howells

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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16. Poetry Friday: Handfuls by Carl Sandburg

Blossoms of babies
Blinking their stories
Come soft
On the dusk and the babble;
Little red gamblers,
Handfuls that slept in the dust.

Summers of rain,
Winters of drift,
Tell off the years;
And they go back
Who came soft-
Back to the sod,
To silence and dust;
Gray gamblers,
Handfuls again.

- Handfuls by Carl Sandburg

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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17. Poetry Friday: Gavotte in D Minor by Amy Lowell

She wore purple, and when other people slept
She stept lightly - lightly - in her ruby powdered slippers
Along the flags of the East portico.

- the opening lines of Gavotte in D Minor by Amy Lowell

Read the poem in its entirety here.

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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18. Interview: Laurel Gale

Happy Monday! Today, I'm interviewing Laurel Gale, whose debut novel Dead Boy was recently released. "I wondered what it would be like for a 'live' dead boy to try to make friends," she said. "I had no idea what would happen next, so I kept writing to find out."

Congratulations on the release of Dead Boy! Where did your main character, Crow Darlingson, get his name?

Thanks! While writing Dead Boy, I sometimes worried that the main character’s name was a little too on the nose, but I loved it too much to change it. His first name is Crow because crows are often associated with death, and he is dead. Of course, he wasn’t dead when he was named, so from his point of view, it’s a rather lucky (unlucky?) coincidence. I also happen to like birds, and I think Crow is a very cool name for a boy. His last name is a variation on the surname Darlington. Crow is his parents’ darling son.

The story of Dead Boy takes place around Halloween. Do you like dressing up and/or passing out candy on Halloween?

Halloween is the best! I always dress up. This year, I actually had three different costumes, one for Halloween itself and two other events. I was a pirate, a ferret, and a steampunk skeleton.

When I was a kid, my friends and I once went trick-or-treating in the middle of the summer. We were bored, so we dressed up. Then we decided that we should do something with our costumes, so we started going door to door. The neighbors laughed and searched their cupboards for candy for us. I don’t think we could have gotten away with it a second time, though.

What inspires you to write for young readers?

Children’s literature can get pretty dark and serious at times, but it’s always exciting and optimistic, and this makes it a lot of fun to read and to write. I enjoy books for young readers, so it’s natural for me to write them. But I think these books are important, too. Children are developing their lifelong reading habits, but they’re also developing so much more than that: their identities, their morals, their goals. The right book can have a huge influence, and I’d like to be a positive part of that.

Was Dead Boy your first completed manuscript?

I have several earlier manuscripts stored on flash drives sitting in drawers, where most of them will remain forever. I should probably just delete them, but I don’t think I could actually bring myself to do that.

I don’t think new writers should expect the first thing they write to be publishable. Writing is a skill that takes time to develop, so most people will need to complete a practice novel or two (or ten) before producing anything that others will enjoy reading. My advice to aspiring writers is to commit to the long haul and not expect instant success.

Can you divulge anything about your next project?

I’m working on another middle grade fantasy. I’ll put more details up on my website when I can.

Do you often find yourself working on multiple projects at once, or do you prefer to focus on one story at a time?

I prefer to focus on one story at a time, but reality sometimes interferes. Manuscripts go through multiple rounds of editing before being published. The process takes months, and between edits, I want to keep writing. As a result, I find myself bouncing between projects. I still like to focus on and immerse myself in a project as much as possible, though.

What kind of music, art, and films inspire you? Have you read/seen/heard anything good lately?

Books inspire me, of course, but so do a lot of movies and television shows. I devour Doctor Who, Supernatural, and anything by Joss Whedon. My musical tastes are pretty varied, but right now I’m really into Of Monsters and Men, especially the songs Dirty Paws and Little Talks.

Tell me ten of your all-time favorite books.

I’m so glad I get to pick ten instead of one! In no particular order, some of my favorite books are Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Among Others by Jo Walton, Hogfather by Terry Pratchett, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett, The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, and the Harry Potter box set by J. K. Rowling. A box set counts as a single choice, right?

