Saturday, February 4, 2017


I remember when I was a child, probably around 10, I found a blue paperback book with a beautiful image on the cover. The title was in gold and I was so taken by the cover, I had to have the book. It was a collection of Greek Mythology. Did I ever read the book? No. When I tried to read the text, it was, well, Greek to me. I still have the book. To be honest, I'm not exactly sure where it is, but I know I still have it in my vast collection of books.

It wasn't until I heard storyteller Barbara McBride-Smith tell her Texas version of the Greek myths, It's Not Easy Being a Goddess: A Yellow Rose of Texas Tells the Greek Myths in her Native Tongue, that I even thought about that paperback book again. Did I read it then? Heavens no. I had purchased McBride-Smith's recording. I knew it was going to be much easier to understand. We're both Texans! We speak the same language, which is NOT Greek!

The next time the Greek Gods came into my life, it was through Percy Jackson. My son was then nine when my husband and I brought home an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of The Lightning Thief following the Texas Library Association's Annual Conference. He devoured the book and couldn't wait for me. I have to admit, I also enjoyed the book and read the next two as well.

A few weeks ago, I had the awesome pleasure of hearing Newbery medal winning author Kwame Alexander speak during the American Library Association's Midwinter Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. (He was actually speaking while the Atlanta Falcons were playing the Green Bay Packers in the NFL Conference Championship game. We all know how that ended. It was quite a spectacular evening in Atlanta, unless you are a Cheesehead!) While speaking, he creatively promoted his, and other author's books by using the titles. (The only exception for his recent or upcoming titles was Animal Ark. He said he just didn't know how to incorporate it without blatantly doing a promo.) One of the books which was splashed across the big screen was Bull by David Elliott.

by David Elliott
The image was up on the screen so quickly I really did not have a chance to fully grasp what I was seeing. The same evening (after watching the celebrations in the rain soaked streets) my husband and I attended a dinner hosted by HMH Books for Young Readers. As each of the editors introduced their upcoming titles, I made notes on my handout to remember which ones I wanted to read, review, and (if appropriate for my school) order. I was taken aback when I was the cover of Bull. This time, I had the opportunity to read the cover in its entirety while being introduced to this retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur.

I was thrilled when I was able to obtain a digital copy of the book for review. I started reading it alone, but was soon so taken with the poetry, I had to share it aloud with my husband. I felt I couldn't read it fast enough. I wanted to see how each character was going to be developed and the format in which they would shape their words. Since it was so late in the evening when we began this story time session, I sadly had to stop at the end of Book II. I felt let down by my husband's need for sleep. I wanted to keep reading. This was a story I had not heard before and I wanted to know the ending. Thankfully the next evening we got to read. It was incredible to see how each of the character's was "assigned" a poetic form which was carried throughout the book. The break down of each character's specific form and the manner in which they were chosen by the author.

This is a phenomenal book and should be included in public and university libraries. It should also be purchased for school libraries with the knowledge that this retelling of the Greek myth incorporates language of today's youth (no matter how much we wish to think everyone has a clean mouth). Some will be offended by the language, but the verse wouldn't flow or have the impact without those most obvious of profane words.

I have to say when reading the praise for the book on the back cover of the uncorrected, I knew I was going to be hooked when I saw the words of Allan Wolf (author of The Watch That Ends the Night and New Found Land), "Bull does for mythology what Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton has done for U.S. history." I could not have provided greater accolades myself. This was truly a wonderful book and I hope and pray Mr. Elliott presents us with more myths in his brilliant verse in the years to come.

Bull will be released for publication by HMH Books for Young Readers on March 28, 2017.

**To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, HMH Books for Young Readers has provided a complimentary electronic copy of Bull for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the author or publisher.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Books About Books

I am a lover of books. I am comforted when surrounded by books. I love talking about books, although my taste in books rarely aligns with those of my friends. I started the year by reading books about books. This is very different for me as I have not been an avid reader of non-fiction. I prefer the psychological thrillers, mysteries, or time travel novels.

Will Schwalbe's Books for Living captured my attention when browsing through upcoming book releases on NetGalley. I requested the book, but sadly never got a response from the publisher. Once the book was released, I immediately placed a hold on it through my local public library. I was so excited when I got the text message to pick up the book I left immediately to check it out. It didn't take me long to become completely engrossed in the book. I found a number of quotes which rang as true to me and my love of books and reading as it did for the author. This is one of my favorite quotes from Books for Living (page 175)

"When I most enjoy reading, I'm not really conscious that I'm reading It's at the moments when I'm so wrapped up in a book, so engrossed, so moved, so obsessed, or so fascinated, that the part of my mind that is watching me read - maybe keeping track of the pages or trying to decide how much longer I should keep on reading - that part of my mind has gone away. This is what I hope for every time I open a book. It's something of a paradox. To love reading is to want to achieve the state where you don't know you are reading, where your communion with what you are reading is absolute."
While reading Books for Living, I discovered Schwalbe's first book, The End of Your Life Book Club was available as an audio book through my libraries online book service Overdrive. I quickly checked it out and began listening as I sat in my massage chair twice a day and on my drives to and from work.  I felt a special kinship to Will's mother because I had a slight understanding of her illness, pancreatic cancer. I can in no way compare my experience with my pancreatic condition to her, but I felt a bond. I also felt a bond with her love of reading and books. I would feel completely inadequate to have had the chance to sit and talk with her about books and reading, but listening to the conversations between mother and son was fascinating. I was so sad when the book ended. Not only because of the death of Will's mother, this is really no spoiler - the title kind of gives it away, but also because the discussions ended. I wanted more, as I know did Will.

When I finished The End of Your Life Book Club, I had not finished reading Books for Living and he gave me more of what I was longing for from the book talks. I desperately wanted to write down each and every title I had not read and put them on my own "To Be Read" (TBR) list. I didn't. I know I will never read all of the books on my TBR list. There just isn't enough time. I think one of my worst nightmares is the episode of The Twilight Zone - "Time Enough at Last" where Burgess Meredith finally has the opportunity and time to read without interruption following an H-bomb explosion only to have his glasses shatter on the ground as he is surrounded by books. For most it probably seems silly to think you would be totally devastated by this incident, but for a reader, it is heartbreaking.

I have to admit I have not read most of the books discussed in Schwalbe's books. However, when he began talking about a book for which I had read, my pulse seemed to race a little because I felt a kinship with him. I wanted to cheer and begin my own conversation about each of those titles.

After finishing The End of Your Life Book Club, I went back to Overdrive to see what else I could find on the world of books and reading. I found Larry McMurtry's Books: a Memoir. As a Texas girl, born and raised, I have always known the name Larry McMurty ~ Lonesome Dove, Cadillac Jack, and Terms of Endearment, to name a few of his books. Have I ever read any of them, no, but I knew of his books and of him because he is also a Texan. Now, I can say I have read McMurty, well actually listened to McMurty, well listened to William Dufris narrate McMurty, to be perfectly honest. I was totally engrossed listening to the tales of his book scouting days. His discoveries of rare books, the buying and selling of libraries and collections. It was truly fascinating.

Each year I set a goal to read the number of books which correlates to my current ago. For 2017, my goal was to read 46 books. My Goodreads account already shows I have completed 30 of those books, and we are three days shy of the end of January. Of those 30 books, 21 of them are children's picture books. It's what I do as a professional children's librarian - read and review books. (In the past I have not included my review books on my Goodreads account. This is something I have recently started in order to maintain my online reviewing presence.) But, on the other hand 9 of those 30 books are adult books. I think I will have to alter my Goodreads goal this year to reflect the number of adult books I would like to read (keeping it at 46, but I will always aim higher) and an attainable goal for reading and review books for my professional responsibilities.

I will continue to be a reader. As Schwalbe said in Books for Living (page 7)
" the reader, I become influenced while I'm reading I'm not the same reader when I finished a book....Brains are tangles of pathways, and reading creates new ones. Every book changes your life."
I am a different reader now than I was 28 days ago when the new year began. I may not be an eloquent writer, but I will continue to read and share my love of books and reading as long as I am capable of doing so, if not for the one or two people who read my blog, but for me. This is my chance to reflect and thank the authors who have shared their story and our communal love of the written word.

A few more of my favorite quotes from Will Schwalbe:
"Your favorite books stay with you for your entire life, no matter how long since you turned the last page." - The End of Your Life Book Club
"The technology of a book is genius: the order of the words is fixed, whether on the page or on-screen, but the speed at which yourea dthem is entirely up to you. Sure, this allows you to skip ahead and jump around. But it also allows you to slow down, savor, and ponder." - Books for Living (page 15)