2020 in Picture Books

As a future librarian, I spent the last year branching out from genres I love to read to ones that challenge me. Further, as a parent of two littles my boys and I read together A LOT and I’m gaining confidence in the kinds of books I know they will love plus ones that can help them grow up to be good humans (which they often love, too).

Our Favorite Picture Books of 2020

Last spring semester, I took a course in multicultural literature for children and young adults, and it helped me discern whose voice should be speaking when it comes to children’s literature, especially when the majority of books continue to be about white children’s experiences. See this blog post from the Cooperative Children’s BookCenter (CCBC) for more details about recent multicultural statistics in publishing.

I am no expert, but I have made it a point to include books written by and about people of color, LGBTQ+, religious groups, and persons with disabilities to help them understand that their own experiences, though valid, are not the only ones in existence and they should value these differences.

We also read extremely silly books about butts. You know, for balance.

Anyway, here’s the list of picture books we read in 2020. Enjoy!

*****

  • Can You Hear the Trees Talking?: Discovering the Hidden Life of the Forest (2019) by Peter Wohlleben
  • Unstoppable (2020) by Adam Rex, Laura Park (Ill.)
  • The Couch Potato (2020) by Jory John, Pete Oswald (ill.)
  • The Barnabus Project (2020) by The Fan Brothers
  • American Ballet Theatre presents Boys Dance! (2020) by John Robert Allman, Luciano Lozano (Ill.)
  • Teatime Around the World (2020) by Denise Waissbluth, Chelsea O’Byrne (Ill.)
  • The Oboe Goes Boom Boom Boom (2020) by Colleen A.F. Veneble, Lian Cho (Ill.)
  • Fight the Night (1968) by Tomie dePaola
  • If You Want to See a Whale (2013) by Julie Fogliano, Erin E. Stead (Ill.)
  • All Because You Matter (2020) by Tami Charles, Bryan Collier (Ill.)
  • We Are Water Protectors (2020) by Carole Lindstrom, Michaela Goade (Ill.)
  • Ida, Always (2016) by Caron Levis, Charles Santoso (Ill.)
  • Lubna and Pebble (2019) by Wendy Meddour, Daniel Egneus (Ill.)
  • Vote for Our Future! (2020) by Margaret McNamara, Micah Player (Ill.)
  • The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt (2020) by Riel Nason, Byron Eggenschwiler (Ill.)
  • How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion (2020) by Ashima Shiraishi, Yao Xiao (Ill.)
  • High Five (2019) by Adam Rubin, Daniel Salmieri (Ill.)
  • Crossings: Extraordinary Structures for Extraordinary Animals (2020) by Katy S. Duffield, Mike Orodan (Ill.)
  • The Blue House (2020) by Phoebe Wahl
  • The Stone Giant (2020) by Anna Hoglund
  • Buttercup the Bigfoot (2020) by Douglas Rees, Isabel Muñoz (Ill.)
  • Julián at the Wedding (2020) by Jessica Love
  • Howl Like a Wolf!: Learn to Think, Move, and Act Like 15 Amazing Animals (2018) by Kathleen Yale, Kaley McKean (Ill.)
  • Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao (2019) by Kat Zhang, Charlene Chua (Ill.)
  • Sometimes People March (2020) by Tessa Allen
  • I Am Every Good Thing (2020) by Derrick Barnes, Gordon C. James (Ill.)
  • Stop that Yawn! (2018) by Caron Levis, LeUyen Pham (Ill.)
  • The Darkest Dark (2016) by Chris Hadfield, Kate Fillion, Terry Fan (Ill.)
  • The Night Gardener (2016) by Terry Fan, Eric Fan
  • Jabari Jumps (2017) by Gaia Cornwall
  • The Remember Balloons (2018) by Jessie Oliveros, Dana Wulfekotte (Ill.)
  • My Heart (2019) by Corinna Luyken
  • The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng (2019) by Sophia Gholz, Kayla Harren (Ill.)
  • I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark (2016) by Debbie Levy, Elizabeth Baddeley (Ill.)
  • The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab & Family (2019) by Ibtihaj Muhammad, S.K. Ali, Hatem Aly (Ill.)
  • A New Kind of Wild (2020) by Zara Gonzalez Hoang
  • The Moose of Ewenki (2019) by Gerelchimeg Blackcrane, Jiu Er. (Ill.), Helen Mixter (Translator)
  • Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker (2014) by Patricia Hruby Powell, Christian Robinson (Ill.)
  • Freedom, We Sing (2020) by Amyra Leon, Molly Mendoza (Ill.)
  • Llama Destroys the World (2019) by Jonathan Stutzman, Heather Fox (Ill.)
  • Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas (2015) by Aaron Blabey
  • Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness (2018) by Anastasia Higginbotham
  • The Panda Problem (2019) by Deborah Underwood, Hannah Marks (Ill.)
  • Hair Love (2019) by Matthew A. Cherry, Vashti Harrison (Ill.)
  • Snail Crossing (2020) by Corey R. Tabor
  • When Aidan Became a Brother (2019) by Kyle Lukoff
  • Niño Wrestles the World (2013) by Yuyi Morales
  • The Astronaut Who Painted the Moon: The True Story of Alan Bean (2019) by Dean Robbins
  • Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré (2019) by Anika Aldamuy Denise, Paola Escobar (Ill.)
  • Dreamers (2018) by Yuyi Morales
  • At the Mountain’s Base (2019) by Traci Sorell, Weshoyot Alvitre (Ill.)
  • The Cool Bean (2019) by Jory John, Pete Oswald (Ill.)
  • Bilal Cooks Daal (2019) by Aisha Saeed, Anoosha Syed (Ill.)
  • My Papi Has a Motorcycle (2019) by Isabel Quintero, Zeke Peña (Ill.)
  • Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story (2019) by Kevin Noble Maillard, Juana Martinez-Neal
  • Sulwe (2019) by Lupita Nyong’o, Vashti Harrison (Ill.)
  • Saturday (2019) by Oge Mora
  • Because (2019) by Mo Willems, Amber Ren (Ill.)
  • The Undefeated (2019) by Kwame Alexander, Kadir Nelson (Ill.)
  • Bear Came Along (2019) by Richard T. Morris, LeUyen Pham (Ill.)
  • A Stone Sat Still (2019) by Brendan Wenzel

