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Inbox/Outbox: My Weekend of Endings

Although it is creeping toward mid-October here, it is still insufferably hot and humid–my least favorite weather combination and the main reason I left my home state of Florida for New England. What’s going on? Ugh. Nevertheless, the leaves are changing and falling from the trees, and I occasionally catch a scenic Fall-like moment outside. I’ll take it, I suppose.

Outbox

So this weekend saw me finishing three big things, the tv series we’d been watching for about a year, the book I was reading and the audio book I was listening to:

TV:  The Good Wife

goodwifeI started watching this casually last year when I was in search of something interesting and distracting without being too depressing (a big problem with TV lately). I quickly got invested in the characters, if not the plot, and mostly kept watching because I loved the cast so much. Alan Cumming? Yes please, all day. Christine Baranski? Also yes, please. Anyway, we soldiered through seven full seasons and enjoyed it for the most part. Then came the final episode, which, you could argue was realistic, but which left me with a stomachache. It felt like a let down after such a long commitment.  Couldn’t we please give these people  a happy ending? Or something close to it? Anyway. We’re done! And now we don’t know what to watch!

Book: Sourdough by Robin Sloan

sourdoughI picked this up after hearing and reading multiple good reviews. And it did not disappoint. It’s not a particularly profound book, although I suppose you could read it into more than I did. The plot is weird and I have had a hard time describing it to people. Basically, there’s a woman named Lois who works in an almost science fiction-like setting of workaholics. They are computer engineers creating code for robotic arms. Lois works too hard, sleeps badly and goes around with a knot in her stomach. Then she discovers a wonderful takeout place run by two brothers who identify themselves as part of the Mazg culture. They make incredible soup and bread. When they suddenly leave the country due to visa issues, they leave their sourdough starter with Lois. Knowing nothing at all about baking, Lois decides to learn and ends up transforming her life in the process.  But this is no ordinary sourdough… in fact, it has a life and agenda of it’s own. Overall, a fun, readable book about food and food technology. And get ready to crave sourdough.

Audiobook: Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

beyond the brightThis was a beautiful book with a narrator that sounded just like the actress Cush Jumbo who plays Lucca Quinn on the final season of The Good Wife! It was not her however, but an equally talented narrator Jorjeana Marie. Beyond the Bright Sea tells the story of 12-year old Crow, who lives on a beautiful island off the ghost of Cuttyhunk with her guardian Osh. Crow’s origins are a source of mystery, but most people think she came from the island of Penekese, a former leper colony nearby. When she sees a fire burning on the island one night, she decides to investigate, and sets off a chain of events. Wolk is a master of the craft and the delicate interplay of emotions between Crow and her guardian, as well as some other characters, make this a wonderful and memorable tale. I even teared up listening to it while running on the treadmill!

Inbox

Audiobook: Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

before the devil breaks youThe only thing I have lined up next is the third installment of Libba Bray’s Diviners series, which I have been dying to hear ! I even broke down and bought it because I couldn’t wait for my library hold to come through. These audiobooks are super frightening and so well read by the divine January LaVoy. I’m excited!

I have no idea what I’m going to read or watch next! What about you? What have you been reading / watching / listening to?

 

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Five Picture Books for Valentine’s Day that Won’t Make you Roll Your Eyes

*This post originally appeared on BookRiot.com.

Picture books about holidays have a tendency to be heavy handed, with a cloying, sticky sweet message that goes in one ear and out the other.  Valentine’s Day is one of the worst offenders:  store shelves overstuffed with chocolate roses and teddy bears, over the top jewelry commercials on TV, and hearts. So. Many. Hearts. If you can look past the red glitter everything, there are actually some really great books to read with your kids this time of year. Books that aren’t always explicitly about Valentine’s Day, but which still send a message that says, in the immortal words of Lin Manuel-Miranda: Love is love is love is love is love is love is love….

