July 2nd, 2015

The Power of Old Friends

They met when they could barely even wave across the room to each other, when they were young enough to nap multiple times a day and just be content smiling and reaching and maybe sitting up a bit. They were six and eight months old, happy babies in the same daycare room.

They were toddlers, one and two, together there too, learning to share and draw lines with color and feed themselves. They played dolls and ran outside and loved their teachers.

They were three and imagined new worlds together, planted bean plants and watched them grow, learned their ABCs and put on puppet shows, told stories and acted silly and sometimes were lucky enough to nap next to each other.

They were four and learning to write their names and glue and cut and paint. Learning to speak up for themselves and each other.

Every year of their daycare journey together, they learned, most of all, how to be good friends.

And then they were five and went to different schools. But they didn’t forget.

When I first left my first baby at daycare, I cried so hard for so many days I thought I’d never recover. I thought of all I was missing and all that I was depriving her of.

Now, seven years later, as these girls who haven’t seen each other for months come together like they’ve known each other their whole lives (because they have), I see the gift I unknowingly gave her.

She’s seven, but she already knows what it’s like to be in the company of an old friend.

Old Friends

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July 1st, 2015

Summer Reading for 2nd Graders – What Nora’s Reading

The books are stacked high next to her bed these days. And when it’s quiet in the house in the few weeks we have at home together a fair guess is that she’s in her room reading. She read in the car for hours last week on our road trip – making me jealous since reading in the car makes me car sick. I watch her and I return to the summer days I remember as a kid, on my brother’s top bunk or curled up in a chair reading whatever my dad had given me for that summer’s stack.

She’s an avid reader whose skill surpasses her maturity. Last year I wrote about her favorite chapter books as a beginning reader – the books perfect for her age, Ivy and Bean, Cam Jansen, Magic Treehouse. She loved those. So our challenge has been finding books that aren’t “too easy,” that she won’t just finish in one sitting, that still have content that fits her age.  Lately we’ve found some good ones.

What Nora Reads

Earlier in the year, as her teacher encouraged her to read some non-fiction, she wasn’t too excited. We went in search of a biography for her to read since I was pretty sure she’d love learning about some interesting historical figures. She’s now read three or four from the Who Was series of biographies. These books are pretty perfect for this age level and they have a pretty good selection of people to read about – from the traditional ones I remember reading as a kid to some modern men and women with interesting stories.

When I like an author, I want to read everything they’ve ever written. Nora has the same tendency so far. This year, she’s read – both as in-school read-alouds and at home books – all of Beverly Cleary. Watching her read through the Ramona series and on to Henry Huggins and then into the animal books, I had a new appreciation for Cleary’s amazing power to harness childhood. She hit with perfection the moments that matter to seven year olds and she wrote them in a writing style still suited for young readers. As much as Nora loved Ramona (she read Ramona Forever three times at least), she loved Socks even more. The cat and the new baby and all the moments as only Cleary can say it.

Another author she loves is Annie Barrows, writer of the Ivy and Bean series that still tops Nora’s list of favorites. We tried reading Barrow’s new series, The Magic Half, together as a read-aloud. It was poignantly written and just complex enough to keep both of us interested each evening. We haven’t yet read any other books in the series, but I know Barrows is an author we will return to.

One thing that sort of surprises me about Nora’s reading is that she doesn’t at all fit the “girls only” reader profile. I’ve always liked books with female protagonists and girl power aspect, but she is drawn right now to all kinds of books – including ones I wouldn’t have suggested for her but that she found on her own. She loved the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series so much and read all nine in just a few months. After closing the page on book 9, she had her first series let down. It was over and she couldn’t imagine a series she’d ever like as much.

So we went shopping for more books (one of our favorite things to do… surprise surprise). She found two more series that have lifted her sadness of finishing Wimpy Kid. The first is Big Nate. Like Wimpy Kid, these books have a boy at the center who has many frustrations and a great sense of humor. There are also the illustrations from the comic he draws, giving it a similar feel to Wimpy Kid.  She’s read three of these so far and gives them a firm thumbs up.

