Reading Through the Pandemic

I’m lucky! I’m surrounded by books. I have an e-reader, too, that I use while walking on my treadmill. I walk at least an hour a day, so I read at least an hour every day.

Who am I kidding? I read another hour or two while my husband is watching television, and when I should be writing, and when I should be changing the litter box. I read while I’m waiting for water to boil, and I’m known for dishes that might be a little overcooked.

When I’m not on the treadmill, I prefer to read paper pages. I definitely prefer hard copies of graphic novels and picture books, and I keep backup hard copies of nonfiction so I can underline text and make notes in the margins and inside the covers.

Right now, I’m reading Warp Speed by Lisa Yee. I love her characters and the way she shows us who they are. That’s why I just stepped off my treadmill to share this depiction of Marley, a 7thgrader who is thrust into a Home Ec class after his AV teacher is taken to the hospital. A new girl, Emily, picks him as her project partner, and he is reading an article from the fashion magazine she left behind on her desk. This scene right here, with Marley sitting down to do his homework, says so much about Marley.

“There’s an article about “The Perfect Boyfriend.” A photo takes up one whole page. The caption reads, “Seth is wearing distressed jeans and a rust-colored polo shirt, topped off with a B-Man jacked from RX59 – where all the cool kids shop.

“I set the magazine aside and I put on my Benjamin Franklin jacket and glasses. Oh wait, can’t forget the Spock ears. Math is up first, then science homework. English is just a review of vocabulary words. I always do well on those. Now history. I save history for last since it’s my favorite subject.”

I don’t know about you, but when he put on his Benjamin Franklin jacket, I laughed out loud! Laughter and learning are helping me get through these scary times.

I hope you are all as lucky as I am and have books to read and time to read them. Stay safe.





Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe

If I gave stars with my book reviews, Jo Watson Hackl’s Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe would get a whole constellation.  It’s the best middle grade mystery I’ve read since I discovered Sheila Turnage’s Newbery Honor Book, Three Times Lucky.

Hackl’s character, Cricket, drags you along from the first paragraph:

“Turns out, it’s easier than you might think to sneak out of town smuggling a live cricket, three pocketfuls of jerky, and two bags of half-paid-for merchandise from Thelma’s Cash ‘n’ Carry grocery store.”

And there’s the humor:

“Even at a time like this, it’s important to keep moisturized.”

Head out the door of that Mississippi store with Cricket (the human) and Charlene (the cricket).  On the journey your traveling companions will enlighten you about the nature of art, self-reliance, and loyalty, and how to live with and love someone who has a mental illness.

The setting is real. The characters are believable.  And there’s a little history thrown in, to boot, about this neck of the Mississippi woods.

Love this book!!!

Great American Read

I am delighted to see book talks on PBS, so please, public television people, take what I’m about to say as what it is, a gentle suggestion.  I’m glad that the Hundred Best Books in America includes titles for kids and young adults.  There were even a few that were published by authors who are still alive.  But I have to ask, how old does a book have to be before it’s considered one of the best books in America?

I love Where the Red Fern Grows and Charlotte’s Web.  I do, really! And I’m good with hearing adults gush about reading their childhood favorites to their children and grandchildren.  But if you want to get young people involved in literacy, you need to pick books that young people would choose for themselves.  The books on your list seem to have been chosen by adults.

I will vote for Harry Potter and The Outsiders and Hatchet.  I won’t argue with you about your choice of  Hunger Games over Collins’ Gregor, the Overlander.  But can we have more recent titles?  I want to see more of the books I couldn’t keep on the shelf in my Reading Lab.  How about Newbery winners like The One and Only Ivan or the picture book, Last Stop on Market Street? How about a graphic novel or two, maybe something by Ursula Vernon or Dan Santat or the Holm siblings?  Have you read Going Bovine by Libba Bray?  Did you even consider including books of poetry?  Kids love good, accessible poetry.

I hope the Great American Read isn’t a one of.  I hope you come back again next year with even more books.  But, please, can we let librarians, teachers, and young readers help decide what goes on the list?  You might be amazed.


“All the things I choose to put in my head are what make me, me.  I plan to choose wisely.” –Bob

This excellent advice comes from a middle grade novel, Bob, written by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead.

Here is my version of Bob’s advice:

Turn off the television except to watch carefully chosen content.  Stay informed, not hoodwinked.

Choose to read–the dictionary, the encyclopedia, good stories, sublime poetry, how-to books.  Choose wisely.

Now for the review part:

If you like a little mystery and a little magic carefully crafted by two master storytellers, choose this book.