The Long and Winding Road

Our trip home took us across Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Jackson, Gadsen, Leon, and Jefferson counties (and that was simply along Interstate 10). Then, we headed south following U.S. 19 to avoid traffic nonsense on I-75 so we hit up Taylor, Dixie, Levy, Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco counties before arriving in our home county of Pinellas. 17 Florida counties (out of 67) on our return trip for a wild 8+ hour car ride. We are happy to be home.

We did some adventuring along the way with a visit to Falling Waters State Park in the Panhandle (Washington Co.) to see the tallest waterfall in Florida. Yes, you read that right – a waterfall exists in Florida. It is 73-feet tall and descends into a sinkhole in true Florida style. There are multiple sinkholes to see along a nice boardwalk trail, and wikipedia tells me that they were used as hideouts by Native Americans fighting against Andrew Jackson during the Seminole Wars.

My kids loved trying to throw rocks and leaves into the sinkholes when Keith and I weren’t looking (don’t they know that we are always watching?), running down the boardwalks, and fighting to be the leader of the hike. The other highlight was getting to see a fox squirrel build its nest, and simply being out of the car and not at a rest area/gas station along the highway.

Throwing sticks and leaves

While we were looking for lunch, we got alerts that a tornado warning had been issued for our county and given the previous weeks’ situation with tornadoes and the fact that there is literally no where to go to hide from tornadoes in Florida, I low-key panicked. Luckily, they were spotted about 45 minutes west of us so we quickly ate and got back on the road, refusing to stop for the kids until we were out of the panhandle. I don’t think any tornadoes touched down in the area where we were, but it was still scary. The rest of the car ride home was uneventful. We ate dinner in Crystal River and brought food to Keith’s parents (who were staying in a hotel there for the night), and then finished the long trek home.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip, and I would go back to Gulf Shores again (even though it’s the same Gulf of Mexico we have here in Pinellas). It’s nice to enjoy a change of scenery that is reminiscent of home.

Happy New Year – Let’s Go Outside & Explore!

We kicked off 2022 by heading outside to Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores for a bike ride around Lake Shelby, which is 750 acres across. As we drove through the park looking for a good place to begin our adventure, we noted that its infrastructure had to be created by Gulf oil spill and hurricane relief because it was clear that a LOT of money had been poured into making this park look awesome. There were long boardwalks across the water and the main highway so parkgoers could visit the beach, a newly designed playground, and a lodge/meeting space that we didn’t even see (but read about). It’s an immense park and we were excited to explore.

The Lake Shelby portion of Gulf State Park

As Keith readied all 4 of our bikes for the trail, I monitored the boys at an excellent playground that blended in well to the overall aesthetic of the park. Both boys loved the challenging ropes course, the variety of swings and things to climb, and the fact that they could run free for a bit to get excess energy out.

Elliot is getting more confident at biking, but he had some trouble getting used to the bumpiness of the boardwalk and the narrow lane he had to stay in while we passed people going the opposite direction. Just when he was finally comfortable with it, the boardwalk ended and he tried to bank a hard left like Henry easily accomplished in front of him. Turns out, he was NOT ready for that yet and fell into the swamp! Keith and I rushed to quickly get him out, and he was fine except for some scratches from the prickly grass.

After surviving the fall into the swamp!

The paved trail around the lake made for an excellent ride, although each boy managed an epic wipeout when they accidentally rode off the trail, resulting in scrapes and hurt egos. Elliot recovered better than Henry, but all of us finished the 7+ mile trail ride and lived to tell the tale.

Some kind of water structure that Grandpop would like.
Almost done!

We found a random seafood restaurant in town for lunch and managed to hold the boys off from getting cheap souvenirs from a place that had both a pirate ship and giant shark (on alternate sides of the building, naturally) to lure them in.

After siesta time at the rental, we drove to the beach at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge for sunset because I wanted to both end my year and start the next one with sunsets at the beach. A storm was brewing so we couldn’t swim (riptides galore and waves in the Gulf like it was trying to be the Atlantic Ocean), but we played in the soft white sand (Elliot made sand angels since it felt like the consistency of snow) and with a football.

Honestly, the best part of my first day of 2022 was throwing a Nerf football around with my boys in a silly game of monkey in the middle and the ridiculous giggling that ensued. I can’t adequately describe it, but I know that these are the moments I want to flourish this year – the ones of complete joy in the moment.