****

  • Thesaurus Has a Secret (2020) by Anya Glazer
  • Wherever I Go (2020) by Mary Wagley Copp, Munir Mohammed (Ill.)
  • Bo the Brave (2020) by Bethan Woollvin
  • A Church for All (2018) by Gayle E. Pitman, Laure Fournier (Ill.)
  • Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood (2016) by F. Isabel Campoy, Theresa Howell, Rafael López (ill.)
  • Butts are Everywhere (2020) by Jonathon Stutzman, Heather Fox (Ill.)
  • Trombone Shorty (2015) by Troy Andrews, Bryan Collier (Ill.)
  • Attack of the Underwear Dragon (2020) by Scott Rothman, Pete Oswald (Ill.)
  • Poesy the Monster Slayer (2020) by Cory Doctorow, Matt Rockefeller (Ill.)
  • The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story (2020) by Tina Cho, Jess X. Snow (Ill.)
  • Mae Among the Stars (2018) by Roda Ahmed, Stasia Burrington (Ill.)
  • I Need a Hug (2015) by Aaron Blabey
  • What Is a Refugee? (2019) By Elise Gravel
  • Llama Unleashes the Alpacalypse (2020) by Jonathan Stutzman, Heather Fox (Ill.)
  • Swing (2020) by Michael Hall
  • Truman (2019) by Jean Reidy, Lucy Ruth Cummins (Ill.)
  • The Stuff of Stars (2018) by Marion Dane Bauer, Ekua Holmes (Ill.)
  • The Very Last Castle (2018) by Travis Jonker, Mark Pett (Ill.)
  • Superbuns! (2019) by Diane Kredensor
  • Don’t Feed the Coos! (2020) by Jonathan Stutzman, Heather Fox (Ill.)
  • Dirt Cheap (2020) by Mark Hoffmann
  • Night Job (2018) by Karen Hesse, G. Brian Karas (Ill.)
  • The Key from Spain (2019) by Debbie Levy, Sonja Wimmer
  • Overground Railroad (2020) by Lesa Cline-Ransome, James E. Ransome (Ill.)
  • Read the Book, Lemmings! (2017) by Ame Dyckman, Zachariah O’Hora (Ill.)
  • Alfie (2017) by Thyra Heder
  • The Watermelon Seed (2013) by Greg Pizzoli
  • Dandy (2019) by Ame Dyckman, Charles Santoso (Ill.)
  • The Ocean in Your Bathtub (2020) by Seth Fishman, Isabel Greenberg (Ill.)
  • Fraidyzoo (2013) by Thyra Heder
  • When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree (2019) by Jamie L.B. Deenihan, Lorraine Rocha (Ill.)
  • Ella McKeen, Kickball Queen (2019) by Beth Mills
  • What Is Given from the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack
  • Nesting (2020) by Henry Cole
  • My Hair is a Garden (2018) by Cozbi A. Cabrera
  • Sewing the Rainbow: The Story of Gilbert Baker and the Rainbow Flag (2018) by Gayle E. Pitman, Holly Clifton-Brown (Ill.)
  • Henry and Bea (2019) by Jessixa Bagley
  • Across the Bay (2019) by Carlos Aponte
  • Pluto Gets the Call (2019) by Adam Rex, Laurie Keller (Ill.)
  • The Shortest Day (2019) by Susan Cooper, Carson Ellis (Ill.)
  • Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market (2019) by Raúl the Third
  • Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment (2019) by Parker Curry, Jessica Curry, Brittany Jackson (Ill.)
  • Bowwow Powwow: Bagosenjige-niimi-idim (2018) by Brenda J. Child, Jonathan Thunder (Ill.), Gordon Jourdain (Translator)
  • A Friend for Henry (2019) by Jenn Bailey, Mika Song (Ill.)
  • Our House is on Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet (2019) by Jeanette Winter
  • The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore (2015) by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, R. Gregory Christie (Ill.)
  • Thank You, Omu! (2018) by Oge Mora
  • We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga (2018) by Traci Sorell, Frané Lessac (Ill.)
  • The Good Egg (2019) by Jory John, Pete Oswald (Ill.)
  • The Hike (2019) by Alison Farrell
  • Don’t Call Me Bear (2016) by Aaron Blabey

