2008 by the Numbers

My fairly unscientific tally of books read for the year (not counting picture books unless reviewed here, which is rare, and not counting 50 issues each of Newsweek and Entertainment Weekly and 12 issues each of Redbook and Real Simple and the odd newsstand copy of such enlightened trash as Us Weekly and In Touch):

[drum roll]

137 books read.

Not bad. Not my best, which I think was 150 in 2005, but still, a decent showing. My posts increased to 192 this year, after 171 last year, so that's an improvement (to me, at least).

Here's to a wonderful 2009, despite the craphole that is the current economy.


The Handmaid's Tale: Review Haiku

The ladies in red
are reduced to vessels of
expansion. Chilling.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. McClelland and Stewart, 1985, 320 pages.

#49 on The LIST.


TWO: Birthday Haiku

Finally, you are
delightful. Completely insane,
but delightful.

Happy birthday, Peanut.


Lolita: Review Haiku

Somehow this is not
as palatable now that
I have a daughter.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. Olympia Press (Paris), 1955, 336 pages.

#48 on The LIST.


Merry Christmas!

A very merry Christmas to all.


The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday: Review Haiku

Overthinking Scots
busybody muses on
life, guilt, and children.

The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday (An Isabel Dalhousie Novel) by Alexander McCall Smith. Pantheon, 2008, 256 pages.


2008 in Review (Haiku)

Here's to another
year of great reading. (Plus a
few stinkers. Oh well.)

Behold, the year-end roundup. I may have more to say this year, but I figured now was as good a time as any to compile my favorites of 2008. These are in no particular order per category.

Picture Book Obsession of 2008
The oeuvre of Jan Thomas:
What Will Fat Cat Sit On?
A Birthday for Cow!
The Doghouse
Incidentally, this leads me to my Brilliant Discovery of 2008: Jacketless hardcover at 9x9 trim = Made of Awesome. (See also Not a Box and The Pigeon.)

Favorite Chapter Books of 2008

Favorite Middle-Grade Books of 2008
My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath
White Sands, Red Menace by Ellen Klages
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
Knucklehead by Jon Scieszcka

Favorite YA Novels of 2008
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Paper Towns by John Green
The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkowski
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Favorite Adult Books of 2008
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
I Shall Not Want by Julia Spencer-Fleming
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Favorite Books from The LIST in 2008
Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
The Autobiography of Malcolm X with Alex Haley
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Book from The LIST I Expected to Hate but Didn't
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Least Favorite Books from The LIST in 2008
Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

I should end with something witty, but right now I have one child spilling hot cocoa on her dress and the other screaming for me with a load in his pants. And that pretty much sums up my life in 2008.


More Information Than You Require: Review Haiku

Take it in the john
for hours of Lampoon humor,
with mole-men. Snarky.

More Information Than You Require by John Hodgman. Dutton, 2008, 359 pages.


Dear All Authors Who Have Ever Submitted or Will Ever Submit to Me

Please go read this post:


which explains, in language clearer and more eloquent than I have ever mustered in my rejection letters, what it means to write for children and not simply about children.

Sarah Miller rocks.


My One Hundred Adventures: Review Haiku

Equal parts slapstick
and tragic absurdity.
Man, I heart Horvath.

My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath. Schwartz & Wade, 2008, 260 pages.


The Other Side of the Island: Review Haiku

Nothing new under
the sun -- or the projection.
Sharp but unfinished.

The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman. Razorbill/Penguin, 2008, 280 pages.


The Nativity Story, by The Munchkin

"Do you want to play Sleeping Beauty, Mommy? You have to wait till the Queen and King say you can go to Bethlehem, on the nice dragon. And when you get to Bethlehem, you have to watch out for the evil queen."

Herod, Maleficent . . . it's all the same.


Bowling Across America: Review Haiku

After fifty states
I still can't decide: hot shot,
or beer-soaked loser?

Bowling Across America: 50 States in Rented Shoes by Mike Walsh. St. Martin's, 2008, 292 pages.


This I Believe II: Review Haiku

Great bathroom reading --
and I mean that in a good
way. Thought-provoking.


