Tag Archive | Random babblings

Slowing My Roll…

Hiya!

Hand writing So Many Things in To Do List, vector conceptIf you’re a regular follower of this blog, you may have noticed that the posts have been a little on the ‘few and far between’ side lately.  This is because that pesky Real Life thing has been very insistent on taking up all my time, leaving me with the choice of slowing way down or taking another full break. For now, I’m just slowing down and hoping to continue at this snail’s pace until things let up.

But hey, at least the real life stuff is fun!  My daughter is getting married in September and we’re having a wonderful time crafting lots of things for the wedding and helping with plans. In addition, we’re doing some large re-organizing projects at home, I’ve taken on some major new assignments at work and we’ve also been doing prep work for a big family vacation coming up early next year.

For now, I’ll try to keep posting here and there, when I can, and hope to be back to my regular schedule after things die down, probably in early October.  Enjoy the rest of your summer!

The Possum Hits Four Digits!

1000

Yesterday, I posted my 999th book review, so it’s time to throw a little mini party to celebrate my upcoming 1000th review!  Here, have a cupcake and a party hat.

I started this blog four years ago, as a way of sharing my love for the picture books that I had loved in my childhood and in the childhoods of my kids.  But while at the library, looking for books from the list I initially put together, I kept finding more books from authors I already knew and new books from authors I’d never heard of before.  I made the ultimately very important decision to review new picture books along with the old and I am so glad I did.

I frequently use the term ‘bookshelf favorite’ and many of them (James Marshall, Sandra Boynton, Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss) were authors and illustrators I’ve known and loved for years but writing this blog introduced me to new and amazing artists and writers, like Oliver Jeffers, Lane Smith, Philip Stead, Marla Frazee, Patrick McDonnell and Mac Barnett.  It truly is a wonderful time to be a fan of picture books.

WordPress tells me that this blog gets around 5,000 visitors per year and if you’re one of them, I’d like to thank you for stopping by and investing your time in reading my opinions.  New books come out every week, I have a big bookshelf full of old books still to review (and a lot of great theme months planned) so if you keep coming back, it looks like I’ll still be here.  See you tomorrow for a special 1000th review!

 

Break Time!

breakHello!

Just a quick post to say that I’m going to step back and take a little break from the bookshelf.  Lots of stuff going on in my life at work and at home so I have fallen behind on reviews.

I’ll be back in mid-March, with lots of great books for us to share.

Have a great month, folks!  See you back here soon!

-Chris

Frequently Imagined Questions

LibrarianThis blog is still pretty new and hasn’t been around long enough to generate any ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ so I imagined a bunch of questions that someone might ask and I am answering them here.

Q.  How often are you going to post?

A.  Right now, I’m shooting for 2-3 times per week.  I didn’t want to set a pace that I didn’t think I could handle long-term, so I’m aiming for that.  Some weeks may get more and some may get less, depending how busy the rest of my life is.

Q.  How do you choose the books you post?

A.  For now, I am going with the ‘random whim’ scheme, with occasional forays into ‘a good reason,’ mostly associated with birthdays.  But on the horizon are several theme months, where all the books that month will share a common theme.  In the meantime, I have a (growing) list of 300 books (compiled from Caldecott Medal Winners, friends’ recommendations and other ‘Best of’ lists) that I’m planning to read & review.  On top of that,  I can’t ever seem to leave the library without seeing other books that intrigue me.  So I’m not likely to run out of materials for some time to come.

Q.  Why is it called The Possum’s Bookshelf?

A.  The Possum is the name of the bear featured in my banner artwork.  He has been a friend of ours for around 30 years now and has recently taken up residence on the shelf where all my picture books are stored.  I think he intends to stay there, so the name seems to fit.

Q.  Do you only post books you like?

A.  No, I plan to post a review of every book I read, whether I like it or not.  Having said that, though, I should clarify that, at the moment, I am mostly reading books that have won awards or been recommended (or that I already own and adore), so it’s all pretty much a love fest now.  And, admittedly, I’m an easy audience.  It’s not tough to win me over.  If you’re looking for harsh literary criticism, I’m probably not your huckleberry.

Q.  Where are the age recommendations & warnings?

A.  Oh, I would be terrible at judging age recommendations, since I truly believe that many of these books are cross-generational in their appeal.  Most importantly, I don’t know you or your child, so I’m in no way qualified to judge anything as suitable or unsuitable for either of you.  And regarding warnings; sure, I value books that celebrate diversity, educate against discrimination and show realistic characters solving relatable problems with ingenuity and determination.  But that’s not all I value.  You can give me talking penguins or plotting princesses or mischievous monkeys or monsters on vacation or whatever else the creative minds of truly talented writers & illustrators put out there.  If the story holds my interest and the artwork catches my imagination, I’m not scouring for stereotypes or tabulating the ratio of male to female characters.  I’m just enjoying a good book.

