Category Archives: Books and More

Adirondack Chairs and an essay from the NYT on liking YA books

A thoughtful friend sent me this link and I am in love with the colors – perfect for the porch, patio, yard – love these chairs! http://www.archiesisland.com/pages/archies-story

Grab a pitcher of lemonade, cloudy or otherwise and a good book. Here is a piece in the NYT about other adults who like YA… The Kids’ Books Are All Right Here is an excerpt:

By Ross MacDonald NYT

By PAMELA PAUL Published: August 6, 2010

While au fait literary types around town await the buzzed-about new novels from Jonathan Franzen and Nicole Krauss, other former English majors have spent the summer trying to get hold of “Mockingjay,” the third book in Suzanne Collins’s dystopian trilogy, so intensely under wraps that not even reviewers have been allowed a glimpse before its airtight Aug. 24 release. What fate will befall our heroine, Katniss Everdeen? My fellow book club members and I are desperate to know. When will the Capitol fall? And how can Collins possibly top the first two installments, “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire”?

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Filed under Authors, books, Creative outlets, Feed your head, soul, self, mom blogs, young adult fiction

Tall Tales by Karen Day

capability:mom on tall tales by karen daySo on with my Young Adult fiction read-a-thon. Just read Tall Tales by Karen Day – – her first novel and it was wonderful.  Here is a summary:

Meg has a secret…actually it is the family’s secret. Her father is an alcoholic.  Meg makes up elaborate stories so that people won’t come over and set him off or see him drunk.  The whole family has learned to walk on eggshells around him and they have moved many times to accommodate his inability to stay sober and engaged on the job. No surprise, his father was an alcoholic, too, and he was physically and verbally abused as a child. Continue reading

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Filed under Authors, books, Books and More, Feed your head, soul, self, Finds, mom blogs, young adult fiction

Inbox reminders from the library and Ten Marks and a good, no a great, read from Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman Indigo at capabilitymom.comIf your email in-box is anything like mine, it is cluttered with a random assortment of things.  While I generally like clutter (sorry, honey) my in-box is someplace I have decided to clean up (again, sorry, honey, not the physical one over the computer that even as I type this threatens to overflow – potentially causing injury, but I digress).

Right now the electronic version has quite a few sales notices (mostly Old Navy and Gap – I did finally unsubscribe to a ton of things, it was time-consuming but worth it) and news alerts that I like to get (even if I don’t always click on the link) and notes from friends and some blogs I subscribe to (yes, it is free and lets you know when a blog you like has been updated). You can subscribe to this site, too… just type in your email address in the sidebar.

So today, nice.  My in-box had a note from a friend, a blog update from Coffee Shop Bloggers, a library reminder that two books are due in two days and a reminder from Ten Marks that one of my daughters has some worksheets to finish up. Nice touch, Ten Marks!  I didn’t realize that I would get a follow-up email (it even includes a reminder of the sign-in code).  Super for the busy parent (and we are all busy – even in summer) and a nice matter-of-fact way for you to prompt your child to look at the other worksheets. (You know…”I just got an email from Ten Marks…” is much better than “Did you do your math worksheets?”)

So book reviews (see – I do eventually get back around to topics) and, no, I wasn’t asked to do this one – usually they are books I just have to share.  I do like the YA and I picked up this book last night and didn’t put it down until I was finished. Fortunately for my family (who would do the laundry, make dinner- oh, we did have take-out …but still), it is a short but beautiful read.

Indigo by Alice Hoffman for Scholastic. (Go to her website for a look at all of the other books she has written- many favorites)

Intense, moving and lovely.  A young girl, Martha Glimmer (her mother has recently died in that very YA way), and her two best friends, Eli and Trevor, (known to one and all as Eel and Trout because they are different in a charming, magical way – think webbed fingers and toes and a propensity for salt water and fish) decide to run away from their small landlocked town to the ocean. I actually stopped reading at one point because of this…

“…What mattered was that Trout McGill was the one person aside from her mother who believed that Martha would someday leave Oak Grove, and that no matter how tall she was, or how uncomfortable with herself, she would be a dancer.  He believed in dreams, in the endings that people told you could never happen, in disappointments reversed and luck that lasted.”

Yeah, so you should read it. Great pre-teen and teen book – one of two off-spring has read it – this morning – a very fast but great read.

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Filed under Authors, books, Books and More, Feed your head, soul, self, library, young adult fiction

Summer Brain Drain…Summer Slide… (whatever you call it)…how to stop it

capability mom ten marksWe are just into the last month of summer – long, hot days at the beach or pool, still some summer camp and here in the NorthEast, we don’t start school until after Labor Day and, even if your children don’t agree, they are losing some math skills. How do I know this? Because I read about an on-line math tutoring program called Ten Marks the other day and it got me thinking…hush, it happens.

From an article in Boston.com: In a study released in June, the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found that students typically lose one to two months of reading and math skills during summer break, and that teachers often spend up to six weeks reviewing topics already covered. Yikes.

Here is a link to a nicely formatted page that highlights the research from the National Association for Summer Learning (yes, there is such a thing).

So I have a math packet for one child (courtesy of her teacher) and she has been faithfully working at it but I do need to give a boost to my younger child in fractions. I contacted TenMarks and the company, a local (Newton) based organization let me try it (so I could write about it here) but even the demo (take a test drive) on the site is nice and a good representation of the program.

So here is what happened –

I got an email with sign-in information and telling me (the parent) about the weekly lessons. My children (who are both solid math students but not making up math problem sets for each other on long car rides – okay, or anywhere else) found the site easy to navigate and easy to work on the topics they wanted (er, I wanted them) to highlight.

Both logged on with a code scribbled on piece of paper (I, lazy summer mom, gave them the codes to get into the site and did not help, I mean, hover) and both were able to finish the worksheets with relative ease (meaning the problems were not out of their knowledge base but challenging).

Here is why I like it – If a problem is confusing, there are helpful hints and if the student is still stuck, there is a video that walks through the problem.  An interesting part of the program allows the student to go back over their work and get all the problems right – good reinforcement of the math concepts and nice (for the confidence) to get all 10 out of 10 problems correct.

As far as confidence and competency and math – it is obviously important for everyone but it has been shown that girls self-select out of math (even if they are good at it) in the upper elementary grades (source – here) and that 50% of all jobs are math-based – I don’t know where I got that statistic but here are some cool jobs that need math). Now I do not care if they don’t want to be math majors in college, but I do care if they limit their options in general.

TenMarks is running a special summer package now and click here to find out more about it and stop the brain drain, well, at least for the children. No promises for parents.

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Filed under Books and More, family Activities, Feed your head, soul, self, good to know, math games, Parents and Kids

Rocky Road – a summer read worth reading – Take the ice cream personality quiz at the end

I do like to read young adult fiction, I can say it because I am pre-reading for my children but that is only a partial truth – I like the quality of the writing, the story lines and the fact that I can read it in the time I could read a Harlequin romance…not that I read those now – but I did in college – by the armful, and the occasional Danielle Steele novel, too. I did say I would read anything…and I have – if you are judging me now, so be it. I also read “grown-up” books and am reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog now. Back to YA…

The last young adult fiction book that  I read was Rocky Road by Rose Kent  – Pragmatic Mom let me borrow an advance copy back in June but I am just getting around to writing about it now – it was already published in hard-cover by the time I got the  pre-published bound copy but it was still kind of cool – I walked around with it casually…on purpose. No one asked about the advanced copy but I had fun.

Anyway,  the story involves a more than usually dysfunctional family (Note to YA writers – you know how Disney  kills off a parent for the sake of the story line? YA writers sometimes rely too heavily on family dysfunction for their conflict), having said that and loving YA the way I do, I really liked this book.  The family was dysfunctional in an interesting way with a lot going on. Tess, a seventh grade Texas transplant, whose bipolar mother (father is not involved in this family) moves them to Schenectady, NY in the dead of winter to open an ice cream shop. Tess’s younger brother, Jordan, is deaf and struggles to make himself understood by their mother who can’t seem to manage sign language. The mom is charming and high-functioning and Tess is an artsy-crafty girl who struggles to fit in.  The story is believable and you really care about the characters – and there are plenty of well-drawn characters here,  A strong sense of community and friendship and good values like hard work and responsibility also run throughout the story. If that sounds like a drag, it isn’t. I liked the characters, the writing and that the author dealt with tough topics – bipolar disorder, financial troubles and even caring for a younger sibling (when you may not really want to) are all interwoven in a way that make these topics accessible to younger readers but also engaging to – ahem – older readers, like myself.

All in all, a good read that makes me want to find other books by this author. I found this one: Kimchi and Calamari about an adopted boy who is researching his roots.

About Rose Kent  –  a native Long Islander who spent her summers in the great state of Maine. She is a former naval officer who also worked for a major food corporation. Rose’s first middle-grade novel, Kimchi & Calamari (HarperCollins Publishers) was inspired by her adopted children from Korea. Kimchi & Calamari has been nominated for the NY Charlotte Award, the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Award, and the Florida Sunshine State Young Readers Award.

Ice Cream Personality quiz that Pragmatic Mom found and I blatantly copied. Thanks, Pragmatic Mom!

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Filed under Authors, books, Books and More, Creative outlets, Feed your head, soul, self, Finds, mom blogs, young adult fiction

Alex Beam of the Boston Globe writes like Cory Doctorow and weirdly, when I am not writing like David Foster Wallace, so do I

I must have been having a really good day. Leave it to dryly funny Alex Beam of the Boston Globe to come up with this – it is a site (“The internet sensation of the moment”) called I Write Like and you type in a writing sample (cut and paste in my case) and it compares your prose to a famous writer. At first I was told that I write like David Foster Wallace – yeah, I wish – and I submitted another sample (what, because Foster Wallace wasn’t good enough?) and I also write like Cory Doctorow (evidently a famous sci-fi writer and blogger) and Alex Beam also writes like Doctorow. I am having way to much fun with this – try it out. Read Alex Beam’s column here. Maybe I should analyze everything I’ve written and see if I am just charmingly varied or all over the map. Okay – it says I also write like Dan Brown, Ian Fleming and Stephen King. Man, I need to focus on one style, maybe. Here is an interview with the creator of the site, (only 27 years old) Dmitry Chestnykh, at The Awl.

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2010 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Winner & Finalists Announced

In my recent travels I found this website Get ‘Em Reading about how to get kids to connect to literature by Daria Plumb, a teacher with a  Master’s in Children’s Literature – she says it is never too late to turn a non-reader into a reader that it just takes the right book.  

I not so secretly planned on my children being big readers (couldn’t help it) so I did all the things you are supposed to do, had cozy reading nooks, books (on a rotating schedule) in the bathroom, read to them, in front of them and with them and I got lucky. Daria Plumb’s site is a great resource for parents of reluctant readers and she chaired the ALAN committee  – Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) – that chose the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award finalists and winner.

2010 AMELIA ELIZABETH WALDEN AWARD WINNER & FINALISTS ANNOUNCED. What is this award?  Here from the ALAN

website:  http://www.alan-ya.org/about

The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents celebrates Young Adult Literature through a number of awards and recognitions every year.  ALAN’s newest award, The Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award, is presented  annually to the author of a title selected by the AEWA Committee comprised of ALAN members.

AMELIA ELIZABETH WALDEN’S BIOGRAPHY

Amelia Elizabeth Walden was born in New York City on January 15, 1909. She graduated from Columbia University in 1934 and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. From 1935 to 1945, she taught English and Dramatics at Norwalk High School in Connecticut. She married John William Harmon in 1946. Her first novel, Gateway, was published in 1946. Walden told her editor that she intended the novel for young people who lived at the gateway, on that middle ground between adolescence and adulthood. Walden claimed, “I respond to young people because I remember my own adolescence so vividly – and fondly. It was a period of total involvement, of enjoying life to the hilt.”  Walden wrote over 40 young adult novels.


Here is the winner: and the finalists include:

I am putting these books on my reading list and in my Amazon store.

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