Thursday, October 19, 2017

I Quit!

On the off chance you might be worried by that title, no, I'm not quitting blogging. Not that I blog very much, but I'm rather fond of this little corner of the internet when I manage to gather some thoughts into semi-coherent posts and join in on all the bookishness. You can't get rid of me quite that easily :)

I know it's only October, but I'm already thinking about reading challenges for next year. And you know what guys? I never thought I would say this, but I'm just not so into them anymore. I no longer host a challenge and I cut back on how many I participate in by quite a lot. But 3/4 of the way through the year and I'm just plain tired of all the keeping track. I love the idea of so many of the challenges, but I struggle with the follow-through. And I'm starting to wonder if participating is actually helping improve my reading life -- which was the whole point to begin with!

So I've decided that needs to be my litmus test of whether or not to re-join a challenge for 2018: has this particular challenge helped my reading life in the past? No matter how worthwhile the goal is, or how interesting the set-up, a reading challenge that hinders my reading life is not serving a worthwhile purpose for me. I suppose I could be open to trying a completely new-to-me challenge, but I've tried an awful lot of them over the years to know what will work for me and what won't -- I just need to be honest with myself!

So let's take a look at my 2017 challenges and see if any of them make the cut for 2018:

Goodreads Challenge
YES!
This one is pretty hands off. I set a goal, I read, and Goodreads pretty much keeps track for me. I count everything including picture books and my goal reflects that choice. I don't really think about or worry about this challenge except when I realize I am close to finishing my goal way earlier than expected (because, picture books) and decide if I'm going to increase my goal. I don't see any reason to stop doing this challenge. It's nice to see steady progress throughout the year and this challenge does not stress me out in any way. I'll keep it!

NO
This challenge involved a reading calendar and a schedule. I wanted it to work, but it just didn't and I unofficially quit this one long ago. I'd still like to read more Sherlock, but I'm going to go at my own pace. I think I actually could read at this pace or even faster, but the imagined pressure of having a "deadline" and working it around other books did not help me tackle these stories. So that's a definite no.

NO
I've done this one for several years now and I love the concept. I want to show my shelves more love and read more books I already had at the start of the year, of course I do. And I love the approach of celebrating our books rather than inducing TBR guilt very, very much. But as the year wears on, distinguishing between a book I bought at the end of last year and a book I bought at the beginning of this year seems really silly. Am I not showing my shelves love if I read a book I bought 7 months ago rather than the one I bought 11 months ago? As much as I love this challenge, it always seems to work for me for the first few months of the year and then I get bogged down with what counts and what doesn't. So I'm going to have to pass on this one.

NO
This is a challenge I want to work for me so very much to keep me more accountable, but it just doesn't. I use a notebook to keep track of what I bought and check off titles as I read them. But this year especially, I shopped at several community garage sales and other various used book sales and got super bogged down with the logging and tracking of everything. Sure, a simple solution is to not buy so many books, but I don't want to be worrying about whether or not I come home with a $5 bag of used paperbacks from a community fundraiser and how that will affect my stats. I do need to be more thoughtful and intentional about the books I buy, I just don't think the actual challenge is helping me do this as intended. I've been building a family library of picture books and middle grade books -- which I had hardly any of prior to my son's birth. I've found some amazing books at great prices on Book Outlet and I always dread logging them for this challenge. I don't know my exact plan going forward, but I need to quit this challenge!

NO
I adore the concept of this challenge, especially the amazing Hogwarts House Cup component the hosts came up with. But man, I spend way too much time submitting my books read for credit and figuring out which titles fit which prompts for the scavenger hunts. I don't know for sure, but I get the sense the hosts of the challenge found this a bit more overwhelming than they expected and that's a bit how I feel about participating. SO FUN, but ultimately, this is not helping me make good use of my time. I will probably continue the rest of the year, but I was feeling very annoyed with myself after realizing I spent almost an hour the other night fiddling around with this challenge. This one is a sad no, but it still has to be a no.

