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.

Friday, December 30, 2016

2017 Reading Challenge Sign-Ups: Children's Lit

For 2017, I'm cutting back on reading challenges even more than I did in 2016 (which was quite a bit!) There are two children's book challenges though that I couldn't pass up. First, there is Julie's Newbery (and Caldecott) Challenge which was a lot of fun this year. I mostly read Caldecott books in 2016, but there are plenty more I have not read yet. And I've been wanting to read more middle grade books lately, so perhaps I will tackle more Newberys in 2017 as well. With Caldecott Honor books now counting in the new year, I'm going to go all out and aim for the highest level.

Host: Julie @Smiling Shelves
Goal: Konisgburg level which requires 75+ points

Caldecott Honor & Medal books earn 1 point
Newbery Honor books earn 2 points
Newbery Medal books earn 3 points

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The second kids' lit challenge I am joining is the 2017 Picture Book Challenge which couldn't be more perfect for me! Yes, I read picture books to my toddler son, but doing so has rekindled a love of these books for myself as well. I am always on the lookout for great picture books -- new and old -- and am repeatedly amazed by the depth, breadth, and sheer beauty of this "genre." I'm choosing the checklist option for this challenge which I think will be a great way to read a variety of picture books throughout the year.

Original artwork by Charles Haigh-Wood (1856-1927)

Host: Becky @Becky's Book Reviews
Goal: Complete Checklist (yes, all 102!)

1. An alphabet book 
2. A counting book 
3. Concept book: shapes or numbers or opposites or colors 
4. a book set on a farm or in the country 
5. a book set in the city or in an urban area 
6. a book set at the beach, in the ocean, or by a lake 
7. a book with human characters 
8. a book with animal characters 
9. a bedtime book 
10. a rhyming book 
11. a book celebrating art 
12. a book celebrating dance 
13. a book celebrating music 
14. a book celebrating family (parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, etc.) 
15. a book about feelings, expressing feelings 
16. a book with a twist (unexpected) ending 
17. a book about pets (cats, dogs, fish) 
18. a book celebrating libraries or reading 
19. a book translated into English (originally published in another language/country)
20. Mother Goose related
21. a book about adoption
22. a book by Gail Gibbons
23. a book by Jon Scieszka
24. a book featured on Reading Rainbow
25. free choice
26. out of print
27. wordless picture book
28. a book by Margaret Wise Brown
29. a board book
30. a book about trains or planes 
31. a book about cars or trucks 
32. a book about starting school 
33. a book about friendship (sharing, caring, forgiving) 
34. a book about being ME, about being unique, special, loved, etc. 
35. a fairy tale 
36. a twisted (adapted) fairy tale 
37. a book about a holiday 
38. a new-to-you author 
39. a new-to-you illustrator 
40. a book about new experiences (dentist, doctor, sleepovers, movies, playing sports, learning to swim, etc.) 
41. a series book 
42. a book celebrating food (cooking, eating, trying new foods, eating healthy) 
43. a book published before 1950 
44. a book published in the 1950s 
45. a book published in the 1960s 
46. a book published in the 1970s 
47. a book published in the 1980s 
48. a book published in the 1990s 
49. a book published in the 2000s 
50. a book published 2010-2016 
51. a book published in 2017 
52. a book by Dr. Seuss 
53. a book by Mo Willems 
54. a book by Jan Thomas 
55. a book by Eric Carle 
56. a book by Laura Numeroff 
57. a book by Patricia Polacco 
58. a book by Jon Klassen 
59. a book by Beatrix Potter 
60. a book by Kevin Henkes 
61. a book written or illustrated by LeUyen Pham 
62. a Caldecott winner 
63. a Caldecott honor 
64. a picture book biography 
65. a nonfiction picture book 
66. a book from your childhood 
67. a book you discovered as an adult 
68. a book celebrating writing, being an author or illustrator 
69. a library book 
70. an audio book 
71. a book about dinosaurs OR dragons 
72. nonfiction book about animals (or animal) 
73. a challenged book OR a controversial book 
74. a book that makes you laugh 
75. a book that makes you cry 
76. hate the text, love the art 
77. love the text, hate the art 
78. a book with a great cover 
79. a book with an ugly cover 
80. a book about toys 
81. a book about weather 
82. a picture book for older readers 
83. a book of jokes, riddles, tongue-twisters 
84. a book about seasons 
85. a song 
86. a poetry book 
87. a book by a celebrity 
88. a book published in Australia 
89. a book published in the UK 
90. a book about science or math 
91. a book about history or historical event 
92. a book about sports 
93. a book about celebrating birthdays 
94. a book about a President or world leader 
95. a book about another country 
96. a book celebrating faith 
97. a pop-up book, or, a book with cut-outs or flaps or fold-outs 
98. a bilingual book 
99. a television series that has been adapted to a book 
100. a book that has been adapted to a television series 
101. an adaptation of a myth or legend 
102. a book about babies 

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I've already been doing most of my (short) reviews over on Goodreads since stepping away from more formal reviews here on the blog, but I've also printed out the checklist to keep track with pen and paper. I'm thinking monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly progress posts here on the blog would be nice to share the titles I've been reading -- I'll have to see what works!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

2016 Reading Challenge Wrap-Ups

I'm working on plans for 2017, so that must mean it's time to wrap things up for 2016! These challenges all have some time left and while I may tack a few extra books on in the next week and a half, it won't really make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. I will, however, update this post with my final, final numbers after December 31st -- for my own information more than anything!

Goal: 300 365 books
Progress as of 12/20/16: 418 books
Final Total: 443 books
I upped my goal even more since the year's halfway mark. Including all books (picture books, etc.) is why my goal has been so high. At an average of a book a day though, I left 365 as my final goal even when I surpassed it with plenty of time left in the year.

Show Your Shelves Some Love Challenge
Goal: 51+ books I owned prior to 2016
Progress as of Dec 20th: 29 books I owned prior to 2016
Final Total: 30 books I owned prior to 2016
Not gonna make it! I'm actually only two books away from the next level, but there's not much chance of getting that far, forget all the way to 51! Looking forward to hitting the reset button and trying again in 2017.

Goal: 80-100% of books I buy in 2016
Progress as of Dec 20th: 25% of books I bought in 2016
Final Percentage: 29% of books I bought in 2016
Hopefully I didn't make any record-keeping errors for this one, but 25% sounds about right. I might be able to budge this one slightly in the next 11 days, but any significant jump is not likely. I'm really looking forward to doing better on this one next year. 

Goal: 60-74 points
Progress as of Dec 20th: 47 points
Final Total47 points
13 points is kind of a lot to make up, but this one feels so close! I have some Caldecott books on hold from the library we will likely read before the end of the year, so this one may see a bit of a bump before the official end of the year. (The list is super long, so titles only!)

1. Frog and Toad Together (2 pts)
2. The Crossover (3 pts)
3. Kitten's First Full Moon (1 pt)
4. The Little House (1 pt)
5. Jumanji (1 pt)
6. Where the Wild Things Are (1 pt)
7. Flora and Ulysses (3 pts)
8. Cinderella (1 pt)
9. Slyvester and the Magic Pebble (1 pt)
10. The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (1 pt)
11. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (1 pt)
12. Golem (1 pt)
13. Finding Winnie (1 pt)
14. Tuesday (1 pt)
15. Last Stop on Market Street (3 pts)
16. Madeline's Rescue (1 pt)
17. The One and Only Ivan (3 pts)
18. Roller Girl (2 pts)
19. The Lion and the Mouse (1 pt)
20. This is Not My Hat (1 pt)
21. Locomotive (1 pt)
22. The House in the Night (1 pt)
23. A Sick Day for Amos McGee (1 pt)
24. A Ball for Daisy (1 pt)
25. Time of Wonder (1 pt)
26. My Friend Rabbit (1 pt)
27. The Three Pigs (1 pt)
28. The Hello, Goodbye Window (1 pt)
29.The Snowy Day (1 pt)
30. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (1 pt)
31. Officer Buckle and Gloria (1 pt)
32. Owl Moon (1 pt)
33. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears (1 pt)
34. Lon Po Po (1 pt)
35. Grandfather's Journey (1 pt)
36. Snowflake Bentley (1 pt)
37. Rapunzel (1 pt)
BONUS PICK: Reading the Art in Caldecott Books

Goal: 3-6 series
Progress as of Dec 20th: 6 series
Final Total6 series
I'm kind of shocked I completed my goal on this one! I included picture book series and graphic novel/comic series which certainly helped. And I counted Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as completing that series as well. I don't know if others would count those, but for my own goals, I say they counted. I actually have the latest Lumberjanes out from the library right now, so I may even get up to 7 before the end of the year!

