PawPaw Days: Experience Music Project

Getting close to finishing up with these.  What is there to say about the EMP except . . .

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Whoa, funky architecture . . .

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. . . check out our reflection . . .

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. . .Katie insisted on dancing in the Sky Church at every spare opportunity . . .

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. . . I was nearly hit by the Guitarricane . . .

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. . . HOLY CRAP THAT’S KIRK’S CHAIR . . .

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. . . and my Mom is one righteous biker babe.

 

That is all.

Adjudicated

Eleanor had her spring piano recital last week (not this past Sunday, but the Sunday before).  She performed for the residents of a retirement home, which was nice, but it was really just a warm-up for adjudications.

Adjudications is a process common in the musical-performance world.  In this case, piano students play for an adjudicator (we had a piano prof. from Idaho State University, she was really great) who gives an assessment of achievement and gives a little bit of one-on-one coaching.  Kids are also scored, and the best ones get to play in an Honors concert, but I didn’t focus on that.  I didn’t even tell her that she got a score (I’m . . . not even sure what her score was).

Anyway, she had to play two pieces from contrasting musical periods.  So, we have “Tarantella,” (Romantic style?) along with “Snake Charmer,” which is “contemporary.”  She did great in the recital, except that the pedals on the baby grand were too far away and threw “Snake Charmer” off a bit.  Still a fabulous performance!

Favorite Books for Young Readers 2012

Back due to popular demand — my list of personal favorites from the realm of children’s/YA publishing.  Yaaaaaay!!

[Kermit-the-Frog-style clapping]

Remember: these are not by any means a comprehensive list of critical acclaim, award-winners, or bestsellers.  If I were making a list of “books from 2012 that libraries should buy” then said list would be far, far longer.

I also can’t guarantee that every book on this list is one meant for you.  I’m a librarian, which means that out of necessity I have far-ranging tastes.  Last year my friend who favors the likes of Wallace Stegner and Cormick McCarthy looked at my annual list and picked out Heather Dixon’s Entwined.  She didn’t like it, and no surpise!  I nearly had to lie down at the thought of such a literary mismatch.  Still makes me smile when I think of it.

It’s just a list of serendipitous faves based entirely on my personal tastes.  Enjoy.

Also, if you’re wondering why it takes me so long to make this list every year (sheesh, February already?) let me remind you: four children.  FOUR.

PICTURE BOOKS

dreaming up

If you’re only going to read one picture book this year, read: Dreaming Up: a Celebration of Building by Christy Hale.  This book most excellently correlates the way children play with real-life architecture.  Awesome photography and illustration — you just FEEL SMARTER after reading it.

z is for moose

Best Metafiction: Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham, illus. Paul O. Zelinsky

chloe and the lion

No Wait, THIS is the Best Metafiction: Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illus. Adam Rex

green

Prettiest Concept Book Ever: Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger.

maudie and bear

Imaginary Friends Know What’s Best: Maudie and Bear by Jan Ormerod, illus. Freya Blackwood

one cool friend

Your Father Knows You Better Than You Think: One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, illus. David Small.

each kindness

Best Book About Bullying in a Long, Long While: Each Kindness by Jaqueline Woodson, illus. E. B. Lewis.

charley's first night

Boys Can Be Nurturers, Too: Charley’s First Night by Amy Hest, illus. Helen Oxenbury

demolition

CARS AND TRUUUUUUCKS: Demolition by Sally Sutton, illus. Brian Lovelock

nighttime ninja

Ninjas Are Always in Style: Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DeCosta, illus. Ed Young.

chloe

Bunnies!  Bubble Wrap!  Bunnies WITH Bubble Wrap! Chloe by Peter McCarty

up tall and high

It’s Harder Than it Looks to Write a Story With Simple Vocabulary: Up, Tall and High! by Ethan Long

unspoken

Complain About Life All You Want, At Least You’re Not On the Underground Railroad: Unspoken: a Story of the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

eggs 123

ULTIMATE CUTENESS: Eggs 1, 2, 3 by Janet Halfmann, illus. Betsy Thompson

swing

Best Board Book: The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson, illus. Julie Morstad

this is not my hat

Kinda Dark for a Kids’ Book (But That’s What I Love About It): This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

