Sunday, February 26, 2006

Black Ships Before Troy

Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliff

The Plot: A retelling of the Trojan War.

The Good: Some people don't understand reading something when you know the end. I'm one of those who will always read a book about Troy, even tho I know how it ends.

I like Sutcliff's version of Homer's Iliad because it is a classic retelling. It doesn't introduce new characters; it doesn't give a modern spin; it doesn't change anything. I love that it tells the story as it is. I find it hard to appreciate versions such as Troy by Geras or The Firebrand by Bradley without knowing the original tale as it was told.

Sutcliff also maintains the historic elements. There are phrases and cadences out of the Iliad. The book is sympathetic to both sides; and also manages to portray the different morality and culture of the times. This is not historical fiction with a modern point of view.

Sutcliff is well known for her historical fiction, and I'll be tracking down more of her books to read.

And yes, I realize its a bit odd to talk about "historical" fiction when the events depicted in the Iliad may or may not have been real; and, of course, there are the gods. But you guys know what I mean!


Birdwing by Rafe Martin

The Plot: In The Six Swans by the Brothers Grimm, six brothers are turned into six swans. They are eventually returned to human form; except for the youngest brother, Ardwin, who is left with a wing for an arm. Martin tells the story the life of Ardwin, who has to live with the tangible reminder of the curse.

The Good: I'm not sure what picture book version of this fairy tale I had as a child, but I adored the Six Swans. The picture I still recall is the sister throwing the shirts on her brothers, the boys shown in the process of turning from bird to boy, and the youngest with his one armed shirt, left with the wing of a swan. The sister, with her sacrifices and dedication, is one of my favorite fairy tale heroines.

Martin stays close to the original tale, because all that happens before the book begins. Ardwin, the youngest son, has returned home to his father's castle. As can be imagined, life with one arm and one wing is not easy, and Ardwin works hard to accomplish physical tasks. But always there is a longing -- to return to the swans, to the freedom of flying, to belonging, instead of being the freak, the outsider.

Ardwin learns that you can't go home again; that the past, and childhood, is another country. "I was confused by childhood memories. Things had seemed so good, then." But the swans are no more welcoming than humans, and now that Ardwin is unable to return to the past, and has no future -- what to do? Where to go?

I really like how Martin uses the wing to symbolize common feelings about growing up, about acceptance, about feeling like a misfit. Ardwin confronts his stepmother, who turned him into a swan originally, and she says that she could make him "whole" again and return him to "the Land of the Drably Ordinary. Yes, I could change you. But it would make even me terribly sad to do it. To never be outcast or misfit again. To know your place in the eternal scheme and be accepted." But, of course, the truth is that everyone, at one time or another, even without an external sign such as a swan's wing, feels like they are a misfit or an outcast. Ardwin's struggle to feel whole, to feel accepted, to fell less like an outsider is universal.

Various folk and fairy tales are referenced, such as The Goose Girl, which is also good. But it's not just that; Martin has created a world that is rich in fairy tale images, but is not soft or pretty or safe. He makes this world dark and dangerous, and takes it very seriously.

The other children/swan folk tale I love is The Children of Lir. Which is, being Irish, much more of a heart breaker. Which makes sense, as it is one of the Three Sorrows of Storytelling.

Another The Six Swan's retelling is Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest, which is fabulous and makes the story Celtic.

Do you know any other retellings of either swan - children story? Or good picture book versions?

The Edge of the Forest

The Edge of the Forest is a new an online monthly journal about children's literature. It's a place for KidLit and YA bloggers to "present more reviews, less news, and in-depth consideration of children's books to readers."

TEOTF was created by Kelly H. over at Big A little a. Also involved are: Susan at Chicken Spaghetti; Anne at Book Buds; Michele at Scholar's Blog; Camille at Book Moot; and me.

I have a few reviews over at TEOTF (and am working on a few more!); please go over and take a look. It's been fun working on this with everyone; and what is also cool is that this journal is possible because of blogging and the Internet. Kelly is from the Midwest; Susan, New England; Anne, California; Michele, England; Camille, Texas; and I'm in New Jersey. We've never met face-to-face.

Go, take a peek, let me know what you think!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Geek Hierarchy

There are all types of SF and fantasy fans. Fandom may be based on TV, film, books, games. And I'm sure you've been wondering.... who is geekier, roleplaying gamers? Fanfic writers? People with Star Wars themed weddings?

Just head over to the Geek Hierarchy chart and find out.

Thanks to Matilda for the link.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Buffy Quote of the Week

Cordelia: "[Buffy's] like this superman. Shouldn't there be different rules for her?
Willow: "Sure, in a fascist society.
Cordelia: "Right! Why can't we have one of those?"
Ep: Ted

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Secret Chicken Club

The Secret Chicken Club by George Shannon, Illus. by Deborah Zemke.

I brought this to read at a school visit; all I did was say the title and the 2nd and 3rd graders started giggling.

The Plot: Debbie is a dancing cow. The chickens have started a club -- a secret chicken club. So Debbie decides to start her own club, the secret cow club. Problem is, Debbie's the only cow on the farm. Will she ever be able to join the secret club?

The Good: When this came in at the branch, it was passed around before even making it out of the office because we all loved it. And the 2nd and 3rd graders adored it, also. So this works on any level: reading it one on one with a kid; the kid reading it; or as a read a loud.

It's about secret clubs -- and most people who have had anything to do with elementary school kids knows that secret clubs can exist and can be very hurtful to those who aren't allowed it. So I really liked the device, that Debbie wanted to be in the club, & the things that the chickens wanted her to do to gain entry (clucking, not so hard. lay an egg? a little bit of a problem for a cow. )

This book is very, very funny, with a lot of word play that kids like. When someone gets told the secret password, they say "oh." And then think that's the password.

When Debbie (the cow) laughs, she laughs so hard that milk comes out her nose.

Some of the chickens want to eat chicken noodle soup, thinking it will make them smarter, that its soup for your "chicken noodle." Then they get told it isn't. If tomato soup is made out of tomatoes.... At this point, even tho it was the first time the kids had heard the story, they all were shouting out the answers to what bean soup and tomato soup is made from. I love when kids get this type of thing on their own and feel free to just jump right in. It was a lot of fun.

Raising the Griffin

Raising The Griffin by Melissa Wyatt

The Plot: Alex is happy with his life in England. There's some family stuff going on that never had much to do with him; his father was always quite clear that their grandfather's dream of reclaiming the past was just that, a dream.

But then the dream becomes a reality, much to Alex's dismay. He's totally unprepared for it.

The dream? Turns out Alex's family used to be the rulers of an Eastern European country. They fled with their lives over 80 years ago. And now -- the family has been asked to return and resume the monarchy. Alex is now Prince Alexei.

The Good: An interesting look at the "Cinderella" story, this time from a guy's perspective.

I also liked that Alex had been raised not to want this, and now has to deal with getting it. His father's reason was to prevent Alex from being disappointed, but the result is Alex has no preparations for the changes in his life.

The country is invented, and Wyatt does a great job with inventing it: there is a language, history, customs, food, even a family tree going back almost 500 years. For something totally made up, it feels extremely authentic.

I also liked that this isn't all puppies and daisies. Wyatt raises interesting points, from economics to responsibility. Wyatt takes the fairy tale element (you're a prince!) and makes it very gritty -- very real. I also liked that she used an Eastern European country that was under a Communist regime.

Links: Author interview by 6th graders; ALAN Interview.

Monday, February 20, 2006

In Her Shoes

In Her Shoes, based on a book by Jennifer Weiner.

How much did I love this movie? I want to own the DVD.

The Plot: Two sisters who seem to have nothing in common but size 8 1/2 shoes. Older sister Rose, the lawyer, is tired of taking care of free spirit Maggie and when Maggie does one too many things wrong, Rose throws Maggie out of the house. Maggie thinks she has nowhere to go, but then discovers a grandmother she never knew she had.

Each sister is feeling hurt and very "I don't need her!" about her sister; and each discovers just how wrong she is.

