Thursday, March 8, 2018

Blogging from A to Z!

Back in 2011, on a different blog, I took the A to Z Challenge. I blogged every day in April, except Sundays. Each day was based on a letter, but the theme or subject matter is up to the participant. It helped me get out of my comfort zone, it pushed me to write, and it helped me gain so many followers. Which meant I also found tons of new blogs to follow. Bottom line, it was a great thing.

I think I signed up the next year, or the year after, or the year after that. One of those years. But I didn't complete the challenge. I might have ONLY signed up, and never even gotten started.

It might be crazy, but I'm taking the challenge again this year. Threefold. I am blogging here, on my green blog (Not Easy Going Green), and on my photography blog, Allison and Her Camera.

I am really nervous about this, because I am so out of the blogging loop. Look at this blog... watch the tumbleweeds blow by. Ridiculous. I used to write all the time, scheduling posts in advance, writing every day... but that trickled off and I have no clue why, but honestly? I miss it. I miss writing and sharing and creating an online community.

I've started outlining a few posts to make sure I have enough to say about each letter of the alphabet. I'll be writing about favorite books, authors, illustrators, characters, and more. It's going to be a lot of work, but here I am, Blogging from A to Z to see what I can create. Follow along, and join up if you're interested!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

We LOVE Valentines Books!

We have been reading Valentine's Day books at bedtime for almost a week now because my son is so excited about the holiday! There are a lot of great Valentine books out there, but we wanted to share a few of our favorites.

The Runaway Valentine

written by Tina Casey, illustrated by Theresa Smythe

This story starts in a card shop on Valentine's Day, and all of the cards are showing off, hoping to be picked to share their love. One card in particular is ready to be picked; he has glitter, lace, and could sing songs when you press a button. He knew he would be the first card picked! But he is too eager and gets swept under the card rack. He manages to escape the store and knows someone out in the world will pick him--and he's right! But he's not used in the way he originally expected to--he is too beautiful to be used as scrap paper! Will it all work out for this Valentine in the end?

We loved this story because it was fun to see how the Valentine would be used next!

Valentine Surprise

by Corinne Demas, illustrations by R.W. Alley

Lily wants to make her mom a Valentine, but can't seem to get the hearts just right. She tries every day of the week, but none of them look good. Now it's Valentine's Day, and Lily is all out of paper--she can't even try to make her mom a nice card! But she looks at all her imperfect hearts and gets an idea...

We loved this story because it helps learn days of the week, and also shows children that what they think is "wrong" or "bad" is still meaningful since it comes from the heart.

Rhyme Time Valentine

by Nancy Poydar

Ruby is so excited for Valentine's Day and her class party. She made custom Valentines for everyone, including a rhyme--Ruby loves rhymes! She keeps bragging about her wonderful cards, but on the way to school, a gust of wind blows them away. Ruby is sad she won't have anything to share with her friends, especially since all the red paper in the classroom has been used up. What will Ruby do to show her friends how much she cares about them?

We loved this story because both of my boys are in school, and are preparing for class parties. There are also some "unfinished" Valentine rhymes at the end of the book, and it was so much fun to see if they could finish them on their own. (They are pretty easy rhymes - the 3 year old knew most of them.) There are also instructions on the last page to make a Valentine that looks just like Ruby's!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home

These are two of my favorite picture books, and were so popular with the elementary kids at my school. I think everyone loves the idea of crayons having their own personalities that go along with (or clash with!) their color.

I've shared booklove for these before: I read both books at a storytime for adults with disabilities, and The Day the Crayons Came Home was one of my favorite picture books of 2015.

When I saw these cute finger puppets from MerryMakers, I knew it was time to revisit these books! I love how innovative the storytelling is - the crayons speak out about being misused, neglected, and overused in The Day the Crayons Quit, and in The Day the Crayons Came Home, misplaced and forgotten crayons send funny "Wish You Were Here"-type postcards to their owner, inspiring him to find them under the rug, in the couch, and more.

In addition to the two classic (it's not too soon for them to be classics, right?) picture books, there are board books starring these famous crayons sounding off on colors and numbers. We love the number book because my son is starting to identify written numbers, and this book allows us to explore them in different ways. The number is written at the bottom of each page, next to crayons your kid can count. As each crayon is found, the number is spelled out. I love that it is written both ways, so your child can keep track of the crayons as you turn pages, and/or count the crayons at the bottom of each page.

I even found an instructional book that is a wonderful resource for expanding these books into a lesson. There are vocabulary lists and reading response pages for older children, and pages that help children identify emotions (theirs and the crayons!) and animal colors for younger kids. That's not even scratching the surface of what this book offers - I highly recommend it if you're interested in exploring this book with your kids, students, or plan to adapt some activities for a storytime audience.

Have you read these engaging books? Do you have a favorite book? Do you have a favorite crayon?! Share your thoughts and activity ideas in the comments!

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.