Top 10 of 2014

In no particular order…


crane wife     The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness


breath of frost     A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey


oneplusone     One Plus One by Jojo Moyes


lokis wolves    Loki’s Wolves by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr


orphan train     Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline


monogram murders     The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah (Hercule Poirot returns!!)


where'd you go    Where’d you go, Bernadette by Maria Semple  (BOCD)

Ok, this one is kind of a cheat <sheepish grin> as I had it on my list last year.  However, this year I listened to it on CD and the reader, Kathleen Wilhoite,  was INCREDIBLE. She made the book even better!

I read a lot of picture books, and I had to include a few:

Sparky     Sparky by Jenny Ofill, illustrated by Chris Appelhans

Hogula     Hogula written and illustrated by Jean Gralley

Battle Bunny     Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, pictures by Matthew Myers


Happy reading in 2015!    :] Julie

Dangerous Education

I just read an article about college students expressing concern about their course content. Students are worried about someone who has experienced trauma being exposed to something in class that may remind them of that experience. They are asking that “trigger warnings” be put on syllabi so that students can prevent trauma as a result of reading or watching any potentially sensitive material a professor is using to teach a subject.  For example, before a professor could show a film with a scene involving rape, she would need to have a warning on the syllabus so that a student who has experienced sexual assault could opt out. That doesn’t seem so out of line, but then I wonder, where do you stop?

According to the NYTimes article, a guide written by students at Oberlin College to help professors understand possible problems says this would include anything that might:

“disrupt a student’s learning” and “cause trauma,” including anything that would suggest the inferiority of anyone who is transgender (a form of discrimination known as cissexism) or who uses a wheelchair (or ableism).

“Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression,” the guide said. “Realize that all forms of violence are traumatic, and that your students have lives before and outside your classroom, experiences you may not expect or understand.” For example, it said, while “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe — a novel set in colonial-era Nigeria — is a “triumph of literature that everyone in the world should read,” it could “trigger readers who have experienced racism, colonialism, religious persecution, violence, suicide and more.”

I wonder how this would affect professors. Would they self censor, knowingly or unknowingly, because of concerns of backlash? How would you teach about war, oppression, psychological disorders, feminism…

I thought college was a time for young people to be exposed to new ideas, see the world in a different way. Also become more responsible for themselves – including speaking with a professor if there are things they can’t be dealt with in a course. It seems like it would be difficult to learn about what mistakes we make as countries, cultures, human beings without studying them.

I actually found the above story as a result of looking at this blog posting proposing warnings for children’s books. Why wait until college, let’s start ’em young!

– Julie

Children have spoken!

day the crayons quit They just announced the winners of the Children’s and Teen Choice awards last Wednesday night, and apparently a few of us here had our pulse on the picture book market. It was on the top books of 2013 for a few of us and the children have also spoken: The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers is the winner. Yay! If you haven’t read it, awesome book!

— Julie

Mistaken lyrical identity

You know how we often interpret emails and texts differently that they may have been meant? Tone of voice and gestures can create totally different meaning. And who hasn’t heard lyrics differently, not just meaning but the completely wrong words. Like hearing the classic Jimi Hendrix lyrics from “Purple Haze”: Excuse me while I kiss this guy. No wait, back it up, that’s: Excuse me while I kiss the sky.

bonnie tylerAnd the Bonnie Tyler song, “Total Eclipse of the Heart?” First of all, how many remember it?? And then did any of you know she was singing: Living in a powder keg and giving off sparks? I never had a clue…it became “hmmm hmm hm hmmm” and then hop back in with: I really need you tonight, forever’s gonna start tonight

Anyway, my latest is the Bastille song, “Pompeii“, I really thought they were singing: I’m beginning to be an optimist about this. Well, that misconception was just corrected for me to the detriment of my outlook. It’s really: How am I going to be an optimist about this. Of course, the video and the rest of the lyrics aren’t terribly upbeat, so I should’ve seen it didn’t fit…. Oh well, I think I’ll keep singing it with my interpretation!

— Julie

You’re the Tops!

The list I gift to you has a little bit of everything, variety being the spice!