POETRY/FOLKLORE:

national geographic poetry

If you’re only going to read one book from this category, try: The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry edited by J. Patrick Lewis.  I was skeptical about this book for a long while, but seriously, this is a gorgeous gift-worthy book for more than just kids.

forgive me

Second place: Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems by Gail Carson Levine, illus. Matthew Cordell

leave your sleep

I Usually Don’t Like Books Based on Albums, But This Is So Pretty: Leave Your Sleep: a collection of classic children’s poetry adapted to music by Natalie Merchant, illus. Barbara McClintock.  BARBARA McCLINTOCK!!  *swoon*

step gently out

Best Up-Close Photography of the Year: Step Gently Out by Helen Frost, photographs by Rick Lieder.

town mouse country mous

I Like it Because It’s PRETTY, Okay? The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse: an Aesop’s Fable retold and illustrated by Helen Ward

robin hood

FINALLY!  A version of Robin Hood that I can read aloud to seven-year-olds while remaining faithful to the original stories!  Robin Hood retold by David Calcutt, illus. Grahame Baker-Smith

hans

Hedgehog.  Hedgehog that plays the violin and rides a rooster: Hans My Hedgehog: a tale from the Brothers Grimm retold by Kate Coombs, illus. John Nickle

goldilocks

‘Cause Being Weird is Sometimes the Best Way to Go: The Goldilocks Variations: A Pop-Up Book by Alan Ahlberg, illus. Jessica Ahlberg

MIDDLE GRADE NOVELS 

twelve kinds of ice

If you’re only going to read one of ’em, try: Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed, illus. Barbara McClintock.  BARBARA McCLINTOCK!!  *swoon*  This nostalgic, lyrical little volume about the author’s childhood memories of ice skating — on ponds, streams, fields, pastures, and on a backyard ice rink — was pretty much the only thing I wanted for Christmas last year.  And I got it.  And I’ve read it about five times, and I’m already wanting to read it again.  This book is sheer happiness: and I don’t even know how to skate.

one and only ivan

The Charlotte’s Web of 2012: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate  (people who cried over Dumbo should probably bring Kleenex)

mr mrs bunny

Brilliant in its glorious weirdness.  Also, only book of 2012 to make me laugh out loud multiple times: Mr. & Mrs. Bunny: Detectives Extraordinaire! by Polly Horvath

splendors glooms

Victorians were darn creepy with those death masks and all: Splendors & Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz

goblin secrets

STEAMPUNK! Goblin Secrets by William Alexander

summer gypsy moths

In which the foster children bury their deceased caregiver in the front yard, and a Gentle Coming of Age Story ensues: Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker

lulu duck park

Best British Humour for the K-3 set: Lulu and the Duck in the Park by Hilary McKay.

chickadee

Little House on the Prairie — from the Ojibwe perspective (and a great adventure story, too): Chickadee by Louise Erdrich

GRAPHIC NOVELS (you know, comic books)

drama

If you’re going to read just one, read: Drama by Raina Telegemier.  Nobody knows the trials and triumphs of seventh grade like this author.

nathan hales hazardous

Nobody makes history cool like this guy does: One Dead Spy and Big Bad Ironclad! (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series) by Nathan Hale (you know, the guy who did Rapunzel’s Revenge)

little white duck

Life in China is more complicated than you think: Little White Duck: a childhood in China by Na Liu, illus. Andres Vera Martinez

legends of zita

My kids can’t get enough of this series: Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

cardboard

I’m just dazzled by this guy’s imagination: Cardboard by Doug TenNapel

babys in black

For fans of rock history (esp. early Beatles): Baby’s in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and the Beatles by Arne Bellstorf (this was a big bestseller in Germany, where it was originally published)

YOUNG ADULT FICTION 

code name verity

If you’re going to read just one, read: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.  A multilayered, sophisticated story of spies and female friendship during WWII.  Wein’s novels often deal with the moral predicaments of spies (I loved her earlier novel, The Lion Hunter), and this take is a triumph.

confusion of princes

Best Old-School Science Fiction: A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix.  Okay, I’ll admit that the complex world-building made the first quarter of the novel a little slow.  But the protagonist’s voice is clever enough to carry you through.  JUST GET THROUGH THE FIRST 150 PAGES AND IT’S 100% AWESOME AFTERWARDS, OKAY??

