how spoiled am I?

caution–this post contains spoilers for Harry Potter 6–if you haven’t read it yet, you might want to stop here

I know that the release of the final Harry Potter book isn’t happening for almost another four months. But earlier this week, I came to the unhappy realization that we are going to be out of the country when that release happens. Not just out of the country, but in a place where English is not the primary language. So I ask you, how will I be able to avoid finding out what happens? Will I have to endure a media blackout for the entire time we’re out of the country?

When the Half-Blood Prince came out, I had pre-ordered it from Powells. I didn’t actually get the book for a few days–they mailed it the day it was released. I stopped reading any blog that even gave a hint that the author was reading Harry Potter. I avoided all newspaper articles, tv shows, other internet sites, everything.

And while I was in the middle of the book, I read a blog. A blog that had nothing to do with books, or children, or anything even remotely Harry Potter-related. It was the blog of a St*rbucks barista (now defunct). And in the middle of the entry, the writer wrote (utterly randomly) something along the lines of “I just want to go stand outside the Today Show and hold up a sign that says ‘Snape killed Dumbledore!'”

I was utterly crushed.

That’s why I’m sitting here, four months before my vacation, trying to figure out what the closest English-language bookstore is to the place that we will be staying. Sigh…


March 29, 2007. books for grown-ups, books for kids. 10 comments.

I name you

One of the many books that the Bee got last year was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. When she unwrapped it, I almost swooned with joy. I confess, I think the Bee is slightly too young for it. But I’m not.

If only I could find my own wrinkle in time, so I could go back to the point in my life when I had not yet read this book, just so that I could read it again for the first time, I’d be truly happy. Though since it gets better with each reading, maybe I should stick with the 15 or so times I’ve already been through it.

I say 15, but that’s really just a guess. I doubt that I could count the ‘dark and stormy nights’ that I stayed up too late, reading it over and over again. Oh Mrs Whatsit & Mrs Who, how I wished that you would come knock on my door one rainy night and take me off somewhere more interesting than the suburbs where I was growing up, somewhere fantastical.

March 25, 2007. books for kids. 8 comments.

learning to read, loving to read

The Potato has been learning letters at his day-care for about the past six months, but only recently has he gotten to that point where he’s recognizing them everywhere he goes. “Look, Mommy, ‘B’!” he shouts at me every morning, when reading the Honey Nut Cheerios box. “‘H,’ Mommy, ‘H!'” It’s so much fun. He’s also very into writing words, although still not entirely sure why exactly the letters have to be written on the page in a certain order.

Yesterday, when I was driving him to school, he spent about 20 minutes telling me all the words that he was going to ‘practice spelling’ when he got home from school. ‘Car!’ ‘House!’ ‘Cat!’ ‘Elbow!’ It was freakin’ adorable.

I remember when the Bee had the same mental explosion of understanding that those squiggly lines that she saw everywhere actually meant something. It’s akin to the language explosion when they both learned to talk, and when she actually started to be able to read words, and would spend all of her time reading random things off of billboards and magazine covers. It’s really interesting to observe this development up close and personal, and has to be one of my absolute favorite things about parenting.

In other reading news, the Bee’s school has been having a contest this month–each class is challenged to read for a total of 3,000 minutes. She told me yesterday that her class is the first one in the school to crack the 3,000 minute mark–and the month’s not half over yet. The Bee’s contribution to this achievement? I just added it up–she’s contributed just over half of that, with about 1,600 minutes all to herself. The other day, I asked her if she wanted to do something with me, and she said very seriously, “Mom, I have to go read. I want to win this thing.”

I read something in the most recent Bookwomen where a mother was talking about having to stop her daughter from reading, in order to get her to do other homework for school. Until very recently, that seemed like a pretty theoretical problem to me. Now that Harry Potter has grabbed hold of my daughter’s brain, it seems a lot more likely.

March 15, 2007. books for kids, growing up. 12 comments.

crafty people needed

So I volunteered to run the craft room for our school’s Family Reading Night. And now I’m stuck, searching for inspiration in the book-related craft field.

I turned to the fine people at google, and here are some of the exciting & cool things I found.

These are kind of cute, but  I can’t see it taking that long to make a nametag.

I also like these, but where am I going to find that many laundry boxes on such short notice?

This is kind of a nifty idea, but again, not a lot of spare cargo pockets lying around our house. Same goes for this one, although how cool is that bookbag?

I’m definitely leaning toward this one, because I do have a lot of old paper bags.

There also seem to be a fair-amount of religiously motivated book crafts, but I’m not going there. Not even for this Kwanzaa family book-cover project (though I might do this one with my own kids).

Any other suggestions out there? Come on, crafty people, I need you!

