Nov 26, 2013

Are To-Read lists still Vogue? Also, why is Vogue still on my To-Read list?

“Often on a wet day I begin counting up; what I've read and what I haven't read.” - Virginia Woolf

There are probably as many quotes about books and reading as there are books. It's difficult to find the right quote, because unlike finding a needle in a haystack, I can't just burn all the wrong quotes and wait to dig the right one from the ashes. Not that I've ever contemplated the easiest solution to the old needle/haystack problem or anything. No, instead you wind up reading quote after quote, each good but not quite relevant enough for your purposes until eventually you either stumble across the right one or you just give up and pick the next quote by Mark Twain.

This problem is even worse in books, because most of the wittiest quotes are only a sentence or two but books, well books aren't. So, instead of trying to have a right book for the situation I, like I hope most readers still do, have a to-read list. A special shelf of books that I feel are important enough to isolate and focus on. Well it was a shelf, but now that ebooks are starting to fill my life it's a little more complicated. From books, to ebooks, to magazines, my to-read grows faster than my have-read and I  begin to wonder why I even try to keep up.

Because I really like things, that's why. I really like reading about bears that have emigrated from "Darkest Peru", or murders on uppity liberal arts college campuses. So I read books like the Paddington Bear series, or The Secret History. I also really like looking at photos of stunningly designed dresses or well-tailored blazers. This means Vogue will always hold a place on my shortlist for best in-flight reading. I really like things, and words or pictures printed on paper is a wonderful portal to those things.

Because there really wasn't a ton of purpose to this besides me sharing some thoughts, let's make this meaningful. Tell me your thoughts on reading lists, share with me some of the books, magazines, comics or really anything you feel should be added to my To-Read list, and I'll give it some thought. Just please, no books about quotes.

Nov 19, 2013

Nothing Brings Warmth to the Holiday Season like Good Books

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” - Garrison Keillor

We here at Scarletta love books, and we know you do too. I can't speak for everyone else but I also love gifts; I imagine you do too. The feeling that somebody out there wants to add something to your life, be it a new car or a pair of socks. I share that same desire you have to give gifts to your family and friends to see the smiles on their faces, and that little flame of pride in your heart that flares whenever you see someone enjoying a gift you gave them in the past.

So if you love books and you love gifts, and I'm comfortable assuming that we've established that, then you must recognize the value of books as gifts. The gift of knowledge, or the gift of laughter, perhaps the gift of curiosity, there is an emotion that goes along with every genre and you're in control of what you give. Sometimes that can be a little intimidating, the number of options may be too large. Let me help you narrow that down with a special offer just for the holiday season.

To: You
From: All of us at Scarletta

If that still doesn't narrow things down enough for you, here are 4 of my own suggestions from the Scarletta catalogs.

Nov 15, 2013

The Power of Reading

"If only Jupiter would restore me those bygone years"

Every reader probably remembers the first book they read. The first time they were able to read on their own. Their first complete chapter book, and then their first complete series. Those achievements that seemed so constant when younger, and have become further and further apart as time takes hold and you begin to grow older. And somewhere among those, hopefully toward the beginning, sits a book or two that helped inspire you to become a reader. I've talked before about my favorites through the ages but this is something different, something more of a spark to light a fuse and less the fireworks that ensued.

Because I have a hard time being succinct when I discuss the things I am passionate about, I've recruited the assistance of the wonderful Josh and Sara here at Scarletta to give their input and keep my long-winded speeches at bay.

The Berenstain Bears and the Lonely Nightlight

Imagine this: A small girls’ room with a yellow lace-covered canopy bed, small writing desk and green 
shag carpet. This was my bedroom as a little girl growing up in Chicago. As a child, I had tremendous allergies. My mother discovered my allergies not because I was sneezing or coughing throughout the day, but because she saw a small light come from under my door at 2 AM. I could not sleep. At two years old, I would lay in my bed with a stuffed up nose trying to breath. What could I do? I could not get up and make warm milk or take a bath. 

Instead I turned to a new friend: The Berenstain Bears book series. The books follow the Bear family as they deal with life’s issues such as the first day of school, sickness, and following the rules. I took one book off the shelf and then two and three. After a few days, I had a stack of 10-20 books. 

Suddenly, I could breath!! 

However, when my mother saw that lonely nightlight there was trouble.  Jan and Stan Berenstain ignited my love for reading. Eventually my allergies stopped but my love of reading has continued. My favorite authors include Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou, and F. Scott Fitzgerald but the Berenstain’s will always hold a special place in my heart. 

