Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Links I'm Loving Lately [3]

{A lot of bloggers share link round-ups, but I was particularly inspired to get in on the link love by Reading With Jade's recent Blog Posts I've Enjoyed Lately series.}

It's been a while, so it's time for another round of links before the list gets any longer!

Bookish News
COVER REVEAL for my next book: I’d Rather Be Reading! {Modern Mrs. Darcy}
Cover Reveal: ‘Louisiana’s Way Home’ (by Kate DiCamillo) {Children's Books Daily}

Bookish Interviews
Jump Anyway — and Other Words to Live by, a Conversation with Author Jason Reynolds {Brightly}
Jeanne Birdsall on Penning The Penderwicks Through the Years {Brightly}

quirky, saucy, moonlit, booming…poetry + New Poetry Index {Orange Marmalade}
Poetry Quote-a-thon: ROBERT FROST {Poetry for Children}
Poetry Quote-a-thon: LIFE {Poetry for Children}
Poetry Quote-a-thon: LANGUAGE {Poetry for Children}

7 Fantastic Earth Day Books {Everyday Reading}
Children’s Books: Two terrific girl power books by Chelsea Clinton {Bookshelf Fantasies}
15 Read-Alouds That Will Make You Look Hilarious to Your Kids {Brightly}
Libraries Gone Wild! 10 Imaginative Picture Books About Libraries {Brightly}
10 Classic Audiobooks for Families {Brightly}
12 Book Recommendations for Kids Who Adored A Wrinkle in Time {Brightly}

The Bookworm Life
Why I re-read {Bookshelf Fantasies}
On Selectivity {The Ardent Biblio}
The Perks and Pitfalls of Reading from Our Shelves + #TheUnreadShelfProject2018 Update {The Ardent Biblio}
ALL APOLOGIES... NO MORE {Bookishly Boisterous}

Book Lists
50 Books By And About Women Of Color {Top Shelf Text}
Anne Bogel's Books That Are Better Together/Book Flight Bonanza Series:
8 terrific novels paired with 8 illuminating nonfiction picks to elevate your reading experience {Modern Mrs. Darcy}
Books that approach similar topics from completely different perspectives {Modern Mrs. Darcy}
16 favorite novels for book clubs {Modern Mrs. Darcy}
8 hot new releases paired with 8 backlist titles that will have a much shorter library waiting list {Modern Mrs. Darcy}
The Mom Life
6 Tips for Transitioning from Board Books to Picture Books {Everyday Reading}
How to Make Using the Library Less Stressful: Part 4 {Everyday Reading}
6 Simple Tips for Reading Aloud to Multiple Children {Everyday Reading} < -- I only have one, but still thought this had some great ideas :)
do this, do that, do this. the frenzy of parenting in the digital age. {Finding Joy}

For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It {National Geographic}
If You’re Thinking about Starting a Blog, This Post is for You {Everyday Reading}

Recipes I Want to Try
Fig Pizza with Goat Cheese & Prosciutto {Everyday Reading}
How To Make One-Pot Pasta Primavera {The Kitchn}
Easy Apricot-Glazed Chicken {The Kitchn}
Vietnamese iced coffee cookies {Food52}

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Read any great articles or posts lately? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

April Caldecott Calendar: The Week of the Young Child™ + Roget's Thesaurus

Today I have another April installment of my Caldecott Calendar project. All of my posts for this project (including updates) can be found here or by clicking on 'Caldecott Calendar' in the header up top. My personal favorites will be marked with an asterisk (*). This post may be updated to correct errors, omissions, etc. as we go. Let me know in the comments if you notice anything that should be fixed or added!

The Week of the Young Child
(This year: April 16-20, 2018)
Hosted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), The Week of the Young Child™ celebrates early learning, young children, their teachers, and families. I had never heard of it before I started digging around for more events in April beyond the more popular/obvious ones. While one could argue that any and all picture books would be good to read for this event, I thought it would be a good opportunity to round up the Caldecott titles that deal more specifically with childhood experiences.

Waiting, written & illustrated by Kevin Henkes
2016 Caldecott Honor
Waiting is a pretty universal human experience, but it's often particularly difficult for young children.

They All Saw a Cat, written & illustrated by Brendan Wenzel
2017 Caldecott Honor
Learning to see things from different perspectives.

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, written & illustrated by Dan Santat
2015 Caldecott Honor
Imaginary friends.

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, written by Mac Barnett & illustrated by 
Jon Klassen
2015 Caldecott Honor
Two boys, a dog, and an outdoor adventure.

Journey, illustrated by Aaron Becker
2014 Caldecott Honor
Boredom and imagination.

Flora and the Flamingo, illustrated by Molly Idle
2014 Caldecott Honor
Awkwardness, practice, and friendship.