YES!
I first joined this challenge in 2014 and I totally tanked it. Then I tried again in 2016 and got into a much better groove -- all the Caldecotts I picked up with a baby/toddler around really helped! Then this year, I really hit my stride because I'm now reading both Caldecotts and Newberys for my own enjoyment in addition to what I might pick up to read with my son. I signed up for the highest level with a goal of 75+ points and I'm already up to 81 points and I want to keep reading. I take that as a good sign -- if I can hit my goal and I just want to keep going, this is definitely one that is working. I added a lot of Newberys to my collection this year from those used book sales and from Book Outlet, so I will have no shortage of titles to choose from for 2018. So I'm hoping Julie will run this one again!


MAYBE
I chose the checklist option for this challenge and I loved it. I borrow tons of picture books from the library and the categories helped me branch out and explore some new titles. I completed the majority of the checklist without hardly trying. But as fewer and fewer categories remained, it was fun to find some books I wouldn't have picked up otherwise in order to try something new and check it off the list. This one was easy to keep up with and keep track of and I enjoyed the vast majority of what I read, so it definitely worked for me. If the categories remain the same next year, I wouldn't join again, but if they are significantly different, I would give it another go. 

* * * * *

It occurs to me that most people probably don't really care why I do or don't re-join a challenge, but with all these thoughts mulling around in my brain, I needed to get them out! And I needed to work through the pros and cons and make some decisions before all the sign-up posts start rolling in for 2018 to tempt me :)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Is Anyone Else on Litsy?


Hi everyone! I've been using the Litsy app more often lately and I was curious if any blog readers out there are on it too? If you're not familiar, it's a lot like Instagram, but solely dedicated to books. You can review, share quotes, curate book stacks, etc. I really didn't want to have one more thing to distract me on my phone, but I've found I really like it for participating in bookish events such as readathons. I used to participate here on the blog, but have found I no longer have the time or inclination to write up dedicated update posts. My Instagram is a personal account and I've pretty much quit Twitter -- so Litsy has been perfect! Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon is about to celebrate it's 10th anniversary so they started a really fun 30 day countdown challenge and I've been playing along on Litsy. So if you're on there too -- connect with me or share your handle in the comments!

@Bucklingbkshelf

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Diverse Books Club: September Wrap-Up

The first month of the Diverse Books Club is in the books! The theme was centered around race, the history of racial oppression in America, and current civil rights events. I read all of the selections except for one board book my library didn't have, one picture book I had read previously and didn't re-read, and I ran out of time for the adult selection.

Given time restrictions, my realistic plan for participating going forward is to read all of the picture books and at least one from the Adult, YA, and Middle Grade selections. My very favorite thing about this group so far is the high quality of the books selected, so even if I can't read the whole list in a month, I know any books I miss can go on my TBR for the future. This month set the bar pretty high, so I am confident future selections will be just as engaging, thought-provoking, well-written, and overall worthwhile reads.

It's hard to put into words what I have learned this month from the books I read. I don't think I could do them justice by trying to spell it all out, but I can wholeheartedly say all of these books taught me something, made me think, and helped me see and understand different points of view. The books deal with very difficult, but very important issues. There is a lot I've taken to heart and there have been so many nuggets of wisdom in these books. If you haven't read The Hate U Give or Stella By Starlight yet, I highly recommend them!

Young Adult Selection:

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
I read this over Labor Day weekend and could not put it down! It is extremely relevant to current events. Even though Starr is fictional, stories like hers have been happening all over the US. By seeing the problems of police violence, racism, and the justice system through Starr's eyes, I think it makes it personal in a way a news article or sound bite can't.


Middle Grade Selection:

Stella by Starlight, by Sharon Draper
An incredible story of racism, hardship, and unfairness as well as community, love, and hope. I absolutely loved it -- and as soon as I finished this one, I lent it to my mom!


