Sunday, February 12, 2017

Show and Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration

Show and Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration by Dilys Evans
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Date: March 2008
Format: hardcover
How did I get this book? borrowed from library
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
GoodReads

This was a very informative exploration of picture book art focusing on 12 different illustrators. As the author states, this is not meant to be a "best of" list, but rather she chose a group of artists she felt offered "a wide range of styles, technique, and content" and I feel she certainly delivered on that. All of the featured artists may not be my particular favorites, but I definitely learned a lot by reading more about their work, background, inspirations, and process.

Only three of the featured artists were completely new to me (Trina Schart Hyman, Petra Mathers, and Harry Bliss), but this book piqued my interest in their work -- particularly the prolific Trina Schart Hyman whose chapter I found particularly intriguing. The other nine illustrators (Brian Selznick, Bryan Collier, Paul O. Zelinsky, Hilary Knight, David Wiesner, David Shannon, Betsy Lewin, Denise Fleming, and Lane Smith) I had previously read at least one of their books, but oftentimes it was their most popular work or their Caldecott award-winning work. So even for those artists I previously was somewhat familiar with, I've now been introduced to a broader range of their work. While I probably won't seek out every single one mentioned, I have certainly added to my picture book TBR list! I've already borrowed quite a few from the library and (shocker!) ordered used copies of two out of print titles my library system didn't have.

This sort of deep-dive into picture books and illustration won't be for everyone, but as someone who reads a ton of picture books these days -- both with my son and now on my own -- it is an area I want to learn more about. Out of habit, I still tend to focus on the text more than the art when I read a picture book. So the more I learn about illustration, the more I feel I can appreciate and understand it in its own right.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Current Events & Children's Lit: Sharing Two Book Lists

I don't really talk politics here. And if I'm perfectly honest, I'm pretty sick of politics lately. I both do and don't want to stick my head in the sand. I want to be informed and involved, but it's all pretty overwhelming. And I know it's a privilege to just feel overwhelmed and take a break or tune it out because I am not directly affected by a lot of what has been happening lately. I am not afraid for my life or my family's lives, I'm not worried about getting deported, and I am not the target of hate crimes or hate speech. I don't always know the right thing to do in response to everything happening in my country right now. In fact, I hardly ever know the right thing to do, but there is one thing I know I can do: read. It doesn't feel like enough, but it still feels important. There are a multitude of issues we can be reading up on, but two related posts showed up in my blog feed yesterday I wanted to share:


and 


The first is from a new-to-me children's literature blog I've really been loving called Orange Marmalade. The beginning of the post is so thoughtful and spot-on, and it is followed by a recommended reading list. I have only read two books on her list, but will definitely be reading more. Good children's books excel at expanding our worlds and our hearts, teaching us about other people, helping us metaphorically walk in another person's shoes, and grow in empathy -- no matter how old we are. So it's no surprise the other post was also on a children's blog -- a commercial one, but one I'm a fan of and read regularly nonetheless -- BN KIDS. Of course there are lots of adult books relevant to the issues of our times, but I think great children's books have a knack for cutting to the heart of things.

If you've written or seen any other reading lists relating to current issues, particularly children's book lists, please share in the comments!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Thoughts From Last Weekend's Readathon

Last weekend, I participated in the most recent 24in48 Readathon which was a lot of fun. I messed up keeping track of my time the second day, but I think I read around 4-5 hours. Add that to 6 hours on the first day and I do believe this was the most I've ever read for a weekend readathon. So, I've been thinking some things over since then and wanted to share a few thoughts on the experience and reading in general.

1. Timing/tracking my reading is not for me. I don't mind doing it for a special event like this, but I thought maybe I'd want to start using the Bookout app more regularly after trying it out for the Readathon. But, no, I absolutely do not want to start doing that. It works for some people and that's great, but I don't like have a timer running while I read. I don't like stopping and starting that timer on my phone if I get sidetracked or need to take a few minutes break. And I'm on my phone more than enough as it is. I really don't need to also be going on and off my phone while I'm reading, even if it is just to tap a button. Also, I already know I am not a fast reader. I don't need digital proof of it, nor do I feel the need to "improve" my speed -- so I really don't see any sense in tracking my reading this way. Keeping track of what I read on Goodreads is more than enough data and tracking for me.