Lightning round!
Cocoa or egg nog? Egg nog.
Sunrise or sunset? Sunset.
Hardcover or paperback? Hardcover.
Homecooked meal or takeout? Homecooked.

And now for the most important question of this interview...
Who is your favorite doctor on Doctor Who, and why?
(Mine is the Tenth Doctor, brilliantly portrayed by David Tennant!)


David Tennant’s doctor is brilliant, but my favorite doctor is the eleventh doctor, played by Matt Smith.

---

Like Crow, Gale resides in the Nevada desert. She lives with her husband and a band of furry monsters that might actually be ferrets, her favorite animal (even though they don't make an appearance in Dead Boy). Learn more about Laurel and her books at her website: http://www.laurelgale.com

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19. Ballou Book Fair

Every year, Colleen from Chasing Ray and Guys Lit Wire sets up a special book fair connected to Ballou Senior High School in Washington, D.C. In Colleen's own words:

Every year, Guys Lit Wire lends its platform to host a book fair for Ballou. Working with librarian Melissa Jackson and her students, we build a wish list of titles they need and then ask the internet to buy a book (or 2) (or more) and send some joy their way. It's quick and it's easy and for book lovers in particular, it's a no-brainer.

We all know that books matter to kids, and we all know why buying books for teens who do not have wide access to them is a smart investment in our world's future. For Ballou, the school fund for book purchases is not large and as a Washington Post article showed earlier this year, the dollars for books in DC often go to wealthier neighborhoods. Also, when they get money schools like Ballou are often not able to purchase the sort of fun or seemingly frivolous titles that teens would really to read.

That is where the Guys Lit Wire Book Fair for Ballou comes in. We buy the books the kids ask for, plain and simple.

The mailing address is already set-up for checkout and there are nearly 400 books to choose from with a price range that starts under $5. We do hope you will find a book that you want to send to Ballou and help us fill their shelves with the titles these kids want so very much to read.


Here's the wishlist: http://tinyurl.com/BookFairforBallou

Please share the link to the wishlist as well as the link to Colleen's post at GLW via your blogs and social media to help spread the word.

Don't let it stop there. If you know of a library, school, shelter, or hospital that's in great need of books and other items, give back. Rally up your co-workers, patrons, students, and friends, gather donated items (new or gently used), and donate them to your chosen organization or charity. Share your good fortune and good spirits with others.

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20. Poetry Friday: Mr. Darcy by Victoria Chang

In the end she just wanted the house
             and a horse not much more what
     if  he didn’t own the house or worse
                     not even a horse how do we

separate the things from a man the man from
             the things is a man still the same
     without his reins here it rains every fifteen
                     minutes it would be foolish to

marry a man without an umbrella did
             Cinderella really love the prince or
     just the prints on the curtains in the
                     ballroom once I went window-

shopping but I didn't want a window when
             do you know it's time to get a new
     man one who can win more things at the
                     fair I already have four stuffed

pandas from the fair I won fair and square
             is it time to be less square to wear
     something more revealing in North and
                     South she does the dealing gives him

the money in the end but she falls in love
             with him when he has the money when
     he is still running away if the water is
                     running in the other room is it wrong

for me to not want to chase it because it owns
             nothing else when I wave to a man I
     love what happens when another man with
                     a lot more bags waves back

- Mr. Darcy by Victoria Chang

Read the poem in its entirety here.

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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21. Sounds Like Me: My Life (so far) in Song by Sara Bareilles

In her book Sounds Like Me: My Life (so far) in Song, Sara Bareilles proves to be just as candid and charming on the page as she is on stage. Whether it's talking about her grade school years, her anxieties, or the true story behind her hit Love Song, Sara is frank, funny, and open about her life, her career, her struggles, and her triumphs. Her very naturalistic, conversational writing style makes her comes across like a friend talking to you at the dinner table or over the phone, equal parts self-deprecating, hopeful, grateful, and humble.

