Monday, July 30, 2012

Summer's winding down--cramming in the reading!

Today is basically my last "day off" for the summer; I have workshops both real and virtual taking over most of the last two-and-a-half weeks before the official first day of my teaching calendar.  So what have I done the last two weeks?  Reading!  Still haven't finished my self-help nonfiction selections, but I'll get there.  They were put aside for some fun kid/teen books:

The Hunchback AssignmentsThe Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade was originally picked out by my middle-school-aged son, who then said he wouldn't have time to read it, so offered it to me.  It's a steampunk story (though light on the steampunk) that incorporates British history, fantasy (a morphing main character), a bit of Jekyll/Hyde, a bit of "Hunchback of Notre Dame", and some good old-fashioned undercover work.  While making connections with the stories of Jekyll & Hyde and the Hunchback were great, it's not necessary to know them to enjoy the plot...and may entice readers to explore the classics.

Black Hole SunI do tend to favor sci-fi novels, and Black Hole Sun by David MacInnis Gill was a fun read.  Set on Mars in the very distant future, it's about an outcast teen soldier-for-hire who adheres to the ethics by which he was trained, which results in his agreement to defend a ragtag band of miners from a cannibalistic horde.  Twists and turns along the way as well as a lot of action keep the story moving, with some surprise details thrown in towards the end.  Corporation corruption, some wacky characters, and the bleak Mars landscape reminded me of a mix of Dune, Star Wars (without the interplanetary travel), and the Wild West.

Extra Yarn


Picture books!  At a friend's recommendation, I had to get my own copy of Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (remember I Want My Hat Back?), and Stuck, by Oliver Jeffers.  Extra Yarn reads like a good folklore story, and would be great to discuss character traits like generosity and greed with students.  Stuck is just outright fun silliness; it will be interesting to read to my classes and see how quickly the students figure out that they are smarter than the main character, discussing his inept problem-solving strategies.

I Know a Librarian Who Chewed on a WordTo add to my collection of books about libraries and librarians, I purchased a copy of I Know a Librarian Who Chewed on a Word, by Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton and illustrated by Herb Leonhard.  Instead of the fly and other items swallowed by the old lady in the classic rhyme, the librarian swallows a word, then a book, then the book cart....It keeps you guessing what the word is, until the very end.

Today's library day, but I think I'll return my books and focus on my home to-read pile rather than check any more out.  Back to school soon!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fairy tale time!

The Grimm LegacyJust for fun, I joined in on SHSU's Library Science Goodreads bookclub selection this month, The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman.  I found it to be a fun, "light" read--you know, the kind you can put down at the end of Chapter Three on Monday, then pick up again on Thursday and not be too lost going into Chapter Four.  The story centers on a high school girl who is living with her father and stepmother (fairy tale detail number one), writes a report on The Brothers Grimm for her history class (detail number two) because she and her now-deceased mother read fairy tales together (number three), and gets asked by said history teacher if she wants a job at the "New-York Circulating Material Repository", where they just happen to store "The Grimm Collection" (bingo!).  Without giving too much away, there is history, magic, romance (though not too much to gross out younger readers), and intrigue. Definitely a fun summer choice for readers from fourth grade on up!  It might even spur some interest in reading traditional fairy tales; there were a few mentioned in the book with which I was unfamiliar, and may have to add to my reading pile!  I read this one on my Nook, but with the library connections, it may have to be added to my print collection for sentimental purposes.  
What else is being read in the Margocs household?  My college-bound daughter satisfied her Stephen King penchant by checking out Misery from the library, and my eighth-grade son is making his way through video game magazines like Nintendo Power.  (He gets his magazine reading habit from his mom!)  And a trip to Salado yielded yet another small-town organization cookbook (see post from June 4th to read about my cookbook collection).  And while I do still have the Mount Everest of books waiting to be read, I think I'll give my eyes a break and indulge another favorite hobby--crocheting--for the rest of today.  The books will be waiting for me at bedtime! 

Happy reading!  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The right book at the right time

My wonderful husband gave me the gift of a solitary weekend hotel getaway for my birthday back in March, and I finally had the time to cash in on the offer this past weekend.  So off I went to Salado, TX for the first time, knowing that there was shopping and eating to be done there, but bringing along books nonetheless.  As usual, I brought more books than I knew I could read in 36 hours, but I wanted a selection to suit whatever mood I happened to be in during my stay. 

Product DetailsI have a penchant for self-improvement books, so in went my new copy of Wishcraft by Barbara Sher (a classic, never out of print, and edited for its 30th anniversary in 2009).  I also revisit the topic of feminism from time to time, and so my repeat reads of The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd and Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh landed in my bag. 
Product Details
It's been at least a year since I picked up the last two, and the first I have never read.  I'm not one for remembering specific passages from a book; rather, it's the feelings I get from a book that stay with me, and that's why I chose the last two books as traveling companions--they resonate in a positive way, even if I can't say specifically why.

Product DetailsSo which book did I ultimately take out of the bag and out to dinner both nights in Salado?  Gift from the Sea (Pantheon, 2005)--and it couldn't have been a more perfect choice. Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote this book while on sabbatical on a Floridian island, taking a break from the demands of marriage, children, home, and work.  She speaks about the fragmented life we lead, split between the tasks that come with our ever-increasing connectedness and global awareness.  Her solution for restoring balance to this crazed existence is regular periods of solitude:

"Solitude, says the moon shell.  Every person, especially every woman, should be alone sometime during the year, some part of each week, and each day. .....But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves:  that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of the whole web of human relationships." (pp 42, 44).

And there I was, sitting in an old inn, eating a solitary dinner in total peace, feeling comfortable in my solitude, with Anne Morrow Lindbergh telling me I was just where I needed to be.  What amazes me about this book is that it was originally written in 1955, yet Lindbergh's observations are still relevant, the needs of women still ringing true almost six decades later.  Truly a classic volume, and the right book at the right time for my weekend getaway. 


Product DetailsProduct DetailsOf course, I can't stay away from children's books this summer.  My two latest purchases are Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back --a Geisel Honor Book-- and Karen Cushman's Newbery winner, The Midwife's Apprentice, which I picked up in a musty old bookstore in Salado.  If you haven't read these books, PLEASE do so ASAP!  The first is a picture book, and so entertaining that even my teens love it; I can't wait to use it for an inference lesson in my classroom.  The second is another classic, short read (I finished it in two hours on the couch last night).  I was transported to 14th century England during that time, where Cushman gently described the harshness of everyday life before literacy and modern-day medicine were commonplace.  What we do have in common with those times are our human issues:  foibles, doubts, and the highs and lows of relationships.

Off to do more reading--enjoy these summer days with a book in your hand!  Here's hoping you find the right book, at the right time, for you.