I finished 2018 strong, but 2019 has proven itself to be a challenge. And rather than using reading or writing as an escape or a way to refresh, I took time off from both for about a month. As I start to emerge from beneath my dark cloud, I am trying to reinstate the good habits I had developed. I participated in Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm and “won.” I signed up again for Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Challenge. And I applied for the Writing With the Stars mentorship contest. (I didn’t win, but it was a wonderful experience to write out my goals, strengths, and challenges.)
Since I never finished recording the books I read in 2018, I’ll add them here as a first step. Also, to confess fully, although this is titled “Reading the Shelves” and is intended to help me finally work through my collection of books, I bought some new books over the holidays. Don’t judge. They brought me joy. Even Marie Kondo would approve.
Fiction (currently on a YA/middle grade reader kick):
- Inevitable and Only by Lisa Rosinsky. I met Lisa, a book editor, at an NESCBWI event. I learned she had been the Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library, so I wanted find her book. When I discovered a signed copy available at Barnes & Noble, I took that as a sign that I should buy it. The story weaves together significant family drama (Dad brings home a daughter he had from an affair…who is only a few months older than the main character, Cadie, and who no one knew existed), the agony of adolescence (especially first love), and the theatre. It wasn’t love at first page, but it soon drew me in. And when I stayed up late one night just to finish it, the tears were real and intense.
- Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan (illustrated. by Dana Wulfekotte). Funny and moving, this story captures the life of a young girl balancing dual cultures (Mom is Caucasian, Dad is Chinese) and the impending arrival of a new baby. And how can you not love a character who wants to be an author?
- Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead (illus. by Nicholas Gannon). Incredible, beautiful, and surprising. Even as an adult, I couldn’t predict all of the directions that this story would go as it slowly reveals the mystery at its center.
- Invisible Emma by Terri Libenson. I purchased this for my son, who likes realistic fiction graphic novels. He wasn’t interested, so I read it instead. It was pretty short and parts were charming. But I don’t think it was spectacular, and I haven’t been inspired to read the other books in the series.
- Hidden by Loic Duvillier (illus. by Marc Lizaro and Greg Salsedo). My son brought this graphic novel home from his school library, and it was a much stronger read. A grandmother tells her granddaughter how she was hidden by neighbors and friends when her parents were sent to concentration camps. Incredibly moving.
- Anastasia Krupnik and Anastasia Again! by Lois Lowry. I don’t know how I missed this series as a young reader, but I’m grateful to have found it now. These are the first two books about Anastasia, a wonderfully relatable character. Young me would have wished I could be as bold and dramatic as she was. Adult me appreciates how the parents are written as full-fledged humans (realistically flawed and complex) but who feel safe and comforting as you would expect in a light-hearted, humorous book for tweens and younger.
Picture books (some from my shelves and some from local library shelves, and too many to describe individually):
- Our Library by Eve Bunting (illus. by Maggie Smith)
- Drawn Together by Minh Le (illus. by Dan Santat)
- Stalebread Charlie and the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band by Michael Mahin (illus. by Don Tate)
- Mabel and Sam at Home by Linda Urban (illus. by Hadley Hooper)
- Hotel Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins
- Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins
- Bunny’s Staycation by Lori Richmond. (Lori is wonderful writer-illustrator I’m privileged to call a friend.)
- Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima
- We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins. (He’s so good!)
- Ida, Always by Caron Levis (illus. by Charles Santoso). (TEARS.)
- The Sword in the Stove by Frank W. Dormer
- Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek by Deborah Hopkinson (illus. by John Hendrix)
- Ordinary Extraordinary Jane Austen by Deborah Hopkinson (illus. by Qin Leng)
- The Very Last Castle by Travis Jonker (illus. by Mark Pett)
- Finn’s Feather by Rachel Noble (illus. by Zoey Abbott)
- When Blue Met Egg by Lindsay Ward
- Brobarians by Lindsay Ward
- A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins (illus. by Chris Appelhans)
- Samson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner by Tadgh Bentley
- The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee
- This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
- How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? by Jane Yolen (illus. by Mark Teague)
- The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson (illus. by Rafael Lopez)
- Moose! by Robert Munsch (illus. by Michael Martchenko)