Saturday, December 31, 2005

Autism Spectrum Disorders

A friend of mine, Chris, has started a blog to share information resources related to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): ASD Blog. It is "a resource for concrete, practical information for parents, educators and caregivers working with children and adults with ASDs." Suggestions and submissions are welcome.


I read 256 books in 2005.

I wrote about 16,000 words for NaNoWriMo. While I hit neither target words nor finished what I was working on, it was very valuable. I proved that when I made time and gave my writing a priority, I could do it. It reinforced that writing is not easy: its not easy to do the actual writing, its not easy to plot something that is believable, its not easy to create a character that is real, and its not easy to find the time. I rediscovered that writing fiction is something I enjoy doing -- and that I have to get better at time management.

I started this blog, which has been wonderful! I like being able to share the books, movies and TV shows I love. While some people talk about the Internet being isolating and antisocial, I have found the opposite to be true. I am now part of a online community of people who enjoy childrens and teen books as much as I do, and also love a good Buffy reference. I cannot stress enough how welcoming and encouraging other bloggers have been. Thank you all!

The Sacrifice

The Sacrifice by Kathleen Benner Duble.

Warning: To discuss this, I will be having spoilers.

The Plot: Abigail Faulkner is ten years old, living in Andover, Mass. The year is 1692. She's high spirited and speaks her mind, sometimes a bit too much, especially since she lives in a Puritan colony, and her grandfather Dane is also Reverend Dane. Things seem boring -- and then she and her sister, Dorothy, hear about a bunch of Salem girls who are accusing people of being witches. Witches! In Massachusetts!

It stops being exciting when the Salem girls are invited to Andover to find witches and the accusations start to fly. It starts being scary when Abigail and Dorothy are accused as witches and taken to jail. There are three options: proclaim your innocence yet be unable to prove it so hang; admit to being a witch to escape the hangman's noose yet still be in jail; or accuse another and free yourself. As history tells us, Abigail and Dorothy accuse another. Their mother.

The Good: This is a book for ages 9 and up. It's almost impossible to imagine being able to have book about this subject -- the Salem Witch trials -- for this age group. Duble succeeds for several reasons:

-- Abigail, the main character, is aged ten.

-- Ultimately, there is a happy ending: while members of her family are accused, tried, and even found guilty, no one is executed.

-- By using the events in Andover, and using such a young main character, Duble avoids having to address some issues that would be troubling to younger readers: why did the initial accusers make the accusations they did? What about all the people who were executed? Yes, this is referred to, but in such slight detail that it's not as disturbing as if it were front and center.

-- Abigail's grandfather, the Rev. Dane, speaks out against the accusations even before they are made. While at first I thought this was a case of injecting modern thoughts and beliefs into a historical character, some Google searching showed me that Rev. Dane did exactly that: doubted the girls, doubted the use of spectral evidence, and did indeed speak up. So Duble had a character who could voice modern thoughts, yet be authentic.

-- Duble stays very close to the real facts as they are known. I am highly critical of historical fiction that uses real people and events and changes them dramatically, especially when the author is not upfront about it in an author's note. As someone who hears time and time again from young readers, "is it real", I have to say -- yes, it matters. Duble's note at the end is very up front about what she did and didn't change and why.

For all that, this is not a prettified account. Abigail and Dorothy are taken to jail, and it's pretty scary. Someone they love dies. Duble makes the risks real, but does so in a way that is age appropriate.

From nonfiction reading on this subject, I had been familiar with this story and had been a little chilled at the thought of these 2 children being brainwashed by their accusers into accusing their own mother. Duble takes an approach to this that I had not considered, but it makes perfect sense. I've spoiled enough, but this ends up being a book not only about false accusations and speaking ones mind, but also about the bonds of family and the bonds between a mother and her daughters.

Strongly recommended nonfiction on this subject:

Witch-Hunt : Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials by Marc Aronson. For teen readers. Does a great job of trying to understand the 17th century POV; also has a wonderful analysis of different books about Salem.

In the Devil's Snare : The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 by Mary Beth Norton. If you're going to read only one nonfiction about Salem, this should be the book. Approaches the time period from a global and local perspective; addresses the entire time period, rather than just the initial accusations (most books barely get into the Andover period, for example); examines the legal process (for example, while children could make accusations, they couldn't testify at the trial, an adult witness was needed to do that); and documents it all. Great appendices, index, charts, maps.

