My Summer of Reading

ImageI didn’t mean to create a book tower but earlier in the summer I stacked a couple titles on my nightstand after I’d finished them and I’ve been adding on over the past several weeks.  Total so far: 35. Now if I could just discipline myself to write about what I read this whole reading blog thing could really come together for me…

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Triangles

At ALA Annual last weekend, I met Ellen Hopkins(!!) when she was signing for Simon and Schuster.  I first discovered Hopkins’ work in 2010, around the time of the incident in Humble, Texas when Hopkins’ invitation to speak at a literature festival was rescinded after a complaint about the content of her books.  I am not one to gush, but Ellen Hopkins is an Amazing writer.  Her novels in verse are unflinchingly honest, tackling important contemporary issues.  No, her books aren’t for everyone.  They’re gritty and raw and offer hopeful, not happy, endings, but anyone who works with teens or is parenting a teen should be aware of her work.  Standouts are Crank and Perfect, though all of her YA books are great.

I did not know that last year Hopkins published an adult novel, Triangles (newly available in paperback).  I just finished reading it and was blown away.  Did I say already that Hopkins is an Amazing writer?  I don’t make recommendations often and I know that many people prefer light reading.  Triangles is intense but perhaps the style—poetic verse, as all of Hopkins’ books are written—prevents the novel from feeling too heavy.  Some of my friends have been discussing 50 Shades of Grey recently (a book that doesn’t interest me in the least) and they may enjoy Triangles.

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The story opens at the beginning of a desert summer in a Nevada suburb.  Holly, bored mom of three, decides she wants to write erotica and justifies extramarital sex as “research.”  Andrea, Holly’s best friend, is a devoted single mom searching for a meaningful relationship with a man.  Marissa, Andrea’s sister, copes with both her daughter’s and her marriage’s terminal illness.  While the plot and characters may be a bit Desperate Housewives and perhaps less entertaining , the poetry of Triangles shows Hopkins at her best—beautiful language that gracefully handles sensitive issues without judgment.  Let me know if you read it; I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Filed under Adult Fiction

Tough Cookies

It’s nearly Girl Scout cookie season!  Troops across the country are gearing up with kick-off events and lotteries for site sales.

Do you know where the money goes for each box of cookies sold?  $1 goes to the baker, $.65 goes directly to the troop, and the rest of the money goes to the troop’s GS council to support programs and facilities.

A few months ago I read Tough Cookies by former Girl Scouts USA CEO Kathy Cloninger.  If you judge the book by its cover (which we all do from time to time, admit it), you might think that it has nothing to do with you unless you have a Girl Scout in your household.  True, anyone affiliated with Girl Scouts should certainly read this book.  However, if you care about girls’ education in any way, there’s something in this book for you.  Or if you have even the slightest interest in the management of a non-profit organization, there’s something in this book for you.  In short, this book has a lot to offer beyond just the history of Girl Scout cookies.

Cloninger took over as CEO of GSUSA shortly after the turn of the century and recognized the need for the organization to revamp itself as the 100th Anniversary of Girl Scouts approached (it’s this year, by the way).  Under her leadership, a nation-wide restructuring and re-branding took place, preserving some of the beloved traditions of Girl Scouts and adjusting for the challenges faced by modern girls.  Cloninger’s narrative is a testament to the accomplishments of generations of girl scouts, and to the tremendous potential of female leadership in the future.

Here is a link to a video of Cloninger’s appearance on Fox & Friends:  http://blog.girlscouts.org/2011/11/smart-cookies-what-girl-scouts-can.html

So whether your favorites are Samoas or Tagalongs, remember

And here’s a great video about the cookies:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeYCunQdWo4

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Filed under Non-fiction

DIY Kids Jewelry—Waaay Better than Claire’s!

My daughter and her friends love jewelry but I do not love the tacky junk marketed to their age group.  With a bit of time and patience, I’ve found it’s easy to make necklaces and bracelets for girls and these make perfect, unique gifts.

Over the past year (and with those 40% off coupons), I collected the tools and findings needed for these kinds of projects, so I have two pairs of flat nose pliers, wire cutters, and a crimp tool.  I also have assorted charms and wire.

For the nerdy birthday girl (see yesterday’s post), my daughter decided on a color scheme and picked out these blue beads at a local bead store ($.40 each):

Then she created a pattern for a necklace and a bracelet incorporating some pink and silver seed beads that we had left over from another necklace.  I strung the beads and attached the findings, including a wire guard, crimp tube and crimp cover.  I haven’t mastered the art of photographing the process, so all I can share are before and after pics.

