Archive | January, 2020

The 2020 Oregon Book Award Finalists

29 Jan

The Oregon Book Award finalists have been announced.  Winners will be announced live at the 33rd annual Oregon Book Awards Ceremony on Monday, April 27 at Portland Center Stage at The Armory. I am listing the children’s, YA, and Graphic finalists below. You can see the entire slate here.

Judges: Pablo Cartaya, Amy Pattee, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
  • Cathy Camper of Portland, Lowriders: Blast from the Past (Chronicle Books)
  • Deborah Hopkinson of West Linn, Carter Reads the Newspaper (Peachtree Publishing Company)
  • Jody J. Little of Portland, Mostly the Honest Truth (HarperCollins)
  • Rosanne Parry of Portland, A Wolf Called Wander (Greenwillow Books)
  • Rebecca Stefoff of Portland, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
Judges: Susan Campbell Bartoletti, David Macinnis Gill, Traci L. Jones
  • Deborah Hopkinson of West Linn, How I Became a Spy: A Mystery of WWII London (Knopf Books for Young Readers)
  • April Henry of Portland, The Lonely Dead(Henry Holt & Company)
  • Connie King Leonard of Milwaukie, Sleeping in My Jeans (Ooligan Press)
  • Rosanne Parry of Portland, Last of the Name(Carolrhoda Books)
  • Nancy Richardson Fischer of Hood River, When Elephants Fly (HarperCollins/ Inkyard Press)
Judges: Adrienne Celt, Jason Lutes, MariNaomi
  • Cat Farris of Portland, My Boyfriend is a Bear (Oni Press)
  • Maria Capelle Frantz of Portland, The Chancellor and the Citadel (Iron Circus Comics)
  • Greg Means and MK Reed of PortlandPenny Nichols (Top Shelf Productions)
  • Dylan Meconis of Portland, Queen of the Sea (Walker Books)
  • Aron Nels Steinke of Portland, Mystery Club (Mr. Wolf’s Class #2) (Graphix)

One of those days

28 Jan

“Uh, Ms. Gillespie, the date!”

I wheeled around and looked at the whiteboard in response to this student’s comment. The date read Friday, January 20, 2024. I laughed, changed it to Friday, January 24, 2020 and apologized to the class, explaining that I hadn’t slept well.

That wasn’t exactly true. I had slept like a log. In fact, I slept so deeply that when my dog Lucy got up to go potty – usually one or the other wakes up during the night and then we both go – I slept right on through. Fortunately, Lucy is well-trained and knew to go on the pee pads I leave out for her while I am at work.

Despite that hard sleep, though, I woke up and didn’t feel rested. Instead, I felt exhausted, and that was unusual for this morning person.

My gaffes continued throughout the morning. I dropped papers, I couldn’t find things I was looking for. I lost my train of thought. all of this prompted another student to comment, “Wow, you really didn’t sleep well, did you?”.


How I did – My YMA Recap

27 Jan

Awards committees read far more widely than most of us. Watching the YMAs this morning, I was reminded of some great books I’d forgotten about when I made my list yesterday. I was also made aware of a number of books I had not read. Fortunately, my book club always discusses the books we haven’t discussed at, our first meeting after the YMAs.

Here are my predictions again. If a book won anything, I starred it and turned it red.

Young Adult Books

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
Fountains of Silence  by Ruta Sepetys
Lovely War by Julie Berry
*Dig  by A. S. King- Printz Award
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliot
With the Fire on High  by Elizabeth Acevedo
*Infinite Hope by Ashley Bryant – Coretta Scott King Honor Award for Illustration

Middle Grade Books

*Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds – Coretta Scott King Honor
Pay Attention, Carter Jones  by Gary D. Schmidt
The Bridge Home  by Padma Venkatraman
The Line Tender by Kate Allen
Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis
*Stargazing by Jen Wang – APALA Award for Children’s Literature
For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington
*New Kid by Jerry Craft – Coretta Scott King Author Award AND Newbery

Picture Books

*Hey Water! by Antoinette Portis – Sibert Honor
Saturday by Oge Mora
*Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, ill. by
          Juana Martinez-Neal AILA Picture Book Award Honor AND Sibert Award
*My Papi Has a Motorcycle  by Isabel Quintero, ill. by Zeke Peña – Belpre Honor 
Nine Months: Before A Baby is Born by Miranda Paul, ill. by Jason Chin
The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper., ill. by Carson Ellis
A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel
Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature by Marcie Flinchum Atkins
Sea Bear: A Journey for
 Survival by Lindsay Moore
*Bear Came Along  by Richard T. Morris, ill. by LeUyen Pham – Caldecott Honor

YMA Predictions

26 Jan

I have only predicted the Newbery once – the year The One and Only Ivan won.  I cried because I loved that book so much.

