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We’ve shared our ‘books as holiday art’ in years past (do check out that earlier post, as it has even more cool/funny/beautiful picture books) and wanted to share a handful of photos from this year’s holiday book-o-rating; some stay the same from year to year, but we have a few new ones, including this year’s addition to our holiday collection, Here Come Santa Cat (hilarious; check it out), which looks as if it was made for our funky Christmas cat, a favorite gift from my sister-in-law years ago.

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My childhood favorite, Mr. Willoughby’s Christmas Tree + our off-balance felt Christmas trees seems about right.

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Our snowy wooden trees always go with Eric Carle’s Dream Snow.

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Olivia Helps with Christmas, Auntie Claus and the Key to Christmas and Babar and Father Christmas are making the mantel colorful this year (along with the 50 roses my friends surprised me with for a certain milestone birthday).

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Our red-themed, tree-topped cake platter of books has a few variations this year:

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We hope you enjoy our take on making beautiful picture books part of our holiday celebration: Merry holidays, happy new year and jolly reading to you from LitKid and AKid@Heart!

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photo 1Earlier tonight, the Lost in a Book “team” went to another great author event at Quail Ridge Books and Music, our favorite bookstore. It’s a school night, so there isn’t much time to write in detail about the joy of listening to author Jackie Woodson read from her books and talk about her work. But since I write for a living, I know all too well that a few words are usually much better than a flood, so I think “joy” sums up the night just fine. Listening to Woodson read her books was a joy; often she was speaking them – performing them, almost – from memory.  It was music and poetry. It was a joy to see the overflow crowd, which included my girl’s language arts teacher and her friends from the Quail Ridge Books middle school book club, which met an hour before to discuss “Brown Girl Dreaming,” Woodson’s latest, which is nominated for a National Book Award. photo 2And it was a joy to share the experience with my 85-year-old mom and my 13-year-old daughter and co-blogger – three generations of book lovers, listening to book love.

~AKid@Heart

Learn more about Jackie Woodson and Brown Girl Dreaming. Read the News and Observer story about her visit to Quail Ridge Books. 

Postscript: LitKid and her grandmother have both finished Brown Girl Dreaming; I’m next. LitKid will post her review soon.  

When a 13-year-old girl happily goes to an indoor event on a beautiful fall Sunday afternoon and seeks out (solo) a front-row seat in a crowd with an average age quite a few decades her senior, and then sits contentedly through a program featuring about 10 speakers … well, in my opinion, this is a tribute that speaks volumes.

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my co-blogger, on the edge of her front-row seat

My co-blogger and daughter (LitKid, as she’s called here) dearly loves Quail Ridge Books and Music, our stellar independent bookstore in Raleigh, NC, and she needed no coaxing when I told her that there was a celebration today of the 30th Anniversary of the store and a big tribute to its founder, Nancy Olson.

Nancy and her husband, Jim, and their dedicated, wonderful staff made Quail Ridge a place that readers and writers of all ages (and musicians and music-lovers, too) were drawn back to again and again.

“LitKid” grew up there, sitting with her nose in a book on the carpet in the back of the children’s section (I always had to drag her away); attending raucous kids’  events with many talented writers and illustrators; and tagging along with me for just as many “grownup” author events, often with her homework in tow.

I asked her over dinner tonight why she loved Quail Ridge. “Because it feels cozy and has a family-like feeling to it,” she said. “Everyone who works there always has smiles on their faces.”

And on the cake: the perfect choice of quote to celebrate Quail Ridge Books.

The Olsons decided several years ago that it was time to find someone from the next generation to take over the store. There were many nervous patrons hoping against hope that in the era of Amazon, mega-bookstores and e-books, the Olsons would be able to find someone who would honor that “family-like” feeling that my girl and I and many others love about Quail Ridge.

They gave their fans the gift of being painstaking about the search process, and it paid off. As long-time customers, my girl and I can happily report that they did find a buyer who is honoring the values — and the value — of this place that Nancy and the staff worked hard to create over a span of 25-plus years.

The second-generation owner, Lisa Poole, and the staff (all of our favorite, smiling faces have remained) fittingly chose to focus the 30th anniversary on honoring Nancy Olson.

Unfortunately, Nancy was not there to hear the lineup of writers, friends and book world luminaries who were there to pay tribute to her, including Charles Frazier, Clyde Edgerton, Jill McCorkle, Allen Gurganus, Bridgette Lacy, Angela Davis-Gardner, Randall Keenan, Margaret Maron, Clay Stalnaker and Oren Teicher, Executive Director of the American Booksellers’ Association.

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Part of the lineup of guest speakers paying tribute to Nancy Olson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She is recovering from unexpected surgery, and we hope the videos of all of those well-written (of course), humorous, touching tributes will speed her recovery along so we can spot her smiling face at a future event at the store – and so my girl can, as always, give her a big hug.

~ AKid@Heart

 

 

If you regularly find yourself lamenting kids’ devotion to electronic devices, texting and their inscrutable, abbreviated secret language, you’ll probably find this story heartening.

And so it begins

LitKid turned 13 recently and was having three friends over for a slumber party. Since this was a big birthday, and she was on board with having a smaller party (I lost my mind and allowed a past slumber party to swell to 11 girls a few years back), I thought it would be nice to get her friends a party favor that was nice/lasting (ie, not made of  plastic or sugar).

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I asked her what ideas she had, and she couldn’t think of anything right away. We were up against the clock, so I told her I had had an idea on the way to work -– how about giving her a friends a book she had enjoyed? I tossed out Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me as a first suggestion.

(I admit to bias on this one. It is one of my favorite books from recent years, based on its merits – it won the Newbery – and on the fact that I am a child of the 70s, so I felt right at home.)

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Cool mom or hopelessly bookish mom? 

My girl obviously loves to read, but I was fully prepared for her to tell me that a 13th birthday party favor needed to be something cool or trendy – or that not all of her friends would be into getting a book.

But to my surprise and delight (after all, 13-year-olds don’t tend to think 49-year-olds’ ideas are cool), her immediate, enthusiastic response was that this was a “perfect idea!” and When You Reach Me was a perfect book to give her friends.

Quail Ridge Books, our favorite store,  had three copies (which gave the idea a “meant to be” feel, as girls 4 and 5 had had to cancel at the last minute) and gift-wrapped them for us, as always.

Suspense

The night of the party, I was very curious (and yes, a little nervous) to see how the girls would react to their bookish gifts.

Again, the tween/teen reaction was heart-warming.

All three girls were genuinely thrilled – not an overstatement, I promise – when they opened their gifts … even the one who had already read When You Reach Me. 

“It was my little sister’s book from the library,” she said, “so I love having my own copy: I’m going to read it again … and hide it from my sister.”

Just another bit of unscientific evidence that print is not dead, and it’s always cool to be a reader, even at 13.

~AKid@Heart

 

 

Dear author/illustrator friends of “Lost in a Book”~

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In 2012, one of LitKid’s fellow book-loving friends was rushed to the hospital with a scary medical emergency (seizures and more, following a bite from a mosquito carrying an encephalitis virus at summer camp).

We reached out via the blog and Twitter, asking authors/illustrators we’ve connected with if they would be willing to send “ReaderGirl” messages of encouragement. We got amazing response, and on her third day in the hospital, we were able to take a stack of good wishes to ReaderGirl (who is back to perfect health today).

On this eve of Christmas Eve, we’re asking you for a similar favor. A student at LitKid’s wonderful former elementary school was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia last year. Now a first-grader, she just got a tremendous holiday gift of bone marrow from a faraway donor, and the transplant took place a couple of weeks ago.

(We use pen names here on the blog, so from here on out in our story, we’ll call her “SuperGirl,” in honor of her superhero-level bravery.)

While this bone marrow was a wonderful gift, it means that SuperGirl is spending the holidays (and weeks after) at Duke Children’s Hospital — and of course, that is a BUMMER.

So if you have a minute to send a little holiday cheer and a lot of encouragement to SuperGirl, we would be very grateful.

It doesn’t have to be long or fancy; getting good wishes from a real, live children’s book writer-illustrator-creative-person-extraordinaire would be pretty amazing, no matter what form it takes.

(We’ve heard through the grapevine that SuperGirl was requesting art from her friends to make her room cheerful, and we bet your greetings would be a nice addition to her gallery.)

For purposes of full disclosure, we are acquaintances of this brave girl and her family, tied by a once-shared elementary school as well as mutual friends locally and one state away. SuperGirl’s story also hits home for us because LitKid spent a scary week in the hospital when she was just a year and a half old, with many scary terms flying around, including aplastic anemia and leukemia; in the end, LitKid’s diagnosis was far less serious than those early guesses and  much more manageable.

So while we are not close friends of SuperGirl and her family, we greatly admire their courage, especially that of her sister, a third-grader at LitKid’s elementary school. Siblings have to be incredibly brave and patient (feel free to send a note for SuperGirl’s sister, too; I think SuperSister is a fitting pen name for her!).

Maybe you could do something as simple as scrawling a short,
colorful message (or doodle?) in magic marker, then snapping a smartphone photo of it and emailing it to our Lost in a Book email address? Typing a quick note in an email is great, too; whatever works for you.

Our email address is 2girlslostinabook@gmail.com. (And if you would like to use SuperGirl’s real first name — or her sister’s — in your note to personalize it, just email us, and we’d be happy to share that with you privately.)

If you know of other writer/illustrator friends who might be willing to send a message, please feel free to send them this post.

Thank you in advance for your kindness and gift of time!

~AKid@Heart

This summer, we had to say goodbye to our beautiful, funny 16-year-old calico, who came to be called simply ‘Miss Kitty’ over the years (she started out as Audie, short for Audubon, due to her love of birdwatching).

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Last night, we welcomed new felines into the family: Harry and Hermione, who have been putting on a show ever since — including, much to our amusement, showing a fascination with not one, but TWO brooms.

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I’m remembering excellent words that I’m rarely sparked to think about: madcap, mayhem, scamper, hijinks, frenetic … much chasing, scrambling, tumbling, racing, pouncing and rolling going on around these parts, along with the occasional mewing, squeaking and kitten-growling. (Add to that the squealing of the very excited LitKid, and it’s been a rollicking first night and day.)

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Hermione stayed close as LitKid did her homework last night, which made her very happy. I closed out my night reading a book by booklight as usual, but this time with Harry curled up as close to me as possible, resting his head on my book.

When it was time to turn a page, I had to tuck each one under his cheek.

I believe this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

~ AKid@Heart

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[this note was typed by Hermione; she clearly needs a little more practice before posting her first review]

photo-2We thought it might be nice to give our kind followers a look at what’s currently filling LitKid’s two, tall, skinny “library” bookshelves.

More books are scattered across our house, but these photos give you a good sampling of the books she’s read over the years or will be reading in years to come – a mix of picture books, fiction and nonfiction … new and classic.

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(Guess who read the Harry Potter series first and then donated the books to LitKid’s library??)

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Up top: Many picture books, including some vintage ones that once belonged to AKid@Heart, including The Hat
Bottom: LitKid had a chance to interview Pamela and Jon Voelkel, authors of the Jaguar Stones books, which include Middle World … She even got to read an advance copy of River of No Return.

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LitKid reviewed the acclaimed book Wonder in 2012 and read Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech in her 5th grade book club along with her reading partner – her 83-year-old Grandma!

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More picture books and some of LitKid’s favorite contemporary reads

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Can you pick out the books that are bordering on being ANTIQUES??

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Many great contemporary reads, plus some classics (Charlotte’s Web)

We had such generous response from our author friends when we asked for messages of encouragement for LitKid’s 11-year-old buddy, “ReaderGirl.” Bitten at summer camp by a mosquito carrying the virus for LaCrosse encephalitis, she had a seizure on August 8, a few days after returning from camp.

Rushed to the hospital, she spent a scary week in the hospital being treated for seizures, infection and the other effects of both encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis  (inflammation of the membranes – meninges –  surrounding the brain).

Once the seizures and infection were under control and ReaderGirl was out of danger,  her disorientation about time and place  and her inability to do things she had known how to do for years were frightening for her parents.

Once we shared ReaderGirl’s story here, a staggering lineup of very well-known, critically acclaimed kids’ authors sent messages for her. In that wondrous way the world often works, I was amazed to read four messages detailing how the authors or their children had also experienced seizures or meningitis and recovered fully. What are the odds?

What started out as an impulsive hope for a gift that would cheer ReaderGirl and her parents led to the gift of firsthand hope and encouragement from generous writers who could say, “I’ve been there, and my story had a happy ending.”

ReaderGirl thought her binder of messages – including a personalized illustration from a certain famous author with a new book – was very cool, and her parents read the messages with tears in their eyes.

One week after she was rushed to the hospital, ReaderGirl got to go home last Wednesday, and her parents saw quick improvements; today, she had a brain scan that looked great, and on Wednesday, she and LitKid will be attending their middle school orientation. Her recovery isn’t finished quite yet, but it looks as if ReaderGirl’s story will have a happy ending, too.

During our second, message-delivering visit with ReaderGirl after she was sprung from the Pediatric Intensive Care  Unit into a regular room, we got to go along on her biggest outing yet – a trip to the cafeteria, followed by a little fresh air. When we headed back to the room – with ReaderGirl pushing my girl in her wheelchair instead of the other way around – we found her pediatric neurologist looking for his patient.

In another very cool, bookish twist, when ReaderGirl’s parents mentioned the messages from our author friends, the doctor’s eyes lit up. “You have a book blog? What’s the address? I’m always looking for good books to recommend to my patients!”

So we scrawled our blog info, as well as the URL for Anita Silvey’s wonderful Children’s Book Almanac website, on a piece of paper. Then the neurologist’s eyes lit up again. “You know, there’s this book I read when I was a kid, and I’ve been trying to figure out the title for years so I can find a copy!”

He went on to describe it to us, and a few days, later, I did a little high-level research (ah…Google searches).  I think I’ve tracked it down; once we find out if we solved the good doctor’s mystery, we’ll share it here later.

Thanks from ReaderGirl and her parents, as well as LitKid and me, to all of you who sent messages and/or positive thoughts and prayers; it was truly appreciated more than you’ll ever realize.

~AKid@Heart

LitKid recently posted an excellent list of books she hopes to read and/or wishes to add to her library when her 11th birthday rolls around later this month; she later announced she hoped to read 2,000 books this summer.

When I gave her a cocked-eyebrow, incredulous-but-trying-to-not-crush-her-dreams sort of look, she was unfazed, though a few days later, she did allow as how she might revise her goal to 2,000 books by the end of the year instead.

My goals are more modest, especially since I have a non-kidlit stack to read this summer as well:

1) When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead; I’m flipping back and forth between the hardcover and the audiobook on our July 4th holiday road trip. This one has been at the top of my reading wish list for awhile.

2) Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. By now, who hasn’t heard of the wonder of Wonder? My girl has done a class book report on it (complete with a way cool “Prezi” visual presentation for class), as well as reviewed it here. I can’t wait to read it.

3) The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall and The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. I hope to read Book 1 of at least one of these by the end of summer, and ideally I’ll fit in both.

4) Bunnicula, by Deborah and James Howe. Rosemary, our kidlit expert at Quail Ridge Books, highly recommended this one, and LitKid loved it. This is one of those books I’d want to read based solely on the title (maybe we’ll make a list of those books here one day; there are many strong contenders).

~AKid@Heart

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