Thursday, October 14, 2021

Poetry Break (revisited)!

"Poetry Break!" . . . 

Several years ago, on my original blog, Mrs. Merrill's Book Break,  I explained and featured my "Poetry Breaks!"  If you are interested in reading about them, various ways in which I conduct them, and the impact of a "Poetry Break," click here to read more.  

Today, I'd like to share my latest YouTube video, in which I explain a "Poetry Break."  

I am no longer working as a reading specialist and school librarian.  I had to retire early due to a health issue.  I really miss sharing my weekly "Poetry Breaks" and am hoping to be able to share them again via YouTube.  Thank you for stopping by and reading and watching.  :)  

Welcome to Poetry Friday!  Today's poetry fun, round up, is being hosted by Bridget at Wee Words for Wee Ones!  Be sure to stop over to her blog for the round up!

Friday, October 8, 2021

A Rare Mother Goose Book Find

 I have recently started a YouTube channel and this is my video where I discuss a rare, Mother Goose collection that I found at a wonderful little used bookstore in Cherry Valley, NY.  Check out The Cherry Valley Bookstore and check out my video!  

Check out my video at Mother Goose Librarian!

Today's Poetry Friday round up is being hosted by Irene at Live Your Poem, where she discusses her new and exciting writing course!  She is also sharing her poem called, "Autumn Puzzle" as well as, Pablo Neruda's "Ode to Autumn."  Make sure you check out her blog!   

Monday, October 4, 2021

#IMWAYR A Week of Bookish Adventures 9/27-10/3


                                                    One of my current rereads.  

What I've Been Reading:                                                                                                                    Autumn is my favorite season and I love to read books that have the autumnal vibes.  Harry Potter books fit that description perfectly.  So, I began to reread Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, this time, following along in my illustrated edition, as I listen to the audiobook.  I'm enjoying myself a great deal, as I venture back to Hogwarts.  

What I've Been Writing:
I'm back to writing a feature article, called, "Book Banter" for my state's reading association (New York State Reading Association).  Previously, the article appeared in the occasional, printed newsletter that is mailed to members but now I will be writing a monthly segment in the monthly, electronic newsletter, called ReaD.  I love writing "Book Banter!"  It gives me another opportunity to write and share about great books, that mNYSRA members won’t want to miss!  

What I've Been Learning: 
This week I began to dive into the world of iMovie.  I am attempting to teach myself about filming and editing videos.  We'll see how this goes.  I'll definitely continue to work on this learning.  

What I've Been Loving:
Saturday we went to the Corning Museum of Glass and spent the afternoon exploring.  After leaving the museum, we ventured to downtown Corning, NY, where we discovered a very charming independent bookstore.  I spent some time perusing the small, but well curated, children's section.  I found three treasures to add to my personal library collection.  

My book purchases from Saturday in Corning, NY.  I didn't yet have a copy of Change Sings.  I am collecting Caldecott and Newbery winners, so when I saw Officer Buckle and Gloria, I had to pick it up!  Library Lion is one of my favorites!

Card Carrying Books and Gifts' Children's section.  Small but wonderful!  

Jen from  Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers are co-hosting the #IMWAYR blog hop.  Check out all the links to other blogs and see what great children's literature everyone is sharing; picture books, middle grade, and young adult.  

Sunday, September 26, 2021

#IMWAYR My Bookish Life

What I've Been Reading

Last week, my husband, Mark and I traveled to Cobleskill, NY to visit family.  While there, we also located and visited some Little Free Libraries.  

This Little Free Library was well stocked with adult books. 
Photo by Amy Soto

This adorable Little Free Library matched the owner's home.  It was well stocked with mostly children's books!  Yay!
Photo by Amy Soto

My LFL haul.  
Photo by Amy Soto

One of the books I'm "reading with my ears."
Photo by Amy Soto

What I've Been Writing:

This past week, I've been drafting a few poems.  One of them is about autumn and all of the great things that are part of my favorite season.  

We had a beautiful, Saturday morning of apple picking. 
Photo by Amy Soto 

What I've Been Loving:

I am totally in love with my new Christian Robinson pillow from Target.

The pillow coordinates so well with my library card pillows.  
Photo by Amy Soto

What I've Been Learning:

While driving through the sweet, little town of Cherry Valley, NY, my husband, Mark and I discovered the wonderful, used bookstore named for the town.  Although we didn't have much time to spend in the store, I certainly found a lot of treasures!  I purchased an original copy of Charlotte's Web and The Little Princess, and a Mother Goose collection from 1943!  (I collect Mother Goose books, ephemera, and toys).  I love to learn about bookstores and little free libraries!     

An amazing used bookstore in Cherry Valley, NY.  
Photo by Amy Soto

My purchases from The Cherry Valley Bookstore.  
Photo by Amy Soto

Jen from  Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers are co-hosting the #IMWAYR blog hop.  Check out all the links to other blogs and see what great children's literature everyone is sharing; picture books, middle grade, and young adult.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Slice of Life Story: Finding My Way Back to Books

Last week, I wrote about, How Children's Books Saved My Life.  While this is true, the day that my husband passed, I entered what I call "The Reading Slump of a Lifetime."  I've been in reading slumps many times.  I can't seem to figure out what to read and nothing seems appealing, or to be able to live up to what I had just completed.   "The Reading Slump of a Lifetime," began that fateful day and lasted for about 2 years. For many months I had no interest in reading anything at all.  Then when I tried to pick up the pieces of my reading life, I began with picture books.  I just couldn't do it- picture books didn't appeal and I couldn't even fathom reading a middle grade or YA, not to mention and adult selection.  I was simply not interested in reading in the voracious manner that I once had.  Books seemed to be of the past, having to do with my previous life- before I was a widow.  Reading and books were lost to me.  I just couldn't fathom living the same bookish life.  

Talking about the reading funk didn't help, so I decided to give myself the gift of time and repeated attempts at reading whatever I thought it might help.  Eventually I realized that the bookish life that I so longed for, WAS my life.  I just wasn't the same person as I once had been.  What I needed was time. Time to heal and become the person that I am today.  That person is the bookish girl who loves everything about books, and reading, bookstores, libraries, and anything book-related.    

I am happy to report that I am back- the true book nerd that I always have been!  If anything, I believe that I am today, an even bigger bibliophile.  I read daily, continuously add to my TBR list, blog about books, bookshop regularly, seek out bookish adventures, care for a Little Free Library, visit LFLs, collect bookish knick knacks, talk about books, and decorate my home with bookish decor.  

I used to read as many new books as I could.  Although reading new releases is something that I do often, I no longer try to "keep up with the Jones'" of the book community.  I spend my time reading what I want, when I want. One of my pursuits is to catch up on the wonderful books that I may have missed over the years.  So, if you can recommend your favorites from the last 4 years, I'd love to hear about them and possibly add them to my ever-growing TBR list.  Please leave the titles in the comments. Let's talk books!  Thank you!

Happy Reading!  

What is Slice of Life?  Visit Two Writing Teachers to learn more.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? My Bookish Life

Jen from  Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers are co-hosting the #IMWAYR blog hop.  Check out all the links to other blogs and see what great children's literature everyone is sharing; picture books, middle grade, and young adult.  

What I've Been Reading:
This month, I am participating in "Series September," a reading challenge created by Krista at Books and Jams I'm working on completing some of her prompts on the BINGO board.  This book completes 3 prompts, "Read a book in the most recent series you’ve started," "Read the second book in a series," and "Read your newest purchase that’s part of a series." Whoo!  Hoo!  I'm not sure of the next, series prompt that I will be reading from, but stay tuned for my update next week!  

Anna James' series, Pages and Co. is a cozy, fantasy, where Tilly and her family are all "book wanderers" (they can travel inside of a book). Since The Lost Fairy Tales is the second book in the series, I don't want to give away too much.  I'll simply tell you, that Tilly and her friend, Oscar, discover that he is also a "book wanderer," and there is a problem inside fairy tale books.  
The 2nd book in the Pages and Co. series by Anna James
Photo by Amy Soto

Last week was a busy book week.  I received an order from Book Outlet, went to my local bookstore, and donated a book to my church, and donated a book to my daughter's, mosque's library.   

The book that I plan to donate to my church’s Sunday School.
Photo by Amy Soto

I Prayed for You is a sweet story about mama bear and how she explains that she has prayed for baby bear on many occasions, beginning with baby's birth through the time that he starts school.  I know that the Sunday school teachers at my church will enjoy sharing this story with their students, especially the nursery class.  They may even want to read it aloud during one of their Wednesday evening, bedtime stories.  The bedtime stories are read aloud each week, online.  If interested, you can check them out, each Wednesday evening on the church's Facebook page, here (Fairview United Methodist Church).

My Book Outlet Haul
Photo by Amy Soto

The book I donated to my daughter, Sienna's mosque.
Photo by Amy Soto

In My Mosque is a beautifully written and illustrated story about visiting a mosque, from the perspective of a child.  It is an important book that should be read aloud, shared, and discussed with both children and adults.  In My Mosque will open doors to diversity, and foster understanding and acceptance.  

Treasures purchased at my local bookstore. 
Photo by Amy Soto

Pugtato Finds a Thing will be added to my collection of books about pugs (I have a black pug, named Mr. Wrinkles and I recently lost a fawn pug, named Miley).  This is an adorable story about Pugtato (a potato, illustrated as a pug), who finds something mysterious.  He asks each of his friends (other vegetables, or "Spuddies," in the garden which are the likenesses of animals, for example, "Purrsnip" and "Tomatoad"), if they are able to help him determine what the mystery object could be.  Pugtato Finds a Thing, is a story of friendship, told in rhyming text, and has the cutest artwork!  What a fun read aloud!

You Belong Here is poetic and lyrical.  Clark explores various ways in which creatures belong where they do, and, of course, how you belong, "right where you are."  The artwork is lovely - done mostly in shades of black, white, and gray, with occasional, pops of muted color.  I think this book can be gifted to anyone that you love, as well as be a beautiful read aloud.    

Stay tuned for, Gustovo the Shy Ghost - it is on my TBR pile for this week!

What I've Been Writing:
                                                                                                                            One of my favorite ways to create journal entries, is to write lists.  I like to pair my lists with scrapbook-type page layouts.  Some layouts are simply decorated with some stickers and die cuts, while others are more elaborate and involve the use of decorative papers, stamping, stickers, die cuts, and any other embellishment that I find looks pleasing.   

A list from my journal.
Photo by Amy Soto

This was a reread/listen for me.  I took notes this time!
Photo by Amy Soto

Another bit of writing that I like to do, is keep a Reading Journal.  My current Reading Journal is being kept in a bookish planner.  I record what I am reading and create TBR lists in my journal.  Additionally, I sometimes jot down notes about the particular books that I am reading.  

My Reading Journal.
Photo by Amy Soto

What I've Been Learning:                                                                                                                          I am always learning about both memoir and poetry writing, as I work on writing in both formats.  My favorite poet, author, and friend has a wonderful website!  I am constantly visiting Amy Ludwig Vanderwater's site, The Poem Farm, for poetry reading, and writing inspiration!  Be sure to visit!

                           Amy LV’s awesome website.       

                     Photo by Amy Soto 

What I've Been Loving:                                                                                                                            I was asked to be my church's Little Free Library's "Librarian."  I live across the street from the church and am tasked with keeping the LFL organized and stocked with books.  I have a room in the church where I store donated books, from which I restock the LFL.  I also donate books from my personal collection or pick up new ones on occasion.  I love being the "librarian" and stop over on a regular basis to check on the library.  I recently  added the little flag!  Once of my most favorite things about the LFL is that I am often able to see patrons visiting and borrowing or placing books inside.  

My church’s Little Free Library.
Photo by Amy Soto

My reading plans continue to include some pool-side reading - I'm determined to get in as much time by and in the pool as I can before it has to be closed up for the season.  I also plan to get in some front porch reading time on the cooler evenings.  Whatever your plans may be, I hope you have a wonderful reading (and writing?) week ahead! 

Happy Reading!

My front porch.
Photo by Amy Soto

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Slice of Life Story: How Children's Books Saved My Life

Me as Pete the Cat
Photo by S.R. (a student library helper)

Me as the main character in Kevin Henkes's In My Garden
Photo by Sienna Merrill

Me as Harry Potter
Photo by S.R. (a student library helper)

Every week in my library was a celebration of children's books, storytelling, artwork, and of course poetry!  But in 2017, I shared with students and staff the wonderful celebration, Children’s Book Week, which began in 1919. We admired Christian Robinson's poster that he created for that year's celebration and discussed the theme: "One World, Many Stories". We had guest readers share their favorite books and talk about special memories surrounding their favorite books. I read various favorite books of my own and read aloud some lovely poetry. 

I love to booktalk and promote reading in lots of different and fun ways. On the first day of Children's Book Week in 2017, I decided to match my wardrobe to different books. It first began with wearing a favorite Dr. Seuss T-shirt that proclaimed the joys of reading.  The following days during that week, I coordinated my clothing to either match a book character's, or the colors of the cover art.  Students and staff enjoyed seeing which character or book cover I matched each day.  

Unbeknownst to my students and colleagues, my book-matching wardrobe was not only for the students but also for me.  I was going through an extremely traumatic time in my life - I was not only caring for my family, but also for my terminally ill husband.  Coordinating my wardrobe to match books and their characters and posting my photos to Instagram, became a way for me to distract myself from what was going on in my personal life and gave me reason to get out of bed each day.  My book wardrobe continued into the summer months and abruptly came to an end shortly before my husband passed.  

Although this Slice of Life story may seem depressing, it really is a story of how children's books help save my life.  

What is Slice of Life?  Visit Two Writing Teachers to learn more.

Monday, September 6, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 9/6/21

 It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?  

Jen from  Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers are co-hosting the #IMWAYR blog hop.  Check out all the links to other blogs and see what great children's literature everyone is sharing; picture books, middle grade, and young adult.  

I'd like to begin today by saying a great, big thank you to everyone who welcomed me to the community last week!  What a kind, kid lit-loving group you all are!

What I've Been Reading:

A snapshot of my Goodreads 2021 Challenge.
PPhoto by Amy Soto

When I looked at my Goodreads 2021 Reading Challenge, I realized that I did not read any children's literature (other than what I talk about below).  Possibly of interest, I did however, read, I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel.  I adored this little gem and highly recommend it to any bibliophile!  Bogel is the creator of the blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy and the podcast, "What Should I Read Next?" and "One Great Book."  

What I've Been Writing:
As I continue work on my memoir writing, I continue to read about the topic.  Although this book, Your Life Is a Story, is interesting and helpful, I found the book I shared last week to be more helpful, with detailed instructions on the how-to aspect for writing memoir.  

My current writer's notebook and a book about writing.  
Photo by Amy Soto

What I've Been Learning:
I love poetry, especially poetry for children!  This past week, I've been reading one of my newer poetry anthologies.  I enjoy the poems and think of ways to bring them to life for children.  This past week, though, I've been reading and rereading the poems with the eye of a writer.  I love to write poetry and like to post my poems and share to the Poetry Friday community.  To learn more about Poetry Friday, check out the information here.  I've been focusing on how different poets write; their style, rhythm, rhyme, meter, etc.  I love to learn about writing by reading other writer's work.  They say, "if you want to be a writer, read, read, and read!"  I am always learning and if I want to be a better poet, then I know I should be reading lots of poetry!  

This is a beautiful poetry anthology!  
Photo by Amy Soto

What I've Been Loving:
I love to create journals and memory books to hold onto my memories.  These books hold photographs, lists, and other journaling.  I completed my October memory keeping book and am working on my September book as we proceed through the month.  

  My October memory book.  
Photo by Amy Soto

I've been inspired to use this outline for my post by Stephanie at A Lit Life.  Thank you for your inspirational posts, Stephanie!  

  Pool side reading.  
Photo by Amy Soto

This coming week's reading plan includes some pool side reading!  I know that Labor Day weekend is considered to be the "unofficial" last weekend of summer but I love to swim and want to get in as many more pool days as I can before the summer weather really does come to an end.  

I know that many of you are heading back to school, that is, if you haven't already.  I would like to wish you a wonderful school year filled with lost of literacy love!  May you share great books with your students!  Happy Reading!  

Thursday, September 2, 2021


Me with a recent book purchase for a special collection.
Photo by Mark Soto

Poetry Ponderings
On Tuesday, I wrote a "Slice of Life" story called, My Bookish Book Collection.  It's a story about  the addition of a book for my collection of books about books, reading, and libraries.  As I reflected on this piece of writing, I began to wonder if I could turn it into a poem.  As always, my poems are works in progress, but I thought I'd share here.  

My Poem

Collection                                                                                                                                                          by Amy Soto

I have a special collection

of something I love -


They line many shelves all through my house - books.

A  favorite, curated, compilation, stars treasured books about libraries, reading, books.

I have a special collection of something I love -  books.

After playing around with the lines, I thought maybe this could be a shape poem (you have to look at it sideways). What do you think? Does it qualify as a shape/concrete poem?

Some of my bookish bookshelves.
Photo by Amy Soto

Poetry Love
I always have a large TBR pile and have recently decided that my weekly reads must include poetry.  Now that I am not in the school library, I don't have the opportunity to share poetry with children on a regular basis.  I'm still thinking of ways that I can do so and will be sure to share here, on Poetry Friday, when I do.  In the meantime, I decided to ensure that I am at least reading poetry each week.  This week, my poetry reading is one of my new favorite anthologies.  

From my poetry collection.
Photo by Amy Soto

This week's Poetry Friday roundup is being hosted by Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe.  

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Tuesday Slice of Life 8/31/21: My Bookish Book Collection

Some of mybookish bookshelves
Photo by Amy Soto

 My Bookish Book Collection

Ever since I can remember, I have collected books about books, reading, and libraries.  I love to read them and share them with children.  As a former school librarian and reading specialist, I would kick off the school year by sharing these sort of books with students as they had their first visit of the school year to the library and during my first lesson with classes and small groups.  Over the years, my collection has grown quite a bit.  The picture above features only some of my collection!  

On Saturday, while running errands, my husband and I made an impromptu stop at our local bookstore (I could visit on a weekly basis!).  As I browsed the children's area, I stumbled upon this "new to me" book about books and reading!  It practically leapt off the shelf and into my waiting arms!  Although I am no longer in the school as an employee, I do plan to be a volunteer storyteller, on a monthly basis and Allan Wolf's, No Buddy Like a Book will certainly be one of my first read aloud selections!  

Me with my book purchase of the day. 
Photo by Mark Soto

To learn more about the Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge, check out,Two Writi Teachers.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/30/21

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers are the hosts of #IMWAYR, where readers from near and far share what they have been reading over the past week - from picture books to young adult novels.  For lots of book recommendations, check out the hashtag, #INWAYR.

I recently stumbled upon a blog that I have been enjoying a great deal.  I feel like I know the creator and that we are friends chatting about books that we have read, writing projects that we are working on, and other literacy related bits and bobs.  Stephanie at A Lit Life, makes a weekly post on her blog called, “A Lit Life Weekly Literate Love.”  In these posts, she writes about what she’s reading, writing, learning, and loving. I love to read Stephanie’s posts. She is a fellow literacy lover!  So, I decided that I, too, wanted to write a similar sort of post and thought #IMWAYR might be a good time to share.   

