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Susan Thomsen is the author of Elvis: A Tribute to the King (Andrews McMeel), which was once in the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian gift shop, that is.
Susan's work has also appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times (a Metropolitan Diary entry after years of submissions), and the anthology Girls (Global City Press). She was an editor of Global City Review's humor issue, and served as a theater reviewer at ye olde online guide New York Sidewalk. Susan and her family live in New England.
You can reach Susan at c_spaghettiATyahooPERIODcom
Statistics for Chicken Spaghetti
Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 59
Don't you love that Twitter announcement!
The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Alice Munro, "master of the contemporary short story." As a fan of Munro's writing, I am marking the following To Read:
"Alice Munro, LLD'76, wins 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature." Jason Winders at the Western News. Good local angle from the University of Western Ontario, which Munro attended. Later she was the writer in residence at the school.
"Editing Alice Munro." Deborah Treisman, at the New Yorker.
"Alice Munro, Our Chekhov." Critic James Wood, at the New Yorker.
"Margaret Atwood: Alice Munro's Road to Nobel Literature Was Not Easy," at the Guardian.
"Alice Munro: AS Byatt, Anne Enright and Colm Tóibín hail the Nobel laureate," at the Guardian.
"Why Alice Munro Won the Nobel Prize in Literature," by Jens Hansegard. Remarks from the press conference following yesterday's announcement, at the Wall Street Journal.
"Alice Munro, Nobel Winner and a Writer's Peerless Teacher." Hector Tobar, at the Los Angeles Times
"A Beginner's Guide to Alice Munro." A timely re-run of an older piece, by Ben Dolnick, at the Millions.
The annual "Growing Good Kids" awards, for children's books with an ecological theme, were announced last summer. You'll find a list of the winners here. The American Horticultural Society and the Junior Master Gardener program are the sponsors.
Catching up on some spring news, I was thrilled to learn that the annual "Best Books for Babies" list is still being compiled. I had thought this list had gone the way of a defunct organization in Pittsburgh. My bad! Yay for the project's organizers, the Carnegie Library, the Fred Rogers Company, and the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children.
The New York Public Library recently unveiled its list of the best 100 children's books of the last 100 years, which goes along with an exhibit at the library.
Soon to be added to this blog's project "The Best Children's Books of 2012: A List of Lists and Awards" are the following, some of which were announced quite a while ago. (I go by the year the book is published. Soon I'll start the 2013 list of lists.)
Bank Street College, Center for Children's Literature. Books of the Year.
Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. Honoring titles from both 2012 and 2013.
Canadian Children's Book Centre: TD Canadian Children's Literature Award finalists
Children's Book Council of Australia: Book of the Year Awards.
Children's Choice Book Awards
Emu's Debuts (blog): Best under the radar books of 2012
Ezra Jack Keats Book Award
Jane Addams Children's Book Award
South Asia Book Award, sponsored by the South Asia National Outreach Consortium
School has started and with it my volunteer gig as a classroom reader in a city school. After a year with third graders, I am back with the second grade. I follow the same teacher wherever she goes. If Ms. B. heads to kindergarten next year, I'll tag along.
I'm finding that I need to readjust to a younger group; some of my picture-book selections so far have been too wordy. And too big-wordy at that. But Earl the Squirrel? Perfect! It's one of my favorites anyway. Published in 2005 (fifty years after it was written), the book is by Don Freeman, of Corduroy fame. The young Earl gains some independence after discovering an unusual way to find acorns. The plot involves a bull who sees red.
Since taking a workshop at the Eric Carle Museum, I've spent more class time with the art, talking about a book's cover, end pages, and so on. Actually I try to get the kids talking and thinking about the book's art. They are great observers and always notice things that I didn't. Freeman used scratchboard for Earl the Squirrel, which features only three colors: black, white, and a very important red. The students got a real kick of the different ways the red color was employed.
The story of how the Earl manuscript was re-discovered in Don Freeman's papers can be found here.
Photograph by BirdPhotos.com (BirdPhotos.com) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Every once and a while, I come across some true weirdness in the New York Times. I actually love when the Times gets odd and unpredictable. A phrase from today's paper (online edition) inspired this doggerel poem, which I wrote before reading the article. It was just too delicious to pass up.