Picture Book Selections:

written by Alan Schroeder & illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
The is a fictionalized account of Harriet Tubman as a child. It was so interesting to see how this famous historical figure's early experiences could have shaped and influenced the incredible work she would go on to do.


written by Laban Carrick Hill & illustrated by Bryan Collier
I had read this one previously, but checked it back out from the library to re-read for the DBC. I feel like the book may have oversimplified Dave's life and what he must have faced on a daily basis, but I also think it's important and valuable to share his story and his accomplishments as an artist and poet despite his enslavement.


written by Doreen Rappaport & illustrated by Bryan Collier
Informative, educational, inspiring, and beautiful. I love how this picture book told the story of Dr King's life by drawing from various writings/speeches, not just his most famous. A really powerful book. This was another re-read for me and one I'd definitely like to add to our picture book collection at home. 


written & illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh
Hopefully everyone knows about Brown v. Board of Education, but like so many others, I did not know anything about the fight for desegregation in California's schools that occurred a decade earlier. An informative read and important book that I had not even heard of before, so I'm very glad I was introduced to it.


written by Sarvinder Naberhaus & Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
This was another re-read for me. A beautiful and artistic tribute to America's diversity and the highest ideals we want our country to stand for.

* * * * *

October selections are up next! Join us in reading about Immigrant and Refugee Experiences
Middle Grade, Young Adult, & Adult selections
Picture Book selections

Friday, September 29, 2017

Places I Never Meant to Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers


I've had this book for several years and I finally remembered to read it for Banned Books Week. It's a solid short story collection and, as I expected, I liked some stories much better than others. It's a young adult collection and to be perfectly honest, there were two stories that made me uncomfortable as an adult reader. I don't say this because I felt they were bad influences on young readers or anything like that, but because they dealt with some really tough subjects. The stories I was uncomfortable with involved animal cruelty, lack of consent, and that feeling of paralyzing powerlessness when characters were in certain peer situations. Aren't these things that should make me uncomfortable? And aren't they worth discussing or contemplating anyway? I'm not saying anyone has to read this -- or any other book. No one is required to pick up a story they find triggering or anxiety-inducing. Trust me, there are plenty of books I avoid because I know I just can't handle them. And no one is required to allow their children to read whatever they feel like. But banning or censoring is not the answer.

Beyond the short stories in this collection, each contributing author wrote an essay about their experiences with and thoughts about censorship and I wanted to share a few of those gems to illustrate the wisdom found in these pages. Even if you don't read the stories, this book is worth checking out for these essays (and Judy Blume's introduction) alone! There are so many great quotes, it was extremely hard to choose, but here are five of my favorites:

What I worry about most is the loss to young people. If no one speaks out for them, if they don't speak out for themselves, all they'll get for required reading will be the most bland books available. And instead of finding the information they need at the library, instead of finding the novels that illuminate life, they will find only those materials to which nobody could possibly object. 
-- Judy Blume

That's all we writers have, anyway; our minds and imaginations. To allow censors even the tiniest space in there with us can only lead to dullness, imitation, and mediocrity. 
-- Norma Fox Mazer

Self-censorship can be very damaging to a story. When our chief goal is not to offend someone, we are not likely to write a book that will deeply affect someone. 
-- Katherine Paterson

Books are our windows on the world. They permit us to safely experience other lives and ways of thinking and feeling. Books give us a glimmer of the complexity and wonder of life. All this, the censor would deny us. 
-- Harry Mazer

A child's parents should be able to forbid their son or daughter from reading a book of mine or anyone else's. However, those same parents should have zero control over what everyone else's kids can read.
-- Paul Zindel

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

Sunday, September 24, 2017

It's Banned Books Week!

It's only been two days since I posted my "vacation bag" reading list for the next couple of months, but I'm already rearranging it! After skimming through their beginning pages, I've returned two of the library books -- I still may read them someday, but decided not to for the time being. I've also added the October picks for the Diverse Books Club that were just announced this morning. And I somehow forgot I had this collection set aside to read during Banned Books Week:


I've had an interest in banned and challenged books for a long time now and even ran a reading challenge dedicated to them for four years before passing it on to another blogger. Some of the books that have been frequently challenged are a bit mind-boggling to me. I have no problem with an individual or a parent deciding a book is not appropriate for themselves or their children, but I do not think it is OK for individuals or groups (or the government) to decide what is appropriate for everyone else. Formally requesting that a book be removed from a collection denies others the opportunity to make their own decisions. The American Library Association has some really great free graphics on the subject I thought I would share:

What's the big deal?