The other series she found was one she keeps gushing over. It’s the best ever, she says. And from what she’s told me about the story of the human turned mermaid and the forbidden love between humans and mer people, I sort of want to read it myself. This book is the biggest reading stretch for her – it is her first with smaller type and 16 longer chapters. I knew she could do it – her reading skills were up to it – but at first she was intimidated by it. When it was finally the only thing left to read on our vacation, she reluctantly picked it up and then refused to put it down. “Just a little more reading, PLEASE!” is the best sentence I ever hear and when she found out there are six more books in the series, she jumped for joy. The Tail of Emily Windsnap is probably her number one summer reading pick.

I have a whole shelf of books waiting for her when she gets just a bit older. But this middle place is proving pretty awesome too. She’s finding the power of stories and reading all different things. Nothing makes me happier than an open book in the hands of my kids.

What are your kids reading? What should I add to Nora’s summer reading pile? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments!

2nd grade summer reading
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June 30th, 2015

Looking For The Words

“She may pick up her pen and follow it with her hand as it moves across the paper; she may pick up her pen and find that she’s merely herself, a woman in a housecoat holding a pen, afraid and uncertain, only mildly competent, with no idea about where to begin or what to write.” –The Hours


She’s been asking for a dictionary so today we went and bought one.

Tonight she flipped to the Bs. Brake. Break. Bozo. Build. Verbs. Nouns. Adjectives. Familiar and not. Serious and funny. So many words.

We sat together, tucked tightly in the chair in her room, heavy book over our lap. I taught her about guide words and abbreviations. We talked about parts of speech that she already knew from school. We reveled in how a word as simple as brake or break can mean so many different things.

And she sat, amazed, that words could all be collected into one big book.

“This is a good dictionary,” she said as we closed it for the night and settled in for reading chapter books.

Looking For The Words

I not so secretly hoped before she could even talk that she would be a lover of words. That she and I and then later her brother too would sit and revel in the power of language to evoke and illustrate and to make change.

Words and belief are tightly woven together.

This always seemed so simple and obvious to me.

But lately I’ve found words more elusive, more simplistic than they need to be, too simple to help me find what I want to say.

So much has happened in the world recently that sometimes this blank screen and flashing cursor seem too much for me. I want to write about the important things, the things that should no longer be brushed aside or chalked up to the-way-it-is.  I want to talk about South Carolina and race, about burning churches and flags that should no longer fly, about Bree Newsome and standing up for change. I want to say something because saying nothing seems just so wrong. But then I stare at the screen and I’m paralyzed. There are so many words but what do I say? What can I say that won’t just seem overly simplistic? What words could possibly be right?

I’ve felt the same way recently when I try to talk about these things with her, when I try to explain the images on my screen or why I’m tearing up while listening to Obama break into song. I don’t know how to explain to her what I think I’m just really beginning to truly see for myself – that these conversations aren’t about the simple words we can define from the dictionary – racism, oppression, prejudice. It’s not about just repeating the mantra that everyone is equal. These conversations have to run so much deeper than that. They have to go to the uneasy places.

So I start.

I start to find words to talk about inequality and past injustices, about why I’m not comfortable letting her brother play with guns. She can be amazed and angered by lessons in school about segregation and repeat facts about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. But while she and I talk about what’s changed, I also can’t help but try to explain that racism and inequality isn’t something for history books that we close and think about another day. The job of working to break down injustices that hide in plain sight is still a job of now. Of today and tomorrow and the next day.

“Do you like to read or write better,” she asks me. Both, I tell her. But writing is harder. It’s easy to take in other people’s artfully crafted words, but putting your own in the exact right way? That’s never easy. Sometimes I’m not sure what I want to say or how I want to say it.

“What are you trying to write about,” she asks as I tuck her into bed. Charleston and race and not knowing how to face a blank screen again.

What are the right words to write?

I am not sure. But I’m facing the blank screen, picking up my pen, afraid and uncertain, and I’m looking for them.

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June 10th, 2015

Transparently Smitten

“He is transparently smitten with her; he is comic and tragic in his hopeless love. He makes her think sometimes of a mouse singing amorous ballads under the window of a giantess.” –The Hours


He wraps his arms around me as tightly as he can. His legs too.