Yo! Yes?, written & illustrated by Chris Raschka
1994 Caldecott Honor
Making a friend who seems different than you.

Ella Sarah Gets Dressed, written & illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine
2004 Caldecott Honor
Expressing individuality, the beginning of independence, and making your own choices.

When Sophie Gets Angry -- Really, Really Angry, written & illustrated by Molly Bang
2000 Caldecott Honor
How to handle with big, scary feelings.

No, David!, written & illustrated by David Shannon
1999 Caldecott Honor
What child doesn't constantly hear the word "no"?

*Owen, written & illustrated by Kevin Henkes
1994 Caldecott Honor
Outgrowing a security blanket.

*Olivia, written & illustrated by Ian Falconer
2001 Caldecott Honor
For all the young children bursting with energy (and occasionally getting into mischief.)

*Where the Wild Things Are, written & illustrated by Maurice Sendak
1964 Caldecott Medal
Getting into mischief, wanting to run away, and coming back to those who "love you most of all."

*Frog and Toad Are Friends, written & illustrated by Arnold Lobel
1971 Caldecott Honor
Friendship and everyday adventures.

"More More More," Said the Baby: 3 Love Stories, written & illustrated by Vera B. Williams
1991 Caldecott Honor
Showcases three sweet, loving relationships between babies and parents/grandparents.

* * * * *

Two about losing a favorite stuffed animal:
Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, written & illustrated by Mo Willems
2008 Caldecott Honor

Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity, written & illustrated by Mo Willems
2005 Caldecott Honor

* * * * *

Two simple counting books filled with childhood wonders and comforts:
Ten, Nine, Eight, written & illustrated by Molly Bang
1984 Caldecott Honor

*1 is One, written & illustrated by Tasha Tudor
1957 Caldecott Honor

* * * * *

The final five books are stories, lullabies, and prayers specifically for bedtime -- an important (and often challenging!) transition time for young children.
*The House in the Night, written by Susan Marie Swanson & illustrated by Beth Krommes
2009 Caldecott Medal

Sleep Like a Tiger, written by Mary Logue & illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
2013 Caldecott Honor

*Hush! A Thai Lullaby, written by Minfong Ho & illustrated by Holly Meade
1997 Caldecott Honor

A Child's Good Night Book, written by Margaret Wise Brown & illustrated by Jean Charlot
1944 Caldecott Honor

*Prayer for a Child, written by Rachel Field & illustrated by Elizabeth Orton Jones
1945 Caldecott Medal

Anniversary of the publication of Peter Mark Roget's 1st Thesaurus
(April 29, 1852)
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus written by Jen Bryant & illustrated by Melissa Sweet
2015 Caldecott Honor

* * * * *

Added since original posting:
The House in the Night

Last updated: April 16, 2018

Monday, April 9, 2018

Review: The Read-Aloud Family

The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie
Date: March 27, 2018
Format: Paperback + Audible audiobook
How did I get this book? Purchased

It's no secret I'm a big fan of Sarah Mackenzie's Read-Aloud Revival podcast. I hardly ever pre-order books, but I pre-ordered this one so I could get her free bonus video class. (And so the book would land on my doorstep on publication day. Ahem.) The last time I started a book on release day was probably Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but The Read-Aloud Family now has that honor as well. Though to be honest, I didn't actually read that pre-ordered paperback copy yet... because it was the Audible edition I dove into as soon as I possibly could. So yes, I purchased the same book in two different formats and I don't regret it one bit. Sarah narrates the audiobook herself and it was a really great way to experience her book because she is so friendly and encouraging -- just like on her podcast! I can tell you right now that I will be re-reading/re-listening -- and probably more than once. I'm a little over the top, I know.

As you can probably already tell, I absolutely loved The Read-Aloud Family. I found it to be inspiring and encouraging as well as giving me a boost of confidence that all the time I spend reading with my toddler son really is time well spent. As with the podcast, it makes a solid case for the value of continuing to read aloud even beyond the time he will someday be able to read on his own. I really loved having the RAR "philosophy" in one coherent place. This book pretty much ties together all the ideas and concepts and approaches from the podcast -- with some new material as well. I think it's important to note that there IS a lot of overlap with the podcast. There were parts I had heard before -- sometimes verbatim -- from previous episodes, but I personally don't feel this diminished the book. First of all, I'm probably in the minority of podcast listeners when I say I've listened to my favorite episodes multiple times. So, 1. I clearly don't mind hearing some of the same stuff on repeat and 2. I probably have a better memory for those repeated bits simply because I have already heard them several times before.