Friday, December 30, 2005

I want a doll, just so I can name it Miss Edith

You Know You're Addicted to Buffy When...

You look at pieces of wood, deciding if they would make a good stake

You decide that you will only see your boyfriend at night and in the graveyard

"A happy slayer is a good slayer" becomes your motto

You have the whole collection of Buffy T-shirts

But you won't wear them - you want to keep them in mint condition.

You've taken up karate and practise your Buffy moves regularly

You refuse to go out after dark... just in case

You have suddenly taken a liking to tweed

You start calling your boyfriend Angel

You prefer to watch Buffy alone because other people just "don't get it"

You find yourself quoting the show several times a day

You go shopping for clothes and only purchase things that have appeared on the show

You always say the words "the wacky", "wiggins" and "a happy"

All your user names on the internet are "Willow"

You start hanging around libraries

You love to hack into the coroners office

You have either a cross necklace or a Claddaugh ring

You decide the graveyard is really cool hangout

You look at abandon warehouses in a whole new light

You never invite anyone into your house after dark

You find yourself in a situation and say "This is something Xander would do"

You are secretly in love with your best friend

Your licence plates read "Queen C"

You think "Too much Buffy? Never!"

You name your puppy Willow or Xander

You recite Amy's rat-turning spell when in the company of your older brother

You demand that people call you Buffy

Every time you step out of the shower you say "I seem to be having an extreem case of nudity"

You appoint yourself a watcher and choose someone to study/train etc.

You stay away from your teacher just incase they turn out to be prey-matis'

Your room looks like a shrine, you have Buffy posters as wallpaper, a Buffy bedspread, curtains etc.

You won't take cookies or mini pizza's from your Mom's new boyfriend

You find a whole new liking for miniture golfing

You hear that song "I hope you dance" and think of fighting Faith

You cried two hours after the fifth season finale of Buffy was over because she died even though you know she is coming back.

You pondered becoming a vengance demon after your last breakup.

You own enough Buffy comics and novels to have your bedroom be considered a fire hazard.

You won't go out past sunset unless armed to the teeth with stakes, crosses, and holy water.

You have crosses nailed over every window and door.

You start tracking the local murder rates after a new girl moves into town.

You read all the occult books in the school library searching for the Watcher diaries.

To you, sexual protection isn't birth control, it's making sure you're partner is human.

You practice sticking thumbtacks through houseflies and mosquitos--"Just to be safe."

You perform the reverse invitation spell after every visit from some person you haven't recently seen in sunlight.

You insist on traveling from class to class via the ceiling.

You try to exorcise the possessing hyena spirit when your best friend gets PMS.

You cast a gypsy soul curse on the sadistic principal who gave you a suspension.

You whittle wooden stakes.

You kick doors open.

You carry around a stake, just in case.

You take long walks in the cemetery at night.

You have a strange fear of hospitals.

You don't complain about going to church anymore because you remember that your supply of Holy Water is running kind of low.

You wear crosses every day and have a vast selection of them.

You never verbally invite anyone into your home.

You keep all your important information on yellow disks.

You avoid fraternity parties.

As a rule you don't like to be surprised.

Your friends are fearful that if they call during "Buffy Hour" they'll be in for a long lecture the next day.

You bookmark the Coroner's Office Web Site as a favorite place.

When you hear that there's a new librarian at your school, you slam open the doors of the library and yell; "Okay. What's the sitch?".

You can recite a whole Buffy episode(s).

You wallpaper your room with pictures of the Buffy cast and complain when there isn't enough space to put them all up.

You ask a priest to bless your bottle of Perrier.

Just for the hell of it, you enter Moloch into several search engines.

You name your doll Miss Edith.

You let your bird die of starvation.

You paint your nails like Drusilla.

When your brother comes back from the zoo, you won't let him in the house.

The only way you know how to say the word bitch is 'bitca'.

You get your hair cut like Buffy's and your hairdresser keeps remarking that the picture you show her (for your haircut) looks oddly familiar.

Whenever you quote Buffy Verse, you laugh hysterically while your friends stare at you like you've grown another ear.

You always protest that Buffy is NOT a ditz's name.

