Summer Reading: Libraries Rock!

The program theme for Summer Reading this year is:

Libraries Rock

I’m really grooving on the theme this year because after eleven months of being closed for repairs and renovation, the library I call home and work at has finally reopened. It looks amazing and even though we are still making it a home again, I’m glad to be back. Below is a picture of our 5th floor reading/study space.

Burton Barr 5th floor

I found the below comic this afternoon from the artist, Grant Snider, whose newsletter I subscribe to. I wanted to share because it reminded me of Summer Reading.

Library-Final-fb

Summer Reading is always super important to make sure the kids don’t lose all the reading achievement they gained during the school year, aka “summer slide”. For more information on this topic, check out this article on Reading Rockets. This year I’m trying to challenge my kid to read for 1000 minutes, partially to see if he can beat me and so he can win a free book and a cool medal. He’s not bothered the last couple of years but I’d really like him to finish this year. I usually read (not counting audiobooks) between 1500-2000 minutes every June-August for Summer Reading. If you are interested in booklists for children from birth to 8th grade, please check out the Association for Library Services to Children’s (ALSC) Summer Reading booklists. For teens, check out the Young Adult Library Services Association’s (YALSA) award-winning booklists. For adults, I would recommend the Great American Reads list from PBS as it has a good mix of classic and modern books on it. So everyone keep reading! Children, teens, and adults can join the summer reading program. Just go check out your local public library and get signed up. There’s still 6-1/2 weeks of Summer Reading left. 

 

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Kwame Alexander

Image result

I’ve been wanting to read him for awhile, ever since I heard about his Crossover verse novel. So in honor of National Poetry Month, I grabbed a copy of Crush: Love Poems for teens and loved it, because it showed all the different aspects of love and not just the mushy bits. Plus you gotta love any volume that includes Neruda, as I adore his 100 Love Sonnets.  Below are two of my favorite poems (especially the second one) from Crush, 2007.

“I Want You”

 

to think of me      as

Ellington thought of jazz and

Ella thought of scat     as

Lady Day thought of loss and 

Luther thought of love

 

yes, think of me

as the first aria and

the last allegro

in this symphony

of life

 

in other words

let this ancient language of love

be the music

that keeps you 

humming through the night

 

that keeps you

dancing

naked

on the

floor

 

“The Examination (AKA The Before-You-Holla Quiz)”

 

Can you study my heart, and learn to love me with your mind?

Can you lift my spirits, bench press my burdens, exercise my intellect?

Can you get deep like Atlantis, precise like Google, outstanding like 

a Serena Williams serve?

Can you love me like a book of poetry, read me over and over,

uncover the magic between my lines? 

Can you solve me like a quadratic equation, recite Neruda in Spanish?

Forget sexy, can you bring SmartBack?

Can you flirt with me like an E. Ethelbert Miller poem, tease me like

a Bossa Nova song?

Can you sweet-talk me with cotton candy on a rainy day, love me

like Nikki Giovanni loves Tupac?

Can you speak to me with your mouth closed? 

Can you kiss me 100 times with your eyes open? 

Can you love me…with your mind? 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Books I read in 2017

I ended up reading a lot of books this year, despite it being a completely crazy year for me personally. It should be about 235 for the year, which was a bit more than I figured it would be. I tend to get uber distracted and ADD the crazier things get, so really it was miraculous that I managed to read this many books despite all of this. I discovered a lot of interesting manga and graphic novels and comics series once again, and read a ton of mangas (72 total this year), and even got to read a few as ARCs. The following books were my favorites for the year. I read too many to limit it to a small number, though I have tried to abbreviate the list. For all the ones my son also loved, I will add “Kid approved” to the titles. 

Children

The Very Fluffy Kitty: Papillon (Papillon #1) by A.N. Kang – It’s so adorable, I’m gonna squeal! Kid approved. 

Papillon-5

Pretty much all of Ryan T. Higgins’ books, as they are hilarious and have fabulous illustrations. Very much Kid Approved:

Wilfred (my favorite illustration below) – I want Wilfred for my friend! 