I now know that it is foolish to make predictions. A different group of people in each of the room where decisions were made yesterday might select different books. That is the reality of awards. So, rather than predicting a winner, here are some books I hope receive some love tomorrow.

Young Adult Books

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
Fountains of Silence  by Ruta Sepetys
Lovely War by Julie Berry
Dig  by A. S. King
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliot
With the Fire on High  by Elizabeth Acevedo
Infinite Hope by Ashley Bryant

Middle Grade Books

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds
Pay Attention, Carter Jones  by Gary D. Schmidt
The Bridge Home  by Padma Venkatraman
The Line Tender by Kate Allen
Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis
Stargazing by Jen Wang
For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington
New Kid by Jerry Craft

Picture Books

Hey Water! by Antoinette Portis
Saturday by Oge Mora
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, ill. by
Juana Martinez-Neal
My Papi Has a Motorcycle  by Isabel Quintero, ill. by Zeke Peña
Nine Months: Before A Baby is Born by Miranda Paul, ill. by Jason Chin
The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper., ill. by Carson Ellis
A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel
Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature by Marcie Flinchum Atkins
Sea Bear: A Journey for
 Survival by Lindsay Moore
Bear Came Along  by Richard T. Morris

You can watch the Youth Media Awards live tomorrow, starting at 8 a.m Eastern. I am getting up at 4:30 so I will be ready, coffee in hand to watch it all unfold. You can watch by clicking on this link.Slide1


An Author Visit

24 Jan

My school OBOB Battles began at 8:30 on Tuesday. The first student showed up around 8:20.

She was new to OBOB, having attended a private school for K-5, that did not participate in the Oregon Battle of the Books. She seemed nervous, maybe because she was the only student present, maybe because OBOB was new. Maybe both. I chatted with her a bit to ease her nervousness. When I asked her which was her favorite of the 8 books she read, she said, “The  Only Road” without any hesitation.


It shouldn’t have surprised me that The Only Road, by Alexandra Diaz, was on this year’s OBOB list for grades 6-8. It was a 2017 Belpré Award Honor book. After finding out that this was her favorite book, I asked, “Are you  going to the presentation later this week?”

Her eyes twinkled as she replied, “Yes, and I am very excited to meet her.”

Yes, my school was fortunate enough to host Alexandra Diaz on Thursday morning. Unfortunately for me, two of the three sessions were during my class time. I signed several permission slips for my students to miss part of my class to either hear Ms. Diaz speak, or participate in a writing session with her.



Fortunately, I was able to sit in on her first session, though I had to slip out before it was over.

A couple of seventh and eighth grade classes came in. Not every kid looked excited to be there. I was a little embarrassed, even though they weren’t my students – they were representing our school after all! I heard some talking and lack of interest, until she started talking about The Only Road.  By the time she mentioned the murder of Miguel by gangs, the chatter had stopped and attention was being paid. Go Jags!

I know that other students participating in OBOB attended the presentations. I heard good things from my students who attended the writing workshop. One of them told me, “You would have loved it.”

High praise indeed.

Publisher’s Summary of The Only Road: Twelve-year-old Jaime makes the treacherous and life-changing journey from his home in Guatemala to live with his older brother in the United States in this “powerful and timely” (Booklist, starred review) middle grade novel.

Jaime is sitting on his bed drawing when he hears a scream. Instantly, he knows: Miguel, his cousin and best friend, is dead.

Everyone in Jaime’s small town in Guatemala knows someone who has been killed by the Alphas, a powerful gang that’s known for violence and drug trafficking. Anyone who refuses to work for them is hurt or killed—like Miguel. With Miguel gone, Jaime fears that he is next. There’s only one choice: accompanied by his cousin Ángela, Jaime must flee his home to live with his older brother in New Mexico.


A near miss

21 Jan

Second last light before I was home.

I sat, waiting for the red light to turn green, anxious to be home and anxiously looking in my rearview mirror at the young man texting behind me.  I hope he puts his phone away before he starts driving, I thought, worried about getting rear-ended. I have book club tonight and didn’t need the hassle of a traffic accident.

The intersection was a tricky one, where three streets met – two perpendicularly and one diagonally. Left turns were tricky, but I was simply going straight through. I watched as the traffic lights turned from green to red for the people on the road perpendicular to me, and waited for my red to become green.

My light turned green and I counted in my head before moving my foot from the brake to the accelerator. As I did so, the van beside me honked. I assumed it was turning left and someone was in its way. I slowly moved into the intersection, still worried about the texter behind me.

