Category Archives: Challenges

Read-a-thon Wrap-Up, October 2021

Painting by Deborah DeWitj

9:00 p.m.  My Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon is over now. It’s been a long time since I pulled an “all-nighter.” (I get more excited about pulling an “all-dayer” these days, even though I do love naps!)  So although I’d love to stay up all night and read, I will leave the “night owl reading” to others and wish you a very happy reading night!

Thank you so much to all the organizers of the read-a-thon! I know it is a lot of work for many people, and I just want you all to know how much I appreciate you working to keep this fun tradition alive and thriving after so many years.

Here are the books I read and thoroughly enjoyed for this read-a-thon:

Read-a-thon Afternoon, October 2021

Owl illustration, by E.K. Belsher

6:00 p.m.:  I really enjoyed the books I read this afternoon for my OWL-themed Read-a-thon! And while looking for owl photos and art for my posts, I found the beautiful owl illustration above. It is by E.K. Belsher, an artist from Vancouver, BC.  Please visit her website here to see more of her extraordinary illustrations.

After a lunch break, I finished listening to the beautifully-written classic, I Heard the Owl Call my Name, by Margaret Craven. The location of the story was here in the Pacific Northwest, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, so I am familiar with and particularly liked the descriptions of the landscape of that area.  Also, because I have long been fascinated by the culture of the Native Peoples of that area, this story really resonated with me. It was a great choice for my “owl theme” for this read-a-thon, and I will be writing a full review of the book in the next few days because it is also one of the books on my Classics Club list to read 50 books in 5 years.

A short story I read this afternoon, also has “owl” in the title, but has nothing to do with owls.  An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, by Ambrose Bierce, is a powerful and moving story, set during the Civil War. Peyton Farquhar is a wealthy planter and slave holder who was helping the confederates during the Civil War. He was captured by Union soldiers and and is being prepared for execution by Hanging at Owl Creek Bridge. The story of how he was captured and of his attempted escape is told in a flashbacks. This story was originally published in 1890 and packs a powerful punch. I think it’s eerie enough to count it as one of my short stories read for the RIP-XVI challenge.  I vaguely remember seeing a film of this story long, long ago (was I even in high school yet?) and remember being haunted by it for a long time afterward.

The next book I read this afternoon was a fun book for middle grade readers written by Jean Craighead George.  It is called There’s an Owl in the Shower. I have read and loved many of JCG’s stories about nature and animals. In this book, Borden Watson was a young boy whose father was a logger who had lost his job due to the new government law, the Endangered Species Act, which included protections for the Spotted Owl.  The forest Borden’s father had been logging was home to the owl species.  Borden was very proud of his father, and so was very angry that a little bird could cause his father so much pain and stress.  A hero had been felled by a measly little bird.”  And then, while Borden was in the forest determined to shoot and kill Spotted Owls, he finds an owlet that had been blown out of the nest. He brings it home, not realizing it was a Spotted Owl, and his family take care of the cute little thing. This owlet, and all that the family learned about the lives of owls while helping it survive, changed their understanding of the complex issues surrounding endangered species. It’s an interesting book that helps young people understand both sides of the issue and learn about the fascinating lives of owls.

Spotted Owl

My next book has been sitting on my bookshelf for a couple of years. It’s a lovely looking book, and I was anxious to finally read it. The Secret Life of the Owl, by John Lewis-Stempel, is a little gem full of all kinds of information, poetry, tidbits of history…all about owls. He also talks about each of the different types of owls in Britain, so although it is short, it is packed with learning for anyone interested in owls. And according to Mr. Lewis-Stempel, we all are interested in owls!

A collection of books and information on owls would not be complete without some of the poetry about these amazing birds. One joyful poem is The Owl and The Pussycat, by Edward Lear. I have a book of this short poem with illustrations by Jan Brett, an illustrator I love, so of course I added it to my pleasurable day of reading about owls.

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After dinner, I will spend a few more hours reading a book that my blogging friend, Nan, (Letters from a Hill Farm) recommended to me recently. It’s called The Owl Service, by Alan Garner, and I’m about of 1/3 of the way through it. I may not finish it tonight, but will count it as part of my OWL day.

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My afternoon was packed with some wonderful reading. I’m off to dinner now, and will check back in with you all at the end of my day.

painting by Jesse Willcox Smith

Read-a-thon Morning, October 2021

Read-a-thon time

NOON:  What a lovely read-a-thon morning — rainy outside but with plenty of hot tea and enjoyable books indoors.

My first book read today was Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen. It is one of my all-time favorite books. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it, and how many times I shared it with children, but it never gets old and it’s like visiting an old friend each time I reread it.  On a cold winter night, a young girl and her father go owling.    “It was late one winter night, long past my bedtime, when Pa and I went owling.”

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After Owl Moon, I read some other children’s books from the library. Owl Babies, by Martin Waddell, and illustrated by  Patrick Benson, was delightful. Three owlets wake up in the night and find that their mother is gone. They waited, but she didn’t return. They waited some more, huddled together on a branch outside the nest. They were worried. Would she ever return? A very sweet owl story for the young ones!

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Owl Sees Owl, by Laura Godwin, with beautiful illustrations by Rob Dunlavey, is a word book. The story is told visually and with single words, four at a time on a page. It’s a heartwarming story of a young owl’s exploration of his world outside the nest while his family is asleep. The four words on each page tell the story of his adventure. I would love to read this book (over and over again) to a very young grandchild sitting on my lap. Alas, my grandson is almost 15 years old, but he would have loved hearing it read to him back then!

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Owls: Our Most Charming Birds, written and illustrated by artist, Matt Sewell, is a guidebook for older children (and adults) who really want to learn about owls found all over the world. The illustrations of each owl are wonderful and the information that accompanies each one is excellent and informative. I learned a lot reading this one. It’s a book I definitely would have had in my 6th grade class library!

 


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Another old family favorite on my bookshelf is Owl at Home, by Arnold Lobel. My kids loved every one of Arnold Lobel’s books, and this one is well-worn and well-loved. From the publisher: “Owl lives by himself in a warm little house. But whether Owl is inviting Winter in on a snowy night or welcoming a new friend he meets while on a stroll, Owl always has room for visitors.

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Otis the Owl, by Mary Holland, is a beautiful photography book about the life of a baby owl. The photographs are amazing, and the story about the young life of this owl and his sister is interesting. But this book is also a science book for the young naturalist. There’s a wealth of information about owls after the story ends. See an example below. What a wonderful book for learning/teaching about owls!

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Wow! Owling: Enter the World of  the Mysterious Birds of the Night, by Mark Wilson, is an awesome book I found at the library. It was just jam packed with information about owls and comparing them to other birds. It’s a complete education for young and old, for anyone interested at all in owls!

A special book:  My friend, Marlo, shared a very special book with me on baby owls.  She created it for her grandchildren and very generously sent me the link to the photo book along with the following story about how she created it. “I’m going to add a little-known, amateur book to your available titles. Several years ago we stayed in a vacation home that had an owl nest in the yard. I spent most of the month sitting in the yard watching. Here is a link to the book I made for my grandchildren. https://babyowlbook.shutterfly.com … What a great experience it was!”  THANK YOU so much, Marlo, for adding your book to my owl reading today! I loved it!

The rest of my morning was spent doing Saturday chores and listening to the audiobook, I Heard the Owl Call my Name, by Margaret Craven. It is fiction, and not directly about owls themselves, but is a beautifully written classic about the native peoples and culture of the Pacific Northwest, of which owls play an important part.  I’m not quite finished with it yet, but after my lunch break / blogging time, I’ll finish this audiobook and continue with my afternoon read-a-thon reading!  

And outside, the rain continues!

The Read-a-thon Begins, October 2021

5:00 a.m.:  GOOD MORNING!  So begins another special day devoted to reading. Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon is an institution in the book blogging world. I remember Dewey and her blog, The Hidden Side of a Leaf, and am happy that her wonderful idea of how to unite readers and bloggers in an enjoyable event at least twice a year took hold and grew over time. What a wonderful legacy she left us!

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Illustration by John Schoenherr, from Owl Moon

In my post yesterday, I explained why I chose the theme for my reading today: OWLS!  I’m looking forward to spending today in the company of such terrific birds. I will update my reading progress mid-day, and again in the evening, so check back then to see which books I’m reading today.
My big mug of tea is ready; I’m in my comfy reading chair; and my books are stacked on my table and waiting on my Kindle. Time to start my reading day!

Enjoy your day of reading everyone!

October Read-a-thon, 2021

It’s almost time again for the October Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon! When I was teaching 2nd grade, read-a-thon days were the best. The kids would gather piles of books from the class library. They’d find a cozy spot on the floor somewhere and settle in for a wonderful reading session. I always provided snacks for them because books and treats go well together. And they would spend long periods of time reading and going through their piles of books. So that’s some of the excitement I feel when Dewey’s Read-a-thon comes around again…it’s my turn to gather the books and treats, and read, read, read!

Some of my former 2nd graders during a spring read-a-thon.

For the last few years, I’ve enjoyed doing a theme for my read-a-thon reading. Looking at my bookshelves for some inspiration, I realized I have quite a few books on owls, and that seemed the perfect theme for my reading this time. A pair of Great Horned Owls have nested nearby this year, and we hear them often in the middle of the night or early morning. They have been delightful nighttime companions, even leaving us some owl pellets under our cedar tree, so in honor of our bird friends, I’m going to read or reread my books on OWLS. I have also gathered some other books to read that simply have “owl” in the title.

Tomorrow morning at 5:00 a.m. Pacific coast time, I will begin my reading. I don’t last 24 hours these days, but I will read as long as my old eyes will let me, and I will post some updates on this blog a couple of times during the day.

Happy reading tomorrow, read-a-thoners!

 

Spin Book Reading

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Today, the number was chosen for The Classics Club Spin #28. It was book #12 on my list, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain, so I will be spending the next few days immersed in this story.

I actually have both the print version and the audiobook version. The audiobook is narrated by Nick Offerman, so I know it’s going to be a fun listen!

Happy reading to all who are participating in this fun event!

Classics Club Spin #28

It’s time for another Classics Club “Spin!”  Here’s how it works:

  • Go to your blog.
  • Pick twenty books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club List.
  • Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog before Sunday, 17th October.
  • We’ll announce a number from 1-20.
  • Read that book by 12th December, 2021.

Here is my list of 20 books. Check back here on October 17th to see which book I will be reading for this new Spin.

  1. Sons, by Pearl S. Buck
  2. The Enchantress of Florence, by Salman Rushdie
  3. The Little Bulbs, by Elizabeth Lawrence
  4. The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley
  5. The Stranger, by Albert Camus
  6. Home, by Toni Morrison
  7. The Sign of the Four, by Arthur Conan Doyle
  8. In Morocco, by Edith Wharton
  9. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  10. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
  11. Summer at Fairacre, by Miss Read
  12. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain

  13. The Cossacks, by Leo Tolstoy
  14. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
  15. Night, by Ellie Wiesel
  16. Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope
  17. Round the Bend, by Nevil Shute
  18. Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki
  19. House Made of Dawn, by M. Scott Momaday
  20. Malgudi Days, by R.K. Narayan

The Fortnight in September

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What a sweet way to end my summer reading! The Fortnight in September, by R.C. Sherriff, was a delightful ode to family and summer vacations. Every September for many years, the Stevens family has been making their end-of-summer pilgrimage to the same seaside town, staying at the same (now aging) inn, and enjoying the break from all their usual activities. In this quiet, slow-paced book, you get to know each member of the family and what that fortnight in September means to them. That’s it…nothing earthshaking, just a regular family on vacation. But this author is masterful at capturing the nostalgia of such a yearly vacation over time, and capturing the sunshine and joy of time away from the usual hustle and bustle. It is a timeless story, and full of sunshine for the soul.

One More Body in the Pool

The reason that Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite authors is because he was a joyful writer. He was an idea man who loved writing, and that joy shines through in all his works.

I just read one of his short stories, One More Body in the Pool, and enjoyed the fun of it, but was completely captured by the joy he must have had in writing it.
It begins with this:

I walked across the beach and stood in the hot sun for a long moment, staring down at the man lying there with his head covered by a newspaper. I took a deep breath, held it, and at last said. “Scottie?” There was no motion beneath the paper. I took another breath and said, “Mr. Fitzgerald?” At last the paper drifted aside and the young old man underneath it opened his eyes. His face was familiar and young and terribly haunted. The cheeks were smooth and the chin was very fine. The eyes, which were clear blue, seemed to have trouble focusing on me. “Well?” he said at last. I replied, “God, I hate to bother you, but I’m a sort of literary agent and, well, forgive me, but I have an idea that I want to offer you.”

The story is about a time-traveling idea man who visits some iconic American authors (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner) to introduce an idea to each of them for their writing. Of course, we readers recognize the ideas that will eventually become their greatest novels. It’s tremendous fun to have a very brief glimpse into the lives of those authors while this mysterious idea man plants the seeds of those stories in their minds.

I can picture Mr. Bradbury writing this story. He is enjoying every moment of the idea and of the storytelling that will bring it to life with tongue-in-cheek humor and a playful respect/disrespect for those men.

A fun short story for my Readers Imbibing Peril -XVI challenge!

Embracing Mobility

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This week, I have been focused on finishing one of my enjoyable reading challenges. It’s a great feeling to meet a challenge one sets for oneself!  However, it’s another level of good feeling to meet a major challenge that Life throws at you. In the last month, my husband has been faced with another major physical and mental challenge related to his Stage IV metastasized cancer.

One month ago, he finished the radiation treatment he underwent to hopefully lessen the pain in his hip caused by the bone metastasis there. He walked into the five-day treatment on the first day, unaided but limping from his sore hip. Unfortunately, by the end of the five days, he was suffering from a not-so-common side effect from the treatment called a “pain flare, ”  which is an inflammation of the lining of the bone due to the radiation. And it is extremely painful. So for his final treatment, I had to wheel him into the building in a wheel chair.

The inflammation was treated, the pain has slowly lessened throughout the month, and Byron has worked hard to regain his mobility. Truly a challenge! But he has embraced each step in this process, which started with the arrival of a cane we ordered on the day after that final treatment because he could not walk unsupported. A few days later, a simple walker was delivered to our porch, a surprise ordered by his primary care physician! He was delighted with it because he was much steadier getting around the house and could now do some limited walking outdoors. After a week with that more limited walker, we went shopping for his “off road walker,” as he calls it. And he was thrilled with the new walker we found!

So now, he does laps around the house with his fancy walker. We load it in the car and walk the sidewalks around the campus here in this university town. And the more he walks, the better he feels, even though energy and endurance are limited. It was not the kind of month we expected, but I am so proud of the way my husband faced the pain and the setback, and embraced the challenge to return to better mobility, one level at a time.