-Sara Lien Edelman


I believe every person should have an I CAN READ memory. I don’t mean a specific moment they can pinpoint as the beginning of their reading journey. Rather, I’m referring to the very specific, delightful series of books from HarperCollins back in the  early 90s. The I CAN READ series is full of books that have been appropriately leveled for various ages and reading levels. Among the abundance of titles, The Golly Sisters Go West is one that I can highlight as a true reading inspiration. Originally published in 1986, the Golly Sisters series involved a theatrical pair of siblings, May-May and Rose,
traveling all over the Midwest to put on shows and get into scuffles. I was so drawn to their enthusiasm for adventure; reading about their endeavors and mishaps never felt like a chore. And, besides, who doesn't love a feathered headband?

-Josh Plattner

I myself hold The Boxcar Children series as the impetus behind my reading. The Alden siblings, orphaned and alone, move into an abandoned boxcar to avoid the elements. They go on to solve mysteries, discover their grandfather, and save the day countless times all while fighting to stay together as a family. It's got all the right elements of The Hatchet, Encyclopedia Brown, the Hardy Boys and the Babysitter Club. Plus, it was just the right difficulty for me to power through them in first through third grade while still building my vocabulary and there are enough books to last ages. I still pick up any books I don't own whenever I'm in a thrift store. It's a series that stays in your heart forever, and that's something magical that I think only the best books can do.

-Denzel Kingsbury

Now, we've all been lucky enough to have these resources available, helping is grow not just as readers but also as people. Books are a powerful tool for self-development, and I feel we all realize that. One of our own former employees here at Scarletta, Ashley Bostrom, has taken that realization and is working to help provide those same resources to the youth she works with in Ethiopia. Her program provides both the resources and the structure to help children who have never held a work of fiction before become well-read young adults. If you wish to help Ashley's program, she's made it super simple to do so. Just follow the link at the bottom, and it will lead you to a list of the books the program is in need of, and instructions on how to purchase copies and ship them to the school for free. I must admit, I'm particularly excited to send a copy of The Black Book of Colors and any other braille books I can to help make sure that even their blind student can be involved. 

We will never get those bygone year back, but we can make sure that we do our part to give those same opportunities and experiences to those who come after us. Thank you Ashley, and thank you to anyone else who contributes to a child's development through the power of reading.

Nov 12, 2013

An Alternative to NaNoWriMo

“Sometimes a story has no end.”

Happy National Novel Writing Month, everyone! Earlier this month, Denzel wrote a fantastic piece on the basics of NaNoWriMo, er—ahem—#NaNoWriMo that provides a fantastic introduction to those of you unfamiliar with this month-long exercise in sanity. Celebrated across the United States for the entire month, NaNoWriMo is one of those events that appears just as terrifying as it actually is.  Fifty thousand words?! That’s a remarkable amount of work for a single month.

But I suppose that’s the appeal, isn’t it? At the end of 30 painstaking days, you have a novel in front of you.

But then what? What becomes of those fifty thousand words? What do you do when December 1st rears it cold, ugly head and all you have to show for the month is a word document with countless unusable passages and multiple grammatically questionable sentences. What becomes of all your worrying, second-guessing, and coffee-fueled temper tantrums because that guy two tables down just will not stop tapping his foot to the beat of a song you can hear above the roar of the café you’re sitting in?

For most of us: nothing. Nothing will happen to that manuscript.

Nothing will come from our hard work.

No one will ever read our words and share their thoughts.

Nobody will care what happened to what’s her name or what path that one guy chose.

Nov 7, 2013

Eureka! We've Struck Gold!

It all started with a submission to the California Reading Association's Eureka! Nonfiction Children's Book Awards for 2013. And on Wednesday, November 6, we were notified of our cookbook's gold success! We knew we had gold when we decided to publish this stunning children's cookbook, but it's nice to have a little affirmation now and again.

Cool World Cooking: Fun and Tasty Recipes for Kids! by Lisa Wagner hit shelves in early July 2013, and is already into it's second printing! This durable cookbook gives up-and-coming chefs a chance to explore the foods of the world. This international cookbook has over 50 recipes from six different cultures and introduces readers to world geography, math, science, and authentic, easy-to-make recipes that taste great. Young chefs will learn about African, French, Italian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Japanese and Chinese cooking.
978-1-938063-12-1 (tp)
978-1-938063-13-8 (ebook)

This is the CRA's fourth annual year hosting the Eureka! awards program, and we're excited to have been a part of it. We can't wait for the years to come either, because we have a fantastic selection of nonfiction activity books for kids of all ages (and adults too!).

Help us celebrate this fantastic selection by purchasing your own copy of Cool World Cooking or by displaying this award-winning book in your store. Need we mention that this award is just in time for the holiday season!? It makes a great holiday gift... give it early and see what delicious creations come from the kitchen!

To see the other five gold winners and a list of honorees, check out the CRA's sterling list of books.