enchanted

Best Fairytale Mashup (and I do not give this award out lightly): Enchanted by Alethea Kontis  This book got a unanimous “in favor of” vote from the members of the YALSA Best Books for YAs meeting.  I know because I was there and did a little hop in my seat!

no crystal stair

Booksellers in Harlem are Freaking Awesome: No Crystal Stair: a documentary novel of the life and work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

keeping the castle

Best Jane Austen Tribute: Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

grave mercy

Historical Fantasy with crossbows and poisoned chalices and secrets and awesome dresses and WOW: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

jepp who defied the stars

Being a Renaissance-era Dwarf is Nothing Like that guy in Game of Thrones: Jepp Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh

unspoken

Gothic supernatural romance tempered with a hefty dose of British snark: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

NON FICTION — Truthfully, probably my favorite category this year

bomb

If you’re going to read just one, read: Bomb: the race to build — and steal — the world’s most dangerous weapon by Steve Sheinkin.  Shienkin writes gripping history with a novelistic narrative style that’s really fun to read.  This tale of the atomic arms race is a nail biter, ranging from the shenanigans of the eccentric scientists at Los Alamos, to the inner workings of sinister Soviet espionage, to the incredible team of Norwegian resistance fighters out to destroy a Nazi-operated heavy water plant.  Forget James Bond and Indiana Jones: this is real adventure.  Love it!

temple grandin

Best Biography: Temple Grandin: how the girl who loved cows embraced autism and changed the world by Sy Montgomery.  Cows!  Autism!  What’s not to love?

chuck close face book

Best Autobiography: Chuck Close: Face Book by Chuck Close.  Not only a fascinating portrait of one of the United States’ best artists, but an amazing story of someone who overcomes incredible hardship to keep doing what he loves (Close has severe learning disabilities, and suffered a massive stroke as an adult; he is still paralyzed from the chest down).  The centerpiece of this volume is a flip-book section where readers can mix-and-match different Close self-portraits in a variety of styles.

fairy ring

Best story you’re always been curious about: The Fairy Ring, or, Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure.  You know, the Cottingley fairy photographs and the little girls who took them!  How on earth did anybody think those pictures were real?

Museum Day

When I lived in Pittsburgh, I made a weekly habit of taking my children to a museum every Friday.  Since my employment at the library got me into lots of museums for free, it was easy to do.  But then I quit my job, moved to Salt Lake, and the kids grew up and went to school.  Museum day fell by the wayside.

Fast forward a few years — I decided to bring a little Katie into the world, and we moved to Seattle.  Suddenly we have all these new museums to visit, and a little girl to share them with.  Museum Day is back!

So today: the Seattle Art Museum.  I wasn’t able to take any pictures of the inside of the place, because Katie was so excited to be there that we dashed right by the sign showing the museum’s photography policy without reading it.  Just rest assured that we saw lots of amazing Georgia O’Keefe paintings and painted thunderbird totem poles.  So here we are with Hammering Man, outside.

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And can I say how friendly people are downtown?  I maneuvered my stroller to a door, and someone leaped forward to open it for me.  I paused for a moment to look at at street sign, and a man in a suit immediately asked if I needed help getting around.  Nice, right?  I’ve read that Seattle had a reputation for courtesy, but it’s great to see it in action for myself.

On the way there, we stopped at Soundbridge, the education space for the Seattle Symphony.  They have a big room full of different instruments for kids to play.  Katie was scared of the cello and double bass (too loud, maybe?) but she loved the 1/4-size violin.

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Cute, right?  She was also a little too shy to play the xylophone for very long, but the red ukulele?  She loved it so much I had to pry it out of her hands when it was time to go.

Next time I’ll plan to stay longer so I can take advantage of the wicked set of gourmet food trucks I passed on my way back to the parking garage.  There was even a GRILLED CHEESE TRUCK.  *swoon*

Festival of Cultures

Our kids’ school has something like 60+ nationalities represented in its student body, with over 30+ spoken languages.  Know what that means!

INTERNATIONAL SHARE-YOUR-FOOD NIGHT!

Or the “Festival of Cultures,” as the PTA calls it.  But really — it’s about the food.  Momos, Hawaiian barbecue, arroz con leche, sushi, samosas, and whatever the heck that weird Korean candy was: all there for the tasting.  I walked around in a daze thinking, why on earth did I eat dinner before coming here?

