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1. Book Blogger Hop - 8/29 - 9/4

 Question of the Week:

Do you request notifications of new replies when you post a comment on a blog post?

My Answer:

It depends on the interest I have for the post.

More times than not, though, I do request notifications of new replies.

I like to know what others are thinking about the subject or book being discussed.

What about you?





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2. Window of Isolation: Louisiana's Leprosarium

Carville: Amid Moss and Resurrection Fern
Poems by Gina Ferrara

Poet Gina Ferrara's new chapbook, Carville Amid Moss and Resurrection Fern
(Finishing Line Press 2014) delivers a new way of looking at leprosy, now known as Hansen's disease. The beauty of these poems is arresting and surprising, given the once taboo subject of leprosy. The leprosarium at Carville operated for over a hundred years.

As a child in catholic school in New Orleans, Ferrara grew up hearing about lepers. Four years ago, when she visited the colony in Carville, Louisiana, she learned more about the lives of the patients. Carville is located off River Road, near Baton Rouge. However, it is essentially in the middle of nowhere. Ferrara captures that sense of isolation in her Carville Poems. The title references the fact that moss and resurrection fern can be found in the oak trees at Carville. Ferrara was taken by the physical beauty of the landscape at Carville and how the beauty of the land was intertwined and connected to the personal experiences of the patients. From "A Perfect Terrain": 'Drenched in moss and resurrection fern, the oaks stayed stoic--/a perfect terrain for the ostriches, swift-footed and flightless/that would never arrive.'

In writing these poems, Ferrara never lost sight of the loneliness experienced by Carville residents. "I wanted to convey how people who had the disease became isolated--very removed from the lives they had lived and previously known, " she said. "They no longer saw their families or loved ones. They had to establish a new and different way of living."

Residents at Carville may have been isolated, but they lived life to the fullest, put on dances and Mardi Gras balls, and published a newspaper with a circulation of over 250, 000. The poem, "Tea Hour on Point Clair Road," shows how the ladies would take their tea, 'The fingerless/Even the unmarred waited for the sips and stains of tea hours,/ Something miraculous as a cure/under a sun no longer at apex.'

Gina first began writing the poems in the spring of 2010 and finished the book over a period of two years. She approached Finishing Line Press because they had published her first poetry chapbook, The Size of Sparrows, in 2006. She met one of  the patients, Pete from Trinidad, who was about ten years old when he arrived and is now in his eighties. He is one of the last patients to live there, rides around on his bicycle, and is eager to talk to visitors. The lyrical poems, along with photographs by Elizabeth Garcia, offer a window into life at Carville, Louisiana.
Gina Ferrara


Carville in the Spring
Gina Ferrara

Sugar surrounds this sanctuary
far from ordinary or Galapagos.
The road ends each time
I check my appendages
for open wounds, red splotches in tandem.
I remember the last pliant hand I held.
Would the constellated sky feel like a hand?
Each finger with its own unblemished identity—
supple and tapering to a square tip,
the bony range of knuckles
buckling only to brush inside my palm.
I squint and scan for semblances of past lives.
Who is the gypsy? Who is the physicist?
I have my suspicions.
Today a woman arrived.
She strolls through the covered corridors
with memories of her identity and scepter,
helpless and unable to reign over the bacilli
waiting to uprise in time as unwanted suns.

Gina Ferrara's work has previously been featured on La Bloga. Her latest full-length poetry book, Amber Porch Light was also recently reviewed by Frank Mundo in the Examiner.


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3. Book Beginnings - 8/29/14


*Please join Rose City Reader every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.  *Taken directly from Rose City Reader's Blog Page.

*****************
Giveaway of Juliet's Nurse


ENTER HERE UNTIL SEPTEMBER 4.

USA ONLY
***************** 
This week's book beginnings is taken from NEVERHOME by Laird Hunt.

 "I was strong and he was not, so it was me went to war to defend the Republic.  I stepped across the border out of Indiana into Ohio.  Twenty dollars, two salt-pork sandwiches, and I took jerky, biscuits, six old apples, fresh underthings, and a blanket too."

I have only read two pages, and it seems interesting.
*****************
Books finished but can't keep to myself. 

THE WINTER GUEST by Pam Jenoff
 
THE WINTER GUEST is another WWII story beautifully told by Ms. Jenoff.

I love Pam Jenoff's books.  If you haven't read any of her books, you should look into them.  

This book was wonderful as well.  Review in the book's title.

 *****************
THE WISHING TIDE by Barbara Davis


Loved, Loved, Loved this book.

Review is in the book's title.

*****************


Another book I loved.

Review is in the book's title. 
 
 *****************
What are you reading that you can't keep to yourself?  :)

*****************




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4. Back to School Booklist – Humor

So, the kids are going back to school. Or are already back in school. Down here in Mississippi, this is the fourth week of school! Middle school is hard. The adjustments, the transitions. A lot of turmoil. So what I’m saying is that I think our kids deserve a laugh. If you need a quick display idea or just something to hand a kid who’s dreading going to school on Tuesday, here’s a list of really hilarious middle grade:

The Ginny Davis books by Jennifer Holm (of Babymouse fame!). These are old enough that your middle school readers might not be familiar with them, and they’re great. Filled with photographs, journal entries, and looking like a scrapbook, this colorful series will grab a tween’s attention–and make them giggle, too.

Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle – every single person I talk to about this book says “HILARIOUS” in all caps. Nate wants to be in a Broadway show so bad that he’s willing to risk pretty much everything to make it to an open casting call for ET: The Musical.  Hijinks and shenanigans ensue! Per my friend Jessamyn, a school librarian–if your kids like audiobooks, this is the one to hand them. Federle does his own narration and with his acting background, totally nails it.

It says “funny” right in the title! But seriously, these books (including I Even Funnier and the upcoming I Even Funniest) are hugely popular in my library and I can often hear my tweens giggling at them in the stacks.