Thank goodness for the honker because I had enough time to slam on my brakes as a grey sedan barreled through a red light, clearly speeding. I hadn’t been able to see it until I pulled forward because of the size of the van.

Thank goodness I had just begun to accelerate because if I had been going the speed limit, I would have been T-boned.

Thank goodness that young man behind me had been on his phone because he was late following behind me.

I was a little shaky as I drove the rest of the way home, but thankful that it was a near miss.




Happy 10th Gotcha Day, Lucy

17 Jan

Ten years ago yesterday, I drove out to Sherwood to pick up Lucy from the foster home where she’d been staying. In honor of this auspicious occasion, here are three of my favorite books featuring basset hounds.

Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan


Publisher’s Summary: Jake Semple is notorious. Rumor has it he managed to get kicked out of every school in Rhode Island, and actually burned the last one down to the ground.

Only one place will take him now, and that’s a home school run by the Applewhites, a chaotic and hilarious family of artists: poet Lucille, theater director Randolph, dancer Cordelia, and dreamy Destiny. The only one who doesn’t fit the Applewhite mold is E.D.—a smart, sensible girl who immediately clashes with the defiant Jake.

Jake thinks surviving this new school will be a breeze . . . but is he really as tough or as bad as he seems?

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart


Publisher’s Summary:

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:  Debate Club.  Her father’s “bunny rabbit.”  A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:  A knockout figure.  A sharp tongue.  A chip on her shoulder.  And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend:  the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Landau-Banks.  No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.  Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.  Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.  Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.  When she knows Matthew’s lying to her.  And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:  Possibly a criminal mastermind.  This is the story of how she got that way.

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore


Publisher’s Summary: Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family’s island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.” With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn’t know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.


14 Jan

Early last week, meteorologists started predicting snow for the middle of this week. It was out first week back and people were feeling tired, so you can understand their desire for a snow day. Throughout the school adults were whipping out their phones and pulling up their preferred weather apps, all of which showed big snowflakes.

The thing is, they failed to read the fine print.

Chance of snow.

Little to no accumulation.

I was skeptical, but cautiously optimistic. I love my job, but who doesn’t love a snow day?

As this week started, I was a little more hopeful, but as I looked at the forecast last night, my hopes were dashed.

Screen Shot 2020-01-13 at 5.49.28 PM

Those big flakes make it look like a big storm. But do you see what I see? Only a 30% chance of snow Tuesday night. That means a 70% chance of no snow. An maybe more importantly, there is this:

Screen Shot 2020-01-13 at 5.52.24 PM

Half an inch does not a snow day make.

I am a realist and I am really disappointed.


The Creep

7 Jan


Lucy starts the night on her side of the bed. This is usually on the side closest to the wall because I read or knit in bed before going to sleep and like to be near the light and the side table.

At some point during the night one of us has to get up. Whether it is just me, or both if us, Lucy usually takes the spot where I’d been sleeping. If I was the one to get up, Lucy steals the warm spot I left behind. If we both get up, I like to switch to the wall side because I know the creep will happen soon.

The Creep starts in the middle of the night, when the bedroom is colder than it had been when we first went to sleep. We are both blessed with the innate ability to fall back asleep quickly. In this second round of sleep, Lucy decides she wants to get closer. My heart thinks it is love. My brain knows it is all about body heat because Lucy is a heat vampire.

She wedges herself closer to me. I adapt. More wedging. More adaptation. Until I wake up and she is in the middle of the bed and I am relegated to the mattress quarter nearest the wall. Fortunately, I know this is coming and have a secret strategy to ensure I get the majority of the bedding. It’s a win-win.





First Book of 2020

2 Jan

I’ve not been writing as many book blogs as I used to. With my term on the 2021 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction about to begin, I don’t know how many book posts I will manage this year. While I am still on vacation, though, I can tell you about the first book I finished in 2020.


Publisher’s Summary: The true story of a
couple who lost everything and embarked on a transformative journey walking the South West Coast Path in England

I put the book on old, months ago and I’d forgotten what had appealed to me to make me place the hold in the first place.  Recalling so little, I assumed it was a work of fiction. I wasn’t very far in when I began to realize that I was wrong. This was a memoir of real events and I popped open Google maps to follow the journey.

In many ways, The Salt Path was a perfect first book of a new decade. It is a book that inspires the reader, showing the transformational possibility of perseverance through hardship. Despite the dire situation in which Raynor and Moth find themselves, the book includes a lot of humor along with self-reflection and commentary about how the treatment of homeless people. It also includes some beautiful descriptions of the landscape along the route.

A powerful start to my reading year.

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