Facts & Figures:





Read!

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association


Friday, September 22, 2017

Vacation Bag #1: Sept/Oct/Nov Reading Options

No, I'm not actually going on vacation. This is my metaphorical vacation bag of books inspired by my recent(-ish) summer vacation. The whole idea is that it was SO much easier to read books from my own shelves when I had a curated bag of limited options to choose from. I decided I wanted to continue doing that even when I wasn't on vacation and wrote a post about it.

So far, I've been pretty haphazard about sticking to my limited options plan. I haven't shared any "official" reading lists here, but I've had a small stack on my nightstand I've only sort-of been choosing from. This is partly because I went on a pretty good run where I had a very clear view of what I would be reading next, so the whole choosing-a-new-book-dilemma was pretty well taken care of. All of the Sarah, Plain and Tall sequels, a book club book, a summer-themed Newbery book and its sequel, and a Diverse Books Club pick (as well as a few others) have all been on my recent lineup -- and they were all books I had copies of! Admittedly, some were purchased quite recently, but they were still read from my own collection.

I have read some library books, but in about two and a half months, I read quite a lot more from my own shelves than I had been previously. So I wasn't feeling an urgent need to curate a "vacation bag" or TBR list to help me stick to my plan. But now we are headed into fall, I thought it was time to pull some titles off the shelf and get better organized. Fall is a time of year I always say I want to read "autumnal" books, but I never seem to get around to it. For me "autumnal" books are cozy, mysterious, gothic, spooky, and/or full of family secrets. But what typically happens is that September still feels like summer (which it technically is until the 22nd) and then when it really starts to feel like fall, the season is underway and flying by. If I don't get to some fall reads before Halloween, I tend to move onto something else even though it's still fall for quite some time afterwards -- officially, fall goes almost to Christmas!

All of this rambling is really just to say I think I will greatly benefit from having an "official" curated list of limited options to work from at this time of year. My hope is to (mostly) read from my own shelves and finally get to some of those fall books. I'm currently using a nightstand in our guest room for this little project:


So I'm going ahead and considering this my end of September and October/November list. I do not intend to read every single one of these books. It's just a starting point so I am not overwhelmed by an overabundance of options. I tried to have a nice mix -- classics, short stories, novels-in-verse, Newberys, poetry, a book-about-books, favorite authors, new-to-me authors, an ARC I won on Goodreads, and book club picks for both virtual and real-life groups. There are a few library books in there and I know a few more will get added over the season --  I'm just trying to strike a better balance, not abandon the library!

If I pluck anything additional off my shelves during the coming months not on this lineup, I will still call that a win for my TBR. In particular, I'm not sure what I will be in the mood for reading when I have round-trip (kid-less!) plane flights for my best friend's wedding in November. They don't happen often, but plane and train trips are some of my absolute favorite times to read. I'll be making sure to bring some books I'm excited to read in large chunks -- or possibly straight through! -- which is a luxury I don't often get these days.

* * * * *

Do you have any fall reading plans? What's your favorite book or type of book to read at this time of year? I'd love to know!

P.S. Check out Hannah's Three Ways I Tackled My TBR This Summer post! She's on a similar mission to read more from her own shelves and my summer vacation post gets a shout-out :)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Two Parenting Books Saving My Sanity

I actively avoided parenting books when I was pregnant through when my son was a baby. I felt like there were too many "experts" and conflicting advice and I just didn't feel like it was necessary or even helpful to "study up" on how to take care of a baby. I figured that I would figure it out, one way or another. People have been taking care of babies for thousands of years, right? I am far from perfect and I don't have all the answers, but I felt common sense and instincts would serve me well -- and they did. Until toddlerhood. Oh boy!

Everyone talks about the "terrible twos," so I shouldn't have been so taken off guard. But it took me a little while to realize I really had no idea how to effectively handle the behaviors and challenges that come with raising a two year old. The transition from a dependent baby who legitimately needs an adult to respond to his every cry to a starting-to-gain-independence-toddler who needs boundaries set -- and will whine and cry when he doesn't get exactly what he wants -- was a big adjustment.