A very nearly honorable league of pirates. A sailor’s daughter shipped off to finishing school who wants nothing more than to sail the seven seas. A talking stone gargoyle. Need I say more?

A retelling of Rumpelstiltskin with a quest, a lot of magical creatures, and tons of butt jokes. Because his name is Rump. This one is adored by everyone I give it to.

 

One of the reasons that we read is to escape. Let’s remember that when giving books to stressed out tweens and teens.

*
Our cross-poster from ALSC today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with ages birth-18 for the last 5 years.

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5. Dash, by Kirby Larson -- heartfelt story about World War II from a kid's point of view (ages 9-12)

Even as a child, I loved the way historical fiction whisked me away to live in another time and place. These novels helped me understand what it might have been like to live through difficult times in history. But they also gave me strength and courage to face my own difficulties. In Dash, by Kirby Larson, Mitsi Kashino and her family are forced to leave their home during World War II simply because they are Japanese American.

Dash
by Kirby Larson
Scholastic, 2014
Google Books preview
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
*best new book*
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has meant that everything has changed for Mitsi. Her best friends are avoiding her, she's getting mean notes in her desk at school, and everyone is looking at her strangely. At least she has her sweet dog Dash to keep her company. When Mitsi's best friends don't even send her Valentine's Day cards,
"Loneliness wrapped around her like a snake. She never, ever dreamed that her friends would desert her like this. How was she going to make it through the rest of the year? The rest of her life?"
Young readers will be able to empathize with Mitsi, especially with the way she finds comfort in art and in her dog. When her family receives the order to move to Camp Harmony and leave Dash behind, Mitsi is devastated. Larson builds the story carefully, first helping readers connect to Mitsi and then showing them how she felt torn from everything she knew. The story is infused with heart and feeling, but it never gets bogged down. I loved the period details, from the game "Hinky Pinky" or the slang Mitsi and her friends use ("I'm busted flat. Can't help.").

Through all of the loneliness and hardship, Mitsi holds onto her dream of being reunited with Dash. She receives letters from Dash, who is staying with a kind friend Mrs. Bowker, and finds solace in being able to write him back. As the Kirkus starred review states,
"Larson makes this terrible event in American history personal with the story of one girl and her beloved pet...This emotionally satisfying and thought-provoking book will have readers pulling for Mitsi and Dash."
For an in-depth review, head over to Librarian's Quest and her post: "Not Ever Again". I so agree with Margie when she writes, "Our hearts are bound to Mitsi as she struggles to understand, as she develops skills to adjust and survive and writes letters to Dash (Mrs. Bowker) and receives messages in return."  I'm certainly looking forward to sharing this with students and seeing how they relate to Mitsi. If you liked this, you'll also certainly like Duke, also by Kirby Larson. Check out what our students had to say about Duke in last year's Mock Newbery discussions.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Scholastic Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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6. Childish Things? by Anna Wilson

I have read a lot of teen fiction this summer because I like to keep up to date, and also so that I can recommend titles to my own teenage children.

Actually, who am I kidding? I read these books because they are so damn good! I would go so far as to say that often so-called “teen fiction” is better written and more original than that on offer for adults.

Of course I am not alone in thinking this. Gillian Tett, writing in the Financial Times earlier this week, discussed the fact that:

“Booksellers now estimate that almost half of young adult books are being read by people who are over the age of 18.”

She pondered on why this was, coming to the conclusion that:

“Teenagers now face a world where boundaries are becoming blurred on many fronts [. . .] the lines between childhood and adulthood, good and evil, friend and foe, male and female are no longer clear-cut. Once teenagers expected to know what “side” they were on (even if this was the anti-adult side); today, the world is no longer black and white. There is category collapse.”

“Category collapse” is exactly right if by that Tett means that we are reading back and forth across the age ranges. However, exactly the opposite has happened when it comes to how books are shelved. The boundaries that have been created to delineate adult novels from those considered to be for teens are surely artificial?

What makes, say, Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden an adult novel but puts E Lockhart’s We Were Liars squarely in the teen category? Morton’s book tells a story from the point of view of characters between the ages of ten and ninety, so it cannot be the age of the protagonists. The subject-matter in Morton’s novel would not be an issue for teens either, and as the mother of a fifteen-year-old girl I would almost prefer her to read Morton’s book for the content than some other teen titles which have much more troublesome subject matter. Equally I delighted in the writing in Lockhart’s novel and gasped aloud at the reveal and have been recommending it to adults and teens alike.

Why was Claire King’s The Night Rainbow published for adults but Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur for children? Both books tell a story about grief, loss and depression from the point of view of a young child and both have content that is perfectly suitable for young teens. There are many other examples I could give, some of which, such as Joanna Nadin’s Eden, have been promoted by publishers as a “cross-over” read, openly acknowledging that age-banding is a conceit, and at times a not very helpful one. And what about Plath’s The Bell Jar and du Maurier’s Rebecca . . .?

Is the answer that, actually, “category collapse” has happened in general, across the media and in our choice of leisure time activities? I am quite happy to sit and watch Friday Night Dinner or The Big Bang Theory with my kids, for example, and they will happily watch The Village or Downton Abbey with me. I will read a book and hand it on to them and they will do the same. We will go as a family to swing between the trees at Go Ape or take surfing lessons together. None of this was the case when I was growing up. Kids’ books were for kids and kids’ activities were for kids. Adults kept their lives quite separate.

Nowadays, though, we seem to actively turn away from the edict: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

I, for one, am happy with this “category collapse” as it gives me licence to stay in touch with my inner child and even (she says, hopefully) to be in with a chance of understanding my own children’s lives. I also feel that the calibre of writing in teen fiction is excellent and this is something that the world has woken up to.

