2020 in Books

I often get asked if I have any book suggestions and I always get overwhelmed by the question. Reading is subjective, not only the genres we are drawn to…but what we like depends on our state of mind and what is going on around us at any given time! I also tend to think of ALL THE BOOKS I’VE EVER READ, which is… a lot. So this is my attempt to give myself some limits to work within. These are my favorite books that I read in 2020. If I can, I’m including a favorite quote as well.

I save my “5 star” reviews for books that change me somehow. Books that I need to sit with for a while after I’m done reading them… that put me in a bit of a “book slump” because nothing really lives up to them. I will do a second post of easy-breezy reads that are great for those slumps. 

We read literally hundreds of picture books every year…I know I am missing so many here. But, yay for me, I have been doing a better job logging them the second half of this year.

Total books read (not including picture books) – 61
21,305 pages read

Fiction

The Ten Thousand Doors of January – Alix Harrow 

“I hope you will find the cracks in the world and wedge them wider, so the light of other suns shines through; I hope you will keep the world unruly, messy, full of strange magics; I hope you will run through every open Door and tell stories when you return”

– The Bluest Eye- Toni Morrison

“This soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers. Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear, and when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live. We are wrong, of course, but it doesn’t matter. It’s too late. At least on the edge of my town, among the garbage and the sunflowers of my town, it’s much, much, much too late.”

– The First girl Child- Amy Harmon 

“The sun was a nosy stranger, and it found its way inside.”

-A Land Remembered – Patrick D Smith 

“Even the hated wolf kills only for food and only for immediate need. Maybe it is man who will eventually perish as he destroys the land and all that it offers, taking the animals down with him.”

-Circe- Madeline Miller 

“He does not mean that it does not hurt. He does not mean that we are not frightened. Only that: we are here. This is what it means to swim in the tide, to walk the earth and feel it touch your feet. This is what it means to be alive.”

-Where the Forest Meets the Stars- Glendy Vanderah 

“I’ve decided language isn’t as advanced as we think it is. We’re still apes trying to express our thoughts with grunts while most of what we want to communicate stays locked in our brains.”

-The Golden Compass- Philip Pullman 

“She was familiar with the way of ideas, and she let it shimmer, looking away, thinking about something else.”

-The Indigo Girl- Natasha Boyd

Nonfiction 

-If Women Rose Rooted- Sharon Blackie

“A sense of responsibility to the land is a natural consequence of this deep sense of place… it is hard to care for something you do not know.”

-Bird By Bird- Anne Lamott

“The great writers keep writing about the cold dark place within, the water under a frozen lake or the secluded, camouflaged hole. The light they shine on this hole, this pit, helps us cut away or step around the brush and brambles; then we can dance around the rim of the abyss, holler into it, measure it, throw rocks in it, and still not fall in. It can no longer swallow us up. And we can get on with things.”

– Braiding Sweetgrass- Robin Wall Kimmerer 

“Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.”  

-Normal Sucks- Jonathan Mooney

“I’ve learned that hands can speak, listening is reading, talking is writing, and that human intelligence and ability are not one thing, but many. Intelligence is not singular but multiple, and it is bigger, stranger, and more wonderful than we’ve all been led to believe…I’ve learned that we are all temporarily able bodies and minds moving in and out of states of ability and disability every day of our lives. Sooner or later we all fall off the center of the bell curve. Our bodies, minds, and lives change. The goal posts surrounding what is normal for us will move, and we will lose our own normality if we ever thought we had it…For all of us, normal is just temporary, and we are only visiting – for a fleeting moment – the center of the bell curve”

-The Four Agreements- Miguel Ruiz

“1. Be impeccable with your word.

2. Don’t take anything personally.

3. Don’t make assumptions.

4. Always do your best. ”

-The Brave Learner – Julie Bogart 

“On some intuitive level, I knew that learning had to be more than the mastery of facts. I’ve experienced it as an adult. I become consumed with a subject like quilting or preparing yogurt cultures, and that topic takes over my life – fabric scraps scattered on the floor, little jars of white sludge cuddled by blankets on my kitchen countertops. When I learned to play guitar in my thirties, no one had to schedule my practices. My guitar lived on a stand in the living room and I tormented our ears multiple times a day until my fingers bled. Passion for learning has that fiery, consuming, can’t-stop quality.”

-The Garden Awakening- Mary Reynolds

A link to all of the books I read this year: Kaitlin’s Year in Books | Goodreads

Picture Books

-We All Saw A Cat – Brendan Wenzel.

-Thank You Omu- Oge Mora 

-Bear Came Along- Richard T Morris, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

-Stumpkin- Lucy Ruth Cummins

-Orion and the Dark – Emma Yarlett

-In a Jar – Deborah Marcero

-Swashby and the Sea – Beth Ferry, Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

-The Crocodile Who Didn’t like Water – Gemma Merino

-Little Santa- Jon Agee

-The Ghosts Went Floating- Kim Norman, Illustrated by Jay Fleck

-Izzy Gizmo- Pip Jones, Illustrated by Sarah Ogilvie

-The Couch Potato- Jory John,  Illustrated by Pete Oswald

-The Honeybee- Kirsten Hall, Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

-Superbuns – Diana Kredensor

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The Hunt

Kidlit contests have been keeping me writing for the last year. In a time where everything feels the same, it’s been nice to stay creative and ask my brain to work in new ways.

Vivian Kirkfield does a “50 Precious Words” contest, where writers are asked to tell a kidlit story with a beginning, middle and end in 50 words. That’s TOUGH. But, I had been playing with a rhyme a few months ago that I couldn’t quite make work and it seemed like a good opportunity to dust it off and tinker with it.

THE HUNT

Kaitlin Sikes

45 Words

The rain has ceased,

it’s time to feast,

let’s waddle, peck and prowl.

Feet slap around,                                                                                            

we roam the town;

six hungry waterfowl.

We found them, “QUACK!”

We flock to snack,

a squirmy, soft delight.

A worm buffet!

We’ll feast all day,

until sunset tonight!

THE END

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I enjoyed writing this little story and I hope you liked reading it! My inspiration came from a flock of ducks that visited us last Mother’s Day. There had been a lot of rain and there were worms EVERYWHERE. A roving flock of ducks marched down our street and feasted. It was something to see.

I encourage you to visit Vivian Kirkfield’s website, other contest entries are in the comments! Happy National Inventors Day and a Sneak Peek at #50PreciousWords 2021 | VIVIAN KIRKFIELD – Writer for Children

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The New Neighbor

This is such an odd season for holidays. No big gatherings, swapping cards and candy. For us, holidays right now mean spending time in nature and if we’re lucky, with family.

Susanna Hill does an annual “Valentiny” contest, the instructions this year were to write a Valentines story appropriate for children, maximum 214 words in which someone feels brave! 2021 Valentiny Writing Contest – Susanna Leonard Hill (susannahill.com)

Here is my “Valentiny” entry!

The New Neighbor  (WC: 210)

By: Kaitlin Sikes

On February 1st

on a small Island,

down Castaway Court,

in a grassy overgrown field,

a tenacious, charismatic, new resident

flew in on the salty, sunset breeze. 

That same breeze tip-toed through Leo’s open window

carrying a trilling call. 

Leo dashed to investigate. 

He found a tiny owl, standing in the grassy field, 

fearlessly guarding a burrow opening.

A blue jay swooped, but the owl stood strong.

Day after day, Leo watched.

Day after day, the owl stood sentry 

and decorated its home-

red tinsel, newspapers, bits of pink plastic.

“What is the owl waiting for?”

Leo wondered,

And pondered.

“Maybe the owl is decorating for a party?”

Aha!

For Valentine’s Day, 

Leo could take his mom 

for a special picnic.

Leo packed a lunch, 

held his mom’s hand 

and brought her to meet the new neighbor.

Quietly watching,

the new neighbor stood,

bob,

bobbing

his tiny head. 

Leo’s hushed exclamation lifted on the breeze,

”Welcome to the neighborhood,

Brave Bob!” 

Mom whispered, “Thanks for sharing this with me.”

Leo smiled.

They watched. 

Together.

Cooo-coooo!

Four grey fuzzy owlets 

and another owl

emerged from underground. 

Leo gasped! 

On February 14th,

on a small Island,

down Castaway Court,

in a grassy vacant lot,

five new residents stood wide-eyed in the sunshine.

THE END

Science Note: Mid-February is the start of Florida Burrowing Owl nesting season. The male owls bravely stand guard outside the burrow while the female stays with the babies below ground. Burrowing owls decorate their burrows with found items like Christmas tinsel, paper, cigarettes, and bits of plastic. They also coat the entry to the burrow with manure (Scientists aren’t sure if this is to mask the smell of the babies within the burrow, or to draw beetles that they eat. Perhaps both!) 

Owl Watch – Audubon of the Western Everglades (audubonwe.org)

Where Burrowing Owls Are Your Neighbors | Audubon

Photos with permission by Jean Hall, who is passionate about her work with Burrowing Owls and so graciously answered my many questions. She is a wonder!

14 day-old Burrowing Owl

Bonding Pair of Burrowing Owls
“Decorations” around burrow
Burrowing Owls at perch

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Our Favorite KidLit Nature Books

I’m always on the hunt for good nature-based picture books. I thought I should compile a list of our favorite nature books. So many books feature animals, so I tried to stay away from books that were about an animal only. This list spans books from the 1970s to 2020 and I’m sure it will continue to grow!

Board Books

– Kitten’s First Full Moon- Kevin Henkes

– The Little Gardener-Jan Gerardi  

– Animal Homes (Usborne)

– Littlest Family’s Big Day- Emily Winfield Martin

Picture Books

-Sophie’s Squash- Pat Zietlow Miller & Anne Wilsdorf

-I see a Kookaburra- Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

-Stuck- Oliver Jeffers

-Mama Built a little nest- Jennifer Ward & Steve Jenkins

-Because of an Acorn- Lola M. Schaefer & Adam Schaefer

-Water is Water- Miranda Paul & Jason Chin

-Mushroom Fan Club- Elise Gravel

-Tops and Bottoms- Janet Stevens

-Sand Cake- Frank Asch

-Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt- Kate Messner & Christopher Silas Neal

-Jack’s Garden- Henry Cole

Poetry

-Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems- Kate Coombs & Meilo So

-Butterfly eyes and other secrets of the meadow: Joyce Sidman & Beth Krommes

Reference

-Creaturepedia- Adrienne Barman (Ok this is really about animals but I HAD to include it because of the way the animals are grouped… It encourages out of the box thinking about the natural world. It’s a favorite in our house)

-DK Lifecycles: From Start to Finish – Sam Falconer

What are your favorite nature-based kids books?

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2020 – Second round of book recommendations

I am a book snob. It’s true. BUT- I am only a snob about GOOD WRITING. Otherwise, I’ll read just about anything. Not every book has to change my life. The majority of books that I read are for sheer entertainment.  So here are the books that I read in 2020 that were well written and entertaining. I’m including a quote from a few of them as well.

Enjoy!

The girl who chased the moon- Sarah Allen Addison 

(I love anything she writes. I love how she plays with senses) 

“And then there was the smell—the smell of hope, the kind of smell that brought people home.”

“Adolescence is like having only enough light to see the step directly in front of you, and no farther”

The Last of the Moon Girls-  Barbara Davis

“We upset the balance, you see, because we walk our own path and live our own truth. It’s always been a rough road for those who live differently from the herd.”

“It was the first new moon of the new year, the sacred space between waxing and waning, between nothingness and becoming.”

Here’s Looking At You– Mhairi McFarlane 

A Witch in Time– Constance Sayers

A Week in Winter– Maeve Binchy

“…it’s a good place to think. Out by that ocean, you feel smaller, less important, somehow; it puts things into proportion.”

On Dublin Street -Samantha Young 

The Girl from Ballymor– Kathleen McGurl 

Meet Cute– Helena Hunting 

Beyond the Moon– Catherine Taylor 

Where the Crawdads Sing– Delia Owens 

Summer at the Cornish Cafe– Phillipa Ashley 

The Witch’s Daughter– Paula Brackston 

“City raised and book fed, intelligent and generous, yes, and yet malnourished when it came to a belief in the profound.”

The Bookshop on the Corner – Jenny Colgan

Matchmaking for Beginners– Maddie Dawson

“Sometimes you have to live alongside the things you don’t want, like cancer, and doing that helps you go deeper into life than you’ve ever gone before. If we all lived forever, I tell him, then life really wouldn’t have any meaning. So why not embrace it, prepare for it, love what is?”

Holiday Helper Contest

The Holidays are here!

Susanna Hill does an annual holiday contest for a children’s story. This year the guidelines were that it should be about a Holiday Helper! The story has to be under 250 words. I’ve been learning rhyme and meter and decided to try my hand at my own version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Last December was the first time we have ever celebrated Winter Solstice and we had a lot of fun learning about it. It’s the shortest day (and longest night) of the year and traditionally was the first day of Winter. This year, Winter Solstice will be on 12/21/2020. After Winter Solstice, the days start getting longer again. All around the world there have been different ways to celebrate the “return” of the sun. (Note: We are located in the Northern Hemisphere)

When we were trying to decide how to celebrate solstice, I was drawn to the idea of sharing it with wildlife. It was a wonderful way to give back to nature, which has given us so much. Last year, we sliced and dehydrated oranges, popped plain popcorn in the air popper, and threaded it all on a string with some cranberries. We put one garland in the house and strung another on the back fence for the deer and birds. Here is a great link for some further reading about winter solstice Winter Solstice Celebration Ideas: Fun Ways to Celebrate the Solstice (rhythmsofplay.com)

Long-winded, but I thought the explanations and visuals would help. This is just how WE celebrate. Everyone is different. We also make orange pomanders to symbolize the sun returning.

Guess What? It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Contest Time! – Susanna Leonard Hill (susannahill.com)

‘Twas a Cold Winter Solstice

‘Twas a cold winter solstice, and all through the woods,

all the creatures were hungry and looking for goods.

The ground was all covered with deep drifts of snow,

and the food that they stockpiled was getting quite low.

The rabbits and deer munched the yew tree to shreds,

while visions of blackberries danced in their heads.

Grey chipmunk with fox and I – clever crow,

had spent all day searching for food, high and low.

With my bird belly empty, I headed to bed,

when a column of smoke then arose overhead.

Away through the woodlands I flew like a flash.

I soared through the forest of pine, oak and ash.

The moonlight was faint on the new-fallen snow,

when I spotted a cottage with windows aglow.

When what to my wondering eyes should I see?

Through the snow frosted windows, a family of three.       

While Dad gathered candles and lit them aflame,

Mom threaded and said every step by its name.

A nice orange slice, then add a few cherries!

On popcorn! Dried fruit! Now some shiny cranberries!

Next out to the birch trees! And out to the cold!

Tie that end to a branch and make sure it will hold.”

Other friends from the forest had circled around, 

and we all began feasting, not making a sound. 

Winter solstice was over and hope filled the air.            

We’ll make it to spring, thanks to people who care.   

THE END

238 Words

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Halloweensie Contest

Contest by Susanna Hill (https://susannahill.com/)

Info on The Contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under) (title not included in the 100 words), using the words skeleton, creep, and mask.  Your story can be scary, funny, sweet, or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people

Ogre and His Two Monsters

Ogre trundles down the attic steps with a clunky trunk.

CRASH!

Two little monsters stop cleaning and race down the hall.

Two sets of eyes hidden in furry faces peeeeeeeek around the doorway at the trunk. 

Ogre inhales the trunk’s thick layer of dust and…ATCHOO! 

Covered in dusty cobwebs, two monsters creep closer.

Creak! Ogre lifts the lid. 

“Ooooh! Decorations!” Furry hands quickly get to work.

Skeletons pose. Spiders climb. Toothless pumpkins grin.

It’s time! 

Costume masks on, music roars, two monsters buzz with excitement. 

Ogre opens the door. 

Goblins rush in, yelling “Happy Halloween!”

(95 words)

My 7 year old son decided he wanted to be included and he drew a book for the contest as well…using the key words. Too cute not to share 🙂

The End!

My Favorite Day

This was my entry for the Fall Frenzy 2020 contest, inspired by a photo of a sunflower

Make a small hole.

Drop in one seed.

Cover it with dirt.

Two sets of hands.

Grandma and me.

Seedling.

Bud.

    Flower.

Each sunflower stands tall on a prickly stem. 

Crowned with a golden ray of forty petals.

Bursting with one thousand tiny seeds.

All summer long the sunflowers move.

East in the morning.

West in the evening.

Chasing the sun. 

Now it’s fall and the sunflowers stand still.

“They are brown and dry.

It’s time,” says Grandma.

It’s Sunflower Harvest Day!

My favorite day of the year.

Hand in hand.

       We get to work. 

Sing a song and cut the stems.

Pick out the seeds.

My small fingers are just the right size.

Save two cups of seeds to dry out.

The birds will need some this winter.

Save one cup to plant next year.

Now it’s time to bake.

One baking pan.

A pinch of salt.

Roasted in the oven. 

Sizzle. Ouch! Too hot. 

Cooling while we play.

I wonder how many seeds I can eat?

Crack! One seed.

Crunch. 10 seeds.

Munch. 20 seeds.

Mmmm. 40 seeds.

Ugh… Too many sunflower seeds.

Time for a walk. 

Hand in hand.

We wander through the door.