Feeling a Warm Embrace from a Tortilla
(headline on the front page of the New York Times, web edition, Wednesday, October 2, 2013)
When I hugged a cucumber,
It didn't hug me back
Cold, lifeless, green,
It stared without seeing,
wordless, rejecting, and cold.
I turned to the tortilla,
Soon to become my taco.
And wrapped it 'round my shoulders,
Savoring its warm embrace,
This humble shawl of corn,
Destined for the dinner plate.
A comfort food who
Put the cuke to shame.
The last school year was a good one for reading aloud with third graders. After participating in an online class on the Caldecott Medal and a workshop on the "whole book approach" at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, I feel like both our class discussions and my book choices improved.
Here are the best of the books I read aloud in 2012-2013. The children were great about drawing connections and seeing parallels, often coming up with things I had not noticed.
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, by Mo Willems (Balzer & Bray, 2012) and The Three Bears, by Paul Galdone (Clarion, 1972). Willems' spin on the classic tale tickled me, but the kids especially appreciated the Galdone version and even laughed more at it. The exact opposite of what I expected—which is one reason I love reading with a group like this. You just never know.
Veronica, by Roger Duvoisin (Knopf, 1961, 2006). A hippo with a big behind at sea in the big city, where she is most definitely "conspicuous." Fun way to teach everyone a new word. As a big fan of Duvoisin's Petunia books, I want to track down Our Veronica Goes to Petunia's Farm. I didn't realize that the two had ever met.
The Funny Little Woman, written by Arlene Mosel and illustrated by Blair Lent (Dutton, 1972). Winner of the 1973 Caldecott, this Japanese folk tale and another, The Furry-Legged Teapot (Marshall Cavendish, 2007), provoked long, on-topic conversations. Tim Myers wrote the latter, and Robert McGuire illustrated it. The class loved the oni (ogres) in The Funny Little Woman and the tanuki (raccoon dog) in the other.
Library Lion, written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick, 2006). The kids pointed out that I favored books about animals who don't fit in at first. Hmm. Little therapists in the making?
Dragons Love Tacos, written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri (Dial, 2012). Wonderfully funny.
National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems That Squeak, Soar, and Roar, edited by J. Patrick Lewis (National Geographic, 2012). I read five or six short poems, then left it in the classroom for a few weeks so that everyone got a chance to read as much as he or she wanted. Very popular. Large color photographs of animals enhance the book's appeal.
Me and Momma and Big John, written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by William Low (Candlewick, 2012). Momma is a stone cutter at New York's unfinished Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I chose this one because it was an honor book for the Charlotte Zolotow Award, which recognizes picture book text. The Zolotow winner, Each Kindness (written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis), was also on our list. There was not a huge conversation about it the day I read the book. Months later, though, someone brought it up in regard to another story, and several kids chimed in with details. They really remembered this picture book and its lessons on inclusion well. Each Kindness (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, 2012) also won a Coretta Scott King Award author honor.
Owl Moon, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr (Philomel, 1987), is a beautiful book; in fact, it won the Caldecott Medal. This selection was the biggest surprise to me in that the class did not respond to it much. Too quiet? Too outdoorsy for the screen-time generation? Maybe it works better one-on-one. I remember my own kiddo liking it.
It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw (Lee & Low, 2012). I wrote about our delightful experience with Don Tate and R. Gregory Christie's book earlier back in January.
Broken Beaks, written by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer and illustrated by Robert R. Ingpen (Michelle Anderson, 2003) A touching story about a homeless man and an injured sparrow who befriend each other. It provides an gentle opening for talking about mental illness, too.
Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team, written by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Steven Salerno (Clarion, 2012), made a fun start to spring. The boys and girls had just read Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates (written by Jonah Winter, with art by Raul Colon; Atheneum, 2005) in class, so they had a lot to say.
Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing, written by Judi Barrett and drawn by Ron Barrett (Atheneum, 1970). I brought something really fun and silly for the last reading of the year, and told the third graders that this was the kind of book they could read to younger siblings, cousins, or friends. After all, it contains many hilarious visual jokes. I reminded the students that they were role models. We talked about what that meant, and everyone piped up with an idea of whom he or she could read to over the summer.
Yawn. Stretch. Um, good morning.
It's March 16th, right? Snow still on the ground?
(My last post was on March 15th.)
What! It's July 4th? So, that's what all the noise is about.
Oh, dear. I have missed a day or two a few months. We're all fine, the chickens are fine (and sassy), and the summer is really fine. My son, J., and I are listening to an audiobook of The Outsiders, narrated by Jim Fyfe. I cannot remember if I ever read the young adult novel before, but hearing it this way is wonderful. Fyfe does a great job with different voices for all the characters.
My 13-year-old Minecraft devotee must read the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf this summer for school. I refuse to make any comments indicating doubt here. Fortunately, there's an audiobook for that one, too.
I've been reading a lot since I'm taking a Coursera course called "The Fiction of Relationship" and just finished up Kafka's Metamorphosis for the first time ever. Gregor Samsa the bug made me incredibly sad. (Pssst: why don't you join me as a fellow student in the fall for "Modern and Contemporary American Poetry"?)
My year with the sweet class of third-grade rowdies is over, and we had a great time reading together and talking about books. I hope to post about what we read soon. At year's end I was invited to a third-grade pool party. Featuring an in-ground pool, it was noted with pride. The other details—date, time, address—were not spelled out, but I loved the thought nonetheless.
For all you list-crazy folks, here are some more awards and finalists that I've heard about in the last couple of weeks.
CILIP Carnegie Medal shortlist. This UK award is the equivalent of the Newbery. CILIP stands for Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.
CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist. Similar to the Carnegie shortlist, above, this list includes some American books, too. The prize is similar to the Caldecott.
Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and New Illustrator Awards for Children's Books
Bankstreet College of Education Children's Book Committee: Children's Book Awards
Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Award Winners and Honorees, presented by the Society for Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI).
Blue Peter Book Awards (UK)
Bram Stoker Award finalists. These prizes, sponsored by the Horror Writers Association, include a YA category. News via Locus Online. (Hat tip: A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy.)
Bologna Ragazzi Digital Prize for Non-fiction. News via Achockablog.
Hey, y'all! I hibernated for a few weeks during the cold weather, and then the robins returned and reminded me that it's almost spring and time to post. This morning, though, whew. We're having quite a wind storm, and a small tree fell on top of the backyard chicken coop. I made a quick dash outside to determine that all was fine. The girls are inside the hutch, most likely complaining and contemplating a rent strike.
Anyway, back to books.
Here are some recent book awards and award nominations.
The Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards, a.k.a. the Cybils. Many categories, from book apps to young adult fiction.
Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award
Nebula Award nominees, sponsored by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. This list includes the finalists for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.
Red House Children's Book Award (UK)
Waterstones Children's Book Prize shortlists (UK)
Stella Prize longlist (Australia). Honoring women's writing. The nominees include at least one YA book.
Australian Independent Bookseller Awards shortlists. Including a kids' book category.
National Book Critics Circle Awards nominees. (Honoring adult books only.) Winners announced tomorrow, Feb. 28.
Scottish Children's Book Awards shortlist
Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year (UK). Funny! All nominated books are for grown-ups, as far as I know.
The Caldecott and Newbery Medals, the two most prestigious awards for US children's literature, will be announced tomorrow (Monday, January 28th) morning at a meeting of the American Library Association. Details here.
The Caldecott "honors the illustrator of the year's most distinguished American picture book for children," according to ALA's website, and the Newbery goes to the author of "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children."
Author/librarian Elizabeth Bird speculates about who might win, over at the blog A Fuse #8 Production,
A number of other prizes for kids' books will be announced, too.
Meanwhile, here are some book-related accolades from other organizations:
CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center) Choices (PDF file)
Charlotte Zolotow Award. Honoring picture book writing.
Edgar Awards. Sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America. Nominees in a number of categories of books, including juvenile and young adult.
Marsh Children's Literature in Translation Award (UK)
Orbis Pictus Award. For "outstanding nonfiction for children." Sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). PDF file.
Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction
Do I have
to post an entire work, a photograph, a painting by
a poet? A lyricist? An artist?
Public domain? What's that?
Fair Use? Who's she?
Is Intellectual Property
really that smart?
There's the Cardinal.
Copyright & Fair Use at the Stanford University Libraries.
US Copyright Office at the Library of Congress
Understanding Fair Use at the University of Minnesota Libraries.
Electronic Frontier Foundation, Legal Guide for Bloggers.
Not to mention
Blogger copyright tips.
A college is even offering
a free course on
copyright, but I missed
Maybe next time?