2. I miss reading in longer stretches. Usually my more sustained reading happens on audiobook these days because I "allow" myself to read for longer amounts of time if I am also doing something else like walking or housework (laundry, dishes, cooking, etc). I don't often just sit and read a print book for significant lengths of time anymore. I try to read a bit at night before bed and I try to sneak a little in here and there, but with a kid, a house, and working from home, there is always other stuff to do. I don't intend to start neglecting my responsibilities, but I do think with better time management, I could find some more reading time during the week. Far too often, when I do have a chance to take a break, I waste it on my phone or computer. If I am more intentional about my break times, I definitely could make it a habit to pick up a book instead -- like I used to when I had a more conventional job. I also have realized I don't take advantage of weekend nap times to read for longer stretches as often as I could -- that was really lovely and I'd love to do it more often on those quieter days.

3. If I spent less time planning, researching, browsing, etc., I would have more time actually read! I very often read a blog post or article and then go down a Goodreads/library catalog rabbit hole of looking up titles, adding them to my virtual shelves, and/or requesting them. That's all well and good, but it takes away from reading time. And if I keep replenishing my library stack at the rate I have been lately, it's not going to help me read what I have at home. (Not to mention that I've also spent far too much time browsing Book Outlet and, ahem, seem to want to really challenge myself for Read the Books You Buy this year, especially considering it is still only January!) I wrote about this in my 2017 bookish plans post and I must admit I have not yet made any improvements in this area. Habits are hard to break, so I'm acknowledging it here as something I would like to work on more. Over the readathon weekend, I steered clear from the book browsing/research and it definitely made a difference.

4. I love the feeling of pulling an unread book off our shelves and sitting down to read it. Whether it is a picture book or a novel, I got those books for a reason. It's far too easy to favor the library books because they have a due date, but I shouldn't forget our own shelves. This is another thing I've been working on for 2017, but the readathon weekend reinforced the idea for me. I finished two middle grade books and most of a picture book treasury from our collection last weekend and it was wonderful. Library books are great, but they don't have to take priority simply because there have to be returned -- they can be borrowed again!

* * * * *

Now we are almost one month into the New Year, I can already see areas I am doing well on in terms of my plans/goals for the year and areas I definitely am struggling in. This readathon just sort of helped clarify those areas for me. How is your reading going so far this year?

Friday, January 20, 2017

24in48 Winter 2017 Readathon

When I signed up for the last Bout of Books, I mentioned that more intensive readathons had been a bit of a bust for me last year. So, I ignored all the announcements for the next 24in48 up until practically the last minute...and decided to sign-up! We were going to be out of town this weekend, but the little man has been in an extended sleep regression and we are feeling pretty worn out. Plus I did something funky to my back the other day and my husband had a pretty rough week at work. So I felt bad about cancelling our visit, but we very much need a travel-free weekend at home. So why not sign-up for a readathon?

Sign-up here!

The idea is to read for 24 of the 48 hours of Saturday and Sunday. I have zero ambitions of completing that with a toddler running around, but I figured this would be a good opportunity to see how much I can squeeze in if I make a point to read during more of my downtime. Because let's face it, with a house and a kid, there's always stuff to do, but I'm going to try to really take it easy this weekend. And cleaning landed me with the sore back sooo... reading it is!

I hope to be sleeping when this kicks off at midnight, but I'll be joining in tomorrow. I have a bunch of picture books, poetry books, and middle grade books on my radar. I have plenty of choices -- the challenge might be reading something from my own shelves rather than just the library stack! I do hope to finish Brown Girl Dreaming though, which is from my collection.

If I do any updates, it will likely be on Twitter. And I'm toying with the idea of tracking my time with the Bookout app. When I first heard about it, the idea of an app to track my reading seemed too stressful and like I was turning a hobby into a job. But for one weekend for a readathon? I figure I just might try it out.

Anyone else read-a-thoning this weekend?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Reading Paddington as an Adult

As a kid, I had a Paddington Bear stuffed animal -- in fact, I do believe it's still at my parents' house! We have pictures of me carrying him around (at the park, no less!), but I don't have any memory of reading the Paddington books as a child. If we did read any of them, they likely were the picture book adaptations and not the full-length novels. The picture books are lovely -- and I have a treasury of them on my son's shelves -- but I really wanted to read Paddington's full story and experience it for myself. 