“I don’t want you to go,” he says. “I want only you.”

I unpeel him from me as his teacher watches, try to set him down and kiss him goodbye and head for the door.

He follows me, tears springing from his eyes. He reattaches and we work to pull him off and away.

“I want only you,” he says.


He’s sitting on the rug playing with his dinosaurs and his cars, telling a tale of his own world where the two can coexist. He narrates quietly as he moves around and rearranges. He’s always telling a story and I’m always straining to listen. Will he narrate his life always, like I do? Will he grow out of it as his sister did?

He stops suddenly. Looks up.

“I love you, Mom,” he declares, out of the blue.

“I love you too, Miles,” I say.

And then he’s back to his story, to the dinosaurs being friendly, to the cars driving off on adventures, to a world I’m only half privy to even as he declares his devotion.



He’s kicking and screaming at the suggestion that it isn’t my night to give him his bath or read his books.

“I only like you,” he says.

“I only want you,” he repeats.

I read to his sister as he adjusts to the idea of not having me within immediate reach. He settles in away from me, having fun in his bath, reading his books with someone else.

But he always comes back.

It is always me he wants.



He sits in his car seat behind me and declares that I am too far away.

“I want you,” he says.

“But I’m right here,” I say.

“I want you closer,” he clarifies.


His big eyes look at me and beg me not to leave.

His little hands hold tight onto me as I inch away.

I memorize the feel of his small hands, the weight of his four-year-old body. I know the exact placement of the chip in his tooth and the way that his hair moves always to the right. I hug him back tight and wish he’d always stay small.


Sometimes his huge love feels more like a trap than a gift.

Sometimes, after days and days of clinging and hugging and only-yous, of all the I-want-yous and no-one-elses, I crumble under the weight of it. I crumble under the weight of being constantly needed. And then I crumble more as the guilt for losing my patience or ignoring requests slowly sinks in.

It can’t be only me, I try to explain.

I know you need me.


I need me too.




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June 2nd, 2015

Lessons I Learned From My First Grader’s Backpack



Her backpack is worn, the seams showing the wear of the school year, the early mornings when we rushed out the door, the late afternoons when we all met up back at home and she threw her backpack on the ground only for me to pick it up and look for buried treasure. In a few short days the ritual of peeking into the backpack, of pulling out papers and worksheets, drawings and other surprises will be over. She will be a whole school-year smarter. And so will I.

Each day I pull the treasures out of her backpack and sort them out. What goes right into the trash? What goes onto our pin-board of important papers? What goes into the growing box of things I just can’t part with? Many days as I pulled the papers from her bag, I learned too. I relearned what I probably once knew. I saw for the first time things that were right in front of me that only seven-year-olds put gently into words.

I learned from her and her teacher who clearly nurtured her heart as well as her mind. This is what my first-grader taught me this year:
FullSizeRender (62)Learning is a hobby. 

Like soccer and dance, reading and legos, learning is just another way we entertain ourselves. School is a place to go and hone this hobby, to practice like you would a sport. Learning happens when we are doing things we love – our hobbies teach us and shape us. Learning is maybe the most important one.

We are all smartEveryone is smart. And everyone deserves to do things each day that remind them of that. 

I’m a sap and I totally teared up when I read this. Drawing makes me feel awful about myself – it is not anywhere near the top of my talent list. But it is atop hers and she already knows that power of doing something you love, something that makes you feel confident. We are all smart and we all should take time to do what makes us feel our best.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Everyone has something to share. And good friends support each other’s endeavors.

On a mini-market day she painted her classmates’ nails for ten cents of fake money. Her friends sold blank books with decorated covers, envelopes filled with affirmations and random surprises, snowflakes cut by hand right there in front of you, bows made of duck tape. They all thought of what they had to share and what it was maybe worth. The excitement about buying and selling what her friends had to offer kept her floating for days. We can all learn from that, right? Look for what we have to share and encourage our friends to do the same?

They noticeOur children know us better than we give them credit for. 