So, yes, I really enjoyed the audiobook, but I'm also glad to have the paper copy as reference -- particularly for the Ask Compelling Questions chapter and the book lists. (However, the Audible edition does include instructions for accessing a printable booklist divided by age if that's the only thing holding you back from going the audio route.) The booklist chapters were done in a really interesting way I haven't personally seen before. Each age grouping has 20 (or so) favorite read-aloud titles, but embedded in the descriptions of those 20 main titles are additional ones to try. So, I'm loving how I can go to the entry for a title I already know I love and find a few others that are similar in some way or that might complement it.

As an avid RAR podcast fan, I was curious how the recommendations would break down in terms of what's already in our home "library," so I did a little tallying:

TOTAL titles: 389

Titles I've Already Read: 96

TBR titles (own, but haven't read): 97

That leaves 196 books I've neither read nor own. Of course, I have heard of many of those remaining titles, but there were more than a few brand-new-to-me as well. Between the TBR books already on our shelves and the other 196, I shouldn't run out of recommendations any time soon!

One final thing to note is that this book is published by Zondervan, a Christian publisher. The author is Catholic and the book is most certainly written from a Christian perspective, including recommendations for favorite Bibles to read aloud. I think there is a whole lot that any family can get out of this book, but if you are of a different faith, this may not be quite what you are looking for. I personally appreciate how Sarah has woven her faith into this particular topic and enjoyed reading her perspective. If you're on the fence, maybe try borrowing it from your library first :)

Saturday, April 7, 2018

#TheUnreadShelfProject2018: April Challenge

Even though I didn't enjoy the book I chose for The Unread Shelf Project's March challenge as much as I had hoped, I really enjoyed the challenge itself. Choosing a book, giving it a deadline, and committing to getting rid of it if I didn't finish really worked for me. In the end, I did finish it, but decided to pass it on anyway -- and that's OK!

April's challenge is nearly the same, but with one added criteria: choose the book that's been on our shelves the longest. Yikes! It's OK if you can't remember precisely your oldest book, so the idea is to choose one you at least know has been there a really long time. Looking over my shelves, I immediately recognized two candidates for that honor Daughter of Fortune, by Isabel Allende and Back Roads, by Tawni O'Dell. These were both Oprah's Book Club picks and a quick Google search tells me they were the selections for February and March 2000. I was only 14 at the time, so it's not like I was running out to buy the books and then read them according to Oprah's schedule. BUT, I distinctly remember watching those episodes and being completely fascinated by the whole book club idea. I was only just dipping my toe into "adult" books at the time and I loved Oprah, so I was pretty convinced I would want to read all her recommendations at some point.

I don't know exactly when I bought these two books, but I know that for many years the Oprah's Book Club sticker on a cover held a lot of sway for me. I most likely found them on the bargain table at the Waldenbooks at our local mall while shopping with my BFF sometime during highschool. Or possibly while combing the bargain shelves at the Barnes & Noble down the street from my college. I graduated college in 2007, so either way, they have been around a longgg time. Debating between the two, I settled on Back Roads because I can't tell you how many times I've had it in my hand to give away... and then decided to keep it. It's time to decide its fate once and for all!

I read two chapters before bed last night and don't have any strong feelings yet. It's definitely outside of my usual wheelhouse, but it's interesting enough so far and the writing is good, so we shall see! Have you read this one before? Let me know in the comments!

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Join or follow along here:
Whitney @theunreadshelf on Instagram

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A New Way of Thinking About DNFs

When I listen to Anne Bogel's What Should I Read Next? podcast, I typically enjoy the bookish banter and maybe come away with a recommendation or two. What I don't usually come away with is an idea that could majorly change my reading life. But I think that just may have happened with this week's episode.

Anne was interviewing Roxanne Coady, the owner of independent bookstore RJ Julia in Madison, Connecticut. As the pair chatted, they found common ground in frequently abandoning (or at least setting aside) books they start due to the nature of their work. Anne has talked about this many times before, but then Roxanne talked about a shift in her reading life since becoming a bookseller, saying: "I realized the number of books that I could read that were likely to be great was limitless and if I was struggling to get through a book, I owed it to the next book to drop the book that I'm not loving and go on to the next one." And it was one of those proverbial light-bulb moments for me. Her statement made so much sense, but I had never thought of it that way before.

While I'm not completely opposed to DNF'ing books, it's very much a rarity for me. I am absolutely one of those readers who often finds myself wondering, as Anne pointed out, "but what if it's about to get good?" And while I'm well aware books don't have actual feelings, I DO often find myself feeling it's not fair to judge a book I haven't finished. I often feel it's not fair to "give up" on a book I'm already part way through -- especially if it landed on my TBR by way of a trusted source for recommendations. I've already invested time and oftentimes money in that particular title. I chose to pick that book up for a reason and let's be honest, who really likes to admit they were wrong?