When watching a new Buffy episode, people gawk at you when you manage to say the actor's lines right before they do.

You can't think of a thing to talk about with people who have never watched a Buffy episode.

You spend hours on the net looking for new Buffy pictures.

You get really really excited whenever you do find any new pictures.

You sit on a grave twirling a yo-yo and say: "Come on, rise and shine. Some of us have a ton of trig homework waiting at home."

You look for padlocked sewer access systems in mausoleums.

You decide to be Buffy for Halloween but your friends don't notice a change.

You own everything possible with the words Buffy the Vampire Slayer on them.

You get wigged out by mimes and dummies.

You have a chest in your room with a fake bottom that contains garlic, stakes, holy water and crosses.

You freak whenever you have a substitute biology teacher.

You never go out with your boyfriend on the night of the full moon.

You avoid supposedly empty warehouses.

You have a fear of railroad spikes.

You punish your dolls.

You get a wheelchair just so that you can be called "Roller Boy".

You never have sex with your boyfriend for fear of what might happen to him.

You take up tae kwon do, kick boxing, karate, street fighting and gymnastics.

You eye your librarian to see if they're trying to tell you that you're the next Slayer.

You sleep with a stake under your pillow.

You sneak out of your bedroom window at night and hang out at the park because you've heard that several people have died there lately of exsanguination.

You're horrified of people who have never even heard of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

You want to kill people who dis the show.

You dream of past lives as a Slayer.

Whenever you have a dream and you see your friend in it you run up to them the next day and choke them as you shout: "What do you know?".

You never sign in someone's yearbook "Have a nice summer!".

You don't like to use the word Master.

You write Buffy FanFic.

You date men whom you meet in dark alleys (but only after kicking them in the head).

You bring a fire extinguisher to cheerleading tryouts.

You get nominated at school as "Person Most Likely To Be The Next Slayer".

You buy knee-high boots.

You get five holes pierced in each ear.

You're on a first name basis with all the actors of BtVS except that you've never met them.

Though they used to appreciate your interest, the actors on BtVs are now scared to death of you.

You check people's lockers to make sure they don't have any books such as 'Gray's Anatomy' and 'Mortician Desk Reference'.

You read a Buffy transcript at least once a day.

You befriend a computer genius and her dorky friend.

You file complaints that the substitute biology teacher is harassing you.

When asked what your hobbies are you answer; "Slay...slay...slave to the television".

As far as you are concerned, Buffy and co. are actual people.

You drive to California to look for Sunnydale, you dial operator and ask him where it is, operator says there is no such place and you yell back at him that he's probably in league with some demons to keep you out of Sunnydale.

You enroll at Torrance High School.

All the actors on the show are shown a picture of you and are told to stay away at all costs.

When asked what you'll do when you're older you answer either dead or it's already been 'sealed in fate'.

You tape all Buffy episodes, then retape them so they're in chronological order.

You buy all the CDs of songs that have ever been on Buffy.

You've been to all 1000 or so Buffy sites on the net.

You legally change your name to Buffy Anne Summers (or another character from the show).

You practically had a nervous breakdown when the series ended.

You cannot remember what you did with your life before Buffy.

Your motto is 'Life is short' or 'Seize the day'.

You never bring your date to the morgue.

When buying your Halloween costume you make sure it's something you'd like to be in real life.

You always beat up a snitch.

You nail crucifixes to your wall.

You needed to visit a grief counselor when Tara died.

You make sure your parents never come to Parent-Teacher night at school.

You watch, mock and laugh at talent shows.

When given an egg for parenting in Sex Ed class you boil it or smash it with something heavy.

You're frightened of cheerleader wannabes.

You avoid saunas, who knows what they put in the steam?

You don't let people with long fingernails get too close to your throat.

You use a Thesulan Orb as a paperweight.

Whenever there's a Sadie Hawkins dance at school you lock yourself in your room.

You refuse to buy any candy being sold by the band at school.

You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends who are addicted to Buffy.

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Thursday, December 29, 2005


MetaxuCafe is "is devoted to highlighting the best content from the community of bloggers who write about books." I found out about it from Kelly at Big A Little A and signed up.

What I like about it:

I like the headlines page, which contains recent posts in the litblog blogosphere. It's a nice way to have a quick look at what people are talking about.