On Mother’s day she made me a book. Each page was a truth of who I was – a reader and writer, a teacher and a mother who sometimes loses her patience. Each page taught me that she notices. She takes stock. Most of the time I feel like I am the only noticer. That I am the only one who sees every new centimeter of growth, every new expression, every habit forming. But I learned that she sees me too.



Everyone has a good side. We just need to take the time to look for it. 

She’s forgiving and always looks for the reason why people act the way they do. I forget to do that sometimes, forget that I can’t just rush to judgment or write people off because of their mistakes. She teaches me to look for the good, to be patient with people.

Taylor Sparrow


Taylor Swift is awesome. And finding your voice is the best ending of all. 

In her story, a baby sparrow loves to sing. With the help of her mother and friends, she makes it big like Taylor Swift, whose music we blast in the mornings on the way to school, shaking it off and dancing in our seats like 7:30 am isn’t too early to have a little fun. She already sees the power in finding your voice, of shaking it off and not taking everything too seriously.  And she helps me relearn this too.

IMG_7870Love looks like all sorts of ordinary things. 

Love isn’t the big stuff, the grand gestures. Love is what they see around them in the mundane moments, the time in the back yard, the trading of turns, the listening to directions we may not want to follow. In the every day rush of life, these little things matter more than we sometimes know.

FullSizeRender (63)


Life is better when you are curious and compassionate and ready for surprises. 

“I have something awesome to show you in my backpack,” she said. And after a year of papers and drawing, random trinkets from the prize box and notes home about fundraisers, I wasn’t at all ready for what she had. In a closed ziploc bag, she had taken home a dead baby bird. The nest rested in a tree on the way to the playground and she and a friend had seen the baby on the ground, having fallen out of the nest too soon. “I promise I didn’t touch it,” she said – knowing that would be my first question. She had carried it around on two sticks she found, brought it to her classroom and asked the teacher if she could have a bag to take it home. She thought it was cute, she said. And wanted to bury it. Her teacher, who has encouraged compassion and curiosity above all, agreed to send it home. At first I wasn’t sure what to think. A dead baby bird in a bag? But then I realized that this was another lesson for me. A lesson she’s learned in first grade and I guess I’v relearned too. Life is better when you are curious and compassionate and ready for surprises.





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May 31st, 2015

Words In: What I’m Reading

I’ve been absent from here for a few weeks now. Long enough that I’m starting to feel uneasy about it. Uneasy with the lack of stories I’ve been slowing to take stock of, the absence of words aching to find their way out. In a few short days it will be summer. I won’t call it summer vacation since I’m working a whole lot, but it will be summer and it will be different and slower and I promise myself that I’ll take the time to find the words again.

These past few weeks I’ve once again been letting the words in. Since I wrote last time about what I read, I’ve finished five more books, some of which I was happy to end and some of which I will keep with me for a long time.

Here’s what I read this month.

Words In

High off of my Fangirl reading binge, I immediately dove into another of Rainbow Rowell’s novels.  Attachments was her first novel and it was a throwback to Y2K and  the start of Internet security. I really enjoyed the main character and his growth throughout the book. And while it wasn’t my favorite Rowell book (I’m not sure anything can ever top Eleanor and Park and Fangirl…) I did really enjoy it. If you remember the Y2K hype, want to read about a cute office romance and you’re looking for a quick and fun read from an amazing author, I recommend Attachments.


After Attachments, I started We Were Liars. It was so so good. I feel like I can’t really write about it without giving too much away. Not many books have endings that just blow me away. This is one that did. The setting of the book is so well developed, New England Island culture and wealth playing a huge role in how the story and characters develop. And, like a few other YA books I’ve read recently, there are multiple allusions to Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. Since that is one of my all-time favorites, I find it so interesting that it seems to be a book that keeps popping up in all these other titles I’m reading. We Were Liars is well written and really takes you breath away at the end. Read it!

I really wanted to branch out from the girly books I love to read. Since a friend and I are trying to read our way through the Mock Printz 2015 list, we decided to try Grasshopper Jungle. Both of us excitedly read the first 50 or so pages. It was refreshing to read from a boy’s perspective about sexual identity and small town life. But the book promised a strange apocolyptical twist that just took too long to develop. And this book also made me realize again how important writing style is for me as a reader. This book was just so full of repetitive simple sentences. I skimmed a huge portion of the book and then read the last 50 or so pages. The ending was so disappointing. And the sentences grated on my nerves. If you share my taste in books, this one probably isn’t for you.

After a year of reading together, my students usually figure out my taste in books pretty well. This year a student brought me a suggested read, which I thought was super awesome. I love that our reading suggestions became a two-way street. After she read Eleanor and Park and loved it, she left me to read Wherever Nina Lies. I read the book in two sittings – it was quick and easy, had interesting characters and a nice flow. I knew from the start of this seeming romance book that there had to be a twist. And there was such a twist it wasn’t at all what I had worked hard to predict from the start. A girl who searches for her lost sister and finds herself in a tangled social web has to suddenly figure out how to grow up and fend for herself in ways she never predicted. I really enjoyed the book and the great conversation my student and I shared about the surprise ending. 

Last, and by far not the least, I read Brown Girl Dreaming. A memoir of a childhood told in simple verse poetry, this book took my breath away page after page. This is the writing I aspire to -the way to weave memory and words into moments that speak truth without saying too much. The poems lead us through Jacqueline Woodson’s childhood in South Carolina and New York City. The way she captures the moments – some vivid and detailed and some just a whisper of her past – represents how we all remember. Her story is unique and her ability to move the story forward in this unique style puts this  book in my top five recent reads. If you haven’t read this yet, and you love words and stories as much as I do, this is a must for your summer list.

While I might be disappointed that I haven’t been writing more often, I am proud of how much I’ve been reading. Checking out and into a book is good for me. So for now, words in outweigh words out.

What have you been reading? What should I add to my summer must-read list? I’d love to hear in the comments.

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May 10th, 2015

My Mother, Myself

I was on the news this week, an interview that lasted all of 7 seconds. I watched it with my own kids piled around me, watching for their mom’s moment on the screen. And suddenly there I was, pink shirt and straightened hair, talking about education and changing the way we do things.

I watched and I saw myself.

I watched and I saw my mother.

My mother is a thinker, someone with ideas and passion and lots to say about the things that matter to her – that matter to me too. She thinks and talks and her eyes close as she processes the next best word to use, the most precise way to make her point.

I’ve always noticed she does this.

I’ve never noticed that I do too.

Lately I can see the truth in the statement, “I’m becoming my mother.” I’ve always heard people say this as a negative, in the ugh can you believe this is happening to me kind of way.

But if I’m becoming my mother, I certainly won’t complain.

Last year I took a strengths test as a part of a special program at work. We took a 30 minute online questionnaire and it spat back out my top five strengths.

As I read the descriptions of who this test thought I was, I couldn’t help but marvel at how exactly right it was. And I also immediately wondered what it would say about my mother since I had the immediate realization that many of these strengths, the best parts of me, also described her.

She took the test too. And, sure enough, 4 out of 5 of our strengths are the same.

We are thinkers.

We are diligent.

We are learners.

We are keepers of information (I’m also a keeper of stuff and my mother is most certainly not).

My mother is also a developer – someone who gets satisfaction from the growth of others. And while this is her strength that she says most surprised her, it is not surprising to me.

These days, I take risks and push myself, stand confidently in places that used to terrify me and I know that, while yes I’ve worked hard to earn those things, it’s all of my mother’s careful work of developing me into a strong and confident woman who knew the power of words and ideas and careful diligence that propels me forward, that keeps me developing into a better and stronger version of myself.

I watched myself close my eyes as I spoke on television and I thought, maybe that means I’m becoming my mother.

And for that I am grateful.

My Mother, Myself


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May 3rd, 2015

How To Appreciate A Teacher

A few years ago when I was first on twitter, I couldn’t resist responding to a local journalist who had shared three negative news stories in a row about educators and education. Didn’t she know it was teacher appreciation week? Couldn’t she balance out the bad with some good?

She responded to me that the good wasn’t news and the bad was what the public wanted to hear.

There is so much good, I responded to her. So. Much. Good.

But the sad thing? The good in education almost always gets ignored.

Last year I wrote a plea in the local paper to look for the good. To find the things that mattered to the real students and real teachers and real community of the school. Look beyond the scores, I pleaded. Talk about the students challenging themselves to learn, the teachers pushing students to think creatively, the multitude of ways that teachers go above and beyond to make a truly well-rounded educational experience possible for all kids.

This week there will be countless teachers who are appreciated with homemade cards, pinterest inspired crafts, poems and mugs, candies and free meals. Parents and students will do their best to make us know that they appreciate us, that they see our hard work, understand our dedication. We will love those small gestures, the tokens left on our desks and in the teacher’s lounge for us to enjoy.

But this year, I want something more. I want something that doesn’t cost any money and hardly takes any time or effort. I want the story to change. And I want you to help change it.

This week, I want you to take to all your social platforms and post something positive about a teacher you know. Hopefully, if you are a parent, it is your child’s teacher. Maybe it is a teacher you once had. Maybe it is a teacher you know well. I want your photos on Instagram and your quick tales on twitter and your status updates on facebook to help change the tone of negativity so often dealt to my profession. Help tell the story this week of what teachers really do.

Stories are what change the world, what connect us together, what inspire us to be better. And if all the media cares to share most times are the negatives, it is up to us to change that. To insist that there is more, that there is better, and that we do want to hear it.

Share a teacher’s story.

Share your stories. Our stories. Share our expertise and our compassion. Share our creativity and our ingenuity. Share our tiny successes and our big celebrations. Share them always but especially this week.

Change the tone.

Change the conversation.

That’s how you can really appreciate a teacher.


teacher appreciation

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April 13th, 2015


At the toy store on Saturday he picked a dinosaur egg. The egg contained the promise of a baby T. Rex in exchange for about 48 hours of patience and $3.

He held the egg gingerly as I filled a cup with warm water, holding it down to his height once it was full for him to slip his egg into.

“It’s going to take a while,” I explained. “When you wake up tomorrow it will have started cracking open, I think.”

In the morning, sleepy-eyed, he looked for cracks, small signs that the dinosaur egg wasn’t an empty promise. There was a bulge on the side and flakes of egg making their way into the water, lining the sides of the cup.

He watched it and marveled at it for a while before he walked away to watch TV and read books and bother his sister.

At noon the dinosaur head was visible through a hole now appearing on top of the egg.

“Put me up there,” he asked, bringing his beloved dinosaurs with him, a blue T. Rex named Dine and a red Stegosaurus named Steg. Miles and Steg and Dine watched that egg intently, guarding it and looking for any signs of more cracks or scales or flakes.


It was a test of four year old patience and he was passing.

He waited.

And waited.

Today after school he ran inside to find the whole dinosaur out of the egg, or at least clearly ready for his small hands to remove it the rest of the way. There is only so much waiting a kid can do.

“It hatched!” He yelled. “I waited and it hatched!”  He had waited almost two days. Waited patiently and trusted that the egg would hatch and free the dino he couldn’t wait to have. I admired his patience and his enthusiasm. I marveled at his trust in the process and his ability to just sit back and watch. He had waited. And it had hatched.

All night he nurtured his baby T. Rex, wrapping it in a blanket, rocking it in his two hands, holding it on his shoulder, introducing it to the rest of his dinosaur clan. He named him “Cutie” and he took care of him like he really was a freshly hatched dinosaur.





Sometimes I read more than I write because I am impatient with words. I am loathe to wait for them to come to me, to work hard to extract them, to do the work of making myself vulnerable enough to write words that are true enough to be worthy of existing in this space.

Sometimes I want the egg to hatch right now. No waiting. And when I’m impatient I wonder if the words will ever come easily again, if my patience will pay off, if all the effort of living a writing life is worth it.

Today I woke up to an email that told me one of my blogs has been selected as a BlogHer Voice of the Year. I submitted it myself on a whim a few months ago and never dreamed that it would be chosen. It was a post that I had written after much thinking, a post perhaps more vulnerable than many that find their way here. I am proud that I wrote it.

