Previous month:
January 2010
Next month:
March 2010

Whatcha Readin'?

Books I'm Reading

  • The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, by Elif Batuman. Scholarly and funny as all get out. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010)
  • My River Chronicles: Rediscovering America on the Hudson, by Jessica DuLong. Writer learns to drive a fire boat, the John J. Harvey. (Free Press, 2009) 

Books I'm Taking to Share with My 1st Grade Friends Tomorrow

  • The House in the Night, written by Susan Marie Swanson and illustrated by Beth Krommes (Houghton Mifflin, 2008)
  • Cool Dog, School Dog, written by Deborah Heiligman and illustrated by Tim Bowers (Marshall Cavendish, 2009)

Book Junior Claims Made Him Itch

  • Killer Ants, written by Nicholas Nirgiotis and illustrated by Emma Stevenson (Holiday House, 2009)
Book Junior Read Over Winter Break
  • Toxic Waste, by Peggy J. Parks (Kidhaven Press, Thomson/Gale, 2006) 

Book That Looked Good To Me But Junior Is Ignoring

  • Escaping the Giant Wave, by Peg Kehret (Aladdin Paperbacks, 2004)

Books I Finished Recently

  • The Women Who Raised Me: A Memoir, by Victoria Rowell. The author grew up as a ward of the state of Maine, and went on to a dancing and acting career. Inspiring. (Amistad, 2008)
  • The Three Weissmans of Westport, by Cathleen Schine. Social satire. Touching, and quick to read. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010)
  • Just Kids, by Patti Smith. About the rocker's long relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and about being a young artist in New York in the 60s and 70s. Plainspoken, fascinating. (Ecco, 2010)
  • Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann. More 70s New York. A big-picture novel. Loved it. (Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2010) 

Book I Bought at Lemuria Books Because B & N Did Not Have It and I Couldn't Wait for the Long Hold List at the Library

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. Dwight Garner, my new go-to guy at the Times, says it's "[a] thorny and provocative book about cancer, racism, scientific ethics and crippling poverty..." (Crown, 2010)

Book I Stumbled Upon Because the Author Rescued a Chicken in NYC and Reported It on Twitter (and Which I Look Forward to Reading)

  • Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town, by Elyssa East (Free Press, 2009)
What are the rest of y'all reading these days?

Poetry Friday: I Am So Sorry, Emily Dickinson,

but I ruined adapted your poem because I wanted to run a photograph of my chickens in the snow. I owe you one.


I'm A Chicken! Who are you? (288a)

I'm A Chicken! Who are you? 

Are you — A Chicken — too?

Then there's a pair of us!

Don't squawk! they'd banish us — you know!

How dreary — to be — Something Else!

How public — like a Dog —

To bark your name — the livelong day —

To an admiring Blog!

On February 12th, the Poetry Friday roundup takes place at the blog I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?


For the "poem" above, I used the version of Emily Dickinson's "I'm Nobody! Who Are You?" in The Oxford Book of American Poetry, edited by David Lehman (Oxford University Press, 2006).

Minerva Louise

Aleah and I sit at a little table outside her public-school first-grade classroom. She is one of my reading buddies; she was last year, too. First grade was a little too much for her, so she's repeating it. First grade was a little too much for several other classmates. Aleah likes to read.

We are looking at the cover of Janet Morgan Stoeke's Minerva Louise and the Colorful Eggs. "She's going to have an adventure," Aleah says. Minerva Louise is a hen. "Hens are the girls. The females. And the roosters are the daddies," Aleah tells me. I listen as she reads. We laugh at the endearingly mixed-up Minerva Louise, who thinks an Easter basket is a hat. 

Apropos of something, Aleah says, "I know how to say beautiful in French!" 

"You do?"

"Yes." She kisses the tips of her fingers, and says, through pursed lips, "Bee-yoo-tee-fool." 

Have a beautiful day with your books, too.

Poetry Friday: Black Nature

ImageDB-1.cgi  I've just started Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, but wanted to go ahead and mention it since I think lots of Poetry Friday followers will like the anthology. The poems I've read so far cover ground from beautiful to heartbreaking to political—and them some. You'll find Wright, Dove, Hughes, Trethewey, Giovanni, and less familiar names among the poets here.

I was thrilled to come across the following poem by one of my hometown literary heroes, Margaret Walker. "My Mississippi Spring" begins 

My heart warms under snow
flowers with forsythia
japonica blooms, flowering quince, 
bridal wreath, blood root and violet;

You can read the poem in its entirety, plus an essay by Black Nature's editor, Camille T. Dungy, at the Poetry Foundation. (Her article is about the "resurrecting" quality of spring in the South.)

I hope your hearts warm under all the snow forecast this weekend. If I were a high-school teacher, I'd add this book to my classroom library pronto. While Black Nature was published for grown-ups, many teenagers would likely enjoy it, too.

The Poetry Friday roundup is at the blog Great Kid Books today.  

Dungy, Camille T. (editor). Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry. University of Georgia Press, 2009. ISBN: 9780820334318

Cover image borrowed from Powell's Books

Purple Sells Books

"I'd like to outline what we're seeing in retail. We have two basic things that are selling very well. Anything that's pink, purple, gold and sparkle, and anything that's dark purple and black and has any type of vampire on it. I'm sorry, but that's really what's selling."  

Barnes & Noble's Kim Brown, at an Authors Guild symposium, "What's Hot and What's Not: Current Trends in Children's Book Publishing," July 2009. A transcription of the discussion is included in the Winter 2010 edition of the Authors Guild Bulletin. 

Monday Afternoon Coffee Break, 2.1.10

28 Days Later, a monthlong celebration of African American writers and illustrators, at The Brown Bookshelf

2010 Newbery winner Rebecca (When You Reach Me) Stead, interviewed by Kurt Andersen, at WNYC Radio's Studio 360

Author Katherine Paterson on Apple's iPad, at the New York Daily News. "It is as futile for us to fight technological advances as it was for Plato to battle literacy."

A new Carnival of Children's Literature, with links to many blog posts, at Jenny's Wonderland of Books

Jen Robinson's newsy roundup, at PBS Parents' Booklights blog

On February 8th in NYC, PEN American Center presents "Crafting a Career as a Children's or Young Adult Author," a free panel discussion with Brian Floca, Richard Peck, Jane O'Connor, and Marilyn Singer. David Levithan will moderate. Details here.

Speaking of Brian Floca, I highly recommend Moonshot, a gem of a picture book about the Apollo 11 moon landing. Floca's college newspaper, The Brown Daily Herald, recently talked to the author-illustrator-award winner.

A bounty of recommendations for nonfiction books for children, at Wild About Nature, host of this week's Nonfiction Monday fiesta.

"Calvin and Hobbes" cartoonist Bill Watterson was interviewed by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. The Millions blog says that it's thought to be Watterson's first interview since 1989. 

From the Plain-Dealer article, this great news, too: in July, the U.S. Postal Service will issue stamps honoring Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, Archie, Beetle Bailey, and Dennis the Menace.