I love this because everyone benefits—my daughter uses her creativity, she and I do a fun project together, I spend less than I would at a jewelry store in the mall, and the birthday girl gets a one-of-a-kind gift.

Since I had all the supplies out, we went ahead and made another gift for an upcoming birthday.

And I even made the gift boxes.

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My Daughter’s Take on “Dress in Your Nerdy Best”

My daughter received an invitation that read, You’re invited to J’s Nerdy 7th Birthday Party!  Come dressed in your nerdy best.  Be there and be square!

Confused, my daughter asked, “Dressed in your nerdy best?” What does that mean?  Do I dress up like one of those nerd candy things?

After we googled Pee-Wee Herman, Paul Pfeiffer (of the Wonder Years), Revenge of the Nerds, and generic nerd costumes for kids, my daughter was wholly unimpressed.  She told me, I don’t want to dress like that!  Once when we were in a store, I saw a Nerds t-shirt

More googling led us to this picture and my daughter’s declaration:  I want to wear that shirt!

[Image source: http://www.itsugar.com/]

Well, this shirt is $16 and doesn’t come in my daughter’s size.  Luckily for her I had a few things on hand:

1) plain t-shirts in her size that I scooped up on clearance at the NEX

2) Avery Iron-on Inkjet transfer paper from a previous project

3) a Wacom Bamboo tablet

I cropped the photo of the pink nerd shirt and printed a copy to reference.  Then, I drew the purple nerd in Corel Painter Essentials 4, which was included in the free software bundle that came with the tablet.  I am sure there’s a newer, slicker version by now, but this worked fine for me.  After inserting my drawing into a Word doc, adding the heading, and flipping the images, I printed it out on the transfer paper and ironed it onto the plain white shirt.

Voilà! 

My daughter loves how her shirt came out and the party was a blast.

Next time I’ll share the present we made for the birthday girl.

  

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My first review published!

Exciting news:  since the summer I have been reading and reviewing books for VOYA magazine (Voice of Youth Advocates), and my first review has been published in the February issue.

VOYA is an excellent resource for anyone who works with books and/or teens, particularly educators, but parents who would like to get a clearer idea of what their teens are reading and what is being published for teens will find a great deal here too.

A digital copy of the latest issue may be downloaded from the magazine’s homepage.  (In case you’re just dying to read it, my review of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe starts on page 67.)

 

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How Bookstore Browsing Led Me to Knitting

Sometimes I like to wander around in a bookstore just for the heck of it.  Because as a  library science grad student I don’t spend enough time with books or something.  About two months ago, I was browsing in a local shop and came across this book:

Author Anna Hrachovec blogs about her impossibly adorable creations at Mochimochiland.

I decided then and there that I wanted to populate my home with many of these precious yarn-y beings. And I could give them as gifts to children.  And adults.   Of course, first I would need to learn how to knit.

The prospect of teaching myself to knit did not seem daunting to me because I had just that week completed 32 of these guys (you can see how the Teeny Tiny Mochimochi would appeal to me):

The turkeys were a modified version of a project from this book:

In my head I was saying something like, YES!  I have successfully made 64 yarn pompoms.  Therefore, I can learn how to knit.

Yeah, I cheated on my Logic final all those years ago.

So despite the fact that my household was in an uproar as my husband prepared to leave on deployment and the fact that I had a deadline looming on a 350-page reading assignment and related research project and the fact that I was in the midst of starting up a Daisy troop, I watched an absurd number of knitting tutorials on youtube and I learned how to knit!!!

I started with this:

And made my daughter this:

I’m now on to my second project, a rib knit grey scarf based on a pattern in this book:

Admittedly, I am nowhere near skilled enough to tackle any of the projects in the Mochi book yet but I am happy enough to have something to do besides read on the 16-hour plane flight I’ll be taking this summer.

Has bookstore browsing ever led you to take up a new hobby?  Are there any other crazy crafters out there who seize upon an inspiration and run with it, prior experience be damned?  I know of at least one—my BFF came across this book (how cute is that cat?!) and promptly taught herself to crochet:

Coming up soon—my daughter’s “costume” for a nerd-themed birthday party.

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Filed under Non-fiction, Random Acts of Reading