Choose to Act

For many people, May 1st is a day of prayer.  For a growing number of others, it is a day of reason.  Sometimes it seems that no two groups of people are further apart than these.  But no matter our preference for prayer or reason on May 1st, we can agree that action is needed to make our world a better place.  The Week of Action (April 24-29) is designed to bring people together to celebrate our ability to make a difference in the here and now.

I plan to engage in small acts of kindness for the next six days.  I was inspired by a book, of course.  There’s always a book in my plans somewhere.  The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz is a feel-good novel about the power of good deeds.  Maybe the idea sounds cheesy to you.  But to me, it sounds do-able.  It might not seem like you’re saving the world when you’re planting flowers in someone’s yard or leaving small gifts for your neighbors, but you are saving little tiny pieces of the world with every action.

 

Hopefully this is just the beginning of my own personal sense of action.  Let’s all choose to act.

Sharing the Love of Books

20140423-215519.jpg

There was a time when I had a whole roomful of books.  Shelves lined every wall, and they were packed with books.  I looked at my bookshelves, and I saw success.  It was what I thought I always wanted.  What book lover wouldn’t?

It took a while, but eventually I realized something.  Or perhaps something shifted for me.  I’m not sure.  In any case, I realized that I don’t get much from having books.  I do get lots of pleasure or happiness or fulfillment from sharing them, so I decided to share more than I kept.  I guess I’m more of a librarian at heart than I thought I was.  :)

My home is no longer a repository for books.  It’s a way station.  They may stay here for a bit, but then they are passed along to a friend or left in a Little Free Library.  Now when I look at my bookshelves (not a roomful anymore–just one bookcase in the dining room), I see possibilities.  I see connections.

Today I was an official World Book Night giver.  I pledged to give away a stack of books to light or non-readers along with thousands of others across the country who want to “spread the love of reading person to person.”  It was neat to see people’s skepticism (free? where’s the catch?) melt away as they realized that this was just a book for the love of it.

There’s nothing like an evening of giving away books to remind you that life is pretty great.  If you have the opportunity to be a World Book Night Giver next year, I highly recommend the experience.

A weekend of solitude

Call me an introvert if you must–you wouldn’t be wrong–but I have to admit that there are few things better than a weekend to myself.  It’s been a busy couple of months (as evidenced by the lack of blog posts), and I was more than happy to spend a couple of days re-charging from all the goings on of late while my husband and daughter traveled for the weekend.

I decided to avoid planning too much, to just do whatever I felt like doing at the moment.  It felt like the height of luxury.  I highly recommend the experience if you have the opportunity.

My weekend consisted of books, art, and writing.  Here are some highlights:

  • 20140406-184336.jpgLive-tweeting my reading of Dangerous by Shannon Hale with the hashtag #dwoh (or Dangerous with one hand).  It is the only novel I recall reading with a main character with a congenital limb deficiency, and I couldn’t help but be excited about it.  Shannon Hale has some interesting things to say about why she chose to write a character who is differently abled, among other things, in this essay.
  • Exploring the meditative quality of writing with Karen Hering, author of Writing to Wake the Soul, at a Sacred Salon at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.  The Sacred exhibit and the Salon were wonderfully inspiring, and I recommend both experiences to anyone interested in meditation or Buddhist ideas.  I’ve mentioned my interested in meditation here and here.
  • Turning up the volume on my latest musical obsession: Catbath.  What says spring more than opening the windows and playing the music a little bit louder?

How would you spend a weekend to yourself with no obligations?

Thoughts on Love

What does love feel like to you?

sonoffortuneI found this description in Son of Fortune by Victoria McKernan:

“Aiden had almost starved to death once.  Love felt exactly the same, only the complete opposite.  Starvation had scraped out the center of his bones, numbed his hands and feet and shimmered his vision.  It conjured weird, distant music in the back of his brain, and made everything he touched feel oddly unreal.  The same symptoms seized him now, only the ache in his gut was a lump of silver.  The strings that fastened his heart in his chest had come undone, so the muscle skidded around with every beat.  His lungs could never get enough air, for the air contained the breaths she had exhaled.”

I have collected more thoughts and ideas about love from books and poems in a zine that is on sale for $0.99 for Valentine’s Day week.  Love… contains quotations from Kate DiCamillo, Rainer Maria Rilke, and everyone in between.  It may make a unique gift for someone special or a little treat for yourself.  Either way, I hope you enjoy it.

lovezine

P.S. Son of Fortune is the sequel to The Devil’s Paintbox.  Both are excellent historical novels for teens.  Recommended for readers who like adventure with just a touch of romance.

January Book Pick: Handling the Truth

handlingthetruth“Memoir is a strut and a confession, a whisper in the ear, a scream.”

–Beth Kephart in Handling the Truth

I sometimes think I have a story to tell about my life, but then I’m not entirely sure I’m ready strut, scream, or, worse, confess.  If there is a book that can turn off my doubts about my story, it is Handling the Truth by Beth Kephart.  The book ranges from practical to motivational, and I finished reading it feeling like I’d received a crash course in the art of memoir.  Not to mention I had a huge reading list of all the memoirs referenced and quoted in the book.

There was so much in this book that went beyond writing, beyond memoir.  It was a book about seeking truth and love, about telling stories in a way that connects readers and writers.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in telling true stories.  Perhaps you will find your strut in its pages.

Find this book at your local library or indie bookstore.

The Freezepocalypse in picture books

I’m typing next to an open window, and there has been a steady stream of pedestrian traffic outside.  It’s up to 28 degrees today, and it’s a comparative heat wave.  Last weekend, we were preparing for a Freezepocalypse of ridiculously low temperatures (even for Minnesota), and my family spend two and a half days stuck inside our small apartment.  Here are three picture books that, together, represent our Freezepocalypse:

imbored2  babypenguinsev soupday

 

I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black is for my six-year-old, for obvious reasons.  I felt more like the mama penguin who needed a little time to herself in Baby Penguins Everywhere by Melissa Guion.  Side note to parents: Do you need a time out yourself? Read your kids this book to introduce the idea.  You’re welcome.

Fortunately, my wonderful partner decided it was a Soup Day as in Soup Day by Melissa Iwai, so we were well fed.  Soup makes everything better.

Books and soup.  That’s how we got through our Freezepocalypse.   How about you?

More 2013 Favorites

Back in June, I posted a list of my favorite books of the year at that point.  Here are the books that made the list for the second half of the year.

  • Journey_by_Aaron_Becker1Wild by Emily Hughes – You can’t tame everything.  You might remember this book from this post. (Ages 4-8)
  • Journey by Aaron Becker – Beautiful wordless book.  The trailer gives a peek into the magic. (Ages 4-8)
  • Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden – A poem turned into a picture book that looks at changes with a gentle touch. (Ages 4-8)
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt – Fun and different. (Ages 4-8)
  • Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo – Great mix of humor and heart.  This was my Book Pick in September. (Ages 8-12)
  • Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan – I love pretty much anything David Levithan does in books, and this one was particularly good.  I had more to say about it in this post. (Teen)
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – If I could only choose one book by this author, I’d choose Eleanor & Park for sure, but Fangirl is a close second.  (Teen/Adult)
  • A look inside What the Heart Knows by Joyce Sidman.

    A look inside What the Heart Knows by Joyce Sidman.

    What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings by Joyce Sidman – The subtitle of this book of poems threw me off a bit, but once I gave it a chance, I found a lovely tribute to the power of words.  (Teen/Adult)

  • Handling the Truth by Beth Kephart – I’m still dreaming of writing, and this book fueled the dream. (Adult)

The best book I read in 2013 was  an old favorite that I reread in anticipation of the movie version, which I still haven’t seen.  The Book Thief was just as good as I remembered it, and I highly recommend it if you have yet to read it.

What were your favorite reads of 2013?

What does winter sound like?

If you would have asked me a month ago, I would have looked for the answer in a picture book.  It seems like a picture book sort of question, doesn’t it?

photo (1)“Snow came singing a silent song,” writes Lynne Rae Perkins in Snow Music.  In this book, winter is quiet after a snow fall, but there is a whole symphony of sounds if you listen for them.  Cars, trucks, and animals all sound different in the winter.  There’s a beauty in the whispers of snowfall and the loud scrapes of trucks clearing the way.  There’s a beauty in the differences.

For the past several weeks, I have had a different answer to the question.  I have had Haley Bonar’s new EP Wntr Snds on repeat, and these six songs are spare and intimate in a way that creates just the warmth that we need in a cold, cold Minnesota winter.  “Like Ice and Cold” is my personal favorite.  In this song, winter sounds like change, like hope.  Maybe it isn’t so different from Snow Music.

If you need a little encouragement to see what winter can offer during this sub-zero week, try one of these and listen closely.

Find Snow Music at your local library or indie bookstore. Or get more wintery picture book suggestions here.

The Year in Books

I won’t have a Book Pick for December.  Instead, here are the books I’ve featured throughout the year:

Picture Books:

Wild_by_Emily_HughesHello, My Name is Ruby by Philip Stead – A little bird makes friends and finds her people.

Wild by Emily Hughes – An quirky and delightful look at what cannot be tamed.

Children’s Books:

floraFlora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo – Funny and philosophical novel for kids

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf by David Almond – A dark fable exploring human nature.

The Fairy Ring by Mary Losure – Do you believe in fairies?

Teen Books: 

rapturepracticeFormerly Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham – Challenge your assumptions about people who look different.

Just One Day by Gayle Forman – For the romantic in you…

Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler – Glimpse a strictly religious childhood in this memoir that is funny and fascinating.

Adult Fiction:

FANGIRLFangirl by Rainbow Rowell – For the romantic nerd in you…

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout – A novel about family relationships and bridging cultures.

Goliath by Tom Gauld – In case you’ve ever wondered about Goliath’s side of the story…

Book Picks resume in January.  I also hope to have an updated list of my favorites from 2013.  My favorites from the first half of the year are here.

November Book Pick: Wild by Emily Hughes

Wild_by_Emily_HughesI was all set to write about a proper adult nonfiction titles as my November Book Pick when a package arrived at my door that set aside my well laid plans for something completely different.  There was just something about Wild by Emily Hughes that made it stand out in the sea of picture books that I see or read about.  The 100 Scope Notes review called it “Sendak-ian,” and I couldn’t agree more.  Maurice Sendak’s books might have been full of the fantastic, but there was a level of truth to them that not every book even tries to reach.  Wild reaches right for a truth that might not seem terribly kid-friendly–that some things cannot be tamed–and makes a story that will almost certainly get kids thinking.

wildthingsThere might be something in the timing of my discovery of this picture book.  You see, it arrived (courtesy of the publisher; see the disclaimer below) just after I’d finished reading an advance copy of Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter Sieruta.  I’m sure I’ll be blogging about this one again closer to it’s 2014 publication date, but for now I’ll say that it is a kidlit geek’s must-read.  For all those readers who think that books for young people are full of sunshine and lollipops, Wild Things will clue you in to all the subversive books in kidlit history and the stories behind them.  It will whet your appetite for something that seems to break the rules the next time you’re browsing in the children’s section.  I think that’s a good thing.

Wild breaks some rules.  Grown-ups might not completely appreciate it at first, but I hope you’ll give it a chance.

Find Wild at your local library or indie bookstore.  Wild Things will be published in April 2014.  More about it here.

Disclaimer: Wild was reviewed from a copy courtesy of the publisher.  Wild Things was reviewed from an ARC via my employer.

Miss last month’s Book Pick?  Check out Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.