Monday, January 1, 2018

My Year in Books: 2017

In 2017 I read 127 books, broken down into 34,396 pages. My Goodreads goal was 104, or 2 a week. I exceeded that by reading one book every Saturday in the late fall, as a way to decompress after a stressful work week! I can't give a reason for my months with especially low numbers, except I feel like I fell into a lot of reading funks this year, where nothing sounded good, or I couldn't get into something I had to read, or I was just wasting time playing on my phone instead (yeah, it happens).

My monthly breakdowns:
January - 11
February - 14
March - 11
April - 8
May - 15
June - 6
July - 9
August - 7
September - 9
October - 6
November - 13
December - 18

My broad genre breakdowns:
Young Adult - 54
Middle Grade/Elementary - 28
Nonfiction (adult and children) - 19
Adult Fiction - 26

Picture books not included, since I keep track of those on my son's Goodreads page.

I read 20 books for review. This includes books I was sent to review for the blog, as well as books I review for the Memphis Public Library's Teen Bookletters. I started reviewing for this newsletter in May. You can sign up for these reviews (and others) here.

I only re-read 4 books this year. I feel like that is really great for me, even though I haven't kept stats like this in previous books. I used to want to re-read my favorites so often, I limited myself to reading them only once every year. I guess I have been cutting down on that, to the point that I only re-read a few, and at least 2 of those were because I was reading the next book in a series and needed to re-read the first to get back in the series groove.

I didn't do so well with my Reading Challenge. I hardly even attempted any of the classics, but read 6 of the diverse reads. I actually read a lot of diverse books this year though, like The Hate U Give and Dear Martin, among others. So the challenge to read more diverse books was a success, and I plan to keep this up in 2018. As far as actually accepting any other challenge, though - I'm going to pass. Even as a bookworm, I have balked against required reading and either trudged through, or gone to Cliffs Notes (I admit it!). So as an adult, giving myself required reading beyond books I am required to review is just... not something I'm going to do this year. I can challenge my reading in other ways. I'm going to stick with one broad goal of 115 books as a Goodreads challenge.

How was your 2017 in books? Do you have goals for 2018's reading life?

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year from Pete the Cat!

We are huge fans of Pete the Cat around here, as you can see from the sampling of our books, the keychain I keep on my bag, and the pouch I use for pens and USB drives.

(Yes, all the cute accessories are mine. Selfish? No - my son can have them when he's old enough to appreciate them. For now, they are mine all mine!)

For several days now, we have been watching the new Pete the Cat show on Amazon Prime. Have you seen it? Only one episode is up right now; it was released on Christmas Day but the story is about New Years resolutions. It's cute to see Pete as a "real" cat, and all his friends are so much fun!

The only negative I can think of, and this is incredibly minor, is that Pete doesn't talk until the very end of the episode. All of the other characters are pretty chatty, and even my three-year-old son said "Pete can't talk because he doesn't have a mouth." Which is true - there is no mouth most of the time, but Pete does talk at the end, so clearly that's not the issue. I just would have like to hear more from him.

I think Pete the Cat books make a huge difference with kids' literacy, reading enjoyment, and vocabulary, based on what I have seen with my son and the kids at school where I teach. Having Pete not talk on the show seemed to be a strange decision. But it's still an enjoyable episode, and we've watched it a few times and it hasn't gotten old. We're looking forward to more episodes.

Amazon does a pretty good job with their kids' shows based on books - we're also huge fans of the Stinky and Dirty Show, based on the books by Kate McMullan and Jim McMullan.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

State of Things

... Wow. What a year. I don't even know where to start, but I know this is a necessary post.

When this year started, I was working in a public library. I was posting somewhat regularly from January to March. I was very involved in YALSA, volunteering as YALSAblog's Member Manager and attending the American Library Association's Midwinter Conference in Atlanta in January. I was recording How I Feel About Books podcasts.

Spring turned to Summer, and my family dynamics changed. The public library system extended their hours; later nights, Saturdays, and the occasional Sunday just didn't work for us. So I left the library and went back to SRVS, an organization I've worked for before, and volunteered with constantly since 2011. It was a great job, flexible hours, and they let me use my library background to help with clients from birth to retirement age. It was a dream job, and I was excited to see how I could grow the position.

But my family dynamics changed yet again, and when a school library job opened up, I interviewed for it. I had put my application in to the school system's hiring pool before I left the public library, but there were no openings that seemed like a good fit. When I got an alert about this school, I was interested, and the principal and I really hit it off. Starting in the middle of the semester wasn't ideal, but at the beginning of October I became an elementary school librarian, and here I am!

I think that pretty much explains my silence on the blog... So many changes in one short year! I'd like to say I'm settled and back in the swing of things, but that's not true. I still feel so new in my job, and there is so much for me to learn every day - every class period! But I am living in the library environment again, and I have a lot from that experience that I want to share here.

I'm still reading, of course. Constantly. Always. After a hard week (isn't every week a hard week?), I like to take Saturday "off" and read a book. Start to finish. I call them my Selfish Saturdays. Which is to say, I hope to get back to sharing book reviews here. They might be sporadic, and they might be different than what I've posted before.

I've been thinking a lot about this space, even as it gathered dust for most of 2017. I thought about book reviews, about what I have to say that is different than anyone else. About the potential of this space. It will still be about books.  My reviews might not be as structured as before. And there might be posts about other aspects of my reading life. Of my work life, since it relates to books as well. I think this will make it easier to share things, to know there is no rigid structure to the posts or to what "should" be posted here.

So this is just a check-in. A quick hello, yes, I'm still here and I still want to be here and I hope you do too!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Code 7: Cracking the Code for an Epic Life

I initially thought this was a book of short stories for middle graders... and it kind of is. The chapters can be read as stand alone stories, but the characters all go to the same school, and work together in the last story. It reminds me a lot of Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar - each chapter can be read as a complete short story, but all the characters go to the same school and interact with each other. Like Sachar's book, there is humor is the Code 7 stories, though it is more subtle and tongue-in-cheek than Wayside

These stories have a positive spin, with the students taking action for an idea they're passionate about. This shows the kids reading that they have the power to change the world around them, just like the characters they're meeting in Code 7.

Code 7 is a great book for parents and teachers to read aloud to, or read along with, their middle grade kids. These engaging, quick stories are sure to inspire the readers to take action.

Disclaimer: I was sent this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Art Parts

Art Parts: A Child's Introduction to the Elements of Art by Kim Bogren Owen

Art Parts is a fun, simple way to introduce kids to basic elements of art. The book shows examples of lines, shapes, color hue and saturation, texture, and more. There are blank pages next to each "lesson" so the kid has a chance to try their hand at what they just learned. It's kind of like an art workbook, except it's a beautifully bound hardback so kids will be excited to see their art in a real book!

There are resource pages at the end to extend the activities in the book, and help relate the lessons to everyday life. It's fun to help your kid point out different lines and shapes they see in real life, identify colors and light, and more.

I was excited to get this book because my husband is an artist, and I thought he would have a lot of fun introducing these concepts to our three year old. He loves working hands-on teaching art to kids, and this book really helped him figure out how he can break concepts into small lessons that kids can understand and master. I, on the other hand, can hardly draw a stick figure, so I figured this book would just be a father and son experience. But I've gone over it with my son and really enjoyed experimenting with the concepts myself! I think this is a fun, engaging, interactive book for all ages.

If you buy the book, you get access to journal pages so a whole family or classroom can create their own art books! If you've already bought the book, you can get a code to access the pages. If you don't have the book, you can access the journal pages for a fee. Trust me, this book is so engaging, it's worth it to expand lessons and creativity beyond the book!

Disclaimer: The author sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.