What I've Been Reading:

The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams

I listened to the audiobook for this and it was amazing!  If you've heard any buzz  about this title, it's all true!  I highly recommend it.  This is a story about how a randomly discovered reading list brings together characters that develop an unlikely friendship and bond over reading the books on the list.  I read it in a day and a half.  I laughed out loud and cried.  It is so touching and will have you feeling as though you are friends with the characters. You’ll also be wanting to read or reread the book titles on the reading list.  

                                                       photo from Goodreads                                                                                                                           

Here are some of the other books I have been reading this past week . . . 

No Buddy Like a Book by Allan Wolf, illustrated by Brianne Farley

I am so excited to add this to my collection about books, reading, and libraries!  Poetic, rhyming text tells readers the glorious story of all that books and reading can do for him or her.  A perfect read anytime, but especially at the start of the school year.  What a great read aloud to kick of the reading year! The illustrations are beautiful and enhance Wolf's story.  

Leilong the Library Bus by Julia Liu, illustrated by Bei Lynn

Oh, how I love this story from Taiwan that was translated into English!  Leilong the dinosaur transports his friends to the library for stroytime - it's his first visit to the library.  When he attempts to enter the library, the whole building shakes and Leilong is told that he's too big to come in.  His friends tell him they won't be long and they head in to the storytime.  Leilong peeks in thw windows and becomes involved in the story.  Again he is told that he can't be a part of the library.  Read to find out how Leinlong becomes the library bus!  What a sweet ending to the book and Leilong's problem!  I also love the detailed artwork in this book that I would read aloud to my students in the library upon their first visit of the school year.  

I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

How can you go wrong with the Rosenthal and Lichtenheld duo?  You can't!  I was gifted a copy of this book during a particularly difficult time in my life by someone that I greatly admire.  It was just what this reader needed at that time and any other time, as well.  If you haven't yet read it, make sure you do.  Again, this is another read aloud to start your school year off, full of well wishes. It's also quite short and sweet 

photo by Amy Soto

photo by Mark Soto

photo by Amy Soto

A Kind of Paradise by Amy Rebecca Tan 
I so loved this middle grade novel about a middle school girl who has to work at her local public library to do community service, as a punishment.  What Jamie wouldn't have imagined is that she would, as the title says, find the library to be, a "kind of paradise."  This story is sweet and heartwarming.  It's perfect for most readers, but especially book lovers!  

Book Nerd by Holly Maguire

This is a fun little, coffee table book that's filled with fun bookish facts and definitions, along with whimsical and charming artwork.  I think that if you are reading this post, you are most likely a book nerd, like me, and need to own this book.   

photo by Amy Soto

What I'm Writing:

In addition to my usual journaling, I've been working on exercises from Rachael Herron's great book called, Fast Draft Your Memoir This book has been a tremendous resource in helping me understand the different types and structures of memoir.  The exercises are brilliant and have really gotten me going on what I've been trying to get down on paper.  This is also another audiobook that I've listened to (and listened to again).  It's a great book that is read by the author.  

                                                                 photo from Goodreads

Things That I'm Loving:

In the last several months, I have discovered the world of booktube.  I have been watching so many different channels and adding to my already, huge TBR list!  It is so much fun!  It's like having great bookish conversations whenever I want!  If you're a book lover, make sure you check out all of the wonderful booktube channels.  Simply search; TBR, Library Haul, Book Haul, or Books and you'll get an endless list of videos.  From there, you can decide whose channel you'd like to follow.  :) Two of my favorites are; "Books and Jams" and "The Curly Reader."  

Things That I'm Learning:

By watching booktube, I have learned about so many, many books that I have either forgotten that I had wanted to read or learned about new-to-me books that I want to read.  Needless to say, my TBR list has grown exponentially!  

These are just a handful of the books that I've been reading this past week, as well as a sprinkling of other bookish things that I've been up to.  Stay tuned for some more news from this "book nerd!"  

P.S.  please let me know what your favorite memoirs are  I’m looking to read lots!  Thank you!

Poetry Break (revisited)!

"Poetry Break!" . . .  Several years ago, on my original blog,  Mrs. Merrill's Book Break,  I explained and featured my "...