It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like #$@%#!!

No time to read last night, as I was too busy with the annual Ritual Cursing of the Stupid Expletive Muzza-Fuzza Printer and Its Inability to Print Stupid Expletive Muzza-Fuzza Labels for the Christmas cards. But they're done now! Out the door!

Please enjoy this picture (part of our Christmas card) of my wee bairn tapping a keg, while I catch up.


Graceling: Review Haiku

Mercenary girl
learns trust, love, and redemption.
Badass tour-de-force.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Harcourt, 2008, 471 pages.


Chains: Review Haiku

Laurie takes up Tobin's
in this taut tale
of freedom fought for.

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. S&S, 2008, 316 pages.


The Autobiography of Malcolm X: Review Haiku

One man's search for God:
knocks you upside the head with
painful, searing prose.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, with assistance from Alex Haley. Grove, 1965, 502 pages.

#47 on The LIST.


Paper Towns: Review Haiku

If Aaron Sorkin
wrote YA. Gets preachy at
the end; still, a gem.

Paper Towns by John Green. Dutton, 2008, 305 pages.

Note: I read this one and Two Parties, One Tux . . . back to back, and I'm struck by the similarities: nebbishy guy plus piece-of-work friends plus previously unattainable girl plus prom, etc. I enjoyed them both very much, but I find myself getting confused in my mind as to which event happened in which book.



Happy Thanksgiving!

Lately the Munchkin has been singing a song from preschool called "Albuquerque Turkey." Please pray that it does not become our Thanksgiving grace.


Room One: Review Haiku

Clements' formula
wrought well again; this time, with
military twist.

Room One by Andrew Clements. S&S, 2006, 162 pages.


Chicken Feathers: Review Haiku

Magical chicken
cures Mom's infertility.
Cuter than it sounds.

Chicken Feathers by Joy Cowley. Philomel, 2008, 149 pages.


Antsy Does Time: Review Haiku

Anyone who names
a Swedish family "Umlaut"
is all right by me.

Antsy Does Time by Neal Shusterman. Dutton, 2008, 247 pages.


White Sands, Red Menace: Review Haiku

After the Bomb, what
next? Smart not-quite-sisters try
to figure it out.

White Sands, Red Menace by Ellen Klages. Viking, 2008, 352 pages.


Masterpiece: Review Haiku

Bug prodigy and
lonely boy find friendship, solve
art crimes. Luminous!

Masterpiece by Elise Broach. Holt, 2008, 292 pages.


Knucklehead: Review Haiku

Now, when my kids are
nuts, I can thank God that at
least they're not Scieszkas.

Please note: This one earned the Scary Clown Laugh Seal of Approval from my husband, so you know it's good.


The Wordy Shipmates: Review Haiku

Now I'll feel smarter
when we sing, "till the stock of

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell. Riverhead, 2008, 254 pages.


NaBloPoMo wha?

Hey, look! A whole week without posting!

What can I say? I got home from our whirlwind Midwestern weekend (the children were excellent on the plane both ways, praise Jebus) with lots of mail/magazines waiting for me, in addition to the books I was already reading but of course made no progress in over said weekend.

This week I spent most of my (limited) reading time devouring Newsweek's post-election edition. Right now I'm dividing my attention between The Wordy Shipmates and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and what an interesting pair they are.

More to come, eventually . . .


How to Ditch Your Fairy: Review Haiku

So THAT's why my tennis
serves always go in! Doos
cautionary tale.

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbasletier. Bloomsbury, 2008, 307 pages.

P.S. Getting on a plane at the ass-crack of dawn this morning to fly, by myself, with both children, to Chicago for my nephew's baptism this weekend. Just me! No other adult backup! With Drama Queen and Sir Shrieksalot! Wheeee! . . . Pray for us.


An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: Review Haiku

Your heart breaks under
the weight of the missing and
the weight of hope. Rare.

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken. Little, Brown, 2008, 184 pages.


A thought for this morning . . .

. . . which I am writing last night, before all the results are in.

What the frak am I going to do with myself now that I can't fritter away hours on political blogs? The horror!


