Tag Archives: books

Reading GOALS for 2017

That’s right… I’ve got GOALS for reading this year.

Because, why should this year be any different from the previous ones?

Of course, this year I intend to actually meet most of these goals — which I didn’t manage last year. Of course, I did take half the month to even get this posted so, I’m totally on track to for this… really I am….

readmyowndamnbooksbuttonThis year the top challenge is that I’m going to aim to not spend money on books. I don’t expect this to really happen — not sure I’m actually capable of not buying ANY form of books for a whole year — but I am going to make a concerted effort to use the library and read through a lot of the books that I already own.  Because I do own a great many that need to be read. I managed to find someone who is actually hosting a challenge of this, so I’ve decided to join up on that.


rhc_cover_pinterestI’m also going to attempt the Book Riot Read Harder challenge again this year — and am starting to brainstorm what books I’ll read for what topics. Because I was at a total loss I decided to start with the first one (probably one of the hardest for me) and tracked something down at the library that will count as a “Sports Book.” I think, for the most part, this wouldn’t be too hard of a challenge this year, if I weren’t trying to also combine it with the “Read My Own Damn Books” Challenge and….

Classics Club LogoTrying to knock more books off of my Classics Club list! I’m totally behind on this, and would like to make some real progress on these books! I stacked up a pretty hefty list but didn’t get through any of them last year.  The Classics Club is a cool group – you should check them out!

I will also, of course, be doing some reading for Banned Book Week again this year  – looking forward to the updated list of most-challenged books of 2016 so I can get started on reading.

What are your reading goals for the year? What kind of books are you hoping to read?


The Power Of Art: 5 Inclusive Picture Books

Welcome to my new series.

Art is such a beautiful expression, it can evoke emotions and speak to truths that can be hard to articulate.  It also can often serve as a powerful tool for change, for revolution, to spark people to stand up and make changes.

This series is going to explore the power of art, by looking at actual art.  Sometimes it may be written, or it may be visual (who knows, maybe I’ll convince someone to share auditory art with us as well).  This will run the third Wednesday of every month, for as long as I can keep it going! (Interested in contributing?  Let me know!)

I’m going to start with a type of art that I have long adored, the picture book.

Hannah, of The New Emma Jones Society, let me twist her arm… or, uhm, I mean… volunteered to kick us off with a few of her favorites!

5 Inclusive Picture Books

Reading as a child is connected not only to academic achievement later in life, but to empathy and understanding others. Fantastic picture books abound, for read-alouds or for reading alone as kids get older, but here are some favorites that specifically feature diversity and encourage inclusion:


Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library by Julie Gassman and Andy Elkerton (2016)do-not-bring-your-dragon-to-the-library

All the hallmarks of a great picture book: catchy rhyming text, rich art that’s full of sight gags, cute character designs, and (ostensibly) a story about library etiquette. It turns out to be less about procedures and more just comedy, which I love because kids should love the library, but the reason it’s on this list is the casual diversity it shows. The boy with the dragon is a person of color, while the rest of the library-goers are a visibly diverse mix including one kid using a wheelchair. The many dragons given as examples are a mix of male and female. There are a few snags in the rhymes toward the end, but the adorable art and lack of didacticism make it a winner for me. (A similar casually-diverse choice is Brontorina by James Howe.)


The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin, Rosana Faria, and Elisa Amado (2006)the-black-book-of-colors

This award-winning book creates its pictures as texture on the page, describing colors using everything but color, while text is available in print and braille. Vision-impaired kids can enjoy the pictures, while sighted kids have an opportunity to connect with that experience in an immersive way. It’s an awesome way to experiment with the picture-book format and make it more inclusive at the same time.


The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein and Henry Cole (2002)the-sissy-duckling

Inspired by the Ugly Duckling story, this book is about a duckling who enjoys cooking and puppet shows instead of sports. I was expecting something a lot more flip, but it’s actually a pretty intense story about bullying, both at home and at school, with more words-per-page to suit the slightly older kids who are experiencing it in that way. The LGBT themes are obvious to adults, but Elmer (the duckling) could stand for any boy who’s not into hypermasculinity, and really anyone being bullied. Just check it out before giving it to your kid, I wouldn’t want any little ones to be surprised by the content the way I was.


Here I Am by Patti Kim and Sonia Sanchez (2012)here-i-am

A dreamy wordless picture book about a young Asian immigrant experiencing his new city in the US. Wordless books are great in general to help kids with visual literacy and understanding things like facial expressions and body language, but the genre is used to especially good effect in this case since the boy doesn’t speak English and doesn’t understand the words he sees or hears.


A Splendid Friend, Indeed by Suzanne Bloom (2005)


This one is a little older, and a little more traditional — it’s about animals, and the series models different kinds of friendship behaviors in different stories. I’m including this one here because it’s about an introvert and an extrovert learning to understand each other, and while I’ve seen a lot of books teaching friendship, I’ve never seen quite that angle before. We’re all different, and friendship is about learning how to relate to someone else, not making them relate to you.


These are just five of the many picture books out there about diversity, inclusion, and valuing others for their differences. Leave your favorites in the comments!

Banned Books Week: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic



Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
By Alison Bechdel

Reasons for Challenges:  Violence and other (“graphic images”)

This is a graphic-memoir exploring Alison Bechdel’s relationship with her father alongside her personal exploration of self.  It’s a pretty quick read, and very powerfully done.

A number of the challenges to this book have been on the College and University level. When the book was placed on the summer reading list for Duke University, there were a number of students who opposed it being on the list (an opted not to read it).

I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it,” wrote one student in a Facebook page discussion.  Several students argued that it would help to expose them to new perspectives, but the students who opposed the book were quite vocal, claiming that the book was pornographic. This is a reflection of some of the challenges the book has faced at in higher-education.  The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has a nice case study of the history of challenges of the book.

Here’s the thing that gets me – we’re talking about college students. Adults. And in all cases it was optional reading or the student was offered an alternative reading. It’s not a “save the children” call, but clearly due to the content of the book itself. Yes, there are drawings of violence, there are illustrations of naked bodies, there is talk of homosexuality (because, while not blatently stated in some of these cases it’s pretty clearly part of the concern).  But this is a book for adults to read – and reading a book you disagree with hardly means it is going to compromise your values… if a simple book can do that perhaps you don’t hold those values too tightly?

I can understand the concerns by some parents when looking at public libraries and being concerned that the book – due to the fact that it’s a graphic novel – might be miss-shelved in a place where children’ would think it’s for them (because it certainly isn’t a children’s book). But to try and remove it from the hands of college students is much harder to put into an understandable framework.

 At the College of Charleston, in South Carolina, the House of Representatives cut funding due to the inclusion of the book on their summer reading list.  

“…the book asks important questions about family, identity, and the transition to adulthood…. These are important questions for all college students…. I’m concerned that some members of the (L)egislature believe their duties include deciding what books should and should not be taught in a college classroom…. I believe that 18-year-olds benefit directly from reading and discussing difficult topics in their courses.” – Professor Christopher Korey, head of the summer reading program at College of Charelston.”

The government stepping into a higher education setting and trying to dictate what can and cannot be taught… it’s painful that such things are still happening.


Top Ten Tuesday: Books I TOTALLY meant to read this summer

Every week The Broke and the Bookish  hosts the “Top Ten Tuesdays” a great blog-hop for readers to reflect on their “Top Ten”

toptentuesdayThis weeks topic is a Freebie, so I’m going to admit to how much I fell apart on my reading this summer.  Here are ten of the books I had planned to read that I just didn’t yet… I’ve started most of them at least.

  1. A Long Fatal Love Chase, by Louisa May Alcott
  2. Aunt Jo’s Scrap-Bag IV, by Louisa May Alcott
  3. Monkey Bridge, by Lan Cao
  4. Sweetgrass, by Jan Hudson
  5. Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
  6. Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal
  7. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.
  8. The Shadow Cabinet, by Maureen Johnson
  9. Shooting Kabul, N.H. Senzai
  10. The Palace of Stone and The Forgotten Sisters, by Shannon Hale

Top Ten Tuesday: AutoBuy Authors

Every week The Broke and the Bookish  hosts the “Top Ten Tuesdays” a great blog-hop for readers to reflect on their “Top Ten”

toptentuesdayTop Ten “Auto-Buy” Authors.

Disclaimer here… due to space limitations and wanting to not be completely broke (you know, just mostly broke…) I don’t actually automatically buy anything by these authors… but I am highly likely to read something by them if it comes my way and will often re-read them, and browse through their books if I’m looking for something to read!

There… may… be some overlap with last weeks list

August 18:

In no particular order:

  1. Rick Riordan
  2. Lauren Willig
  3. Haruki Murakami
  4. Ann Rinaldi
  5. Deanna Raybourne
  6. Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  7. Patricia Wrede )
  8. Caroline Stevermere


Top Ten Tuesday: Authors Most Read

Every week The Broke and the Bookish  hosts the “Top Ten Tuesdays” a great blog-hop for readers to reflect on their “Top Ten”

toptentuesdayTop Ten Authors I’ve read the most of.

I’m digging back through childhood on this one a bit.


  1. Anne M. Martin
  2. Stan and Jan Berenstain
  3. Dr. Seuss
  4. Lauren Wilig
  5. Rick Riordan
  6. J.K. Rowling
  7. Haruki Murakami 
  8. Ann Rinaldi
  9. Deanna Raybourn
  10. Patricia Wrede

Feminist Friday: The Myth of “Girl Stories”

When I asked my friends for fantasy book recommendations for an 11 year old, they had many wonderful  suggestions.  I hadn’t mentioned the gender of the child in the original post and a few posters made assumptions which appeared to influence the recommendations they gave (much to their chagrin).  When I noticed this was happening I pointed it out, and that led into some great conversation.  One friend, Lynn, had recommended books that her son enjoyed, but noted that she “assumed the child in question was a girl, but only because she liked the Princess Bride — interesting huh?  I kind of hate to admit that.”

“It’s incredibly frustrating that parents, educators, and librarians continue to say that boys don’t have to read books that center on girls. There’s no reason that boys can’t empathize with girls, other than that we don’t teach them to. And as we continue to not teach them, this painfully harmful myth continues to dominate both parenting and publishing.'” –Rebecca Croteau

While I was having this conversation with friends, Shannon Hale (an author I really enjoy) was running head-first into the same issue.  When she goes to give author talk at schools if is often only the girls that are automatically excused from class to attend the talk.  One particular instance of this caused her to take to twitter about it (the tweets have been storified if you want to read them) and she also wrote about it on her blog.

“I heard it a hundred times with Hunger Games: ‘Boys, even though this is about a girl, you’ll like it!’ Even though. I never heard a single time, ‘Girls, even though Harry Potter is about a boy, you’ll like it!'” – Shannon Hale

There are many layers of issues at play here, at the moment though I am focusing in on this concept that, for some reason, there are books that are “girl books.”

We construct this societal expectation, that a boy won’t be interested in a story because…. Because the lead is a different gender than them?  Because a girls experience in a world is going to be different than a boys?  I have yet to hear a phrase to follow the “because” that is appropriately convincing.

Girls regularly read books with male protagonists and no one seems to bat an eye at it.  As though we are saying to girls: It’s okay to look up to, admire, and follow the adventure of a boy; there are things you can learn and relate to there.”  But then turning to the boys and saying: It’s NOT okay to look up to, admire, and follow the adventures of a girl; there’s nothing for you to relate to or learn from that.

When we say to boys that a book is a “girl book” and discourage them from reading it, we are telling the boys something about the importance (or lack thereof) of female stories in their life.

When we say to boys that a book is a “girl book” and discourage them from reading it, we are telling girls something about their own life experiences and stories.

This attitude and these assumptions need to change.

Just because a story has a female lead does not mean it is a “girl” story.  It doesn’t mean that boys won’t be able to understand and connect to the main character.  It doesn’t mean it won’t draw him in as strong to the story as it would her.  There are some simple ways we can start changing these assumptions and attitudes.  The easiest that comes to mind is this: when picking or suggesting books for an individual, remove the consideration of gender.

Do as my friend Michelle did in her recommendations on that Facebook thread.  She “almost didn’t recommend [a particular book] because it has a female protagonist but decided ‘Fuck-it. Boys can identify with a female lead as easy as I identified with a male lead…'”

What if we think instead about interests and personality when we suggest a book? What if, when you see gender assumptions taking place and holding influence, you say something?

Not girl books. Not boy books.  Just books.
Not girl books, or boy books. Just books.