Bibliophile Problems

If you couldn’t tell from my previous posts, I’m a book girl. There are a lot of books in my house. I’m talking more than dozens, more than hundreds, probably a couple thousand. I’ve never counted them all—that would mean math, and me and numbers don’t always get along.

This afternoon, after answering yet another a post on a homeschool page for recommendations for books set in a specific time period (happens regularly, and as a children’s literature connoisseur with a passion for historicals, I have to respond.) This time, it was a call for Civil War books. So, after going to my “favorite author” shelf in the hall, I returned to my desk area to look over my general middle grade collection for more titles. But then I remembered my middle child’s quest for all things military, and that I’ve allowed him to adopt many of my middle grade novels dealing with war, so I had to go check the bookcase in his room.

I circled all around the house to gather information I could have grouped together. What’s a bibliophile to do?

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I’m seriously contemplating putting all my books in chronological order. Even though that would mean splitting up the Katherine Paterson, Avi, Richard Peck, and Laurie Halse Anderson novels, I think at this point in my life (hello, homeschool!) it would be beneficial. But then I’d have to worry about the fantasy, science fiction, and contemporary… where would they all fit? Group the contemporary at the end of the historicals, with books like Bridge to Terabithia (and it’s 1970’s references) toward the beginning of that section. What about classics, like Charlotte’s Web? Do I place it in the era it was written?

The stress!

But it’s a happy, first world problem to deal with. Now I just need to decide if I take the plunge. Photographic journal blog will follow if it comes to pass.

World Book Night

It’s World Book Night and I’m a proud book giver. I got a jump on my giving so the twenty copies of Bridge to Terabithia that I had are already gone, thanks to an afternoon visit to a local elementary school.
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When I drove around the block, looking for the entrance to the parking lot, I was sad to see weedy lots with ugly gray buildings, complete with rusty barbed-wire fencing, directly behind the property. If anyone needs an escape, it’s kids having views like this out their windows for most of the day.
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But Maryvale Elementary itself is a lovely campus with shady trees and updated buildings, not far from where I spent my vacation time with my grandparents and great aunts in my younger years. I found out that one of my relatives even taught school there way back in the olden days… you know, before CDs—let alone MP3s—were invented.
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I was ready with my spiffy Word Book Night tote bag (full of books!) and my shiny Book Giver button.
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I thought I was mentally ready, but as I was signing in at the office, Ms. Gillespiee (from Metro Mobile Reading Council’s Young Author program) entered the building and my heart rate settled immediately. Ms. McShan, the school’s reading coach who set-up my visit called her in to attend my presentation. Having a familiar face in a new setting is great, and when the group conversation quieted down, she was there to spur more questions from the students.
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It was a great thirty minutes—and it went by fast! Happy reading, Maryvale students!

Love books? Sign-up to be a giver in 2015 and we’ll paint the town READ because geeking out over books is awesome!

Three Confessions

Confession #1: I have a lot of books.
Confession #2: I have a lot of bookshelves (but I could always use more.)
Confession #3: I keep my most treasured books behind closed doors.

I first started hiding my books after my eldest child started to “wear out” his own books. Lift-the-flap books with no flaps to lift. Using books as bridges, literally walking on them across the floor, was a favorite activity. And with his books, spines were optional. I feared for my beloved books, as well as my husband’s collection.

Our favorite books went from the top shelves—he could scale the bookshelves—to high levels inside cabinets. I could hear the cabinet doors opening, but I didn’t always hear him at the bookcases until it was too late.

In the past three years that I’ve been homeschooling, the book population has hit overdrive.

The main wall of books--about a third of what we have.

The main wall of books–about a third of what we have.

The non-fiction area has doubled and the sum of the middle grade novels that my oldest son reads every night is greater than anything I ever held as the lone reader of them. My youngest has a two shelf bookcase of picture books and all things pink while the middle child hoards The Magic Tree House and military history.
Last year I wrote a post about my oldest turning into a reader and he hasn’t slowed down. The other night, when he came looking for another book amid the post holiday explosion, I realized he hasn’t read Bridge to Terabithia or A Wrinkle in Time. All of the Katherine Paterson, Madeleine L’Engle, Laurie Halse Anderson, Terry Brooks, and Orson Scott Card books are behind closed doors. Not to mention Narnia, Green Gables, Hogwarts, and The Shire.
Parenting fail!
So, my goal this month—hopefully this week—is to get these books out and into circulation among my household. No more restricted section in the family library. I’ll document this effort with photos, so stayed tuned!

All for Love: A Middle Grade Reader Romance

In celebration of attending my first SCBWI conference this weekend, I’d like to share my love of literature with you. I’ve been reading middle grade novels since I was of age—I never grew out of the genre. Even though I thought I was writing a young adult novel, on the sixth draft I discovered it was actually MG. It makes sense because my absolute FAVORITE novels are all categorized as MG, and more often than not, they are marked with “Ages 10 and up” or “10-14” for the reading level.

There are MG books marketed for eight to twelve year olds. Those novels are typically set in upper elementary school grades and are slightly longer than chapter books (think Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and How to Eat Fried Worms.) But what I’m focusing on today are those magical coming-of-age novels that have universal themes that related to everyone from tweens to adults.

