Top Ten Tuesday: Ten books I loved reading with my kiddos

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a new top 10 theme each week. While the “official” topic is slightly different, I thought I’d focus on books that I loved reading with my kids. Now, bear in mind that both (sadly) have outgrown the reading-aloud phase, but I did diligently read to both of them every single day from infancy onward.

First, here are some books that were perfect for my sweeties in the baby and toddler days:

1. Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown — so perfectly sweet.

2. ALL books by Sandra Boynton: I especially loved The Going to Bed Book, But Not the Hippopotamus, Moo Baa La La La — but they’re really all terrific. And years later, I can (and do) still quote them by heart!

3. The poetry of Winnie the Pooh: A good friend gave me a beautiful set of the Winnie the Pooh books when my daughter was born, and what we ended up especially loving were the poems in the books. Lines and Squares is amazing!

4. Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks from A to Z: You haven’t lived until you’ve read this book with a 2-year-old! The adults in the house were on the floor completely incapacitated by laughter the first time we read this with my son, who tried his best, in his adorable 2-year-old voice, to repeat the names of all of the very silly cars. (The 2-year-old is now 15 and I’m sure would deny having any part in this, but I have video proof!)

5. Tumble Tower – a wonderful picture book that we loved to pieces.

6. Tumble Bumble – Unrelated to Tumble Tower, it’s just such a wonderful sing-songy read, and so much fun.

As the kiddos got older, we moved on to chapter books and book series, and here are some we loved:

7. Harry Potter — of course! I read the entire series out loud to my son when he was about 7 or 8. I was so proud of myself! (He loved it too.) We had such a good time with reading and discussing these books — it was an amazing experience.

8. The Hobbit — another fun read-aloud.

9. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – I read this one with my daughter. She was definitely old enough to read it on her own, but the concepts involved are pretty complex, and it was a good choice for a book to share.

10. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede — The dragon and princess trope turns upside down in these magical tales. Book #1 is really the best, but all make for a great shared read.

What books did you love reading with the kids in your life… or which would you want to read with your future kids? Please leave me your link!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

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Book Review: Thornhill

Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as Ella unravels the mystery of the girl next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she’s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2016: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past

 

Oh my, this was a great read! Very much reminiscent of the style of Brian Selznick, Thornhill is told both in words, via Mary’s diary, and in pictures, via illustrations of Ella’s experiences. Author/illustrator Pam Smy does an incredible job of moving the story forward through the black and white illustrations from Ella’s world, which are stark and evocative and ever-so-ghostly.

The tale told through Mary’s diary is heartbreaking, and the first-person narrative is particularly effective. We see how Mary is an outcast even among outcasts, friendless in this home for unwanted girls, locking herself away in her own private sanctuary to escape the insidious, cruel attention of the house bully. Mary constructs a whole world for herself with her books and her carefully crafted puppets, but even this sanctuary ends up being violated. It’s wrenching to read of Mary’s pain, and all too easy to understand how her pain turns to anger and then to a burning need for revenge.

Meanwhile, Ella’s story is sad in its own way. Through the pictures on her walls, we come to understand that Ella’s mother has died and that she’s being raised in this new home and new town by a father who’s usually absent. No wonder Ella becomes fascinated by the spooky house she can see from her window and the mystery of the light she sees shining from the attic window.

Thornhill is a spooky, powerful, and quite definitely sad story of two girls from different times, bound together by loneliness. It’s haunting in all the right ways, and I simply loved the use of words and pictures to tell one complete story.

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The details:

Title: Thornhill
Author: Pam Smy
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication date: August 29, 2017
Length: 544 pages
Genre: Ghost story/illustrated/young adult
Source: Library

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Blast from the past: Rediscovering a childhood favorite

Back in October, I wrote about an odd phenomenon:

For no reason I could think of, I was suddenly plagued by lines from a childhood poem, and I just could not get them out of my brain. But even worse, I couldn’t remember what book this poem came from, and despite my best efforts online, I was not able to track down the title or the author.

I’ve thought about it on and off ever since, and tried some rare book resource websites, but to no avail. And then, the absolutely amazing Mystereity Reviews (@mystereity) tweeted to let me know that she’d found it!

 

Following the link she provided, I saw the following:

There is a book called “Would You Put Your Money in a Sand Bank” by Harold Longman. It contains a poem about King Max and his taxes that ends with the people putting tacks in Max. Could this be what you’re looking for? The rest of the book is puns and riddles and other poems. – See more at: http://www.whatsthatbook.com/index.php?xq=21020#sthash.IckfiWhT.dpuf
Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! That’s definitely the poem I wanted! So I went on Amazon and found a used copy, placed my order, and here’s what arrived today:

 

Published in 1968, Would You Put Your Money in a Sand Bank? is a book of puns and wordplay. And there, on page 43, is my long-lost poem! What’s funny is that I don’t recognize anything else about this book — so perhaps just this one poem appeared in an early-reading anthology or something similar. Maybe? Also odd is the fact that I must have read it about a zillion times, and here we are decades later and I still remember big pieces of it by heart — but when I asked my sister if she remembered the poem we always liked to say out loud about a king named Max and all of his taxes, she hadn’t the foggiest notion was I was talking about.

In any case, this just goes to prove that it’s the little things in life that count, because I’m giddy with joy over being reunited with Max’s Taxes. And since I couldn’t find this in print or online anywhere other than in a very old book, I’m going to reprint the entire poem here, for the sake of posterity. I hope you like it!

 

A wicked King named Max
Decreed an income tax.
He put a notice on the wall,
And stuck it up with tacks.

The people cried, “We can’t abide
Either Max or tax!
The outcome is, our income
Won’t even buy us snacks!

“A plague on Max’s taxes!
They’re anything but fair!
He taxes both our income
And our patience , we declare!”

 

So up they rose upon their toes
And seized all Max’s tacks…
Went marching to the palace
And stuck the tacks in Max.

 

Fun, right? I wish I still had learning-to-read kids in my house to share this with… but maybe I’ll go torture my 14-year-old by reading it to him anyway.

And once again, THANK YOU to Mystereity Reviews!

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Help! I’ve got a children’s book earworm, and I don’t know what it’s from!

woman-1172721_1920Lend a reader a hand, won’t you?

Since yesterday, I’ve had lines from a children’s book stuck in my head. Does this count as an earworm, or does that only refer to music? Whatever — I’m saying it counts.

So… my earworm.

I know this is from something my sister and I used to read a lot as kids. I think it’s from a children’s book, but it could also just be from a short piece within a collection. I’ve tried Googling, and I’ve come up with absolutely nothing.

Here’s what I remember — it’s a rhyming story set in a kingdom with a really unfair ruler. And it has something to do with taxes. And I think someone named Max.

(I know, taxes sounds like a really weird topic for a kids’ book, but hey, I didn’t write the thing!)

The lines I know (or kind of know):

A plague on Max’s taxes! They are anything but fair! He taxes both our income and our patience, we declare.

And

So up they rose upon their toes and [something about sneaking into the palace].

And in the end,

They stuck their tacks in Max!

Am I completely crazy?

If you have any idea what this could be, please let me know! You’ll have my eternal gratitude!

Book Review: Summer of Lost and Found

Summer of Lost and FoundSynopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Nell Dare expected to spend her summer vacation hanging out with her friends in New York City. That is, until her botanist mom dragged her all the way to Roanoke Island for a research trip. To make matters worse, her father suddenly and mysteriously leaves town, leaving no explanation or clues as to where he went—or why.

While Nell misses the city—and her dad—a ton, it doesn’t take long for her to become enthralled with the mysteries of Roanoke and its lost colony. And when Nell meets Ambrose—an equally curious historical reenactor—they start exploring for clues as to what really happened to the lost colonists. As Nell and Ambrose’s discoveries of tantalizing evidence mount, mysterious things begin to happen—like artifacts disappearing. And someone—or something—is keeping watch over their quest for answers.

It looks like Nell will get the adventurous summer she was hoping for, and she will discover secrets not only about Roanoke, but about herself.

My thoughts:

Such fun! This is a perfect summer book – particularly if you’re looking for something to tuck into a middle-grade reader’s suitcase on the way to a family vacation. I picture reading this one on a blanket on the beach, in between dips in the ocean, maybe while munching on watermelon slices…

Nell Dare is a terrific main character. She’s a city girl through and through, and can’t think of anything more perfect than spending the summer in Manhattan with her best friend. When her dad takes off and her mother forces her to spend time on a weird island to help with research about an old vine, things are definitely not going as planned.

Nell becomes enthralled by the mysteries of Roanoke Island, famous for its lost colonists — the early settlers in the late 1500s who disappeared without a trace, a mystery unsolved to this day. Nell makes a “frenemy” of another girl her age, Lila, who’s also determined to get to the bottom of the lost colony. The race is on! Nell pursues clues with the help of a charming but slightly odd boy, learning her way around the island — but also learning how to get along without subways or taxis, enjoying the forests and dunes and learning the fine art of traveling by bicycle.

There’s a lot of heart in the story, as Nell’s summer is spent worrying about her father’s disappearance and what it means. Neither parent will tell her straight out, so Nell is left to guess and feel bad. She worries too that her best friend back in New York will replace her while she’s gone, and the speed at which texts are answered become talismans for the state of their friendship.

Finally, Nell learns a lot about finding a direction and charting her own path, asking for answers, and sticking things out.

But that’s true, right? Sometimes it’s the places we think we know the best that hold the most secrets: our streets, our backyards, and even our homes.

Nell’s summer adventure, investigating the mysteries of Roanoke, ultimately allows her to find out more about herself and her family. Along the way, she explores friendship and loneliness, and figures out that she needs to stand up and makes things happen herself.

Summer of Lost and Found is a charming middle-grade novel about a summer of discoveries — discoveries about the past, about things that are lost, and about commitment and family. Highly recommended for moms and daughters — this would make a great summer book to share!

Interested in this author? Check out my review of her previous novel, When Audrey Met Alice.

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The details:

Title: Summer of Lost and Found
Author: Rebecca Behrens
Publisher: Aladdin
Publication date: May 24, 2016
Length: 288 pages
Genre: Middle grade fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Shelf Control #31: Charmed Life (Chrestomanci, #1)

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Welcome to the newest weekly feature here at Bookshelf Fantasies… Shelf Control!

Shelf Control is all about the books we want to read — and already own! Consider this a variation of a Wishing & Waiting post… but looking at books already available, and in most cases, sitting right there on our shelves and e-readers.

Want to join in? See the guidelines and linky at the bottom of the post, and jump on board! Let’s take control of our shelves!

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My Shelf Control pick this week is:

ChrestomanciTitle: Charmed Life
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Published: 1977
Length: 218 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

A bewitching comic fantasy by a master of the supernatural

Cat doesn’t mind living in the shadow of his sister, Gwendolen, the most promising young witch ever seen on Coven Street. But trouble starts brewing the moment the two orphans are summoned to live in Chrestomanci Castle. Frustrated that the witches of the castle refuse to acknowledge her talents, Gwendolen conjures up a scheme that could throw whole worlds out of whack.

How I got it:

My daughter has had a copy for a long time, and I just picked up the collected volumes of the series at the library’s book sale.

When I got it:

Last week! But it’s been on my radar for years.

Why I want to read it:

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never read anything by Diana Wynne Jones. We have several of her books in the house, including Howl’s Moving Castle and Deep Secret — but I remember that my daughter really liked the start of the Chrestomanci series (although I don’t know if she ever finished it), so I thought this would be a good choice for me. As someone who enjoys a good fantasy tale, it’s simply unacceptable that I’ve never experienced this author!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link below!
  • And if you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and have fun!


For more on why I’ve started Shelf Control, check out my introductory post here, or read all about my out-of-control book inventory, here.