I like that children's literature is given its own category, so that those who sign up can pick this (along with reviews, books, etc.) as a tag for their blog.

And I like that it's given my site traffic.

I haven't looked at their forums, but given that one new topic is" Middle school reading suggestions" I think I'll swing by and take a peek.

The Others are Telemarines?

From an article in Entertainment Weekly about Lost: One of the executive producers "cites Narnia as one touchstone for the kind of fantastical otherworld Lost is trying to create."

I just finished rereading Prince Caspian, and (spoiler alert), at the end, Caspian can be king of Narnia because he's a son of Adam. Because he's a Telemarine, and Telemarines originally came from Earth. An island in the South Pacific is described as the gateway, and the Telemarines themselves are descendants of a Fletcher Christian type mutiny. And at the end of the book, Aslan creates a doorway to send the Telemarines back to the island.

So I'm thinking, the Others have to be Telemarines.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Sharpe's Rifles

I'd heard of the Sharpe series starring Sean Bean, but I hadn't watched it from the beginning, it was too long to start, excuses, excuses.

Camille at Book Moot posted about a new upcoming movie in this series, and I got inspired to finally see what all the fuss was about. My library has the DVDs, I figured out which of the many was the first, and took home Sharpe's Rifles for my Christmas vacation.

The good news: It was great. I've always liked Sean Bean, but now -- wow. It's 1809, the Peninsular wars, and Sharpe is a Sargent in the British army who gets promoted to lieutenant via a field commission. In other words, since he's been promoted from the ranks, the other officers think of him as "not our kind" and the people who are in his command don't give him any respect either. Well -- not at first. Sharpe wins the respect of his company, accomplishes his mission, and gets the girl. Great acting all around. I know very little about this part of history, and had no problem following the story.

The bad news: This is the first of fourteen episodes and I only borrowed one. I have to wait till January to find out what happens to Sharpe and his men.

Buffy Quote of the Week

"You are so cool. You're like Burt Reynolds."
-- Joyce to Giles. Ep: Band Candy

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Love Actually

Love Actually is one of my favorite Christmas movies. Along with It's A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, White Christmas, and, well, I could keep listing titles forever.

I love this movie. Watched it yesterday for the umpteenth time and still laughed and cried. And I love it even tho when I overread it I hate some of the messages it sends. Like, how come the two happy ending romances are both between older men and the younger women who work for them? Where's the happy romance for someone my age? The guys in my age range get the younger adoring women; the women, well, one has a husband who cheats (and this is the part I cry over every time) and the other sacrifices her life for her brother.

But despite intellectually knowing this, I still love this movie. I like the overlapping of characters and stories, I love the stepfather/stepson story line, the old rocker's comeback, and yes, I even love the happy romances. I love that its about, well, love -- all kinds of love: the love between family, friends, and lovers.

And the lobster in the nativity scene? Cracks me up every time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Buffy Quote of the Week

"Well, there you go. Even when he's good, he's all Mr. Billowy Coat King of Pain."
-- Riley about Angel, Ep: The Yoko Factor

Sunday, December 18, 2005

How I Found Out About Harry

One of the current topics on the Child-Lit listserv, where I usually lurk, is a discussion "Harry Potter -- Hype or Word Of Mouth," which got me thinking about when I first read HP and its impact on me, personally and professionally.

I was a lawyer and while not happy with the career, not yet ready to leave the profession. A friend gave me a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, saying I needed a little magic in my life.

She had heard of the book from her nephews; and I was aware of the HP books, but it was not yet the intense media hype that now accompanies all things HP. Since 3 of the books were out already, and I was still practicing, this was somewhere between the end of 1999 and the start of 2000, to the best of my recollection.

At the time, I wasn't reading much children's or YA books; and I hadn't read fantasy since early college.

HP&tSS blew me away. I loved everything about it: the world, the humor, the adventure, the characters. I quickly read the others and have been a fan ever since. What else did reading HP do for me? It brought me back to fantasy; showed me that fantasy could be good. And it brought me back to reading children's books and YA books.

I left law and went to library school believing I would become a law librarian. (And I'd be making more money if I had stayed with that path.) But because of HP, I "indulged" myself while at school and took courses in Children's Lit and YA Lit. And because of that, decided to become a children's librarian. I wonder where my next midlife crisis will take me?