So while I doubt Roxanne's philosophy is going to make me a master DNF-er, I am going to reconsider which books I'm thinking about when I wonder whether or not quitting is "fair." It's not like I've never heard similar arguments before: "there are so many good books out there" and "life's too short," just to name two. I've heard them before -- and I even agree with them! But it's still hard to make a judgement against a book that's right in front of me sometimes. It's hard to think of that potential "next great book," particularly if I'm not even sure what I want to pick up next. Sticking with a so-so book until the end often just feels easier, even when it's a slog. But I love Roxanne's optimism about the limitlessness of great books out there, so I'm going to give it a try.

Monday, April 2, 2018

All the Updates: March Take Control of Your TBR, TheUnreadShelfProject2018, & Budget

I hope everyone celebrating had a lovely Easter or Passover! We had a dusting of snow this morning, so the seasons are feeling a bit confused right about now. Hopefully soon the calendar and the weather will start to match up a bit better :)

Now that March is over, there are so many things to wrap-up, so I'm combining them all into one big update post...

My goal was to read exclusively backlist books from my shelves during March and while I didn't stick to that 100%, I'm calling this challenge a success!

Only three of these were in the TBR stack of six I made at the beginning of the month. I postponed the rest of the Madeleine L'Engle Time Quintet for now, but will be returning to that series for sure. In addition to these six, I also started The Ghosts of Greenglass House and No Drama Discipline, making it about a quarter of the way in each of them. I was enjoying the Greenglass sequel better than the original, but then I hit a bit of a wall. I'm going to try a few more chapters before deciding if I'm going to DNF (or possibly switch to audio) to finish it off or not.

Audiobooks is where I veered off a bit -- I listened to 70% of Whiskey and Charlie for an upcoming discussion at my library. That one is a backlist title, but I borrowed it via Overdrive. And then I couldn't resist diving right into The Read Aloud Family the day it released. I pre-ordered the paperback, but also used an Audible credit and listened to it over 6 days, finishing it off during our Easter travels.

The Task: Choose a book to finish by the end of March... or ... get rid of it!

The Result (short version): I did finish my selection, but I'm still getting rid of it!

The Result (long version, aka an actual book review!):

I finally read this book after far too many years collecting dust on my shelves. I rated it 2 stars on Goodreads which doesn't seem quite fair to the essays I enjoyed, but there were far too many I just did not care for. At all. Like the one where an author yelled at a woman with a mental illness for disrupting a class he was teaching. Then when he apologized to the clerk and other customers for yelling (apologizing to the wrong person here, perhaps?), the bookstore employees applauded him for it? No thank you. I don't claim to act perfectly in all situations or know the right thing to say or do in challenging circumstances, but this is NOT an interaction to be admired, I know that much. Then there was the rant against bookstore cats. I’m not even a huge cat person, but really? Why? Leave the poor cats alone! And then Chuck Palahniuk patting himself on the back for being the only audience member at a David Sedaris event to laugh at a “funny” story about a dead boy being autopsied. Yea, I didn’t find that one funny either.

And then there were a few too many that basically said, "This bookstore supported me when I was an unknown. They do really great events and support local writers. And they know their customers." There's nothing wrong with any of that, but it doesn't make for a very memorable essay -- or ten – and they started to blur together a bit.

So what did I like in this collection? Isabel Allende's story of writing through grief -- and her grandkids attending Harry Potter midnight release parties. The bookseller who helped a teacher find a "just right" book for a student who didn't have any books of his own -- and how hard this boy worked to be able to read it aloud to his mom. The bookstore that survived multiple tragedies and relocations and the community that rallied around it. The author who grew up in a book desert – no bookstore OR library – who became a writer and shares his joy in watching his daughter grow up around books and how each section of the bookstore represents a different stage in her childhood to him. Nancy Shaw’s “Sheep Phone It In” in the style of her beloved Sheep in a Jeep picture book. And Lisa See’s book launch with her extended family in attendance who she describes as, “not what you’d call book buyers or readers.” She expected them to perhaps buy a copy out of familial duty, but they completely surprised her.

There was good in this collection, but not enough to make me want to keep it on my shelves. An updated paperback edition was published last year that includes 8 additional essays, which I’m admittedly curious about. Will they be 8 more of the really good ones? But unless my library gets a copy, I’m not going to find out because I am NOT buying another copy of this book just to satisfy that curiosity! I need a break from reading about bookstores right now, but I have a feeling The Bookshop Book, by Jen Campbell which has a global focus is going to be more up my alley (My Bookstore was exclusively US.) Has anyone else read it yet?

March Budget

I don't want to talk about it.

But of course I'm going to talk about it anyway! As happy as I was at the end of February for the chance to start over in March... March was a bust too. First of all, I had The Read Aloud Family pre-ordered and I was charged for my Audible renewal (2nd of a 3 month half-price deal). Which only left $6 and change in my official budget. A Barnes & Noble trip to look for a gift ended with two bargain books for me that put me in the red... on the 5th of the month. Then there were a few $0.50-$1 library discards. And some cheap Caldecott titles I bought used because not a single library in my whole system had a copy to borrow. And when I went to use some Audible credits, the books I was interested in were not worth using a credit on because the Kindle/Audible Whispersync deal was better -- which it great! but it also meant I spent $ instead of credits. And to top it all off, there was a  Book Outlet order and a order -- which contained Easter and Birthday gifts for my son... but which I then rounded out so I wouldn't get charged for shipping. Womp, womp. 

It could have been worse, but it certainly could have been better. I'm still not throwing in the towel on the whole budget thing. This is a learning process for me since I have never done it before, so even though I'm most certainly failing based on my original goals (which let's be honest, were probably unrealistic), I'm going to keep trying and see what I can learn as I go.

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Did you participate in any March reading challenges? I'd love to hear how they went!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

April Caldecott Calendar: April Fools' Day, Easter, Earth Day, & Arbor Day

A week ago, I gave a little intro to this new Caldecott Calendar project I've started working on. I picked a pretty busy month to start with, so I'm cutting it pretty close here! I will do my best to post further in advance in the future to give some more lead time for anyone trying to read along with the various holidays and seasons. 

Please be aware that my intention for this project is to create an informational and organizational resource, not to curate a list of recommendations. I will mark ones I've particularly enjoyed with an asterisk (*), but will include books whether I personally like them or not. And while I am planning to read through all of the Caldecott titles, there will be some included I have not yet been able to read for myself. I will be as comprehensive and accurate as I can, but I still may miss things and need to add/revise lists later on. I will have a permanent tab up top for this project so you can find the latest updates. Please let me know if you notice any errors or omissions as we go!

April Fool's Day
(April 1st)
To the best of my knowledge, there aren't any Caldecott titles about April Fools' Day itself, but I decided the occasion works well for some nonsensical and silly titles from the award list. I've never been much into April Fools', but it still strikes me as an odd overlap that Easter falls on April 1st this year -- that probably won't happen again for some time!

Du Iz Tak? written & illustrated by Carson Ellis
2017 Caldecott Medal

Rain Makes Applesauce, written by Julian Scheer & illustrated by Marvin Bileck
1965 Caldecott Honor

Pop Corn and Ma Goodness, written by Edna Mitchell Preston & illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker
1970 Caldecott Honor

King Bidgood's in the Bathtub written by Audrey Wood & illustrated by Don Wood
1986 Caldecott Honor

A Very Special House, written by Ruth Krauss & illustrated by Maurice Sendak
1954 Caldecott Honor

What Do You Say, Dear?, written by Sesyle Joslin & illustrated by Maurice Sendak
1959 Caldecott Honor

Easter can be on any date between March 22nd and April 25th, but since it most often falls in April, it has landed on the April list :)

Juanita, written & illustrated by Leo Politi
1949 Caldecott Honor

The Egg Tree, written & illustrated by Katherine Milhous
1951 Caldecott Medal

Earth Day
(April 22nd)

*Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems, written by Joyce Sidman & illustrated by Beckie Prange
2006 Caldecott Honor
This is such an interesting mix of the environment, science, and poetry with really beautiful illustrations.

Gone Wild: An Endangered Animal Alphabet written & illustrated by David McLimans
2007 Caldecott Honor
The subtitle pretty much explains it -- this alphabet book features an endangered or vulnerable species for each letter. The illustrations are so clever!

In the Small, Small Pond, written & illustrated by Denise Fleming
1994 Caldecott Honor
This is a simple nature story following the inhabitants of a pond through the seasons.

The Desert Is Theirs, written by Byrd Baylor & illustrated by Peter Parnell
1976 Caldecott Honor
This picture book is about the Papagos Native American tribe's deep respect for and relationship with the land and all creatures they share it with.

Green, written & illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
2013 Caldecott Honor
A simple story with intriguing cutouts perfect for the littlest of bookworms with a subtle environmental message.

Arbor Day 
(Last Friday of April)

A Tree is Nice, written by Janice May Udry & illustrated by Marc Simont
1957 Caldecott Medal
This one certainly works for Earth Day too!

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Stay tuned for another April list including books for National Poetry Month and Jazz Appreciation Month as well as a list for Spring!

* * * * *

Added since original posting:
King Bidgood's in the Bathtub
A Very Special House
What Do You Say, Dear?