***

  • One Girl (2020) by Andrea Beaty, Dow Phumiruk (Ill.)
  • Pink is for Boys (2018) by Robb Pearlman, Eda Kaban (Ill.)
  • Tiny T-Rex & the Impossible Hug (2019) by Jonathan Stutzman, Jay Fleck (Ill.)
  • A Dragon on the Roof: A Children’s Book Inspired by Antoni Gaudí (2019) by Cécile Alix, Fred Sochard (Ill.)
  • Imagine! (2018) by Raúl Colón
  • Stop Following Me, Moon! (2016) by Darren Farrell
  • Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great (2013) by Bob Shea
  • Bunheads (2020) by Misty Copeland, Setor Fiadzigbey (Ill.)
  • The Night is for Darkness (2020) by Jonathan Stutzman, Joseph Kuefler (Ill.)
  • Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community (2018) by Susan Verde, John Parra (Ill.)
  • The Perfect Seat (2019) by Minh Lê, Gus Gordon (Ill.)
  • Enough!: 20 Protestors Who Changed America (2018) by Emily Easton, Ziyue Chen (Ill.)
  • Double Bass Blues (2019) by Andrea J. Loney, Rudy Guitierrez (Ill.)
  • Stop! Bot! (2019) by James Yang
  • Little Tigers (2019) by Jo Weaver
  • T-Bone the Drone (2019) by Shanda McCloskey
  • The Thank You Letter (2019) by Jane Cabrera
  • The Whisper (2015) by Pamela Zagarenski
  • The World Needs More Purple People (2020) by Kristen Bell, Benjamin Hart, Daniel Wiseman (Ill.)
  • Coral (2020) by Molly Idle
  • Your Alien (2015) by Tammi Sauer, Gorõ Futita (Ill.)
  • Birdsong (2019) by Julie Flett
  • Chapter Two is Missing! (2019) by Josh Lieb

**

  • Thelma the Unicorn (2015) by Aaron Blabey
  • Construction Site on Christmas Night (2018) by Sherri Duskey Rinker, A.G. Ford (ill.)
  • The Great Paper Caper (2009) by Oliver Jeffers
  • We Will Rock Our Classmates (2020) by Ryan T. Higgins
  • Wild Symphony (2020) by Dan Brown
  • Turtle Walk (2020) by Matt Phelan
  • The Fish Who Found the Sea (2020) by Alan W. Watts
  • Pencil: A Story with a Point (2019) by Ann Ingalis, Dean Griffiths (Ill.)
  • Bruce’s Big Storm (2019) by Ryan T. Higgins
  • The Trouble with Time Travel (2019) by Stephen W. Martin
  • The Little Gardener (2015) by Emily Hughes
  • The Scarecrow (2019) by Beth Ferry, Terry Fan (Ill.), Eric Fan (Ill.)
  • Pete the Cat and the Perfect Pizza Party (2019) by Kimberly Dean, James Dean

*

  • A Most Mizerable Christmas (2012) by Mick Foley, Jerry Lawler (Ill.)
  • Froggy for President! (2020) by Jonathan London, Frank Remkiewicz (Ill.)

My 2020 Book List

Being home for most of the year allowed me to read many more books than I usually do. My prime reading time is found while the boys run free at playgrounds. Once those reopened during the pandemic I found myself with daily free time to escape into hidden worlds and go on adventures in reading.

I read 111 books this year, not including the picture books I read with Elliot and Henry (see the next post for those). In 2020, my favorite books were either fantasies or those that helped me delve into the human condition – what makes us contradictory individuals who dream and hope and grieve and fight. So I guess I really used reading to try to figure myself out, and I’m still not there.

I probably won’t ever understand my self and my selfish motivations. But I keep trying, and here’s what I’ve puzzled out so far.

I am a lot to handle. And that is okay. I don’t like everyone, so it’s okay if not everyone likes me (I definitely need to work on being fine with that second part). Even though I don’t like everyone, I can be kind.

And that begins with being kind to myself.

I guess what I’m trying to say in my yearly review of books is that I plan to seek kindness through reading to find new ways to let it burst through my being and extend outward to others.

If you’ve made it this far through my ramblings, your reward is seeing my top 9 fictional books, top 6 young adult reads, and top 6 non-fiction books of 2020, followed by a list of everything I read this year.

I know the books I love aren’t for everyone, but if I ever come up to you and tell you that you NEED to read something, I recommend you do it. I’m rarely wrong (ask Keith if you don’t believe me).

My Favorite Reads This Year & Published in 2020

  1. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
  2. The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
  3. The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
  4. Writers and Lovers by Lily King
  5. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
  6. Long Bright River by Liz Moore
  7. The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
  8. Anxious People by Frederik Backman
  9. Apeirogon by Colum McCann

Young Adult

  1. You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
  2. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
  3. Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds, Danica Novgorodoff (Ill.)
  4. The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane by Kate O’Shaughnessy
  5. Dear Justyce by Nic Stone
  6. Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Nonfiction

  1. Untamed by Glennon Doyle
  2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, & You by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi
  3. Please Like Me [But Keep Away] by Mindy Kaling
  4. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
  5. Humans by Brandon Stanton
  6. Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob

Books Read in 2020

*****

  • Anxious People (2020) by Fredrik Backman (12/20)
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea (2020) by TJ Klune (12/20)
  • Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel (2020) by Jason Reynolds (12/20)
  • You Should See Me in a Crown (2020) by Leah Johnson (11/20)
  • Dear Justyce (2020) by Nic Stone (11/20)
  • Before the Ever After (2020) by Jacqueline Woodson (11/20)
  • Humans (2020) by Brandon Stanton (11/20)
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (2020) by V.E. Schwab (10/20)
  • The Once and Future Witches (2020) by Alix E. Harrow (10/20)
  • Kind of Hindu (2020) by Mindy Kaling (10/20)
  • Searching for Coach Taylor (2020) by Mindy Kaling (10/20)
  • Please Like Me [But Keep Away] (2020) by Mindy Kaling (10/20)
  • Once Upon a Time in Silver Lake (2020) by Mindy Kaling (10/20)
  • Help is on the Way (2020) by Mindy Kaling (10/20)
  • Big Shot (2020) by Mindy Kaling (10/20)
  • Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics, 1954-1981 (2010) by Stephen Sondheim (10/20)
  • The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane (2020) by Kate O’Shaughnessy (10/20)
  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson (10/20)
  • The Vanishing Half (2020) by Brit Bennett (9/20)
  • The Henna Artist (2020) by Alka Joshi (9/20)
  • Nothing to See Here (2019) by Kevin Wilson (9/20)
  • The Comeback (2020) by Ella Berman (9/20)
  • The Death of Vivek Oji (2020) by Akwaeke Emezi (8/20)
  • The Song of Achilles (2011) by Madeline Miller (8/20)
  • This Tender Land (2020) by William Kent Krueger (8/20)
  • How We Fight for Our Lives (2019) by Saeed Jones (8/20)
  • Dear Edward (2020) by Anne Napolitano (7/20)
  • Wonderstruck (2011) by Brian Selznick (7/20)
  • Summer Sisters (1998) by Judy Bloom (7/20)
  • Writers and Lovers (2020) by Lily King (7/20)
  • Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations (2020) by Mira Jacob (7/20)
  • Station Eleven (2014) by Emily St. John Mandel (7/20)
  • Ghosts (2016) by Raina Telgemeier (6/20)
  • The Public Library: A Photographic Essay (2014) by Robert Dawson (6/20)
  • Dear Martin (2017) by Nic Stone (6/20)
  • Pet (2019) by Akwaeke Emezi (6/20)
  • All American Boys (2015) by Jason Reynolds (6/20)
  • A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (2019) by Holly Jackson (6/20)
  • Clap When You Land (2020) by Elizabeth Acevedo (6/20)
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (2020) by Jason Reynolds (6/20)
  • Circe (2018) by Madeline Miller (4/20)
  • They Called Us Enemy (2019) by George Takei (4/20)
  • Apeirogon (2020) by Colum McCann (4/20)
  • Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2012) by Benjamin Alire Saenz (4/20)
  • Untamed (2020) by Glennon Doyle (3/20)
  • Other Words for Home (2019) by Jasmine Warga (3/20)
  • The Turtle of Oman (2009) by Naomi Shihab Nye (2/20)
  • Long Bright River (2020) by Liz Moore (2/20)
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January (2019) by Alix E. Harrow (2/20)
  • Esparanza Rising (2000) by Pam Muñoz Ryan (2/20)
  • The Other Half of Happy (2019) by Rebecca Balcarcel (2/20)
  • The Poet X (2018) by Elizabeth Acevedo (2/20)

****

  • Plain Bad Heroines (2020) by Emily M. Danforth (12/20)
  • Fifty Words for Rain (2020) by Asha Lemmie (12/20)
  • Hamnet (2020) by Maggie O’Farrell (12/20)
  • When No One is Watching (2020) by Alyssa Cole (12/20)
  • Catherine House (2020) by Elisabeth Thomas (11/20)
  • The Last Story of Mina Lee (2020) by Nancy Jooyoun Kim (11/20)
  • Mexican Gothic (2020) by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (10/20)
  • The Mall (2020) by Megan McCafferty (10/20)
  • The Book of Second Chances (2020) by Katherine Slee (10/20)
  • Her Last Flight (2020) by Beatriz Williams (10/20)
  • Red, White & Royal Blue (2019) by Casey McQuiston (10/20)
  • Piranesi (2020) by Susanna Clarke (10/20)
  • Beach Read (2020) by Emily Henry (9/20)
  • The Lions of Fifth Avenue (2020) by Fiona Davis (9/20)
  • The Underground Railroad (2016) by Colson Whitehead (9/20)
  • Girl, Serpent, Thorn (2020) by Melissa Bashardoust (8/20)
  • The Pull of the Stars (2020) by Emma Donaghue (8/20)
  • The Lost and Found Bookshop (2020) by Susan Wiggs (8/20)
  • The Jane Austen Society (2020) by Natalie Jenner (8/20)
  • 28 Summers (2020) by Elin Hilderbrand (7/20)
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (2019) by Ocean Vuong (7/20)
  • The Lies that Bind (2020) by Emily Giffin (7/20)
  • Weather (2020) by Jenny Offill (6/20)
  • The Grace Year (2019) by Kim Liggett (6/20)
  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (2020) by Suzanne Collins (5/20)
  • The Night Watchman (2020) by Louise Erdrich (5/20)
  • The Glass Hotel (2020) by Emily St. John Mandel (5/20)
  • A Wizard of Earthsea (1968) by Ursula K. LeGuin (5/20)
  • There There (2018) by Tommy Orange (4/20)
  • Yes No Maybe So (2020) by Becky Albertalli (4/20)
  • Such a Fun Age (2020) by Kiley Reid (3/20)
  • Chain of Gold (2020) by Cassandra Clare (3/20)
  • The Birchbark House (1999) by Louise Erdrich (3/20)
  • New Kid (2019) by Jerry Craft (3/20)
  • All the Real Indians Died Off: And 20 Other Myths About Native Americans (2016) by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (3/20)
  • The Sun is Also a Star (2016) by Nicola Yoon (3/20)
  • With the Fire on High (2019) by Elizabeth Acevedo (2/20)
  • Children of Blood and Bone (2018) by Tomi Adeyemi (2/20)
  • Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (2019) by Lori Gottlieb (1/20)
  • The Family Upstairs (2019) by Lisa Jewell (1/20)