Let's just say I was feeling a little desperate. Assurances from relatives, other parents, our doctor, etc. that, "oh, it's all just normal for kids his age" were all well and good, but they didn't help me navigate the day-to-day challenges of raising a toddler. I spent so many days easily frustrated and just wanting to "survive" until naptime or until my husband got home. I was facing some of the same issues over and over again (diaper changes and carseat were two big ones) and I truly felt like I was at he mercy of an (adorable) little tyrant. Surely I was doing something wrong. Surely other parents know how to do this better than I do. Right?

I still didn't think a parenting book would hold all the answers for my specific child, but I reached a point when I knew I needed to learn more about the toddler stage. I wasn't interested in any gimmicky or "trendy" parenting approaches. I wanted reasonable, practical, well-researched advice. I definitely did not want an anecdotal "this worked for my family, so you should try it too!" sort of book. So after looking at summaries of a whole bunch of options, I gravitated toward the science-based book The Whole-Brain Child.


I started reading The Whole Brain Child and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. There were so many examples and scenarios that resonated with me and made me feel like I was not alone in my struggles. This book helped me understand the developing brain (and my own brain!) and helped me realize just how little I knew about child development. As I learned more about the brain and child development, my toddler (and his behavior) became much less of a mystery and I felt better equipped to handle things. The principles in this book are not age-specific, but more tailored advice and tips are broken down for ages 0-3, 3-6, 6-9, and 9-12. I borrowed the copy I read from the library, but then ordered a copy to keep as a reference on our shelves. 

The other book I highly recommend is Positive Discipline The First Three Years. I only just finished this one yesterday, but I read it over the course of two weeks and was actually able to start trying some of the tips and ideas well before I finished. Some of it might seem to just be common sense, but all the advice is tied to child development stages, so they are not only suggesting what to do, but why. They explain why babies and toddlers do certain things that drive us crazy and just having that clearer understanding has really helped change my perspective on toddler behavior and how I approach solutions. It has helped clarify what exactly is age-appropriate in terms of my son's behavior and my own expectations and is helping me navigate those day-to-day challenges. Much of Positive Discipline's approach could be summed up as being both firm AND kind with our children. It's not about being punitive nor is it about being permissive or overindulgent. It offers such a well-balanced approach and articulates the reasoning and science behind why many things I've heard suggested before work -- and how to actually implement them.

I wish I could give a copy of these two books to all parents of babies and toddlers I know without being that know-it-all mom who hands out unwanted, unsolicited advice. But since I can't do that, I'll stick to sharing here what has helped me in the hope it might help someone else through the exhausting and exasperating (and exciting and endearing!) stage of toddlerhood.

* * * * *

The authors of The Whole Brain Child also wrote No Drama Discipline which is up next on my parenting TBR. And they have a new book The Yes Brain: How to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity, and Resilience in Your Child coming out in January that I'm really looking forward to.


And there are a whole series of Positive Discipline books focusing on preschoolers, teenagers, and children with special needs as well as books for single parents, teachers, and childcare providers. I imagine there will be a lot of overlap among the various titles, but I think it is great there are so many options tailored to different stages and situations. I will be picking up the preschool one for sure when my son is a little older.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

My Favorite Book of the Summer

I don't know about anyone else, but it has been unseasonably cool in my neck of the woods this week. August is not yet over, but it's been feeling an awful lot like fall. As students and teachers are gearing up to head back to school (or already have!) it seems the perfect time to look back on favorites from the season before diving into more autumnal reads. Madeline over on Top Shelf Text invited myself and 20 other bloggers to share a summer favorite, so there are lots of other great recommendations besides just mine. Head on over to see what I chose -- Pssst...I'm first on the list :)

Image via Top Shelf Text

P.S. Top Shelf Text is one of my favorite bookish blogs and bookstagram accounts
P.P.S. Don't miss the Diverse Books Club launching Sept 1st! (Goodreads | Instagram)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Reading by Award List

Reader friends, I have a question for you today. Have you ever finished a really great book, realized it was the recipient of an award, and then felt the sudden desire to go read ALL THE BOOKS that have ever won that award? Most recently this happened when I read and loved A Northern Light which was my pick for our August book club meeting and it has won: a Printz Honor, a Carnegie Medal, and a Young Adult Literature Los Angeles Times Book Prize as well as several other lesser known awards. I must admit, it took a good bit of willpower to not promptly dump a truckload of new titles onto my TBR from the archives of those prizes.