Last updated: April 15, 2018

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Caldecott Calendar Project: An Introduction

As many of you already know, I've re-discovered a of love picture books since my son was born -- almost 3 years ago now! In large part thanks to Julie's Newbery Challenges, I've been purposely seeking out Caldecott books and can hardly believe how many winner and honor titles there have been over the years. A great many of these books I'm actually just reading on my own, though I hope that more and more of them will capture my son's interest as he gets older. While he regularly surprises me with a longer attention span when he's really interested in a particular character or topic, a lot of the Caldecott titles aren't exactly toddler fare.

I love reading seasonally, especially when it comes to picture books, even if, ahem, my toddler isn't always on board (Christmas and Halloween books in March, anyone?) So I've been trying to figure out which Caldecott books fit various categories, holidays, seasons, etc. throughout the year. I've looked for lists of them online and been surprised by how little I've found. General lists that might include a Caldecott or two abound, but that wasn't really what I was looking for. So it seemed like one of those things I'd have to put together myself if I wanted to have it as a resource -- so here we are!
While it feels like I've read a TON of Caldecott books, I still have so many left to discover which is why I kept pushing off this idea. But if I keep pushing it off, I don't think it will ever happen! So please bear with me as I kick off this blog series in the next week or so with Caldecott Books for April. I will be as comprehensive as I can, but I still may miss things and need to add/revise lists later on. I will have a permanent tab up top for this project so you can find the latest updates. Please let me know if you notice any errors or omissions as we go!

I'll end now with just one Caldecott book for March to give you an idea of what I'm trying for with this project. Also, it is so perfect for this time of year (in northern New York, anyway!) that I don't want to wait a whole year to share it :)

First Sign of Spring

The Happy Day, written by Ruth Krauss & illustrated by Marc Simont
1950 Caldecott Honor

The world is still covered in snow when the animals start coming out of hibernation and find the first sign of spring. Perfect for those days when the calendar says spring is here, but it doesn't quite feel like it yet! This one has large illustrations and short, simple text, so it's one of the Caldecott titles that does work for the toddler set, at least in theory :)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

When you finally read that book that's been on your shelf forever... and it's... fine...

{This is my third TBR-themed post inspired by Caffeinated Reviewer's March Take Control of Your TBR Challenge}

You don't love it, but it's not a complete disappointment either. Maybe it's a mixed bag sort of book. Maybe it's a decent read, but it doesn't inspire any strong feelings -- a middle of the road 'I Liked It' 3-star read. You know the ones I mean. The book is good. It's fine. But it's not all that special. I've read a lot of 3-star books over the years and there's nothing wrong with that. But there's something about holding onto a book for SO LONG only to find out it was just *fine* or *OK* that's feels different than if it had been a library borrow or recent purchase.

Unless a book was a gift or a freebie, if it's on my shelves, it's safe to say I think I'm going to love it. If I expected a book to only be a 2- or 3-star read, it wouldn't have survived all the bookshelf culling I've done over the years. I would have donated it, sold it, traded it in, or sent it off to some book drive or other. I don't intend to acquire and hold onto books I think will just be *fine* or *OK.* Don't we want more than that from the books earning a spot on our shelves? I know I do! It's unrealistic to think every unread book will end up being a 4- or 5-star read, but a reader can dream, can't she?

A few recent titles that fit the bill are....

My Ideal Bookshelf, edited by Thessaly LaForce & illustrated by Jane Mount

I've had this book since 2012. It's one of those titles I kept noticing on my shelf and wondering why in the world I hadn't gotten to it yet. I love books about books and I've loved the Ideal Bookshelf concept ever since I first heard about it and yet... there it sat. I finally cracked this one open because I've been reading more collections of shorter works alongside whatever other *main* book I'm reading -- essays, short stories, that sort of thing. And I hate to say it, but it wasn't as fantastic as I thought it would be.

I love the illustrations, but I didn't know a lot of the contributors. My predominant feeling while reading was that I was woefully under-read to appreciate most of it. And many, many times when I recognized a title on someone's shelf, it wasn't one that was discussed in the accompanying essay! The vast majority of children's books scattered throughout were not elaborated on and those are the ones that intrigued me most. Why did Roseanne Cash put Little House in the Big Woods on her shelf? Why did an artist/urban planner choose a Richard Scarry book? What's the story behind the legal scholar/professor including The Phantom Tollbooth and Now We Are Six? Only one person chose a Harry Potter book (how?!?!), but there wasn't any story behind it. One shelf included A Wrinkle in Time, Harriet the Spy, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but not a word about any of them. And the Childcraft encyclopedias! Does anyone else remember those?!? They were a throwback to my own childhood I had completely forgotten about until the moment I spotted them in these pages -- and I wanted to know more!