February 12, 2007. books for kids. 9 comments.

help me avoid disappointment

My good friend over at Sanity and the Solo Mom has a great post up tonight about the books she wants to make sure her daughters own–not just check out from the library. Obviously, the topic of kids’ books is one I have a lot of strong feelings about. One of my all-time favorite things about parenting is introducing the kids to books that I loved as a child, and I absolutely have a similar list of books that my kids must own. In fact, there’s a fair amount of overlap between her list and mine.

I’ve spent the last seven years trying to catch up on what happened in children’s lit after I grew up. There are a lot of really wonderful books that came out. A whole lot transpired in Ramona’s life after I stopped paying attention to her, for instance. Then of course, there’s Cornelia Funke, who followed a great tradition of writing books where readers are the heroes. Philip Pullman–the Dark Materials series is brilliant. Eoin Colfer–I love the Artemis Fowl series. And of course, J.K. Rowling, the god-mother of 21st century children’s fantasy.

And on the picture book side, there is great work being done by Tomie DePaola, Ian Falconer, and Doreen Cronin, just to name a few.

But there’s also been some stuff that I’ve considered tremendously overrated. To wit? Lemony Sn*cket. Also? Christopher Pa*lini.

Over. Rated.

What about you? What kids books have you found over-hyped, under-written, and just basically all-around disappointing? I’m particularly interested in hearing from those of you with middle schoolers, and the children’s librarians in the house. It seems like there is a fair amount of pap being put out daily to feed the ravening maw of the tween set, and I want to know what to avoid. Or at least what to insist should be checked out, not paid for.

January 28, 2007. books for kids. 7 comments.


I spent most of today helping the Bee clean her room. There seems to be a bout of cleaning energy going around, and I was partly inspired by reading about Phil’s and Mary’s similar endeavors. The Bee is a clutter-y person (hmm, can’t think where she got that from), and about once or twice a year, we go through the whole collection item by item to try to cull some of the mess.

She donated quite a lot of stuff to Goodwill, trashed a huge amount of old paper and broken toys, and handed down a bunch of books and a few stuffed animals to her brother. I was really happy about the hand-me-downs, until I realized that one of the books she gave the Potato was my most-hated Elmo book ever, a book the Bee herself demanded endless readings of when she was three. Sure enough, the Potato asked me to read it to him before dinner, and then informed me that he would have daddy read it to him at bedtime.

This is really the first time we’ve done an exhaustive going over of her library since the Bee moved away from picture books and toward reading chapter books. I suggested to her that we shelve books by the same author together, and she got really into the idea. After we finished sorting out the pile of Junie B. Jones, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and E.L. Konigsberg, she decided that she wanted to categorize all the other books. These were the categories she came up with: animal facts, animal fiction, biography, fairy tales, fiction about people, and poetry. Somehow, the two or three Barbie books she has didn’t seem to fit into any category. And yet, they were reshelved anyway.

It was kind of a pain to do all the sorting, but in the end, I had fun doing it with her. Plus, I get the joy of knowing that someday she too will spend hours drooling over Kimbooktu, or writing to Doppelganger with recommendations for Sam. Maybe she’ll end up getting that MLIS that is my retirement dream

In other news, thanks to everyone for your supportive statements on yesterday’s post. As Elise guessed, I’m just venting, and the landismarriage is not really in jeopardy. Landisdad and I will struggle through this latest misfortune together, as we’ve struggled through many others in the past. After all, at the end of the day, who else is going to appreciate the agony of Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?

January 15, 2007. books for kids, family life. 7 comments.

twin towers

The Potato is a post-9/11 kid, born in 2003. I mention it, because one of his favorite books lately is Mordecai Gerstain’s The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. It’s a delightful book, about Phillipe Petit’s walk on a wire between the towers in 1974. We’ve been great fans of Gerstain’s work since the Bee fell in love with his The Old Country. His picture books, including this one, are great.

It’s raised, though, the question of how to describe the fate of the Towers to our kids? The Bee was only two when it happened–she doesn’t have any memory of the event. She has a vague notion of terrorism, mostly from airport security measures, and she knows about the war, but she has no sense of the horror of that day.

I was born the year that both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. I’ve often wondered what it was like for my parents, feeling like the world was falling to pieces around them, and trying to decide how they would one day describe it to me. I suppose my grandparents had the same feeling about Pearl Harbor, and how they would make my parents understand the horror of the attack.

Of course, for both of my kids, the Towers will always be gone, just as for me, Dr. King has always been killed. It’s not just the big tragedies of life that pass into history, it’s also the little things, but the tragedies seem so much more important.

I’m glad, in a way, that there are years between the events and the telling. There’ll be a lot of seasons in which to figure out how to tell them.

January 7, 2007. books for kids. 9 comments.

hell is other people’s children

Last summer, the Bee went to day camp at a local kids’ science museum. As part of the tuition for that camp, she got to participate in a free sleepover this fall. Unfortunately, there were only three dates offered, and the first two were the Fridays right before the election, so we ended up going this Friday.

I’ll say in advance that, having missed about a gajillion hours of sleep in the past week and a half, I wasn’t really looking forward to the idea of sleeping on a floor. But I promised the Bee, and we haven’t spent a lot of one-on-one time lately, so we went. And oh, was it painful!

I’m not really sure when the whole ‘camping out at a museum’ thing started. The first time I encountered it was when we were looking for something to do at New Year’s Eve when the Bee was about 3, and noticed a local museum had a sleepover. My current conclusion, of course, is that if you have a three-year-old, you should pop the champagne at 10 and got to bed before midnight, because you’ll be waking up at 6 a.m., just like every other day, but I was younger then, and more naive.

The Bee had fun, although around about 11, she wanted to go to sleep, and we couldn’t do that until 11:40. But I made a strategic error when picking out our ‘camping spot,’ and regretted it all night long. Two factors (besides just sleeping on a floor) contributed to a hellish night for me. The first was a loudly snoring guy about four feet away–not that I had anyway of predicting that. The second, however, was preventable. We slept next to the ramp that led out of the room into the bathroom. The ramp that 10 or 15 Boy Scouts ran up and down about 40 times during the course of the night. Loudly and echoingly.

Yesterday morning, they woke us up at 6:30 (I know! even on my one day of waking up without a three-year-old!) and we got shuffled down to breakfast, served in the museum cafeteria. There’s nothing quite like sharing a cereal bar and an apple with 200 strangers. I’m not enough of a fan of humanity (especially when that humanity is largely under 10 and hasn’t had enough sleep) to have enjoyed that experience.

One of my favorite childhood books was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and participating in that sleepover made me realize that if I ever run away to live at the Met, I’ll have to do it on a night when there aren’t any school groups staying over.

November 12, 2006. books for kids. 9 comments.


I worked the PTA used book sale today. Miraculously, I managed not to come home with an equal or greater amount of books than the ones I donated to the sale. I even found new homes for some of the books that I had donated, notably T. Berry Brazleton’s Touchpoints, a great book that I raved about to a woman who was about to become grandmother for the first time. I think my review, plus the fact that it was going for fifty cents, really did the trick.

I’m always interested to see the kinds of books that get donated for charity book sales. The Library Lady had a great post recently about the kinds of mistakes people make in donating books at her workplace–a post that was totally born out by my experience today. Does anyone really want a copy of AOL 7.0 for Dummies? Just how dumm must one be, to need an instruction manual for a version of AOL released in 2001?

I was filled with mixed feelings about the makeup of the book donations. I tend not to donate favorite books myself, but I’m still often surprised by the number of mystery and romance novels that grace these tables. I can’t decide if all of my neighbors are really big James Patterson fans, or if they’re just ridding themselves of their beach reading. But I guess the thing that makes a bestseller a bestseller is that it sells a lot of copies–I’m not really sure why I’m always surprised to see so many of them at these kinds of things. I thought about grabbing a bunch of stuff to take home and list on bookmooch, but in the end, I restrained myself. God knows, our house doesn’t need any more books, especially ones no one will ever read.

By the end of the sale, when we were just encouraging people to fill a bag for a dollar, I did convince a lovely threesome of elementary-to-tween sisters to take home Phillip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife, which none of them had ever read. I’m a huge Pullman fan, and was delighted to be able to introduce some new readers to his book, without having to actually give up my own.

My dream for retirement is to someday run a nice little used bookstore, full of cats and funky editions of Kurt Vonnegut novels. I’m always bummed out that there isn’t one in my town. With what’s been happening to independent bookstores lately, I’m not entirely sure that my dream will ever come to fruition (unless I hit the lottery first). Still, it’s nice to get in some practice.

October 7, 2006. books for grown-ups, books for kids. 9 comments.

I know, more teeth


Lately, the Bee has adopted one of the less-attractive habits of Violet Beauregarde, and has been ‘saving’ her chewed gum to chew again, particularly around meals. I haven’t yet seen her sticking a slightly-chewed piece of gum behind her ear to save it for later, but I feel like we’re only days away from that. It’s pretty revolting.

Tonight, after she brushed her teeth, I caught her chewing gum again. I guess this is what happens when you don’t use minty toothpaste–I find it hard to imagine chewing bubblegum right after I’ve brushed my teeth.

Sometimes, I feel like I spend so much time keeping my children a) alive and b) fed and clean that I just don’t have time to socialize them too. This isn’t one of those situations that I’ve read about in any parenting books. Maybe we’ll just read the book again.

August 1, 2006. books for kids. 9 comments.

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