Sara relates her stories in nine chapters - or essays, if you prefer - each bearing the title of a song she's written. (The section also begins with that song's lyrics, handwritten, which is a very nice touch.) As one might assume with a biography, the book begins with her childhood and ends with her current work on the musical Waitress and is lightly peppered with photographs. In-between, we get a glimpse into her early songs and shows, the year she spent in Italy in college, and her first love and heartbreak. Fellow performers will enjoy the details of life on the road, the gigs when she was just starting out as well as the times she performed in large arenas or on television shows, and so forth, but moreover, they will find connection and comfort in knowing the difficulties Sara faced breaking into the business (and the continued difficulties staying there) as well as the doubt, worry, and vulnerability she feels when writing new songs, collaborating with others, or trying to express her truest feelings in music and words.

Mid-way through the book, in the chapter Beautiful Girl, Sara writes letters to her younger self. This is possibly my favorite section of the book, and it serves as a reminder to be our own best friends, to stop putting ourselves down and to keep our chins up, because time and experience can truly make things better and clearer.

This book will be treasured by Sara Bareilles's fans. I also hope it reaches people who perhaps haven't heard her music, who find her through this book first, because what an amazing experience that would be, to be moved enough by this book and these words to go pick up her CDs. I only wish this book contained all of her albums - but, wait, I already have those. :)

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22. Poetry Friday: Beautiful Girl by Sara Bareilles

You wanna walk into the room like that other girl does
The one that's always making everybody fall in love
You see, girl, you're a lot like me
She rearranges all the light in the room
So you're always in the shadows
Well, that's what it feels like to you
Baby, I've been there too.
And I know how much it can sometimes hurt
You feel like the whole world has made you the ugly girl
Take it from me that you have to see it first

So before you trade in your summer skin
for those high-heeled shoes
to make him want to be with you
Let me remind you one more time
that just maybe
you're beautiful
but you just can't see
So why don't you trust me
They'll see it, too
You beautiful girl, you

You wanna lay the blame on somebody else
All these tiny little minds that leave you up on a shelf
But okay, I've seen it done that way
Just in case nobody ever comes through
Riding in to come to your rescue
You still have a chance
You don't have to be asked to dance
I know how much you've been dying to say,
"Look how much everybody loves me."
Guess who gets left when everyone else fades away

So before you trade in your summer skin
for those high-heeled shoes
to make him want to be with you
Let me remind you one more time
That just maybe
You're beautiful
But you just can't see
So why don't you trust me
They'll see it, too
You beautiful girl, you

- Beautiful Girl by Sara Bareilles

I strongly recommend Sara Bareilles, always, including her latest work, the book Sounds Like Me: My Life (so far) in Song (read my review) and the musical Waitress - Sara wrote the music and lyrics for the stage adaptation of Adrienne Shelly's film.



If you can't see the video player above, click here to listen to the song on YouTube, then get the song! (Note: I'm not making a cent off this - I'm just posting the link to encourage folks to buy it and download it legally, rather than otherwise.)

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23. Toni Gallagher's Website


Toni Gallagher's website is live! Today, Toni Gallagher's debut novel TWIST MY CHARM: The Popularity Spell is available. Her next book, TWIST MY CHARM: Love Potion #11, comes out next summer. This new series for young readers mixes magic with friendship.

At her website, Toni talks about her career as a writer and an executive producer. She also talks about her love of travel, complete with photos from and stories about her trips to interesting places around the world.

Please visit http://www.tonigallagherink.com/

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24. Best Books of November 2015

November 2015: 16 books and scripts read

Recommended Adult Fiction
Dead Ringers by Christopher Golden

Recommended Tween Fiction
A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic by Lisa Papademetriou

Recommended Non-Fiction
Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in song by Sara Bareilles
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

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25. Poetry Friday: Half-Waking by William Allingham

I thought it was the little bed
I slept in long ago;
A straight white curtain at the head,
And two smooth knobs below.

I thought I saw the nursery fire,
And in a chair well-known
My mother sat, and did not tire
With reading all alone.

If I should make the slightest sound
To show that I'm awake,
She'd rise, and lap the blankets round,
My pillow softly shake;

Kiss me, and turn my face to see
The shadows on the wall,
And then sing “Rousseau's Dream” to me,
Till fast asleep I fall.

But this is not my little bed;
That time is far away:
With strangers now I live instead,
From dreary day to day.

- Half-Waking by William Allingham

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