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.

October 2018

The last time I posted on this blog, I was about to begin my library science degree. Now, I’m roughly halfway through my program and looking to graduate in the summer. It’s been a whirlwind 14 or so months, and although things aren’t going to quiet down anytime soon (I’m writing my thesis next semester!), I’ve decided to try my hand at blogging again. I’m thinking I’ll most likely do a big post like this one once a month and a few odd posts here and there as the mood strikes. I’ve broken the post down into a few different sections, and while I’ll probably stick with them in future posts, they aren’t set in stone.

What I’m Doing

Last night, I led a nighttime storyhour at one of the libraries I work at. I’ve done a handful of these nighttime storyhours before, but never with more than seven children. Last night, 21 children and their parents showed up. As the hour crept nearer and more and more people strolled in, I became more and more nervous—and then, at exactly 7PM, I called everyone into the meeting room and I just did the thing. And you know what? It wasn’t bad. We had a good time. I had the schedule my coworker was nice enough to write out for me, but I deviated from it when doing so felt right; for example, the kids were having so much fun dancing, I skipped our second movie to play another song. After we wrapped up, two parents asked when our next nighttime storyhour would be, so I have to assume they thought it wasn’t bad, either. I know I’ll probably still get nervous before the next one, but I feel a lot better about my abilities now. This is a good thing, because I’m leading the first session of my book club next month.

What I’m Learning

I’m currently taking two classes (one about teen services and one about collection development), and we’re discussing readers’ advisory in both. Readers’ advisory is something that I’m still working on getting good at, but I’ve learned a few things that I think will help me: For example, I’ve learned two important questions that I should ask in addition to my usual, “What was the last book you read that you enjoyed?” These questions are: “What exactly did you like about that book?” and “Tell me about a book that you hated and why.” As I noted on Twitter, asking readers about the books they don’t like makes a lot of sense because it’s sometimes easier to talk about why you hate a thing than explain why you like a thing (at least, it is for me).

What I’m Reading

I’m about three-fifths of the way through Unwritten by Tara Gilboy. Unwritten is about twelve-year-old Gracie, who has known since she was much younger that she and her mother are fictional characters who avoided a terrible fate by escaping to our world. Although her life is comfortable, Gracie is haunted by visions of the fate she escaped, and she cannot help but be curious about Gertrude Winters, the author who created her. Although her mother warns her against it, she visits Winters, taking along with her a mysterious scrap of parchment from Bondoff, her storybook home. Things spiral from there.

Unwritten reminds me of The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, another book in which a storybook character grows up in our world and later returns to it. The Hazel Wood is solidly YA, while Unwritten is geared toward MG audiences. I’m enjoying it so far.

I’m also a few pages into The Girl with the Dragon Heart by Stephanie Burgis. The book is a follow-up to her 2017 novel, The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart. I absolutely loved The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart (and I cannot recommend it highly enough), and I’m excited to dig into The Girl with the Dragon Heart and learn more about Silke. Note: The book will be released in the U.S. on November 6th.

What I’ve Read Recently

The last book I finished was Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliot. In Dragons in a Bag, young Brooklynite Jaxon is left with Ma, a mysterious woman from his mother’s past, while she attends court to fight their impending eviction. It turns out that Ma is a witch, and she recently received a very curious package—one containing three tiny dragon eggs. Ma lets Jaxon in on her mission: She has to deliver the dragon eggs to another dimension, one where magic still thrives. Jaxon decides to tag along, but the trip does not go smoothly, to say the least.

Dragons in a Bag is a short (at 150 pages), fast-paced read for younger readers who are interested in fantasy adventures, but who might not be ready to leave our world entirely just yet. There are some loose ends, meaning the book is likely the first in a series.

Prior to reading Dragons in a Bag, I sped through Estranged by Ethan M. Aldridge. I don’t read a lot of graphic novels (I’m working on it!), but I absolutely loved this one. In Estranged, a human boy brought to the glittering world of the fae court seeks out the help of the fae changeling left in his place when things go terribly wrong. It’s a book about adventure, darkness, magic, and family, and I’m very much looking forward to a sequel.

What I’m Listening To

I love podcasts. I’m subscribed to way too many of them. I recently subscribed to Breaking the Glass Slipper, a podcast about women in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I’ve listened to just two episodes so far: 2017’s “In praise of YA with Frances Hardinge” (author of A Face Like Glass, the last book I blogged about) and 2016’s “Labyrinth” (about the movie with David Bowie). Both were amazing. If you think learning about women in speculative fiction is something you might be interested in, subscribe immediately and get listening!

What’s New On My TBR

This is the month of me somehow not noticing books that I would normally be very excited about, like Finding Baba Yaga, Jane Yolen’s recent release, and Gail Carson Levine’s Ogre Enchanted, a standalone prequel to Ella Enchanted. Both are now on my list.

That’s all for now. See you next month!