So for the HP readers out there: what impact did reading HP have on you?

Daniel Half Human: And The Good Nazi

Daniel Half Human: And The Good Nazi by David Chotjewitz translated from the German by Doris Orgel.

The Plot: It's 1933, Hamburg, Germany, and Daniel has a good life. He has parents who love him (even if they are strict), a good school, and a best friend, Armin, who shares his sense of fun and adventure. Like when they painted a swastika in the Communist section of town, and were arrested. Daniel, thirteen, admires the Nazis and the Hitler Youth, but his lawyer father doesn't believe that Hitler and his party will ever win an election.

But then Hitler does achieve power. And Daniel learns his family's secret: his mother is Jewish. Daniel is half-Jewish. To the Nazis, that makes Daniel half-human. Daniel wants to share this news with his best friend; but Armin has joined the Hitler Youth and is rapidly moving up the ranks. As DHH moves forward in time, in the days leading up to the start of World War II, Daniel and Armin are faced with increasingly difficult choices.

The Good: A wonderful portrait of the "why didn't people just leave Germany" time period. Because Daniel is initially unaware of his heritage, Daniel is seduced by the Hitler Youth and the Nazis, giving understanding to why and how Hitler obtained power.

Daniel, Armin, and the other characters are fully drawn. The book is interspersed with the adult Daniel returning to Hamburg as an US Army interpreter in 1945, so the reader knows, Daniel will live. But there are no guarantees for his father, his mother, his uncle, his cousin, and the reader continues the book with increasing fear: who lives? why? how?

Armin, despite joining the Hitler Youth, is sympathetically drawn, also. Chotjewitz goes beyond stock "good" and "bad" people, instead showing people with weaknesses and frailties. He also shows how we become the sum of our choices, good and bad, sometimes without realizing the impact of those decisions.

An example of the complex characters: Daniel's father comes across as cold, aloof, and prejudiced against the lower-class Armin. But as time goes by, the father's service during World War I is revealed and this explains the man he becomes. Also, the father is in denial about the how bad things will get in Germany; but no matter how bad it does get, he refuses to take the "easy" way out by divorcing his wife and abandoning his son.

The best thing about this book? I'm still thinking about the ending and what it means.

The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe

Last night, I went to see The Chronicles of Narnia: Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe with my sister and my five year old niece.

I loved it. It was faithful to the spirit of the book; while part of me was saying about some scene or other, "that's not how it was in the book," the other part answered, "but that's the way it needs to be conveyed visually." The magical moment when Lucy enters Narnia -- perfect.

On the family front, the darling niece wants to see it again right away. The saddest parts? "When the lion died, and when the children had to leave their mommy." What did she like best? "The lion."

Interestingly enough, the DN accepted without any questions to her Mom or I all of the elements of the movie: the new world entered thru a wardrobe, Mr. Tumnus, talking beavers. She had a few questions about the White Witch -- if she was evil, why did she look so pretty? And why did she act nice, at first? And also about the battle.

But her big, wouldn't let them go, questions were about the beginning. While Lewis used a few words to set up that the children were evacuated from London because of the Blitz, the movie has several sequences. And these got the brunt of the questions. What's happening? Why? Why are they bombing? Why do they have to go away? Why doesn't the Mommy go with them?

Overall, the DN was more accepting and willing to follow the story when it was fantasy. The reality was the part that was a real stumbling block for her and took her outside the story. This is why fantasy works so well to convey story: because it is wrapped up with the make believe, it's easier to enter into the story. To believe.

On an adult note; my sister didn't read the books, had viewed with the DN the BBC versions, a cartoon version (maybe this) and LOVED the movie. Almost surprised herself with how much she enjoyed it.

Odd confession: I found myself getting quite the crush on Mr. Tumnus. The chemistry between himself and Lucy was wonderful, and James McAvoy conveyed this conflicted character very well.

Links: check out The Horn Book's Narnia Chronicled. And Cynthia Leitich Smith describes a viewing experience in her spookycyn blog that makes me want to move to Austin, Texas.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Mad Hot Ballroom

Mad Hot Ballroom is a documentary about students of several New York City elementary schools who learn ballroom dancing and then compete in a city wide dance competition, all via American Ballroom Theatre's Dancing Classrooms project.