Photograph by Saroy. Source: Flickr. Used under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDervivs 2.0 Generic license.
When I started this blog in 2005, my first idea was to make the whole thing about chicken spaghetti, a favorite casserole of my Southern childhood. I thought about posting variations on the recipe and photos of how they turned out. However, I soon realized that an audience for such a blog would be non-existent tiny. So, instead I turned my attention to kids' books, but kept the name since it seemed child-friendly.
I still think about the dish, though, and, after a Twitter search, have located my fellow casserole people. Like me, lots of other folks like their mom's version, Grandma's, Aunt So-and-So's, and when they're really pleased with their own efforts, they post pictures.
On Twitter, chicken spaghetti = happiness, and these tweets are music to my ears. I removed hash tags, added some punctuation, and stirred some of the short odes into a poem. Here goes:
Chicken Spaghetti: A Found Poem from Twitter
Y'all, I can cook.
Sauteeing burns my eyes
but it is worth it
in the end.
Remember how excited we got
when we thought about
Ya girl throws down
and garlic bread.
Anna Beth is at it again.
Chicken spaghetti, rolls, corn on a cob,
kiss the cook.
And on the 8th day
God made chicken spaghetti,
and all was good.
I'm cooking collard greens,
chicken spaghetti and fried porkchops!!
Jalapeño cornbread! Boom!
If you can cook chicken spaghetti, I'll probably
Although we take satisfaction in being a safe place for people to tell their stories, please don't get the impression that running a bookshop is all bittersweetness and light. Much of it is dusting and heavy lifting.
from The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, by Wendy Welch (St. Martin's Press, 2012)
A charming tale of "friendship, community, and the uncommon pleasure of a good book," this memoir is about two newcomers to a small Appalachian town who open a used book shop. Wendy Welch writes with compassion and smart-ass humor as she describes her and her husband Jack's adventures in "being independent booksellers in the face of big-box stores and e-readers." I thoroughly enjoyed The Little Bookstore, and had to finish it in a hurry as my eightysomething mother had already asked me twice to borrow the book.
The Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison announced the winner of the 2013 Charlotte Zolotow Award, which honors picture book text: Each Kindness, written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis.
CCBC also named some honor books: Flabbersmashed About You,
written by Rachel Vail and illustrated by Yumi Heo; Me and Momma and Big John,
written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by William Low; and Sleep Like a Tiger,
written by Mary Logue and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. Nine additional titles were "highly commended." That's a lot of good reading ahead for all of us picture book aficionados.
I plan to share Each Kindness with the third graders and maybe with a couple of fourth-grade friends whose class is having troubles getting along. Monica Edinger, a fourth grade teacher in New York, reviewed the picture book at her blog, Educating Alice, citing its "exquisitely spare and poetic prose."
Over at Booklist's Audiobooker blog, I came across a great roundup of lists of best audiobooks of the year. In the Guardian I see that there's a new collection of Ian Fleming's first seven James Bond novels. Wouldn't that be cool to listen to in the car?
Right now J. (age 13) likes the audio version of Cornelia Funke's Inkheart, a highly praised middle-grade fantasy from 2003. (I chose it from The Librariest's Top 20 Children's Audiobooks.) But while I appreciate Lynn Redgrave's narration and accents, by turns tony and sinister, sometimes I think that if I hear the word "book" again I may scream. Books, the love of books, book binding, book collecting, book thievery, etc., all figure into the story. Bookbookbookbookbook. Anyway, the plot is about to pick up, so perhaps that will distract me.
A favorite of ours last year was The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, written by Christopher Paul Curtis and read by LeVar Burton. Funny, sad, and thought-provoking, this autobiographical middle-grade novel details an African American family's road trip from Michigan to Alabama during a troubled time in our country's history. The Watsons was a Newbery Honor book back in 1996.
Inkheart, written by Cornelia Caroline Funke and translated from the German by Anthea Bell
Read by Lynn Redgrave
Random House/Listening Library, 2003
The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis
Read by LeVar Burton
Listening Library, 2003
In case you're reading this post on a mobile phone, the above work of art reads,
A poem doesn't do everything for you.
You are supposed to go on with your thinking.
You are supposed to enrich
the other person's poem with your extensions,
your uniquely personal understandings,
thus making the poem serve you.
Gwendolyn Brooks, (1917-), "Song of Winnie"
The sidewalk on the south side of 41t Street leading up to the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue is called Library Way, and contains many of bronze plaques like the one above with quotations about literature and writing. Sponsored by the New York Public Library and the Grand Central Partnership, Library Way stretches from Park Avenue to Fifth, and was created by the artist Gregg LeFevre.
The Gwendolyn Brooks excerpt is about poetry, sure, but it's also an extended metaphor, encouraging an active engagement with life and the world around you. That's why I liked it so much, and took a picture one sunny morning last summer.
For other poetry posts this morning, see the roundup at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.
At the start of the school year in September, I found out that Ms. B. had moved up from 2nd grade to 3rd. Ms. B. was the teacher in the public school classroom where I read picture books aloud for the last two years, and I insisted on following her she invited me along to Grade 3. I happily made the switch. Ms. B. runs an efficient class in which the children seem happy, and she treats her students with respect. There are 30 kids in this year's group, much too big a contingent for the reading rug, which is both good and bad. No more elbow wars among the back-row listeners, but harder for everyone to see the pictures in the book. I try to walk around alot.
Because of weather and consequent half days, delayed report-card conferences, and so on, I've been lucky to read once or twice a month. (As a volunteer, I aim for weekly.) But we've still had a good time. Well, except for the day I read Mrs. McTats and Her Houseful of Cats, a Seussian tale of stray felines, when guffaw-inducing descriptions of dog house-training challenges (completely unrelated to the book) overtook the post-reading discussion. It happens.
Several weeks before, the class and I had had the most fantastic conversation about It Jes' Happened, Don Tate's picture-book biography of Bill Traylor. A self-taught artist and former slave, Traylor (1854-1949) began creating his art in his eighties, drawing from his memories of the Alabama farm where he had grown up and lived. The kids were intrigued, and had lots to say about the book. Since they're citified Northeasterners, I explained what a mule was; the donkey-horse crosses and other animals were some of Traylor's favorite subjects. Ms. B. turned to the computer-connected Smart Board projection system and showed some examples of Traylor's work.
One boy wanted to know about Traylor's wife: "Is she dead?" (A very third-grade response. I remember my 13-year-old at the same age.) Others wondered what happened to Traylor's children. Were author Don Tate and illustrator Gregory Christie his sons? (No, but wouldn't that be cool?) They puzzled over Traylor's living circumstances; he was homeless at times in Montgomery, AL, and sometimes bedded down in a funeral parlor. Many seemed amazed (and relieved) that museums now held many pieces of Traylor's art.
As I was leaving the class, one of the girls pulled me aside, and quietly asked, "Are mules really real?" "Yes, " I whispered back. "They are." I loved the idea that someone thought that the hardworking farm animals were in the same magical realm as unicorns and dragons. Maybe Traylor thought so, too.
Mrs. McTats and Her Houseful of Cats
Written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli; illustrated by Joan Rankin
Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2001
(from our personal library of favorite picture books)
It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw
Written by Don Tate; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Lee & Low Books, 2012
For additional information, see "Guest Post: Don Tate on 'It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw," at the blog Cynsations, and "Jes' a Hit: An Interview with Don Tate," at The Brown Bookshelf.
from Susan: For the fourth year in a row, my husband, Norman, has written about his favorite books of the year. He's the reading-est guy I know, so seeing him hard at work on his list always makes me happy, knowing that I'm about to read—and share—some great recommendations. Hit it, Norm.
the year 2012 comes to a close, I am happy to share with Susan’s readers my
list of the best books that I’ve read over the last 12 months. The three most
powerful were The Yellow Birds by Kevin
Powers, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in
a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo, and Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman. These books were so well-written and
engrossing that they were hard to put down and stayed with me long after I
finished them, despite the difficult topics (the effects of war in The Yellow Birds; the devastating poverty
of people living in an Indian slum in Behind
the Beautiful Forevers; and the hard life of a young girl growing up
in a trailer park outside of Reno, Nevada, in Girlchild). The Yellow Birds
and Behind the Beautiful Forevers
received the wide critical acclaim and recognition they deserved; one was a
finalist for this year’s National Book Award in fiction and the other was the
nonfiction winner. I hope that over time more people will read and appreciate
the excellent writing and unique storytelling in Ms. Hassman’s book.
two more to come up with my top 5 reads of the year is easy: This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz and The
Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín. Díaz’s collection
of stories about love and family is at times moving and at times laugh-out-loud
funny, but always smart and entertaining. And Colm Tóibín is just a beautiful storyteller, and this novella about
Jesus’ mother is both courageous and thought-provoking.
With the exception of Girchild,
I’d expect that most people who like to read will have heard of the above books.
So, now I’ll turn to some very good, solid books that were not as widely
discussed and publicized. On the top of my “next of the best” list is A Partial History of Lost Causes by
Jennifer DuBois. This fascinating book, with a great title, moves between time
and place as it tells the story of a young woman in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
who, like her father, has Huntington’s disease, and a young Russian chess
champion looking to unseat Vladimir
Putin. Taking place over a non-linear span of 30 years and two continents, this
story is a must read. Other good
novels that took me to less familiar places are Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron (set in Rwanda), The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
(set in North Korea), All That I Am
by Anna Funder (set in Germany and London, largely in the 1930s), and The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger
(partially set in Bangladesh).
excellent books with young protagonists are Me
and You written by Niccolò Ammaniti and translated by Kylee Doust, The Fault In Our Stars by John Green,
and The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau.
The first was a best-seller in Italy, and with good reason; the second, which came to me via a recommendation from a children’s librarian at the
Westport Public Library, is a young adult novel that could be read by anyone—or I should say should be read by everyone—over 15 years old; and the third is a hard-to-read yet hard-to-put-down story of a teenager whose family is
killed in an unnamed Muslim country and a mother in the United States who wants
to find out about the death of her soldier son. Though not quite as memorable
as those three, I would also recommend The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont, which is a suspenseful coming-of-age
story set in a boarding school. On the other end of the age spectrum, I enjoyed
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
by Rachel Joyce, which tells the story of a retired man who walks across
England to visit a terminally ill old friend and co-worker, and How It All Began by Penelope Lively, a well-crafted
work centered on a woman in her 70’s.
what would a year be without a few good family sagas and dramas? My top choices
are The O’Briens by Peter Behrens, I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits, Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff, The World Without You by Joshua Henkin, The Round House by Louise Erdrich, Heft by Liz Moore, Alys, Always by Harriet Lane, The
Chaperone by Laura Moriarty, and The
Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg.
I’ll pass along some other titles well worth the read:
Jacob by William Landay (best crime drama I read all year);
- What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne
Frank by Nathan Englander (I found the short stories of Englander and Díaz to be far
more satisfying that Alice Munro’s stories in Dear Life);
- Watergate by Thomas
Mallon (best historical fiction);
- Catherine the Great:
Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie and To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through The Civil Rights Movement by
Charlayne Hunter-Gault (both excellent non-fiction books);
- The Coldest Night by Robert
Olmstead (a romance and a war story not to be missed); and
- Gathering of Waters by
Bernice L. McFadden (most imaginative book I read in 2012).
As always, I’d like to thank Martha, Maggie, and David, who make
up our little book group of four and are three of the most well-read and
intelligent people I know; my friends and fellow riders in the Tuesday morning
Spinning class at the Wilton Y who arrive before our 6 a.m. class and sometimes
stay after class ends so that we can discuss life and books (if only we didn’t
have to cycle like fiends for an hour!); and my wife, Susan, and our son,
a.k.a. Junior, both of whom share my love for reading and make me realize that
life is way more interesting beyond the pages.
Happy reading to all in 2013!
More lists for all you list lovers! You'll find another good list of lists at SCC English, the blog of the English department at Dublin's St. Columba's College. The SCC list o' lists is geared toward books for adults.
100 Scope Notes At this fine blog, new to School Library Journal's roster, two school librarians choose the best of the year.
Amanda Craig. A best list from the Times' (UK) children's book critic.
Atlantic Wire. YA/Middle-Grade Book Awards.
Booklist's Editors' Choice selections.
Horn Book Fanfare
Ireland's Gutter Bookshop list includes books for children.
Morris Award finalists. Prize honors YA books by debut authors. Winners announced in January.
MotherReader. She knows her picture books.
NPR: "The year's outstanding 'backseat' reads, for ages 9-14"
San Francisco Chronicle. Holiday gift guide for children's books and Christmas books.
Smithsonian.com's Top Books of 2012. Not a list of children's books, but plenty of good gift ideas for teens and grown-ups.
TimeOut New York Kids: Best pop-up books for pre-K and elementary-school kids
Vogue. Good list of books for adults. (My first job out of college was at Vogue. I learned a lot there!)
You'll find many more at Chicken Spaghetti's page "The Best Children's Books of 2012: A List of Lists and Awards."
Yesterday my son and I spent the afternoon by the river. The spot we like is not a whole lot wider than a creek; at that point, the water is shallow, and clear and full of stones to skip. Junior fished, and I read. He caught a trout. I showed him how to hold the fish firmly while you unhook it. He did that, and then threw it back. Too small to keep. He continued fishing, and I finished Leanne Shapton's Swimming Studies, an illustrated meditation on pools and competitive swimming. Lately, the almost-adolescent and I are butting heads lot, usually over screen time, but our hours by the water yesterday were unhurried and sweet.
Junot Diaz's latest book is This Is How You Lose Her, a collection of short stories, released in September by Riverhead. Yesterday the MacArthur Foundation announced its annual awards, the so-called "genius" grants, one of which went to Diaz. $500,000, no strings attached.
On the day before the grants were announced, the New York Times Magazine ran a short interview with the author, focusing on short fiction. I was intrigued by the collections Diaz cited as influential; I have not read any of them. He mentioned
Aha! Books to look for on the next trip to the library. Walking the dog in the rain this afternoon, I coped with the downpour by coming up with a roster of short story collections I admire. Everyone's lists are so different! Here's mine. What's yours?
Image borrowed from Powell's Books. Links go to Powell's, also. I do not get any money from the store for linking. I have had good experiences ordering books there.
If you are like me and forgot to watch the announcement on the "Morning Joe" show, Publishers Weekly has the scoop.
The nominees for the Young People's Literature prize are as follows:
William Alexander, Goblin Secrets
Carrie Arcos, Out of Reach
Patricia McCormick, Never Fall Down
Eliot Schrefer, Endangered
Steve Sheinkin, Bomb: The Race to Build―and Steal―the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon
Let it snow! For those of us who love a good list, the last two months of the year bring a flurry of online "best of the year" roundups of books. Starting in 2008, I've been collecting the lists for children's books, including links to various newspapers, magazines, journals, and blogs, as well as different literature prizes and awards given out. I update the big list often.
Here is a link to this year's page:
The Best Children's Books of 2012: A List of Lists and Awards
Also, David Gutowski collects all the "best of" lists for books (for grown-ups and kids alike) at his blog, Largehearted Boy.
Meanwhile, speaking of snow, don't miss Kids' Science Books for Stormy Weather, at Scientific American's Budding Scientist blog.
Recent additions to Chicken Spaghetti's Best Children's Books of 2012: A List of Lists and Awards include two favorite annual roundups, National Science Teachers Association (NSTA): Outstanding science trade books for students K-12 and Good Comics for Kids' gift guide. One newsworthy announcement today was the New York Times Book Review: Notable Children's Books of 2012.
School Library Journal begins announcing its best-of-2012 list this evening on Twitter.
Also newly added to the Chicken Spaghetti list:
Abby the Librarian (blog): Nonfiction
Boing Boing Gift Guide (long list includes several children's books)
Costa Children's Book Award shortlist (UK)
Cuyahoga County Public Library. Kudos to the snappy-looking design of this guide.
Drawn Blog: "Favourite comics, art books, and more" list includes some titles for kids (Canada)
Irish Book Awards. Scroll down on the page for the children's book categories. See also the shortlists for senior and junior categories of children's books.
Slate (one picture book on list; rest of books for adults)
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Every day a new "best of the year" lineup appears, and our wish list grows. Recent addtions to The Best Children's Books of 2012: A List of Lists and Awards include the following:
New York Public Library: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
Los Angeles Public Library: Children's books and teen books
New York Times Book Review: Notable Children's Books of 2012
Booklist: Top ten science & health books for youth
Good Comics for Kids' gift guide. New and older titles on this list.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books: Gift guide. (2010-2012 titles on list.)
Geek Mom: Gift guide of books for adults and children
The Guardian (UK)
Tablet Magazine: Best Jewish-themed books for children
YALSA [Young Adult Library Services Association] Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults: Finalists
The Goodreads Choice Awards were announced.
Another timely arrival is Hanukkah Read Up!, a PDF file listing the best Hanukkah books, from the Association of Jewish Libraries.