It’s just like Salt Lake’s Living Traditions festival — but all the food was free!  I could just weep.  WEEP!  In these pictures, my kids aren’t smiling because their cheeks are stuffed.  Really.

Festival of Cultures

I volunteered to help with the “Germany” table.  Know what my food contribution was?  PRETZELS.  Because I’m guessing that nobody wanted any fresh sauerkraut.  Call it lame, but every picky eater in the building that night was very, very glad to see that bowl of pretzels.  Didn’t take home a single leftover.

I also brought the propeller-spinny thing (it’s called a wienachts-pyramide) and the Grimm bros. fairytales.  Because, you know, culture.

Although if I had known in advance that the Korean table would be pumping “Gangnam Style” in an endless loop, then I might have brought Beethoven.  Maybe.

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But in truth, I must admit that, in the grand global sweep of the room, the Germany table couldn’t hold a candle to the other tables.  I mean, who on earth can compete with Mexico?

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Well, I’ll tell you who can compete:  ERITREA.  What you are seeing below is a traditional East African coffee ceremony, compete with beans roasted over a live flame (nearly setting off the fire alarm) then hand-ground and brewed in a special ceramic flask.  It smelled so, so good.  An Eritrean woman stood beside me and murmured, “Back there, we used to do this every day, usually twice a day.”  I couldn’t tell if she was nostalgic or relieved.  Anyway: injera.  Plus four kinds of stew to go on top.  I’m not even kidding.  Where on earth did they find the teff flour?!?

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Picture Book Month: Ten Favorite Gems

Did you know that November is Picture Book Month?  At least according to a variety of kidlit gurus.  It’s partially in response to those that say the picture book is a dying art form, with fewer being published every year.  (Oh, publishers!  You do realize that to stay in business, you have to invest in future readers, yes?)

Who am I to not jump on this bandwagon?  I mean, just look at this cute little logo I get to use:

An owl reading to rodents instead of eating them?  Sign me up.

Here’s a off-the-top of my head list of Picture Book Gems — books that I’ve found throughout the years as a librarian and mother of small children, read over and over, and loved, loved, loved.  I’ve included quotes from other review journals to give you a taste of what the books are like and about.  Because I am lazy like that.

How do I know these books are great?  Because I can still remember them years after reading them, that’s why.

The Terrible Plop by Ursula Dubosarsky — Some books read aloud to large groups of kids well, but only after a fair amount of practice on the reader’s part. Other books feel as if they were made to be read out loud from the moment your lips form the first word. This book is one of those rare titles that does precisely that. The cadences bounce along absolutely perfectly. The length of the story itself is never too short or too long. There are plenty of chances to do silly voices, and a wonderful bouncy rhythm that will aid even the most rhythmically challenged amongst us. A boon to librarians, and the perfect companion for any parent or grandparent who needs a story that will amuse both children and adults alike. You cannot read this book aloud and not fall in love with it, at least a little. — Betsy Bird, A Fuse #8 Production (And in case your mind is in the snickering gutter, the “plop” is referring to the sound an apple makes when it falls into a pond, which manages to give a bunch of forest critters the heebie-jeebies.  Consider it the 21st-century Chicken Little story.)

John Willy and Freddy McGee by Holly Meade — “Run, John Willy! Run, run, Freddy McGee!” encourages the energizing, urgent narrative voice of this marvelous picture book that bursts into an explosion of color and festival of language as soon as the guinea pigs make their escape. “Circling the hassock, scattering the marbles, squeezing beneath the table they scooted!” Holly Meade’s scintillating text holds its own on dazzling pages of color showing the two small guinea pigs running through brilliantly decorated rooms that each have their own distinct and vibrant palette. — Children’s Cooperative Book Center  (Seriously, don’t knock this book until you’ve read it aloud.)

Bubble Trouble by Margaret Mahy — Mahy is clearly in love with language here, as she offers a text that flounces and bounces like the baby in the bubble: “But she bellowed, / ‘Gracious, Greville!’ / and she groveled on the gravel / when the baby in the bubble / bibble-bobbled overhead.” Dunbar uses watercolors accented with cut paper to chronicle the silliness. The story goes on a bit long for the youngest, but children will find their ears perking up at the tongue-twisting text, and they may become word lovers, too, after listening to this. — School Library Journal  (I would love to see this book up against Fox in Socks in some sort of tongue-twister  showdown.)