 

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian and Mike Curato.

worm-loves-wormOh, how I love this story. Worm and Worm just want to get married! But all of the other bugs they know keep insisting that they do the traditional wedding things. Who will wear the rings? Who will wear the dress? Which one is the groom and which one is the bride ? Worm and worm, agreeable as ever, decide that they will both be the bride and the groom, dividing up the traditional garments between them. And when the stodgy grasshopper complains “this isn’t how it’s always been done!” They say, “Well then, we’ll just change how it’s done.” Because worm loves worm. And… cue the tears.

penguin-and-pineconePenguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon.

An adorable penguin finds a pinecone on the ground in the snowy north where he lives, and can’t, for the life of him, figure out what it is! Nevertheless, they spend the day playing together, until the tiny little pinecone sneezes. Penguin realizes his friend cannot stay in the north and must be returned to the forest where he can grow and thrive. So they set out on a journey together. Kids and adults alike love and remember this book. It takes a special kind of talent to make a pinecone look cute, but Yoon pulls it off!

And Tango Makes Three  by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

tangoe makes threeTwo male chinstrap penguins meet in their home at the zoo, fall in love, and decide to mate. When they notice that all of the other penguin couples have eggs to look after, they are sad and confused that they don’t also have an egg. The zookeeper gives them an extra egg from another penguin couple and the happy couple take turns sitting on the egg until it hatches and their family grows by one more. Based on a true story, this now-classic picture book was one of the first to present a same-sex relationship.

 

Somebody Loves you Mr. Hatch

somebody-loves-you-mr-hatchMr. Hatch is a lonely man set in his ways. He follows the same routine, day in and day out, rarely engaging with anyone he sees. One day, a mail carrier drops off a package for him that contains a giant, heart-shaped box filled with candy and a small slip of paper that reads “Somebody Loves You.”  Well, Mr. Hatch is transformed by the knowledge that somebody cares for him and becomes a completely different person overnight. But when a sudden change in his fortune occurs, will Mr. Hatch revert back to his lonely ways? Read it and see! A charming classic that never gets old, no matter how many times I read it.

 

One Love by Cedella Marley. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

one-loveWritten by Bob Marley’s daughter, this ebullient, gorgeously illustrated book is adapted from the iconic song. The story follows one determined little girl as she shows her family and her community how love and friendship can improve everyone’s life. The illustrations by Brantley-Newton are so vibrant and smile-inducing, that it is nearly impossible not to feel better when looking at this book. And of course, if you’re reading with a little one, what better time to introduce them to the song.

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In which I Vow to Return, Again.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from trying to make a (part time) living as a freelance writer, it’s that finding the time to do everything you need to do feels next to impossible. Freelance writers are always always working and looking for projects and emailing and researching and editing. Very often, the paycheck you hope for is not the paycheck you get! And when you throw another professional job and a family in the mix, it gets even more challenging!

I’ve been bobbling back and forth about what to do with this blog and, without boring you too much with my reasons pro and con, I’ll tell you what I decided:  Let’s Do This.  I want to keep writing and I want to keep sharing the books I love. I also want to write more about the work I do as a librarian: What I’ve learned, what I still struggle with, what I still hope to learn. So I’ve expanded and added some new pages to the site. Library Dose now has a section about the work of a children’s librarian. Specifically, I will write about Baby Storytime and Middle School Book Club. And, as always, I will continue to highlight books I love for children and adults.

I can’t promise that I will faithfully write a post every week. There may be huge gaps, due to my other writing and family commitments, as well as the time I’d like to put aside for creative writing pursuits.  But I really want to keep this up. I have gained so much from reading other librarian’s blogs about stoytime, and I hope to give that back a little bit.

As always, I will keep writing about books, with five minute book prescriptions and lists, and thoughts on the power of reading and sharing literature in our current political climate.

Chin up everybody. I know the world feels like the beginning of a dystopian book series right now, but we have to moving forward. Remember the wise words of the late, great Carrie Fisher :

take-your-broken-heart

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Meanwhile, at Book Riot…

This month I published two pieces on Book Riot. Most of the books recommended in these posts were from my lovely summer o’reading. I largely avoided kid lit this summer in favor of long, beautifully written “adult” books that were getting a lot of buzz.

I’m proud of these lists as they encompass some of my favorite topics to read about. First, I wrote about Rock and Roll love stories. For this piece, I gathered as many music related books as I could in search of the perfect Rock and Roll read. What I really wanted is the book equivalent of everything I love about the tv show Nashville. Most of the writing on that show is painfully soap opera-like. The back and forth, breaking up and making up between the characters can be too much. However, I really love the duets that make up a good chunk of the show’s musical performances. I particularly love the scenes between Scarlett and Gunnar. Their love story on the show can be infuriating, but damn, do they make beautiful music together.

Sadly, I didn’t find the ideal rock duet love story.  I did find two gorgeous books about music and love, but not exactly what I’m looking for. I’m going to have to keep looking, or write one myself! Check out my article on Book Riot here. 

Next, I made a list of women’s coming of age stories set in New York City. I noticed this summer that a lot of the books I am naturally drawn to read are about young women in NYC.  I had no trouble putting this list together. In fact, I had to cut it down because I had so many options.  Read my piece here.

I recently quit Facebook out of frustration and my own lack of self control during this election season. I just can’t with the political arguing and the rampant sexism that seems to be dominating this election. Quitting Facebook, however, has been amazing. I suddenly have more time! Hopefully it will result in more posts.

 

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Reading as Religion

I’m sharing the very first post I wrote for Book Riot. I spent a lot of time wondering what kind of personal reading story to share as part of my application to write for the site.  I decided to look back on the book that had sparked the biggest change in me during my teenage years. Without a doubt it was Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, a choice which kind of seems odd  in retrospect. I was a particularly naive and cautious teen. I didn’t do drugs and I didn’t have a boyfriend until college. On the Road is  about 80% sex and drugs. But whatever, right ? Kerouac’s infectious tone really got to me in a way that nothing else had, including religion. My heathenism has always been a source of guilt and anxiety for me. My parents are aware that I lost my faith a long time ago, but I was still nervous about publishing this. I knew I would want to share as widely as my social networks would allow if I actually got published, but I worried that people would judge me or even unfriend me for my lack of faith.

As it turns out, I was overthinking it. It was not an issue. I published the piece and it was well received. And, perhaps most importantly, I learned how good it felt to publish something true and to find an audience, no matter how modest.

Read the original post here.

 

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I’m Baaaaaaccck!

Forgive me, please, for the very obvious post title. I couldn’t resist. It’s been a damn long time since I’ve written a new post. But I am determined, dear readers, all 12 of you, to start updating again. If just for the habit.  Let me tell you a little story about where I’ve been.

You see, more than anything else, I really want to be a professional writer. I want to make a living wage from writing. But I don’t want to kill myself in the process. I have a professional gig as a children’s librarian and I freaking love it. I work about 20-25 hours a week and it’s perfect. I honestly don’t know if I would love it as much if I worked 40 hours a week.  With this particular balance, I am able to divide my time in a satisfactory way between professional work and home life, taking care of my kids, cooking things, cleaning things, and every teeny chance I get, writing things.

Over the past year, I have been using sites like Flexjobs and OneSpace, in search of temporary writing on demand gigs, in which I create content and get paid a very, very modest amount of money. This has been fine because it’s the kind of work where you only take on what you can do in a few hours. Since my schedule is constantly changing, this works great.

The other writing work I sought for a while was more focused on bookish content. I wanted to write for Book Riot, a site dedicated to all things literary. I applied a few times, but never read the directions as thoroughly as I should have (I have a bad habit of rushing!) and didn’t send original content, which they asked for. Instead, I kept sending pieces I’d written for this blog.

Anyway, I finally got my act together and properly submitted an application. Et, voila! I was accepted as a contributor. A PAID contributor. How exciting! Since May, I have been creating original content, two pieces a month to be exact, and submitting them to Book Riot. It’s been fun and just the right amount of motivation and pressure to keep me writing.

So, one year after my last post on this blog, things have changed a bit and I have accomplished a few long standing goals. But I let this blog fall by the wayside. Which is a damn shame! Library Dose was a fun idea I had, and I would like to keep it up.

Because I have to keep fresh, original ideas coming for Book Riot, I  may not always post book lists on here that haven’t first appeared on Book Riot. I will however, continue to write here about what I’m reading and what I’m writing and about the general process of my literary life. I will post occasional book reviews as well as images from my favorite picture books. Check out my Facebook page for updates and pictures as well.

I hope you’ll stay tuned. Thanks for listening!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Favorite Picture Book Dads

Despite their growing presence as the main caretaker for small children, dads remain frustratingly absent from many children’s picture books. Although we are slowly, but surely, moving away from the completely absent dad, or the dad who comes home at the end of the day with a briefcase, picture books could still benefit from portraying dads in everyday situations: cooking, cleaning, running errands, etc. In honor of Father’s Day, I present four of my favorite dads featured in picture books. Who are your favorite literary dads?

nelly gun

Daddy Gnu” from Nelly Gnu and Daddy too  by Anna Dewdney

Nelly Gnu, close friend of Llama Llama and a frequent character in the wonderful Llama Llama books,  gets her own story in this sweet tale of daddy and daughter. Daddy Gnu and Nelly spend the day together:  planning, shopping for and ultimately building a playhouse. Daddy also cooks and puts Nelly to bed.  Dewdney’s lilting, rhyming prose makes this a great read aloud and her illustrations are as endearing as ever.

“Daddy” in the  Knufflebunny books by Mo Willems

Knuffle Bunny 1Who doesn’t relate to the beleaguered dad in KnuffleBunny? Taking a story from his own life, author Mo Willems describes taking his toddler daughter Trixie to the laundromat with him. She gurgles and points and narrates in her own toddler language, whiKnuffle Bunny 2ch grows increasingly frantic when she loses her beloved lovey, a stuffed rabbit named Knufflebunny. Dad is clueless to the cause of his daughter’s distress and grows increasingly frustrated as he drags a screaming Trixie home. Of course, the second his wife opens the door, she asks “Where’s Knufflebuny?” A frantic rescue mission ensues in which Daddy ultimately redeems himself when he finds the poor bunny. Knufflebunny and its sequels feature great daddy/daughter interaction as well as parents working and reacting together in a natural setting. Like all Mo Willems books, Knufflebunny is funny for both kids and their grown ups.

“Papa” from Papa, please get the moon for me by Eric Carle

Papa please getThis classic Eric Carle title features a little girl who asks her Papa to get the moon for her, so that she can play with it. Crush your urge to feel annoyed at the entitled little girl who thinks she can play with the moon (ha!) and revel, instead, at the dedicated Papa who climbs the world’s tallest ladder and does, indeed, fetch the moon for his little girl. She plays and dances with the moon until it fades away completely (reappearing in the sky a little while later). Sweet papa and daughter interaction, along with Eric Carle’s gorgeous, unique, foldout-style artwork, makes this book a classic you will return to again and again.

“Roy” and “Silo” from And Tango makes three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. Illustrated by Henry Cole

There are all kinds of families– families with two moms, families with two dads, families with one dad and one mom, families with one mom, etc. and Tango makes three tells this true story of two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who met and tangoe makes threefell in love. They made a nest like all the other penguins, but were dismayed and confused at their inability to produce an egg and a penguin baby like the other penguin couples. The zookeeper finds an egg that needs a home and puts in the penguin’s nests. They immediately get to work keeping the egg safe and warm and eventually hatch a baby penguin, named Tango. Possibly the sweetest story ever; I dare you not to cry. A great way to remind your children that there are many kinds of families.