Friday, January 29, 2010


I'm still working on my top 10 children's chapter books list. Right now I've got it down to thirty, after taking off almost all my old favorites that maybe I like so much because of nostalgia, rather than innate quality. but The Teddy Bear Habit totally holds up, and I didn't read Matilda until I was in my thirties, so not so much nostalgia there.

The True Meaning of Smekday Adam Rex
The Shadow Thieves Anne Ursu
The Wright 3 Blue Balliett
The Invention of Hugo Cabret Brian Selznick
Igraine The Brave Cornelia Funke
Toys Go Out: Being the Adventures of a Knowledgeable Stingray, a Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic Emily Jenkins
Shakespeare's Secret Elise Broach
Fly by Night Frances Hardinge
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4) J.K. Rowling
The Teddy Bear Habit or How to Become a Winner James Lincoln Collier
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy Jeanne Birdsall
Lunch Walks Among Us (Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist) Jim Benton
The Diamond of Drury Lane Julia Golding
The Wall and the Wing Laura Ruby
Sisters Eight Bk 3: Georgia's Greatness (Sisters Eight) Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters Lesley M.M. Blume
Gideon the Cutpurse(The Gideon Trilogy: Book Two) Linda Buckley-Archer
The Willoughbys Lois Lowry
Whales on Stilts M.T. Anderson
Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls #1: Moving Day Meg Cabot
The Fairy-Tale Detectives (The Sisters Grimm, #1) Michael Buckley
• Odd and the Frost Giants Neil Gaiman
Dealing with Dragons (The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Book 1) Patricia C. Wrede
The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, #2) Philip Pullman
Larklight: A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space Philip Reeve
Matilda Roald Dahl
The London Eye Mystery Siobhan Dowd
The Wee Free Men Terry Pratchett
Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog Ysabeau S. Wilce

So far, the only help the Offspring have been is to choose Georgia's Greatness as their favorite of the Sisters Eight books, because "it has the most excitement and none of that valentine stuff". Fair enough, although so far I think Dorinda's special skill is the coolest.

Choosing favorites is hard.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Once You Notice, You Can't Stop

Siren song, page 203:

"The woman was tall and statuesque, with long, shiny, raven-colored hair, creamy coffee-colored skin, and big cat-like emerald eyes."

I don't know what Ursu had in mind, but the illustration at the top of the chapter is probably not it. I understand that authors have no control, and that illustrations are often commissioned without the illustrator getting to read the text. But that little picture, whatever it's called, is not of a woman with black hair and coffee skin. Sorry, I can't scan the picture, and I can't find it online, but I'll try to photograph it.

I don't get it. Why?

Friday, January 22, 2010

I got nothin

I'm reading Anne Ursu's The Siren Song and loving it, because sea monsters and Greek gods behaving badly, what's not to love?

And because it's Friday, I'm feeling a little tired. So, sorry, anyone who might have dropped by hoping for something good. I'd like to amuse you, but I have nothing to offer.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Little, Brown, You've Let Me Down, Too?

I 'm reading the The Mysterious Benedict Society out to the kids right now. Hey, guess what? The front cover is surprisingly white. We couldn't figure which one was supposed to be Sticky.

100 Scope Notes and Bookshelves of Doom are all over this, and Betsy Bird first brought it up at Fuse #8 before I started reading her blog.

Y'all, it's not funny.

You can view the first cover for yourself.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I'm Sure it will Come as No Surprise

to anyone that when I have managed to read or reject my library book stack down to a mere three volumes, I look up my account today and discover six, count 'em, six books on hold for me.

I'm now on page 28 of No One You Know, on loaner from the fabulous woman in the next-door office. This cover shows profiles of two women, either of whom might possibly be Christine Lahti. I love Christine Lahti, so that's okay, but it makes me think I'm looking at a movie tie-in. I'm not snobbish about tie-in covers, especially not on a loaned book, but I am vaguely disappointed that I won't be able to see the movie soon starring Christine Lahti. I request that the movie-making powers-that-be fix this lack in my life.


In related book news (related to me, I mean), funniest parenting moment in a while: Friday night at nine o'clock I tell the five girls in my living room to start getting ready for bed. They've already had a PJ fashion show, so they're dressed, but teeth must be brushed, etcetera. A short while later I look in on them, and there they all are, spread hither and thither with a selection of flashlights and lanterns, and everybody has a book. Yeah, that's right, I let your kid stay up too late reading at my house. You're welcome.


The Possum is using most of her reading time for Battle of the Books books. This week she's going to get together with a classmate to film a fake news segment, including a fake commercial, about a book for class. I wouldn't be as touched by this if I hadn't just posted about writing and filming with Melissa, these several years ago. Sample bit: the two newscasters break for a commercial and start fighting. Camera comes back on to them as one is crawling up off the floor. Other newscaster holds up product and says, "Get up off your knees, honey, use Step-Saver."

As far as I can recall, I've never actually seen anyone scrub a floor on her knees, and when my beloved MIL mentioned recently that she still scrubs the kitchen on her knees, I was shocked. I couldn't have been more shocked if she told me something more deliberately shocking.

Friday, January 15, 2010

It's Party Time

Tonight I will be hosting a gathering for five of the KitKatPandaBatWolf's closest friends. My husband and my oldest daughter have made plans away from the house. Six eight year-olds playing games, eating pizza and cookie cake, watching a movie and staying up late.

My friend of longest standing, Miss Melissa, was one of the attendees of my own birthday sleepover extravaganza lo, these many years ago.

I hope this goes as well, and I hope that at least one of these girls will be such a meaningful part of my daughter's life for so long.

That came out way mushier than I meant, but it is a wonderful thing to have a good friend who remembers the silliness of childhood, in our case, a love of Nancy Drew and Gone With the Wind, and The Year of the Cat, and "Tonight's the Night" and making stop-motion movies, and writing parodies of commercials. In a very real way that stuff never gets old and I hope we're still laughing together at a hundred. The cackling will be deafening if we aren't already deaf.

Are you still in touch with any friends from your childhood? What makes you laugh?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Happy Birthday!

The KitKatPandaBatWolf turns eight today. The excitement will be shared in her class with a boy who's also turning eight. Cupcakes and apple juice boxes for all!

Tomorrow night she's having a winter-themed sleepover. Pizza, and a movie, and a craft project and some games. No doubt there will be cookie cake crumbs all over, and voices long after I tell them to pipe down and go to sleep. I can't wait.

It should be a big deal, this birthday business, shared interest that I have in the original event. But I really don't feel anything very profound. I am aware how quickly the Offspring are growing up, but I'm not saddened by it; I don't feel that anything is lost. On the contrary. I've always loved them, of course. But each year as they grow, and develop more interests, make more friends, add more skills to their tool belts, I just find myself liking them more. Now they recommend books, and music, and movies, and I'm probably going to share their enjoyment in all of them. Goodbye and Good Riddance to Tinky Winky.


Yesterday the Spouse was telling me that one of the Jonas brothers had gotten married. "it's got to be Kevin or Joe" I speculate aloud to the daughter, as we conclude that Nick is 17 or so these days. "He's 23, I think" the Spouse adds to clarify. Definitely Kevin, then.

Here's the funny part: the Spouse comes bearing this matrimonial announcement, but he mocks me for knowing their names.

I guess it's Tinky Winky all the way down.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Resolutions Failed

I said I was going to devote myself to reading the books on the shelves at home. I meant it, too. I really want to read a lot of those books, as well as weed out more that I haven't wanted to read for fifteen years or more, and probably never will.

But no good resolution goes untested. The Spouse took the Possum out to run errands and go to a Girl Scouts event and dinner, so when I asked the KitKatPandaBatWolf what she wanted to do, tops on her list was visiting the new library. We had graciously been given a private tour of the downstairs, which is all children's, before the Grand Opening. We have already located, admired, and thanked my mom for the brick out front with our names on it. But last night we had the opportunity to go in and linger.

So we did. We observed everything. In the new reading area for kids we played with giant stuffed animals, and picked out books to pose them reading. The giant stuffed dog was left relaxing in a chair reading Carl's Birthday. We found the oversized Cat in the Hat that we gifted to the library years ago, and stretched him out, leaning smugly on one hand amid the Seuss books.

We went upstairs and saw the bust rows of computers, and picked up something from the teen display, I checked out the new adult titles and grabbed something, and found quite a few books by the second grade classes author-of-the-month, so we checked out those, and we found some new kids books to check out, and then, while trying to locate some American girls nonfiction titles we stumbled across the books on the states, so we each picked out a nice new one for the Possum to use for her research project. We did a little homework, we goofed, I placed requests, we said hello to all our librarian friends; I'm telling you: we reveled in that new library.

And so, my resolution went bust. But it went bust like a balloon we kept bouncing up and down on, just to hear it blow.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

My Dream Has Come True

Apparently we've all been good enough in aught nine, because Santa brought us Rock Band 2. Seriously, when I had an opportunity to try it out at our good friend's just after Thanksgiving, I thought I had found the best! game! ever! If only a reality show would finance our family's need to perfect Rock Band. (Okay, I wouldn't watch the show, but hey, I don't watch most of them)

Well, since Christmas day, we've been working on our act. Like the Balancing Act, we switch instruments and lead singing around. Well, we've finally gotten enough practice to make failing out less likely. We've formed a band, Taco Bat, and we've taken our act on the road. Oh, yeah, tonight we won the Battle of the Vans and scored a '75 van. We played several songs reasonably well, earning pay, and, excitingly, hats. Yes, hats! Weirdly, the Spouse's male character did not receive the same hat the three female characters.

Anyway, I'll be sure and let you know the Taco Bat tour schedule as it firms up.


I ask you, doesn't it seem marvelously old-fashioned and wholesome, the family band practicing together after supper in the evenings. I feel like Ma in Little House and the Prairie, or something even more retro and homespun. Well, it suits, I guess. It shows signs of being an unusually cold winter here.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Books by Numb3rs

Did I mention that keeping track of my reading in various places this year made answering any questions about books challenging? Well, let me modify that. It's a pain in my little geek brain, is what it is. Numbers are approximate and mighty hard to come by because of having to copy and paste and reformat and rearrange and, oh, the agony!

But just to give you an idea of the lengths to which my book-tracking obsession goes, here are a few starter numbers.

Books read in 2009: 358
Books I never even cracked open, because something else in the stack looked more appealing: Lots
Books I started, abandoned, and then picked up again months later at which time it seemed weirdly familiar and also really good so I finally finished it: 1
Years it would take me to finish all the books on my To-Read List even if I never added any more: 12.4*

* And that's being really optimistic, because as the PandaBatWolf ages out of picture books and early chapter books, my list has slowed on adding those, shifting to many more middle grade and YA titles, which are much longer than a mere 32 pages. Much.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

It's That Time of the Year

The time when obsessive readers look back over their reading from the last year, and compile lists of favorites, and if they're really geeky, crunch a few numbers. Since I am both compulsive and geeky, I'll be getting around to both of those. How obsessive and geeky? Well, I just ran a list from GoodReads to see what I'd read in 2009, and I pretty much panicked.

124. No. Way.

I read aloud to the kids a lot. I read a lot of kids books and YA. I don't do anything but work and read (marry someone who likes to cook, is my advice; meal preparation really sucks time out of your life). So, really, no way. That'd be less than half my usual.

A little digging, and it looks like my reading from the first half of the year, logged at NotingBooks didn't make it into GoodReads. So, there's actual work to be done.

And, of pressing concern, Betsy Bird over at Fuse #8 is holding the The Top 100 Children's Fictional Chapter Books Poll. So, this is my promise: if I don't do anything else this year, I will at least manage to post these two lists. Meanwhile, hie thee to Ms. Bird's and vote for your favorite ten.

Oh, and thanks for dropping by. Sorry I haven't posted in eons. I was busy reading.