We are giving the “adults” a run for their money, and this can only be a good thing.



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7. Make Rainbow Cookies for Your Next Picnic.

I recently attended my niece Gabby’s 11th birthday party where one of the desserts were some gorgeous sugar cookies she made.  Though dazzling to the eye, the recipe is simple to make and should be a definite crowd pleaser at your next picnic, barbeque or party.

GABBY’S RAINBOW SUGAR COOKIES:              
The cookie’s are simple. Just use your favorite sugar cookie recipe – we even used a box mix. Then:

Divide the dough into 4 even portions and place in four separate bowls.
Choose 4 food coloring colors
Dye the dough to your desired color by adding the food color a few drops at a time to each portion.
Mix the food coloring into the dough (use a spoon to mix unless you wish for stained hands) and add more if you wish for a more vibrant color (remember you can always add more but you can’t take it away so be careful.)
Then take teaspoon-sized portions of the colored dough from each of the four bowls.
Set the four balls tightly next to each other in a 2X2 square configuration.
Then, begin to roll the four balls together pulling gently outward to make a long hotdog shape.
Coil the hot dog shaped dough around itself and bake as directed in the recipe.
Enjoy your creation!  It makes great ice cream sandwiches with a scoop of your favorite flavor ice cream sandwiched between two cookies.
gabby and cookies 2


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8. Inarticulate Speech of the Heart Considered

If you overlook the financial calculations involved in recording, selling and buying, it becomes difficult to assess the worth of a piece of music to anyone. Music, no matter what kind, is valuable in itself. It can transcend time, language and cultures. Van Morrison’s album, ‘Inarticulate Speech of the Heart’, is a collection of original songs which celebrates the spiritual side of people. It isn’t a bunch of songs dedicated to the description of a relationship between two people, but a demonstration of the creative spark, a recognition of the muse and a long range point of view of the human race. Not a love song to be found. Few will go to the trouble of locating, buying and listening to the cd, alone, through to the end, perhaps in their favourite writing space, but if they did. If they did, they would find background music, muted, to create by, or upbeat songs to which to dance a jig or with which to hum along. To each their own, choosing the music to background their writing, some preferring music with no lyrics, some no sound at all. But for those who like a little music in the background, this album has everything. The instrumentals are similar to some of Mark Knopfler’s creations. It would be a waste of time for me to try to describe each song in detail. That’s why Van Morrison wrote and recorded them. In fact, the album has a release date of 1983. It’s over 20 years old and it’s the first time I’ve looked closely at it. Except for the cover which is clever and beautiful. The songs can lighten up a room and pull one’s self out of self centred thoughts or draw one into deep contemplation. They can raise one’s spiritual eyes for a moment. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it will take two or three plays of this disc for others to appreciate it. I don’t know and delving analytically into it isn’t what I usually do. I just know that it’s nice to have it on in the background when I’m rereading what I’ve written the day before or when I’m checking out websites. These songs which I know by heart often start me off writing before I switch to lyricless jazz. It also helps with broken hearts, hangovers and situations of loneliness.

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9. Amis, not in Germany

       An Interesting Q & A (in German) with Martin Amis in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung -- summed up by Philip Oltermann and Anne Penketh in The Guardian, in Martin Amis's holocaust 'comedy' fails to find German publisher, as the German publisher of his last few duds books, Hanser, has declined to publish The Zone of Interest -- the big question being (this being the German market): is it because it is about Auschwitz, or is it because it is crap ?
       Amis doesn't seem to have ever really caught on in Germany, and you can see that he's a tough sell there under the best of circumstances (among his works' main qualities is his style, and that's tough to translate effectively/well).
       Understandably Interestingly, recent French Amis-publisher Gallimard has also passed on this one (though another French publisher did pick it up) -- though Amis suggests in his FAZ-interview that that likely has more to do with a general editorial shift at Gallimard, rather than the subject-matter at hand. (Presumably, that's how his 'literary agent' -- Andrew Wylie -- is trying to spin things to his no-doubt irritated client .....)

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10. Free Fall Friday – Critique Results – Holly McGhee

pippin

Cynthia Reeg                          FROM THE GRAVE             Middle Grade Fantasy

Monster Rule #9: A monster’s appearance should incite fear and significant revulsion to scare the socks off mere humans.

FRANK’S TALE

Shocktober 13, Year of the Scrull

Looking through the bus window, I tilted my nose up toward the sky’s “determined drear,” as Ms. Hagmire liked to call it. That was Uggarland—grim, gray, and delightfully desolate. From the bony skeleton trees, to the swampland grasses, to the lurking monsters. My itchy right palm brushed against my perfectly tucked shirt and my much too crisp pant leg. I should be an example of such determined drear, general disarray, and evil intent. Only I wasn’t.

“I saw a bat flying upside down last night,” said Oliver. My mummy friend sat next to me. His unwrapped, wrinkled brown finger skimmed down the page of the tattered book on his lap. “I’m trying to find out what that means.”

“That means trouble,” I muttered. The low rumble of voices from the other eccentric students on our bus seemed to echo the word. Trouble.

“Maybe its antennae were just damaged.” Oliver pointed to bold print on the right hand page.

I shook my head. “No. It means trouble.”

Our special Fiendful Fiends Academy Bus—otherwise referred to as OMO (Odd Monsters Only) bus—lurched to a stop in front of our school. We all climbed out, but as I tilted my nose upward again, I stopped in mid-step.

HERE’S HOLLY:

From the Grave, Middle-grade Fantasy, Cynthia Reeg

I was interested in Oliver and the first-person narrator, and I think it might be smart to start the story off with the dialogue about the bat. It’s important that the reader engage with the characters first, that we connect with them and care, before learning about the scenery of Uggarland. So I suggest moving the scenery further down in the story and pulling back on the detailed descriptions of clothing in order to laser-focus on the two kids. Hook us with them and then take us on a journey.