1. The Diviners series, by Libba Bray
2. Saga series, by Brian Vaughan & Fiona Staples
3. Journey trilogy, by Aaron Becker
4. Complete Peter Rabbit collection, by Beatrix Potter
5. Complete Curious George collection, by Margret & H.A. Rey
6. Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling

Goal: 6-9 banned or challenged books
Progress as of Dec 20th: 6 banned or challenged books
Final Total: 7 banned or challenged books
It's always nice to complete your own challenge, right? Especially since this was my last year hosting, I'm glad I ended on a high note. I may (finally) finish the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets before the end of the year, so perhaps I will get an extra on this challenge as well.

1. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
2. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, by William Steig
3. Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne
4. The House at Pooh Corner, by A.A. Milne
5. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J.K. Rowling
7. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling

P.S. These are some strange books to be challenged, don't you think?!

P.P.S. Technically, I finished HP and the Chamber of Secrets on January 1st, but I'm counting it for 2016 because so little was left it seems like cheating to count it for 2017 -- and I've got to put it somewhere!

Goal: 10 uniquely formatted books
Progress as of Dec 20th: 8 uniquely formatted books
Final Total8 uniquely formatted books
Not quite going to make it on this one! I thoroughly enjoyed all the books I did read for this challenge and plan to read more of them in the future.

1. The Crossover, by Alexander Kwame
2. A Sky Full of Kindness, by Rob Ryan
3. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
4. Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick
5. The Marvels, by Brian Selznick
6. Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
7. Flora and Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo
8. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling, et al

Goal: Track my reading and donate to a different organization at least once per quarter
ProgressOn track!
I got a bit behind on tracking this one, but have since caught up. So far I've chosen St. Jude's Children's Research HospitalReading Is FundamentalFINCA, and Humanwire. November and December will get tallied and a final donation made after December officially ends.

* * * * *

 How did you do on your challenges or goals for 2016?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

2017 Banned Books Challenge

It's that time of year again when all the 2017 reading challenges start popping up across the blogosphere. I hosted the Banned Books Challenge for the past four years, but my time for hosting has now come to an end. I am very happy to report that Book Dragon's Lair has graciously taken over though. So head on over to check out the 2017 challenge and sign up! 13 readers have already joined and I would like to wish her all the best as the new host.

Now hosted by Book Dragon's Lair!

I'd also like to take a minute to thank each and every person who has participated over the past four years or who has read along with any of the Banned Book Challenge stuff I have posted. When I decided to create a reading challenge, I didn't really know what I was doing and never imagined I would have so many fellow readers join me. So THANK YOU! The sign-up posts for 2014, 2015, and 2016 are my three all-time most viewed posts on this blog with 2015 leading the pack. That was the year Bustle featured my challenge (I mean, what?! I'm still amazed by that!) and while 2015 is long over, I STILL get traffic from that post on a regular basis. Whoever noticed this challenge on this tiny corner of the internet and thought it was worth sharing with other readers, thank you, too!

I am still an advocate for the freedom to read and I think that it is more important than ever to make sure that books aren't censored. Each person has the right to choose what they do or do not want to read for themselves and their own children, but they should not be able to make that decision for everyone else. And as this wonderful piece recently reminded me, many books are supposed to make us uncomfortable. So read on, my friends!

Don't join the book burners. Don't think you're going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book...” ― Dwight D. Eisenhower

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Reading the Art in Caldecott Award Books

Reading the Art in Caldecott Award Books: A Guide to the Illustrations by Heidi K. Hammond & Gail D. Nordstrom
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Date: August 2014
Format: print
How did I get this book? borrowed from library
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Authors | Publisher

I am participating in Julie's Newbery/Caldecott Challenge this year and was looking to learn more about why certain books win these awards when I found Reading the Art in Caldecott Award Books in my library system's catalog. I borrowed it at least three times and maxed out my renewals each time. Even though I have now read it in its entirety, I am seriously considering buying a copy to have as a reference. It seems to be an academic-type book though, so it is rather pricey for a paperback -- used or new -- so I'm holding out for now. I admit I am exceedingly enthusiastic about picture books these days, but regardless, I still feel like this is a real hidden gem of a book. Realistically, I imagine this book has mostly been used by librarians and teachers, but I think it could have wider appeal to parents if not for the price. Delving more deeply into picture books isn't for everyone, but I'm sure I'm not the only bookish parent who is more comfortable with understanding and appreciating text and wished to know more about the merits of award-winning illustration.

So what exactly will you find in this book? The introduction covers the Caldecott award criteria and the process of choosing the winners. The authors share their own experience serving on the 2011 Caldecott committee (without revealing anything confidential, of course). I know it takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but it sure sounded like fun for anyone who loves picture books! The authors also explain how and why they wrote the book and how to use it. It is important to know it is not meant to be read alone, but rather to be read alongside the picture books themselves so you can examine the illustrations more closely as you learn more about them.

After the introduction, we move right into entries for 56 different Caldecott award books. The entries are presented alphabetically by title and include all of the Medal and Honor books for 2011-2014 plus selected titles from earlier years. It doesn't cover nearly all of the Caldecott titles going back to 1938, but there is enough here to give you a solid foundation for better understanding how the award works and what qualifies a book to receive it. I would love if the authors wrote a follow-up featuring additional Caldecott books, but I don't know how realistic that wish is!

Each entry lists the title, author, medal or honor status, year, style, and medium. Then there four sections: "analysis," "for further consideration," "illustrator note," and "sources consulted." Each entry is not long, but they are packed full of insights and observations about the book and its artwork. You can read the entry for The Invention of Hugo Cabret excerpted on the authors' website here to see an example.

My usual method was to read the picture book once, then read its entry while flipping back through the picture book and examining it more closely. I cannot even begin to count how many times I missed things in the illustrations. And while most of the time, I felt like my biggest takeaway was to just pay better attention already! -- there were many other cases where additional background information was provided that I never would have known without additional research. And as easy as it sounds to just pay better attention, many years of focusing primarily on the written words is a hard habit to break. The other thing this book was really good at was pointing out "threads" in the illustrations -- for example, a minor character or image that appears on every page. I am terrible at picking up that sort of thing on my own unless it is glaringly obvious. I am definitely not well-practiced in noticing more subtle things in picture book artwork.

There is a glossary which proved extremely useful as I encountered unfamiliar terms. There are also three different indexes so you can easily identify picture books by media and style as well as by title/author/illustrator. The "sources consulted" listed for each entry (in addition to the sources listed in one of the back appendixes) are proving to be a treasure trove of additional reading. I've started looking for some of them in my library system and plan to continue delving into the world of picture books. I have a feeling I've started down a bit of a rabbit hole here, but I'm definitely OK with that. Apologies to anyone who isn't so interested in picture books, but this "genre" is even more vast and more fascinating than I first imagined and I won't be leaving it any time soon!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Help a Bookworm Out! (Please?)

Hello fellow book lovers! I've been mulling something over and haven't come up with a solution, so I thought I'd write a quick post to ask for your advice. You see, I've gone a bit overboard with with the book buying (yes, again). On the one hand, I feel pretty good about what I've been adding to our home library -- mainly children's books of all kinds. On the other hand, I feel like I go down the rabbit hole of discovery, research, and deal-finding way too easily (and way too often) these days. Even my library browsing feels a little out of hand at times!

So I'm seriously thinking about some sort of book buying ban (or rules/limits) for 2017. I feel like an outright ban for a whole year is going to backfire. So I'm curious what sort of guidelines you've used in the past? Or suggestions of rules you think would be worth trying? I'm considering something along the lines of not allowing any new purchases unless I've read a certain number of books on my TBR. Or cutting myself off if I haven't read a certain percentage of any new books I buy in the new year. What do you guys think? I'm hoping for a solution that will encourage enjoyment of what we already have, which shouldn't be so hard, right? Thanks! :)