Some Good News – Book Bundles!

It was no surprise how excited I was when a new bookstore opened in my town just over a year ago. I gush about River Bend Bookshop so much I’ve been asked more than once if I work there. (Answer – no, I am just a volunteer publicist, working on maintaining my ambassador badge.)

Like all of us, Indie bookstores everywhere are adjusting to a new normal. From what I can see, many bookish people are reaching out to lovingly support local stores as best they can. Which is wonderful! But here is a story of love flowing the other way: River Bend has launched an initiative to send books out to kids who otherwise may have limited or no access to them, especially now.

From the River Bend website:

Help us get books in the hands of kids who need them most!  

Purchase a book bundle for $25, and we will give 7-12 books to school children in Glastonbury and surrounding communities.  Book Bundle purchases made through the end of April will be distributed through the alternate school lunch pickup programs operating within Glastonbury and our neighboring towns.

River Bend booksellers are selecting and ordering a wide variety of titles appropriate for K-12 students, with an emphasis on high-interest stories that will keep kids engaged in independent reading.

Why should you support this initiative?  Because having books in the home matters.  Consider these statistics:

 

The average middle-class child is likely to own 13 books at any given time, while the average low-income neighborhood has one book for every 300 children. (Changing the Odds for Children at Risk, Susan Neuman, University of Michigan)

 

The number of books in a home has a more direct effect on the eventual level of a child’s education than do the parents’ education and economic standing. (20-year study, Moriah Evans, University of Nevada at Reno)

 

With schools and libraries closed, many children lack access to age-appropriate reading material.  You can make an immediate impact by getting books into the hands of the children who need them most, right here in your neighborhood.

* River Bend is not a non-profit organization, but we are passing the entirety of your contribution directly on to kids in the form of books.  We saw a need and created an opportunity to contribute.  We’re using our publisher and wholesaler relationships to source new books in bulk for considerable discounts, allowing your $25 to purchase 7-12 books.

Thank you for supporting this program!  Please contact us at the shop if you have any questions about your participation.

So….how fantastic is that?! I encourage you to hop on over and donate, or look for a similar way to give in your own area. I’m convinced now more than ever that building a literate society today is key in moving us all forward to a better future.

Blink

I’m at the park, waving a tissue like a flag, running after a drippy-nosed toddler.  I’m sweaty, fuzzy with exhaustion, and have a vague headache.  My other toddler has left my field of vision, causing my heart to fling into spasms, even though the kid is probably just behind the next slide.  I’ve  had about two sips of the now lukewarm coffee in my travel mug.  I’m longing for the moment I can return us all to our beds, and it is not even 9:00 a.m. yet.

Enter older, well-meaning, I’ve-been-there type person:  “Ohhh, what a precious time!  Enjoy every minute! It goes so fast!”

Social convention and my inner dialogue compete to see whether my response will be “I know, I am so blessed and grateful, thank you”  OR “are you bleeping kidding me?”  (I don’t swear a lot but the bleep in this case would so be a real one).

It took me awhile, but I finally reconciled with all the people who made that comment to me over the early-childhood years. (There were A LOT.  So many, that I had to finally admit there was probably some truth to this ‘it goes so fast’ business).  I honed my response, sans profanity, to be, “Yes, the years go fast, but each day can be so painfully long.”

Now I’m the slightly older one, and my kids wipe their own noses (for the most part).  I’ve promised myself never to tell a haggard young mom to enjoy every minute, but I do see now, poignantly, what those sages were trying to warn me about.

For me, nothing shows the passing of time more succinctly than the book choices on my kids’ nightstands.

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While I was finishing dinner dishes, Ferdinand  somehow fluidly became The Magic Treehouse.  Suddenly,  Alexander’s bad day is seems really lame compared to Harry Potter’s time under the cupboard.

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And now – blink- my daughter’s middle grade novels are slowly becoming covered in a fine layer of YA reads.  In the time it took her to change from a one-piece bathing suit into a new sassy tankini, Anne of Green Gables has been one-upped by Bella from Twilight.

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Lucky for me, I write for children.  So instead of donating old books, I just move them to the shelves in my writing nook.  Then stealthily, gleefully, when the kids have had a long day, I casually ask, “Do you guys want to snuggle in and hear me read Blueberries for Sal?”

For now, the answer is still yes.