___________________________________________________________

Best Chocolate Cake and Other Dramatic Disasters by Julia Maranan – MG Novel 

Things I Am Good At

Field hockey

Music

Science

French

Chess

Baking?

Starting middle school on crutches had been about as bad as it sounds. While I was hobbling around trying to find all my classes after an “unfortunate accident” during field hockey tryouts, everyone else found all their friends and where they fit in. By the time I was back on my own two feet, I was pretty much invisible (except to Angie, who’d been my BFF since, well, forever). And it’s not like I hadn’t been trying things. I just hadn’t found the right thing. But today, that would finally change. I could feel it.

I took another look at the picture of the expertly frosted Best Chocolate Cake our home ec teacher, Mrs. Collins, had projected in the front of the classroom, and my mouth watered.

Baking is a good thing to excel in. I mean, who doesn’t love chocolate cake? People are going to ask me to bake them things all the time! Maybe I can even get extra credit if I bake something amazing. I’ll have to find out what my teachers like before midterm grades are due…

I read through the instructions one more time: grease and flour the pan, mix everything in a bowl, and pour the batter into the pan to bake. This is going to be awesome.

“Do you want to grease the pan, or should I?” I asked my partner, Kate Nichols, who was the second worst person in the room Mrs. Collins could have paired me with.

“I think maybe you should just make your own cake. Over there.” She motioned vaguely to the counter by the sink, purple nail polish sparkling under the fluorescent lights.

“But we’re supposed to work together,” I said.

“But I want my cake to be edible,” she said, and took her pan over to a table.

HERE’S HOLLY:

Best Chocolate Cake, Middle-grade novel, Julia Maranan

I like the idea that the main character wants to find something to make her visible. But those first days of school are not here—those days with her on crutches, left out of all the quick-forming friendships circles. I would like to see them. That way I would make a connection, and I’d be rooting for this girl and her baking skills. Show us the character in her darkest moment, all those friends pairing and bonding while she can’t keep up, that anxiety and pressure, and then you’ll be set up to tell the story. I did like the list at the top! As for baking and home ec, I’m not sure when the story takes place, but in our schools, they don’t offer home ec anymore, sad to say, so make it clear what year the story starts.

___________________________________________________________

DOGS ON STRIKE! By Rita D. Russell – Picture Book 

All night long, Rufus snored and sniggled in his sleep. He dreamed about his birthday and getting super-duper treats. But when Rufus woke up… he got nothing.

“Not even a birthday card?” asked Dugan.

“Or pupperoni cupcakes?” wondered Nugget.

“Nothing,” said Rufus. “Not even the Happy Birthday song.”

The three mutts mulled over the situation while burying bones in the backyard.

“What’s the world coming to,” they groused, “when a dog gets less love than a mouse?” [Art: Rufus, Dugan,and Nugget watch a man mowing the lawn with his pet mouse peeking from his shirt pocket.]

“No walking in the park.”

“No dancing in the dark.”

“No purple pupsicle treat.”

“No cruising in the front seat.”

Something had to be done.

STRIKE???   [Art: Dogs vote at a meeting of the neighborhood dogs association.]

Rufus strode to the podium and proudly proclaimed, “Today dogs are changing the rules of the game. Our smiles and affection are no longer free. We demand nicer treatment. So until families agree…”

[Art: Families are shocked to discover…]

“No greetings at the door?”

“No footrests on the floor?”

“No herding cows or sheep?”

“No guarding while we sleep?”

“DOGS ON STRIKE!”

The cool cats stayed back. (They were not impressed.)

HERE’S HOLLY:

Dogs on Strike, Picture book, Rita D. Russell

This is a cute concept and I like the idea of turning the dog-people relationship on its head. That said, I don’t know why this dog is surprised that he doesn’t have a birthday celebration. Has he had them in the past? What is the context? If you can figure that out and keep this very simple, with excellent dialogue, you might have a winner. Check out David Ezra Stein’s I’M MY OWN DOG, just published, for a fantastic example of role reversal.

___________________________________________________________

Carol Foote           FOREVER MAGIC                   Middle Grade

The hint of a whisper.

At first Elena thought it might be trees sighing or a faucet turned on somewhere else in the house. But the sound grew louder, as if coming at her through a long tunnel. She tilted her head to listen just as it burst out, filling the room.

El-e-naaaaaa…

Elena almost dropped the pickle jar she was preparing for a science experiment. Her knees wobbled, and she leaned against the kitchen counter.

El-e-naaaaaa…” The whisper swirled around her. Then it was gone.

She ran to the window and nudged aside the white lace curtains. Outside, her ten-year-old brother Connor was tossing a plastic bag in the air and attacking it with a stick.

“For the king!” Connor cried, slashing at his flimsy opponent. “Victory is ours!”

“Did you call me?” Elena shouted. Her voice sounded high and thin.

“No.” Connor impaled the bag and didn’t even look toward her.

“Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

Elena eyed the woods beyond the lawn. Not even a leaf rustled. Gram’s car wasn’t in its usual spot at the top of the long dirt drive. Elena crossed the kitchen and peered into the living room. The solid, stuffed chairs and dark, polished tables sat undisturbed. Only the steady ticking of the grandfather clock broke the stillness. Breathing in the familiar smell of old books and fireplace ashes, Elena forced her shoulders to relax. See? It was nothing.

She returned to her experiment where vapor rose from a tray of dry ice. Like a genie from a lamp. Her hands shook, and she spilled rubbing alcohol as she tried to pour just enough to saturate the black felt she’d glued inside the jar. Tightening the lid, she glanced around the room.

HERE’S HOLLY:

Forever Magic, Middle-grade novel, Carol Foote

I think this is a fantastic opening page! Keep going. I want to know more. But get a better title. Well done.