Elizabeti’s Doll by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen — Set in a Tanzanian village, the story tells of Elizabeti, who watches her mother care for her new baby brother and longs for a little one of her own to cuddle. She has no doll, so instead she looks around for a suitable “baby” and soon finds a rock that’s shaped just right. Carefully mimicking her mother, she bathes, feeds (her doll is “too polite to burp”) and changes “Eva,” and when doing chores ties Eva to her back “with a bright cloth called a kanga,” just as her mother does. Downcast when Eva is misplaced (her sister accidentally uses the rock for the cooking fire), Elizabeti finds her special doll in time to sing her to sleep. Stuve-Bodeen’s well-balanced prose strikes just the right tranquil, gently humorous tone. — Publisher’s Weekly (The first in a series, too.  Based on the author’s experiences as part of the Peace Corps.)

The Baby Goes Beep by Rebecca O’Connell — From playtime to mealtime, bath time to bedtime, the active toddler in this on-target picture book punctuates a day’s activities with beeps, booms, splashes, and other irresistible words. Using bouncy text (“The baby goes Yum / The baby goes Yum Yum / The baby goes Yum Yum Yum Yum”), O’Connell plays on the delighted repetition and experimentation that are hallmarks of language development. Seasoned illustrator Wilson-Max, whose saturated colors and sturdy black outlines have earned him a following among toddlers and preschoolers, humorously extends O’Connell’s words. — Booklist (I should also say that Rebecca used to be my coworker at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and if she reads this, I’d like her to know that I’ve read this book to all four of my kids and they have all adored it.  Writing for babies: way harder than it seems.)

The First Thing My Mama Told Me by Susan Marie Swanson — A pleasing departure from the trend toward books that deal with a child’s dislike of his or her name, this title begins, “When I was born, the first thing my mama told me was my name.” Lucy’s name comes from a “long-ago word for light” and shines for her as a constant reminder of her uniqueness and special place in the world. It is iced on her first birthday cake, painted on the stool she uses to get a drink of water, and scribbled everywhere her three-year-old hand can reach . . . The final spread of Lucy’s name in the night sky is the only illustration in which color extends to the edges of the pages, filling them with her exuberance and contentment. — School Library Journal (My first daughter was almost named Lucy because of this book.)

Overboard! by Sarah Weeks — This rollicking picture book features one of the most beloved activities of older babies and toddlers: throwing, knocking, pushing or pulling things onto the floor. “Drippy, slippy-slidey peaches. Peachy peaches, nice and fat. Peaches going . . . overboard! Peaches, peaches, splat! splat! splat!” Author Sarah Weeks captures the delight in a lilting text about a young bunny who can’t get enough the game. Crinkly raisins go over the edge of the stroller tray, rubber ducky soars out of the tub, and stuffed animals fly from the crib. The clean-up may be exhausting for adults to contemplate, but young children will just relish the fun. Bright, cheerful illustrations provide a lively accompaniment to this terrific read-aloud. — Cooperative Children’s Book Center (Seriously, you may find yourself chanting this book in your sleep.  The rhymes are Just. That. Catchy.)

Waiting for Winter by Sebastian Meschenmoser — Deer nonchalantly mentions that, “Winter is almost here. I think it is going to snow.” Since Squirrel has never seen it, he decides to forgo hibernation, and see what this “white and wet and cold and soft” substance looks like. He waits and waits and waits—but to no avail. He decides to do some exercises in order to stay awake, and along the way he wakes up Hedgehog. They wait and wait, but still no precipitation. Soon, their boredom-busting antics awaken Bear. Based on Deer’s definition, each animal finds what he thinks is snow, but readers will know that they’re wrong, and will be as delighted as Squirrel, Hedgehog, and Bear when the real flakes begin to fall. — School Library Journal  (The review fails to mention that this book is also FREAKING HILARIOUS.)