Nov 5, 2013

Crowd-Sourcing My Reading List: A Thank You to Library Patrons That Reserve Books

It's gloomy outside. I'm talking cloudy-skies, but the really sad grey instead of the fearsome black that comes with true storms, slight drizzle that hints at hail occasionally and a sort of chilly gust that doesn't just bite, but gnaws at your nose and ears and fingers until you want to run back inside and curse the skies. Truly awful weather.

And yet, I'm excited. Not for the weather, of course, but rather because of what it means. It means that it's time to go to the library. Now obviously I think it's time to go to the library basically every day, and thanks to good legislation and a well-read society that's an option. But this is different, this is the beginning of reservation season. There is nothing on the internet that I can find to support my claim, but I stand behind it. Late-October/Early-November brings a beautiful upswell of books reserved at my public library. I noticed it several years ago when I volunteered, misguidedly, to help reshelve the books that were never picked up, and it became my weekly duty. 

There's something strangely intimate about seeing the books that people reserve, scanning through the titles that people felt so strongly about reading at some point that they requested they be sequestered from general population. Like the collectibles section in an antique store, these things hold value greater than their peers. But to who? That was always the biggest question I could never answer, since the reserve slips only ever had a library card #, all I could do was make feeble attempts at guessing the age, gender, or interests of the intended recipient. And it was within that mystery that I found the value of the reserve section.

There are countless ways to find books, from bookstore suggestions to review sites, and they all present me with the same general information. Which books are popular, which authors are popular, what genre is hot right now? And that's exactly the information that I want from them, except, sometimes I don't want it and it's still there. And what's worse it updates constantly, so firmly rooted in the present that if you look away for a couple months, you could miss a ton of hidden treasures. But not in the reserves section. Instead it seems to be the antithesis of review sites; no names, no star system, not even thumbs up/down, in most cases the books haven't even been read by the person selecting them. And yet, it has no predilection for the present and it holds no bias, just books that people think should be read. 

It'd be as good as random if I couldn't pick out the patterns, but they're in there, a dash of late-80's wilderness fiction anchored by Gary Paulsen's The Hatchet here, Clyde B. Clason and Charlotte Armstrong providing a smattering of 1940's Fiction there. Something drives these patterns, and as such drives my own exploration. I discovered my love of 1950's science-fiction centering around utopian city planning gone wrong, or how I learned that while the mid-19th century did have more lax rules about punctuation, Charlotte Brontë really was just bad at avoiding run-on sentences (I suffer this habit myself). This is where I find my reading list to fill the gaps between new releases I've been anticipating. This is where I've rounded out my experiences, and grown beyond the genres I would otherwise have trapped myself within.

And so I thank each and every one of you that has reserved a book, I thank you for being the filter that I want but lack the experience to become, and I thank you for your unwitting contribution to my life as a reader. Now please stop reserving a million copies of Infinite Jest, they're getting hard to wade through.

Nov 2, 2013

National Novel Writing Month, or How I Learned to Stop Editing and Love the Pressure

Some people like to run in races, from the short and sweet 5K to the more arduous 10k. There are even people who can knock out the 21K Half-Marathons or their twice as grueling sibling the 42K Full-Marathon. I'm not here to teach you about long-distance running, although I'm sure I'd find a way to make it fun, but rather to talk about that truly terrifying goal that rears it's head every November.


Luckily for me, my joints, and my cardiovascular system, that number isn't a representation of physical distance. Instead it's shorthand for 50,000. As in 50,000 words. As in the 50,000 words that make up the novel you could be writing this month. 

NaNoWriMo is always a fun time of the year. Crazy, tiresome, a little reckless even, but certainly a fun time and an unforgettable experience. It provides you the goal, the deadline, and the community necessary to get your butt in gear and crank out a novel. This can be rather scary for people, especially someone like myself who is married to the backspace key, and might be having an affair with the delete key (that's just a rumor though). 50,000 words, one month, how can you do it? Luckily there plenty of people out there who have plenty of tips on how to survive NaNoWriMo, some of the most common being 

1. Just dive in.
2. Worry about all that editing later.
3. Kiss your social life goodbye for the next 30 nights.

As long as you follow rule #1, the rest is golden. Treat this like I treated every track and field day in elementary school and go for gold because you'll at least get a consolation medal. Worst-case scenario the month ends and you're left with more words than you started with, words you can continue to work with and around for as long as you want. Edit them, delete them, ignore them, at the end of the day it's all in your hands, or as I guess is more apt in this era, at your fingertips.

And now for some fun NaNoWriMo stats:

  • In 2012 there were 341,375 participants
  • 3,288,976,325 words were written.
  • Minneapolis was the 10th most active U.S. city, and the 16th overall
  • I managed to crank out 31,284 words, nearly double my product from 2011
  • You could be writing right now
  • So go do that

Enjoy NaNoWriMo Everyone!