___________________________________________________________

Thank you Holly for sharing your time and expertise with us. It is a huge help to read you comments.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, Agent, demystify, inspiration, Process, revisions Tagged: Agent Holly McGhee, First Page Critique, Pippin Properties, Writing feedback

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11. Ramuz revival ?

       At English PEN, Michelle Bailat-Jones writes about Charles Ferdinand Ramuz -- trying to sell him as a: "contemporary of Robert Walser" (because that's relevant to .. anything) and how he: "is now being introduced to a new readership as the 'dams' between languages break down", in "You must keep feeding the lake".
       Hey, I'm a Ramuz fan -- The Young Man from Savoy, yes ! -- but let's get real. Walser was a long-overlooked genius; Ramuz's When the Mountains Fell (Eng. 1949) was an early Pantheon title (yes, as far back as the Jacques (not André ...) Schiffrin days) that was a freaking Book-of-the-Month-Club title (you young 'uns won't remember, but that was a big, big deal back then). Ramuz has been mainstream (and, since, admittedly, completely forgotten ...).
       Good to see some attention for Ramuz, but, please, some perspective -- which includes not trying to compare him to Walser.

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12. Back to School Booklist – Humor

So, the kids are going back to school. Or are already back in school. Down here in Mississippi, this is the fourth week of school! Middle school is hard. The adjustments, the transitions. A lot of turmoil. So what I’m saying is that I think our kids deserve a laugh. If you need a quick display idea or just something to hand a kid who’s dreading going to school on Tuesday, here’s a list of really hilarious middle grade:

 

Source: Goodreads

Source: Goodreads

The Ginny Davis books by Jennifer Holm (of Babymouse fame!). These are old enough that your middle school readers might not be familiar with them, and they’re great. Filled with photographs, journal entries, and looking like a scrapbook, this colorful series will grab a tween’s attention–and make them giggle, too.

Source: Goodreads

Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle – every single person I talk to about this book says “HILARIOUS” in all caps. Nate wants to be in a Broadway show so bad that he’s willing to risk pretty much everything to make it to an open casting call for ET: The Musical.  Hijinks and shenanigans ensue! Per my friend Jessamyn, a school librarian–if your kids like audiobooks, this is the one to hand them. Federle does his own narration and with his acting background, totally nails it.

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Goodreads

 

 

It says “funny” right in the title! But seriously, these books (including I Even Funnier and the upcoming I Even Funniest) are hugely popular in my library and I can often hear my tweens giggling at them in the stacks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Goodreads

 

 

A very nearly honorable league of pirates. A sailor’s daughter shipped off to finishing school who wants nothing more than to sail the seven seas. A talking stone gargoyle. Need I say more?

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Goodreads

 

 

 

A retelling of Rumpelstiltskin with a quest, a lot of magical creatures, and tons of butt jokes. Because his name is Rump. This one is adored by everyone I give it to.

 

 

 

 

One of the reasons that we read is to escape. Let’s remember that when giving books to stressed out tweens and teens.

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Our cross-poster from YALSA today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with ages birth-18 for the last 5 years.

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13. Review of the Day: Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood

BadByeGoodBye Review of the Day: Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah UnderwoodBad Bye, Good Bye
By Deborah Underwood
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
$16.99
ISBN: 978-0-547-92852-4
Ages 3-7
On shelves now

As a mother who recently spent the better part of twenty hours in a car with a three-year-old and a three-month-old baby, I feel a special kinship with parents who have also engaged in the ultimate endurance sport: travel with children. If you feel no particular sympathy for those engaged in this activity that is because you have not experienced it firsthand yourself. But even when my daughter was projectile vomiting regularly and even when the breast pump tipped to one side spilling milk all over my pants and EVEN WHEN I found myself wedged in the backseat between two car seats trying to change my son’s diaper on my lap while parked, I could still feel grateful because at least it was just a vacation. It wasn’t like we were moving to a new town or anything. Because if I’d had to deal with the abject misery of my three-year-old on top of the vomit/milk/diapers I don’t know how my sanity would have remained intact. And yet, other parents do it all the time. Every day someone somewhere packs up all their worldly possessions, their pets, and their miserable offspring and heads for a whole new life. It’s daunting. You can’t help but admire their guts. And boy, you’d sure like to hand them a book that they could use to show their kids that as scary as a move like that can be, ultimately it’s going to be okay. Enter a book so sparse and spare you’d never believe it capable of the depth of feeling within its pages. Deborah Underwood lends her prodigious talents to Bad Bye, Good Bye while artist Jonathan Bean fills in the gaps. The effect is a book where every syllable is imbued with meaning, yet is as much a beautiful object as it is a useful too.

“Bad day, Bad box” says the book. On the page, a boy wrestles with a moving man for possession of a cardboard box, doomed to be loaded into the nearby moving van. The boy, we see, is in no way happy about this move. He clearly likes his home and his best friend, who has come with her mother to bid him goodbye. On the road he and his little sister pitch seven different kinds of catfits before sinking into a kind of resigned malaise. Time heals all wounds, though, and with the help of a motel swimming pool, diners, and multiple naps, they arrive in their new town in the early evening. As the family and movers pile boxes and other things into the new house, the boy meets another kid who just happens to live next door. Together they collect lightning bugs and star gaze until that “bad bye” at the beginning of the book morphs into a far more comfortable “good bye” when the new friends bid each other goodnight.