The Life of a Book

Happy “Paperback Birthday” to ONE FOR THE MURPHYS by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  The hard cover version has had a wonderful year, and I wish its paperback little sister even more success!

Turning “soft” is part of the natural life-cycle of a book, but it is only a small portion of its Life.  We all have favorite stories that have wormed their way into our hearts, and influence our daily lives through conversation, quotes, or contemplations.  How an audience reacts to a story, and what they take from it and keep for themselves, is something no author can predict.

Pardon today’s reblog, then, about one small moment in the Life of ONE FOR THE MURPHYS, after it left the author’s desk.  We write stories for many reasons, but in the end, we hope that someone will read them and connect to what we’ve written.  I hope this particular copy reached its intended audience!  Read on, Macduff:

Book Bravo: One For the Murphys

POSTED ON MAY 17, 2012 BY 

 

We’ve all been there.  You can tell the moment you answer the door that this person is there to sell you something.  Usually magazines.  Sometimes new windows.  Or the deal of a lifetime on a lawn care system.  Almost always, I’m pretty militant about sending them on their way.  I don’t even open the door, just shout a hearty, “NOT INTERESTED, THANK YOU!” and watch them fumble with their pamphlets as I move back into the safety of my house.
But today was different.  For one thing, I was outside, weeding.  Nowhere to hide.  For another thing, the woman who approached me (for the record, yes – she was selling magazines) started with her life story instead of her sales pitch.  Or maybe that was her sales pitch.  Who knows.  But whatever it was, today was different.

“I never thought I’d be going door to door,” she told me, after introducing herself.  She said she was in a job training program through a nationwide organization (that much, I later confirmed, was legit).
“I’m working hard to finish this program and prove to the state that I am stable enough to get my kids back.”  Uh-huh, okay, what are you selling, and how much is it going to cost me? Still, there was something in her eyes.  She looked so tired.  I stood up, brushed off my knees, and moved toward her.  Maybe her story was real, maybe not.  Without a door to shut between us, I figured the least I could do was make eye contact with her.

Then she seemed to deviate from her script.  She told me she had recently been hospitalized after being beaten by her long-time boyfriend.  She kicks herself for not listening to her 12-year-old daughter who begged her to leave him.  And she was working hard to get her life in order so that she could get her kids out of the foster care system, where they’d been ever since the beating.

This is where the hairs on my arms and neck stood up.  Sadly, I know this is not an uncommon story. However, the particular familiarity of it was freaking me out.  I felt like one of the characters in Lynda Mulally Hunt’s newly published One For the Murphys (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books) was standing in my driveway and talking to me.
Here is an overview of the story (From Barnes and Noble, One For the Murphys):
“A moving debut novel about a foster child learning to open her heart to a family’s love.  Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she’s blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong—until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She’s not really a Murphy, but the gifts they’ve given her have opened up a new future.”

So yeah, my hair stood on end.  The book moved me, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it’s story and message.  In the story, Carley learns that you can lean on good people to help you in a bad situation.  Something about the similarity between Mullaly Hunt’s tale and the one this woman was sharing with me made me listen to her, instead of brushing her off.  Maybe I’m a schmuck.  But just in case, when I went inside for my checkbook, I also picked up a signed copy of the book I had gotten at a recent Wellesley Books event.  I gave it to the woman, and wrote her daughter’s name inside.  When I explained the premise of the book, the woman said she couldn’t imagine how her daughter would feel reading it, knowing she is not alone.

        Then she said, “I wish I had had a book like this, when I was young.  My brothers went to Gramma’s, but I was too little, and went to foster care.”  How would her life have been different if she’d had Gilly Hopkins (from Katherine Paterson’s The Great Gilly Hopkins) as a childhood companion?
        So maybe I’m a shmuck.  Or maybe there is a little girl out there who is hurting, scared, and confused, and will be able to read One for the Murphys and know she is not alone, and that good, caring people do exist, and sometimes they are all you need to get by.
        Well done to Lynda Mulally Hunt for the perfectly paced writing in this fantastic novel.  The characters are real, flawed, and quirky, just like you and me.  I highly recommend this book for girls age 9-13, or anyone who loves a good hero story.  You will be enlightened and enriched.

What is it about underpants?

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I’ve been reluctant to admit that I am raising a reluctant reader.  At two months old, my kid was bapping the pages of board books to turn them faster than I could read.  Look at that, I thought smugly… So clever! As a kindergartener, he would follow along when his older sister poured over early readers, and blurt out words if she stopped to sound them out.  I’d look over at my husband and arch my eyebrows as if to say, Pretty good, eh?  

