Jan 2, 2009

January Featured Author – Kate DiCamillo

Each month I will be giving special attention to a young adult author and read as many of their books as I can manage.  This month’s pick is Kate DiCamillo.  This multiple award winning author is known for her simple and easy to read stories.  While her books are available to young readers they have enough depth to delight grown readers as well.  There is something about her stories that is ready made for sharing between generations.

One of my pet peeves is something I call The Great Divide.  In elementary school reading is all fun and games and in high school it is all vocabulary words and literature tests.  One of my personal passions is seeing the divide bridged by exposing kids to literature at a younger age and keeping fun in the classroom at an older age. DiCamillo’s writing seems to achieve this.

DiCamillo’s youth played a significant roll in her future as a writer.  She was a voracious reader with a deep, vivid imagination.  And this clearly translates into her writing. After reading Tiger Rising last year and hearing that her other books were similar I was eager to read more.

Fun Friday – You Look Like A Real Cool Cat

Jan 1, 2009

New Years Resolution

I usually don’t do Resolutions.  There is part of me that finds them quite pointless.  I like the renewing effect that facing a new year creates, but we shouldn’t be changing ourselves one day a year. It should be a constant transition to being a better us.

That being said, I have created some goals for my reading and blogging.  I have been wanting to create a more balanced reading list in order to expose myself to more genres and authors. And blogging is also great at helping record personal goals and add extra fun into the experience.  So here they are.

1. Any subscriber to my blog would know I am a HUGE fan of young adult literature.  As a result of this passion I have decided to feature a YA author monthly on my blog.

My goal is to read as many books of that author as I can get my hands on in the month and also do some interesting features on each author.

2. A few years ago I read Boys and Girls Forever by Alison Lurie. It is a collection of essays regarding classic young adult books and some contemporary best sellers.  I decided I wanted to reread this book.  Each month I am going to read an essay from it and also one of the young adult books mentioned.  I think this will be a fun way to get through some of the classic young adult books I keep find excuses not to read.

I have loved these essays even since I first read them.  Though there are times that Lurie makes some pretty long leaps to get to her conclusions.  It is fun reading her ideas, especially when you remember it is just her interpretation.  I am really looking forward and looking at these essays again.

3. As a new fan of science fiction I have been enjoying finding out what kind of subgenres in this category I enjoy.  So each month I plan to read at least one book off the top 100 Science Fiction Books list.

4. Alas, I did not finish the 1% Well Read Challenge before the new year as I had hoped.  But I am trying keep being well read.  I want to try and read 3 books from a list a month.

5. Inside The Writer’s Studio is a a new feature I will be starting next week. But you don’t get to know what it is quite yet.  Be sure to check back!

Do you have any resolutions?

Katie and Kimble – Guest Post

Author Linda Thieman agreed to stop by and tell us a little bit more about her story and her writing process. This author of Katie and Kimble: A Ghost Story will be joining us again later in the month for an interview and you can expect an upcoming review from me as well. Be sure to leave any questions you might want me to ask in the comments.

Linda has put a lot of effort into making her book interactive for kids with coloring pages and other extension materials. Please visit her blog which is link at the end of the post.


Kimble: The Character Development of a Ghost
by Linda Thieman

In my opinion, one of the most rewarding things about writing the Katie & Kimble: A Ghost Story series, or any series by any author, is the ability to create one’s own little world. It’s a world that the writer can keep coming back to again and again to build settings and characters.

In the case of the Katie & Kimble chapter book series (280L, RL3), Katie’s family offers a solid, normal, functional family foundation. Katie is almost 9, her brother is two, her mom works at a computer company and her dad is home for the summer because he works as a teacher. The family is much like any modern-day family, trying to switch their diets to healthier fare and putting into practice a certain level of environmental awareness on a daily basis.

When the Russells move into an old house out in the country, Katie soon discovers that they are living with Kimble, the ghost of a ten-year-old girl. When Kimble died in 1918 due to the Great Influenza, a pandemic that killed over half a million people in the U.S. alone, she was an only child, one who had been quite coddled by her well-to-do parents.

Now, after decades of being in ghostly form, Kimble’s personality still shines through. She is clearly intelligent, deciding from the first moment that she sees Katie that she needs a favor from Katie to help Kimble find out what happened to her mother. So she sets about to make friends with Katie by leaving Katie small gifts of Kimble’s own belongings. One young reader called this decision by Kimble to reveal herself gradually a “smart choice” in that it intrigued Katie but did not scare her.

One of the personal gifts that Kimble leaves for Katie is a dreidel, a spinning top that Jewish children play with during Hanukah. From this, Katie figures out that Kimble was Jewish. This is a big part of Kimble’s identity and throughout the first two Katie & Kimble books (the second being Katie & Kimble: The Magic Wish), Kimble matter-of-factly informs the Russells exactly what it means to be Jewish. It is important to Kimble that the Russells really know her and what was important to her in her life.

Kimble is also very impatient. One wonders if this was a characteristic of the child she used to be or if this is because, when in ghostly form, everything happens instantly, i.e., you want to be in the kitchen, boom, you’re in the kitchen. It’s not a question that can be easily answered and one that Katie will just let lie as she accepts Kimble the way she is. Kimble also likes to use this instantaneous aspect to tease Katie, challenging her to races which Katie can never win but which Katie’s competitive spirit won’t allow her to ignore.

As Kimble insinuates herself into the Russell family, the Russells decide that she’s not just a ghost who happens to be in the house; rather, she is a child in ghostly form who eventually, by the third book, Katie & Kimble: The Golden Door (to be published in 2009), is living with the Russells as an active part of the family. The Russells then start to see her as a child with special needs, although one who doesn’t have a body.. Throughout the first three Katie & Kimble books, Kimble’s personal needs emerge, whether they be emotional, spiritual or physical, and the Russells use their understanding of Kimble and of children in general to make her feel like an important part of the family.

The Katie & Kimble series takes the solid family structure and builds the relationships between characters in that context. Kimble wants to fit in, wants to be loved, and wants to be accepted for who she is. And the Russells apply themselves to figuring out how best to meet the needs of their newest daughter.
Linda Thieman is the author of the Katie & Kimble: A Ghost Story series, a chapter book series for ages 7-10. http://www.katieandkimbleblog.com

Here is Linda at almost the same age as Katie.

What a cutie.

Dec 29, 2008

Mail Box Monday

I have seen on various blogs people talking about the books they are getting in the mail. I don’t review (officially) very many books so it is a real treat when I get some books in the mail.

I thought it would be fun to celebrate that fact. I have been wanting to put some pictures of my books on the blog for a while, but all I have is a really crappy webcam. So, you are just going to have to suffer.

I was lucky enough to have Chelsea send me six books.

Chelsea sent me a copy of our January young adult book club pick so that I would be able to participate.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson has a beautiful cover and I am very excited to read it. The chat for this book will be on Dec. 29th. Feel free to contact me for more information or check out Chelsea’s blog.

I have been told I will really enjoy this book and now I am trying to decide whether to jump right into it or wait until closer to the chat to read it.

I really love talking about books in a group setting. I love that Chelsea will be giving away a copy of next month’s book to one of the chat participants.

I have been trying to collect all the Printz winners and finalists for my personal collection. I don’t have very many but thanks to Chelsea I have added two more to the pile. Monster by Walter Dean Myers has been on my wishlist for a long time. It is great to have it in my hands so I can get it read.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing will be an interesting read. I really enjoyed M.T. Anderson’s book Feed but this book looks completely different. I am definitely curious about it.

The Big Empty, The Center of the Universe, and Sixtyfive Roses were also included.

Did any of these book interest you?

Dec 28, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Evaluation

The Sunday Salon.com
Well, it is the last Sunday Salon of 2008. Though I have not participated as much in the latter part of the year, finding this group has been a great experience. I love talking about and sharing experiences with books. Looking back it has been a very successful reading year for me and in part that is because of blogging and fellow book bloggers. Thanks to all of your for sharing your insights and expereinces.

I am curious to know how you enjoyed 2008 and what you will be doing in 2009.

What was the best book you read in 2008?
What are your reading goals for 2009?
How has The Sunday Salon impacted your reading experience?
Is there one book you read in the past year and enjoyed that you would have never read without the encouragement of your fellow bloggers?
What is one of the things that motivates you to read?

The best young adult book I read in 2008 was easily Wake, though there were other great young adult books I read, this book had a uniqueness that I really found refreshing. The best adult book I read was The Sixteen Pleasures or The Handmaid's Tale. I find it really hard to pick a book and be fair to the whole year. I think we generally tend to pick newer reads as favorites.

I have a lot of book related goals for 2009. But one of the biggest ones is that I am going to keep better track of the books I have read. I am going to join a 100 books challenge and make a post for it and just keep it updated as I finish books. So the goal is in two parts, to keep records and to read 100 books in the year. So far I have read approximately 85 books in 2008. Because I didn't keep good records I can't know how many for sure. But when I was adding up the titles I felt a great sense of accomplishment.

I am also making a conscious effort to add more variety in my reading. This includes more classic young adult, popular fiction (aka "fluff"), classics, and more science fiction. Are you planning on reading any genre or author new to you in 2009?

The Sunday Salon has been great for me because I don't read book reviews. I don't like to know much about a book before I read it. But I love to read about how a person reacted and interacted with a book. I particularly enjoy reading passages that speak to a reader. There are definitely books that I pulled off my shelf after seeing other bloggers and saloners talk about them. Also it was fun to be exposed to new books and then find them while book shopping. Even when I have not read a book finding it in a thrift store makes me feel like I am sharing a special secret with a person that enjoyed it.

I find the idea of sharing what I am reading very motivating. Also mini goals publically encourages me even when I don't complete them. Hearing about author's lives and writing experiences also excites me to read their books. I love reading interviews and guest posts and participating in contests.

I still have 5 books left to finish my Well Read Challenge befor the end of the year as I had hoped to. I have abandoned some of my 13 books from a few weeks ago to focus on the smaller challenge. The five books I am rushing to complete are Stranger in a Strange Land, Hitchhiker's Guife to the Galaxy, To Kill a Mockingbird, Cat's Eye, and The Iron Heel.
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