The good: MHB follows three sets of students in three different schools. You really get to know these kids, from the first fumbling steps, to the selection of kids for the competition, and the final competition. I was disappointed as teams lost and jumping up and down at wins.

I was also impressed with the schools, the teachers, and the students, who allowed the cameras to follow them over the several weeks of learning, practice, and competition. I grew up in the suburbs, and this was a glimpse into a different world. Actually, three different worlds because of the three different schools that are highlighted.

Also good: these students are around ages ten and eleven, that cusp before becoming teenagers. We hear their dreams, their hopes, their fears. You root for each kid -- and keep your fingers crossed, even tho you know -- as the 3 teams move closer to the finals -- that there can be only one winner.

I liked this so much it's going on my DVDs I wish I owned wish list (the only thing holding me back: no extras.)

Final note: and yes, I'm quite jealous! These kids are much better dancers than I am or could hope to be. I always confuse my left and right foot.

Buffy Quote of the Week

Willow: "Promise me you'll never be linear."
Oz: "On my trout."
Ep: Choices

Monday, December 12, 2005

Gregor and The Prophecy of Bane

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane: Book Two in the Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins.

The Plot: Eleven year old Gregor and his toddler sister, Boots, are readjusting to life back home in New York City, the "Overland," after their adventures and misadventures in the "Underland," the world of tunnels that is miles under the "Overland", and is populated by people and giant talking cockroaches, bats, rats, and spiders. Gregor thinks he has left that scary place behind him; but then his sister Boots is kidnapped by giant cockroaches and Gregor finds himself pulled back into the Underland, to save not only his sister but the entire Underland.

The Good: For a fantasy quests to truly work, the risks must be real. And in the Underland Chronicles, the risks are real; death is more than a possibility; death is a reality. People get hurt, and stay hurt.

Gregor may be eleven, but at times he sounds older, which works very well. In the Overland, the family is barely surviving so Gregor has had to grow up soon, with a Saturday job, taking care of two younger sisters, an ill father, and an ill grandmother. In the Underland, Gregor is also treated as an adult. His opinions are listened to; he gets a sword and is expected to fight.

While there are moments of sheer terror, there are also moments that are laugh out loud funny. Collins captures all that I like best about quest fiction: the bringing together of people who wouldn't otherwise be friends, who then find commonalities.

In addition to great characters, there is a plot that twists and turns yet always makes sense.

The "Prophecy" has multiple meanings and interpretations, and I didn't always see where Collins was going. It was great.

Another wonderful thing about fantasy is what the fantasy world tells us about our world. Gregor has to grapple with some very important questions and issues: what is right? what is wrong? when is killing OK? what does loyalty mean? Collins has created a world full of gray: initially it appears black and white, with the rats all evil and the people all good, but as Gregor learns more about the rats he begins to doubt the Underlanders "the only good rat is a dead rat" belief.

A must read for fantasy fans. While there are scary parts and sad parts, this is great for any age. If a kid has read Harry Potter, then this is a book that will work for him or her.

Book Two? What about Book One? Book One is Gregor the Overlander. And I think it's best to read them in order, but it's possible at this point to enjoy Book Two without having read Book One. This is part of a five book series.

Another thing I liked: Collins manages to wrap up the key story points so that Book Two appears to be complete, and the reader is satisfied, yet at the same time she leaves some issues open for the next book. To often, this is done in a way that is frustrating, with the reader wanting to throw the book against the wall as they realize the entire ending is a cliff hanger. (What, I'm the only one who does this?)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

People's Fab Finds For Kids

People Magazine's December 19th edition includes in its Book Reviews "Fab Finds For Kids." And there is not one celebrity author on the list!!!

The list, none of which I've read. When I looked them up on that big online book store that I'm already linking to more than enough, I saw that a number of these titles (noted below) were starred by Booklist.

Memories of Survival by Esther Nisenthanl Krinitz and Bernice Steinhardt. Nonfiction book about Krinitz's survival as a teenager eluding the Nazis. Illustrated with her own hand-embroidered fabric collages. Starred by Booklist.

Meet Wild Boars by Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall. Picture book by the author of the award winning YA book, How I Live Now. Starred by Booklist.

Inkspell by Cornelia Funke. Sequel to Inkheart.

