excuses

So… it’s been awhile, eh?

Yeah, so, apparently, I am a bad, bad blogger. I know it’s been ages since I’ve updated Building a Library and that sad fact has bugged me every single day since my last post.IMG_1810

I could make excuses about life getting in the way and so on and so forth, but the real reasons are almost as mundane as that cliché.

First, I needed a break. I was burned out. So I took a break. Then I got writer’s block. And, for the life of me, I couldn’t find two words to say about the David Wiesner book, even though I’ve written THOUSANDS of words on David Wiesner in the past.

Then I started writing a novel. It’s a YA novel something I’ve been dreaming about FOREVER and I got really excited about finally finishing the damn thing. Don’t believe me? Here’s my first crappy paragraph, which, according to a famous Hemingway quote, is probably crap (I’m cleaning his words up a bit):

It started the same way it always did – something horrible happened to the children.

Not “chilling” horrible or anything overtly graphic, thought Stacey as she doodled absent-mindedly on the legal pad next to the cash register. She never imagined the kids being physically harmed or beaten or anything. But, every time the daydream came, if she was being honest with herself, something unspoken, something whispered and alluded to, always did come for the children first.

It was just part of the story.

So… yeah, needs work, right? Well, I was halfway through it and… I got laid off from my job. First time ever. Totally devastated. So I started writing for other websites to make the ends meet and I found I really liked it. I started serving as one of the Dads & Families editors at The Good Men Project (a very cool site), I contributed to 8BitDad (another favorite of mine), and I became a blogger at The Huffington Post (la-de-dah). Here are some of my favorite bits I’ve written for them over the past few months:

Our Family Was Handed an Anonymous Note at a Baseball Game Last Night—This Is What It Said
How and Why You Should Support the #DadsRead Campaign This Father’s Day
The Importance of Buying Normal Clothes for Our Daughters and What You Can Do About It
9 Tips for Taking Your Kid to Their First Comic-Con
Daddy-Daughter Dances: I Do Not Want to Date My Daughter
My 7-Year-Old Daughter Tried to ‘Catfish’ Me

Long story short. I now have a new job (yay!), I’m back to writing (yay!), and I MISS Building a Library. A lot.  As such, I’m going to be contributing more regularly to the site in the near future and, once you see that I actually haven’t abandoned the site again, I hope you’ll continue to check us out.

I can't blame ya...

I can’t blame ya…

Thanks for your patience, hope you remember me, and I hope you’re finding outrageous great books to share with your kids.

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Building a Library

Um, yeah, I have no good excuse for taking so much time off…

So, as some of you may have noticed – if anyone reads this blog anymore – that I haven’t posted in a long time. A very, very long time. Like the whole summer, practically.

And you may be asking yourself, “Tom, have you forsaken us? Have you recommended all of the books you care to recommend? Are your suggestions for ‘building a home library’ now complete”?

The answers are – yes, I did forsake you a little bit and, no, I’m not done recommending kids’ books.

In fact, I have lots more recommendations coming in the next few weeks, even though you have NO reason to believe that claim, based on this past summer.

My excuses are extremely mundane. It’s been a weird summer. Work has been hectic, life has been hectic – but that’s pretty normal. Mostly, I’ve been dealing with the most selective form of writer’s block I’ve ever experienced.

During this summer, I’ve actually written quite a few things, including seven chapters of a young adult novel I’m working on that I’m convinced (today, at least) will never, EVER be done.

But, whenever I’ve sat down to write for this blog, I’ve been blocked. Blocked entirely.  I would try to write a glowing review of a book we just discovered at the library and… nothing.  Just nothing and a blank brain and anxiety and excuses for going to sleep early and/or watching Game of Thrones on HBOGo again. So… yeah… I’m a bad, bad kids’ book blogger.

However, I think I’ve turned the corner. In fact, I didn’t even let myself post this mea culpa until I had four subsequent book posts written and in the hopper, so I can guarantee that some new content IS coming.

So, if you stuck with this blog, thanks a ton. If you bailed during the doldrums, hopefully, I can win you back someday. But new stuff is coming and I can’t wait to share some new recommendations with you and steal some suggestions from you guys as well.

Thanks for listening,

Tom

PS – I just read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time for the first time last week. Oh my god, how good is that book, guys? I mean, seriously, I tossed it onto the “Books My Kid Will Read in the Future” shelf as soon as I was done. Just a gorgeous book that made me want to give fictional Meg Murray a hug for at least a week.

A Wrinkle in Time

What a seriously cool book… I even love the ’70s-looking, Zardoz-esque cover of this old paperback.

PPS – The Hope Larson graphic novel adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time is similarly amazing. A brilliant work of adaptation. I know me liking a comic book isn’t a huge surprise, but… wow. It’s seriously good.

A Wrinkle in Time Graphic Novel

One of the best graphic novel adaptations I’ve ever read…

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Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late

This is how I felt for the entire month of April…

Regular readers of this blog might have noticed a teeny-tiny reduction in the number of updates lately. Oh hell, let’s be honest – I took the entire month of April off.  Why? Because April was a great, glorious time-suck of a month this year. It wasn’t the cruelest month, as T.S. Eliot suggested, but it was one of the busiest months I’ve had in a very long while.

Work commitments, father of a first-grader commitments (I appeared as a lovely magician’s assistant in my daughter’s talent show performance), personal commitments, writing commitments (Have I mentioned that I’m currently writing a YA novel? Guess what? Writing is HARD) – As a month, April totally got away from me this year, and Building a Library suffered as a result. Sorry about that.

On the plus side, I was able to squeeze in some quality library time with my daughter, so I have a lot of new discoveries and re-discovered old favorites to share in May. OH, and to prove that I haven’t been a complete sloth, I thought I’d share with you some of the articles I’ve been writing over the past few months for other websites. So far, this year, I’ve had pieces featured on The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and 8BitDad.com, AND I’ve appeared twice as an on-camera commentator on Huffington Post Live, which was surreal and awkward and even a little bit fun. [read the rest of the post…]

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The Berenstain Bears and the Big Blooper

If Sister Bear can be fallible, can’t we all?

I write a lot about the joys of reading aloud to your kid. This is a cautionary tale about what happens when reading aloud goes wrong.

Before we begin, for the record, I am a fan of The Berenstain Bears. While I know some parents who find their books to be provincial and occasionally preachy, I think, for the most part, Stan and Jan Berenstain are extremely skilled at crafting very engaging and accessible stories for early readers. (I should note that I, personally, very much prefer the earlier Berenstain Bear books – Old Hat, New Hat; The Berenstain Bears’ Science Fair; The Berenstain Bears and the Sitter, etc – to the newer editions that Jan co-wrote with their son Michael.)

The Berenstain Bears series was the first example of series fiction that my daughter really fell in love with, and I think that’s a pretty common occurrence. Many parents are comfortable buying their young children Berenstain Bears books for a variety of reasons – the stories are well told, the art is consistent, the books are inexpensive, the characters are captivating, the quality of the storytelling greatly outshines the other books on that one spinning rack at the bookstore (normally, cheap Barbie or princess books) – the list goes on and on. Berenstain Bears books have become a foundational pillar of modern children’s literature because they’ve created this very warm, very safe place for young readers to return to again and again.

Which was why I was so surprised when a Berenstain Bear book made me say the F-word in front of my daughter.

LET ME EXPLAIN…

The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies

It looks SO innocent on its cover, doesn’t it?

OK, in reality, the incident was maybe 90% my fault, 10% the book’s fault (maybe more like 70/30). The book in question was The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies, a fun little tale of Brother and Sister Bear learning not to expect toys, candy, and presents every time they go out to the store. It’s a book designed to tell children not to lose their minds in front of the candy rack at the supermarket checkout, so I fully support Stan and Jan‘s intentions behind writing the book. It has a great lesson at its core. HOWEVER, it also features a tongue-twister that completely got the better of me one night at bedtime. [read the rest of the post…]

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Hey Readers – Remember all those posts back in September where I was so excited about finally reading The Phantom Tollbooth with my daughter? You know, the book that single-handedly inspired this blog and that I’ve been DYING to read to her for almost six years now? I even posted my initial “Phantom Tollbooth First Read” article where I recounted my experience reading the first two chapters with my kid at bedtime. Wasn’t that a fun article – an article that promised to give you a day-by-day breakdown of our joyous experiences reading The Phantom Tollbooth together for weeks to come?

I should’ve smelled the jinx coming a mile away.

Quick aside – Our family does a lot of road-trips together and, almost every time we’re on the last leg of our drive home, if we’ve had an easy day of driving so far, I inevitably say something like, “Boy, we’ve hit no traffic today, have we?” and you know what happens? Five minutes later, we hit construction or an overturned car and BAM – four extra hours are added to our trip. And, like an idiot, I do that almost EVERY single time. I jinx the end of the trip.

This is all a very long-winded way for me to tell you… sigh… we have officially stopped reading The Phantom Tollbooth for the moment.

The Phantom Tollbooth

Yeah, we know, Milo. We’re disappointed too…

And, yes, I am a little bit heartbroken. And, yes, I think I jinxed it. [read the rest of the post…]

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Where's Waldo

It’s OK when Waldo disappears. That’s his frickin’ job. I have no excuse.

Readers – if you’re still out there – I’d really like to apologize for the ridiculously long break I’ve taken from posting lately. I realize it’s been almost exactly a month since my last post, which isn’t cool. When you start a blog and build a readership, there’s an expectation that, to thank people for reading your past work, you actually… you know… write new work for them to read. That’s part of the whole blogging ethos, right?

All I can say is: “I apologize.” In my defense – and because I love making excuses so much that I actually have an “excuses” tag in my tag cloud – it’s been a very weird month. I’ve been hit with a crazy work schedule, a minor-yet-annoying sleep disorder, an intense bout of writer’s block, and, most importantly, I’ve had to deal with the borderline insane end-of-the-year activities that accompanied my daughter finishing her very first year of school. She’s now a kindergarten graduate – a fact that makes me both profoundly proud and profoundly sad.

Someone should write a book about that. Well, someone probably has and I’ve just been too lazy to find it recently, so, again, SORRY! I will endeavor to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

To make up for my posting famine, I’ve scheduled a bit of a feast for next week. Today, I’m going to post the introduction to a new series we’re kicking off titled “What We Took Out From the Library Last Week.” We went to the library this past Friday and next week, every day, from Monday to Friday, I’ll profile one of the books we checked out to give you a taste of what’s on our reading radar at the moment.

I hope you guys enjoy the new series and I hope that there’s even a few of you still reading after my unexpected disappearance. I’m looking forward to ranting about kids’ books in your general direction soon. Thanks for understanding.

Where's Waldo?

Seriously though, can you help me find Waldo? He’s good at his job. (Click to embiggen.)

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Faithful readers – looking at you, Mom – I want to really apologize for the lack of updates on the site lately. It’s almost been a month since I last updated, which is an epoch in internet time, but December was the cruelest month of my 2011 with a really unexpected amount of stress, sickness (which I’m just now getting over), and family death thrown into the mix. (Ugh.)

Building a Library is back!

I know, I know - world's smallest violin...

So, long story short, I’ve been preoccupied. But, hopefully, the content drought is coming to an end and we’ll be back to normal updates ASAP. If you’re reading this, thanks for your patience.

And, as partial payment for your kindness, check out this lovely video of legend Maurice Sendak talking about his work and career. (The bit where he talks about why he’s never considered revisiting Where the Wild Things Are is both EPIC and hilarious.)

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Alexander

This has been me all week. I'm totally moving to Australia.

Hiya readers – I really, really do have to apologize for the ridiculous lack of updates over the past week. I had some issues with my hosting account and… trust me, the rest of that sentence is pretty darn boring and self-pitying. (You don’t want to know how the sausage is made.) Hopefully, all of my technical issues are now resolved and I can get back to regularly ranting about the books that my daughter reads – as if I was a crazy stalker person, obsessively cataloguing her daily activity in a journal that the FBI will one day present to a jury of my peers as “Exhibit A”. (I fear that the line between “dad” and “maniac” is disturbingly thin.)

Hope everyone is having a great pre-holiday and I’ve got some great recommendations and rants on the way. Thanks for sticking with me, people that Google Analytics assures me actually exist.

Tom

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Sick Day for Amos McGee

For the record, none of my elephant friends came over to play chess when I was sick.

OK, I apologize for the absurd delay in new posts. I ended up being much sicker than I thought I was and just couldn’t post with any regularity. But, after multiple days of antibiotics and, what might be, a permenant case of Ricola breath, I should be  back on a regular posting schedule for the foreseeable future.

Thanks again for your patience.

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Just FYI, dear readers. (And, yes, I technically have enough readers to technically refer to them in the plural now.)

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

When I'm feeling better, I'll tell you how awesome this book is.

Regular posting will resume tomorrow. I apologize for the lame-ass delay in new material this week, but, of course, two weeks into launching the blog, I came down with a nice case of super zombie-pneumonia. So I’m either way, way sick or I had a much uglier psychosomatic reaction to those Contagion trailers than I thought I did.

Anyway, more tomorrow after I let Osmosis Jones beat up whatever plague is currently in my body.

Sorry for the sucking.

Tom

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