Always in Trouble by Corinne Demas — Emma’s dog Toby is incorrigible. Each day of the week brings a new indiscretion: Monday he gets into the garbage, Tuesday he runs into the road, Wednesday he eats a loaf of freshly baked bread, and so on. By Sunday, he’s worn out and rests, but on Monday it starts all over again. Emma’s parents have had enough and Toby is enrolled in obedience school, where he turns out to be the star pupil. But the following week he’s back to his old tricks, and special training with the teacher is required. Toby returns from his lessons with “a strange twinkle in his eye.” A new week brings many surprises from Toby: “On Monday, he took out the garbage. On Tuesday, he baked some bread . . .” Corinne Demas’s fresh, funny story is matched by Noah Z. Jones’s blithe illustrations that have a cartoonlike simplicity perfectly suited to the whimsical spirit of the text. — Cooperative Children’s Book Center (I should also mention that when Eleanor was four, she loved this book so much that she drew a picture of it to hang on her “About Me” poster at preschool.  And as a bonus: it features an African-American family even though the book has nothing to do with being African-American.  That’s rare, alas.)

A Glorious Day by Amy Schwartz — Filled with child-centered details, Schwartz captures the busy-ness of the lives of young children, giving weight to both the routine within each family and the rhythm of the larger community in which they live. There is comfort in the small moments that define a young child’s day (for Henry, lunch is followed by a nap, followed by a trip to the park where he plays with his friends); and excitement in the unexpected (everyone pitches in to look for Princess, Henry’s pet bird who escaped into the halls when the apartment door was open). The text’s terrific pacing is complemented by the vignette-like illustrations, which effectively use white space to distinguish between the activities pictured within the diverse families shown on each page spread. — Cooperative Children’s Book Center (This is a book that I totally dismissed until I read it aloud.  That text is more nuanced than it first appears.  I find myself quoting it all the time when interacting with my children’s day-to-day activities.)

Annnnnd that’s ten.  For now.  Perhaps more gems to follow?  What do you think?

Ninja Training: The Least Efficient Training of All

This morning my 5-year-old was thrilled to find some kind of generic athletic logo printed on his pants. “This is the sign of my ninja training,” he told me, “and I have to practice every day to keep up my skills!” Practice, of course, involved taking off his shirt, shuffling stealthily up and down the hallways, and generally getting underfoot. Oh, those ninjas.

Throwing Stones

You know how it only takes a small stone to break a window?  Well, sometimes it only takes two sentences to ruin a day.  Confused?  Stay tuned.

Today is the seventh day that Brian’s been out of town.  He won’t be back for four more days, and everybody in the family is feeling the strain.  I’m exhausted, the house is a mess, and Katie has begun throwing Category Five temper tantrums. She’s developed a high-pitched scream that sounds like a steamboat whistle and has been clocked at around 120 decibels (roughly the same level as a sandblaster or a loud rock concert).

So you can imagine my apprehension about taking the children to church today, especially considering that our ward has Sacrament Meeting last.  But I decided to stick it out.  It was the right thing to do.

And know what?  It wasn’t terrible.  It wasn’t fun either, but it was bearable.  We made it all the way to speaker #4 in Sacrament Meeting before I ducked out early.  The kids had begun to squabble over toys, and Katie had started steamboating.  Time to go.

The kids had lasted much longer than I anticipated, so I left feeling rather satisfied and happy with myself, until we rounded the hallway corner.  A portly, balding older man with a cane caught my eye.

“The way your kids scream is awful,” he said.

“Yeah, Katie’s a screamer,” I said with a laugh, thinking he was commiserating about the difficulty of raising a toddler.

“No,” he growled.  “I mean your kids are awful.  Their behavior, the screaming . . .”

He went on and obviously had more to say, but fortunately I had already turned my back and headed down the hall.  The noive!  THE NOIVE!  Did he think I wasn’t aware of my kids’ behavior?  I HAVE LEFT CHURCH EARLY!  OF COURSE I WAS AWARE!  How on EARTH did he think how this going to HELP or CHANGE ANYTHING?

MORE WORDS IN ALL CAPS!!!!!!  EX-CLA-MA-TION POINNNNNNNTS!!!!!

[deep breathing, deep breathing]

I suppose you could say this was kind of the last straw for me.  I was having a happy moment!  He ruined it!

What has happened to the secular LDS culture that makes people think it’s okay to say such judgmental things?  Well . . . I know it’s probably been going on for ages in many LDS communities, but ithappens a lot in this ward.  To me.  I’ve put up with it for four years; to tell the truth, this makes me kind of happy to move away.  (Maybe God sent this on purpose to make me not so sad to leave all the truly wonderful Christlike people around here?)

And I’ll blithely refrain from recounting the many times my kids have been bullied in Primary and Cub Scouts.  It’s another reason why I want to get away, but it’s off-topic.

And to think I had almost skipped church to avoid something like this.  But what would that teach my kids?  That church is only for when it’s convenient?  When it’s easy?  For when you don’t have a kid with autism and a cranky toddler and a husband who’s far away?

How many other people decide to stop coming to church to avoid jerks like this guy?

Okay, rant over.  Peace out.

The Last Pie Night in Town

Status update from June 13, 2012:

Getting ready to go to my very last children’s literature pie night: a group of librarians, teachers, writers, agents, etc. who get together now and then to talk books and eat pie. *sigh* It’s been wonderful having these witty, intelligent people in my life the last few years — people who care deeply and thoughtfully about books and young readers. Pie away!

Have I mentioned Kidlit Pie Night before?  It began when a school librarian named DaNae and I met in the comments section of a post on the influential children’s literature blog, A Fuse #8 Production.  We both felt the need to socialize with other people who were passionate about children’s literature — people who read an appreciated it on a professional level — and decided to meet at a coffeeshop in SLC to eat pastry and talk books.

It was a success!  Our group grew, and we later relocated our other meetings to the Marie Callendar’s in Bountiful (since many of our members were from Davis County).  Our group included Michelle and Shannon, who are also school librarians; Pam, who taught English at East High; Amy, who is a literary agent (the agent who “discovered” Shannon Hale and now works with Jessica Day George); and Matt, who is an author with Scholastic (and I heartily recommend reading his novel, Icefall).

We would eat pie, drink many glasses of diet Pepsi and gab about books, kids, media, intellectual freedom, and anything else that came to mind until closing time. I quit the library world in 2008 when I moved to Salt Lake, but I still kept up with my professional reading.  t was so wonderful to talk with people who “got it,” who understood my skill set and appreciated it, and who brought intelligent, diverse perspectives to the table.  Kindred spirits are hard to find.

Now our numbers are dwindling as both Matt and I move away; here’s hoping that we all can find many more nights of pie in the future.

Favorite Books for Young Readers 2011

Yup, it’s that time of year again — time to stop procrastinating and decide which books for young readers were my favorites of 2011.

Take note: these are not the most popular, most distinguished, most likely to win an award, etc.  It isn’t the list of books I’d make for librarians or teachers to purchase.  It is simply an idiosyncratic list of my personal favorites.  Fire up those library cards and read away!

PICTURE BOOKS

  • Just ‘Cause It’s Purty Snow Rabbit Spring Rabbit by Il Sung Na
  • Fun With Graphic Design Perfect Square by Michael Hall
  • Most Clever Cleverness Press Here by Herve Tullet
  • It’s Jane Goodall as a Little Kid! Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell
  • Best Christmas Story The Money We’ll Save by Brock Cole
  • Best Novella-as-Picture-Book The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (aka “The Lady Who Wrote The Yearling”), illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon
  • Reminds Me of My Own Early Childhood In the Meadow by Yukiko Kato, illus. Komako Sakai (aka illustrator of Emily’s Balloon and other favorites)
  • You’ll “Get It” if You Read It Out Loud I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
  • Best Cartoon Family Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael B. Kaplan, illus. Stephane Jorisch
  • Grand Prize for Stupendous Moose IllustrationThe House in the Woods by Inga Moore
  • My Kids Made Me Read It Over and Over Until I got Sick of It, So Beware Mitchell’s License by Hallie Durand, illus. Tony Fucile
  • Best Fractured Fairy Tale The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett; illus. Poly Bernatene
  • Most Likely to Cause Giggle Fits What Animals Really Like by Fiona Robinson
  • Just Plain Powerful Never Forgotten by Patricia C. McKissack, illus. Leo & Diane Dillon
  • Best Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 timeless rhymes from 50 celebrated cartoonists edited by Chris Duffy
  • I Admit That Elizabeth Is a Cool Name My Name is Elizabeth! by Annika Dunklee, illus. Matthew Forsythe
  • Put it in Your Church Bag Naamah and the Ark at Night (note: Naamah is more popularly known as “Mrs. Noah”) by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, illus. Holly Meade
  • The Japanese Can Bring the Cute When They Need To 999 Tadpoles by Ken Kimura, illus. Yasunari Murakami
  • Because There Aren’t Enough Stellar Books About Groundhog’s Day Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox by Susan Blackaby, illus. Carmen Segovia
  • Let’s Get Excited About Vegetables! Rah Rah Radishes! by April Pulley Sayre
  • Best Picture Book About Dementia (It’s a Category If I Say It Is) Grandpa Green by Lane Smith
  • The Obligatory Awesome Mo Willems Book Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator! by Mo Willems