Also, I can’t remember ever withholding any books from my kids.  We read books of all kinds together and if there were words they didn’t know or plot points they didn’t understand or questions that came up, we discussed them.  If something in a book scared or bothered them, we talked about it.  Through reading these books together, we learned a lot about how we, collectively and separately, saw the world.

Q.  Do you have any recommendations for those of us who are more stringent with our standards?

A.  There are lots of sites that can give you the 411 on any gender, race, etc. issues that might be important to you in these books.  You can always read through a book first yourself.  But I suggest that if you’re concerned about a book that your child wants to read, just read it together.  Discuss the parts of it that concern you and let your child share his opinion.  Don’t be afraid to ask and answer tough questions.  Do research together if questions come up that you can’t answer.  Enjoy the experience and remember to celebrate the simple fact that your child, in our modern technological world, wants to read a book.  Good for him.  Good for you.  And ultimately, good for everyone…because all the people who wrote all these wonderful books I post about here, started by wanting to read one.

Q.  What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?

A.  Chocolate peanut butter.  Yum.

My imaginary interviewer definitely wanted to ask that last question.

Why Am I Here?

So I’m still tweaking up the specifics of my webspace here, but I’m tired of seeing nothing posted in a month, so how about I fill in some space with a little background?

I have always loved books.  Some of my earliest memories of elementary school involved the library and our librarian (Mrs. Holloway), who was quick to share recommendations and reviews.  I haven’t seen that library in almost 40 years, but I still remember so much about it.  (Although my husband pointed out that it’s probably been 35 years since it looked like it does in my head.)  I remember how all the chairs & tables were laid out and where the picture books ended and the chapter books started.  I remember the low shelves of biographies from my 4th grade biography craze (how many times did I need to read the story of Lotta Crabtree?) and the magazines in their clear plastic covers.  I vaguely remember that there was a portrait of a boy, who had been killed when lightning struck his house and knocked a picture off the wall that hit him on the head.  And I clearly remember Mrs. Holloway showing me how to use the card catalog by looking up The Hobbit.  I said I’d never read it and she checked it out for me, telling me I was in for a treat.

I started babysitting at 13 and always loved the opportunity to read picture books to the kids in my care.  I volunteered for nursery duty at church, partly (I confess) because I wanted to avoid listening to boring sermons and partly because it gave me yet another opportunity to read to kids.  By the time I became a mom, I already had a good collection of children’s books, most of which were mine from childhood, and some of which I’d inherited from my older siblings.

My parents did me the great service of enrolling me in the Parents Magazine Press book club when it started up in the 60’s and I LOVED seeing those packages come in the mail.  We did the same for our kids (but with the Scholastic Book club in the 90’s) and over the years, we built my humble collection into a floor-to-ceiling bookcase stuffed with children’s books of all kinds. 

As my kids grew up, we gave a lot of those books away.  But we saved quite a few of them.  I gave the excuse that we were saving them for future grandchildren, but really, I just couldn’t bear to part with them.  So we packed our favorites into a big box and put it in storage.  Or so we thought. 

Early in 2012, I discovered that our box had gone missing.  I was heartbroken.  (And secretly entirely certain that someone broke into our house, ignored our ‘valuable’ stuff and just stole the books.)   For Christmas, my kids (now all grown up) surprised me by replacing many of the books we had loved best.  Lots of them, especially the ones I had saved from my own childhood, are out of print and had to be found online or in used book stores.  The covers and pages are not all in mint condition, but the stories inside them are timeless and perfect.  It was a wonderful gift and one that inspired me to create this blog.

You can call it my second childhood or my bizarre mid-life crisis or an over-obvious attempt to stay connected to my children as they continue to grow in their adult lives (thank you, inner psych professor!) but it’s undeniable – I am thrilled to be immersed in these books again.  And I’ve already discovered new favorites and can’t wait to share them. 

I’ll be reading through all those old stories here and sharing my thoughts & reviews, along with any interesting information I can find about the book or the author.  And I’ll keep combing the libraries and bookstores for others that I want to share.  (I already have a long and rapidly growing list.) 

So pull up a chair, friend.  It’s story time.