Monday, January 17, 2011

Thoughts from a Ten Day Weekend, or how I spent my surprise vacation

Four inches of snow in Atlanta resulted in five straight snow days. Two weekends and today's MLK day help add up to a wonderful ten day respite from my classroom. I spent the welcomed break reading, reading, and reading (plus some nfl playoff viewing, orange basketball viewing and 2 brutally cold days of ultimate in athens).

Day 0 (Friday January 7)
Super early wake up the following day meant staying in Friday night and finishing the last couple chapters of Gary Schmidt's upcoming Okay for Now. I got an andriod phone over the holidays, downloaded some e-reader apps and signed up for NetGalley. I was overjoyed to discover that Schmidt's newest was available for review! I wouldn't recommend reading a 360+ page novel on the small screen of a smartphone but it certainly beats waiting until April for a title this amazing. I can't seem to talk or write about Okay for Now with out resorting to hyperbole so I simply say that I feel as strongly about this title as a did about When You Reach Me when I first read it. I can't wait to get a physical copy and read it again.

After finishing Okay for Now I reached for The Hive Detectives. Another great addition to the Houghton Mifflin's Scientists in the Field series. I wish I could put a standing hold at my local library for all the new titles in this series. Each one I've read has been great. Can't wait to pick up Kakapo Rescue and Project Seahorse this week.

Day 1 (Saturday January 8)
Ultimate in Athens, GA. Tried to read Genius Files the first installment in Dan Gutman's latest series in the car on the way to Athens but even at 6:30 AM my teammates where a bit to rowdy for any car reading. Gutman's coming to Little Shop of Stories (Decatur's independent children's bookstore) next Monday so I do need to get this ARC read asap.

Day 2 (Sunday January 9)
Snow begins to arrive in the early evening my wonderful school system keeps us in suspense until 8pm. I decide to reread some of the Cybils early readers that I've gotten my hands on so far. Also get through a few more chapters of Jane Leslie Conly's Crazy Lady (one of the 8 1990s honor books I haven't yet read).

Day 3 (Monday January 10)
Newbery Day!!!!!!!!!
Love being home to watch the live webcast. Not going to recount the award winners here but I will say that the Geisel Committee did a super job! I was thrilled to see Holm's Turtle in Paradise pick up a nice shiny Newbery Honor. Then came the worst part of Atlanta's snowpocalypse, not only had I not read or purchased Moon Over Manifest, but because of the snow no bookstores were open! I would have to wait for the ice to melt off the road in order to pick up a copy of the Newbery winner.
Snowed-in. I reread Turtle in Paradise and read some more of Crazy Lady. It being the first of a then undetermined number of snow days I spent most of the day watching bad television.

Day 4 (Tuesday January 11)
Read Eric Wright's Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000 since it's a CYBILS finalist I can't tell you what I thought.
Finally read Anne Fine's The Jamie and Angus Stories knocking off the one 2000s' Horn Book Award winner I hadn't gotten around to reading yet. I liked the book. I think it is very successful and can see children really falling in love with the stories. Anyone have other Anne Fine titles they would recommend?

Day 5 (Wednesday January 12)
Bookstores are all still closed. I'm thankful I can walk/slide the a few blocks to the grocery store.
I finally finish Crazy Lady. Conly's father wrote Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH as well as Z for Zachariah (which Conly completed after her father's death) two of my favorite 1970s books. Unfortunately Crazy Lady kind of fall into the lower third of the Newbery Honor pack for me. I like the characters but I thought the story fell a little flat.
Took a break to watch the undefeated Syracuse Orange basketball team defeat St. Johns proving once again who New York's college team really is!
I also watched the entirety of the new PBS Masterpiece series Downton Abbey. It was quite good. Not up to par with Andrew Davis' recent masterpiece Bleak House but comparable in quality to his Little Dorit. Downton Abbey comes to us from Julian Fellowes who wrote the screenplay for Robert Altman's Gosford Park. If you enjoyed the Altman film you should do yourself a favor and watch Downton Abbey it's well worth the 345 minutes of your time.

Day 6 (Thursday January 13)
Ice is beginning to melt on the main roads but most side streets are still a mess. I spend the morning reading Pete Hautman's Blank Confession. I didn't think this one lived up to its concept but I liked it enough to start looking forward to reading Hautman's 2004 National Book Award winning Godless.
By the middle of the afternoon the temperature has finally risen above freezing for the first time all week and more importantly I've found a bookstore that is not only open, but has a copy of Moon Over Manifest. Needless to say quickly scrape off my car, a carefully drive to a local Barnes and Nobles to pick up this years "most distinguished contribution to children's literature".
I was happy to find the copy of Moon Over Manifest was a first printing! I also picked up Heart of a Samurai.
Started reading Moon Over Manifest immediately. Overjoyed to see that school would be once again canceled on Friday allowing me to stay up all night reading Moon Over Manifest.

Day 7 (Friday January 14)
I finish Moon Over Manifest in the early hours of the morning. I think it's a very deserving winner. Great setting. Great characters. I enjoyed Vanderpool's writing style. I have only one small reservation about the plotting. Abilene has in her possession all of Ned's letters to Jinx. The reader, however, only has a chance to read said letters when the letters' contents correlate with Miss Sadie's story. Surely Abilene read all of Ned's letters early in the story. Therefore Abilene should be able to piece together parts of Ned's story before the reader has a chance. Not a real problem with the book, just a minor quibble. I still think its a fantastic Newbery Medal winner and can't wait to reread it.

Day 8 (Saturday January 15)
Syracuse plays the early game against Cincinnati. We demolish the Cardinals. All is right in the world.
The library is open! I pick up and read another CYBILS finalist Princess Posey & the First Grade Parade. Wish I could talk about it.
Start and finish reading Audrey Couloumbis' Getting Near to Baby. This was the last of the 33 '00s newbery honor books for me. I put it off for so long because the descriptions did not encourage me to pick it up. Over the holidays I read Couloumbis' Jake and liked it alright. I felt about the same about Getting Near to Baby. Not a bad book by any means, just not my cup of tea.
NFL playoffs provide a nice break.

Day 9 (Sunday January 16)
Recover from Saturday's sports overdose with more NFL playoffs. No reading.

Day 10 (Monday January 17)
I decide to read the MT Anderson's new Pals in Peril book Agent Q, or the Smell of Danger! the fourth installment in my absolute favorite series. Lilly, Kate and Jasper Dash are still in Delaware for this adventure. Shorter in length than the third book but not quite as witty or exciting. There were still a ton of good laughs, but here Anderson is not quite up to his typical brilliance. That said, Anderson's off day still ranks above most mortals' best work.

So that's how I spent my unexpected ten days off. Next up, Heart of a Samurai can't wait!

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