Picture Book Collection

Once I saw that the audiobook of A Bear Called Paddington was narrated by Stephen Fry, I decided to go with that format. He is such a fantastic narrator (and boy do I wish I could listen to the UK audiobooks of Harry Potter he narrates!) and delivers this classic story flawlessly. The only thing missing is the illustrations of the print edition, so I ended up getting a lovely hardcover anniversary edition for our shelves as well. I'd love to get the full series in print someday, but have held off so far since I already have the next few books queued up in my Audible library. 

First full-length novel

The second novel, More About Paddington, is the only other one narrated by Stephen Fry and that is as far as I've gotten in the series thus far. In fact, I've now read them twice and they were just as good the second time through. While the first novel is surely the most well known and widely read, the follow-up was an equally wonderful reading experience for me. Although the books are divided into chapters to be read in sequence, most feel like they can be read as their own stories as well. Particularly once you are past the initial few chapters that introduce Paddington and the Brown family, they start to read more and more like individual adventures within the established framework. I feel much the same about the Winnie-the-Pooh books, as a matter of fact.


Paddington is an endearing character and I can certainly see why his popularity has endured through the decades. He has a knack for getting himself into trouble and it's always interesting to see how he gets himself out of that trouble -- one way or another. Like many well-loved children's book characters, he means well, but mishaps, misadventures, and misunderstandings happen -- and make for great storytelling along the way. The novels are definitely still far above my son's level, but I do look forward to sharing them with him someday. In the meantime, I will continue reading/listening to the rest of the series myself and I'll have to remember to pull down our picture book versions at storytime!

Classics Club Review #10

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2017 Beat the Backlist Challenge Sign-Up

OK, this is my last year-long challenge for 2017. For real this time -- I'm sure everyone is sick of all the sign-up posts by now!


So at first, I thought this was too similar to the ShelfLove Challenge I am already participating in and didn't think another TBR-type challenge was a good idea. BUT this challenge includes all books published prior to 2017, so I can include my library reads. AND there is a Harry Potter House Cup mini challenge element and, seriously, how fun is that?!?


You make your own goals, there is no specification about type of books, and you earn points based on the number of pages in each book read, so I don't think they are excluding children's picture books (which I read a ton of), however, for my own sanity I am not including them for this challenge. It would be too much to keep track of, and honestly, I think they would start to exclude them if they had to deal with my gazillion picture book submissions!

I logged into my neglected Pottermore account and got myself sorted, so I'm going to join as a Ravenclaw. And while I won't be making a specific list of titles, I will set an overall number goal.

Hosted by Novel Night
Goal: 50 books published prior to 2017

On the one hand, 50 feels overambitious, but on the other hand I listen to a lot of audiobooks and am in two book clubs that typically don't read new releases. So I think 50 is reasonable without being too easy. Anyone want to join me?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017-2018 Chronological Sherlock Holmes Challenge Sign-Up

I thought I was done when I signed up for *just* four year-long reading challenges, but I found two more that are just too fun to pass up -- and technically this one is not a year-long challenge since it runs for 16 months :)



The goal is to read all of the Sherlock stories in order. The pace is set at one per week with three weeks allotted for each of the novels. A story a week just seems like the perfect way to enjoy these tales. Though there is also plenty of leeway in the schedule to play catch-up if I fall behind. And if I get some momentum going, I'm sure it can't hurt to read a little bit ahead to build in a bit of a buffer for weeks I may be extra busy. Several Sherlock books are on my Classics Club list and I've basically been procrastinating since high school when I first read and enjoyed a few stories for freshman English. I will procrastinate no more! I have all of Sherlock in both print and on audio, so I can alternate formats -- and may even try both for some stories -- I shall see what works!

I'll post my sign-up for the other challenge I found tomorrow -- and then that is it for challenges. For real this time :)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Bout of Books 18 Sign-Up

For 2016, I really wanted to take a break from week long read-a-thons and give the more intensive ones a try -- like Dewey's 24 Hour or 24in48. Well, that was a bust! They really don't work for this mom of a toddler, so I am happily jumping back on the Bout of Books bandwagon to start off 2017. For anyone unfamiliar, here are the official details:
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 2nd and runs through Sunday, January 8th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 18 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team
Low pressure is key! For me, this is about finding some extra time to read during the week and getting the new year off to a good start. I have two book club audiobooks to listen to for next week, I started Brown Girl Dreaming in print last night, and I'm sure I'll also be reading lots with the little man. Happy reading everyone!