***

  • The Near Witch (2019) by V.E. Schwab (12/20)
  • The Midnight Library (2020) by Matt Haig (11/20)
  • The Guest List (2020) by Lucy Foley (10/20)
  • Friends and Strangers (2020) by J. Courtney Sullivan (8/20)
  • In Five Years (2020) by Rebecca Serle (8/20)
  • Sex & Vanity (2020) by Kevin Kwan (8/20)
  • The Holdout (2020) by Graham Moore (6/20)
  • Chosen Ones (2020) by Veronica Roth (6/20)
  • The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise (2019) by Dan Gemeinhart (6/20)
  • Ember Queen (2020) by Laura Sebastian (5/20)
  • Olive Kitteridge (2008) by Elizabeth Strout (4/20)
  • Twisted Twenty-Six (2019) by Janet Evanovich (3/20)
  • The Martian (2011) by Andy Weir (1/20)
  • Stardust (1997) by Neil Gaiman (1/20)

**

  • White Ivy (2020) by Susie Yang (12/20)
  • Big Summer (2020) by Jennifer Weiner (9/20)
  • A Good Neighborhood (2020) by Therese Anne Fowler (5/20)
  • The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires (2020) by Grady Hendrix (5/20)
  • The Bookish Life of Nina Hill (2019) by Abbi Waxman (4/20)

Arts in Your Library Podcast

For one of my graduate degree courses I was tasked with creating a podcast on any subject I wanted. Because I love theatre and libraries, I created this gem. I hope you enjoy the first episode of my Podcast Arts in Your Library: Beyond Disney Musicals: A Family Guide to Broadway in Tampa Bay and at Your Pinellas Library.

Arts in Your Library Podcast Episode 1

Forget Next Time

Clearly, I wrote this before everything was cancelled, but still think it’s worth sharing in its original state. So here it is.

This past weekend felt decadent. I flew to NYC to spend the weekend with two of my favorite people – Marcie and Vanesa – without kids! It’s one of my very favorite places. I can never spend enough time there – I start smiling when I see the skyline and don’t stop until it is past me, waiting until I return. And I never leave without promising myself there will be a next time because the magic I feel while I’m there cannot be duplicated.

I witnessed one of the most beautiful art exhibits, Vida Americana, at the Whitney and although I was stunned by the level of artistry I was angered by the fact that the more things change in this world, the more things stay the same. The wealthy get richer off of the poorest among us. Workers can’t get a living wage. Racism remains an oppressive barrier in this country because we refuse to acknowledge it within us and commit to true change.

Calla Lilly Vendor
Alfredo Ramos Martínez, Calla Lily Vendor (Vendedora de Alcatraces), 1929

Proletarian Mother
David Alfaro Siqueiros, Proletarian Mother, 1929


On a lighter note, I channeled my inner Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone 2 by wearing a robe in the chicest hotel room of my life and using my friend’s per diem for fancy drinks and breakfast.

I walked with a purpose through Midtown to the main New York Public Library building where I could feel the presence of those who had loved the space before and with me.

I noticed the first signs of spring (crocuses) on the High Line.

Even being in the city during winter was wonderful (and that’s saying a lot knowing I hate the cold). The wind blew so chillingly it chapped my face as we walked but I could ignore it because I was in New York! I left my glove at the Kerr Theatre but that’s okay because I got to see Hadestown and experience its tragic beauty. I want to be like Orpheus and “make you see how the world could be, in spite of the way that it is.”

CD6E5214-424D-479F-99A3-74C928407CDD

I’m reminded of a poem by Robert Frost where he says that all wonderful things in life are fleeting at worst or ever-changing at best:

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

That’s true, nothing lasts forever. Even life. Maybe even especially life. So why do I make choices like I have infinite time? Why do I agonize over what I said to who and whether people like me when they aren’t the people in my life who matter most to me?

I’m giving up on this “next time” way of thinking by attempting to switch my mindset to the now. I gave a mighty effort last year following my surgery to remove my melanoma, but have reverted back to my own circular reasoning of next time it will be better, I’ll have more time later, just wait. My time is now, not tomorrow. Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.” That seems like a solid way to live.

I know this doesn’t mean that my life will be all joy and no sorrow. But it means I can take steps to work through the pain and eventually rise. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m working my way through Glennon Doyle’s new book, Untamed. She writes that returning to our dreams is the path we take to remember our reality, to discern God’s plan for our lives, family, and world. This plan will disrupt the world’s order because our being alive is something wholly new and never before seen. I’m starting the work to reimagine my soul’s dreams to live my “truest, most beautiful li[fe]” right now. “May [my] dreams become [my] plans.” I should get to writing…

And now to return to this shitty week where everything is cancelled indefinitely and routines are out of whack, I’m still singing the lyrics from Hadestown – “…here’s the thing. To know how it ends. And still begin to sing it again. As if it might turn out this time.”

It’s going to work out this time, just not as we expect. The world will be changed once this pandemic has worked its way around the planet. And I hope it brings about a new way of thinking, especially with our jobs as planet protectors. We don’t get an again. Just a now. So let’s live it up on top!