So now I have a second question for you. Has anyone ever actually read (or attempted to read) through a prize list?! I am currently making my way through the Caldecott Medal and Honor books, and let me tell you, it is taking a LOT longer than I thought it would considering these are *just* picture books (with the odd graphic novel and longer illustrated work thrown in). The Caldecott stretches back to 1938, so we are talking a rather large quantity of books, even if the page count for each is relatively low.

First, I started with all the featured titles in Reading the Art in Caldecott Award Books. Then, I made a point of finding winning titles based on season and holidays throughout the year, as well as reading some of the newer winners once they were announced. For many months now, I've been browsing through the library stacks and tucking any books with a shiny Caldecott medal into my checkout pile whenever I spot them. And while it feels like I've read a TON of Caldecott books, there are still so many more remaining to be read! It is getting harder to locate those remaining ones, so I'm making a point to consult the master list and seek out (or place on hold) books that will fill in the gaps. As tempted as I am to try reading from other lists, I can hardly imagine doing this with novels -- especially with a well-established award. Still, one can dream, right?

Some other lists I have considered reading through:

CHILDREN
Most distinguished contribution to American literature for children (ALSC)

Picture books and books for older readers excellent for reading aloud (The Association of Booksellers for Children)

Outstanding writing in a picture book published in the United States (Cooperative Children's Book Center)

4th, 5th, & 6th graders vote for their favorite books (found this one thanks to Top Shelf Text!)

Children's books of literary and aesthetic excellence that effectively engage children in thinking about peace, social justice, global community, and equity for all people.

Honors an American poet or anthologist for the most outstanding new book of children's poetry (Pennsylvania Center for the Book)

Honors a living poet + curates lists of notable poetry books and verse novels

YOUNG ADULT
Books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults (YALSA)

Best audiobooks for children/young adults (YALSA)

Literary excellence in young adult literature (YALSA)

ADULT
Celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in writing in fiction written by women. Previously  named the Orange Prize for Fiction

There is certainly no dearth of award-winning books if you go looking for them! I am well aware a more rational approach is to use these lists as inspiration rather than a checklist, but don't we always want to read ALL THE BOOKS? Yes, yes we do.

* * * * *

Are there any other book awards you like to keep tabs on? Have you ever read from an award list yourself? Do you have a favorite award-winning title? Or a title you don't think deserved an award? I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Joining the Diverse Books Club


I discovered the blog Top Shelf Text a few months ago when Madeline was a guest on the Modern Mrs. Darcy podcast What Should I Read Next? I mainly use Instagram for friends and family, but I do follow a few bookstagrammers and Anne Bogel convinced me to check out Madeline's account. I very much enjoy Madeline's posts and stories, but it's her brand-new Diverse Books Club launching in September I want to tell you about today.

With everything going on in our county and our world, I am fully aware that just reading books is not enough. But I do feel strongly that education and empathy are important pieces and that books can play a role in both of those. There is a lot more information in the introductory post on Top Shelf Text, but in short, this is meant to be a group of readers who are "dedicated to learning about the world and our fellow humans. We value diversity in all its forms. Our mission is to be those worthy role models that our children deserve." 

Madeline and her co-moderator are both teachers and will soon be joined by an additional team of moderators who are passionate about this project and who also bring a diversity of perspectives to the group. I can't say for sure how it will all work out, but I am eager to join with an open mind. 

JOIN IN!
Head over to Top Shelf Text for more info and to see the middle grade, YA, and adult September selections. The children's book selections are over on Miss Magee's Reads.

On Instagram @diversebooksclub
On Goodreads at Diverse Books Club