Donating Books and What We’ve Been Reading

Donations aren’t always castoffs; they can be ways of sharing awesome things, too.

In reading an essay by Ralph Keyes, “Inscriber’s Block”, about authors’ experiences signing their books, I was a bit surprised by his negative perspective on the idea of friends donating copies of books. He seemed to view these as pure castoff, unwanted items, whereas I view that sort of donation, particularly to libraries, as a lovely gesture. Yes, I am obviously a bit biased because of my own background as an academic librarian. When I was in the university setting and received such donations, I viewed them almost as sacred. The donor valued these items so much that she/he thought they would be valuable for our collection and for others to read. How lovely!

I want to share the wonderful things I encounter with others, whether it’s via my own personal copy or other ways. I would consider donating beloved items that are no longer needed in one’s personal collection (especially children’s book that the children in the household are past age for reading) to not be too different. Even if the books go to a local thrift shop, they are not meeting some cruel end and wasting on a shelf. Especially if these books can go to a store for shoppers in need, such as Goodwill or a shelter, you are increasing the quality of reading material available. You may not directly be putting a good book into the hands of those in need, but you are indirectly doing so. Isn’t that a lovely idea? If children in poverty are subjected to no or low-quality reading material, will they develop a love for reading? If they are given the books that you loved, perhaps they will be more likely to fall in love with the story and then the love of reading. Just a thought for consideration.

What We’ve Been Reading

Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick – 5 stars

I personally enjoyed reading about the bear who inspired Winnie-the-Pooh. There were a couple jokes that the adults may get and can either be explained to the children or passed over. I like that additional depth as a parent reading to the children. My daughter has tolerated a few of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories but hasn’t latched onto them yet as stories to enjoy really, so this stood separately in her experience from that series. I will be interested to see how she engages with them later, if she connects the history here with the stories there, but they are totally fine as entirely separate mental considerations. This was an enjoyable, endearing story on its own, and the illustrations reminded me of old stories and had a different way of drawing, depth, and visualizing the world.

Rrralph by Lois Ehlert3 stars

The images were interesting, but it was the play on sound that may engage kids with this book. “Ruff” “bark” etc are the sounds that the dog makes and the child narrator interprets to mean something. The interpretations make sense in the context of the story, but my daughter and I were a little unimpressed. Other kids may find this book much more enjoyable though.

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon – 4 stars

The book had solid rhymes and lovely pictures, the details of which could engage children not quite to the degree that Richard Scarry’s books do but towards that end of the spectrum of pausing to consider the images. This allowed for a high-level look at the world and the ways to engage with it, and I appreciated that. My daughter didn’t engage with this book enough that it’s one I’ll buy for her, but it was definitely worth checking out from the local library so that she could consider it at length.
Sounds of the Wild: Birds by Maurice Pledger – 5 stars

It doesn’t matter that my daughter didn’t want to sit still for me to read every snippet included in this book for all of the birds in it. The book is a pop up that has sound for every page. She LOVED it. She’d ask about some of the birds on each page, so I’d tell her a bit. The next time we’d read it she’d focus on others. This wasn’t a book to read so much as experience, and I was thrilled at how much she likes engaging with it. Because of this engagement reason, I recommend this book for a wide variety of ages, from preschoolers, elementary, and even up. There’s a lot of information in this book, and honestly, no one, even adults, are past being thrilled with pop-ups. If you say you’re too old for such things, bah humbug. Grow back down and get back on that swing set; you may be missing out on a lot of the awesome, simple joys that life has to offer, goofball.

Note: this books is part of a Sounds of the Wild series that also includes: ForestAnimals, Ocean, Safari, Bugs, Nighttime, Seashore, and DesertI have not (yet) read these other books, but I would guess that they are just as worth reading, so especially if you see a copy in your local thrift store, yard sale, or library sale, it’s probably worth getting.