Wilfred

Be Quiet! – This book feels like trying to explain “quiet” to kids and then the 4 million “why?” questions start. 

Be Quiet

Hotel Bruce (Bruce #2) – I love Bruce’s facial expressions. 

Hotel Bruce

Bruce’s Big Move (Bruce #3)

Bruces-Big-Move

Escargot by Dashka Slater, illustrations by Sydney Hanson – you can’t help but do this in a cute little French accent. Kid Approved. 

Escargot

The Not So Quiet Library written and illustrated by Zachariah OHora – I love his illustrations and this book is adorable! Plus he always includes a character from a previous book (the bear was in Wolfie the Bunny). 

the-not-so-quiet-library-interior-zachariah-ohora

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez Gomez – loved the slightly creepy but lush illustrations of this graphic novel, plus the heroine uses her imagination to escape

Nightlights

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Illustrated Editions by J.K. Rowling – Re-reading these to my son and loving them much more than the first time I read them. The illustrations really make these amazing and so accessible to children. Can’t wait to read Volume 3! Kid Approved.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Young Adult

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – I liked this book so much, it ended up in one of my fanfiction stories. Can’t wait for book 2 in the series!

Strange the Dreamer

The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo #2) by Rick Riordan – hilarious audiobook for teens but really best understood by adults (I thought the title looked cooler in Hebrew). 

The Dark Prophecy - Hebrew

The Prince and the Dressmaker written and illustrated by Jen Wang – I loved this graphic novel about being yourself no matter what

The Prince and the Dressmaker2

The Other Side of the Gate and The Empty Sea by Craig Michael Curtis – a series my friend wrote, they’re awesome, please check out his works! Third book will come out soon.

The Other Side of the GateThe Empty Sea

Manga: To check out more info on most of these series, and why I liked the leading males in Manga/Anime, please check out this previous post!

Kimi Ni Todoke Vol 28 Kimi Ni Todoke Vol 27 , and Kimi Ni Todoke Vol 26 by Karuho Shiina

Kimi Ni Todoke

High School Debut Vol. 1- written and illustrated by Kazune Kawahara – I am Haruna and I need some help. Where’s my hot teacher? Also, Yoh is super adorable below. 

High School Debut

Fruits Basket Collector’s Edition Vol 1-12 written and illustrated by Natsuke Takaya – after watching the anime again, I felt like I needed to read the original manga version and it was even better than the anime. This might be one of my favorite series’ ever!

Fruits Basket vol 21 Ch 120

Library Wars: Love and War Vol 15 written and illustrated Kiiro Yumi – last volume 😦

Library Wars Vol 15

Adult

Thrawn by Timothy Zahn – also coincidentally the best audiobook I listened to as well; I have always been a fan of the Chiss, but had never read anything about Thrawn in particular. Loved Thrawn –>Eli–>Governor Pryce as top three characters. Plus it was awesome to listen to the audiobook then literally a few weeks later see both characters in Star Wars Rebels Season 3.

Thrawn

Saga Vol 1-7 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples – best comic series I’ve read in a long time, hands down!

Saga

Black Dahlia, Red Rose: The Crime, The Corruption, and Cover-Up of America’s Greatest Unsolved Murder by Piu Eatwell 

Black Dahlia

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore – Tie between this book, Thrawn and Black Dahlia for the most interesting book I’ve read this year.

Wonder Woman

Hermione Granger – Fighting for Strong Smart Women Everywhere

Hermione-brews-Polyjuice

This blog is named after Hermione Granger of Harry Potter fame, and her ability to solve any problem because of her superior research skills and love of books, and her knapsack would hold all this knowledge. As Ron says to Harry about Hermione’s book dependency in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, “Because that’s what Hermione does. When in doubt, go to the library.” Plus she is the perfect mascot for Children’s Librarians everywhere. Yay books and knowledge! 

Hermione and Books

Taken from: https://nary-san.deviantart.com/art/Hermione-and-books-446977341  

I loved her character in the books and even the movies, and I think this woman’s perspective on our spunky heroine is the reason why:

“Hermione is a hero because she decides to be a hero; she’s brave, she’s principled, she works hard, and she never apologizes for the fact that her goal is to be very, extremely good at this whole “wizard” deal. Just as Hermione’s origins are nothing special, we’re left with the impression that her much-vaunted intelligence might not be anything special, on its own. But Hermione is never comfortable with relying on her “gifts” to get by. There’s no prophecy assuring her importance; the only way for Hermione to have the life she wants is to work for it. So Hermione Granger, generation-defining role model, works her adorable British ass off for seven straight books in a row. Although she deals with the slings and arrows of any coming-of-age tale — being told that she’s “bossy,” stuck-up, boring, “annoying,” etc — she’s too strong to let that stop her. “

I adore her and J.K. Rowling for creating her because she is showing us, girls and women in particular, that it is okay to be strong and smart. I don’t think we as women have to take people calling us “bossy” or a “know-it-all”, we are who we are and no amount of societal pressure is going to change that. As Alyssa Yeager blogs about in this article, “Smart women think more, seek questions more, have a viewpoint and argue it more, and are capable of effecting change. Smart women can also generally be seen as a royal pain in the ass in the eyes of some men. But smart women also know that those men don’t deserve them.”

Eventually men will get their act together and realize that brains are just as sexy if not more so than looks, especially as they get older. Or at least I can hold out hope that this is the case. Because the alternative, as explained in this article, “It seems that, even if men say they want a smarter woman, when push comes to shove, they’re not so into women who threaten their own intelligence. Translation: Men who blow off intelligent women might just be protecting their fragile masculine egos,” is pretty sad. 

Back to the wonderful world of Harry Potter. I’ve had a little bit of time to re-evaluate her and the other students of Hogwarts as I have been reading my six-year old son the illustrated editions of Harry Potter’s books 1 & 2 (which are amazing by the way). I haven’t actually touched these books since I started reading the series a few years after it came out in 1997. I actually rebelled reading them at first, as I tend to do with super popular kids series’. I became more open to the idea after some kids I was watching at a summer camp, where I was counseling at during the summer of my sophomore year of college (circa 2001), were going on and on about how awesome the series was. So naturally I wanted to give it a try. Thankfully the library on campus had copies and the rest is history. 

Ron-and-Hermione-GIF-harry-potter-28884196-500-224

A lot of people like to poo poo Ron and Hermione’s relationship, but as I am re-reading the series, and several articles on the two of them, I can see that they are a lot more compatible than some people would have us believe. A lot of this stems from the way both of them are portrayed in the movies, for example making Hermione the heroine with the Devil’s Snare in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets or defending Harry from Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (when it was actually Ron both times) or as Ryann Whelan’s article points out:

“Hermione’s weaknesses are completely glossed over. She can be, at times, overly cautious, judgmental, insensitive to social cues, rigid and legalistic in her perfectionism, and overly rational. The movies depict her as a bossy but endearing know-it-all, but fail to delve into how obnoxious she can come across.”

The author of the previous article also points out how much of Ron’s personality is left out entirely in the films, namely:

“He’s the heart and soul of the trio— emotionally grounded, strategically-minded, generally calm and cool (excepting when spiders are involved -[who can blame him, they give me the heebie jeebies]). He’s trustworthy and honest, always upfront about how he really feels, even if it doesn’t come across politely. He’s truly funny and often the primary comic relief of the series, not simply because of pratfalls, but because he’s got a great sense of humor.”

And despite what Hermione says in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, about Ron having “the emotional range of a teaspoon”, he so much more than that. I mean think about it, you’re stuck between the famous Harry Potter (who despite his everlasting friendship with Ron is still the most well-known person in the wizarding world) and the cleverest witch at Hogwarts, Hermione. It’s possible you would feel a little bit out of place, not to mention being the youngest brother in a wizarding family whose siblings have already accomplished so much. Ron tends to use humor to deflect from his own insecurities and worries. 

Ron and Hermione compliment each other. Yes she is serious, whip smart and in-charge, but she needs someone she can relax with, who calms her down and makes her laugh. Who better than someone who co-owns a joke shop? 

The Empty Sea

The Empty Sea

The Empty Sea (Into the Realms #2) by Craig Michael Curtis

Released originally April 30, 2013

Daniel, Eleanor, Immy and Oka have spent two years traveling through the perilous Labyrinth in the Fifth Realm before they finally managed to escape, only to be betrayed by a temporary member of their party. Eventually they make it to the oceanic Sixth Realm, only to be separated almost immediately. The boys are press-ganged onto a Yellow Star Guild Ship, while the girls end up with the opposing New Start Guild. This trip around the Sixth Realm is a real test of faith for both Daniel and Eleanor, and they find themselves continuously questioning themselves and their decisions. After a very circuitous route and acquiring a few new companions, they finally manage to make it to the Seventh Realm and meet back up again. Recommended for ages 14+, 4 stars.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story. There were several spelling/grammar errors that I feel could’ve been corrected with some good editing. The beginning up until they got to the Ocean of Storms in the Sixth Realm was rather exciting, then the story really dragged in the middle, and picked back up again in the end.  It took me forever to finish this one because I ended up reading a couple of ARCs in-between. Even though I didn’t understand all of the sailing ship references, different parts of the ship etc, I enjoyed the Horatio Hornblower/Master and Commander feel to it. In that respect, it reminds me of L.A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack series, which I adore. The map in the beginning of the book was very helpful as each group of characters jumped around in the Sixth Realm a lot, and I had trouble keeping track of where they went. 

I know the separation between Daniel and Eleanor was great for the story-building, but it was also super frustrating. This is especially true during the part where they literally missed each other by a couple hundred feet but didn’t meet. I know I wasn’t the only reader to scream out “No!” at that moment. Despite their separation, or maybe because of it, there was a lot of growing up done by both Daniel and Eleanor. I feel like they’ve really learned what they are capable of and what each of them can endure, which will become more important the further into the Realms they go and especially with their sort of forced separation (when Eleanor goes back to the Fourth Realm with Oka because of her promise). 

Disclaimer: I received a copy from the author in exchange for my honest review.

 

Kimi Ni Todoke Vol 28

Kimi Ni Todoke Vol 28

Kimi Ni Todoke: From Me to You, Vol. 28 by Karuho Shiina

To be published: Jan 2, 2018

Ayane refuses to tell Pin (Mr. Arai) that she likes him because he is respected teacher at their school, even though she’s completely fallen for him and told her friends all about it. Meanwhile Sawako and Kazehaya are enjoying their Christmas break and spending more time together outside of school. Chizuru and Ryu are also spending time together when she realizes that Ryu hasn’t told Toru (his brother and Chizuru’s first love) about them yet, which makes Ryu a little jealous. However, when they tell Toru he is so happy for them. Over by the school, Pin is not coping well with being single on Christmas, especially with all the couples he keeps seeing. He runs into Ayane, and chides her for being hit on by so many guys. He offers to walk her home to get rid of the horde of men asking her out. But she gets mad at him after he calls her a kid.

Toru and his wife Haruka come with their baby daughter Ayu to visit the family and Chizuru falls a little in love with her. A snowstorm develops on New Years Eve, which also happens to be Sawako’s birthday, but neither she nor Kazehaya can wait to see each other so they both brave a snowstorm to do so. Kazehaya gives her a ring and promises to give her a wedding ring in the future, as they ring in the New Year together. The whole gang gets together the next day for New Years Day at their local shrine to pray for good fortunes and Chizuru has invited Pin, which makes things super awkward for Ayane after their last meeting. The girls reminisce about the last couple of years they’ve been friends and wish each other well on final exams to graduate high school. Recommended for ages 14+, 5 stars. 

If I didn’t already love this series, I can see how this series could drive a person crazy with its saccharine-y sweet scenes of first love and teen angst. And this volume had both by the dozen. I however just see it as just a fun shoujo series and being a hopeless romantic at heart, the adorable parts are even more adorable. 

There were so many sweet and hilarious scenes in this volume. For example, the line that Sawako says early on, “Everything I dreamed when I entered high school came true with you [i.e. getting more friends and a boyfriend so she has people to hang with].” And then she and Kazehaya exchange gifts and they get so embarrassed just holding hands. It is too cute! And oh my goodness, when Sawako can’t go home because of the snowstorm and has to stay at Kazehaya’s house and their faces are priceless, especially after he gets a sex talk lecture from his mom twice! Then there is the gift-opening scene, which was so sweet I wanted to cry, but also laugh a bit because they’re still so awkward together after all this time. 

I also love when Ryu and Chizuru are at his house, and he leans in for a kiss when Chizuru is fixing his Christmas antlers. Ooh and when Ayane sees Pin with his hair down and she gets so excited to see him, and then can’t help harassing him like old times. And later when they’re walking home together, I love when he tells her “to stop smelling so good,” like it’s something she could stop. After the snowstorm, on New Years Eve Day, Chizuru’s reaction to Sawako and Kazehaya-kun getting “lovey-dovey” was hilarious and reminded me of a similar reaction to Kyo in Fruits Basket with the protagonist’s two best friends. Overall, this was one of the best volumes yet and I can’t wait for volume 29, even though I know they will probably end the series in a couple of volumes. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from Simon and Schuster (Viz Media LLC) in exchange for my honest review. 

Banned Books Week 2017: Sept 24-30

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I love this year’s cover graphic from ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom that helps put on Banned Book week every year. I try to write about the week every year (or at least have since 2012). According to the ALA website, “It is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers — in shared support of the freedom to seek and express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” I usually find that the books that people want to ban are usually really good books but for one reason or another people don’t agree with an issue that the book has brought up. If you would like to know more about banned books and fighting censorship, you can also visit this website, which co-sponsors the event with the ALA every year and this one because I love reading comics/mangas/graphic novels, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

I try to write about the week every year and encourage people to read banned books, and find out for themselves whether or not they think the book should be banned. I first got into banned books in graduate school when I was taking a class on YA literature and had to read a banned book. I picked Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher, whose books are notoriously getting banned and is therefore a big supporter against censorship. I really enjoyed the book, but would probably have never read as a kid because of the subject matter. I’m not gonna lie, the book is filled with reasons why a parent or concerned adult might want to ban it: the 30+ drops of the f-bomb and other curse words, discussions of physical/emotional abuse, suicide, abortion, masturbation, child neglect and more. It’s not an easy book to read at times, but there is a redemptive quality about the book that makes it awesome. In fact my mother was rather horrified when I described in detail while I was writing the paper for it. But as YA author Laurie Halsie Anderson has said,“Books don’t turn kids into murderers, or rapists, or alcoholics; Books open hearts and minds, and help teenagers make sense of a dark and confusing world. YA literature saves lives. Every. Single. Day.”

Updated infographic_Top 10 Banned Books for 2016_0

It’s not just Young Adult and Children’s books that are banned but Classics as well. According to the Office of Intellectual freedom, at least 46 books off this list of the top 100 books of the 20th Century have been banned. The ones in red are the ones I’ve read, and apparently I need to read many more. How many have you read? 

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9. 1984, by George Orwell

11. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck – my review posted here

15. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley – my review posted on my previous blog, which also includes one for The Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa (another banned book)
17. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway

23. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
26. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
27. Native Son, by Richard Wright
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
29. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway

33. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London

36. Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin

38. All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren

40. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

45. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair

48. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
49. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
50. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

53. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote – my review posted here

55. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie

57. Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron

64. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence

66. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
67. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles

73. Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence

80. The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer

84. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller

88. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser

97. Rabbit, Run, by John Updike