Friday, November 27, 2015

December Book Events

Here are some upcoming bookish events in the Boston area! Check them out while you are picking up all those bookish Christmas presents.

Porter Square Books

December 9, 7 pm
Sy Montogomery and Keith Ellenbogen talk about Octopus, their in depth look at the real life of an octopus.  Not a kids book, per se, but probably a kid you know would love this!

Brookline Booksmith

December 6, 2 pm
Carson Ellis, illustrator of many books, including her phenomenal new Home, a must see!

Harvard Bookstore

Not a book event but their warehouse sale is December 5th and 6th!  Go get books!

Boston Public Library

December 1, 6 pm
Sister Souljah presents her YA book, A Moment of Silence, at the Central library

Somerville Public Library

December 6, 3 pm
DJ/Author Jef Czekaj will drop some beats, taking requests, and perhaps read some books.  He's definitely a local favorite!

December 13, 2 pm
Alice in Wonderland read-a-thon and Tea Party!  This is the year of Alice!

An Unlikely Story

December 4, 4 pm
Carson Ellis!  A little farther from Boston but a superb venue!

You won't see...Jeff Kinney.  He sold over 900 tickets to 4 different appearances here within an hour. It's a good time to write children's books!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

On Empathy

My thoughts are still swirling from this weekend's tragic events across our world.  In more than one place citizens of the world have faced acts of terror. Unfair. As has happened before in situations such as these, my mind and soul can't seem to land on a feeling. Instead, I read posts and articles. I listen to opinions and reflect on my feelings towards those.

This weekend I was supposed to attend a Ted Talk session, including Linda Sue Park as one speaker, here in Boston. We are currently reading Linda Sue Park's A Long Walk to Water in class. The book tells the story of one of the thousands of "Lost Boys" of Sudan, who fled the second civil war in Sudan in 1985. Her talk was about the power of children's books to change lives.

At the last minute, I decided not to go. I knew I could watch a live streaming of her talk later and I just did that. In her talk, which you can view here (she starts at 4:01) she describes how children's books offer a place and space to feel empathy for others.  To see that life isn't fair, but it might be worse for others than it is for you.  Once you have empathy, you are empowered to take action and become engaged in making change.

We live in a world where we are quick to point fingers and lay blame. I think, in part, because we long for fast answers. The internet offers the promise of immediacy. The news of the attacks in Paris reached my cell phone instantly. Articles were posted within 20 minutes of me learning about the attacks. Friends shared images, articles. Quick to follow the feeling of shock and need for comfort, was the finger pointing. This group was using the attacks to blame this other group for problems completely unrelated to the attacks. Blame was shared for not knowing about all the other violence, or perhaps for not acknowledging the other violence, in our world. What about refugees? What about Beirut? What about Kenya?  Why aren't you saying everything there is to say instead of just one thing? My social media venues became a place of separation, not coming together.

In all of this, I was reminded of something I overheard at a book reading I attended a few weeks ago. The author was promoting democratic discussions in classrooms.

From Several Short Sentences About Writing.
Perhaps advice not just in revising our writing,
but also revising our lives. 
Obviously, this is something I support. An audience member spoke up, "Talking is great, but when do we offer the time to think?" (Side note, I found out later she was the one and only Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot and man, do I want to sit and have a cup of tea with her to discuss the world.)

I often console angry, frustrated children by reminding them that they cannot control the actions of others. They can control their own actions and reactions. To do this, I ask them to stop and think. Think for a long time. When we take time to think, we provide ourselves with a space to start to feel empathy. I assure you, I have no answers for the violence that dominoed through our world this weekend. But before you share, comment, "like", or react, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to think first.  

Friday, November 13, 2015


Folks.  My life is a dream come true.  Not only is Janet touring (tickets sold out waaay before I could get to them) but Missy just released her new music video.

This calls for... DANCE FRIDAY!!

Also, there was a double rainbow at dismissal today.  Yes, world, things are looking mighty fine.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

All the Lit That's Fit to Knit!

Hey there readers!  It has been an exhausting two months of school as I have tried to get a handle on a school year that brings with it twice as much paperwork as usual.  This is the excuse I am going with for why I haven't written in awhile.  I've also been knitting up a storm.  My cousin and her husband are expecting a little one in December.  My cousin's husband is a big fan of Star Wars and the new Star Wars film happens to open in theaters around the same time.  It only seemed appropriate that I knit thematic items for the newest Howe family member.