This isn’t Underwood’s first time at the rodeo. The art of the restrained use of language is sort of her bread and butter. Anyone who has seen her work her magic in The Quiet Book is aware that she says loads with very little. I sincerely hope someone out there has been bugging her to write an easy book for kids. The talent of synthesizing a story down to its most essential parts is a rare one. In this book there is a total of 57 words (or so). These usually appear in two word pairs and by some extraordinary bit of planning they also rhyme. We begin with all “bads”. It goes “Bad day, Bad box / Bad mop, Bad blocks / Bad truck, Bad guy, Bad wave, Bad bye.” The book then slips into neutral terms as the initial misery wears off. Then, as we near the end the “goods” come out. “Good tree, Good sky / Good friend, Good bye.” Such a nice transition. You could argue that it’s pretty swift considering the depths of misery on display in the early pages, and that’s not too far off, but kids are also pretty resilient. Besides, motel swimming pools do indeed go a long way towards modifying behavior.

Jonathan Bean’s one to watch. Always has been. From the moment he was doing Wendy Orr’s Mokie & Bik books to the nativity animalia title “One Starry Night” to all those other books in his roster, he proved himself a noteworthy artist. Watching his work come out you have the distinct sense that this is the calm before the storm. The last minute before he wins some big award and starts fielding offers from the biggest names in the biz. In this book I wouldn’t necessarily have said the art was by Bean had I not seen his name spelled out on the cover. It’s a slightly different style for him. Not just pencil and watercolors anymore. A style, in fact, that allows him to try and catch a bit of Americana in the story’s pages. When Underwood writes something like “Big hair, White deer” it’s Bean’s prerogative to determine what that means exactly. His solution to that, as well as other sections, is layering. Time and landscapes are layered on top of one another. America, from diners and speed limit signs to windmills and weathervanes, display scenes familiar to traveling families. A great artist gives weight and meaning to the familiar. Jonathan Bean is a great artist.

Now the cover of this book is also well worth noting. I don’t say that about a lot of picture books either. Generally speaking a picture book’s cover advertises the book to the best of its ability but only occasionally warrants close examination. Jonathan Bean, however, isn’t afraid to convey pertinent information through his cover. In fact, if you look at it closely you’ll see that he’s managed to encapsulate the entire story from one flap to another. Begin at the end of the book. Open it up. If you look at the inside back flap the very first thing you’ll see underneath the information about the author and the illustrator is the image of the boy in the story straining against his seatbelt, his face a grimace of pure unadulterated rage. Now follow the jacket to the back cover of the book and you see the boy crying in one shot and then looking miserably back in another. The weather is alternating between a starry night sky and a windy rainy day. Move onto the front cover and the rain is still there but soon it turns to clear skies and the boy’s attitude morphs into something distinctly more pleasant. In fact, by the time you open the book to the front flap he’s lifting his hands in a happy cheer. The attitude adjustment could not be more stark and it was done entirely in the span of a single book jacket. Not the kind of thing everyone would notice, and remarkable for that fact alone.

People are always talking about “the great American novel”, as if that’s an attainable ideal. We don’t ever hear anyone talk about “the great American picture book”. I don’t know that Bad Bye, Good Bye would necessarily fit the bill anyway. This is more the picture book equivalent of On the Road than To Kill a Mockingbird, after all. It’s a road trip book, albeit a safe and familiar one. For children facing the frightening prospect of the unknown (and let’s face it – adults hardly do much better) it’s good to have a book that can offer a bit of comfort. A reassurance that no matter how things change, good can follow bad just as day follows night. They are not alone in this uprooting. Somewhere out there, in another car, with another family, there might be a kid just as miserable as they are and for the exact same reason. And like all humans this knowledge ends up being comforting and necessary. Therefore give all your love to Bad Bye, Good Bye. It has necessary comfort to spare.

On shelves now.

Like This? Then Try:

  • A New Room for William by Sally Grindley
  • Herman’s Letter by Tom Percival
  • The Good-Pie Party by Liz Garton Scanlon
  • Alexander, Who Is Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move by Judith Viorst
  • Tim’s Big Move by Anke Wagner

Misc: And I interviewed Ms. Underwood about the book here.

share save 171 16 Review of the Day: Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood

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14. Friday Feature:


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Summary:
Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she's dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she's trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.

Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.

My thoughts:
The opening of this book hooked me right away. Amelia doesn't remember her life or her death, yet she keeps almost reliving her death, waking up in the murky water that took her life. She's stuck in between life and death and can't seem to move on. Then when Joshua almost dies in the same river, she tries to summon all her strength to save him, which isn't easy considering she's dead. By some twist of fate, he sees her and she's able to save him. The two form a bond right away, which is understandable since she did save his life. He's even accepting of the fact that she's a ghost.

But as Amelia finds comfort in Joshua, she finds torment in another. Eli is a spirit like Amelia and he knows about her death. Eli tries to manipulate Amelia and get her to become something she isn't willing to be. I loved her struggle with Eli and how Joshua was able to help her just as much as she helped him.

This was a very enjoyable read.

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15. Jungle Grumble - the Paperback!


The day before I left for Brazil, the postman bought me another of those fun packages. I have already had an advance copy of my next book Jungle Grumble, so I have seen it, but this new copy is the paperback.


It's due out in October, although I am not sure which end. Not long though now!


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16. RUMBLE by Ellen Hopkins {Review}

"Review my Books" Review by Kaitlin RUMBLEby Ellen Hopkins Hardcover: 560 pagesPublisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (August 26, 2014)Language: English Goodreads | Amazon Can an atheist be saved? The New York Times bestselling author of Crank and Tricks explores the highly charged landscapes of faith and forgiveness with brilliant sensitivity and emotional resonance.“There is no God, no

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17. An introduction to Terry Pratchett (link)

This is the perfect round-up of the characters and series of the Discworld books.  It shows you the setting, including the Great A’Tuin, and a sampling of characters: the Witches of Lancre; The Watch, who police Ankh Morpork--or wherever else they're needed (especially Commander Vimes); the wizards at The Unseen University, et al: 12 Reasons to Read and Love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld

There are also stand-alone books. Nation is just one of my favorites.  And characters not mentioned include Gaspode, the talking dog (I always want to bathe him) and Angua.  My favorite characters--it's so hard to choose--are Commander Vimes; Granny Weatherwax; Nanny Ogg; Susan, DEATH's granddaughter; Lu-Tze, among others...