I still marked a lot of great quotes and there were a few essays that were real gems, but overall this averaged out to a 3-star book, rather than the 5-star home-run I expected it to be. I do understand that if each contributor elaborated on a dozen or more titles the book would have gotten unwieldy and my own areas of interest are not going to be the same as everyone else's. I just wanted more from this one!

I can't even tell you how long I've had this one because I bought a used copy from the now defunct website. But it's been many, many years, I know that much. Summers came and went and for one reason or another I kept not picking this book up during those warmer months -- and it went completely off my radar for the rest of the year because I thought it was a "summer book." When I finally picked it up, I quickly discovered I was wrong! The essays are organized by season of life (Child, Mother, Grandmother) and include all different times of year, holidays, etc.

As with almost all essay collections, I enjoyed some better than others. These are all personal and obviously come from the author’s own specific experiences, family, and memories. As such, I found some more relatable than others. There were some outstanding stories that brought tears to my eyes and plenty of other interesting ones even if they didn’t speak to me in quite the same way. I originally rated this book 4-stars, but then knocked it down to 3. Maybe it really should be 3.5? The stories I loved I really, really loved, but the rest were just OK for me. And in retrospect, I can't shake the feeling that the book is almost too idyllic. I don't wish drama and dysfunction on anyone's family and I'm not saying the author was being dishonest either, but we all look back with rose-colored glasses sometimes, don't we?

Greenglass House, by Kate Milford

I bought this at my local indie and it sat on my shelf for about a year. When I was reminded it has a snowy/winter/Christmas setting, I went so far as to buy the sequel with the idea that I'd then read them both during the 2017 Christmas season. Anyone else ever buy a sequel for a book they haven't read yet, because you just know you're going to love them? Please say it's not just me! And oh, how I thought I would love this book! And it ended up being... just... fine. It was good, but it wasn't great (for me). For a middle grade novel with a mystery/suspense element, it took me a really long time to finish. And by the time I did, I didn't jump into the sequel because I needed a break from Greenglass House and I had too many other books I wanted to get to. A month and a half later, I actually just picked it up today during my son's nap, but wasn't sure if I was actually going to commit to reading it. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the shorter chapters and how engaged I was feeling early on, so I'm sticking with it. I'm starting to feel like winter's days are actually dwindling, so I'm glad I gave this series another chance this season after all!

* * * * *

What is a book you had on your TBR for a long time that didn't blow you away as much as you had expected? I'd love to know!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Unread Shelf Project 2018: My Sign-Up Post

{I already posted about the March challenge for this project, but I've finally gotten this (lengthy!) sign-up post together.}

I've been following Whitney's @theunreadshelf account on Instagram since early January. I found her when there was some New Year buzz around her #theunreadshelfproject2018. It's mainly an Instagram thing and my account is mostly just pictures of my kid, so I told myself I wasn't going to join. But I've really enjoyed following along for some TBR-tackling inspiration anyway and I've been feeling inspired to do more than just follow along lately. I don't have a Bookstagram account, but I have a book blog, so why not participate in my own way? Other bloggers have been writing Unread Shelf Project posts outside of Instagram, so here we are! Below is Whitney's original post explaining the basics and rationale behind the project:

Who’s excited for 2018?! 🙌🏽💃🏽🎉. . . I’m joining up with @katereadsbooks_ and @calsreads to host The Unread Shelf Project 2018 - to encourage and challenge you to read the unread books you already own. Check out my story for a video about it and keep reading! . . It is sooo easy on social media to get caught up in book FOMO and frantically buy more books than we can possibly tackle quickly. I currently own 161 unread books...🤦🏽‍♀️ Which is about half the books we have in our 900 square foot house, which is kinda amazing we have room for all those. 😂. . . Anyway! In 2018, I am committed to reading my unread shelf and not buying or borrowing books until I meet my goals. It’s an exercise in contentment, self-discipline, and enjoying what I have instead of accumulating more. . . Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing our personal goals for #theunreadshelfproject2018 and week- or month-long challenges to help us get there. . . This is not an exercise motivated by shame or guilt. It’s a recognition that many of us have more books than we need, and it’s time to slow down and READ. . . I hope you will join us, whether you have 10 or 100 unread books! The first challenge for you over the holiday weekend is COUNT YOUR UNREAD BOOKS. To set a realistic goal, you have to know where you’re starting from! . . Feel free to share your total in a story or post, and tag me and #theunreadshelfproject2018 so others can follow! You can also repost this graphic to show you are participating! . . I can’t wait to see what you all come up with. Happy reading! (And counting! 😉) . . #theunreadshelfproject #kcbookstagram #bookstagram #unreadbooks #readingchallenge2018 #readyourowndamnbooks #books #readingchallenge #contentmentchallenge
A post shared by Whitney - The Unread Shelf (@theunreadshelf) on