Go vote.

Go vote.
Go vote.
Go vote.

That is all.


Happy Halloween!

Technically these are cinematic costumes, not literary ones, since Ellie's shoes are red.


Hate That Cat: Review Haiku

Poetry lesson
from a master. But will it
speak to children, too?

Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech. Harper, 2008, 153 pages.


Ghostgirl: Review Haiku

Snazzy production
values can't compensate for
derivative plot.

Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley. Little, Brown, 2008, 328 pages.


Savvy: Review Haiku

Poor Mibs! Sick Poppa,
first love, and telepathy:
puberty writ large.

Savvy by Ingrid Law. Dial, 2008, 342 pages.


Little Women: Review Haiku

Everybody loves
Laurie -- except Jo, which sucks.
Then (spoiler!) Beth dies.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Roberts Brothers, 1868/1869, 560 pages.

#46 on The LIST.


The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Review Haiku

Lee uncovers the
sweet and sour history
of General Tso.


Jacob Have I Loved: Review Haiku

Sibling rivalry
in raw, painful, gorgeous prose.
Bleakly beautiful.

Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson. Harper, 1980, 256 pages.

#45 on The LIST.


Silver linings

So the Sox blew it and my Magical Uterus Theory has yet to be unproven, consarnit.* Still, I take comfort in a few things:

1. No more cowbell.
2. No more TBS yahoos saying "OR-tihz" like gigantic asshats. (Dude, if you are a baseball announcer and cannot pronounce common Latino surnames, you need a new line of work.)
3. We can sleep again.
4. Manny isn't going to the Series either.
5. Did I mention we can sleep again?

* Thanks, Betsy, for reviving my linguistic interest in Yosemite Sam.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: Review Haiku

Take a way-cool topic
and suck the life out of
it. Bueller? Bueller?

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond. Norton, 1999, 494 pages. Listened to on a Playaway device.

#44 on The LIST.

Note: To be fair, the version I listened to was abridged. Perhaps the full text is more exciting.


First Daughter: White House Rules: Review Haiku

Too good to be true?
Sameera fights racism,
goes to school, finds love.

First Daughter: White House Rules by Mitali Perkins. Dutton, 2008, 216 pages.


Start spreading the news

I'm taking off this afternoon for New York, thanks to the fearless driving of Ms. Mitali, to attend the Society of Illustrators opening reception and the Jane Addams Children's Book Awards ceremony. I'll also be meeting with agents, hanging out with my cousin, trying to remember how to walk like a New Yorker, and gearing up for Saturday's Rutgers University Council on Children's Literature conference.

And yes, I'll be wearing black.


Toy Dance Party: Review Haiku

StingRay, Lumphy, and
Plastic make new friends. Why am
I not Ms. Jenkins?


Rapunzel's Revenge: Review Haiku

The rootin'-tootin'
fairy tale dystopia
is odd, but still fun.

Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale. Bloomsbury, 2008, 144 pages.


Liberty: Review Haiku

Clint's midlife crisis:
yet I keep picturing
Keillor having sex. (Ew.)

Liberty by Garrison Keillor. Viking, 2008, 267 pages.


A Tale of Two Cities: Review Haiku

Oh my heck, I
actually enjoyed Dickens.
Vive le Carton!

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Chapman and Hall, 1859, 544 pages.

#43 on The LIST. (Thanks, Leila, for the kick in the pants.)


The Patron Saint of Butterflies: Review Haiku

Fascinating look
at fanaticism, cults
(though I guessed ending).

The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galant. Bloomsbury, 2008, 292 pages.


I Get to Fly on a Plane All By Myself!

Taking off this weekend to go meet my NEPHEW, at last. Squee! With no small, grubby people to disturb my all-important flight reading time by demanding snacks and water and attention and gum! Perhaps I will finish A Tale of Two Cities after all.*

* Who am I kidding: I'm totally reading Us Weekly. Emmy fashions!


The Screwtape Letters: Review Haiku

Fascinating stuff
for believers and skeptics
alike. Beats Aslan.

