Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Favorites of 2008 and some goals for 2009

Disappointingly enough, I did not quite make my goal of 200 books this year. I actually low-balled my goal, thinking I would probably read closer to 300 books, but knowing I was pregnant and all, I gave myself a whole bunch of wiggle room, however, I only got to approximately 190 books in 2008, not counting picture books or the few non-fiction children's titles I read.

These are the favorites in no particular order.

Picture Books

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox
Peg Leg Peke by Brie Spangler
The Little Big Scary People by Emily Jenkins
Bats at the Library by Brian Lies
I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to Bed pop-up by Lauren Child
Two Bobbies by Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery
How I Learned Geography by Uri
If Animals Kissed Goodnight by Ann Whitford Paul
Little Hoot by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Junior Readers

Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time by James Howe
Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems

Middle Grade

Lizard Love by Wendy Townsend
Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst
The Hound of Rowan by Henry Neff
The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
Clementine's Letter by Sarah Pennypacker
White Sands, Red Menace by Ellen Klages
Cicada Summer by Andrea Beaty
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor
The Leanin' Dog by K.A. Nuzum
Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass

Young Adult

Sister Wife by Shelley Hrdlitschka
The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks by E. Lockhart
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Opposite of Invisible by Liz Gallagher
Thaw by Monica Roe
Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott
The Last Exit to Normal by Michael Harmon
The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecelia Galante
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson
Fact of Life #31 by Denise Vega


Saturdays with Stella by Allison Bittman
Where the River Ends by Charles Martin
Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
The Dogs I've Met by Ken Foster
The Dogs Who Found Me by Ken Foster
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

I definitely chose my adult books wisely! Those are almost all the adult titles I read last year, minus only a few, and they were all great!

Now...for my goals of 2009. Here's the small list:

Read 250 books.

Review every book that I finish. I had a hard time with this in 2008 due to pure busyness.

Read more non-fiction, both children's and adults. I love to learn and these books really fulfill that love, I just need to focus more time on those.

Keep track of the picture books I read. I've never done this before, only recorded my favorites. I really want to see how many I read.

Do a monthly post on what I've completed that month, along with an overall yearly list of titles. I keep track of all the books I read, but in a very haphazard Word document. Definitely want to polish that up.

Finally, I want to make my blog pretty! I've gotten advice from a couple of blogger friends as to how they made their blogs look so nice, I just need to actually sit down and DO IT.

Here's to a great 2009 everyone, more reviews start tomorrow!

Last Reviews of 2008...some quilts, a little Theodosia, and a lit report

Well the year is coming to a close and this is the last day for 2008 reviews. I've got three today, a picture book, middle grade book, and a YA choice to celebrate the end of the year. Enjoy!

Patricia C. McKissack is one of those authors a librarian can just depend on to pump out fantastic books. She's won the Newbery Honor AND the Coretta Scott King Honor, writing about a myriad of subjects that pull her reader in. Her latest, Stitchin' and Pullin': A Gee's Ben Quilt, a picture book, is no except to this unspoken rule. Based upon real events, small vignettes tell the story of how the women of Gee's Bend come up with ideas for and ultimately create, such beautiful quilts.

One of my favorite vignettes is the following:


"Mama told me,
'Cloth has a memory.'

I hope
the black corduroy remembers that it it was once the pants...
my uncle wore to go vote for the first time,
all clean and new.

I hope
the pink and green flowered tablecloth remembers
the peach cobbler
I spilled on it at the Fourth of July picnic...
before my brother went off to school
in Boston,
when we were still
all together.

I hope
the white lace handkerchief remembers
how pretty my cousin looked...
the day she got married to Junior
all over again.

I hope
the dark blue work shirt remembers
how hard Daddy has worked...
all his life.

If by chance the cloth forgets,
I want to always remember...
all of it." (7).

Told from the perspective of Baby Girl, we get to learn all about what it takes to become a quilter, accompanied by the beautiful illustrations of Cozbi A. Cabrera. The book is absolutely filled with culture and wonderful historical moments that will not only entertain, but teach as well. This is recommended for all libraries (and perfect for a blogger that loves me!).

Next up? Only one of my favorite characters in children's literature! Miss Theodosia Throckmorton is back in Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris, written by R.L. LaFevers. In the follow up to Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, those named Serpents of Chaos are back and causing more trouble than ever. We have mummies that move on their own, a stone jackal that comes to life, Mr. Tetley back in some most unusual circumstances, governesses galore, and of course, the curse-fighting, quick-witted Theodosia in the midst of it all.

These books remind me a bit of Harry Potter with a good dose of Enola Holmes. Theodosia is incredibly funny and sarcastic, with a whole lot of smart thrown favorite kind of character. I love the cover design on this one and my one minor complaint is the length. At almost 400 pages long, it's a bit of a heavy one, and almost unnecessarily. There is a bunch of dialogue and some whole chapters that probably could have been left out, made it 100 pages shorter and it wouldn't have seemed quite the task to finish. I loved it though and am constantly recommending Theodosia to kids!

Finally, my lassst review of 2008, is a young adult novel written by Sarah N. Harvey. The Lit Report is one of those books that I had to sit and ponder for a bit once I had finished, deciding whether or not I really liked it. The verdict? Definitely liked it.

Julia and Ruth have been unlikely best friends since the first met in Sunday school. Now they're just shy of graduation and spending their time finalizing their big plans for moving to a city, getting a modern, loft apartment, and living the high, exciting life, away from their small town. A damper is placed on their plans when Ruth gets pregnant and is terrified to tell her extremely religious parents. The girls become creative, planning to hide Ruth's pregnancy until she gives birth and then have the baby adopted by a new family.

Julia, the leader of this crazy plan, learns everything she can about midwifery and delivering babies, setting up a grand scheme for "delivery day." As expected, nothing goes as planned and the girls end up with much more than they originally bargained for, becoming closer to each other, yet farther apart as the pregnancy progresses. Ruth is changing and Julia doesn't like it.

Filled with a whole lot of heart, The Lit Report definitely had a lot of things going for it. A great friendship, good writing, and a unique story. It's not your typical teen pregnancy story, which is certainly a positive. That being said, there were a few things I didn't care for overall. The premise of the story, to me, was completely unrealistic and the author didn't quite sell me on it. Too much just seemed "made up" rather than taken from something that could actually happen between two teen friends, especially the coincidental occurence of Julia's pregnant stepmother, allowing for her to use that as a coverup when asking questions for Ruth. Just a little too "perfect."

The Lit Report definitely has teen appeal and I can see it becoming a popular novel. I really enjoyed it...just didn't love it.

For more info on any of these, or to purchase, click on any of the book covers to link to Amazon.

Lots of reviews for you in 2009, hope you enjoyed the last of 2008!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My 3 Favorite Things of 2008

Now, here at A Patchwork of Books, 99% of my posts are book related. As a treat, maybe to you, maybe to myself, I wanted to come up with a list of my Favorite Things of 2008 that are non-book related...however, a list I could not muster. This year has stunk for me and that's being mild about it! That being said, there were a few things that I absolutely loved about 2008 and thus, I've compiled them for you. Laugh if you must!

The first item I'm in love with is Steam n' Mash Potatoes. Seriously folks, have you all found these yet?! They are REAL potatoes, already peeled and cut for you that you simply steam IN THE BAG and then mash. No peeling for 20 minutes, chopping, boiling, whipping, etc. And they taste like wonderfully, yummy, carb filled mashed potatoes. An amazing invention if I may say so.

My second favorite item of 2008 is the fabulous Wii Fit (which I use to work off the potatoes!). This thing is such a cool invention and it actually is a great workout, though looks are at first deceiving. The yoga is really good for stretching, the hula hooping is a crazy fast way to burn a whole bunch of calories and still enjoy yourself, and there are lots of fun games that distract you from the workout part. PLUS, it does a body calculation on you so progress can be tracked. It's pretty awesome.

Finally, my FAVORITE thing of 2008 is the television show, The Big Bang Theory. Are you all watching this? It is absolutely hilarious! I don't think I have ever laughed as hard watching a tv show as I have done each week with this. Really...Monday nights, you need to watch this show. Sheldon is so perfectly cast and portrayed. Man I love this show! Unfortunately, I have no idea how to embed a video, but just trust me on it!

Here's to a happier 2009!

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Opposite of Invisible

I have such passion for this little novel! When I complete a book and it actually results in me wanting to stand up and DO something, that's a good book and with The Opposite of Invisible by Liz Gallagher, that "thing" was glass blowing. I SO want to learn how to do the amazing art that gets so much attention in the book. Pick it'll see what I mean by the end.

Alice has been best friends with Jewel since they were little kids. They do everything together and are really able to be themselves in front of each other, sharing the art they both love, a passion for great coffee, and Indie shows. Both are perfectly fine with just each other and not being a part of the popular crowd. Until the day that Alice and Jewel share their first kiss AND Alice gets asked out by Simon, one of the popular guys. Alice starts to feel a pull towards Simon, yearning for something different and new, unfortunately, leaving Jewel behind.

As both Alice and Jewel explore new and incredibly different aspects of life, both with relationships, friendships, and art, each starts to grow more towards each other, whether either wants to acknowledge it.

What I really loved about this (besides the glass blowing) was how real Alice was. I could really be best friends with her, walking down the streets of Seattle, going to art shows and drinking awesome coffee. I also had great vibes towards both Jewel and Simon. Simon was never portrayed as the guy that came to steal the girl away and Jewel wasn't shown as the jealous best friend. Both seemed as if they were genuine and just plain nice!

The writing is fabulous and the realistic feel to the characters and setting are beautifully done. I felt pure happiness as I closed the cover on this book and had to just sit back and think about it for awhile. Liz Gallagher really did a great job at connecting with teens on this one.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Challenge Lists

I have two lists finally ready to go for both the Young Adult Challenge and the TBR Challenge. Finally!

2009 TBR Challenge List

1. A Passion for Books by Harold Rabinowitz
2. Foundling by D.M. Cornish
3. Lamplighter by D.M. Cornish
4. Pretty Like Us by Carol Lynch Williams
5. Matters of Faith by Kristin Kiernan
6. Four Paws from Heaven by M.J. Wells
7. The Problem Child by Michael Buckley
8. Lost & Found by Jacqueline Sheehan
9. The Yellow Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee
10. Together: A Novel of Shared Vision by Tom Sullivan
11. The Way Life Should Be by Christine Baker Kline
12. This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

1. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
2. Traitor by Gudrun Pausewang
3. Saving Sailor by Renee Riva
4. The Letters by Sean Hanzelik
5. The Rising Star of the Rusty Nail by Lesley M. M. Blume

2009 Young Adult Challenge

1. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
2. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
3. Wings by Aprilynne Pike
4. 3 Willows by Ann Brashares
5. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
6. Flygirl by Sherri Smith
7. What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
8. The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti
9. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
10. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie by Mirjam Pressler
11. Auralia's Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet
12. Dooley Takes the Fall by Norah McClintock

Giveaway winner

The winner of the lovely alphabet books from Sleeping Bear Press is...


Congratulations Carrie! Make sure you email me your address ASAP and I'll get the books out to you. YAY!!!

Thanks to everyone that entered!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

2009 Challenges

I signed up for quite a few challenges in 2008, most of which I did not complete due to the early arrival of my son and the months we then spent in the hospital. Not a whole lot of reading and reviewing got done in those months, for obvious reasons! For 2009, I want to make up for my lack of completed challenges, so I'm going to join a bunch and hopefully completely each one! Here's my list so far:

The 2009 100+ Book Challenge hosted by J. Kaye's Book Blog.

Here are the guidelines:

1) You can join anytime as long as you don’t start reading your books prior to 2009.

2) This challenge is for 2009 only. The last day to have all your books read is December 31, 2009.

3) You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009.

4) All books count: children’s, YA, adults, fiction, non-fiction, how-tos, etc.

For complete rules and to sign up, go HERE.

The 2009 Young Adult Challenge, also hosted by J. Kaye's Book Blog.

Here are the guidelines for that:

1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

2. Read 12 Young Adult novels. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

3. Challenge begins January thru December, 2009.

4. You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009.

The TBR Challenge hosted by MizB over at the TBR Challenge Blog.

Here are those guidelines:

* the challenge is to read 12 TBR books in 12 months -- you can read those all in one month if you want, or one a month, or however you wanna do it.

* you need to have a list posted somewhere for others to see (even if it's in a comment here)
* you CANNOT change your list after January 1st, 2009!!!

* you can create an Alternates list of MAXIMUM 12 books, if you want, in order to have options to choose from (you can read these in place of books on your original list).

* audiobooks and e-books ARE allowed

* re-reads are NOT allowed, as they aren't TRUE "TBRs"

* you CAN overlap with other challenges

I'll have my list up for this one either today or tomorrow.

Artichoke's Heart

Suzanne Supplee has gotten right into my heart with her young adult novel, Artichoke's Heart. It's rare that I feel such a kinship with a fictional character, but Rosemary Goode and I...well...let's just say we would be BFFs if she was a real person (and yes, I just wrote BFF in my blog. There's a first for everything I suppose...).

Rosemary is an awesome girl. Really...she's smart and funny and has a whole lot of personality, however no one in her family or high school seems to see those traits. All they see about Rosemary is her weight. The weight keeps going up and up as Rosemary constantly turns to food as a comfort source and the hits keep on coming from all around her. Her Aunt signs her up for a fat girl conference and her mom tricks her into going to weight-loss counseling, leaving Rosemary to believe she really is nothing more than a number on the scale.

When an adorable, popular guy from school begins showing interest in Rosemary, she knows it's too good to be true. How could a normal, gorgeous, big-man-on-campus type ever have an interest in her, the Artichoke? As Rosemary slowly learns how to love herself through this novel, she also learns that she can have true and promising relationships with others, including boys and her mother, and that it doesn't really matter what others believe, it's what one believes about themselves that is important.

As Rosemary grew as a character, I think I grew a bit as a person as well. As far as weight goes, I've never had a problem with gaining it, but have always had a problem with the losing part (anyone with me on this??) and especially so after having my son. I can see, after reading Artichoke's Heart, that I often think of myself as only a number on the scale, rather than as a person, as Rosemary was quite obviously doing. Even as a fictional character, she gave insight into my own life and opened up my own eyes a bit. What a great feat for a young adult novel! Thanks Ms. Supplee!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Picture Book Saturday: All About Animals!

Though I'm sure your kids received lots of picture books for Christmas and Hanukkah, I have a few more this week that I've enjoyed and hope you will find enjoyable as well! I'm going on a pseudo-safari this week, bringing you a book about a tiger, one about a giraffe, and another about a gorilla. Enjoy!

Auntie Tiger, written by the AMAZING Laurence Yep and illustrated by Insu Lee reads like a fairy tale. Yep has created a Chinese adaptation of the much loved children's tale, Little Red Riding Hood, replacing the feared wolf with "Auntie Tiger." Done in beautifully bright and tropical illustrations, with giggle-worthy text, two sisters filled with rivalry try to protect each other against the Tiger claiming to be their "Auntie."

A reader really can't go wrong when picking up a Laurence Yep book, though this one is much lighter and more humorous than most of his picture books. Auntie Tiger would be great for a unit on multi-cultural fairy tales or just to read aloud.

Now, giraffes are one of my absolute favorite animals, so I had to include a giraffe selection in our safari this week! Chee-Lin: A Giraffe's Journey, written and illustrated by James Runford is probably not going to entertain your smaller children, as it's a bit long and word heavy, but it may be a great choice for a couple of nights worth of bedtime reading. Told in one-page chapters, the reader learns of what giraffes meant to the Chinese people, as well as Tweega the giraffe's personal adventure from his home in Africa, all the way to China.

A great history lesson filled with beautiful illustrations, Chee-Lin is based on a painting created in 1414. Chinese exploration is the main topic here, but for children, the story of an adorable giraffe just wanting to be free will be the real standout.

Finally, we have a heartwarming and guaranteed smile story in Little Beauty, written and illustrated by Anthony Browne. Based on the true story of a gorilla at the San Diego Zoo that had learned how to sign, our main character is indeed a huge gorilla. He had everything he ever wanted after learning to sign his wants and needs, except one thing...he wanted a friend. The zoo keepers brought him a kitten that he named "Beauty."

The gorilla and kitten fill this story with love and sweetness. Your kids (and you) are just going to feel happy after reading this one, making it truly wonderful for an anytime read. Browne's illustrations are pretty great too...overall this one definitely gets two thumbs up!

If you're interested in learning more about any of these, or to purchase, click on any of the book covers to link to Amazon.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Goodies

I hope everyone had a wonderful day with both family and friends yesterday! We kept our activities very small and low-key, which is just what we needed after an incredibly rough and busy year. I made dinner for us and a friend of ours and then Aaron and I went to the movies to see "Benjamin Button." Very good movie...just VERY long and VERY slow.

I thought you all might enjoy seeing some pictures of our day and, of course, of the book gifts I received from the hubby. He doesn't buy many books for me, seeing as though I get at the very least, three deliveries of ARCs during the week and need more books like I need a hole in the head, but this year he bought me a new pop-up book to add to my collection and Dog Lost, a middle grade novel I've been dying to read since it was published in August. I've already read it and loved it...look for a review soon. Here are some pictures:

My Christmas books are above. We really didn't buy that much for each other this year...we just treated ourselves to a new couch and loveseat...a very nice present for ourselves I must say!

My Shae attempting to lick my face and not get in trouble for it. She's my sweet girl.

It's a bit small on here, but here's one of the family after our guests left. Love the new couch!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Today is the day Jesus Christ, our beloved Savior was born, and thus a wonderful day of celebration. Though Aaron and I are not able to spend this glorious day with family this year, which is especially hard after losing both our son and my mother, we are spending it with friends and most importantly, with each other. Though we've had loss, we feel so blessed to be here to celebrate the birth of Christ and to sing Happy Birthday, knowing He has His great hand in our lives.

Merry Christmas to all of you, whether you are spending the day with family, are on a special vacation, or may just be home alone.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A HUGE Christmas Giveaway!

I promised you an awesome giveaway and here it is! Sleeping Bear Press has kindly donated books from their Discover the World series for me to give to you...and if you read this blog, you know how awesome these books are. Included in this giveaway I have:

S is for Shamrock: An Ireland Alphabet
D is for Dancing Dragon: A Chinese Alphabet (pictured below)
B is for Big Ben: A London Alphabet

P is for Pinata: A Mexican Alphabet (pictured below)
A is for America: An American Alphabet


They threw in A is for Abraham: A Jewish Family Alphabet...simply because it's the Hanukkah season, as well as the Christmas season.


I'm throwing in a copy of A is For Amazing Moments: A Sports Alphabet.

You're getting 7 brand new books for your collection or your library's collection. All are hardcover, brand new, and great books for a huge age range...not just the little ones learning the alphabet. They teach about cultures in a very unique and approachable manner.

Leave a comment on this post by Sunday night to about this contest on your blog and tell me about it in your comment and you'll get FIVE extra entries. WAHOO!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Every Soul a Star

I LOVED this book! Wendy Mass has this wonderful way of bringing out every single emotion a reader could possibly have, all with one book. Quite the talent that lady possesses! From the cover to the storyline to the characters to the ending, Every Soul a Star had me hooked from the very beginning and loving every minute of time I spent with it in my hands. It's intelligent, realistic, and has such a unique subject at its center, you can't help but love it.

At a campground called Moon Shadow, three middle schoolers, Ally, Jack, and Bree collide into each others life. Ally and her family live at the campground and run the place, all of them very excited for the eclipse event that's bringing thousands of people streaming into the camp. Having spent almost all her life at the campground, being homeschooled and really connecting with nature, Ally loves her home and is ready to show it off to so many people.

One of those eclipse chasers is Jack, a chunky, nerdy kid that hasn't really done anything exciting with his life until his science teacher convinces him to chase the eclipse with a senior group. Though unsure and a tad bit nervous, Jack agrees and heads out to Moon Shadow, trying to gain confidence in himself along the way.

Our final player is Bree, prissy, popular girl from the Suburbs whose lives revolves around her dream of becoming a model. Her parents are dragging her to Moon Shadow campground for reasons that she simply cannot believe. And those reasons are going to change her life, Jack's life, and Ally's life.

As I mentioned, Every Soul a Star takes you on quite the emotional ride. You'll laugh, be a bit sad, and cheer on each of the three main characters individually and together. Wendy Mass really gets middle grade readers, making this a great choice for library collections or, of course, for your own readers!

If you want to learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Hanukkah Books

Since Hanukkah has begun, I thought it was time to do a post about some new books out this year on the holiday. Both are non-fiction and offer a plethora of information on traditions and meaning of Hanukkah, in a simplified enough manner for the young ones to understand. That scores points in my book!

Celebrate Hanukkah with Light, Latkes, and Dreidels is part of National Geographics "Holidays Around the World" series. A GREAT series for libraries to have on their shelves. Written by Deborah Heiligman, the reader gets a basic lesson on Hanukkah through brilliant photographs and text explaining how the holiday started, what the nine candles in a menorah represent, why latkes became an important part of Hanukkah traditions, and just what the letters on the side of true dreidels mean.

The book also includes a glossary, a "more facts about Hanukkah" section, instructions on playing the dreidel game, and links to find out more about the Jewish holiday. Again, the photographs really steal the show, but would you think anything less of a National Geographic book?

Harvest of Light, written by Allison Ofanansky and photographed by Eliyahu Alpern takes the approach of a story of a girl, ready to celebrate Hanukkah. The photographs and text portray the girl taking the necessary steps to prepare for the beginning of the celebration, mainly picking the olives that will be made into the oil lots of Jewish celebrants need for cooking, eating, and lighting of the menorah during the Hanukkah holiday.

Though more a book on the process of olive oil making, Harvest of Light lends valuable information as to why oil is so important during Hanukkah and the intense care that goes into producing it. The photos are beautiful and the book a definite plus to a collection.

If you're interested in learning more or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Giveaway Winner and ANOTHER giveaway!

The winner of my Living Rich for Less giveaway is....


Just send me your mailing info and I'll get your book out to you ASAP.

And just to let you in on some upcoming blog excitement, I have a HUGE giveaway planned for Christmas Eve. It's my favorite day of the year and what better way to spend it than offering a HUGE giveaway to all my blogging friends!? Check back on Wednesday to learn what it is!

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Every now and then, what we all need in our lives is a bit of suspense. I've been reading quite a few young adult novels lately and I can't really tell you that I've come across a whole lot of suspense during my reading. That is, until I read Shift.

Written by Jennifer Bradbury, the suspense starts within the first few pages when we meet Chris and his best buddy Winston. The pair are graduating from high school and as one last adventure before they go off to the colleges their parents are insisting they attend, they've decided to take a bike trip across the country. Unfortunately, once the trip has ended, only Chris returns. Win is nowhere to be found and Chris doesn't have any answers to give the people that want them.

Alternating between Chris's first week at college, intertwined with the investigation launched into finding Win, and the actual bike trip the guys took, allowing the reader to search for clues as to where Win might have gone and how he decided to leave. Though the boys had been best friends forever, it becomes clear that Chris didn't know his friend nearly as well as he thought he did, leaving him to question if he even knows himself.

Though a tad bit predictable, Shift is definitely one of the better coming-of-age books I've read this year. Chris is a great main character, carrying an air of sadness around with him, leaving the reader to sympathize with the situation he is in because of his friend. The suspense is constantly felt as well, not to mention a great sense of adventure when the tales of the bike trip are being told. It made me want to break out my bike and helmet (though I would probably ride around the block, not across the country)!

If you're interested in learning more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Picture Book Saturday!

I have 3 wintry/holiday related books for you all this week. Enjoy!

Mucky Pup's Christmas written and illustrated by Ken Brown is the cute tale of a little, mischievous puppy that truly believes he is helping out his family when he rearranges the Christmas tree, samples the cake, and carries the family Christmas cards in with his mouth. Unfortunately, the rest of the family thinks Mucky Pup has been bad and banishes him to the outside. The dog manages to have quite the adventure with the barn animals, all while his family begins to worry about just where Mucky Pup ran off too.

The illustrations are done very nicely and though the story is overly simplistic, it's a cute read aloud for the younger ones, especially now, around the holidays.

Jodie's Hanukkah Dig, written by Anna Levine and illustrated by Ksenia Topaz is a nice look at the topic of Hanukkah, without actually getting into the holiday aspects of it. Jodie is very interested in archeology and wants nothing more than for her father to take her to one of the famous archeological dig sites so she can practice. Since Pompeii is not anywhere near home, Jodie and her dad settle on a small dig site nearby, where Jodie learns that she and the Maccabees, the heroes of the Hanukkah story, have something very important in common.

Not overly preachy and a nice way to introduce the Hanukkah story. Jodie's Hanukkah Dig definitely is not the only book to use to teach about Hanukkah, but it's a nice start.

Finally, Footprints in the Snow, written and illustrated by Mei Matsuoka is my favorite of the week and absolutely adorable. Wolf, our main character, is pretty offended when he discovers that the only wolves he's ever read about in stories are mean, nasty, and want to eat everyone! So Wolf decides to write his own story about a nice wolf that never wants to eat anyone, but simply befriend all the animals and people that he can. Once into the writing of his story, Wolf begins to question weather his wold instincts are going to get the better of him.

The illustrations are really cute, the text is displayed differently on almost every page, and the story is adorable. A perfect read aloud for storytimes or bedtime!

If you're interested in learning more about any of the books, or to purchase, click on any of the book covers above to link to Amazon.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Poetry Friday: Soup for Breakfast

I haven't done a Poetry Friday post in so long! I guess I haven't had too many poetry books fall into my lap lately, though this one has been on my shelf for awhile. Not sure why I didn't pick it up before now, it's really very cute!

Soup for Breakfast is written and illustrated by Calef Brown (yay!) is quite humorous and almost reads as if Mr. Brown is thinking out loud. A stream of consciousness about a particular topic if you will. My absolute favorite poem out of the book is the hilarious "Painting on Toast," which is really about making a masterpiece on a single slice of toasted bread. Very cute! "Grandpa's Mustache" is pretty great too, as is "One to Ten (and Back Again)."

A great collection of poem's by an extremely talented poet and illustrator, Soup for Breakfast is a great choice for library shelves. The illustrations are excellent and the poems will definitely crack smiles!

If you would like to learn more, or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Secret War Diary

At first glance, this collage style diary, authored by Marcia Williams (and Flossie Albright of course) looks like an actual diary. It's put together and presented in such a way that it could actually be a young girl's diary. I think that aspect alone is going to put it into the hands of a lot of middle grade reader hands, not to mention the content. I can definitely see the appeal to that age group.

My Secret War Diary by Flossie Albright: My History of The Second World War, 1939-1945 is "written" by Flossie Albright, a nine year old British girl forced to care for her baby brother and her uncle after her mother passes away and her father goes off to fight in the war is really a very normal young girl, though her life is now infused with the nightmares of the enemy bombing her house, having enough food to get through the day, and losing her dad to the war. All the sad subjects are mixed with pre-teen girl stuff....crushes on boys, cute drawings of her friends, and wildflowers stuck between the pages.

The diary is written in hand script and filled with tons of mementos of Flossie's life and the World War II time period. Letters from Flossie's dad, newspaper clippings, drawings, and photographs surround each diary entry and the reader really gets a glance into the life of an ordinary girl being forced to grow up too quickly, yet still trying to remain somewhat of a child.

All of the writing comes off as really being from inside a nine year old's head. Marcia Williams did an excellent job of channeling her inner child and making this book incredibly believable. Flossie is a stubborn girl with huge spirit, wanting nothing more than for her family to be safe and her father to be home.

Though there are some 3-D aspects to the pages, none are pullouts that would get lost if various patrons were to check this book out. I definitely recommend it for libraries and if you have a daughter or niece around Flossie's age, definitely look for this as a gift.

If you're interested in learning more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Living Rich for Less AND a giveaway!

So you want to own the home you love, make memories on wonderful vacations with family or friends, finance college educations, and help others too?

You can—starting here and now.

With lively humor, proven know-how, and practical principles for financial health, Living Rich for Less helps you stretch your dollars to realize the lifestyle of your dreams. Ellie Kay’s entertaining and enlightening examples show you simple steps to save, spend, and give smart, and her three main principles are undergirded by dozens of effective rules and hundreds of Cha-Ching Factor™ tips that keep or put money in your pocket.

Ellie knows what it’s like to be financially-strapped or struggling, wanting to be the Joneses but feeling as poor in spirit as in pocketbook. She went, within two and a half years, from being a new wife and mom with $40,000 in consumer debt and seven children (and college educations) to support, to being completely debt-free and within fifteen years able to pay cash for eleven different cars, give away three of those cars, buy two five-bedroom houses (moving from one to the other) and nicely furnish each, take wonderful vacations, dress her family in fine fashion; and support more than thirty non-profit organizations in more than a dozen different countries, giving away more than $100,000.

Isn’t that the kind of transformation to a rich life that you want?

Living Rich for Less helps anyone get there in our taxed-out, maxed-out times. Because financial security doesn’t mean just genuine prosperity, but being able to live luxuriously, give generously, and care for yourself as well as the others around you.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. OR leave a comment on this post by Sunday night to win your own copy. Perfect for all those "get out of debt" New Year's resolutions.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cute picture books for Wednesday...

Trudy, written and illustrated by Henry Cole is one of those adorable, heartwarming stories that's perfect for cuddling up and reading with your little ones on these oh-so-wintry days. Your kids will love Esme, the sweet little girl who is promised an animal at the county auction by her grandfather. After looking at many different types of animals, Esme falls in love with Trudy, an adorable goat that is the just the perfect pet for a little girl! After getting Trudy home, Esme and her family soon start to believe there just may be something wrong with the goat, as she doesn't want to come out of her bed, preferring to stay warm and comfy inside the straw. After several weeks, Trudy gives quite the surprise to Esme, one that little kids are just going to love!

Though the picture book is going to be considered incredibly predictable to any adult, the storyline is perfectly surprising to little ones and makes for a great one-on-one book, as well as a nice winter read aloud. I would consider it a great addition to any collection.

For a selection that's a bit more funny, The Princess Who Had Almost Everything, written by Mireille Levert and illustrated by Josee Masse is a great choice. We meet Princess Alicia in all her greediness, a child that wants more and more and more, never being satisfied with what she has. She wants a bigger castle, more dessert, and lots of beautiful shoes, but once she has all of these things, she's still bored and bratty. When a very special boy visits Princess Alicia, wanting to court her, but not having many worldy goods, the Princess initially thinks only of turning him away, until he teaches her a special art and convinces her that making her own fun is the perfect way to always insure one's happiness.

The illustrations in this very girly book are fabulous....really...very good, and though the story is a bit messagy, kids are still going to enjoy the book overall. It's one of those that is just bound to be successful with it's huge infusion of all things Princess.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Paper Towns

John Green and I had a slightly tumultuous relationship after I read Looking for Alaska. Many of my blogger friends absolutely loved the book and I simply didn't "get" it, therefore leaving me mentally arguing with Mr. Green as to why I was the only one missing something. Well. Both Mr. Green and myself have been redeemed after reading his latest, Paper Towns. I get it, I love it, and I'm not alone! The characters and the premise are just brilliant and I now have joined the love affair of John Green's young adult books. Finally!

Quentin and Margo are neighbors. They used to be best friends, but then Margo became one of
those unattainable popular girls and Quentin just stayed his same old self, not popular, but not really disliked either. Right before graduation, Margo appears in the window of Quentin's bedroom, late at night, insisting he take her on an all night adventure, filled with sneakiness, pranks, and a little destruction of property.

As fast as Margo reentered Quentin's life, she disappears and when no one can be bothered enough to look for her, believing she'll come back on her own time, Quentin takes the search into his own hands, following clues he believes Margo left for him. With the addition of Quentin's hilarious sidekick, Radar, the boys follow each clue and end up on an intense road trip, making friends they never thought they would have.

Though Margo was a bit irritating at times (she is incredibly self centered), I loved Paper Towns. Quentin was a great main character and Radar made for an awesome friend. The plot was unique and the infused mystery of where Margo could be definitely made this much more of a page turner than Green's previous novels. Her clues were incredibly well thought out...very impressive....and the lack of care on her parent's part was made to be very realistic feeling. I really enjoyed this one.

When purchasing the book, you get a cool choice of two covers. One has Margo smirking and the other has her looking very dark and angry. I'm still not sure which I like better...probably the yellow one. She certainly had a mischievous side!

Keep in mind, this missed Cybils nominations by a day (one day!!), so it's eligible for next's years nominations.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Non-Fiction Monday: Sugar Gliders

I'm not sure if you all remember, but for awhile Aaron and I were foster parents to a pair of adorable sugar gliders. Not too many people knew what they were and often responded with a "what the heck are sugar gliders?!" when we said we had a couple as pets. Though they are slowly becoming more common, sugar gliders really do make great pets, as long as you truly understand how much work goes into caring for them and making sure they are healthy, both mentally and physically.

Elizabeth O'Sullivan has written a book for Lerner's Early Bird Nature Books series, simply titled Sugar Gliders, which will fill in perspective pet owners on all they need to know about these cute little animals that look a bit like chipmunks, starting with where they're from and what they eat and going into socialization and what goes into keeping them as pets. Being that they are exotic animals, it's actually illegal in some states to own them and/or breed them, so make sure you check into your own state laws if you're interested.

The book also includes a few pages of additional resources where you can find all sorts of great information about the gliders. The book is written in a very simplistic format, making it very easy to read for the younger crowd, but also quite informative, making it a great resource for those looking into owning sugar gliders.

My own personal note here....if you do want to own these, make sure you plan to buy a pair. Being colony animals, the gliders can become emotionally distraught if they are the only one in their cage. And buy a huge cage! These animals are definitely a huge investment.

If you're interested in learning more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Picture Book Saturday: Christmas Galore

Being gone for as long as I was, I am incredibly behind on posting, especially in the Christmas category. For Picture Book Saturday this week, I'm featuring four great Christmas books to get everyone in the mood for the holiday and hopefully to inspire some book buying for the season. Books are the best gifts to give people!

I'm sure you all know how much I love pop-up books (my husband thinks I'm obsessed...) and A Present for Santa Claus is a great Christmas pop-up out this year. The actual pop-ups are created by Dana Kubick and includes one very cool 3-D "look through" pop-up and the story was written by David Wood. Basically, Sam wants to give Santa a present this year instead of asking him for something for himself, resulting in a year of saving his money and trying to find the perfect gift. He even goes as far as to write Santa a letter and tell him of the plan to buy him a present this year, something that just tickles Santa right in his heart. He decides to give Sam a great gift anyways and as the pop-ups help to explain, Sam does indeed get a very special treat!

The art is great, the story is cute, AND the cover has glitter on it. I'm a happy girl!

What Does Mrs. Claus Do? written by Kate Wharton and illustrated by Christian Slade helps to evoke images of what Mrs. Claus may do while Santa is out on his yearly present delivery. Are you one of those that just thought she sat at home, patiently awaiting the return of her hubby? You would be very wrong! Mrs. Claus may be hosting a black-tie ball, developing new toys with the elves, or even inspecting snowmen for flaws! You just never know what that sneaky Mrs. Claus may be up to...

The idea of the story is very cute, though it could have used a bit more substance. Still good for a Christmas read aloud.

Another book about Santa's lovely wife, Mrs. Claus Explains It All and is written by Elsbeth Claus (of course), illustrated by David Wenzel. Finally kids from around the world can have all of their questions about Santa, the elves, the North Pole, and the reindeer answered by an insider! Questions like "What is Santa's favorite cookie?," "How does Santa know where I live?," "Are all the reindeer boys?," and "Why didn't I get what I asked for?" are all questions that Mrs. Claus patiently answers.

Little ones will love having the "real" answers to the questions they've always wondered about. The art is also great in this cute picture book.

Finally, my favorite book of the week, What Dogs Want for Christmas is written and illustrated by Kandy Radzinski. I know, I know...move on from the dog books, Amanda. I just can't. Love them!

In Radzinski's adorable book, a myriad of different dogs tell us exactly what they want for Christmas this year, in cute little poems. Sam, a tiny Chihuahua, wants nothing more than something warm to wear, and Miss Maddie the Boxer simply wants a glimpse of Santa...but she's getting verrry sleepy.

The illustrations are beautiful, the dogs are adorable, and the text is pretty darn cute too. Great for animal lovers!

If you're interested in learning more about any of the titles or to purchase, click on any of the book covers to link to Amazon.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sunrise Over Fallujah

This one was a toughie. Reading books about war, especially the current war, have gotten quite difficult since my husband enlisted in the military and fights for our country. Reading about death overseas and the combat zones and the pure horrors that go on daily is definitely not easy for me, but I love Walter Dean Myers and wanted to make a true effort to read his latest, Sunrise Over Fallujah. Myers took the subject of Operation Iraqi Freedom and wrote with an insight that has yet to be matched, not surprising to me at all! A great book, just be careful about the subject matter, at times it gets pretty brutal.

Robin's parents expect him to go to college after high school, but in the aftermath of September 11th and the terrorist attacks on the United States, he feels it's his duty to serve in the Army. After completing basic training, Robin is deployed to Iraq and the front lines of the war, witnessing horror after horror, most of which will never make the news back in the States. He attempts to constantly remain positive in his letters back home, not mentioning the heartbreak he's experiencing, not wanting to scare his family with the constant danger he is in.

It's really hard to read such a realistic novel about such a young man entering a war zone and having to suffer through months and months, losing his innocence completely. That being said, Myers does an absolutely terrific job of conveying emotions and creating characters that feel like real individuals. As scary as parts of this book are, they are the true reality for so many people.

If you're interested in learning more about Sunrise Over Fallujah or to purchase, click the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Judy Blume Interview

Me, yes...little old me....has an interview with JUDY BLUME!!! Can you believe it?? I think I was on cloud nine for about a week after getting asked to do this in order to promote newest "Pain and the Great One" book, Soupy Saturdays with Pain and the Great One. Enjoy!

  1. I grew up reading all of your books, from the picture books to the adult books, with the original The Pain and the Great One being one of my favorites, and am so excited to see another book on the way. What made you decide to continue this series and not to pursue another novel or stand-alone book?

JB: Thanks for reading and remembering. I first wrote about the Pain and the Great One when my kids were six and eight years old. I've always wanted to write about these characters again, but this time in a longer book where I could get to know their family and their friends. I wrote one story a couple of years ago just to see if I could do it. I liked it and thought, "This is going to be fun!" But then other projects got in the way so I had to put the Pain and the Great One away. Finally, I said, "It's now or never!"

2. Are your characters Abigail (The Great One) and Jake (The Pain) and their experiences modeled after anyone?

JB: I have a daughter and son, two years apart. Originally, they were the inspiration for the Pain & the Great One. They’re grown now and my daughter has a son of her own. Jake and Abigail, the brother and sister duo in these books, have taken on their own lives though some of the story ideas came from memories (don’t ask what my son did with his first magnifying glass – ouch!) and others came from spending time with my grandson -- the Gravitron ride at the Fair, the boogie-board (he was a whiz, like Abigail). But that’s just for inspiration. Everything else is imagined. Hey, it’s fiction!

3. Will we continue to see more of The Pain and the Great One or are other ideas brewing?

JB: For now, four books is enough. (Friend or Fiend? will be published next May.) Time for me to start a new project. Don’t know what yet. This is supposed to be “thinking” time.

4. As a children's librarian, I recommend illustrator James Stevenson's work quite often, to both children and adults. What's it like working with him on The Pain and the Great One series?

JB: I’ve admired Jim’s work for years so it was a thrill to have him illustrate my books. We didn’t actually meet until the 3rd book, Going, Going, Gone!, was about to be published. A mutual friend who knew how badly I wanted to meet him, invited us to dinner. Nevermind that I was on a liquid diet preparing for a routine colonoscopy. Nothing was going to keep me from that dinner. He was as sly, witty, and charming as his illustrations. I couldn’t be more pleased. He brings such humor to my characters and stories.

5. I would love to know your dream place to write. Do you have an exotic locale you would love to write in or a specific food/comfort you want next to you while your creative mind works?

JB: These days I spend seven months in Key West, which is pretty exotic. This is my favorite of any place I’ve ever lived or worked. My “study” is peaceful, elegant, and the glass doors open to a garden where gardenias and orchids bloom all year. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? But not to worry, when I’m in residence my desk and the surrounding floor are still a mess of papers, folders, scripts, doodles, and books. In the summer we live on Martha’s Vineyard where I have a tiny writing cabin. It looks out on the pond, and beyond that, Vineyard Sound. I can see the ferry coming and going. My desk is a picnic table bought for $10 at a yard sale. My chair, one of those $25 numbers (and very comfortable). The truth is, it doesn’t matter where I work. When I think back to all the places I’ve worked I realize it’s not about elegance, it’s about finding my own quiet space for a couple of hours every day.

Thanks so much Judy! If you're interested in learning more about the book, or to purchase, click on the book cover to link to Amazon.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ten Cents a Dance

One of the more unique stories I've read this year, Ten Cents a Dance, written by Christine Fletcher is written on a subject that I had yet to encounter in a young adult book. The writing was fantastic, the characters lovely, and the overall presence of the novel fresh and new. Oh...and the cover? I wanted to see the rest of that photo SO badly! Most mysterious...Definitely a winner!

Living in the 1940's during incredibly difficult times, 15 year old Ruby is forced to quit school and work to support her ill mother and younger sister. Laboring in a factory packing pigs feet into jars is not exactly Ruby's idea of glamorous and she knows that she's being made old before her time. Her joints ache, her fingers are swollen, and her heart simply isn't in her job. Can you blame her?

When a super slick bad boy gets her a job doing something Ruby really loves, dancing the nights away, she feels like she's fallen into a movie. Being paid to simply dance with men, maybe flirt with them a bit, and to often leave the dance hall for dinners and nights out on the town, all dressed in pretty clothes and her makeup done, Ruby loves her new, rich lifestyle. Unfortunately, her job is looked down upon by most people, considered almost prostitution and Ruby knows she can never let her mother find out how she is now making money for the family. Soon, Ruby is drawn so far into the world of dancing and fantasy, she begins to fall into trouble and isn't quite sure how to get herself out. She can't trust anyone in the business and isn't even sure she can trust herself any longer.

The premise of Ten Cents a Dance is mesmerizing and the descriptions of the people, clothes, and atmosphere is simply amazing. I was hooked from the first page and will definitely be recommending this book to everyone I possibly can. For sure, one of my favorites of 2008!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


It isn't often that a book comes along leaving me hating the main character but absolutely loving the complete package! The main character in this young adult novel is so refreshingly dislikable...a strange statement, I know, but really, take my word for it here. You'll have extreme disdain for him through most of the book, but by the end you'll love him and just want to give him a hug.

When high school ski star and big man on campus, Dane begins suffering from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, life seems to stand still. Though the syndrome is not permanent, it results in Dane being completely immobile, having to slowly regain nerve function in his entire body and re-learn even the most basic of tasks all over again.

While recovering, Dane resides in a rehabilitation home in central Florida, far from the snowy weather of his home in Upstate New York ( home too!) and very far from the verbal and mental abuse of his father. Given almost endless time to think and reflect on the past couple of years, Dane slowly begins to open his eyes to how he's treated people and why he is constantly surrounded by people, but always alone.

Monica Roe did a beautiful job of creating an incredibly egotistical, smart mouthed main character that really believes he can do no wrong. He has treated his family badly, his girlfriend badly, and his teammates badly, though truly believes all that hurt is attributed to their faults, not his. As he struggles to become whole again, Dane's thought processes begin to shift and his coldness starts to melt, leaving him to try to mend fences that he had broken with his lack of care for others.

Thaw was a true surprise to me. I really didn't like Dane in the beginning of the story, though I now see the point of the character being written the way he was. The plot is very strong and the characters all unique. This is a great teen novel and one I will most definitely be recommending to all.

I'm back...with a giveaway winner!

Hey everyone, thanks for being patient while I was away and of course, for all of your support and kind words through yet another incredibly difficult time. I'm back to regular posting now and before I review anything, I need to announce the winner of my Knit Two giveaway. I was supposed to draw a few weeks ago, but with all the craziness, simply forgot. Because of the delay, a couple of surprise gifts will be in the winner's package.

The winner of Knit Two by Kate Jacobs is:

Holly from On My Bookshelf...

Congrats Holly! Just email me your address ASAP and I'll get the book and a couple of surprises out in the mail to you. Thanks to everyone for entering!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Max Eaton Interview!

So if you haven't checked out the incredibly adorable Max and Pinky books, written by Max Eaton, you NEED to! They are great pictures filled with cute illustrations and lots of humor...and I got an interview with the author/illustrator! For more info on any of the books, click on the book cover image to link to Amazon.

And onto the quite humorous interview....

Thank you so much for doing this interview Mr. Eaton, I'm honored to have you on my blog! Before we get started, I would love for you to pick a place to eat, where we will have our "interview." We can be eating pastries in a French bakery, candy canes at the North Pole, or funnel cake at an amusement part. Your choice!

I like the polar idea, but let’s make it Antarctica where we’ll be surrounded by thousands of fiercely territorial penguins. And we’ll be eating ramen noodles. Preferably oriental flavored. Here we go.

Can you share with us what led you to the world of the wonderful Max and Pinky?

Max and Pinky were created in a tiny unfurnished, post-college, pre-know-how-to-cook (this ramen actually tastes strangely familiar), currently-trying-to-figure-out-a-living apartment in Dillon, Colorado. The first few sketches were of a little bald kid without ears who was going to go hiking or skiing. I decided he’d need some sort of companion and ended up drawing what looked like a cross between a gumdrop and a pig’s head. I knew the kid would be named Max, less because he was supposed to be a younger version of me and more because all of my favorite characters growing up were named Max. Such a little narcissist! So Max was an easy one, but I thought at first that his pig pal was going to be named Binky because of some childhood memories.

When my brother and I were little, my parents used to take us on endless road trips each weekend. The kind of road trip where we ask “Are we headed home yet?” and my parents would respond “We’re technically always headed home.” Never a good sign. Anyway, my brother and I would get bored as all heck and start taking it out on each other physically (as brothers will do), so my dad would try to keep us distracted. Stuff like stopping in the middle of a rickety covered bridge pretending the car had died and then saying, “Whoa, did you feel that? I think I felt something. Whoa! There it is again! I think this whole bridge is going to go! The car won’t start! Oh, geez! The doors won’t open! Boys! Help!” It usually got our minds off of hitting each other pretty quickly. Another thing he’d do was pretend he was getting pulled over by the police, roll down the window and tell the officer that he wasn’t speeding or swerving, it was some character named Binky in the back. “I swear ossifer, Binky was driving. We just switched seats. Honest. It was Binky.” This one was less terrifying than the bridge move, so he’d really milk it and we ate it right up. This is why I named the little pig head Binky for a while. Or at least until I realized that there might be a more obvious name for a pink pig.

Did the story or the illustrations come first in your mind?

My characters are always the first to show up, and it’s usually after a little bit of doodling. Max and Pinky weren’t any different. I started drawing a little bald guy and then a little pink pig, and it kind of took off from there. I spend a lot of time just drawing two characters looking at each other and then coming up with something for one to say to the other. The majority of drawings on my blog probably fall into this category. After I’ve done a bunch of these cartoonish meetings, I start to develop little trends and quirks in their personalities and stories begin to present themselves. The whole beginning of Best Buds is made up of these sorts of little situations.

How long did each book take you to complete?

The entire process of making a Max and Pinky book usually takes about a year. Sometimes the actually story line comes pretty quickly, but it can take months and months to work out all of the little details and subtleties. Then once you and everyone at the publisher are satisfied you go to final art work where the entire book is redrawn and colored. Of course, there are then usually a few more changes to be made. You get proofs from the printer, and slight slight changes can be made there. Finally, you wash your hands of the entire thing and wait for the release date. By this time you usually haven’t even thought of the book for months and months, because you’ve been working on something else. So it’s a pleasant surprise to hold it in your hands and see this perfect little final product. There’s nothing more satisfying than getting that first bound copy. I always want to tear it all apart to see the binding, but I’m told that that’s frowned upon at most libraries. I try to set a good example for kids.

The buzz surrounding these books is pretty big! How are you dealing with all this fame?

Fortunately, most of my jokes also involve sarcasm, so I recognized this one right away. Ha!

Do you have any other titles in the works or books soon to be published that you can tell us about? Go ahead, talk them up!

I’m always working on new picture books, but my most exciting project right now is a couple of graphic novels for about the seven to nine age group called The Flying Beaver Brothers. It’s about Ace and Bub, a couple of beavers that surf, ski, skateboard and skydive by day and find themselves caught in strange adventures by night. I’m having a great time with these two characters, but getting very little gratitude from them in return. All of this attention has really gone to their heads.

Who are some of the authors and illustrators you take inspiration from?
Ernest Sheperd’s illustrations in The Wind in the Willows and A.B. Frost’s illustrations in Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings are my two favorite sets of art by far. I think simple pen and ink lines make up some of the most beautiful art your can produce. For that matter throw in all of Edward Gorey’s work. I used to love his Gashlycrumb Tinies (talk about getting a kid’s imagination going) and later on I couldn’t resist the covers he did for John Bellairs’ novels. Those were great books, by the way. Scared me to death! But other than checking out artwork, I don’t spend a lot of time reading picture books. I’ve found that there are so many good books out there right now that when I sit down at the library or bookstore to check them all out it tends to tie me up creatively. It takes a long time to shake them all out of my brain, so I end up avoiding a lot of books in my own genre by reading their polar opposites (forget penguins). A lot of Hunter S. Thompson, Cormac McCarthy and poetry by Robert Service. Great stuff for the kiddies.

Finally, if you could have any job besides being an author/illustrator, what would you do?

I think I would have been a pretty good settler a few hundred years ago. Unfortunately, Tucson is fairly well populated at this time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I haven't forgotten about you all

When things go bad for me, they seem to really go bad. Unfortunately, this past week, I lost my mother...she passed away very unexpectedly on the 23rd and though I've tried to keep up with all my Cybils work and email correspondence, I figured I should let you all in on why I haven't been posting. I've spent the past week trying to pack up her rental house in Florida and then Aaron and I drove a Uhaul truck from Central Florida to New Mexico, tying up another few days. I'm home for the moment, but will be flying to NY on Thursday for her services this weekend and I have lots of meetings set up to start taking care of her estate. I plan to be back on regular posting by next Wednesday, so please just bear with me.

As crazy as it seems, I really do need to continue with blogging and have something be "normal" in my hectic life. After losing our baby in September and now my mom, I definitely need to have a constant, so blogging and reading is going to be just that. I'll be back up and running soon folks, I have to be to keep my sanity! For now, I'm just trying to stay cheerful, because I know that's how my mom would have wanted it. See you all soon.