P.S.  I'm planning to update on Twitter, but may also do a wrap-up here on the blog at the end of of the week. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Bookish Plans for 2017

I started writing out long-winded explanations for each of these "goals," but realized that is so completely unnecessary. By keeping this list short and sweet, it's more likely I will actually refer back to it from time to time throughout the year!

1. Continue writing short reviews on Goodreads, but...
2. remember I don't have to review every book!
3. Read more Newbery & Caldecott books
4. Read a variety of picture books
5. Read poetry and short stories
6. Read classics
7. Read at least five new-to-me authors (thanks Jade!)
8. Read (A LOT) more from my own shelves (#ShelfLove!)
9. Read new books I buy during 2017 in a timely manner
10. Use the library, but not as much as I have been (to help with #8)
11. Implement a book buying ban for YA and adult titles (exceptions for books to be read right away)
12. Use my wishlist shelf on Goodreads as a sort of waiting period to discourage impulse purchases
13. Spend less time researching, browsing, and shopping for books
14. Better curate my bookish email subscriptions, newsletters, and blogroll
15. ENJOY reading and sharing books with my son

Thanks to everyone who shared their ideas about book buying bans, limits, etc. I've taken bits and pieces from various suggestions and it is my sincere hope that by focusing on that last one -- the joy of reading -- the rest will fall into place. My free time is limited, so I need to make a conscious effort to spend that time wisely and many of the items on this list are there for that very reason. When I am tired or lacking focus, it's super easy to just browse lists and book sites and keep adding to my TBR, but that is not doing me any good. I learned a LOT about children's literature this year which I am happy about, but enough with the research already!

One final note -- for the new year, I have reset my "starting" TBR count on my sidebar to my number for the beginning of the year. This number now includes the individual titles from all my omnibus/treasury type books that collect multiple works in one binding (which really made that number jump!) This is probably only of interest to me, but I've decided on a "new year, new start" philosophy and wanted the most accurate starting number possible -- hopefully record-keeping errors and accidental omissions have been kept to a minimum. If I manage to get that number going (and staying!) in the right direction this year, I will consider that a success!

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2017 Reading Challenge Sign-Ups: Shelf Love + Book Buying

A new year, a new start, right? This year (like every year, it seems!) I'd like to read more of the books already on my shelves and do better about reading the new ones I buy in a timely manner. In 2016, I was doing fairly well until I really went down a rabbit hole with children's books. I learned a lot about children's lit listening to podcasts and doing various other research -- and our collection of picture books, classics, modern classics, middle grade, poetry, etc. etc. kind of exploded. And while I feel good about the types of books I bought, I think the time has come to cool it on the seeking out and get down to the reading.

I could use some more culling, especially of my "adult" books, but I really do think we have a pretty great "library" to read from now. Lots of it is way above my son's level, but there are just so many wonderful books I never experienced -- or don't remember! -- that I'd like to read and enjoy for myself as well. And there are plenty of unread books that are good for his level. So, onto the challenges...


Goal: My Shelves and I are Going Steady, 51+ books

I love this challenge and its positive spin on reading from our TBRs that focuses on the joy of books rather than the guilt of unread books. There will be quarterly discussions this year which is fantastic because as much as I love them, I never could quite keep up with monthly ones! I'm aiming for the highest level because I have a lot of unread children's books this time around. All books owned prior to January 1, 2017 count for this challenge.

And books purchased during 2017, count for this next challenge!


Host: Book Date
Goal: Maximizing Returns, 61-80%

As I've already mentioned, I bought a lot of children's books in 2016. Knowing the books will benefit someone other than just myself seems to weaken my resolve to cut back on book buying even more than it used to. But I'd really like to keep that in check this year. I very much hope to be in the higher end of my chosen percentage range and I'd be thrilled if I surpass it, but I'll try not to get ahead of myself! I often pick up Audible books when they run promotions I known I won't get to for a while, so those alone could really skew my stats and make 81% or more pretty unrealistic.