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. Geoffrey Bies, 1942, 175 pages.

#42 on The LIST.
P.S. Happy birthday, Boy Scout!


Nancy Drew, Girl Detective: Doggone Town: Review Haiku

Nancy goes graphic!
Still implausible; now
causes vertigo, too!

Nancy Drew, Girl Detective #13: Doggone Town by Stefan Petrucha. Papercutz, 2008, 112 pages.


The Economic Naturalist: Review Haiku

Why do drive-up cash
machines have Braille? Fascinating,
mind-boggling stuff.


Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-You Notes: Review Haiku

The chapter titles
can get tiresome, but the
gold spray paint? Priceless.

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-You Notes by Peggy Gifford. Schwartz & Wade, 2008, 159 pages.


Alvin Ho: Review Haiku

Selectively mute
Alvin speaks volumes on
being a gentleman.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look, illustrated (marvelously) by LeUyen Pham. Schwarz & Wade, 2008, 172 pages.

P.S. Burning question: Isn't it odd that Alvin has a brother Calvin? Will this ever be explained? Especially given the part where both boys were putting their names on everything? . . .


MotherReader hearts my blog!

The gracious and charming MotherReader tagged me in the bloggy lovefest "I Heart Your Blog." Thanks, Pam!

Now I must return the favor. The rules, as I understand them, are this:

1) Add the logo of the award to your blog

2) Add the link of the person who awarded it to you to your blog

3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs

Let's see: let's be nepotistic, sort of, and link to authors and illustrators I either work with or aspire to work with.

Fiona Bayrock, my favorite Canuck (is that a slur? I hope it's not a slur)

Frank W. Dormer, who is gleefully insane

Sarah Miller, whose appetite for reading is truly impressive

Anastasia Suen, she of the boundless energy

Laurie Halse Anderson, whom I revere and whom I once alarmed at NCTE

Matthew Holm, possibly my new secret crush (sorry, honey

And as a big wet kiss on the bum, the Charlesbridge blog, Unabridged.

4) Add links to those blogs to your blog

5) Leave a nice warm message for each of your nominees!
Check . . . check.

Thanks for the pick-me-up!


Lamentations of the Father: Review Haiku

Not responsible
for coffee or other drinks
spewed in amusement.

Lamentations of the Father: Essays by Ian Frazier. FSG, 2008, 194 pages.


Judy Moody Goes to College: Review Haiku

Never thought I'd say
"ridonkulous" to my four-
year-old. Sick-awesome.

Judy Moody Goes to College by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter Reynolds. Candlewick, 2008, 129 pages.


The Year of the Rat: Review Haiku

Charming and sweet (if
hard to read objectively).
Grace nails emotions.

The Year of the Rat by Grace Lin. Little Brown, 2007, 182 pages.

Cybilly goodness

Ooh, cool! I'll be on the judging panel for the Cybils' nonfiction picture book category this year. After two years doing middle-grade/YA nonfiction, it'll be nice to look at shorter books for a change. And I get to be led by my favorite bubble expert, Fiona Bayrock!

(Of course, I harbor a secret wish that I'll have to recuse myself, since the finalists will surely all be Charlesbridge books . . . )


Vacation roundup, Disney edition

Took the Munchkin to the Happiest Place on Earth this weekend. (Left the Boy at home with grandparents, thank God.) Despite my general Disney meh-ness, had a great time -- those Mouse people really do think of everything.

Came back to at least two flaming crises, six overdue projects, two loads of laundry, and a partridge in a pear tree.

By the numbers
Us Weekly issues read: 2 (Shut up. I only buy it at the airport. Really.)
Chapters of A Tale of Two Cities read: 6 (sorry, Leila)
Pages of various coloring and/or activity books colored and/or . . . activated: eleventy billion
Anticipated book-reading to be done in the next, oh, six weeks or so: nil


Mother on Fire: Review Haiku

Gosh, I wanted to
like this more than I did. Just
take a Xanax, eh?

Mother on Fire: A True Motherf#%$* Story About Parenting by Sandra Tsing Loh. Random, 2008, 320 pages.