And if you’d like to post a Shelf Control button on your own blog, here’s an image to download (with my gratitude, of course!):

Shelf Control

Thursday Quotables: The Giver

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.

The Giver

The Giver by Lois Lowry
(published 1993)

I’m so glad that I took the time to re-read this book! I suppose I should thank my son’s middle school English teacher for assigning it to the class, which inspired me to pick it up as well.

The Giver told him that it would be a very long time before he had the colors to keep.

“But I want them!” Jonas said angrily. “It isn’t fair that nothing has color!”

“Not fair?” The Giver looked at Jonas curiously. “Explain what you mean.”

“Well…” Jonas had to stop and think it through. “If everything’s the same, then there aren’t any choices! I want to wake up in the morning and decide things! A blue tunic, or a red one?”

He looked down at himself, at the colorless fabric of his clothing. “But it’s all the same, always.”

Then he laughed a little. “I know it’s not important, what you wear. It doesn’t matter. But — ”

“It’s the choosing that’s important, isn’t it?” The Giver asked him.

 

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

Thursday Quotables: Woundabout

quotation-marks4

Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.

woundabout

Woundabout by Lev AC Rosen
(published June 23, 2015)

When one of your favorite authors writes a children’s book, you read it! Woundabout is charming and a tad eccentric right from the start:

Many stories have happy beginnings. Cordelia King, age nine, and her brother, Connor King, age eleven, knew this because they had often been read those stories by their parents before bed. Stories where little girls run through fields chasing butterflies and stumble on portals to wondrous places. Stories where boys and their fathers go camping in verdant forests. Stories where everyone is happy except that they haven’t fallen in love yet, which never seemed like much to complain about to Connor and Cordelia.

Sadly, this is not one of those stories.

And just to make a good book even better… there are capybaras! It’s a proven fact that anything is better with capybaras in it.

capybara-family_15762686447_f9f8a0684a_o

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

Book Review: The Marvels

The MarvelsCan a book review consist of just one word? Because if the answer is yes, then my job here is simple. My one-word review of The Marvels:

Beautiful.

Want two words?

Absolutely beautiful.

In The Marvels, author (and artist) Brian Selznick applies the technique he’s used previously (and so effectively) in The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck. In these books, the drawings aren’t illustrating the story — they’re telling the story.

Over 600 pages in length, The Marvels is told purely through illustration for the first 390 pages. And such gorgeous illustrations! Each set of double-facing pages contains a black and white pencil drawing, magnificently detailed, that serves to tell a piece of the story. From page to page, the tale unfolds, and the pictorial story is full of drama and emotion.

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The story of The Marvels begins in 1766, with two brothers, Billy and Marcus, shipwrecked during a storm at sea. Rescued from the island where he washes up, Billy and his dog Tar find their way to London, where they’re adopted by the crew building the Royal Theater. Billy’s story of his brother’s love inspires the theater’s designers so much that Marcus is immortalized as an angel painted on the theater’s ceiling.

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From there, the generations follow: Billy grows up and adopts an abandoned baby, who in turn grows up to become a star of the theater, and onward for several more generations. The Marvel family is the world’s most revered family of actors, acquiring world renown, while at the same time dealing with madness and the final disappointment of a descendant who only wants to escape from the family business. The story ends abruptly with a fire in the theater… and we turn the pages to blank whiteness, and then to the story’s continuation, in printed form, in 1990.

The next several hundred pages are told via the narrative of a 12-year-old boy named Joseph, who runs away from his repressive boarding school and seeks shelter with his eccentric uncle Albert, a man whom he’s never met before. Albert lives in a house that seems more like a museum, employing gas lights and candles to illuminate a mansion full of old-world treasures. Joseph is intrigued by the mystery of Albert’s home, and tries to get his uncle to open up about his secrets and share the truth about their family’s past.

How does this connect to the story of the Marvel family? I’m not telling. You’ll want to find out for yourselves. What I will say is that it wasn’t what I expected, but I was enthralled none the less.

At first, I felt impatient with the written part of the story. The illustrations are so beautiful (that word again!) and pulled me into their world so completely that I hated leaving it behind. But, bit by bit, the story of Joseph and Albert pulled me in as well, and teasing apart the hints to try to unravel the secrets was equally engrossing.

The book itself is hefty and magical to hold:

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Several inches thick, with gilted edges and a gorgeous cover that feels like a throwback to an old-fashioned library edition, The Marvels is just so lovely to look at. This is one book you’ll want in a physical copy for sure — an e-book just won’t be the same.

The story is powerful in both its parts, with themes of love, devotion, and continuity, family commitment and inheritance, and a sense of wonder that is hard to describe. I found myself so absorbed in the mood created by this book that it was hard to re-enter the real world after finishing.

Wonderstruck may still be my favorite Brian Selznick book, but The Marvels is either a tremendously close second or perhaps right on par with Wonderstruck. For sure, both deserve a permanent place on my shelves, and are books that I’ll return to over the years. Reading these books is an immersive experience, and the power of the illustrations cannot be overstated.

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So yes, one more time, I’ll return to my one-word review:

Beautiful.

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The details:

Title: The Marvels
Author: Brian Selznick
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication date: September 15, 2015
Length: 665 pages
Genre: Children’s fiction (middle grade/young adult); illustrated
Source: Purchased

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 kid/tween/teen books that I’d love to revisit

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Top 10 Books From My Childhood (or Teen Years) That I Would Love To Revisit. Putting together this list is a little bit harder than I’d first thought. Since it’s all about books that I want to re-read, I’m going to rule out books that I’ve already revisited with my own kids… making my brain work a bit harder to remember my childhood favorites!

Books I loved as a kid/tween/teen — and which I should surely revisit one of these days:

1) Tall and Proud by Vian Smith: A girl, a horse, polio, bad guys, a dramatic rescue… is this book really as amazing as I remember it? Or did it just perfectly suit 11-year-old me at the time?

tallandproud

2) Light a Single Candle by Beverly Butler: Anyone else remember this book about a 14-year-old girl losing her eyesight, learning Braille, and getting a seeing eye dog? In my tween mind, this was the best thing ever.

Light a Single Candle

3) Merry Rose and Christmas-Tree June by Doris Orgel: It took me years as an adult to track down a copy of this childhood favorite about a girl separated from her beloved dolls. I remember this book as being awesome. I did not remember that the illustrations are by Edward Gorey!

Merry Rose collage

4) Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West by Marguerite Henry: Despite never taking a single riding lesson, I went through the standard-issue young girl horse phase, as evidenced by my obsessive reading of the works of Marguerite Henry. I loved them all, but Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West was my absolute favorite:

mustang

5) The works of Judy Blume, especially Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Deenie. Judy Blume was THE way to learn about bras, boys, periods, and scoliosis.


Blume collage

6) The All-of-a-Kind Family books by Sydney Taylor: I absolutely wanted to be one of the girls in this large, rambunctious family. Somehow, in the books, living in a cramped apartment on the Lower East Side of New York in the early 1900s sounded so glamorous!

All of A Kind Family

7) Lisa, Bright and Dark by John Neufeld: Another tween/early teen obsession: Reading about teens with all sorts of physical and mental illnesses. I remember thinking this one was SO GOOD, but maybe it was just because of the main character’s name…

Lisa Bright and Dark

8) Knight’s Castle by Edward Eager: I had no idea what this book was called for many, many years. I just remember loving a story about a group of kids who kept ending up inside the imaginary worlds that they set up in their playroom each night. Finally finding this book as an adult was a major achievement!

Knight's Castle

9) The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare: I’d love to read this one again! I remember utterly loving it.

Witch of Blackbird Pond

10) And finally, two childhood classics that sparked fantasies and countless short stories focused on running away from home to exciting destinations: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg and My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.

Kidbook collage

 

Which childhood (or tween/teen) favorites would you most like to revisit?

Share your links, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider following Bookshelf Fantasies! And don’t forget to check out my regular weekly feature, Thursday Quotables. Happy reading!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!