November 2018

It’s December 1st. I know. I’m late! But, even though it’s now past, when I say “this month,” I do mean November.

What I’m Doing

This past week, I hosted the first meeting of my tween book club (for 3rd-5th graders). Six of eleven of the kids who signed up attended, but although we were a small group, we had a blast! We read Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Before we sat down, I had the kids put themselves in birth order as a short icebreaker activity. I had ordered a pizza, and we started by eating and watching a video of Gaiman discussing the origins of Coraline. The kids were a lot more interested in the pizza than the interview, so I might skip the video next time. I think it might have been hard for them to hear, too, so I may also look into fixing that issue.

Everyone was really excited to talk about the book. Two of the kids hadn’t finished it, but they were still able to talk about their early impressions. We all agreed that it was creepy. The kids also agreed that they would not want to visit the other mother’s world, unless it was to kick her (they demonstrated). After our discussion, we played literary snowballs. I got the idea from LitLovers. I decided to write the questions myself, however, and I was scolded for making some of them too hard.

I had created a writing/drawing activity for us to do next (based on the Bloomsbury Teacher’s Notes for Coraline), but the kids turned it down (later, they said they might have been interested, actually). I told them about a few books they might also enjoy if they liked Coraline (The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Doll Bones by Holly Black, and The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier). We wrapped up by voting on the next book (it’ll be The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, followed by The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag). At the end, everyone immediately ran out of the meeting room to fight over the library’s only copy of The Crossover, and one girl who particularly liked Coraline took home both The Graveyard Book and Doll Bones (the library doesn’t have a copy of The Night Gardener, sadly). In the future, I’ll be sure to hide the library’s copy of the next book to avoid another scuffle.

All in all, it was a success. My supervisor and I are working on scheduling the next meeting, and I’m hoping to reach out to more kids in the meantime so we’ll be a bigger group!

What I’m Reading

For no particular reason, I haven’t made much progress in The Girl with the Dragon Heart, but I’m confident I’ll finish it soon. In related news, does anyone else tend to avoid reading the final book (or the most recent book) in a series because they’re sad to see the series end (or wait for the next book)? I’m beginning to think I should take a page out of Jeff O’Neal’s book and refuse to read series before they’re finished. (At the same time, I know I’ll never do that.)

I’m also reading Spark by Sarah Beth Durst (which will be released in May 2019). My early impressions are mixed. I like the world-building so far. The idea of a child caring for an egg over two years in order to bond with the powerful and important creature growing inside it is one I can get behind. But Mina, the protagonist, is so far solely defined, it feels, by her quietness and by the fact that her family often ignores her. On every page, it seems like she says something to them, only for her words to go unheard. I want to know more about her beyond the fact that she is overlooked. I don’t like when I can’t get a feel for the character I’m supposed to spend my time with. I’m going to give the book more time, though. It does have promise.

Finally, I’m about a third of the way through Finding Baba Yaga by Jane Yolen. I love her ability to pack so much story into so few words. I feel so connected to the world and the characters, and I’m excited to keep reading.

What I’ve Read

Recently, I binge-read The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty. It was so much fun! At the very beginning of the book, young Bronte learns of her mother and father’s unfortunate deaths at the hands of pirates. Although she is only ten years old, Bronte is forced by their will (which has been faery cross-stitched) to travel throughout the Kingdoms and Empires to deliver gifts to each of her ten aunts (she lives with the eleventh). What follows are some extremely inconvenient, yet undeniably fun and fantastical, adventures involving elves, dragons, water sprites, pirates, avalanches, and so much more. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and so far I have recommended it to nearly all of my coworkers.

As might be expected from a book in which the protagonist has ten aunts to visit, there are a lot of characters, yet Moriarty manages to give each one so much, well, character. They’re all unique, and Bronte is the most unique of them all; I loved her voice, and I especially loved her outlook on the entire situation. I think kids (and non-kids who like books written for kids) will enjoy this one.

Note: It appears the book was originally published by an Australian publisher last year and only released in the United States in October. The second book in the series, The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars, was released overseas this month, and since it doesn’t seem to be available here yet, I’m going to be importing it very, very soon.

I also read Check, Please!: #Hockey, Vol. 1 by Ngozi Ukazu, and OMG, y’all (to channel Bitty), this graphic novel was amazing. I may or may not have cried after I finished it, and I may or may not have returned my library copy the next day and immediately gone to the nearest Barnes & Noble on my lunch break to buy a copy of my own.

(I did both of those things.)

What I’m Listening To

This month, I’ve been listening to a lot of Seeking Tumnus, “a podcast where we [the hosts] revisit the books of our youth, and, on alternating episodes, explore the uncanny wilds of contemporary adolescent fiction.” I just like listening to people talk about books, I guess. It’s fun, and sometimes, it even helps me talk about books in a more intelligent way. I’ve listened to some episodes, but for the most part, I’ve just added a whole lot of books to my list (and downloaded the related episodes to listen to later!).

What’s New On My TBR

The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars by Jaclyn Moriarty is now, obviously, on my list. I also want to read A Dreadful Fairy Book by Jon Etter, which was released this month. And while it won’t be published for about a year, I’m very much looking forward to Erin Morgenstern’s recently announced next book, The Starless Sea.