Elliot said it best when he summed up our beach-time:

We couldn’t stop the fun-ness!

What the fort?!

Outside Tacky Jacks 2

We spent the day in and around Fort Morgan. Ate a fantastic breakfast at Tacky Jacks 2, where our waitress never let my coffee mug be empty and the biscuits were light and fluffy. Henry wants to go back and eat more of their French toast. It was exactly what we needed to start our day.

The fog made the view cloudy until the sun peaked out, and then we had our first sightings of oil rigs in the bay/gulf which was totally weird and made us thankful that Florida currently has a ban on them in our waters.

For the rest of the morning we alternately swam in the unheated & chilly pool and hung out in the nice & hot hot tub. And around noon we had some special guests arrive to stay with us through Sunday – Oma & Opa!

We had planned to bring our bikes on the Mobile Ferry to Dauphin Island, but thanks to a fog advisory no pedestrians were being admitted on the boat (biking around the entirety of the Mobile Bay to return home was not enticing at all). So we changed our plans and visited Fort Morgan instead.

Entering the fort.
Entry tunnel to Fort Morgan

It was an awesome experience. First, we went inside its small museum full of items used at or worn by soldiers at the fort during its time of operation, which was from 1813 as Fort Bowyer until 1947. The kids liked seeing real cannonballs and rifles, and it was nice to get some background on a place we hadn’t heard about before visiting this area.

Fort Morgan (& its partner, Fort Gaines, on the other side of the entry point to the Mobile Bay) helped protect the area from forces during the War of 1812, the Civil War (although the “invaders” here were the Union troops), World War I, and World War II. I admit to being not knowledgeable about any kind of military history so I did my best to pay this place the respect its owed and learn what I could (while chasing my kids around).

After being turned over to the state of Alabama as a historical park in 1947 (and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960), the fort has been open to the public for visits. It currently is on the list of the “nation’s 10 most endangered battle sites” by the Civil War Preservation Trust because of shore erosion and crumbling infrastructure.

The fort itself consisted of a series of tunnels, including one you had to walk through to enter. Coming out of the entry tunnel you find yourself in the dry moat with a small drainage creek; this was where soldiers could easily move from one side of the fort to another under cover of walls on both sides. Once inside the fort, we were fascinated by the tunnels made of bricks, covered with the sediments of time. The boys loved climbing giant-sized stairs to the roof where they could see the beaches and try to escape from their parents (which was kind of horrifying, given that the railings weren’t huge and the roof was sloped with rivets in places.

Because Fort Morgan was utilized in so many American wars, it had a couple of cool features that allowed our imagination to run wild. First up – the Battery Duportail, added in 1898-1899 – which created two 12-inch breech loading rifles that served as “Disappearing Guns” in battle. They would rise up out of the ground, fire their explosives, and then drop back down for reloading. Pretty genius move to protect the soldiers from enemy fire.

Battery Duportail

For World War II, concerns about U-boats infiltrating and barricading the Mobile Bay caused the construction of a circular concrete gun mount (two were actually built, but only one exists today). This allowed firing on a wider area. The fort was primarily used as an ordnance depot for ships during the war.

Turning back time to the terrible Indian Removal Act of 1830, Fort Morgan had a hand in assisting with the removal of 3,500 Muskogee Creek members from the interior of Alabama as a stopping point on their way to Arkansas and then further west. 93 members of the Muskogee Nation died at Fort Morgan from disease and exposer to its extreme temperatures. As I walked around the fort after learning this, I quickly recognized that the fort was not capable of housing that number of people and was horrified with myself that I’d never deeply thought about the places Native Americans were forced to stay as the government forced them off their land. I would have liked to see more about this at Fort Morgan both in its museum and in the fort itself.

The historic site did a great job depicting the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864 through panels utilizing colors (red & blue) to identify boat positions and attacking formations for the fleets, as well as riveting text and artwork. Admiral Farragut led the Union forces to victory, first in the water and then took the fort via a siege. Part of the problem for the Union ships were the torpedos (think land mines, not like torpedos today) blocking entry to the bay. The only ship lost in the battle – The Tecumsah – sank within a minute of being hit. After some time passed likely rendering the torpedoes ineffective, it was reported that Admiral Farragut shouted, “Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead!” His action to push the ships through the confusion of battle (& in the hopes that the torpedoes couldn’t explode) decisively turned the battle in favor of the Union forces.

Battery Thomas – built 1898 with mounted rapid fire guns to protect the defensive mine field located across the entrance to Mobile Bay

After we finished our fort tour, we played on the beach until the park closed, finishing the last day of 2021 at one of our happy places – the Gulf of Mexico.

Thankful we don’t have offshore drilling in Florida!
Goodbye 2021!

P.S. – Since Keith’s parents were with us, Keith & I went out to dinner at a total dive called the Flying Harpoon, where the beer was ice cold, the seafood fried to perfection, and the artwork lining all portions of the walls and ceiling – questionable. We recommend it.

Art at the Flying Harpoon
(zoom in for shenanigans)

Road Tripping with the Littles – Winter Holiday Edition

Today we drove. And we drove. And we drove. And by we, I mean Keith drove and the boys and I rode from Seminole, FL to Fort Morgan, AL for 537 miles across the length of the Florida Panhandle which is not for the faint-hearted. It goes on…

FOREVER. And ever ever.

It did NOT take us 7 h 40 m, not even close.

Made even longer by a million rest stops needed by some or all of us, including 2 interstate shoulder stops to re-secure a bicycle that kept coming partially undone from our roof racks. We also took the boys to the illustrious Waffle House in Lake City for their first visit, and it was a hit! They liked watching their food get made, and that it quickly arrived.

Waffle House – Lake City, FL

“They serve the best waffles here, Henry exclaimed,” after quickly finishing his plate-sized waffle at the Waffle House.

We stopped by the local Publix on our way into town for subs, and made it to our little vacation rental/settled in for the weekend.

We’re sad our Southern California trip had to be cancelled last minute, but I think this place will be a great replacement and refreshing way to begin the New Year. It’s the boys’ (including Keith’s) first trip to Alabama, and I’m pretty sure they already love it. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Our vacation rental is in a neighborhood called The Rookery, which is near Fort Morgan & Mobile Point.

Henry’s Book List 2020 – Age 6 years 8 months to 7 years 7 months

Henry loves reading so much, and it makes this mama proud. He is rarely found without a book (or several) nearby as he has discovered that the time is always right for a good book. He definitely is most into graphic novels, but also enjoys adventurous chapter books. It’s difficult to find a sweet spot for a 7 year old reading at a higher grade level – he wants pictures to accompany the text. I don’t really deny him any books he wants to read due to content but some I make him read with me. His favorite series last year included The Bad Guys, The Last Kids on Earth, Minecraft Woodsword Chronicles, Dream Jumpers, Olga, InvestiGators, Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid, Hilda, Super Sons, Big Nate and Max & the Midknights, Dog Man, Cleopatra in Space, Harry Potter, 5 Worlds, Wings of Fire, Baby-Sitters Club, Hilo, Secret Coders, and Science Comics.

Here’s the full list of what he read, in alphabetical order by author’s last name (I think it’s complete – it’s been hard to keep up with him!):

  • Giants Beware! (2012) by Jorge Aguirre [DID NOT LIKE]
  • Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot! (2019) by Cece Bell
    • El Deafo (2014) by Cece Bell
    • Wildheart: The Daring Adventures of John Muir (2019) by Julie Bertagna
    • The Bad Guys – Dawn of the Underlord (#11) (2020) by Aaron Blabey
    • The Bad Guys – The Baddest Day Ever (#10) (2019) by Aaron Blabey
    • The Bad Guys – The Big Bad Wold (#9) (2019) by Aaron Blabey
    • The Last Kids on Earth & the Midnight Blade (#5) (2019) by Max Braillier, Douglas Holgate
    • The Last Kids on Earth and the Cosmic Beyond (#4) (2018) by Max Brallier, Douglas Holgate
    • The Last Kids on Earth & the Nightmare King (#3) (2017) by Max Brallier
    • The Last Kids on Earth & the Zombie Parade (#2) (2016) by Max Brallier
    • The Last Kids on Earth (#1) (2015) by Max Brallier
    • Star Wars: Jedi Academy (#1) (2013) by Jeffrey Brown [DID NOT LIKE]
    • The Sign of the Black Rock (Three Thieves #2) (2011) by Scott Chantler
    • Tower of Treasure (Three Thieves #1) (2010) by Scott Chantler
    • The Last Firehawk – The Ember Stone (#1) by Katrina Charman [DID NOT LIKE]
    • The Weirn Books, Vol. 1: Be Wary of the Silent Woods (2020) by Svetlana Chmakova
    • Zantana & the House of Secrets (2020) by Matthew Cody
    • George’s Marvelous Medicine (1998 edition) by Roald Dahl
    • Minecraft Woodsword Chronicles – Dungeon Crawl (#5) (2019) by Nick Eliopulos
    • Minecraft Woodsword Chronicles – Ghast in the Machine! (#4) (2019) Nick Eliopulos
    • Minecraft Woodsword Chronicles – Deep Dive (#3) (2019) by Nick Eliopulos
    • Minecraft Woodsword Chronicles – Night of the Bats! (#2) (2019) by Nick Eliopulos
    • Minecraft Woodsword Chronicles – Into the Game (#1) (2019) by Nick Eliopulos
    • Glitch (2019) by Sarah Graley
    • Olga – Out of Control! (#3) (2019) by Elise Gravel
    • Olga – We’re Out of Here! (#2) (2018) by Elise Gravel
    • Olga & the Smelly Thing from Nowhere (#1) (2017) by Elise Gravel
    • InvestiGators (#1) (2020) by John Patrick Green
    • Dream Jumper – Curse of the Harvester (#2) (2017) by Greg Grunberg
    • Dream Jumper – Nightmare Escape (#1) (2016) by Greg Grunberg
    • Carmen Sandiego & The Fishy Treasure Caper (#2) (2020) by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
    • Carmen Sandiego and the Sticky Rice Caper (#1) by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
    • Mighty Jack & Zita the Spacegirl (#3) (2019) by Ben Hatke
    • Mighty Jack and the Goblin King (#2) (2017) by Ben Hatke
    • Mighty Jack (#1) (2016) by Ben Hatke
    • The Return of Zita the Spacegirl (#3) (2014) by Ben Hatke
    • Legends of Zita the Spacegirl (#2) (2012) by Ben Hatke
    • Zita the Space Girl (#1) (2011) by Ben Hatke
    • Sal & Gabi Break the Universe (#1) (2019) by Carlos Hernandez
    • Roller Girl (2015) by Victoria Jamieson [DID NOT LIKE]
    • Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker (#1) (2017) by Shelley Johannes [DID NOT LIKE]
    • The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1) (2008) by Kazu Kibuishi
    • Diary of a Wimpy Kid – The Deep End (#15) (2020) by Jeff Kinney
    • Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid – Rowley Jefferson’s Journal (2019) by Jeff Kinney
    • Diary of An Awesome Friendly Kid – Rowley Jefferson’s Awesome Friendly Adventure (2020) by Jeffrey Kinney
    • Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Wrecking Ball (#14) (2019) by Jeff Kinney
    • Diary of a Wimpy Kid – The Meltdown (#13) (2018) by Jeff Kinney
    • Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Double Down (#11) (2016) by Jeff Kinney
    • Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Old School (#10) (2015) by Jeff Kinney
    • Diary of a Wimpy Kid – The Long Haul (#9) (2014) by Jeff Kinney
    • Captain Awesome Takes Flight (#19) (2017) by Stan Kirby [DONE READING THIS SERIES]
    • Bug Boys (2020) by Laura Knetzger
    • Cleopatra in Space – Queen of the Nile (#6) (2020) by Mike Maihack
    • Cleopatra in Space – Fallen Empires (#5) (2019) by Mike Maihack
    • Cleopatra in Space – The Golden Lion (#4) (2017) by Mike Maihack
    • Cleopatra in Space – Secret of the Time Tablets (#3) (2016) by Mike Maihack
    • Cleopatra in Space – The Thief & the Sword (#2) (2015) by Mike Maihack
    • Cleopatra in Space – Target Practice (#1) (2014) by Mike Maihack
    • Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat – Enemies (#2) (2020) by Johnny Marciano, Emily Chenoweth [DONE READING THIS SERIES]
    • Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat (#1) (2019) by Johnny Marciano, Emily Chenoweth
    • Frank & Bean (2019) by Jamie Michalak [DID NOT LIKE]
    • Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth (2007) by Davis Miller
    • Olympians – Zeus: King of the Gods (#1) (2010) by George O’Connor [DID NOT LIKE]
    • Magic Tree House – Narwhal on a Sunny Night (#33) (2020) by Mary Pope Osborne
    • Magic Tree House Super Edition – World at War, 1944 (#1) (2017) by Mary Pope Osborne
    • Magic Tree House – Night of the Ninth Dragon (#55) (2016) by Mary Pope Osborne
    • Magic Tree House – Hurry Up, Houdini! (#50) (2013) by Mary Pope Osborne
    • Magic Tree House Merlin Missions – Summer of the Sea Serpent (#3) (2010) by Mary Pope Osborne
    • Magic Tree House – Monday with a Mad Genius (#38) (2007) by Mary Pope Osborne
    • Hilda & the Mountain King (#6) (2019) by Luke Pearson
    • Hilda & the Stone Forest (#5) (2016) by Luke Pearson
    • Hilda & the Black Hound (#4) 2014) by Luke Pearson
    • Hilda & the Bird Parade (#3) (2013) by Luke Pearson
    • Hilda & the Midnight Giant (#2) (2012) by Luke Pearson
    • Hildafolk (#1) (2010) by Luke Pearson
    • Super Sons – The Polarshield Project (2019) by Ridley Pearson
    • Super Sons – The Foxglove Mission (2019) by Ridley Pearson
    • Max and the Midknights (#1) (2019) by Lincoln Peirce
    • Big Nate Blasts Off (#8) (2016) by Lincoln Peirce
    • Big Nate Lives It UP (#7) (2015) by Lincoln Peirce
    • Big Nate: In the Zone (#6) (2014) by Lincoln Peirce
    • Big Nate Flips Out (#5) (2013) by Lincoln Peirce
    • Big Nate on a Roll (#3) (2011) by Lincoln Peirce
    • Big Nate Strikes Again (#2) (2010) by Lincoln Peirce
    • Big Nate: In a Class by Himself (#1) (2010) by Lincoln Peirce
    • The Postman from Space (#1) (2020) by Guillaume Perreault
    • Knights vs. The End (#3) (2020) by Matt Phelan
    • Knights vs. Monsters (#2) (2019) by Matt Phelan
    • Knights vs. Dinosaurs (#1) (2018) by Matt Phelan
    • Aster and the Accidental Magic (#1) (2020) by Thom Pico
    • Dog Man – Grime and Punishment (#9) (2020) by Dav Pilkey
    • Dog Man – Fetch-22 (#8) (2019) by Dav Pilkey
    • Captain Underpants & the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot (#12) (2015) by Dav Pilkey
    • Captain Underpants & the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000 (#11) (2014) by Dav Pilkey
    • Super Diaper Baby – The Invasion of the Potty Snatchers (#2) (2011) by Dav Pilkey
    • Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot vs. the Mecha Monkeys from Mars (2007) by Dav Pilkey
    • Captain Underpants & the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People (#8) (2006) by Dav Pilkey
    • Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot vs. the Voodoo Vultures from Venus (#3) (2001) by Dav Pilkey
    • Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot vs. the Mutant Mosquitos from Mercury (#2) (2000) by Dav Pilkey
    • Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot (#1) (1999) by Dav Pilkey
    • Anti/Hero (2020) by Kate Karyus Quinn
    • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003) by J.K. Rowling
    • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000) by J.K. Rowling
    • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999) by J.K. Rowling
    • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998) by J.K. Rowling
    • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1997) by J.K. Rowling
    • Sidekicks (2011) by Dan Santat
    • Frank Einstein & the Antimatter Motor (#1) (2014) by Jon Scieszka
    • Doodleville (#1) (2020) by Chad Sell
    • 5 Worlds – The Amber Anthem (#4) (2020) by Mark Siegel
    • 5 Worlds – The Red Maze (#3) (2019) by Mark Siegel
    • 5 Worlds The Cobalt Prince (#2) (2018) by Mark Siegel & Alexis Siegel
    • 5 Worlds The Sand Warrior (#1) (2017) by Mark Siegel & Alexis Siegel
    • Mr. Wolf’s Class Mystery Club (#2) (2019) by Aron Nels Steinke
    • Mr. Wolf’s Class (#1) (2018) by Aron Nels Steinke
    • Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novel – The Sewer Rat Stink (#1) (2020) by Geronimo Stilton
    • Wings of Fire Graphic Novel – The Hidden Kingdom (#3) (2019) by Tui T. Sutherland
    • Wings of Fire Graphic Novel – The Lost Heir (#2) (2019) by Tui T. Sutherland
    • Wings of Fire Graphic Novel – The Dragonet Prophecy (#1) (2018) by Tui T. Sutherland
    • Yorick & Bones (2020) by Jeremy Tankard
    • Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novel: The Truth About Stacy (#2) (2016) by Raina Telgemeier, Ann M. Martin
    • Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novel: Kristy’s Great Idea (#1) (2015) by Raina Telgemeier, Ann M. Martin
    • Ghosts (2016) by Raina Telgemeier
    • Guts (2019) by Raina Telgemeier
    • The Hobbit (1937) J.R.R. Tolkien
    • Action Presidents – Abraham Lincoln! (#2) (2018) by Fred Van Lente
    • Action Presidents – George Washington! (#1) (2020) by Fred Van Lente
    • Dragonbreath #1 (2009) by by Ursula Vernon (DID NOT LIKE)
    • The Boxcar Children – Journey on a Runaway Train (#1) (2017) by Gertrude Chandler Warner
    • Kerry & the Knight of the Forest (2020) by Andi Watson
    • Mia Mayhem Steals the Show! (#8) (2020) by Kara West
    • Mia Mayhem Gets X-Ray Specs (#7) by Kara West
    • Mia Mayhem vs. The Mighty Robot (#6) (2019) by Kara West
    • Dragon Masters – Fortress of the Stone Dragon (#17) (2020) by Tracey West
    • Dragon Masters – Call of the Sound Dragon (#16) (2020) by Tracey West
    • Dragon Masters – Future of the Time Dragon (#15) (2020) by Tracey West
    • Dragon Masters – Eye of the Earthquake Dragon (#13) (2019) by Tracey West
    • Dragon Masters – Treasure of the Gold Dragon (#12) (2018) by Tracey West
    • Dragon Masters – Shine of the Silver Dragon (#11) (2018) by Tracey West
    • Dragon Masters – Waking the Rainbow Dragon (#10) (2018) by Tracey West
    • Dragon Masters – Chill of the Ice Dragon (#9) (2018) by Tracey West
    • Dragon Masters – Roar of the Thunder Dragon (#8) (2017) by Tracey West
    • Dragon Masters – Search for the Lightning Dragon (#7) (2017) by Tracey West
    • Dragon Masters – Flight of the Moon Dragon (#6) (2016) by Tracey West
    • Dragon Masters – Song of the Poison Dragon (#5) (2016) by Tracey West
    • Dragon Masters – Power of the Fire Dragon (#4) (2015) by Tracey West
    • Dragon Masters – Secret of the Water Dragon (#3) (2015) by Tracey West
    • Hilo – All the Pieces Fit (#6) (2020) by Judd Winick
    • Hilo – Then Everything Went Wrong (#5) (2019) by Judd Winick
    • Hilo – Waking the Monsters (#4) (2018) by Judd Winick
    • Hilo – The Great Big Boom (#3) (2017) by Judd Winick
    • Hilo – Saving the Whole Wide World (#2) (2016) by Judd Winick
    • Hilo – The Boy Who Crashed to Earth (#1) (2015) by Judd Winick
    • Secret Coders – Monsters & Modules (#6) (2018) by Gene Luen Yang
    • Secret Coders – Potions & Parameters (#5) (2018) by Gene Luen Yang
    • Secret Coders – Robots & Repeats (#4) (2017) by Gene Luen Yang
    • Secret Coders – Secrets & Sequences (#3) (2017) by Gene Luen Yang
    • Secret Coders – Paths & Portals (#2) (2016) by Gene Luen Yang
    • Secret Coders (#1) (2015) by Gene Luen Yang
    • Science Comics – Cats: Nature and Nurture (2019) by Andy Hirsch
    • Science Comics – Dinosaurs: Fossils & Feathers (2016) by M.K. Reed
    • Science Comics – Volcanoes: Fire & Life (2016) by Jon Chad

    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


    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.”


    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


    • 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)


    • 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


    • 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)


    • 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)