Meet the Teacher

There are a lot of things I love about being a bookseller and a lot of things I love about being a reader, and the biggest place these intersect is author signings. I am the events coordinator for my bookstore, which means I pitch for, organize, and am usually staff on hand for visiting authors. I always read the book, because how awful would it be as an author to show up and no one in the store really even knows what you wrote?

Sometimes, this means I’m reading outside my comfort zone. I’ve read a lot of books I wouldn’t ordinarily but ended up loving because the author was coming through. Adequate Yearly Progress is not exactly outside my comfort zone, but because it is so heavily focused on education, I may not have picked it up at random. Roxanna Elden came to the store Friday, which was a really fun event for a myriad of reasons. We had an Educator’s Cocktail Hour before the signing, which is definitely a thing we’ll be doing more of. Teachers loosening up at the end of the week are really entertaining.

This book is contemporary fiction told in six points of view, set in a public high school in Texas. Having met the author, I can tell you that the novel is partly based on her years teaching in Houston. It is funny, but also very eye-opening about what educators are dealing with in public education. As a person who works occasionally at book fairs in schools and therefore knows teachers in a capacity other than a parent, it felt very true to life, and the educators who had already read the book at the signing seemed to agree. As a general reader, I just really enjoyed the story. The six main characters are very different and coming at this story from all angles, and I was invested in every one of them.

As a note on having met the author, she is a fantastic speaker, and if you have the chance to meet her, do it. If not, get the book from your local, independent bookstore.

Review: Emily’s Tiger by Miriam Latimer

I went to Baltimore for a work conference, and in my downtime, I checked out Charm City Books, because how can you not visit an indie bookstore? It’s an adorable little store with very sweet store pups, and I recommend it for anyone while they are in the city.

I bought one of the Edgar the Raven board books for Little Brother, because Baltimore, but I decided to get Emily’s Tiger for Middle Brother instead of something locally-themed because he is obsessed with tigers and yet we had no books featuring them. We do have An Ambush of Tigers, which I adore, but there’s only one page with actual tigers on it, and now he only wants to see that page.

This book was an excellent choice. There is a tiger on almost every page, which is why I bought it without really reading it. It turns out, it’s about a little girl who turns into a tiger and ruins things when she’s angry. Middle Brother, being a toddler, is experiencing some anger management problems right now, so this is great for him. It gives us a new, age-appropriate way to discuss when he starts acting out. Also, he does seem genuinely interested in it, and the illustrations are adorable.

This book is definitely for those looking for a less literal version of When Sophie Gets Angry- Really, Really Angry. A caveat, though, it is kind of a lot of words for a two year old, so unless your kid happens to love tigers, this may be for a slightly older child.

Disclosure: Links are Bookshop affiliate links.

Review: The Big Bang Book by Asa Stahl

For those of you looking for a book on the universe for toddlers (you know who you are), I have located one for you. I was a bit hesitant about this, but they really have distilled the story of the universe into a book fit for a two-and-a-half-year-old in The Big Bang Book.

The writing is sparse and to the point, which you’re going to want with a toddler attention span. The illustrations, though, and I cannot stress this enough, are gorgeous. As an adult, I was blown away, and Middle Brother was entranced. You need this book in your life, if nothing else as an object of art.

For the audience it’s intended for, though, this book is for fans of The ABCs of Space, definitely, or any other space books for little ones. It comes out April 7, 2020.

Disclosure: Links are Bookshop affiliate links.

Review: Little Monster Trucks Go by Doug Cenko

If you’re looking for a fun rhyming picture book that’s the right length for short attention spans, Little Monster Trucks Go is the book for you.

This one comes out April 7th, but it’s worth the preorder. Middle Brother and I sat down for storytime last night and he immediately started asking what the trucks were. The pictures are bright and engaging, with little details like reflections of the trucks in puddles that the toddler was very curious about.

The text is perfect for toddlers. It rhymes, and it’s one verse per page. So many picture books have too many words for my two year old to stay interested, but this one was just right.

I definitely recommend this one, although maybe for a morning storytime rather than bedtime. It’s a little high energy for just before bed.

Disclosure: Links are Bookshop affiliate links.

Review: Hunting for a Highlander by Lynsay Sands

So, fun story: Hunting for a Highlander is really my first Highlander romance. I’ve read several of the Outlander books, but those are really time travel romances that happen to have Highlanders.

Generally, I am not a huge historical romance reader. But my Mommy Book Club picked a few in a row, and I enjoyed all of them, so I figured I’d read more.

I listened to the digital audiobook of this one, so a note on the narrator: He seemed to be an actual Scottish person, brogue and all, which was delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Overall, I really liked this book. I feel obliged to mention there are a lot of references to rape, but I feel like that’s probably pretty standard for this subgenre. There’s no actual rape on page for this story.

Things I loved: The hero didn’t think he wanted to get married. He wasn’t looking for a bride, and when he found out his family was seeking one for him, he still thought he’d blow it off. The heroine was not desperate for a husband, but she wasn’t fiercely independent, either. I feel like in most historicals, they tend to go one of those two ways, and it was nice to see some middle ground. There were some family flaws to deal with, which added some shenanigans, but no great tragedy.

Things I loved less: There was a lot of emphasis on how plain the heroine was. It’s nice to see a not-gorgeous heroine; it’s not so nice to see everyone giving her a hard time about it. Also, mental illness is the bad guy here. The antagonist is clearly psychotic. As a person who suffers from mental illness in a society that stigmatizes it, I hate that depiction in literature.

Overall, though, I enjoyed this book enough to overlook the things that bothered me. I would recommend it unless those happen to be big pet peeves for you.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this review are Bookshop affiliate links.

Review: Everyone’s Awake by Colin Meloy

I picked Everyone’s Awake up for storytime for the first time tonight, and Middle Brother made me read it three times in a row, so I’d say it’s a pretty great picture book.

The illustrations are bright and eye-catching. They’re also unusual. There was a whole lot of pointing and “What’s that?” happening. I always enjoy that in our reading together.

It’s a rhyming book, and unsurprisingly, since the author is a musician, it’s very rhythmic. But the words will surprise you. There’s mention of someone on the phone with the cops, and a coup d’etat. As an adult, I also really enjoyed this book.

Everyone’s Awake comes out March 3, 2020, and I definitely recommend it to everyone for bedtime reading.

Disclosure: Links in this post are Bookshop affiliate links.

Review: And I Do Not Forgive You by Amber Sparks

First and foremost, this is an incredibly feminist work. I don’t know what it is about raising tiny men, but my feminism has grown with the birth of each new boy. I think I feel a responsibility to raise them in a home where they see women as capable of anything, and that means I have to be capable of anything.

At any rate, that means I’ve been reading more and more feminist books, because that’s where my taste is leaning. And each of those books feeds that feminist fire. So, around and around we go.

I adore And I Do Not Forgive You. I’m not going to lie, I picked it up because the title spoke to me. I’ve been contemplating a lot lately how as women we’re expected to forgive and move on and be the bigger person “because we’re the natural caregivers” and how that’s such bullshit. So, good job to whomever picked the title of that essay and then decided it should also be the title of the book. You hit your mark.

The collection is odd because it’s a mix of magical realism, contemporary pieces, and fairy tale, with one complete horror story thrown in, but it works because of the unifying theme. In fact, it feels better for not all being one genre. I have not read an extraordinary number of short story collections, so maybe genre mixes aren’t that unusual, but it felt like it might be.

I finished this book feeling both empowered as a woman and simultaneously like there’s so much work left to be done, but the fact that it made me feel so strongly both ways is exceptional.

This one is definitely for fans of Any Man, The Power, and Vox, or really for anyone looking for a feminist fiction read.

Disclosure: All links in this post are Bookshop affiliate links.

Review: Tomorrow’s Woman by Greta Bellamacina

I’m not sure I’m the right person to review Tomorrow’s Woman, or any book of poetry. My experience with poetry is pretty limited to teenage angst. But I’m all for reading outside one’s comfort zone, and I figure I better practice what I preach.

One of the things I love about poetry is that it questions what our language can do. Greta Bellamacina certainly does that, if possibly a bit much for me to grasp. There are phrases, though, that got me in the feels.

In general, this collection did inspire a lot of feelings, which is my understanding of what poetry is meant to do. Entire poems went completely over my head, but some of them really spoke to me.

As a mother, I loved that this collection was so clearly about modern womanhood. Again, I haven’t read a ton, but what I have always seemed to be either written by men, or just poems about relationships. This work is clearly about being a woman and all that means.

I definitely recommend this for the feminist poetry fan, but maybe not for someone just trying to get into poetry. Unless you enjoy feeling like you’re a bit of a dunce. If so, have at it.

Disclosure: Links in this post are Bookshop affiliate links.

Review: Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

I have a hard time saying I enjoyed Stamped, because it’s about racism, which isn’t fun. But I do feel better for having read it.

This is a history I didn’t know, and, I’m going to be honest, I think the original adult book would have been a bit cerebral for me.

There were a lot of historical figures mentioned that I thought I knew, but with a lot more information surrounding them. The context cast them in totally different lights. This is a must-read for any American, whether they fit in the target age range (12-17) or not.

I’m not sure that I would have picked this one up myself, because it seems pretty heavy, except that I had the opportunity to see Jason Reynolds and Dr. Kendi in conversation about it at a work conference. If you hear either of them speak about it, you’re compelled to pick it up. It is so important that we bring racism out into the light and start having conversations about it, especially with our young people.

Disclosure: Links in this review are Bookshop affiliate links.

(Not Really a) Shopaholic and Sons

Other than books, I do not have a shopping problem. I actually hate to shop. But we’re reevaluating the family budget, so my shopping options are changing.

I have been having groceries delivered since before Middle Brother was born. First we used Shipt, which I love, by the way. The shoppers are communicative and seem to really care about their clients, since most of their pay is entirely based on your good will when tipping. Then I realized how much more individual groceries are on Shipt and HEB started offering free next day delivery, so we switched to that. I’m not sure who they were actually using for the deliveries, but they were awful. I had a couple deliveries left at my door without anyone even knocking, so I had no idea perishables were sitting on my porch. Then they canceled free deliveries and went to free curbside, which can only work for me on certain days. I am not loading up two littles to drive to the store just to have groceries loaded in the trunk and come home because I didn’t know exactly when we’d be out yesterday.

Based on this somewhat insane conviction, I ended up at the grocery store with just the two littlest for the first time ever on Friday evening. Middle Brother had a blast. He spoke to everyone we passed, played hide and seek behind pillars, and convinced me to buy almost every fruit and vegetable ever. Little Brother likes all new environments. I was lucky. Both of them were so well-behaved. My budget, however, was not so lucky. While beaming over my two beautiful boys, I paid zero attention to how much was going in our basket.

And then yesterday we went to Costco for diapers. Luckily, this time, we had Big Brother for assistance. For a teen boy, Big Brother is pretty aware of our family budget. Since it was just the two of us for a while, I’ve always been honest with him about our financial health. So, we only ended up adding some chips and Febreze to our basket.

I assume this is something I’ll get better at with practice, but for this week, I’m hoping we actually have enough food for a week and a half.