 

 

My Year in Books

“Not all stories speak to all listeners, but all listeners can find a story that does, somewhere, sometime. In one form or another.” ~Erin Morgenstern in The Starless Sea

Confession – I may have read too many books this year. 70 actually, not including the majority of my 5 textbooks for the fall semester of my master’s program and any book I gave up on after the first 50 pages or so because life is too short to read terrible books or books not meant for this reader at this point in her life. I intentionally attempted to read books with perspectives unlike my own, and have discovered several treasures I intend to keep close to my heart and reread.

As for next year’s reading list, I am officially over books set during World War II. I get it that it was the war that has defined all wars before or since, but I just don’t want to read about it anymore. Not when there are an unbelievable amount of fantastic books existing in the world. I fully admit to loving historical fiction, however, so I plan to continue to read about any other time period. I also adore reading Young Adult fiction, especially in between more serious books (although young adult books are complicated and seriously messy in their own way). Next year, I hope to read more Science Fiction because that slipped through the cracks (anyone have good recommendations?) Finally, my favorite books are the ones with the truest stories. Not true in the literal sense that everything is rational and factual, but in the sense that I am emotionally transported into the lives of the characters and am along with them for their journeys. Even when they are devastating because as The Starless Sea reminds us: “Important things hurt sometimes.” 2019 was a tough year for me, but 2020 promises a renewal of hope. And I plan to live out my hope, in part, through my reading.

My Top 8 Favorite Books Published in 2019

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Dragonfly by Leila Meacham

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

Shameless: A Sexual Reformation by Nadia Bolz-Weber

A Mostly Complete List of Books I Read in 2019, Organized by Stars via Goodreads:

5 Stars

Fiction

  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (December 1-6)
  • Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson (November 16-25)
  • The Complete Persepolis (Persepolis, #1-4) (2000) by Marjane Satrapi (October 31-December 7)
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (October 25-28)
  • Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane (October 14-20)
  • Neverwhere (London Below #1) (1996) by Neil Gaiman (October 2-7)
  • The Shadow of the Wind (El cemeterio de los libros olvidados #1) (2001) by Carlos Ruis Zafon (September 15-October 31)
  • The Guest Book by Sarah Blake (August 28-September 5)
  • Dragonfly by Leila Meacham (August 4-6)
  • 11/22/63 (2011) by Stephen King (July 29-31)
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney (June 26-27)
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette (2012) by Maria Semple (June 5-8)
  • The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin (June 3-5)
  • This Is How It Always Is (2017) by Laurie Frankel (May 24-June 3)
  • Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (April 6-8)
  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (March 28-30)

Nonfiction

  • Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US by Lenny Duncan (July 19-August 25)
  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, & Lead (2012) by Brene Brown (June 25-August 2)
  • State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland (2016) by Dave Barry (July 23-25)
  • Heavy: An American Memoir (2018) by Kiese Laymon (June 12-15)
  • Love Big: The Power of Revolutionary Relationships to Heal the World by Rozella Haydee White (May 8-19)
  • March: Book Three (2016) by John Lewis (February 8-18)
  • Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, & the Dawn of a New America (2012) by Gilbert King (January 29-February 28)
  • March: Book Two (2015) by John Lewis (February 8)
  • March: Book One (2013) by John Lewis (February 5-6)
  • Shameless: A Sexual Reformation by Nadia Bolz-Weber (January 29-February 3)
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama (2018) (December 31, 2018-February 5)

4 Stars

Fiction

  • The Testaments (The Handmaid’s Tale #2) by Margaret Atwood (December 17-19)
  • Find Me (Call Me By Your Name #2) by Andre Aciman (December 13-17)
  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (December 6-11)
  • The Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippmann (November 11-16)
  • I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (2017) by Erika Sanchez (October 9-14)
  • Five Dark Fates (Three Dark Crowns, #4) by Kendare Blake (September 23-October 31)
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (2017) by Taylor Jenkins Reid (September 21-23)
  • City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (September 5-17)
  • The Alice Network (2017) by Kate Quinn (August 21-23)
  • The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger (August 18-21)
  • Titans (2016) by Leila Meacham (August 11-13)
  • Ash Princess (Ash Princess Trilogy #1) (2018) by Laura Sebastian (July 14-16)
  • The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (2018) by Stuart Turton (June 21-24)
  • Wicked Saints (Something Dark & Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan (May 19-22)
  • Dear Evan Hansen (2018) by Val Emmich (April 25-30)
  • American Gods (2001) by Neil Gaiman (January 22-30)

Nonfiction

  • Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong (December 24-30)
  • Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living (2016) by Sandra Niequist (May 23-June 20)
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) by Maya Angelou (March 19-May 9)
  • Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson (April 24-May 8)
  • The Library Book (2018) by Susan Orlean (March 21-24)
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000) by Stephen King (December 12, 2018-March 24)

3 Stars

  • Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner (November 18-22)
  • The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware (November 2-6)
  • Summer of ’69 by Erin Hilderbrand (August 27-28)
  • The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams (August 15-18)
  • The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (August 6-11)
  • The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen (August 1)
  • An American Marriage (2018) by Tayari Jones (July 21-26)
  • Lady Smoke (Ash Princess Trilogy #2) by Laura Sebastian (July 16-21)
  • The Goldfinch (2013) by Donna Tartt (June 25-July 6)
  • Lilac Girls (2016) by Martha Hall Kelly (April 25-May 19)
  • Where the Crawdads Sing (2018) by Delia Owens (April 12-16)
  • Two Dark Reigns (Three Dark Crowns #3) (2018) by Kendare Blake (April 12-13)
  • One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns #2) (2017) by Kendare Blake (April 9-10)
  • The Malta Exchange (Cotton Malone #14) by Steve Berry (March 28-April 5)
  • Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1) (2016) by Kendare Blake (March 9-14)
  • Dark Places (2010) by Gillian Flynn (March 9-12)
  • Queen of Air & Darkness (The Dark Artifices #3) (2018) by Cassandra Clare (January 7-12)
  • Look Alive Twenty-Five (2018) by Janet Evanovich (January 7-11)

2 Stars

  • I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella (February 7-11)

1 Star

  • The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren (September 25-27)
  • Once Upon a River (2018) by Diane Setterfield (June 12-19)

 

 

What We Remember (or a Story about Love)

The following was written by Donna Jean (Franks) Schmid, my grandmother. All punctuation and poetry are hers alone. I believe it was written for a Wooster Historic Society or Daughters of the American Revolution (or the like) event where she spoke; no date was listed in her handwritten notes.

“This is my favorite time of year. I am invigorated by the crispness in the air, the gorgeous colors of fall leaves. For me this is a time of renewal, I hope you too can relate to the bounteous harvest and enjoy the fruits of your gardens and trees.

While we are putting our tilled areas to rest, we can dream of next year and the reading and sifting of information during the more dormant months. This is an especially beautiful area and it is no wonder that our ancestors found it to be so. In the coming weeks we can make use of the conveniences? at our command and get to really know those who went before us. Can’t you feel their characters emerge from the thing you read about their lives? Reread portions of Wayne County history books, perhaps the Douglas book, and imagine the wayour area once was. Then place your ancestors in the scenario. Great!

I look out my dayroom window and see the dreamy lilac of the Russian Sage and I think of my grandmother’s starched cotton dress and actually remember the feel of her soft white hair as I plaited and wound it into a bun. Isn’t it odd the things we remember?

I remember the fields of glowing orange pumpkins my father raised and see him in memory with a spade over his shoulder and bending his back, clearing drainage ditches on the lowlands. I see his chambray shirt and faded jeans – you know, I really would like to ask him about the reunion of the Franks family which he attended. What was Grandpa like when he was young? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to peek in a window at evening and see the family gathered around the piano and hear the blended singing of the old songs? How about the homey smells of baking bread, frying ham and then too canning and making jam for the cold days? Do you remember the early orphaned lambs behind the old wood range? Or the bleats of sheep on the hillside? How about the ringing of the dinner bell? The smell of drying hay – the prickly stems as it was tramped into the snow? I remember. I remember and my soul yearns for the old ways.

But then I think of electricity and the inefficient kerosene lamps. I think of penicillin and I guess time and progress is not so bad – just different.”

~

After discovering the above writing in my grandmother’s Bible, I realized I never really knew who she was or how she felt about life and memory. I didn’t know that autumn was her favorite time of the year, or that she experienced intense desire to return to the old ways. I can’t describe her memories of life on the farm because I never really asked. We visited the farm almost every summer and I never thought about it being a working farm. And now the farm is for sale, and I won’t be returning to it. I’m mostly okay with that since Ohio was rarely a happy place to visit.

There was one visit though where my grandparents were at their finest. Keith and I visited them about 10 years ago for Easter, just the two of us, and they were full of such joy showing us the countryside and their community. Unfortunately, I don’t recall many details from that visit but I wish I did. I do remember my Grandma insisting on making us food to take to the airport because airport restaurants had terrible food. She rarely cooked by that point, but managed to scrounge up a thick slice of ham and fry it up for the best ham sandwich of my life.

I guess what I’m trying to write is this: I am confident that my Grandma loved me, she just didn’t usually know how to show it. But as the generations were added to the family, it seemed like she figured things out a little better with this business of love. She ALWAYS made time to love my boys and talk with them about their lives. She hung their art on her fridge. She loved them.

For my mom’s sake, I wish she could have figured out love sooner. She never really told my mom that she loved her, and that’s something my mom carries with her. Breaking a cycle is incredibly difficult, but my mom and her sisters figured it out and my cousins, brother, and I feel fiercely loved by our parents. And I know I love my two boys no matter what, and tell them as well as show them every day. So in her way, my Grandma taught me to love unlike she had loved, in an infinitely forgiving and exponential way so there can be zero doubt in it.

My Image of Librarians, An Elevator Speech

The following is my final assignment for my Foundations of Library and Information Science course, and serves as an explanation for what I’ve been up to this fall.

You’re studying to be a librarian? You need a Master’s degree for that?!”

I have heard these questions asked so many times, and before I applied to USF’s Library and Information Science program I repeatedly asked myself why did I HAVE to get a Master’s degree to be a librarian. Couldn’t I just learn on the job? It can’t be THAT hard. As this is only my first semester working toward my Master’s, I don’t have all the answers but I know this to be true: it would be impossible to do an effective job as a librarian without the educational foundation necessary to have a full understanding of the library’s processes and systems.

I visit my local public library at least once a week. I volunteer alphabetizing and shelving books. I research new and varied materials outside my worldview to check-out for my family so we can be exposed to lives and cultures unlike our own. This would never be enough to step into a job as a librarian and hit the ground running. I would not know about metadata, cataloging, or budgeting, for example. I could learn these things without a degree but it would be less-structured and piecemeal.