In alphabetical order by author:

Lost Art of Mixing

Bauermeister, Erica: The Lost Art of Mixing  (fiction)

Curious Garden

Brown, Peter: The Curious Garden  (picture book)


Daywalt, Drew: The Day the Crayons Quit  (picture book)

Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants

Inman, Matthew: Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants  (cartoon collection)


Knisley, Lucy: Relish: My Life in the Kitchen  (graphic novel)

Palacio, R.J.: Wonder (children’s fiction)

Fin & Lady (Signed Edition)

Schine, Cathleen: Fin & Lady (fiction)

Don't Lick the Minivan: And Other Things I Never Thought I'd Say to My Kids

Shirtliffe, Leanne: Don’t Lick the Minivan: and other things I never thought I’d say to my kids (non-fiction)

The Rosie Project

Simsion, Graeme: The Rosie Project (fiction)

Fort Starlight

Zuluaga, Claudia: Fort Starlight (fiction)

— Julie

Handel this!


Was just listening to Danielle de Niese singing arias written by Handel, the composer of one of my favorite works, Water MusicI can understand the accolades she has received in the classical world. And in addition to the music, I enjoyed the lyrics as well – some were so dramatic! Not surprising for operas, I suppose… anyway, here are a couple:
“Da tempeste” (Giulio Cesare in Egitto – Act III, Scene 6; lyrics – Nicola Francesco Haym)

If a ship, buffeted by storms,

then reaches safe harbor,

it no longer knows what to wish for.

Thus the heart that finds solace

after enduring pain and despair

brings joy once more to the soul.

“Tornami a vagheggiar” (Alcina – Act I, Scene 14; lyrics – anon.)

Look with love on me again,

you alone will

this faithful soul adore,

my sweet beloved.

I have given you my heart,

my love will be constant;

never shall I be cruel to you

my beloved hope.

May your Friday reach operatic heights!

— Julie

Childishly Happy

The New York Times published a letter to the editor last Thursday from a Shaker Heights woman who had held onto books from when her children were little. She was thankful for that as she is now reading them with her mother, who suffered a stroke, in what is probably good as both brain and speech therapy. Although this is a good reason to bring out the picture books, I think there many others. Like the fact that they can evoke more innocent times, the artwork is so varied and marvelous, and just try not to laugh when reading Traction Man Meets Turbodog by Mini Grey. Anything by Peter Sis is amazing and some, like his picture book The Three Golden Keys and his autobiography, The Wall, are enlightening as well. Many adults leave children’s books in childhood, but imagine what might be gained from revisiting those shelves filled with treasures.

— Julie

Traction Man Meets Turbodog   The Three Golden Keys   The Wall

From Muppets to Nightmares

Jason Segel     Most people know Jason Segel from movies like Knocked Up and This is 40 or maybe from the television series, How I met Your Mother. What you might not know is that he is also a writer, having written the screenplays for Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the 2011 movie The Muppets. According to the Associated Press, he is going to be using that writing talent to pen a series of books for middle school kids on overcoming your fears, and it’s supposed to be funny as well as scary. He’ll be collaborating with popular author,  Kirsten Miller, to create the series “Nightmares!” and Random House is set to publish it next year.


The Poetry is the Thing

Wonder Working Stone I was reading a review of a new CD, A Wonder Working Stone, we are adding to the collection and a quote from one of the songs struck me: “Get over your tiny self/Because all days will end in joy.” The artist is Alasdair Roberts and although he started out recording traditional Scottish folk music, this is a album of mainly original compositions.

photo credit: Alex Woodward

I haven’t even listened to the music yet, but already love his poetry.

As I was flipping through the lyrics to find the song the review quote was from, again I was struck by his words in “Song Composed in December,” especially with recent events in Boston and other evils perpetrated by human beings against humanity.

Song Composed in December

This song’s made in anger, this song’s made in love
Where the croak of the hawk meets the coo of the dove
Where minstrelsy’s slander and rhyme turns to rage
To make a song about the renovation of the age

Woe to those who celebrate the taking up of violence
And woe to those who perpetrate delusions of their sirelands
Who’d fight for no reason with sword or with firebrand
Be they reiver in the border or raider in the highland

And joy to those who celebrate the breaking up of weapons
Who take a stand to raise a hand against oncoming slaughter
And joy to those who strive to give a voice to those with none
The fosterer of errant son and sire of wild daughter

And joy to those who’d use their songs as clues to find their clan
But woe to those who’d use them to enslave their fellow man

From open moor where kestrels soar on wings of beauty
To cloisters where vestals bear their palms of beauty
To waterfall tumbling, cascading and purling
To the flowery machair where the echo mocks the yellow yorlin

From forest deep where numens peep from every oaken bole
To city streets where people seek completion of the soul
For everyone with double bond of suffering to thole
I will sow a seed of honesty upon the bluebell knoll

There’s a little more to the song (including some Welsh rap!) than I am including in this post, but I will leave you to discover more of his words – and music- on your own.

— Julie