Reading that email this morning and seeing my name on the list with so many amazing writers makes me want to be patient, to wait for the words, the right ones, to know that they are there even when I doubt the effort to find them is worth it.

To wait patiently for the next story to hatch.

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April 12th, 2015

Words In – What I’m Reading

My ratio of words in to words out is totally skewed towards in right now. This hasn’t been the case since I started this blog almost 6 years ago now. But it feels right for the moment I’m in.

I’m a reader with an addictive personality. If I start a book that speaks to me, I dedicate myself to it fully and completely, letting nothing get in the way of my finishing it right now this minute. I feel the words feeding me and I can’t let them stop. This week, after a string of days where I didn’t get my much needed introvert time, I fed my introverted word-loving reading soul with Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. This book? Perfection. I read almost all day Thursday – in every moment I could spare and finished it that day. I read Eleanor & Park at this time last year. And I’ve reread it a few times since. It is my favorite. So good. I was afraid to ruin my absolute love of Rainbow Rowell by reading another of her books since I was pretty sure that none could live up to Eleanor and Park. And I was also pretty sure that I am not a big enough dork to love a book about a nerdy girl who reads and write fanfiction. As much as I love words and reading, fanfic has never been my thing.

But Cath and Wren and Levi won me over quickly. Rowell depicts socially awkward word-loving girls with such accuracy I took photos of so many pages that reached that place that good books do – the place where you think the author might actually be writing about you. Her depiction of college life and a budding relationship between a word nerd and a more outgoing adventurer were so spot on. It was like she watched Ken and I dating back in 1998 and wrote about it in this book. And Rowell’s writing is just so easy to read. So truthful in its simplicity.

I think I’m a Rainbow Rowell fangirl.

I also read two Jandy Nelson books this month. I’m reading off of the Mock Printz 2015 list and so I went to the bookstores searching for I’ll Give You The Sun. I couldn’t find it, so I bought The Sky Is Everywhere instead. This book took a little while to grow on me. I was worried at first that it was a story of a girl who could only be saved from her grief by a boy. And I don’t really love books that use the damsel in distress archetype in traditional ways (that’s why I loved Gabi A Girl in Pieces – no typical damsel there). But I kept reading and I was really glad I did. Nelson blended poetry into the book beautifully, with the main character writing pieces of her grief (her sister dies suddenly) on scraps of paper. She finds her strength outside of just the boys who come in to her life and the trajectory of the story is well-done. The family dynamics in the books are really interesting and the cinematic way that she creates some of her scenes in the novel was really beautiful. I recommend the book, especially as an alternative to or companion to The Fault In Our Stars (which I also loved).

Nelson’s other book, I’ll Give You the Sun, the one that won the Printz award, wasn’t my favorite. I was really glad that I had read The Sky Is Everywhere first, otherwise I wouldn’t have been drawn to keep reading her writing. This book felt forced to me. The writing seemed to be trying to hard at some points. The characters were less likable and less believable (they seemed like they were college-aged and they were only 13 and 16). And I figured out how all the pieces would connect far too early in the book. I had been looking forward to reading it – with its themes of artistic drive, the difficulty for teens to come out as openly gay, love and betrayal. But the whole thing fell flat for me.

Once a month, after reading YA books, a friend and I meet for our book lifestyle club. Just the two of us, talking about books and life and books as life. I needed that today.  To talk about these characters and words and what they mean to us and how we see them similarly and totally differently.

Sunday morning book church.

After I drank coffee and talked lovingly of Levi and Cath with someone else who loved them just as much, I drove Nora to a birthday party. I explained what I had done – met a friend who loves books like me and and just talked about the awesomeness of words. She got it. She’s been reading all of everything Beverly Cleary ever wrote. Ramona is her favorite (and was totally mine too when I was 7) and she loved Socks too.

After we discussed my book club and Beverly Cleary’s 99th birthday (it’s today!), Nora said, “Reading is pretty much life.”

Yes. It is.

Words In

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