And I would not be working together with like-minded individuals who are all studying to be librarians. This collaborative environment is key to unlocking the library and information science code to understanding all things library-related. Although it is more difficult to collaborate via an online course platform, bouncing ideas off my classmates and knowing others stand with me as I struggle with balancing graduate school, my job, and my personal life has been everything.

Seeking a master’s degree in library and information science has allowed me to begin to find my voice in the profession, and discern what values matter to me. What will I stand up for, and who will I stand up for when I am a librarian? I know I will make space to listen and amplify others’ voices. I know that as a white woman I am what people traditionally see when they picture a librarian, and that needs to change. I know that equity for all will be a theme I will repeatedly assert. I know that I want to fight for greater public access to copyrighted works, which means submitting comments and leading action when the Copyright Act is finally revised. I know that my education of the library world will never cease, and that my acquisition of a Master’s degree is the foundation upon which it stands.

Earlier this semester I had the opportunity to attend a lecture given by Jessamyn West, who spoke about libraries being social justice issues, and social justice being a library issue. Everything she said reverberated with me, but one thing in particular stood out. She asserted that as a librarian, I need to effectively represent the world around me AND my dream world. My dream world is working in a library with a community that knows all are genuinely welcome, and we engage, create, and turn ideas into action. I see some of my dream world present with my fellow Master’s program students, and I cannot wait to build library havens with you and others.

Thoughts in the Quiet

The last time I spent three mornings in a row solo in my house happened…well, I don’t think it’s ever happened since we moved into Little Pink in 2014.

It. Is. So. Weird.

Once the mania of making breakfasts and lunches, encouraging kids to get dressed and helping them with tricky socks and shoes, and walking Henry to his bus stop is over, and Keith takes Elliot to preschool, then it’s just me.

What am I supposed to be doing?

It’s just so quiet.

“In the eye of a hurricane there is quiet

For just a moment

A yellow sky” ~Hamilton

I feel like I’m waiting in the calm of the storm. Having never gone through the eye of a hurricane (with hope that I never will), I can only imagine what that’s like. The anticipation. It feels restless. It feels scary. It feels exhausting. It feels exhilarating. It feels good. It feels free.

I don’t start classes until the 26th so I don’t really have anything I need to be doing so I’m trying to enjoy the stillness. I’ve never been one to take a pause and just breathe. So I’m working on it.

I went to Body Flow on Wednesday and stayed for the whole meditation. I’m figuring out my triggers and how to practice being calm when my anxious fight or flight response rears its ugliness. I breathe.

And I fail. And that’s okay. There’s grace for that.

And I try again.

Day 17 – Rockville MD to Santee SC

E: I miss the houses. I miss all the houses.

L: I miss all the houses, too, buddy.

E: I feel sad.

L: I feel sad, too. It’s okay to be sad.

My conversation with Elliot yesterday morning sums up how I feel about being on the tail end of a wonderful vacation. Clearly, he misses the people who live in the houses. Who he can’t keep straight because he is three and there were so so many loved ones we visited with over the past two and a half weeks.

As we drove home, I just wanted to be home already. If we couldn’t be en route to a loved one’s abode, then I just wanted the trip to be over. Especially when we were stopped in traffic in Maryland and Virginia and the we were all achingly sad with leaving our final friends’s house. We all dealt with our feelings in different but typical ways. Henry kept scratching his brother. Elliot threw things around the vehicle. Then Henry would throw things back. I anxiously tried to ignore everything, but did a terrible job because of the confined space. Keith stayed level-headed until all the other mess happening in the car got to him and he exploded once.

These bad behaviors occurred so briefly on our vacation that they stand out in memory as exceptions to the overall awesomeness. Don’t get me wrong, they often occurred when we rode in the car for an extended period of time. But then laughter would fill the air as Henry decided to make Elliot laugh instead of hurt him because that was more fun. Or we’d all listen to an audiobook waiting to hear how things would end for “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” or “Ugly Cat and Pablo.” Or a kid would fall asleep mid-sentence bringing the car to a peaceable silence. I couldn’t ask for better travel companions. I love them all the most.

We stopped at Santee State Park on the edge of Lake Marion before checking into our hotel for the night. A last-minute decision, its beauty at sunset filled the sky with warmth. We stood near the docks enjoying the cool breezes the end of the day brings, and then raced to the playground for the kids to burn off their sitting-all-day energy. We’ll have to return another day to conquer its several hiking trails. On our way out of the park as darkness surrounded us, we discovered 7 deer alongside the road including a fawn. The boys found them especially delightful. I forget how rare it is for suburban kids to see wild animals outside a zoo. I think I’m going to work on finding the wonder in the ordinary and see what happens.

Day 16 – Rockville MD

A nice way to close out a fantastic vacation is to not really have anything planned and to simply enjoy our friends’ company.

Kate and I (and all the little boys plus Keith) took a walking tour of two playgrounds and a trail. The littles liked climbing the rocks more than the actual playgrounds, as they should. Keith loved the large trees towering over the trail. We could have hit up a third playground to complete our play triangle, but our hunger for second breakfast persuaded us otherwise.

Swimming wore out the kids and created a meatball monster in Elliot. We calculated that he ate at least 10 meatballs as part of his lunch that included pasta and peas. During nap time, Henry pulled out his first tooth! It was a bit of a production before he got it out; ibuprofen plus a special placebo concoction created by Jon helped make the pain go away.

We finished the day was some blue bear ice cream sandwiches and loads of running around. Fueled by dessert or just full of energy, it was a joyous end to our day.