I took a walk I Took a Walk by Henry Cole – 4 stars

This book reminded me a lot of the Birds book by Maurice Pledger above. While this one wasn’t a pop up, it did have flaps and folders for children to still physically engage with the book. There were things for the children to find on each page, so we played a bit of “I spy” with each page, and my daughter liked that. Other kids in the 2-5 year old range may like that aspect, too, if they’ve been showing interest in spotting colors, shapes, or objects. We’ve been walking the dogs and spotting rabbits recently, so this concept has been part of our routine before we read the book, increasing my daughter’s willingness to engage with that. For other children, seeing the particular animals and learning about things they don’t often see may be a better way to engage with the book. Or, what is different from one page to another and why (ex. these animals live closer to the water). There are a few ways that children can engage with this book, so if you’re looking for a book without a plot, the structure of this book gives the adult a good bit of control as to how to best utilize it for the particular child.

“Do you want to read a new book”

In a few years, my daughter is very likely to mockingly say to me, in that sarcastic sing-song sort of way that kids can do, “Do you want to read a new book?” I imagine that I’ll glare at her while in the back of my mind, I’m hoping that she actually does want to read with me. I love to read new books with my daughter. They’re just new in the sense that we haven’t read it yet, so it could actually be a new book, a used book, or a library book. They’re all fantastic. So, I often say to her, “Do you want to read a new book?” There could be worse phrases for her to have burned into her memory from childhood.

Reading books with my daughter is one of my favorite things. The books themselves are usually fun, and nowadays it seems that children’s literature has really risen a level. They’re beautiful! They’re witty! They’re full of awesome, heartwarming, adventurous, self-affirming plots!

But, what I really love about reading with my daughter is the sharing. I share the experience with her. I give her my devoted time, which I hope tells her that I care and love her. She is worth my time, not feasible every minute of every day but definitely in dedicated, purposeful ways. At this stage in her life, I also am the primary selector of the books she reads, so the books that I pick for her also impart aspects of my worldview or what I find important or valuable for sharing with her.

Recently we have been fortunate to share these wonderful, highly recommended books:

A Unicorn Named SparkleA Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young

Lucy’s unicorn isn’t what she imagined, but sometimes the perfection we imagine isn’t what we actually need. The friends and family we get sometimes aren’t perfect things, but even with flaws, there can be wonder and lots of love.

The title link goes to the website for the book, which also has a video and activities relating to the book.


AnimaliumAnimalium by Jenny Broom

Click the link in the title and browse the book. The illustrations of this book are incredible. I don’t care that this book is aimed at children much older than my daughter. If she’s intrigued by the pictures now and gradually engages more and more with the content as she gets older, I don’t have to read the full page of information about cephalopods for her to appreciate and take something away from this book. It’s. Gorgeous.


Mr WufflesMr. Wuffles by David Wiesner

I did not read the plot summary before buying this book; I bought it because a friend recommended it. When I opened it up, my brain went “whaaaaaaa?” I was expecting a funny cat story. There were aliens and a plot about cooperation among unlikely allies.

The book is laid out like a graphic novel, which I love. With so few printed words, my daughter can ‘read’ this book on her own, and it gets her accustomed to a different kind of reading layout than she gets from many other books. It’s fascinating. My brain is still trying to process just what this is, but I don’t have to understand it entirely. It’s a book to treasure for its differences and positive plot.


Want more books for a different age range or with a particular theme/focus? Ask!

Try Asking More Often – Maybe Win a Book, Too

I often have the mindset that if something isn’t explicitly stated as mine or okay, I assume it’s off limits. You have to pay to eat a dessert rather than it sitting on a tray for you to just take. You don’t open strange, unmarked doors unless invited to do so.

Sometimes it’s expected that you’d need to ask for help, though. If your car breaks down on the side of the road, it’s not abnormal to try to flag down someone to help. If you’re in the hospital, it’s fine to page a nurse to bring you medicines if you’re in pain.

But, those situations arise out of need. You have no options except to accept help or you’re asking help of someone whose job it is to help you in that moment.

Asking for something that isn’t yours and for which you have no dire need isn’t something that I thought very much about as a thing, especially a useful thing I should consider more. Until recently. A significant pleasant encounter got me to considering other experiences.

After writing a review of Max & Charlie by Zack Lieberman, I reached out to the author….

….and he responded.

He responded nicely. This man got an email from me, a stranger he’d never met, and he didn’t laugh and say f* you to my inquiry about whether I might be able to get a copy of his book.

He mailed it to me as soon as he got my address.

Maybe the world doesn’t totally suck, right?

A few years ago I emailed author Olivier Dunrea, and he also responded. I had just asked a few questions. It was a milestone in my mind because growing up, “we” weren’t people who did big things like become authors, go on TV, become politicians, etc. I could engage with authors. I could engage deeply with the world around me. It made things real, and that had a freeing influence on my mind and how I saw the world.

I asked one of the highest women at my company for advice via email, and she took me out to breakfast to talk with me for more than an hour. She’s given me advice several times since then and been a very positive influence in my professional life, and I greatly appreciate her kindness and efforts.

Ask more often. Don’t ask greedily for things just because you may get things. Ask for something that enriches your life and may even enrich the lives of those around you. It works best when you can offer something in return. I asked Zack for a book, which he gave, and I am trying to increase awareness of his book as a result. Hopefully we are doing favors for one another than enrich both our lives. If done well and balanced, we give and take as we each are able. In doing so, we are all richer and sharing in the richness of experience.

I hope to keep myself more open to asking as well as giving as a daily practice. We have so much to gain by engaging positively with one another.

A page from Max & Charlie

Now it’s your turn to ask.

If you would like to receive a copy of Max & Charlie by Zack Lieberman, ask me. Send me an email at and ask nicely. Include your mailing address (addresses will remain private). I’ll choose a winner in the next month and mail it to you.

You don’t have to do anything else to get the book, but I would love it if the winner was willing to write me a sentence or even a few paragraphs about anything you want. I’d just like to engage with you, and if you’re open to engaging with others by having your comments and story here, I would love to facilitate that.

Have a good weekend, y’all.


Related Posts:

“Review of Max & Charlie by Zack Lieberman”

“Meeting the World with Open Arms: Amanda Palmer and Sarah Kay”

Formative Early Book Interest, the Useful and the Weird

I remember a large bookshelf in the house growing up. There were a few books that called to my attention more than others.

I was interested in the content of:

  • foxfire vol 2The Foxfire series – Appalachian how-to. I was raised in a very Southern household.
  • Grimms’ Fairy Tales – The dark, violent originals, not the watered down versions. There is a correlation between these fairy tales and how my mind turned out (it’s a bit darkly humorous), but I don’t know if I was attracted to them because I was already like that or if they were more formative.
  • Literary criticism. Yeah, a bit weird for a kid, I guess, but I liked seeing the penciled  notes that my mother had made in the books.

I liked looking at the pictures of:

  • Fantasy books. I won’t lie: I especially liked the more racy covers. I liked seeing that adventurous options may be available. Perhaps there was a bit of the whole “when I grow up, maybe I could do that!” sort of appeal. I’m still waiting on the overflowing bosom.
  • mcpherson goes to churchComics. My dad had a bunch of the Garfield books, and reading his copies got me interested in comics. I absolutely adore the McPherson books, like McPherson Goes to Church, because of the couple books he had.

The things that surround us have an effect on us. Those who appreciate art or even the right color in a room know that even these minor visuals in our environment can subtly influence us. The things that we read and the ideas that our minds then chew on profoundly influence us as individuals growing and forming our own personalities, opinions, and thoughts.

Would I have been so likely to become an English major if I hadn’t appreciated some of the literary criticism on that shelf? I spent almost every weekend growing up in a bookstore, so, yeah, an appreciation for books anyway seems like an obvious thing, but I then chose to happily spend so many intense hours of study on English literature and poetry, to the point that I actually contributed to the Oxford English Dictionary (not so subtle self pat on the back).

I’ve developed a sense of humor that’s a bit odd but actually helps me a lot at work. People find that there is a voice in my emails and other communications that makes them easy to read. While being an English major obviously did a lot to develop my writing voice, the books I read for fun long before that helped give me a lot of the sillier elements, and I am not at all sorry for that.

Our sense of humor and the ideas that we cling to desperately are rooted in childhood experiences, including the books we read. The values and themes in books can influence how we view the world. If you’re growing up in a small town, books let you experience more of the world. Even now as an adult, I feel that there is a similarity with the business sorts of books that I read. By reading about the situation described, I can imagine how I would operate in such a situation and respond better should it ever become real in my own career.

We internalize better ways of operating and even of what we would want from society as well. Star Trek is an excellent example of imagining a better society, though it was TV rather than a book.

So, reflecting on how my early interests influenced my, I’ve been thinking about how I can influence my daughter positively. I have a fair number of books around at all times, though more scattered than a single centralized bookshelf. One of the things I feel that I can do to help her is to make my books available to her and to keep a variety around, including books from the library. I want her to see that adults use the library, too, even if it’s more natural for me to be reading mostly ebooks. Some of the books that my daughter seems drawn to right now actually are the McPherson books. This makes me optimistic that long-term she may retain a lot of my sense of humor.

I also subscribe to several magazines that she looks through, and perhaps because of that, she has really liked getting the Highlights magazine for herself.

polar bear swimmingThe things we do to positively affect our children don’t have to be huge. It can be as simple as leaving a book like Polar Obsession on the coffee table. My daughter absolutely loves looking at the pictures. I recommend such photograph coffee table books for kids to browse. The images are beautiful and let them imagine and see the world before they can even read about it.

I would love to hear what early childhood exposures have influenced you, in serious or amusing ways.


Sources and Further Reading:

Gierzynski, Anthony. “Magic effect: how Harry Potter has influenced the political values of the Millenial generation.” 19 Aug 2014

Picky Eaters and Not Apologizing for How I Feed My Family

Toddlers won’t starve themselves. I have to keep telling myself that. Especially at dinner my daughter seems to eat so little, despite the variety that I try to put in front of her. I know that the variety is not as diverse as it could be, especially since I work full-time and don’t often cook at home, but… wow. Sometimes I wonder how she has energy enough to keep growing. When I was a kid, I ate everything in front of me and asked for seconds yes please.

The Mayo Clinic’s first suggested item is to “Respect your child’s appetite – or lack thereof”. I’m starting to think that much of parenting is just acceptance and channeling that inner peace that zen masters seem to have found. Maybe they had difficult children.

Whenever I see articles about ‘feeding your family on a budget’, the focus seems to be on preparing items for a reasonable cost but still cooking. That’s great if you have the time, but I actually don’t have time after my daughter goes to bed to spent 30 minutes prepping food for the next day.  That is not the most effective use of my time. So, I rely on a few things:

  • Know what takeout is healthy and don’t be ashamed of it. Panera is my friend, for my health and my daughter’s, even if I do sometimes let her indulge in a bit of their flipflop cookies. They offer salads, healthy sandwiches, soups, apples, and yogurt. I don’t feel bad serving her this kind of takeout, but I would if my only takeout options were burgers and fries.
  • Buy easy items in bulk. Organic canned green beans are easy to open and have ready to eat in seconds. Keeping several cans in my pantry gives me a healthy, easy side dish, and buying in bulk generally saves money.
  • The microwave is my friend. At night, I can’t spend 30 minutes hands-on preparing things, but I can spend a few seconds prepping a pasta and water in a bowl and spend time working while that spends about 15 minutes in the microwave. I’ve prepped Annie’s Alfredo Shells & Cheddar for the next dinner this way. Just put a good amount of water in the bowl with the pasta, drain it when it’s tender (~15 min but check after 10), and mix in the seasoning packet. I add canned tuna or peas to bulk it up and get more protein in.
  • Don’t apologize. I try to take my daughter to a restaurant at least once a week so that she can get more complex, prepared food, but I will not apologize for the fact that during the week, I cannot be a gourmet chef for her right now. I used to cook a lot more, and I enjoyed it. But, at this point in my life, with my career and home demands as they are, spending so much time on making her food marginally better is not worth the time, work, and emotional drain on me. I cannot be perfect at everything all the time, and popping open a can of green beans instead of going to the farmers market and prepping fresh ones is a trade-off that I am willing to make right now. I would rather spend that time and work on other ways to take care of my family, including taking care of myself.

Parents, be proud and unashamed. Sometimes you need to tell the world to mind its own darn business.


Sources and Further Reading: