Best Books of January

What was Your Favorite Read During the Month of January?

Here we go, it’s the end of another month. So, what is the best book you read in January (either for yourself or with your child)? It could be fiction, nonfiction…any genre. What book did you really enjoy? Or, which one made a major impact on you?

Please use the comment space to share the title and author and to tell just a snippet about your book to whet our readers’ appetites. Is your child old enough to write? Invite him or her to write a recommendation for the blog.

The Kiss of DeceptionMy Reading Recommendation 

The book I would recommend from my January reading is The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. I would recommend this novel for several reasons. First, like my own The Swallow’s Spring, its protagonist is a princess who does not want to marry as her parents have arranged for her to. Second, two of the secondary characters start out identified simply as “the prince” or “the assassin.” When these terms are used, you don’t know which male lead it is referring to. When these terms are not used, all you know are the male leads’ names. Therefore Pearson kept me wondering and hypothesizing about who is who. Third, it is one of only two books I finished reading this month. (The other was Thornspell by Helen Lowe–also a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy.)

Your Turn

What was the best book you read this month?

Introductory Sentence Frame for Analyzing Two Texts

Common Core State Standards has brought some big changes to Language Arts education (along with much protest, praise, crazed hair-pulling, and an uptick in students abilities to read and analyze nonfiction texts).

The biggest challenge for my GED students was to transition from writing about their own opinions to writing critical analyses of texts. A challenge they either pass or fail in their opening paragraph–which sets the parameters for rest of the essay.

So, here is a sentence frame I use to teach them to establish an analytical focus for their work.

analytical-c-c-intro-sent-frame

Your Turn

How do you help students establish an analytical tone for their writing? Please share in the comments below.

*CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.1A: Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

Wonderful Words on the World of Children’s Books

In an age when a limited diet for hundreds of millions of Americans daily is prescribed through the medium of TV, there is more nourishment, more privacy, and—best yet—more freedom of selection to be had in children’s reading. Because it is personal and powerful, reading can help weather children into an individuality which will help them to weather that which is impersonal and powerful.

~Gregory Maguire, from Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature: Introduction

Your Turn

Are you reading with your kids?
What would you recommend to read to a child? (Or simply to enjoy on your own!)
I’ll start the list with two, one an old favorite and one a new:

  1. The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
  2. The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pierson

The Kiss of Deception

 

Books and Hobbies

National Hobby Month

January is National Hobby Month. What a great idea–taking the time to celebrate all the things that help keep us creative. While I am a writer and many may say that is enough of an exercise in creativity, I would beg to differ.

Hobbies and Me

I have always had hobbies, activities that nourished and stretched me, before taking up writing professionally and after. My hobbies not only feed my spirit, but more important still, nourish my imagination.

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Hobbies Pre-Writing Life

These hobbies stretch all the way back to my early childhood. My mom has always been an artist. She loves to draw, and so our home was well stocked with paper, crayons, watercolors, glue, glitter… She even took art classes when I was a child, which helped me internalize the idea that creative activity is something to value.

The most awesome things she drew for me were paper dolls. I had a Little House on the Prairie doll. Mom drew two. Mine was Laura and my friend’s was Mary. (And no, she did not just favor me by giving me Laura. She put both drawings behind her back and we had to pick a hand. In my eyes, I lucked out and got Laura.) I had a Sleeping Beauty paper doll. And my best friend and I had paper dolls that were girls like us. I’d like to say we made up adventures and stories for our dolls which fed my love for writing. But the honest truth is, we spent more time making clothes for these dolls than actually playing with them. Each one had a “Guenevere going to the stake” gown, a Star Trek uniforms, and dresses copied from illustrations in books. Needless to say, the clothes we colored, colored our play. (And that, I suppose, is what nourished my storytelling.)

Mom also taught me to hand sew (and machine sew, but it is the hand sewing I love to this day). This took the form, mostly, of embroidery, which along with school art classes were my favored creative outlet through my teen years. I added in poetry writing from high school on.

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Hobbies + Writing Life

I’ve never lost my love for sewing handwork and drawing, and have pursued each with varying degrees of vigor alongside my writing life.

Hand sewing, be it hemming or embroidery, brings me such a sense of peace. I really ought to let myself do it more often, but, silly me, feeling peaceful doesn’t feel like I’m working. With my recovering-perfectionist, workaholic nature, I do not allow myself to indulge in it nearly as much as I would like. (Working nearly full-time and writing professionally do not leave a lot of time for other endeavors.)

Drawing, I neglected for very long time, unless I was drawing something to embroider–I seldom use purchased designs. However, for a short time when I was teaching middle school, I got to teach a couple of art classes. I used Jude Welton’s Tate Gallery Drawing: A Young Artist’s Guide as the core of my curriculum. Then, a few years ago, I read Sybil Macbeth‘s Praying in Color which opened my eyes to the many opportunities to squeeze in a little drawing time. I love taking blank index cards to church and doodling the sermon. I also enjoy doodling prayers for others. But my doodling and drawing have expanded way beyond sermon notes and prayers.

I find great joy playing with line and form, symmetry and asymmetry. And great joy in creating drawings, even though most are about the size of an index card. It’s a great way to celebrate, capture a moment, image, or mood, and–best of all–to play with my Grands. I justify these indulgences by telling myself I can use these drawings to make cards and therefore save some money. (Greeting cards are so expensive!) But the truth is, I haven’t made a card yet, and my file is full of many drawings.

402700Books and Hobbies

If you check out a book store, craft store, art store, library, or online you will find there are books for just about any hobby. I know people who like to tie flies, make jewelry, scrapbook, quilt, and sculpt. And there are oodles of books for each of them.

My Favorite Hobby Books

I have salivated and dreamed over many hobby books. However, my all-time favorites remain the ones I discovered when my children were young–the Ed Emberley drawing books (Be sure to follow the link. His website is really cool!). Emberley breaks drawing down into distinct add-a-shape steps. You can draw pirates, firetrucks, castles, fish, dragons, and knights. My favorite thing I drew from an Ed Emberley book is a deer. I still harbor dreams of turning it into a Christmas card one day.

What About You?

  • How does pursuing a hobby enrich your life?
  • Do you have hobbies you love or hobby books to recommend?
  • I’d so appreciate it if you’d leave a comment below. And take some time to celebrate your creativity this month!

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Roles–An Expository Play With Your Words Prompt

Writing

Prompt

What is your role, your obligation, your purpose in relation to yourself and to your community?

*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.10

 

PreWrite

Brainstorm a list for four categories:

  • your role/s in relation to yourself
  • your obligations to your self
  • your purpose for yourself and you life
  • your role/s in relation to your communities (home, school, work, faith…)
  • your obligations to your communities (home, school, work, faith…)
  • your purpose in relation to your communities (home, school, work, faith…)

Once you have a list, circle the ideas you want to write about and number them in the order you want to write them.

Write 

You are now ready to write your response. When you’re done look it over to see if there are any changes (revisions) or corrections (edits) you would like to make.

Share

Feel free to share any of your insights in the comments.

Best Books of December

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A Return to “Best Books of…”

The end of December is long past, however, I want to get back to a routine that was born with the inception of Literate Lives. Instead of me sharing all the books I read last month (you can still find these on my Reading Log page) I am going to pick my favorite for the month and talk about it a bit.

Your Role

Then… (Here’s where things get tricky.) I want to invite you (implore you, actually) to use the comments section to share about your favorite read from December. Please don’t let me down! The title of this post will be a lie if no one else chimes in with a book recommendation.

Okay, so…I’ll go first.

My Favorite Book of December

doomsdaybook1stedI love to read Christmas novels during the month of December, and this time, I kicked the season off with a re-read that proved every bit is gripping the second time around as it did the first. Even though I enjoyed the other books I read immensely (see Reading Log), The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis must rank as my favorite.

The Doomsday Book is a science fiction novel set in a futuristic Oxford, England during the weeks surrounding Christmas. Scientists have begun to master the dynamics of time travel, and historians have begun going back in time to do research–only not back much farther than two to three hundred years. The Oxford medieval department is eager to get in on the action and the book opens on the launch of a graduate student to the 1300’s–before the plague. Chaos ensues. The technician who oversaw the launch collapses with a mystery illness before he can confirm the student has arrived safely. The doctor who prepped the student for the launch gets caught up in trying to diagnose the mystery ailment. The history professor who observed the launch frantically tries to find another technician to confirm the arrival. As Oxford is placed under quarantine, the doctor’s twelve-year-old nephew arrives for the Christmas holiday and is entrusted to the care of the history professor. Meanwhile, the graduate student who lands in the 1300’s also gets sick. …And did I mention the bell-ringers?

Doomsday Book is a gripping tale, and I had a terrible time finding places to stop reading so I could go to sleep at night.

Your Turn to Recommend a Book

So, I shared my favorite December read. Tell me, please, what was yours? It could be fiction, nonfiction…any genre. What book did you or maybe your children really enjoy? What book made a major impact on you? Please use the comment space to share the title, author’s name, and just a snippet about your book to whet your fellow readers’ appetites.

 

Reading Rotation 2017

So Many Books, So Little Time

As those who have been with me long know, I have developed a somewhat quirky system for choosing what book I will read next. The need for such a system is threefold:

  1. I used to like to gorge myself on whatever genre I fancied until I’d read so many, I ruined myself for reading any more books of that genre for a long, long time. (It’s sort of like working in a candy store and being told you can eat as much as you like then finding you have made yourself so sick of candy you do not even want to look at another piece.
  2. I have eclectic reading taste. Therefore gorging myself on one genre neglected all the others I loved, which my inner five-year-old felt was very unfair.
  3. I tend to buy books faster than I can read them, therefore the “to be read” titles in any given genre were stacking up so alarmingly, I needed a system to equalize the build-up on any one bookshelf. (Yes, I have bookshelves in every room and our home library is sorted like genre–as, come to think of it, is my school library.)

The Solution: A Reading Rotation

I’ve brainstorm all the genres I like to read, considered which I like best (fantasy, historical mysteries, and historical fiction) or need to read (fantasy –since I am a fantasy writer and books about writing to help me grow as an author) then compile them in a list with repetitions where needed.

For each book I choose to read, I date that genre on the list and look at what comes next so I can eagerly anticipate what my next read will be. And so I work my way from top to bottom of the list, and then start all over again. Hence, a “Reading Rotation.”

This year I determined I am not reading enough non fiction, so I have established two lists–fiction and non fiction, to be read three fiction books for every non fiction book. I am very excited about this. I love novels, but I’ve missed the types of non fiction I enjoy.

The New, 2017 Reading Rotation:

new-2017-reading-rotation

A Book Nerd

I know. If you hadn’t thought of me as a book nerd before, you will now. I love to read! And I look forward to a year of awesome reading, and hopefully to learning about what you are reading, and thereby discovering more gems as well.

Happy Reading!