The key points for me are:
"It’s an exercise in contentment, self-discipline, and enjoying what I have instead of accumulating more."
"This is not an exercise motivated by shame or guilt. It’s a recognition that many of us have more books than we need, and it’s time to slow down and READ"
Other than the Instagram focus, I had two more reasons for not joining earlier: 1. I was sticking to my decision to not join more year-long challenges and 2. I reallllly didn't want to face the music and tally up all my unread books. My change of heart on reason #1 is that I'm considering this a replacement for the 2018 Goodreads Challenge I never joined. Plus, this is a project, not a challenge right? Ahem. Anyway. As for reason #2, I had a rough idea of my number of unread books from Goodreads, but my tracking has gotten unwieldy over there. (It couldn't be because I have too many books could it? Nah, that can't be it...) I'm much better at using Goodreads for ratings, reviews, and connecting with other readers -- cataloging over there has not been my strong suit, hard as I've tried to keep everything all in one place. So when Whitney shared a screenshot of the app she's been using called Book Buddy (free version with 50 book limit or unlimited pro version for $4.99), I went ahead and took a chance on the pro version.

A big part of me thought it was a huge waste of time to go through and scan all my unread books into another service, but I also liked the idea of a fresh start for tracking my TBR and turned it into a bit of a project with my son. Though he did lose interest before we finished, it occupied us for a decent chunk of time we were stuck inside. He was a particular fan of the sound effect when a barcode failed to scan which sounds like a car horn (don't worry, you can turn the sounds off if you're not entertaining a toddler!)

So we combed through the house and scanned in only unread books and books I've read since the beginning of 2018. My unread number is embarrassingly huge, but I'm going to throw in a few explanations/excuses. First of all, I've included just about every single unread book in the house across all ages, genres, and formats (minus a very few of my husband's books I don't plan to read). Picture books, fairy tales, middle grade, poetry, easy readers, ebooks, audiobooks -- all of it. So that stack of early readers from a garage sale my son is still too young for? They're on my Unread Shelf. And the pile of picture books from the used bookstore or the library discard shelf we didn't get to yet? Yup, those are too. And on and on. I also included some books I've technically read before, but purchased with the intention of re-reading. I know that inflates my unread number, but I wanted to see the full scope and then take it from there.

Going through my shelves as I just did for this project reminds me of the wealth of great stories I already have at my fingertips. It reminds me I already have a great variety to choose from depending on my mood. I am fortunate that it's easy for me run to the library to borrow books on a whim and that's amazing! But it's far too easy to reach for the library stack because there are due dates to comply with. So this is about shifting my focus, slowing down, and enjoying what I already have. And it's also about clearing out some of the excess to send off to new homes and share with others -- culling is definitely part of my plan for this project.

Now here is the part where I tell you I've been going back and forth about whether or not to share my actual Unread Shelf number here on the blog. For a long time, I had a TBR counter on my sidebar, but I got rid of it because it didn't actually help keep me accountable like it was intended to. At times it seemed like it downright backfired and I really don't want to repeat that experience with this project. So it feels like cheating, but I'm going to keep the numbers to myself. I will admit this much -- I don't have an unread shelf, but more like an unread library -- eek!

I try to remind myself that all those unread books includes digital as well as print. It includes a lot of freebies (Amazon First ReadsAudiosync, Volumes etc.), used books, library discards, and bargain books, but it's still a LOT of books, no matter how good the deals were. I'm trying to think of books as good investments (which Julie reminded me of recently!) and I love to lend out books, but building a family library has definitely outpaced my reading ability. And even though I want to make progress on my Unread Shelf, it's NOT all about numbers. I want to think of our library as a resource and remember that reading is not a race. I don't want to reduce my reading life to stats and an overgrown checklist -- the app and the numbers are simply tools to help guide and organize me. If those tools start getting in the way, I have no problem letting them go.

I'm not sure exactly how I will do updates going forward, but I'm setting my official first goal to read all of the unread picture books that have been lingering around. I love picture books, so that's a goal I can get excited about. I probably just need to "borrow" a stack from our own shelves instead of the library for a few weeks and I should be all set :)

The title of this very blog refers to my overflowing shelves -- or what I thought were overflowing shelves nearly seven years ago. And the whole point of starting a book blog was to read more of them! But I seem to veer further off course the longer I hang out in the bookish corners of the blog/podcast world. In a lot of ways, I'm actually OK with that, but maybe this project will help me get back to my bookish roots. I know there are so many great stories just waiting for me to uncover -- and I look forward to experiencing them :)