Dog Train: A Wild Ride on the Rock And Roll Side by Sandra Boynton. Picture book with CD; original songs sung by various musicians.

Once Upon A Time, The End (Asleep In 60 Seconds) by Geoffrey Kloske and Barry Blitt. Short fractured fairy tales. Looks wonderfully silly and snarky for older readers. Starred by Booklist.

The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell. Picture book based on characters from the creator of the comic strip Mutts.

It's uncredited, so I'll just send a general thank you to People for recognizing children's books.

Friday, December 09, 2005

I Heart Meg Cabot

Why do I heart Meg Cabot? Just check out Meg's recent blog entry on literary fiction: "I have just personally had enough of unhappy endings to last me a LIFETIME. So why would I seek them out in my recreation time? Unhappy endings happen every single day in real life. I don’t want them in my fiction." (You can read the rest of it in her December 2nd entry.)

John Lennon: All I Want Is The Truth

John Lennon: All I Want Is The Truth by Elizabeth Partridge.

Elizabeth Partridge is a brilliant non-fiction writer. Her most recent book is about John Lennon. I feel almost silly explaining who John Lennon was; but, on the other hand, this is a book written for teens born after Lennon was killed. "He was in a band called the Beatles with Stella McCartney's father." And as I try to write down something about Lennon in a sentence or two, I realize just how difficult it must be to take all that he was, and did, all that he represented, and sum it up in a sentence or two.

What is great about JL:AIWITT is that it shows the man behind the myth, warts and all. John Lennon was both a myth and a man. As a man, he was very human, with contradictions, times of brilliance, weaknesses, strengths. He wasn't perfect. For one son, he was an absentee father; for another, a stay at home father. He championed feminism in song and reality; yet he treated his first wife horribly.

As myth, tho, he is sometimes presented as perfect: JOHNLENNON, a seer, a saint, a martyr. Partridge gets behind the myth, and shows how he came to represent the times in which he lived : peace, activism, politics, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, drugs, art, music, parenthood.

I've always preferred biographies that include the feet of clay.. It makes the subjects more real. When a book is about someone who achieved such great things as Lennon did, I think including the bad with the good help readers realize that if that person, with flaws, can do it -- I can do it, also.

It probably helped my reading that I am old enough to know who Lennon is, to have listened to most of his music, to remember where I was when I heard he had been murdered. Some of the information in the book is new, some old, but it gives a well-rounded portrait of a complex man, never excusing his behavior yet also not being judgmental or critical. I'm also young enough that I've never been OHMIGODJOHNLENNON; I didn't get upset about what I read. I could approach the book as neither stranger nor groupie.

Lennon was a brilliant musician and I enjoyed reading the stories behind the songs. I'm familiar with all of them; but it's a shame that Partridge was unable to get permission to quote lyrics. (For the record: I have no idea why Partridge did not include quotes, so I'm assuming that she was unable to get permission.)

JL:AIWITT is described as a "photographic biography." The photos are wonderful, showing all times and areas of Lennon's life. It's such a beautiful book, and the photos are so perfect, that I didn't realize until later that they are all black and white. For some reason, the use of black and white and omission of color seems very appropriate -- maybe because black and white means "old"? Or is it that those 60s fashions don't hold up in color photos?

Also by Partridge: This Land Was Made for You and Me : The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie. An interview with her is at

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Buffy Quote of the Week

Buffy: "Giles, the sarcasm accomplishes nothing."
Giles: "Well, it was sort of an end in itself."
Ep: Pangs

Monday, December 05, 2005

Teens & Nursing Homes

Suzi over at Words, words, words has posted a review of Shrimp and asks, "What is UP with the whole nursing home trope? Seems to be a common thing now. Do YA writers think Oh, my character isn’t very deep; perhaps, as a teen, s/he needs to connect with an older person as her/his parents aren’t providing enough guidance? Not saying that I wouldn’t do that; just wondering if that’s why all of the nursing home characters keep appearing."

Other YA that has teens/ nursing home: Storky by Debra Garfinkle. I know there are a couple of others, but my mind is a blank. Plus, there are books like Criss Cross and Prom, where teens help older neighbors who probably should be in nursing homes.

Suzi points out one reason for this: the idea of an adult, not a parent, giving guidance. Another reason: diversity of age. Also, seniors and teens have the commonality of not being treated with the respect they want, being unnecessarily babied. If you can think of other reasons -- or other titles where the teen helps out/ gets involved with a senior citizen -- please post in the comments. I think its a good question.

But here is my big question, inspired by Suzi: why, in all these books, is the senior citizen not related to the teen? This seems especially odd in this day and age, when more people are living longer, so today's teens, more so than previous generations, have living grandparents and great-grandparents.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Dougal the Garbage Dump Bear

Dougal the Garbage Dump Bear by Matt Dray. Originally published in Australia.

The Plot: Dougal isn't one of the little girl's shiny new toys. So after getting left out in the rain, he gets tossed in the bin and taken to the garbage dump. What will happen to this shy bear with a heart of gold?

The Good: After ending up at the dump, Dougal makes friends, first with the trucks, then with the worker, and finally finds a friend in Bumble Bee. By the end, over 45 toys have been rescued.

The story is told with photographs, arranged on the page as if in a scrap book.

The tale is a bit wacky -- how Dougal finds happiness in a garbage dump. By the end of the book (spoiler!) he is living in a beach front house with trips to the dump and friends. "Sometimes bad things happen so that good things can happen. You just had to make the best of it."

Also funny is when Dougal and Bumble join the men after work to play pool, drink ginger beer, and feel sick the next day. The people in the photos are always shot from behind, or just a part of them is shown -- an arm, a leg. But I got a kick out of thinking about these guys taking stuffed animals to the pool hall.

But I was wondering about drunken stuffed animals, so I looked up Ginger Beer, and it's what we in the US call Ginger Ale. So Dougal isn't hung over from beer, he's feeling bad after a late night with too much sugar.

My niece likes that DTGDB has real photos of real toys. And it has the beach. And she loved the new word "Blimey."

As we finished reading it this morning, I was struck by its similarities to Elsewhere. Both have main characters that are forced from the life they want and have to make a new life for themselves.

An interview with author/photographer Matt Dray reveals that Matt was working in a garbage dump when he met and rescued "Dougal" and was inspired to write this book.

Book Buds review is here.

Friday, December 02, 2005


I was prepared to dislike Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin.

Oh no, I groaned, not another teen-dies-and-the-story-is-told-from-dead-teen's view. I sneered prematurely at all that I think about that particular sub-genre: that it plays into teen drama (You'll be sorry when I'm dead!), complete with viewing crying and distraught family, along with a bit of a lesson: life is short, so live life.

But people I respect liked it, so I read it. And turns out, I LOVED it.

The Plot: Liz, 15, is killed in a hit and run and discovers that life after death is "Elsewhere." In Elsewhere, people age backwards; when they become babies, they return to Earth and are reborn. While in Elsewhere, people work at an avocation -- basically, their dream job -- which may or may not be their Earth job. Their are holidays, cars, homes -- it's very similar to Earth. Liz is very pissed that by aging backwards she'll never get her driver's license, go to Prom, or fall in love.

The Good: Of course, Liz learns that life (even if one is dead) is short, so live it. But Liz also learns about choice. At one point, as she's sulking in the afterlife, another character tells her she has a choice. It wasn't my choice to die, Liz replies. But that's not the choices that are important here: instead, it's the day to day choices, including the choice to be happy, even when you're dead and all your dreams are gone -- because you need to be alive for those dreams. It's not so much about making lemonade out of lemons, as realizing sometimes, to be happy, you have to change your dream.

Also good is the perspective on aging that is not that different from real life. As people age backward, hair grows back, tattoos disappear. Memories stay intact; so someone who looks 18 may really be 40, based on when they died and how long they have been "Elsewhere." But then the people get really young: teeth fall out. By the age of 4 or 5, the memories are disappearing and they need someone to take care of them. Luckily for them, family is there to take care of them -- these cute little babies who have regressed.

As I read this, it struck me that the aging in Elsewhere is no different than here. Those who have the bad luck to not age "gracefully" (in other words, those who lose their teeth, control over body parts and functions, and memory; those with aches and pains) become dependent on others. They need caregivers; but, unlike Elsewhere, they are not cute 2 year old tots. I think that part of Elsewhere's message is that we should treat the old better than we do.