The Good: Romantic comedy is not a good description; yes, there is romance; and yes, there is comedy; but there are some serious issues here, also, about the meaning of family, about sisters, about friends. And about shoes.

Being a former lawyer, I loved the Rose as lawyer parts and Rose as former lawyer parts. And I wish that I worked with single lawyers like Simon.

I loved the family dynamics.

And one more thing. I love, love, love Jennifer Weiner's blog.

Next up: I'm going to read the book.

2nd Carnival of Children's Literature

The Second Carnival of Children's Literature will be hosted at Chicken Spaghetti; more details here. Including what type of info to send in, how many submissions (one), etc. Deadline is Friday, March 3rd.

The Top 10 Reasons to make a submission to the Carnival of Children's Literature:

1. You know you want to.
2. Everyone loves a carnival. Unless you're the person who goes into a ride after someone threw up in it. But hey, virtual carnival, that won't happen!
3. It's a chance to show off.
4. You know those people who don't get why you blog? Show them the carnival.
5. You can stop being upset at having missed the first Carnival.
6. New people will get a chance to see your blog.
7. Carnivals work best when there's a good variety of stuff going on, so that means you -- yes, you! must submit because you have a unique voice and way of looking at things. (Yes, I see you sitting there reading this blog...)
8. You don't have to do anything new; all you have to do is pick ONE post that you already wrote. Could it BE any easier?
9. If there is a successful second Carnival, there will be a third Carnival!
and the top reason to submit --
10. All the cool bloggers are doing it. Peer pressure!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Roman Mysteries

The Roman Mysteries is a mystery/adventure series set in 79 A.D. by British author, Caroline Lawrence. They are best read in order; book one is Thieves Of Ostia.

The Plot: Rome for Middle School.

The Good: These books are a mix of mystery, action, adventure and history.

The four main characters are ages 8 to 12 and are a multicultural mix: Flavia is a middle class Roman; Nubia is African, and in Book 1 is Flavia's slave; Jonathan, the next door neighbor, is Jewish; and finally there is the homeless boy, Lupus. Flavia frees Nubia, and the four have adventures and solve mysteries, and travel from Rome to Pompeii, meeting anyone and everyone from Pliny to assassins.

The kids take action; they do things, rather than having adults do things for them. They ask questions, get in trouble, and work things out.

As far as I can tell, Lawrence has done a superb job of keeping these books correct historically. The kids do act older than they seem; I keep picturing them as older than they are. It works, tho, because of historical and cultural differences. Kids back then were older than today; for example, Miriam, Jonathan's sister, is only 14 but is engaged to an "old" man in his 30s. So it makes sense that these kids who are 8 to 12 are acting more like they are 12 to 15.

In keeping with the realities of the time period depicted, the books contain violence. Perhaps most upsetting is the story of Lupus, fully told in The Dolphins of Laurentum. As a 6 year old, he witnessed a murder; to prevent him from telling, his tongue was cut out. As an adult with a godson who are six, I find this quite disturbing. Yet I know that as a kid, I would have been thrilled with the action, the adventure, that the kids were doing this and taking risks and making it through and being taken seriously.

I love history and am fascinated by the time period Lawrence has chosen. The Roman Empire is at its peak, and the kids represent the peoples of Rome: those with and without money, those conquered and conquering. It's matter of fact and real. For example, there are slaves. Nubia is a slave, stolen from her home and family. Nubia happens to be from Africa; other slaves encountered by the children, as cooks and tutors, include Greek slaves. It's a fact of Roman life, softened by Flavia's freeing Nubia and Nubia being treated as an equal by Flavia, her friends, and her family.

It's also quite interesting to see the depiction of the early Church. Jonathan and his family are Jewish, exiled from Jerusalem. They are also Christians; and while this isn't front and center, it -- like Nubia's lost homeland, and Lupus's sad past -- every now and then the Early Church comes to the forefront.

The series is being made into a TV show. I cannot wait for it to be shown in the US. According to the author website, changes include making Lupus mute rather than without a tongue, a change I imagine is being made for the obvious reasons (no special effects needed), plus perhaps to soften the violence; and the kids will be about 3 years older. Since I view them as acting older than their age (and again, view this as historically accurate) I can understand why they would want to use older actors. For example, it's one thing to read about the romances of 14 year old Miriam, but I'd be much more comfortable with a TV version of Miriam being in her late teens. Comments from other readers?


Supernatural, on the WB at 9, right after the Gilmore Girls.

In the true tradition of good genre shows -- in this case, horror -- doing a nice one line plot description can be a bit giggle inducing. Yes, even we fans, we happy fans of genre TV realize that when we describe it outside the fanbase the show can sound a bit odd. So what? One of the things I like about genre shows is, perhaps because the giggle has happened with the plot description, they have a certain amount of freedom, at that freedom results in great TV: unique characters, sound plots, suspense, action, editing, stunts and camera work.

But I digress.

The Plot: Two brothers, Dean and Sam, drive from town to town, hunting demons and other evil things. Backstory: the boys' mother was killed by a demon when they were little, inspiring the father to start hunting demons and pursuing information on what killed his wife. Sam tried to get away from the family business by going to college & law school, but, was pulled back in after his father disappeared. Oh, and then Sam's girlfriend was killed by the same demon that killed his Mom. And now Sam is having dreams about the future and, upon occasion, can move things with his mind.

It's probably quicker to give what I imagine was the pitch for Supernatural: "Route 66 meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a nod to Frailty" .

The Good: All of it.

Dean and Sam bring the hotness; I think I would watch Jensen Ackles read the phone book. Seriously.

The Big Bad shows up and the boys hunt it down. This requires research (yay!), both using books and computers and investigating. And, this being a show that is also about the hotness of the stars, there is always a cute girl who happens to be the sister of the missing guy, or the reporter at the newspaper with the critical information, or the blood drinking demon worshipper. And there are guns, too, for when the brothers finally track down the weekly evil.

The sibling relationship is very good. The brothers bicker, and Dean is the typical older sibling: he's done what is expected and continues to do what is expected. I don't think Dean himself knows what he would want to do outside the family business. For him, it was never an option so why even think about it? Dean has some anger that Sam selfishly went to college and didn't pursue the demons, just as Sam has anger towards Dean for never questioning their father.

The balance between monster of the week and season arc has been done very nicely. They are moving things along in the season arc, yet there are enough questions -- What happened to Mom? Where is Dad? When did Dad start hunting demons? Who is the mystery girl? Are these 2 alone in this or is there a Watcher's Council somewhere? -- to have future season arcs or even a series long arc.

The writers have given enough thought to the annoying questions fans ask to give quasi-answers. While on the road, Dean and Sam hardly live it up -- they stay at run down motels and the like -- but they do always have the money for the hotels and gas. Yet they don't work. The answer? Apparently, one is allowed to steal credit cards and use forged credentials when one is pursuing the higher good of fighting evil. I doubt this will be pursued further, but it's enough of an answer.

I hope this show survives the WB/UPN merger, and it'll be interesting to see what time slot it gets.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Which Sci-Fi Crew Would You Best Fit In?

I saw this over at BookMoot.

Which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? v1.0

created with

You scored as Serenity (from Firefly). You like to live your own way and do not enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you that you should do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you.

Which Sci-Fi Crew Would You Best Fit In? Go here and find out.

Full disclosure: I was tied with being on Moya from Farscape. Cool!

Four Brothers

Four Brothers: four brothers reunite upon the death of their mother and get revenge.

The Sons Of Katie Elder: four brothers reunite upon the death of their mother and get revenge.

I'm not the only one who sees the similarity: Four Brothers vs. The Sons of Katie Elder, The Remake Stacks Up Well. In the director's commentary to 4B, which I didn't watch, the director says he never saw the John Wayne movie. And I'll accept that as true; but I find it hard to believe that no-one involved in the production of this film realized it was a remake. (As I Googled this, it seems like everyone who watched the movie said, Sons of Katie Elder remake; the only people who haven't said it are those officially connected with the movie. If you can find an interview by the writers or directors saying it's a remake, let me know.)