Well beyond the first three Harry Potter books—which did make it socially acceptable for adults to venture into the children’s section—there is a plethora of life-changing literature to be found in the fiction section for younger readers. These books are deep and rich with truths of life and death.

The following list is my challenge books. I dare friends and family who “don’t read kids books” to read one and no one has been disappointed. Most of these titles are award winners and the majority won the Newbery Medal. Trust that honor—the children’s librarians at ALA know what they’re doing! I’ve divided my list of the TOP TEN MIDDLE GRADE NOVELS into three sub-genres to make it easier to find what might interest you the most.

Historical (pre-1950s):

  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (This book captures the emotions of slavery in New England during the American Revolution. It is cross-merchandized in the YA section because of its heavy subject matter, but is listed as ages 10 and up.)    
  • The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi (An awesome sea adventure set in the 1830s.)
  • Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (A novel in verse about the dust bowl in Oklahoma beginning in 1934.)
  • Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko (Haven’t you always wanted to know what it was like to live on Alcatraz? A son of a guardsman in 1935 shares his story.)
  • A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck (Spend 1937 in the middle of nowhere Illinois with a hillbilly granny. Hilariously funny. You could cheat and listen to the audio—it’s brilliant.)

Science Fiction edge:

  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (Classic. Enough said.)
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry (Futuristic/dystopian—before it was trendy—and deeply moving.)

Contemporary:

  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (My favorite novel of all time.)

  • Holes by Louis Sachar (Amazingly crafted, and supports a historical story within the present-day plot. Double bonus points!)
  • Listen by Stephanie S. Tolan (I just found this one about a year ago. Deceptively quiet, but so very tender. Great for dog lovers.)

Have you read any of these? If not, I dare you to read one!

What would you put on your list of favorite middle grade novels?

Escape into Reading

This month has been filled with family and home. I’ve been surrounded by a few nieces and many more nephews, and all the things that accompany them. Laundry, food, messes, and noise. And of course fun, laughter, love, and adventure. But I’ve had to cope with lack of quiet and thinking time. So I went into literary hibernation.

I escaped what was going on around me by snuggling into books. Forget the army battle sounds coming from down the hall and the trail of toys stretched from the sofa to the bedroom–I’d rather be in Kosovo or playing middle school soccer.
So, as you can see from my list of books in the past two weeks, I’ve been hibernating a lot! A couple of these books were read in less than 24 hours.

A great closing to The Hunger Games series. A kindred spirit gave me the first book for my birthday and immediately loaned me the other two books so I could read the series straight through. Loved how it ended, though about ten pages before I was about to scream at Katniss for one of her decissions.

Katherine Paterson has been one of my favorite writers since I read Bridge to Terabithiacirca 1989. This book came out about two years ago but I finally purchased the hardcover (thank you Books-A-Million bargain tables, for this and two other books on the list) last month. I had no clue about the wars in the Kosovo area during the past two decades, other than people were dying. This book made me want to learn more about recent history I’ve been blind to.

Nice summer romance with a HEAVY dose of southern spice. This is the most southern sounding book I’ve read in recent years, if not ever.

I was able to meet the gracious author, Crickett Rumley, at a local book signing last week. Fun read–laughed out loud many times.

Wow! This is the best contemporary middle reader book I’ve read in a LONG time. Amazingly deep. Will be looking for more by Edward Bloor!

Does this make half of my books this time southern? Even Tangerine was set in Florida, with scenes in TX and AL. This was one of my 24 or less books. Adventure with heart. Enjoyed it enough to want to purchase my own copy to have for my kids to read.
So, what have you been feeding your mind this month?

Do You Love a Banned Book?

It’s banned books week!
http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek/index.cfm
Some of my favorite authors have banned books and books that have attempted to be banned from schools and libraries. Katherine Paterson, Madeleine L’Engle, and Laurie Halse Anderson are three that come to mind.
Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia is my favorite novel of all-time. Some parents have concerns about it because the main character has a crush on his young female music teacher (what kid hasn’t had a crush on a teacher?) and also because a death in the book. No spoiler beyond that- just READ it. It won the Newbery Award for a reason!
Madeleine L’Engle ranks in the top five Christian fiction writers of the last century- I’m talking with the likes of Tolkien and Lewis, may they all rest in peace. Some people are scared of the book A Wrinkle in Time because it doesn’t meet their ideal of religion- that it’s too “new age”. If you want correct doctrine don’t go looking for it in a novel… but you can find universal truths in the symbolism therein.
The most recent attempts at banning were blogged about by by Laurie Halse Anderson at her site last week. http://halseanderson.livejournal.com/264680.html Twisted, one of her novels on the chopping block, is possibly the most eye-opening novel I’ve read. As a parent it made me fear for my boys upcoming teen years. Heavy, yes. Uncomfortable at times, yes. Worth it for the learning experience, yes! It’s a novel I’ll allow my children to read once they reach a level of maturity in which the topics can be digested properly. A wonderful talking point to encourage conversation between parents and children.
Parents need to read what their children are reading. Literature can be a gateway in which scary, tough, and heavy topics can be approached in a safe, third person way. Books are tools, learn how to use them appropriately.