Thursday, December 3, 2009

It's December

And I'm not ready! Wanted to do a blog post of book recommendations for the holidays. Of course, I've already mentioned a few here and here. But for a much more thorough list, go check out Janine and Sara's wonderful post over at the FNC, and note that they also recommend Magician's Elephant, as I did way back in August, so we must be on to something there. If you haven't read it yet, what are you waiting for?

The great news is that my son, Eric, is an official winner of NaNoWriMo, with 50,171 words. First time he even participated. Way to go, Eric! Halfway through chemo and he has a novel under his belt.

I, alas, didn't even begin to finish the novel I was supposed to be trying to finish during November (unofficially, of course). However, I did write three new picture books, including Elephants Are Dancing (thanks, Kim, for the nudge) . I'll see what my writing group thinks of my rhyming elephant story this weekend.

Well, for those of you who don't think writing picture books is much of an achievement, here's another accomplishment. Every year, I try to read at least 100 novels, along with working and writing and doing household chores and all that boring stuff. I keep a notebook with titles, authors, and dates I finished reading the books. As of today, I finished Number 99. In the past few weeks, in addition to Solace of the Road, I've read:

Before I Fall
by Lauren Oliver (due March 2010, Ages 14 and up). Keep this one in mind. You won't be able to stop reading it. Guaranteed. "Groundhog Day" meets "Mean Girls" with a dash of 13 Reasons Why. Samantha has to relive the last day of her life over and over until she gets it right. Oddly, this isn't a story about dying. It's a story about living. And Sam's character development is amazing as she relives that Valentine's Day and grows and matures and realizes, finally, what's important.

Along For the Ride by Sarah Dessen, ages 12 and up. Just a really sweet story from a wonderful writer.

Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen (due Feb 2010, ages 12 and up). The Revolutionary War as you've never seen it before. Nice and short and should appeal to reluctant readers. But there's a lot of pretty horrifying violence, which is, of course, Paulsen's point. War is never justified.

After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick (Feb 2010, ages 12 and up)
By turns funny and heartbreaking, this is a great read, largely due to Sonnenblick's pitch-perfect teen guy voice. Jeffrey, the little kid with cancer in Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, is back and all grown up. Or at least he's now in 8th grade. Aftereffects of chemo have made school a struggle for him. If it weren't for new girl Lindsey and best friend Tad, another cancer survivor, Jeffrey would be lost. His older brother Steven, the rock he's always depended on, has run off to Africa to study drums.

rs by Rachel Ward (Feb 2010, ages 14 and up).

A stunningly original story. Jem sees numbers when she looks in people's eyes. The numbers are the date of their death. When she and her friend Spider ditch school for a day in London, they plan to ride the London Eye -- until Jem looks into the faces of the others in line and realizes they all have the same numbers. And their numbers are up today. Seen running away just before an explosion, and wanted for questioning by the police, Jem and Spider go into hiding. Two city kids holing up in the countryside, they don't have a clue what to do. And Spider's numbers are ticking closer...

So, what should I read next? I'm considering Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees or Liar by Justine Larbalestier. I want Number 100 to be something special.


  1. 100 books! That's so exciting! I'd love to know if you have any other books to recommend - though Sara and Janine's list was awesome. I'm buying one book each for an 8 month old, a 2 year old, and a 3.5 year old --- and I have NO CLUE what to get. Help!

  2. Hi Donna,
    I think the 8 month old is perfect for Touch and Feel books. Don't buy Pat the Bunny. Everyone does. And there are so many newer, brighter, more colorful books that work. There's a series I like by Usborne called Touchy-Feely books (no jokes, please), like That's Not My Kitten, That's Not My Dinosaur, etc. They're adorable. For more ideas, check out Linda's blog at

    The two year old might be ready for some of the simpler picture books, by authors like Eric Carle or Lois Ehlert or even Karma Wilson. Actually, there are thousands of picture books I could recommend. But if he or she is still ripping pages, stick with a nice story book in board book format. Sandra Boynton's funny. But get whatever catches your eye at your local bookstore.

    The 3 1/2 yr old is the right age for picture books. I personally love All The World by Liz Garton Scanlon. It has a nice rhythm and rhyme and lovely, somewhat old-fashioned, pictures. You didn't say if the child is a boy or a girl, but All The World appeals to both.

    Or were you looking for Christmas books?? Look for The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson. It's new this year and it's about a nice quiet Santa (instead of one of those loud, jolly, sorta scary Santas) getting ready for Christmas Eve. It's definitely my favorite among the new crop of Christmas books this year. For winter books, try Snow! Snow! Snow! by Lee Harper (SCBWI member and author/artist from PA). And from last year, but still available, there's Tonight You Are My Baby by Phoenixville resident Jeannine Q. Norris (who happens to be in my writing group!).

  3. Have you read That Girl Lucy Moon, by Amy Timberlake? It's from 2006. I just finished it today, and it was wonderful!

  4. Wow, way to go on 100 books! I think I've read about 50 this year, but that's a guesstimation. Congrats to your son too! What a huge accomplishment especially during such a trying time. You've both accomplished so much.

  5. Thanks for the recommendations. Congrats to your son. What an achievement to you both!

  6. Thanks, everyone. Kim, I've added that title to my ever-growing To Be Read list.


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