As he advanced in grades, reading remained a strength.  I thought that “getting my boy to read”  was one of those battles I wouldn’t have to fight.  I made the mistake of assuming that because he was able to read, he would want to read whatever I got for him from the library, book store, community book sale, you name it.  So many great books!  Hey, MANIAC MAGEE by Jerry Spinelli, he’ll love that!  Oooh…TREASURE ISLAND, what boy could resist?

"No thanks"

“No thanks”

But time and again, my son would look at the cover of a book, read the first paragraph, then shrug his shoulders and pass the book back to me, saying, “no thanks.”  The latest blow came after I’d made a special trip to a fantastic indie bookstore.  Carefully, I selected Gary Paulsen’s HATCHET.  Cool title.  Invokes violence.  He’ll bite.  

“No thanks.”

A week after that I was at a big box store and saw a stout volume of the first three books (Super Burp, Trouble Magnet, and World’s Worst Wedgie) in the George Brown, Class Clown series by Nancy Krulik.  Nearby was book #7 in the series: the picture on the front was of a boy in underpants, of the tighty-whitey variety.  My son had loved that other famous Captain of the unmentionables, so I sighed and put the collection of the first three stories in my loaded cart.  It just wasn’t what would pick.

That night I handed it to him the way you would hand a banana to a hungry ape.  Hoping it will satisfy.  He checked out the cover, and nodded seriously.  He opened the front page and read one, two, three, paragraphs.  He looked up at me, and clutching the book to his chest, said, “YES.  This is the perfect book.  This is the kind of book you should be getting me.”

"Yes please"

“Yes please”

I hadn’t even realized I how harshly I was judging the underpants, diaries, and other graphic novels he gravitated to.  There is a place for stories that simply seek to be silly and fun.  And apparently one of those places is on my son’s nightstand. I had to just get over myself and my vision of what were the right books. The right book, it turns out, is any one that makes a kid run up to his room after school so he can get back to the story.

I have to remind myself that maturity level and style of humor have a lot to do with what works right now.  I haven’t given up on to Treasure Island, Maniac Magee, or Jerry Spinelli.  But for the time being, here are some that have worked for us:

1) George Brown, Class Clown (Series by Nancy Krulik) “Mom, did you know a lady wrote this?”  Yes, and I thank her!

2) Captain Underpants (Series by Dav Pilkey) “I love letting the funny seep into me.”

3) Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Series by Jeff Kinney) The “Do-It-Yourself” books in this series have the added benefit of encouraging creative writing.

4) Horrible Harry (Series by Suzy Kline)

5) The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Darth Paper Strikes Back, and The Secret of the Fortune Wookie, all by Tom Angleberger.  Bonus side effect of son taking an interest in origami.  (At least when the end result is a Star Wars character).

There are many other fantastic graphic novels out there that are kid favorites.  If you have suggestions that have worked for the reluctant reader in your life, I’d love to hear them!

 

Feelin’ and Spreadin’ the Love

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Happy Valentine’s Day!  Did you know it’s also International Book Giving Day?  IBGD is a “volunteer initiative aimed at increasing children’s access to and enthusiasm for books.”  What’s better than sharing book love?

The initiative suggests spreadin’ the love in one of these three ways:

1. Give a Book to a Friend or Relative.
2. Leave a Book in a Waiting Room or Lobby.
3. Donate a Book.  
There are so many good programs working to get books into the hands of kids who would otherwise not have access to them, including:
As for me, I’ll be leaving a fresh copy of BOY + BOT by Ame Dyckman (illustrated by Dan Yaccarino) in a local pediatrician’s office.
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My favorite part of this book is when Bot finds Boy sleeping, and he thinks Boy is sick.  He takes the boy home where he gives him oil, reads him an instruction manual, and tries to change his battery.  I think kids headed into a check-up at the doctor’s will get a kick out of this.
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The International Book Giving Day’s website has a lot of other great ideas for giving.   They also have fun bookplates, some designed by big names in the biz, which you can download for free.  I chose one by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, (illustrator of the new picture book, I’M BORED!):
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I’m all for flowers and chocolate, but if my husband gave me a bouquet of a dozen books, that would be an amazing valentine!  Hope you all get to share and feel some love today.