If you've never read any of Terry Pratchett's books, you are in for a unique treat, 'cause he's the best at putting a fun twist on the old cliches, including fairy tales, vampires, gnomes, the walking dead, ....

And be sure to read the sampling of quotes!  

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18. Unwind by Neal Shusterman, 352 pp, RL: TEEN

Unwind is the first book in the Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman. Unwind was published in 2007, fourteen years after the thought provoking, conversation starting Newbery winner, The Giver and one year before the book that made "dystopian" a household word, The Hunger Games. I was a bookseller when The Hunger Games was published and my fellow booksellers and I avidly passed around the

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19. #646 – Alphabetabum: An Album of Rare Photographs and Medium Verses by Chris Raschka & Vladimir Radunsky

Alphabetabumx

Alphabetabum: An Album of Rare Photographs and Medium Verses

written by Chris Raschka
Photography collection by Vladimir Radunsky
New York Review Children’s Collection        10/01/2014
978-1-59017-817-1
Age 4 to 7        80 pages
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“An ALPHABET book?
“An ALBUM of old photos?
“We named it ALPHABETABUM.

“Here celebrated artist and author Vladimir Radunsky and Chris Raschka put a delightful new old-fashioned spin on the alphabet book. Radunsky has selected portraits off children from is spectacular collection of antique black-and-white photographs. Raschka has given the children names and written deliciously teasing rhymes about them. The result is ALPHABETABUM, a book of letters and pictures to which readers will happily return to again and again both to look and to learn.”

Opening

[A picture of a young girl in a short dress with a sash.]

                   “Aa
Awkward Agnes Alexandra
Shows her ample ankles
Although her knees are grander.”

Review

Vladimir Radunsky writes, “If these photos were taken in the late-nineteenth or early-twentieth centuries, then the children in them could have been our great-great-great grandparents! So we have an extraordinary chance to see what our great-great-great grandparents looked when they were children.”

There are 26 photographs of children of varying ages in Alphabetabum; the first original book from New York Review Children’s Collection (all others are reprinted classics). I looked closely at the eyes after reading Radunsky’s thoughts that one of these could be a great-great-great-grandparent, aunt, or uncle. I have never seen any pictures of my parents as children, so seeing what they might have worn captivated my attention as well.

alphabetabumworkaround.indd

Some of the portraits are comical, like young Baby Beulah Bridget who wears a huge white bow upon her tiny head. The bow is too big for her small head and looks to topple at any moment. From the clothing, it is obvious these children are from all over the world. One young boy, named Quiet Quentin Quint, wears long white pants under a black pair of knickers with an ornate jacket and cummerbund. Atop his head is a stocking cap (today, we call these skullcaps) and leans on a cricket bat. Quentin is a serious child.

The photographs in Alphabetabum range from the casual to the formal, though it would not have been a casual friend taking the casual picture. In all cases, the person behind, or next to, the lens would have been a professional photographer. Photographs back then took quite a while to develop and many people had to hold that smile for several minutes. In today’s instant world, I wonder if such portraits are possible.alphabetabumworkaround.indd

Alphabetabum is an interesting and quite curious ABC book. It is really more for older kids and adults, not the young child trying to learn their ABC’s, though it could be done. These ABC’s are for those who love poetry, old photographs, and funny verses that try to define the child based on their clothing, they way they pose, and maybe a smile or lack thereof. The names are all alliterated and interesting. I like Alphabetabum because of it’s quirkiness and because I love old photos and photography. I don’t think you need to have those interests to find Alphabetabum worth your time. Alphabetabum will become endearing, leading you to want to share this unusual ABC picture book.

ALPHABETABUM: AN ALBUM OF RARE PHOTOGRAPHS AND MEDIUM VERSES. Text copyright © 2014 by Chris Raschka. Photographs copyright © 2014 by Vladimir Radunsky. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, New York Review Children’s Collection, New York, NY.
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Buy Alphabetabum at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryNew York Review of Booksyour favorite bookstore.

Learn more about Alphabetabum HERE

Meet the author, Chris Raschka, at his twitter:   https://twitter.com/ChrisRaschka

Meet the photography collector, Vladimir Radunsky, at his website:    http://www.vladimirradunsky.com/

Find classic children’s books at the New York Review Children’s Collection website:  http://www.nybooks.com/books/imprints/childrens/

The New York Review Children’s Collection is an imprint of New York Review of Books.   http://www.nybooks.com/

Also by Chris Raschka

If You Were a Dog

If You Were a Dog

Whaley Whale (Thingy Things)

Whaley Whale (Thingy Things)

Give and Take

Give and Take

 

 

 

 

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Also by Vladimir Radunsky

Advice to Little Girls

Advice to Little Girls

Hip Hop Dog

Hip Hop Dog

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein

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Review HERE

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Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Historical Fiction, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Poetry Tagged: ABC Book, alliteration, children's book reviews, Chris Raschka, classic photographs from early 20th century, formal portraits of children from long ago, New York Review Children’s Collection, New York Review of Books, poetry, Vladimir Radunsky

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20. Review: Brazen

Brazen by Katherine Longshore. Viking, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA). 2014. Review copy from publisher.

The Plot: England. 1533. Fourteen year old Mary Howard is being married to Henry FitzRoy, also 14 but already the Duke of Richmond and Somerset.

Henry FitzRoy (Fitz to his friends) is the only living son of Henry VIII. That he is a bastard means that he can never inherit his father's throne, but he is important and Mary's marriage to him is important. She, now is important.

Only -- not so much. Henry VIII doesn't want the marriage consummated - both from a belief that it's not healthy for the young teens, as well as knowing that such a marriage can easily be annulled if necessary.

If the king's new bride, Anne Boleyn, delivers the longed for legitimate son, Fitz's role remains the same. But if not.... well, what if Fitz was made legitimate?

What is it that the young and noble do with their time? Mary and Fitz and their friends form a circle of teens whose time is dedicated to sports, and flirtations, and poetry and song and dance. The most important dance being, of course, keeping the King happy.

The Good: I loved the first of Longshore's books set in the court of Harry VIII, Gilt. Gilt, set in 1539, is the story of Henry VIII's wife Catherine Howard, told from the point of view of one of the queen's friends. I didn't read the next book, Tarnish, about Anne Boleyn coming to Henry VIII's court for a very simple reason.

Anne Boleyn breaks my heart. Every time. And I didn't know if I could read about her, young and hopeful. So I avoided Tarnish.

Longshore fooled me, though! When I heard about Brazen, I didn't think about years. I thought, oh, an interesting look at the young Tudor court. And since Reign is one of my current favorite TV series (all about the young Mary Queen of Scots) and because I loved Gilt, I said yes.

I'm glad I did. Even though Anne turns up, a new mother, with all her future yet to come falling apart. Because I loved Brazen. I loved young Mary, wanting to have fun but also knowing the seriousness of her situation, the need to successfully navigate the Tudor Court. And I loved reading this Anne, an Anne who is smart and strong and fights as best she can, having done her own dance of destiny -- and who, despite her best efforts, has it all crashing down on her. Because Henry VIII is a man who is ruined by the power he has; and Anne does not give him a son quickly enough to satisfy him. I love how despite the danger and risks, Anne insists on her own autonomy and personhood.

Early on, Mary overhears an argument between Anne and the King. He tells her, "You should be content with what I've done for you. And remember I made you what you are." She responds, "I am myself! I am Anne Boleyn. You have not made me!"  And he says, "I can make you nothing." And this is where I knew Longshore got Anne, her "I am myself," her belief in herself.

I loved Brazen so much that I'm willing to have Gilt rip out my heart.

But now, back to Mary. I love the friendship she shares with Madge Shelton and Margaret Douglass. I love how Brazen shows the importance at that time of family, titles, money, and access to the king. Or rather, the danger.

Brazen captures the always-moving court and what that means to the members, to never stay in one place, to have their lives be spent in the rooms that are not their own, with rank and location determining where one sleeps for those weeks or months. Each section is titled by where the court is currently: Hampton Court Palace, 26 November 1533; Greenwich, December 1533; Greenwich Palace, 1534; Whitehall, 1534; Hatfield Palace, 1534. And that only brings us to page 72!

Brazen is also about being young. And wanting to be in love. And being in love. And not wanting to repeat the mistakes of parents. And it's also about words: Mary and her friends like songs and poetry, and one way they communicate with each other is by a shared book (based on the Devonshire Manuscript).

And yes.... it's a Favorite Book Read in 2014.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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21. Bubbles have feelings....Illustrations from O.B. The E-Magination Express....

Illustrations for  Images Press
.... Read the rest of this post

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22. Publishing in ... Spain

       There have been bad numbers from all over, over the past few years, but few as dismal as this: at The Bookseller Benedicte Page reports that Spain's domestic market sees 12% drop in 2013. That's turnover -- but even so:

The latest survey found 154 million copies were sold in 2013, a decrease of 9.6% on 2012 numbers. Publishing numbers were down 3.5% year-on-year to 76,434 titles.
       Disappointingly, too: "Studied by genre, fiction saw the biggest revenue fall, down 17.2% to €469m" (Come on, you Spaniards -- no matter how bad things are, there's always room for ... fiction ! Always ! Fiction is what matters ! Buy some !)
       It's hard to ascribe plummets like this to the absence of one or two blockbusters; this is a much broader problem -- not a good sign at all.

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23. The Cat and the Bunny – Drawing A Day

I’m trying out some new brushes and mixing different ones. The learning curve on using the many brushes is a lot higher than I thought. Perhaps I should Isolate certain brushes I want to use. Here is the cat and the bunny having a conversation. Drawn with Painter X3, Acrylic wet and Oil wet.

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24. Sharing a Read-Aloud Between Grandparents and Grandchildren

Do you have grandmother memories that you treasure? I have so many, and luckily for me, as I launch my new picture book, My Bibi Always Remembers, about a grandmother elephant and her little grandbaby, I have a reason to revisit them all!

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25. Thursday

Having newly tidied-up files is having a shiny-sink effect on me: I’m just about caught up on all forms of desk-work now, including answering reader mail. Speaking of, how sweet is this Prairie Thief-inspired drawing a young reader made for me? I melted utterly.

IMG_6450

Awesome job, Mara!

Now only some personal correspondence to catch up on (hi Brigid!!!) and a short list of work-related tasks. And then, wonder of wonders, my desk will be clear. For a little while, at least. I seem to be a person who enjoys organization in fits and starts.

The new combination of gCal for household chores + Remember the Milk for other (family or clerical) tasks & errands is working really well for me. And since I’ve volunteered to handle the cooking for the next month, I created a Meal Planning gCal too. Dinner prep has gone smoothly three nights in a row, which has got to be a lifetime record for me. ;) WHO IS THIS KITCHEN WIZARD OCCUPYING MY SHOES, YOU GUYS? And how can I keep her around?

(Prepare for the inevitable crash. It’ll be another chai tortilla soup-caliber disaster next week, you know it will.)

Meanwhile, work rolls on. Got another talk to write (this one on writing, happening in October); some books to review; some articles to edit; and oh yeah, a novel to polish. Especially the ending. But let’s not speak of that, shall we?

scarlet

(The secret to my peace of mind: vicious compartmentalization.)

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