MIDDLE GRADE FICTION

  • Best Anti-Girly Girl Marty McGuire by Kate Messner, illus. Brian Floca (I LOVE his art!)
  • Channeling Diana Wynne-Jones, Part I (Magic Can Be Confusing)Small Persons With Wings by Ellen Booraem
  • Channeling Diana Wynne-Jones, Part II (Pranks Can Win the War) Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
  • Channeling Diana Wynn-Jones, Part III (This Time, with Jane Austen-y Antics!) Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
  • This Author Will Be Famous Someday Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby
  • Best Historical Fiction With Talking Mice The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright
  • Best Historial Fiction With a Severed Hand Caper The Trouble With May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Best Historical Fiction With Victorian Ladies Getting in GunfightsThe Year We Were Famous
  • Book With Best Crossover Appeal for Adults Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
  • That Jerk Patrick Ness Made Me Cry A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  • Most Heart-Warming-y Heartwarming The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
  • Sometimes It’s Better When You Don’t Get Prince CharmingThe Silver Bowl by Diane Stanley
  • Treasure Seeking Hijinks With Cowboys and Dragons! The Dragon of Cripple Creek by Troy Howell
  • Arthurian Knights Can Be Surprisingly Deep — and Funny The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True by Gerald Morris
  • Poetry Can Make Your Head Spin Hidden by Helen Frost
  • But Will Martin Scorsese Direct the Film Adaptation? Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
  • Immigration Can Be Hard The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce
  • Best Depiction of Contemporary Africa The No. 1 Car Spotter by Atinuke
  • Immigration Can Be Hard — Especially During the Vietnam War Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
  • I Usually Don’t Like Multi-Author Anthologies But This One’s Pretty Great The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Authors Tell the Tales , illus. by Chris Van Allsburg
  • Sentient Origami Rules Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

Note: Yes, once again it’s a short list.  I’ve grown tired of supernatural romance/gossipy frenemies/dystopian fiction, so that winnowed the playing field by quite a bit.  Plus, with the birth of Baby Katie this year, I wasn’t up for anything where anything really bad happens.    I even checked out every one of these titles from the library, kept them on my shelf, and then turned them back in.  THAT’S HOW BAD IT IS THESE DAYS.  So this year, for the first time ever — I am listing a group of books which I know are wonderful and which I know you will like, but which I am simply too wimpy to read right now.

What I Read And Thought Worthy of Sharing:

  • Best Fairy Tale Adaptation (and that’s really saying something, trust me) Entwined by Heather Dixon
  • Best Road Trip Through Europe The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson (note: this is a sequel to Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, which is also excellent)
  • When Bad Covers Happen to REALLY Good Books Chime by Franny Billingsley
  • It’s Like Seabiscuit With Legendary Irish Fairy Horses The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

What’s Probably Great But Which I Am Too Wimpy To Read:

  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (Siberian Prison Camp!)
  • Blood Red Road  by Moira Young (post apocalyptic universe! with cage fighting!)
  • All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin (dystopian future where chocolate is illegal!)
  • Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard (boy drowns at 80s prep school and it sounds way too much like A Separate Peace!)
  • The Watch That Ends The Night by Allan Wolf  (the Titanic!)
  • How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr (just a sad, beautiful domestic drama!)
  • Bluefish by Pat Schmatz (bullies!)
  • Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (it’s about Thomas Jefferson’s slave children!  Also not technically YA!)
  • Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones (kidnapping!)
  • The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller (the Romanovs!  With meticulous research!)

THIS SINGULAR PIECE OF NON-FICTON IS PROBABLY THE BEST AMERICAN CHILDREN’S BOOK OF THE YEAR

  • Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming (go read it!)

BEST BOOK FOR ADULTS ABOUT CHILDREN’S LITERATURE

  • The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure