Friday, August 27, 2010

One Crazy Book Club

I like to brag that I have the world most enjoyable job, and I will take on all the ice cream tasters and mattress testers who want to dispute my claim. Sometimes opportunities come along that take the enjoyable to the realms of enchanting. Recently Jennah Watters from the K-12 Recorded Books Blog offered me the opportunity to hold a summer book club starring one of the most extolled books of 2010, none other than Rita Garcia-Williams’ One Crazy Summer.

(Let me see, would I like to gather together a group of eager young readers and indulge my fondness yammering about fine literature with the same young readers? The answer is a big fat YOU BETCHA.)

Jennah provided an extravagant number of audios, and I provided a perfect number of girls willing to spend a summer’s afternoon in the school library. It goes without saying that the caliber of participants was exceptional. These are girls who spend big chunks of their summer reading without mandates. I would have loved to include a few boys but as I was culling from Summer Library patrons I had to recruit from the troops that walked by. Maybe another time we can get some male involvement. It does have to be said that One Crazy Summer is a very girl friendly tale indeed.

One Crazy Summer is an emotion-packed story of three young sisters, Delphine 11, Vonetta 9, and Fern 7. They have flown from their Brooklyn home the summer of 1968 to travel to San Francisco to spend a summer with their mother, Cecile. A mother they haven’t seen since she walked out on them when Fern was a nursing infant. From their first contact with Cecile, it is clear that she has no use for her offspring. The girls, hoping for seven years of makeup mothering, were instead kept at arms length and shipped off each day for summer camp at the local Black Panther establishment.

I’d read the book some months ago and was already a big fan. Listening to the audio was a whole other level of delightful. Narrated by Sisi Aisha Johnson, the book that has been repeatedly lauded for having a strong, genuine voice was attached to an audible voice, in Johnson, which cemented the time-period, location, and cadences to perfection.
One the afternoon when I gathered with six lovely young readers appropriate refreshments were offered. Naturally we had egg rolls, alas, not provided by Mean Lady Ming. They were served with fruit punch, as Big Ma would not have approved of soda pop. Cookies were also involved but there was no literary tie in. Let’s just say that we met in Utah, and I’m pretty sure it is obligatory that any meeting of greater than 3 people must include cookies. Appropriately all were severed on a blanket on the floor. No one was allowed in the kitchen.

We began by discussing our favorite characters. Fern, the youngest sister, was a big hit all around. Sisi Johnson’s reading did well by Fern. Her interpretation of Fern’s clear, strong, little voice was like a love potion, beguiling unsuspecting listeners. Fern’s doggy yips are full on charming. Brinley loved the way Fern balled her fists. Paige liked Vonetta because she was always trying to get attention. A surprise was Shelbi, who was partial to Cecile because, and I quote, “She is the kind of character who changes, and you find the truth about her.” Did I not say these where exceptional girls?

Hirohito was a big hit among this group of Delphine’s would-be peers. The part where Delphine rides Hirohito’s go cart was much lauded. I can only imagine why. The awkwardness of the “China Boy” scene was also admired. (Note to all middle-grade writers: a little romance, no matter how light, does not go unappreciated.)

Not surprisingly the climax at the rally was a favorite. Riley thought the sisters’ recitation of I Birthed a “Black” Nation raised a lot of emotion. They were all thrilled with Cecile reaction, and Fern chance to shine. Brinley liked the end when Fern got excited when Cecile finally called her Fern.

I was struck by how appreciative my very non-diverse, well-mothered group was of Delphine’s, Vonetta’s, Fern’s and Cecile’s story. It reinforced my belief that reading not only provides our young with experiences that broadens their understanding of the world, but also broadens their capacity for empathy.

The girls were able to send along questions to Rita Garcia-Williams. I will be doing another post in the future with her responses.

The chance to sit and luxuriate in this conversation was like a small dose of heroin. I’m ready for another fix. I’m looking forward to starting up my Newbery Club in a few weeks, which will hopefully elicit more experiences of this sort. Thank you to Jennah and Recorded Books for this opportunity.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wallowing in Kid-Lit Decadence

This past week I was lucky enough to attend the BYU Symposium on Books for Young Readers held a few mountain peaks south of me at the majestic Provo library in Provo UT.
For kid-lit nerds it is two days of pure full-fledged geekdom. Each year the good people of BYU and the Provo library coerce (this may not be the most accurate verb as I believe other compensation is meted out) a selection of Children’s writers and illustrators to come to Utah and share their talents, wisdom, and glorious presence with us land-locked groupies. This year’s offerings were particularly exhilarating - the equivalence of a Nemoy sighting at a Trekky convention.
The first day began with no less a living legend to naughty boys, fairies, and pirates than David Shannon. Mr. Shannon regaled us with tales from his childhood up through his stint as Vice- Ambassador to Jon Scieszka. I particularly enjoyed his dissection of his David books. As most people who would be reading this blog would know, No, David came about as a result of a book he wrote when he, the real David was five-years-old. It encompassed the only two words the young author could spell at the time. He said the premise of the books were that David does nothing that every child on the planet has either done or wanted to do. I gave birth to my own David and was able to get a copy of his namesake signed for him complete with an original graphic. Apparently Mr. Shannon, who had a signing line which rivaled the opening of Utah’s first In and Out Burger, was drawing pictures in every book that fell under his pen.

David Shannon Fun Fact: He began his carrier as a journalist illustrator, mostly doing Political art. The hardest part of the switch to children’s books for him was the knowledge that sitting presidents and other weighty people were not seeing his work every day. Let’s hope the existing President, who happens to live with members of Shannon’s current audience, gets glimpses of his most recent work from time to time.

Our next superstar was the entrancing and energetic Elizabeth Partridge. Her enthusiasm filled the room as she related her search for primary sources. She is relentless in her quest for excellence and is just as awed by the people she writes about as we are by her writing. She gave us a great illustration of what it feels like for her once she has collected her sources and is ready to begin sorting and organizing. She compared herself to the cat with the hat balancing the fish and dish and cake and the rake, etc. She says it is like having all this great stuff but is afraid to put it down as it may come crashing about her ears.
She told a breathtaking story of a candlelight ceremony that took place on a recent November evening standing around listen to Amelia Boynton, a 93-year-old woman who had been beaten by police on Bloody Sunday in long-ago Selma, Alabama. As Mrs. Boynton’s listeners were gathered in a close circle about her a voice called out that Obama had just taken Pennsylvania. Which meant that the country where Amelia Boynton was beaten for fighting to get Black people the right to vote a mere 40-something years ago was just about to elect its first African-American President. I KNOW! I just got chills again writing about it.
Another incredible thing that I learned is that Elizabeth Partridge’s godmother was Dorothea Lange. I’m sure most of you were aware of this fact as Elizabeth has written a pretty awesome book on Lange, which I am now the proud owner of a signed copy. She ended her presentation with two pretty incredible slide shows of which she confessed to loving as much as we did.

Elizabeth Partridge Fun Fact: Both she and I were winners in this year’s SLJ's Battle of the Kid’s Books. OK, so her Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children , and Don’t You Grow Weary won the entire kit-and-kabootal and all I got was a t-shirt. But now I can say I own a t-shirt signed by the 2010 Champion. She suggested I send it around and get all the contestants to sign it. I’m considering it.

Our last presenter of the afternoon was our own Brandon Mull. I’m beginning to feel like his stalker. In this past year he visited my school, and just a month ago I attended a writer’s conference where he was one of the instructors. Seeing him and Rick Walton in the halls felt like old times and I’m sure was making him a little nervous. I can personally attest to the fact that Mr. Mull is one of the world nicest people. When he came to my school I coerced him to stop by the library and give my 6th-grade assistants, AKA free labor, the thrill of their lives. As I was pressing him to sign book marks for each of them, I commented that he must get tired of all the signing. His reply was so lovely. He said that he could be laying asphalt for a living and the fact that people value his signature is in no way a burden. His presentation was entirely enjoyable. He showed how his childhood and geography helped form his Fablehavan and other books, AKA the emptiest shelf in my library at any given time.

Brandon Mull Fun Fact: He said his best day of elementary school was when he did a full frontal dive into a gigantic mud puddle his invisible- imaginary friend had dared him to jump over. His teacher would not allow his mud-spattered self back in the school and his mother could not be reached to clean him up. He spent the rest of the day outside the school circling a tree with one hand wrapped about the trunk, absorbed in the stories in his head.

The evening of the first day there is always a banquet featuring a heavyweight keynote speaker. This year’s pièce de résistance was none other than the maven of historical fiction and/or issue based YA brilliance Laurie Halse Anderson.

Upon hearing a few months ago that I would be within fawning distance of the author of Speak my 18-year-old daughter stated that of course I would be taking her along. I looked into it and found that I could indeed, for an added fee, take along a guest. Plans were made. (This next part of the story is where I need to be careful least I sound too whiny.) My oldest son, who has from birth been abundantly aware of my musical preferences, gave myself and my husband tickets to see James Taylor and Carol King, AKA the biggest concert event since the Rolling Stones toured with The Beatles (What’s that you say? Those two never toured together. Well then, the world has never seen it’s equal.)
Unfortunately the dream team of concerts happened to be occurring the same night as - you guessed it, my chance to share air with Laurie Halse Anderson. It was a brutal choice but in the end I sacrificed my ticket to the 18-year-old and spent the night ringside with living legends. Somewhere during the evening a message sounding something like this showed up in our inbox:
I just met the coolest person in the world. She said I was a walking piece of art, and took my picture. (The girl tends to decorate her flesh and jeans with an ever present supply of sharpies) She has a son my age and is going to tell him all about me. And now we are best friends. I love you Mommy and will clean your bathroom for life, for giving me this opportunity.” (OK, so I added the last line, but I’m sure it was understood.)
The next day I was able to do a little catching up with the dynamic LHA during the meet and greet held in the afternoon. This is a chance for smaller groups to bombard the authors with questions. The woman fills up a room with the force of her personality. The passion she puts into her writing shows when she speaks of her audience. It is reassuring that our teens are in such caring and capable hands when they open her books.
Laurie Halse Anderson Fun Fact: Both she and Jim Murphy were terrified of the other when they found out that they had each written books about the same influenza outbreak within a year of each other, Fever 1793 and An American Plauge:  The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793. Once Murphy discovered Laurie’s book was fiction, and Laurie checked that Murphy had no further sources than she, all was sunshine and rainbows.
The second day began with the unequaled talent of Kadir Nelson. His presentation was breathtaking. That boy has a work ethic that would rival Michelangelo. He holds himself to such a standard of perfection it is no wonder masterpiece and his name show up in the same sentences. He bases the motivation for his work on the theme of Ntozake Shange’s Ellington was not a Street, which Nelson Illustrated: Take something terrible and turn it into something beautiful. While working on the illustrations for We are the Ship he wanted to do more than simply copy existing photographs. To get the stances and physicality of his subjects he took pictures of himself in different poses, using a tripod. He then merged the photos of himself and the subject to get original paintings.

Kadir Nelson Fun Fact: He lost a commission to rabid Yankees fan Billy Crystal when he painted the home team on the wrong side of the stadium.

By now I’m sure you are thinking that the conference must have exhausted Provo’s capacity for Kid-lit magnificence. But hold on to your hats boys and girls because our final speaker was none other than Newbery Medalist Patricia MacLauchlan. A good day in my book is a day I can wake up and listen to the delightful Patricia for a paragraph or two, or perhaps a short novella. Everything she said was either funny or profound, often both at the same time. She speaks warmly of her craft and her family and dogs with utter satisfaction. Listening to her you understand why her characters are lively, thoughtful and quirky.

The person responsible for me being at the conference is my indefatigable Principal, who as we speak in Uganda building houses. Patricia MacLauchlan is her favorite author. As I sat listening to her speak I so wished my Mrs. Bagley could be there as well. MacLauchlan’s son’s family has been in Africa for the past few years, where he was working as a photographer for the Jane Goodall project. Having this tie is but one of many that convinced me that these two compassionate, lively women were kindred spirits.

Patricia MacLauchlan Fun Facts:
  • She admitted to being impressed with the writing ability of her characters in her new book Word after Word after Word, then she remembered who actually gave them their words.
  • She confessed to dying her hair its stunning silvery white, otherwise it would be a boring jet black.
  • She sits on a committee with Katherine Patterson and Lois Lowry who like to remind her that they have each won two Newberys.
 That wraps everything up. I'm not sure what the powers in charge could possible do to top this next year but I will be waiting to see the attempt.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Top 10 Essentials of 2010

In an effort to swell my already healthy ego, my colleagues have requested that I put out a monthly list of the top 10 ten essential new books for our collections. It’s kind of like asking me to finish off that last piece of chocolate cheesecake. (Oh please, if you insist). Upon reflection what I think I’d like to do is a little of this, a bit of that, and some of the other. Meaning I will divide up the top ten into picture books, fiction novels, and books that will go to live in the Dewey section. I will admit, here in this most private and obscure format, that my weak point is going to be non-fiction. Today I will be fudging on that area by recommending books that are not strictly speaking the facts and nothing but the facts, but nonetheless sport a Dewey Decimal number.

Also essential is a relative word in our case. In my district our budgets are based on the number of students we have in our schools, which ranges from just over 300 to over 1000. For those of you who are walking calculators you can see that what might be a must have in one case would easily be a luxury in the other. I plan to qualify what I believe each purchase would bring to our libraries.

1. Meanwhile: Pick Any Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities by Shiga, Jason. Not since the moment Reese combined chocolate and peanut butter have two more complementary companions met in a completely luscious result. Thats right folks it's a choose-your-own adventure mixed in with a graphic novel. We are talking reluctant reader bait in epic proportions. This nifty little package sports maze like paths that lead the reader to the proper tabs that will end in either scientific discovery or certain death. Its durability remains to be seen. I had my copy in circulation for the last three months and so far it has fared just dandy. The pages are some sort of sturdy plasticy substance and the binding seems to be holding its own. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to hold out for library bindings but I’m glad mine is in circulation.

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: I would say Very High for those of you who like giving kids books that will keep them enthralled.

2. Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer. There are always two sides to every story and this clever book of poetry takes the view that in every fairy tale there is more than one story that needs to be heard. Using a technique which has been coined reverse verse (if it hasn't already been coined, then I am claiming credit) many of our standard fairy tales are told from the point of view of two different characters, leaving the reader to reevaluate previously held assumptions.

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: I would say Fair to Middling. Although this book was the first of the 2010 crop to get the coveted 5 stars, poetry does tend to get reviewed very well and if we are not careful the 800s could soon take over our entire Dewey sections. However, if you, by chance, happen to be planning to do a fairy tale theme over the next year, then this would indeed be an excellent choice.

3. Extraordinary Mark Twain (According To Susy) by Barbara Kearly, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. From the team that brought you What to do about Alice we get this whimsical bio of the master storyteller, told from his daughter point of view. The quotes from the source are deadly funny. Add that to the device of having a child’s journal mixed in the great Fortheringham art and you’ve got an amalgam of witty wonderfulness.

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: I will also give this a Fair to Middling rating. This brief volume will not fulfill any required biography assignment. (For that, turn to Sid Fleischman’s, Trouble Begins at Eight). But it is a great read aloud and a lovely introduction to one of our great authors. Also if you want to get a head start on possible Caldecott winners for next year I won’t steer you wrong.

4. The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz. I like to call those ubiquitous Rainbow Magic fairy books, little girl heroine. Once they get started they can’t seem to stop. I have frantic mothers coming in begging me to give their little ones something, anything, that won’t trigger their own gag reflex during nightly reading time. Newbery award winner Schlitz has given us a great detox with this luscious little fairy book. The illustrations are intoxicating, the language is musical, the story is divine, and the end papers glitter. Win, win, win, win.

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: Very High. You will have no shortage of readers for this, from precocious 1st graders on up to starry eyed 6th graders. I do think it just might be gender specific.

5. Countdown by Deborah Wiles. It is hard to count all the ways this particular book appeals to me. It is historical fiction done like no other. The reader is dropped into 1962 body, soul, and soundtrack. The pages are filled with graphic depictions from the time we live through the October week of the Cuban Missile crises with 11-year-old Franny, who is also feuding with her best friend and living through her first crush.

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: Quite High. You will want to give this to all your little historical fiction fans. Failing running into any of those elusive creatures, give them to all the girls who adore Frances O’Roark Dowell's The Secret Language of Girls and The Kind of Friends we Used to Be.

6. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. Let’s go back to the 60’s again. Sisters Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are going to spend their summer with a mother who doesn’t want them in a place that is as foreign as a different county – Oakland, California. Thank goodness The Black Panthers are there to provide child care.

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: Quite High. This front runner for the Newbery is just darn great writing. The story and the characters are gripping. You will need to do a bit of selling to get it in the right hands, but once there they will be grateful.

7. Pigs to the Rescue by John Himmelman. If you have ever read this book’s predecessor Chickens to the Rescue during a story time you are already heading to the nearest book store to shore up your storytelling cred. Himmelman amps up the hilarity once again with this barnyard tale of good deeds. Spoiler alert: porcine are not nearly as helpful has poultry.

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: Quite high. I would say it is a no brainer if you have the first book, but you might need a little selling if you are unfamiliar with this level of silliness. If you are looking for a concept reason for purchasing this, it covers every day of the week.

8. Born Yesterday: The Diary of a Young Journalist by James Solheim, illustrated by Simon James. This amusing account of the narrator’s first year is a laugh a second. Fans of Baby Brains will delight once again at infantile hi-jinx.

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: Quite High. This is story time gold, and the perfect baby shower gift.

9. What If? By Laura Vaccaro Seeger. The queen of concept books is at it again. This time with a simple depiction of the rudimentary but tricky social skills of sharing and friendship. Wave this in front of your school counselor’s face and watch her drool with hunger.

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: Fair to Middling. It’s not the best Seeger to come along but it defiantly fills a need, and the kid appeal will be high.

10. Here Comes the Garbage Barge by Jonathan Winter.  Based on a true story this comical portrayal of a refuge piled boat looking for a harbor is a visual and literary treat. It is illustrated by a studio, using cast off knick-knacks and other junk. Winter is at his best in the telling of this story using phrasing which make it hard to keep a straight face while reading, such as, “Full-speed backwards!”

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: Very High. A great addition for Earth Day and other environmental needs.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Top 20 Children's Audio Books

Creating the following list was much less wrenching than the compiling of my Top Ten Children’s Novels a few months ago. For one thing I had the luxury of making it twice as long, and for another there were more elements to the criteria.

I had to have listened to the audio book, naturally. And although my public library system does an adequate job of feeding my greedy consumption of this medium, I do not by any means have unlimited access all that is available. For instance the Davis County Library system to this date has not seen fit to purchase Clementine in audio form – a failing that cannot be justified.

I also had to have enjoyed the work in its original form. Let’s face it; a weak book cannot be redeemed by the most talented reader.

And finally, the reading must bring to the experience that something extra that was not present as it rattled about in voices in my own head. As someone who spends hours a day reading aloud, I have the deepest respect, not to mention the eye-gouging, hair-pulling, shin-kicking envy, for those that do it with aplomb.

20.  Inkheart by Cornila Funke.  Read by Lynn Redgrave.  The dulcet Ms. Redgrave does such a lovely job reading this first book in Funke page-escaping trilogy, it's a wonder the schizophrenic Brendon Frasier was turned to, to do the others.
19. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. Narrated by the author with a full cast of British Actors. For the most part I find full-cast audio books irritating at best, and lobotomizing at worst; but for whatever reason this version is divine. The actress reading Lyra is captivating.
18. Tadpole by Ruth White. Narrated by Kate Forbes. The Appalachian accent brought to this reading is tangible.

17. Maniac McGee by Jerry Spinelli. Narrated by S. Epatha Merkeson of Law and Order fame. There is something about this favorite of mine, being read in the dry but compassionate voice of Merkeson.

16. A View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsberg. Narrated by Rick Adamson, L.J. Ganser, Agnes Hermann, Aasif Mandvi, Barbara Rosenblat, Jeff Woodman. This incising interconnected tale told by 4 different narrators has the bonus of showcasing the greatest of all audio book readers, her most exalted Barbara Rosenblat.

15. Sammy Keyes by Wendelin Van Draanen. Narrated by Tara Sands. The light young voice of this narrator suits to perfection the savvy, middle-school detective in this series.

14. Wee Free Men by Terry Prachett. Narrated by Stephen Briggs. The brogue brought to this tale of hard-drinking, hard-talking, blue fairy boys is a giggle a minute.

13. Holes by Louis Sachar. Narrated by Kerry Beyer. It is hard to imagine any telling of this flawless book not working. The narration here kicks the sublime up a level.

12. Bloody Jack: being an account of the curious adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy by L. A. Meyer. Narrated by Katherine Kellgren. The vocal ability of Ms. Kellgren to take us from the cockneyed streets of 18th century London to the highs seas in the British navy is dizzying delight.

11. Because of Wynn-Dixie by Kate DiCammillo. Narrated by Cherry Jones. Cherry Jones’ expressive, slightly-lispy, voice is so right for India Opel and company.

10. Good Masters, Sweet Ladies by Laura Amy Schiltz. Full cast of narrators. Sure I’d read the book before it won the big award, and sure I was mighty impressed with Schiltz’s skill with words. But hearing it how it was meant to be heard, moved it from a grand award-winner to pure genius.

9. Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary. Narrated by Stockard Channing. Not only can Ms. Channing voice regal indignation as the First Lady in The West Wing, but she can voice the same indignation as a five- year-old.

8. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Narrated by the author. I’m not sure if a children’s book should sound this sexy, but I will happily take my ghost stories with this kind of verbal velvet.

7. Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer Holm. Read by Emmy Rossum. The young narrator used to tell this tomboy romp brings such a delicious texture to this captivating character.

6. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. Narrated by Barbara Caruso. At first I was put off by the old fashioned feel of the narration but then I realized Caruso was pulling me back in time with her voice to the red roads of P.E.I.

5. Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos. Narrated by the author. It goes to figure that Joey’s papa would be able to give Joey the perfect frenetic pitch.

4. Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck. Narrated by Lois Smith. I don’t know who this Lois Smith is, but in my world she will have closet full of Lane Bryant dresses and a passel of shenanigans up her sleeve that would do Grandma Dowdel proud.

3. Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry by Mildred Taylor. Narrated by Lynne Thigpen. The power and authenticity that Thigpen brings to Taylor’s story of depression era racial issues is breathtaking.

2. Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Read by the author. The “Rez” accent is not essential to appreciate this adolescent chronicle of straddling two worlds, but is sure doesn’t hurt.

1. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling. Narrated by Jim Dale. I know I’m not very original but I can’t deny that I’ve listened to the vocal acrobatics of Jim Dale too many times to put Harry, Hermione, Dobby, and the rest, at the top of the list.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

READING WHILE DRIVING, WHILE WALKING, WHILE CLEANING THE TOILET: how a dyslexic can get through 6 books a week.

I am, at times, asked how I have time to read all the books I do. The answer is two-fold:

#1 – My priorities are skewed. Many of those asking, find that taking care of a household and family and having social life should precede the siren’s call of the unread page. I on the other hand will allow all sorts of duties to be neglected in order to satisfy my compulsion to see what happens next, in whatever plot I am presently enmeshed in.

#2 –Two words - Audio Books. I don’t technically read every book I check-off on my Goodreads bookshelf. Many are books brought to me by the good people at Recorded Books (the one company that I'd beg for a government bailout of, if they were about to go under), Listening Library, Full Cast Audio, or other kind, talented, and enterprising folks in the business of transferring print to the versatile commodity of sound waves.

Most of my close acquaintances are aware that the process of reading was not an easy thing for me to master. I have come to terms with the truth that I will never be the person who can sit down and knock off a 200 page book in the time it takes to wait through a dentist visit. What takes many of my reading friends, and indeed many of my students, a mere moment in an evening to read through, will take me two or three times as long. This, however, does not stop me from forever weighing down my purse with my current book, along with a backup; in the event I might need to kill time in a waiting room, movie theater, or grocery store queue.
Long ago I discovered the best way to keep my brain entertained while about menial tasks was to engage the old neurons with audio books. This also has the added benefit of increasing my total pages read. From the time I first drove a car with a cassette player in the console, having an audio book in the vehicle has been as necessary as having an adequate amount of oil surging about the engine. Back in the days when I lived more in the adult reading world, the cases rattling between my mini-van seats were likely to be:  Dick Francis being read by the precise Simon Prebble, Jan Karon's Mitford in the folksy, warm relaxed voice of John McDonough, and the unsurpassible Barbara Rosenblat doing Sharyn McCrumb, Diane Mott Davidson, Mrs. Pollifax and of course Amelia Peabody.

Now that my reading selections have permanently regressed to pleasing my inner twelve-year-old, I find no shortage of fabulous audio selections at my disposal. Having a conveyor-belt feed of audio material, continually moving my direction by way of my county library card, insures that I am armed and ready for the most mundane or daunting tasks. I have gladly run errands with Charlotte Doyle on the high Seas. I have taken my morning constitutional with Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy melding my Rocky Mountain sunrises with crisp New England air. I’ve mowed acres with Jim Dale and the Hogwarts’ gang. Shoveled snow frenetically with Joey Pigza. I even gathered the courage to climb to the roof line and clean the frightful gutters with the help of Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching and Nac Mac Feegles.

Since SLJ's Battle of the Kids Books and Fuse #8's 100 top Children's Novels have announced their champions I've been suffering serious book related competition withdrawal.  I've mention before on this blog my unhealthy obsession with countdowns and lists.  We will overlook what that says about my psyche at this time, and dive into yet another best-of list.  The Recorded Books K-12 blog,  is compiling a Top 20 Children's Audio Book List.  It's like the blogging world is either conspiring to make all my dreams come true, or is holding some heinous addiction symposium geared to suck me away from any sort of productive life  Regardless I am hooked and am furiously compiling my own submission, which I hope to post at this location as soon as possible.

What’s that you say?

The garage needs cleaning?

 Don’t mind if I do!

Come along Matilda, Harriet, and Gilly - let’s get crackin’.