Tag Archives: atozchallenge2014

[A to Z] Reflections Post 2014

1 May

Whew, I made it. I almost missed “Y” this year because I had gotten so used to scheduling a week’s worth of posts at a time that I forgot that I hadn’t actually done the posts for the last week, and then work got busy and I didn’t remember until the next day (which was the actual “Y” day since I usually post around midnight before I go to sleep).

I seem to always fail at visiting blogs of other A to Z participants, but I decided this year that I wouldn’t stress too much about it because after writing over 50 reviews for my class last semester (not to mention about 20 last spring), my goal was mainly to get more reviews up. I wish I could’ve replied to more comments, though. :/ I decided that I wouldn’t be able to survive the month if I replied to every comment, but I did read and appreciate every one! ♥ And hopefully now that the pace has slowed down, I can reply to more from now on.

It was really helpful to have prewritten posts for almost everything because then all I had to do was copy and paste for the most part. Formatting the posts took some time, but if I did them in batches, it wasn’t as bad. This gave me time to do reflection posts each week, so I was actually able to post something every day of April. (Despite having to blog at least once a week for the class I was taking this semester.)

The relative ease of posting things by copying and pasting from class assignments has also inspired me to put more of these reviews up. I especially want to share the great books I discovered while taking those classes with you guys! My plan is to schedule weekly posts once a month so that I don’t have to think about it too often. I host a writing group for National Novel Writing Month once a month, so I’m thinking that I’ll schedule my posts then, but I’ll try to have one before that for May because my writing group meets the second Saturday of each month…

My other goal for this year is to finally get an index together of all the reviews I’ve written. I’ve been looking into it, and it looks like kind of a pain since I’m hosted on wordpress, not just powered by wordpress. Which means I’ll probably have to do everything manually, adding an extra step each time I post a new review… >_< (If anyone knows a better way to do it, let me know!)

Along the same lines, I’m also playing with the idea of changing the blog theme so that I can fit more into the menu at the top to include the index. This would be a major overhaul, though, so it might have to be my project over the summer when I don’t have classwork (which will be soon, since I only have one assignment left for this semester, yay~). And possibly in between translating things. (More on that later, now that A to Z is done.)

Anyway, congrats to everyone who made it to Z! (and to those of you who tried!) And thanks to all the new readers that are following and liking and commenting~♥ It makes me smile every time I get a notification about you guys. 😀 Hope you stick around for a while~

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[Z] Zoo’s Who by Douglas Florian

30 Apr

Zoo’s Who is a book of poems and paintings about animals by Douglas Florian. (Linking to Amazon because the author’s website links to Amazon…) The paintings are mixed media with stamps and pieces of magazines and parts of the poems themselves incorporated into the paintings. The poems are short and sweet. While some hit the mark better than others, they are great for getting alliteration, rhythm, and puns into children’s ears before they decide poetry is hard and inaccessible. There are also nice examples of concrete poems, and it is obvious thought was put into the design of each poem and painting. (This is probably why I like poetry books by designers so much.)

My favorite poem is “The Eagle”:

I’m not a seagull.
I’m royal.
I’m regal.
All birds are not
Created eagle.

Okay, so maybe I just really like the last line. But isn’t it good? 😛

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter Z.

[Y] Yucky Worms by Vivian French

29 Apr

Yucky Worms by Vivian French and illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg is a picture book that teaches kids about worms. But not about how they’re yucky, like the title might suggest. Instead, the book uses the story of a boy exploring the garden with his grandmother to tell about worms and how they live.

The drawings are pretty scientifically correct from what I can remember from dissecting a worm in biology class, except that the aortic arches are called hearts (but what five- or six-year-old needs to know what an aortic arch is?). There are also great ideas to encourage further exploration in the back of the book, along with a short index that lets the reader look up specific information about worms.

Fun and educational, and highly recommended, even if you don’t like worms (like me).

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter Y.

[A to Z] Week 4 Thoughts

27 Apr

I got a late start to this week, and I don’t have any more pre-scheduled posts. For my last three books, I have a comic book and two pictures books, so they don’t require as much time to read as a full-length novel. However, I’m also coming on the end of my school semester, so school is pretty busy, too…

Anyway, good luck to those of you still in the game, and here’s to the last three letters of the alphabet!

[W] The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher

26 Apr

(Part of this post was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

Even though they are very different, Sophie Young and Grace Yang are best friends who live in Luna Vista, a small coastal town an hour away from Los Angeles. When the would-be spies find the lights on in the middle of the night in the house of Sophie’s school counselor, Dr. Charlotte Agford, they think that they are a murder. It’s not actually a murder, but the girls decide that Dr. Agford is definitely hiding something, and they will stop at nothing to find out what it is.

Sophie and Grace explore issues of friendship, perception, and assumptions in this fast-paced middle grade mystery filled with action and red herrings that will keep readers on their toes. The side characters are also interesting–hopefully they will have bigger roles in the sequels.

A discussion guide aligned with Common Core standards can be found here (includes activities).

Even though I have a bunch of other W books, I wanted to showcase The Wig in the Window because it was written by local author Kristen Kittscher, and I feel like the other books I had on my list are more well-known. I loved how Kittscher wrote about a community like the one I grew up in (a coastal California town) with a fast-paced mystery led by a diverse cast.

I first heard about this book during Nanowrimo when someone contacted me about coming to a writing group and linked to the Children’s Book Writers of L.A., who had an event at a local library with Kittscher as the guest. It sounded like a fun book, so I put it on hold at my library because I needed more books for my assignment that I was also doing in November.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter W.

[U] The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

24 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

A pregnant calico cat goes to live with the bloodhound, Ranger, who helps her raise her kittens. Ranger’s abusive owner, Gar Face, keeps Ranger chained and half-starved, so he cannot leave his post and the cat and her twin kittens must stay hidden in The Underneath, the space beneath Gar Face’s porch where the cats live. However, their family starts to fall apart as the boy kitten, Puck, breaks the most important rule and leaves The Underneath.

Their story is intertwined with the story of Grandmother Moccasin, a mystical shape-shifter trapped in a jar and buried under a tree, waiting for the day when she, too, can escape her “underneath.”

In this lyrical book, Appelt tells a story of loneliness and finding family, of betrayal, hope, and love. The third person narrator creates a distance from the sometimes disturbing events of the book while maintaining a magical realism. Readers must piece the story together as successive chapters float across time and space until all the storylines come together at the climax. A satisfying read enhanced by Small’s illustrations that help readers picture the Texas bayou where the events of the book take place.

The Underneath is written by Kathi Appelt with illustrations by David Small. It was recognized as a Newbery Honor book in 2009 and was a National Book Award Finalist in 2008.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter U.

[T] The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata

23 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

This year, Summer’s family has had a string of bad luck, and now her parents must go to Japan right before the harvest season, leaving Summer and her little brother, Jaz, with their grandparents. Summer has to make her own luck as she helps her grandmother cook for the harvest workers while her grandfather works in the fields.

This story is about love as much as it is about luck. It is about loving your family so much that it hurts. It is about a crush, that awkward first kiss, and love lost. At the end of the book, the reader is left wondering what will happen to the main character, but at the same time knowing that she will be okay.

A discussion guide aligned with Common Core standards including pre-reading questions and activities can be found here.

The Thing About Luck was the National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature in 2013.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter T.

[S] Spacer and Rat by Margaret Bechard

22 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

Jack is a Spacer who has lived on Freedom Station his whole life. Kit is a Rat, a transplant from Earth who lands on Freedom Station. On Earth, she had her father, but she is now alone, except for an illegal sentient robot named Waldo that is extremely valuable, but extremely dangerous to have. Jack and Kit must protect Waldo long enough to get him to Kit’s father’s contact before it’s too late.

Spacer and Rat is chock-full of references to science-fiction writers and books, which may be part of the reason why it takes a while to get into this world. However, by the end of the book, readers will want a sequel so they can spend more time in it. There is a lot of depth in the world building for such a short book, like slang and festivals, and Bechard includes details that make you feel like you are there.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter S.

[R] Runemarks by Joanne Harris

21 Apr

(Happy late Easter everyone! I was so busy yesterday that I forgot to schedule my posts… Anyway, here’s another post that was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

Maddy is an outcast in her village because of a rune mark on her left hand. Her only friend is One-Eye, an old traveler who has been teaching Maddy about runes and magic, heresy in the eyes of the Order that controls the world in which she lives. When Maddy discovers her magic by accident, One-Eye sends her on a quest that reveals her destiny.

Runemarks might start off slow, but it has the heft and feel of an epic fantasy with an exciting adventure in a rich world that is part Norse mythology, part Christian tradition, and all imagination.

This review refers to the eBook version of the book.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter R.

[A to Z] Week 3 Thoughts

20 Apr

I finally hit one of my letters that I had to write from scratch, and I finally used up Quidditch Through the Ages, a book I’d been keeping as my backup Q book for three years (backup because I actually own it so I don’t have to go out and get a copy, so I keep it for when I can’t find anything interesting when I go out to look for the hard letters to fill).

This means I’ll either have to change my theme next year or find another book that starts with Q (or just update my blog regularly and not participate in A to Z to force myself to update…).

Anyway, I’ve got pre-written reviews again for all of the letters for next week, but I don’t have any for the last three days of the month the following week, so I should probably get started on them… Nine more days to go!