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By Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon’s novel has been compared to the likes of The Catcher in the Rye, and I can agree that it lives up to those standards.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time chronicles the story of Christopher Boone, a boy who can list for you every prime number up to 7,057 and every country’s capital.

The descriptions of Christopher make you think that he has autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, but Haddon never says those words in the book.

In Curious Incident, you look through the eyes of Christopher as he writes a book about solving the mystery of his neighbor’s dog getting killed. Along the way, he finds something his dad has kept a secret from him that changes his life forever.

It was actually quite fascinating to be able to look through Christopher’s eyes; though his disability has limited him socially, it has also given him an amazing ability to solve puzzles, problems and math equations.

I believe that Mark Haddon was trying to demonstrate to us with this novel that no matter whether you have a disability or not, that you can advocate for yourself and make things better. All it takes is problem solving. Christopher is a brilliant example of this, considering he had to overcome some of his greatest fears.

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This book will make you want to cry at some points, but I was cheering for Christopher the whole way through. He was a really inspiring protagonist to me considering that he had to go through all that he did, with a disability on top of that. Anybody will get drawn into this superb novel. (It’s a good rainy day book.)

My mom found this really interesting essay written by Mark Haddon after Curious Incident came out, and she thought this would be great to add:

This was what I was trying to do in Curious Incident. To take a life that seemed horribly constrained, to write about it in the kind of book that the hero would read – a murder mystery – and hopefully show that if you viewed this life with sufficient imagination it would seem infinite.

When I was writing for children, I was writing genre fiction. It was like making a good chair. However beautiful it looked, it needed four legs of the same length, it had to be the right height and it had to be comfortable.

With Curious Incident, I was trying to do something different. The first thing I was doing was writing to entertain myself rather than the person I remember being at six, or eight. Second, yes, the book has simple language, a carefully shaped plot and invites you to enter someone else’s life. And these, I think, are the aspects of the book that appeal most to younger readers.

But the book, I hope, does something more than that. The legs aren’t quite the same length. It isn’t entirely comfortable. It’s about how little separates us from those we turn away from in the street. It’s about how badly we communicate with one another. It’s about accepting that every life is narrow and that our only escape from this is not to run away (to another country, another relationship, a slimmer, more confident self) but to learn to love the people we are and the world in which we find ourselves.

As Christopher, my main character, says: ‘People go on holidays to see new things… but I think that there are so many things just in one house that it would take years to think about all of them properly.’

~  written by LitKid in 2014, with a little input from AKid@Heart

Postscript: Some of my friends got to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in Nighttime on Broadway on a school trip this past spring, and they said it was really meaningful and had a unique set/design; you can read more about that in this New York Times article.

Also: Many U.S. readers are probably familiar with the distinctive red cover of the book, but if you go to  Mark Haddon’s website, you can click through many different editions of the book, all of which have eye-catching cover art.

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!

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

 

 

This weekend, the Literary Festival came to me at the Hunt Library at NCSU.10150555_10202785590973871_549481845_n

There were so many cool activities and authors, and the library itself was a spectacle to look at.

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 There are also tons of really cool authors doing readings there such as John Claude Bemis, R.L. Stine, and Kelly Starlings-Lyon.

There are also cool workshops, like a comic-making workshop, and a book-making workshop.

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There were so many fun activities for kids of all ages, like making your own comic, or recreating a scene from your favorite book with Legos (I did Divergent!), and 1606956_10202785587493784_1897744004_n
finding out how literacy fits in with Math.

One of the coolest things I saw on the first day was the StoryUp! Aerialist group, who recreated some of our favorite fables and stories using aerial silks. Paperhand Puppet Intervention was there, too.

 

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There are so many fun things to do at the Literary Festival for everyone in your family. Sadly I didn’t get to do all of things mentioned above because I was out of town part of Saturday, but those were some of the things they offered.

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Move over DC (National Book Festival) — you’ve got competition! (and goooooo Wolfpack!)

Bonus: Our friends from our favorite bookstore, Quail Ridge Books & Music were there with a pop-up bookstore!

Oh, look at the time– I gotta get over to NC State for today’s activities!  ~LitKid

 

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Postscript from AKid@Heart: Who doesn’t love  building with Legos? While LitKid made her cool Divergent scene, I decided to try to create a setting from my kids’ novel manuscript … the rooftop of the main characters’ city apartment building, complete with Tiki shelter (and gliders below), a garden and night-time lights. (Kids have no idea how basic Legos used to be!)

Screen shot 2014-01-27 at 12.32.21 AMWacko Academy: Book 1

by Faith Wilkins ~ Arundel Press 

We’re proud to be part of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, and I loved being picked to review this book!

Wacko Academy tells the first installment of the adventures of Lilly Mason and Dustin Wackerson.

Dustin mysteriously shows up at Lily’s middle school in the beginning of her 8th grade year, instantly becoming a girl magnet with his good looks and sense of humor. They become really close to each other and go to the school’s harvest dance, which quickly turns from dance to disaster. It turns out that Dustin really came to her school to recruit her to his dad’s extremely fancy, high-tech boarding school.

Once Lily gets settled in, it starts to seem better, she and Dustin repair their friendship and he becomes her personal trainer. She advances quickly and is sent of to the school’s on-campus boot camp, where she meets True & Cattie, the two friends she will make there.

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Afterwards they make the disturbing discovery. A mysterious tall building. Dustin says he has seen unconscious kids wheeled in there before, often never to return. If they do return, they usually have some sort of injury or just can’t remember what happened.

When they relay the story, everybody is purely horrified and definitely on board with their plan to get those kids out of harm’s way. To do this, they will need some fancy technology and a cover.

You will have to read the book to find out all of the juicy details!

I liked this book because of the adventure and excitement was always there at every turn of the page and never failed to leave me in suspense. The plot is beautifully put into place. The personality of each character brings wit and humor to the book.

The pump of adrenaline is apparent page by page, and the writing could not be more humorous, adventurous, and overall really good quality. I liked the conflict the best because it added the most suspense and excitement. If I ever wrote a book, I’d want it to have an air of suspense, excitement, and adventure like this book.

Faith Wilkins (who is only 16 years old!)

Faith Wilkins, who is only 16 years old!
(photo ~ Arundel Press)

People like Faith make a big impact by encouraging more kids to share their ideas with the world; Faith is a role model to other kids who think they shouldn’t share their ideas with the world. This wonderful piece of literature gives those people hope. You should always share what you believe in, like your manuscripts, or short stories, or poems. You can be like the wonderful Faith Wilkins and make your impact.

  ~LitKid (12-year-old co-blogger at Lost in a Book)

Read more about Faith.

Read more about Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

Hello Bloggers and Blog Readers of the universe….

I am heading out – well, after getting coffee for my mom first – to the National Book Festival on the Mall in Washington, DC, to check it out and meet all of this amazing talent!

Yesterday I got to see all the tents being set up, and it looked really cool.photo-2

Today I hope to meet and score autographs from the lovely Misses Roth, Applegate, and Naylor. I can’t believe I’m actually here!

National Book Festival, here we come!

~LitKid

PS: here’s more info on the festival on the Library of Congress website.

serving up a few of LitKid's favorites

serving up a few of LitKid’s favorites

The old tradition reigns on. Here are some of my favorite picks from 2012:
 
  • Dead End in Norvelt, Jack Gantos
  • The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
  • Middle School:The Worst Years of My Life, James Patterson
  • Wonder, R.J. Palacio
  • Out of My Mind, Sharon M. Draper
  • Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, Wendy Mass
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L.Koningsburg
  • The Wednesday Wars, Gary D. Schmidt
  • Airborn, Kenneth Oppel
  • The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate
  • Jaguar Stones Book 3: The River of No Return, Jon and Pamela Voelkel
  • The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee, Tom Angleberger
  • The Dork Diaries Books, Rachel Renee Russell

What did you read that you loved last year? Comment below and let us know.

We haven’t delved into Young Adult books at ‘Lost in a Book’ yet, but that’s only because LitKid has not yet reached YA age. We’re pleased to be able to bring you this advance review of the new YA novel by the critically acclaimed author Ruta Sepetys, thanks to our friend Rosemary, a discerning expert on the best literature for young people of all ages at Quail Ridge Books & Music, our local independent bookstore.

Out of the Easy

By Ruta Sepetys

Young Adult novel

Philomel

Coming in February

Ruta Sepetys, author of Between Shades of Gray, again creates a memorable, strong young heroine mired in a world of deep troubles, but with intelligence and a moral compass to inform her decisions.

Josie Moraine and a cast of richly-drawn characters steep us in the Big Easy of 1950, a conflicting venue of deep betrayals and even deeper loyalties, where temptation and judgment lurk everywhere. Some adults may cringe at giving a book set in a brothel to a teen, but while Josie’s world is realistically portrayed, nothing is graphic. And THIS is a young woman they’d want their daughters to know!

Ages 14+.

~Rosemary Pugliese, Quail Ridge Books & Music

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

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