Yoda Bottle Coozie

Baby Yoda Hat

Remember when I subtly mentioned that there was a person in my life who came home and met the family?  Well, 6 months later we are still going strong.  He sealed the deal when, as I was getting ready to knit my knits, he said, "Maybe I'll learn to knit as well!"  And let me tell you, he is killing it. Below is a picture of his starter knitting kit.  I picked some manly colors and I think it goes well with his manly candle, manly electric guitar, records, and... yeah.  

A Manly Knit Kit

Want some literary knits? Well, I got those for you too!  This link sends you to some knitting patterns for literary mittens!  Just in time for cold weather!

Also, these are some of my favorite picture books that feature knitting.  Click on the picture to go to Porter Square Book's website and you can learn all about them...and then buy them!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Getting Behind Picture Books

This year, the Carle Museum lost a great supporter.  Barbara "Bobbie" Carle was Eric Carle's partner in crime and cofounder of the Carle Museum.  Barbara had a long history in education and although I was too bashful to introduce myself, I was blessed with the opportunity to see this amazing woman in action at the Carle Gala in 2013.

The Carle also recently announced a new campaign.  #GetBehindPictureBooks asks you to take a picture with your favorite picture book and send it to their Facebook page.  I selected My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown because that is a picture book I can definitely get behind.

I can #GetBehindPictureBooks!

Recently, I have been reading some pretty spectacular books.  Here are some of my favorite picture books.

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith

Beautiful endpapers

Love wordless

Sweetness pulling at my heartstrings

The back endpapers

Sidewalk Flowers is a wordless book that just melted my heart.  A little girl and her father go for a walk through the neighborhood.  As they walk through their mostly black and white world, the girl stops to pick flowers growing on the sidewalk, side of the road, etc.  Just like every 5-ish year old, the little girl sees the magic behind sidewalk flowers.  She starts to give the flowers away, making the world around her just a little more beautiful.  I definitely want this one in my permanent collection and will be making space for it asap.

P. Zonka Lays an Egg by Julie Paschkis

P. Zonka is not like the other hens. She doesn't want to sit around and lay eggs like all the other ladies of the roost.  She wants to wander around and see the world.  The other chickens don't like this and are constantly pressuring her to lay an egg.  After some adventures, she finally decides to give egg laying a whirl and she lays the most beautiful egg.  With a nod to the beautiful pysanka Ukranian Easter Eggs, P. Zonka will win your heart with her spirit.  (Also a good book to give to mothers/mothers-in-law who might be not-so-subtly suggesting you start to lay your own eggs. Hehe!)

Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won

Ok friends, you know I love hats.  So of course I was ready for yet another hat book.  Hooray for Hat! shows just the kind of magic a hat can bring to your day.  When all the animals are feeling a little grumpy, a box full of hats is just the thing to spread happiness around.  I love, and kids will love, that the book flips from horizontal to long vertical pages.  I definitely think you should throw your own Hooray for Hat party, complete with a conga line, after reading this book.

Coming soon...all the middle grade books I have devoured in the last 3 weeks! Right now I am waiting for my Grandma Pork Chops (Grandma Howe's famous recipe in honor of Canadian Thanksgiving!) and homemade applesauce to finish.  Then it is pumpkin carving time!  I love fall!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Do This Book Stuff!

Alive!  Here are book events!

Boston Book Festival is coming!  October 23 - 24! Click here for more info.
Authors include: Louis Sachar, Molly Bang, The Steads, Matt de la Pena, Libba Bray, M.T. Anderson, Patricia Reilly Giff, Rebecca Stead, Andrew Smith.

Harvard Bookstore

Oct 7: Jason Segel presents his new kid's book, a sequel to his first book

Oct 21: Chelsea Clinton signs her first book for children and teens, It's Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired, Get Going!

Wellesley Bookstore

Oct 24: Story Hour Panel featuring 5 local children's authors: Nancy Tupper Ling, Josh Funk, Anna Staniszewski, Ammi-Joan Paquette and Jane Sutcliffe

Boston Public Library

Oct. 14: M.T. Anderson, author of Octavian Nothing, talks books and history

Cambridge Public Library

Nov 7: Cambridge has selected Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming as their Cambridge Reads book.  Listen to Ms. Woodson in person at the Central Library!

Barnes & Noble

Oct 20: Author Liz Kessler presents her book Emily Windsnap and the Ship of Lost Souls at the Burlington Store

Oct 23: Picture book author David Moynihan presents his book Hiding Dinosaurs at the Burlington Store

An Unlikely Story

Oct 11: Picture book author Debra Sosin

Oct 13: YA author Diana Renn

Oct 17: Amulet (Graphic Novel) series author Kazu Kibuishi

Oct 18: Liz Kessler, author of Emily Windsnap and the Ship of Lost Souls

Oct 23: Middle grade author Max Brallier

Oct 24: Picture book author team Carolyn Cory Scoppettone, and Priscilla Alpaugh

Eric Carle Museum
Oct 10: Mo Willems and Tony DiTerlizzi made a book together and they can't wait to tell you all about it!

Oct 24: Author Marcus Ewert and illustrator Lisa Brown present their book Mummy Cat

Nov 7: Tomie dePaola is at the Carle!  It already sold out but you can get on a waiting list!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Wake Up and Boogie! Dancing in Movies + Michael Jackson = Win!

Did you dance yet this morning?  If not, here is a new video for your weekend.  I'm totally regifting this one.  Thanks Aunt Beth!!

Me and Michael!

Monday, August 17, 2015

On Your Mark, Get Set....Go! Over 100 Book Suggestions to Start Your School Year

You know what time of year it is.  You wake up in a sweat in the middle of the night because you have had yet another dream in which the students take over the classroom.  You start google searching things like, "101 creative things to do with tissue paper in a classroom," or "10 steps to avoid teacher burnout from the beginning."  You feel your heart rate go up walking through Target because WHY THE HELL DO THEY HAVE BACK TO SCHOOL SUPPLIES OUT IN JULY???

We got the back to school blues
Yes folks, it is time to go back to school.  Our kiddos start a week from Thursday and my meetings start a week from today. This summer I had one of my busiest on record.  (More on that in a non-book related post later.)  I unexpectedly managed to get almost all of my summer reading list read. The only outlier was Gulliver's Travels.  Man, that book was just not doing it for me. Unapologetically, I let it go.  

My first day as a teacher ever...
About to start my 11th year as a teacher!

I've been seeing Facebook posts and getting some emails about what books to stock up on for the upcoming school year.  Here's what I do.  I read the twitter-sphere, the blogs, the reposts of old posts, and I keep my Boston Public Library account page open in a tab.  Then I request the books immediately or put them in my "For Later" shelf.  Pro-tip: There is much power in the For Later shelf.  I used to have stacks of books everywhere that I couldn't get through.  Now, I keep those suckers queued up so I am ready with a new book once I finish and return the other library books.  

Without further ado, here are some links to the lists I've been pouring through as well as some lists I've compiled myself.  I counted 'em up and there are over 100 books here.  I also added a bonus section at the end with even more books!

Beach Books that you should read if you are desperately still clinging to summer

A recent Facebook post I saw asked for good read alouds for kindergarten on the first day of school. Here is the list of books that were named:

  1. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes 
  2. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen 
  3. Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell
  4. My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown
  5. Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin
  6. A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip and Erin Stead
  7. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
  8. Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell
  9. P Zonka Lays an Egg by Julie Paschkis
  10. Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor
  11. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett
  12. Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
  13. Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley
  14. Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber
  15. Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt
  16. Ruby the Copycat by Peggy Rathmann
  17. The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak
  18. The Day the Crayon’s Quit by Drew Daywalt
  19. Chu’s First Day of School by Neil Gaiman

Hoot, one of my favorite characters of 2015

EXTRA SPECIAL BONUS!  Get ahead of the crowd with this list!

Books from the future (Publisher's Weekly's list of new books coming in Spring of 2016)

Alright, no more panic attacks or have lists!  (Just kidding, I know you will still have panic attacks and nightmares.)

Monday, August 3, 2015

All the Stacks

I fully admit that I am one of those folks who has romanticized the stacked books that pile up in "real book lovers'" homes.  Surely it must say something about a person when they are surrounded by stacks and stacks of books.  Certainly they must love books more than anyone else, right?

Thanks, interwebs!  I learned this because of you!

While I have always pined over the cozy apartment with my own stacks, my gypsy spirit has kept me from ever really getting some good stacks of my own.  In the past 18 years, I have only stayed in one apartment for 2 years, at the most.  Sometimes I've even been there less than a year.  While I have always prided myself in hauling my enormous collection with me, the consistent purge in my life seemed to keep the stacks away.

As I mentioned recently, I have signed on for year 3 in my current apartment.  This being summer vacation, I decided to take some time and give the apartment a good once over.  This is mostly because one day it seemed as if the walls were caving in around me.  When did I acquire all this...stuff?  One thing that was most certainly present was my own collection of book stacks.  In fact, it seemed things were out of control.

Stack of unread books...right next to my unplayed guitar.
My neglected things.  Wah wah. 

What to do?  I don't think I've rid myself of a book, other than sharing it with someone, in...well, maybe never!  Alas, I share my space with two lovelies and it isn't quite fair for them to have to put up with my growing collection.  They have been very tolerant so far.  I have also been trying to save money, which means the library has been my main squeeze for the past year. I really didn't need to keep all of these books if I could just check them out.

I set to the task of "curating" my library.  It took me about 4 hours but in the end I felt much better.  I discovered that sometimes I own multiple copies of the same book.  I donated all the books to the elementary school around the corner. All books now fit on shelves. They are organized at last. There are no more stacks. I even made room to store my bike and incorporate a new chair into my bedroom. A chair for...reading books!

Goodbye books!
Do y'all have stacks? One of my favorite children's lit bloggers just tweeted this post the other day and I giggled at the perfect timing. I'm curious how many people actually have these romantic tsundokus and how many just dream of them like I used to. Whatcha got world? Show me your stacks!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

HOLY CRAP!  It has been two freakin months since I blogged.  I can tell y'all missed me by the hoards of emails and texts I've been keeping at bay.  No, just kidding.  I don't think a single person noticed.

Sooo, here's what's new.

1.  Yes, I came up with a summer reading list.  It was a bunch of award winners, with a couple others thrown in, that I didn't manage to get to in the school year.  My list includes:

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle
This is a picture book and I happened to let a certain lovely young lady have a go at my copy before I read it.  I think she liked it.

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, & The Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming
A young adult/older middle grade book about just what the title says.  It has been winning awards left and right.  I'll let you know what I think!

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
Because I have never read it before!  I heard it isn't all that awesome but I'm looking forward to it.

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart
So, honestly, I don't remember what this is about.  I know it won something so I put it on my list. But it has been awhile. I just started it and I am pretty sure this kid has cancer.  Not sure if I have it in me to read another tear jerker (TFIOS was enough for this lady!) so we'll see how it goes!

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman
Yep, for middle graders.  I freaking loved this book!!!  A little bit of magic makes its way into the Berkshires.  Just enough to make this a magical realism (my fave!) delight.

Special Delivery by Philip C. Stead
He was a part of the dynamic duo who brought A Sick Day for Amos McGee into my life.  Special Delivery lives up to the expectations that a Stead brings with it.  A little girl has a very special delivery for her lonely aunt, one that will make you giggle at the end.

The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
It's my Gabo book of the summer and I cranked it out straight away.  This book is actually nonfiction. It was a piece he wrote for a newspaper, quite controversial in its time, that tells the harrowing tale of a sailor who is thrown overboard and left at sea for a good 9 days.  My favorite line, "I think that an old sailor who has traveled the whole world can determine by the movement of his ship which sea he is sailing."  So. Freakin'. True.

2. In other news...I signed a lease for my apartment.  This is a HUGE deal because it is not a new apartment.  It is the same apartment and I signed a lease for a 3rd consecutive year.  Which means that is the longest I have lived in one apartment/home since I was...18!  That's a lot of rental deposits folks.  I have spent 16 years bouncing around and I know I will eventually move again...but it feels so good!

Roomies for one more year!
I'm so lucky!
(They're so special...)

3.  I am also staying in the same job for a 3rd year!  That hasn't happened since college!  The savings account is loving me so much these days.

Sign me up for one more year of fort building!!

My summer started off with a bang.  I met this fantastic person who will be coming home with me soon to meet the parents.  (Another HUGE deal!)  I have been on 4 trips since school started. Those range anywhere from 7 days to 1 day (a quick jaunt to NYC) and I am finally home for a bit.  I am hoping in this next week I will catch up on some blogging.  I really have been reading a ton of books, just haven't let you know about them yet.

Books and Ice Cream with the Monkeys

Spending time with Gram

Hat shopping with bella Bianca


Beach time with my LA fam


Harmonicas and a road trip to Montreal
started the summer off right

Also, I've missed so many book events.  The Boston Book Festival just announced their lineup of presenters for the fall, including Margaret Atwood and Louis Sachar.  I hope you accept that with my sincerest apologies for abandoning you.  (Sorry mom!)

This happened!  Boys, books, and Dan Gutman!
Thanks Owen for the fab shirts!