But you know what? It doesn't matter (except, perhaps, to whoever owns the copyright for The Sons of Katie Elder). 4B is a great film, and stands on its own. The updating of the classic western is brilliant: the setting is Detroit, the sons are adopted, and no-one has a second thought about pursuing justice for Mom, even tho they do acknowledge that Mom would have said to forgive them. The shoot-out at the Mercer family home is brilliant.

Yes, there's violence. And strong language. But it's also a good story.

And it has Chiwetel Ejiofor.

You know, the guy from Serenity. "I am, however, wearing full body armor. I am not a moron!" (From Serenity. Not Four Brothers. I'd quote from 4B, except I'd have to do a lot of "expletive deleted").

Amazon Updates

I am experimenting with Amazon Associates. I'm not sure if I'll keep up with it or not; but I saw a few sites who were doing this so figured I'd give it a try. If anyone has good/bad experience with it, let me know.

While looking up info on the Queen of Cool, I saw the author page and decided to look up more on Amazon Connect. There's a blog-like function that allows the author to post messages, but also allows us to see latest activity, favorite books, etc. What I like: it includes a link to the author's website.

The Queen of Cool

The Queen Of Cool by Cecil Castellucci

The Plot: Libby is the Queen of Cool. She is so cool that she'll tape a pen to her shirt and by the rest of the day, everyone else has taped pens to their shirts. Except by then the cool kids aren't doing it. As you may imagine, someone who is now taping pens to her shirt is a little bit bored. But what's the Queen of Cool to do, when her life is perfect: she's popular, her parents are well off, she has the right clothes, the cute boyfriend.

Libby volunteers at the zoo. With geeks.

When Libby starts learning some truths about herself, cool kids, and geeks, will the girl who was brave enough to walk thru the school formal in her underwear be brave enough to risk not being the Queen of Cool?

The Good: This is so not your typical book about cool kids and those who envy them. Don't get me wrong; Libby is so cool that she would not have been my friend in high school. She would not have known my name in high school. (Tho Libby Brin and I have the same initials. And Libby is sometimes a nickname for Elizabeth. Weird, huh?)

Libby is so cool that she has stopped being able to feel anything:
Swisher has no singer. The music is like a physical attack. It moves from a delicate whisper of notes to a full throttled cacophony. I join the throng of people dancing in the pit. I want to lose myself in the music. I want to feel free. I want to feel something. I try to dance myself into a frenzy until sweat is pouring down my sides and my makeup feels like its running off my face. I close my eyes. I feel the same. Empty. Maybe I need a beer.

Libby volunteers at the zoo on impulse; she sticks with it because she's stubborn enough not to quit, and smart enough to recognize that she is beginning to feel again.

This isn't another one of those "cool people have feelings, too!" or "it's not easy being cool" books. Thank goodness. This is about someone who is cool but is also bored. What do you do when you want to feel something, anything? Libby is trying beer, and shopping, and sex, and dancing, and none of it is working. This book is about learning to feel again -- and doing something that is real, not something to create artificial feelings.

This book never lectures; it's not a message book; but it does have a message. About trying new things out. Being open to new experiences. Not judging. Not being jaded.

In here and in Boy Proof, Cecil (sorry for the informality but I kept spelling the last name wrong) creates a world and characters using the minimum number of words. My grandfather used to say he didn't like female authors because it took them too long to describe the sunset. And while that's not true, it is true that some authors think they need pages and pages to capture every color; others simply say "the sun set"; and then some, using only a handful of words, convey as much description and meaning as if they had used pages and pages. Cecil is the type of author who uses few words but tells so much. For example: "thinking of the energy anyone of these things would require makes me immediately want to lie down."

Also good: One of the characters is a little person. It's the type of diversity that often doesn't appear in books; or, when it does, it has Meaning or a Lesson. And while it's not ignored -- the girl's name is Tina, cruelly amended to Tiny by the cool people -- it's not The Point.

Libby's parents are involved yet not over involved, with their own lives; her father is experiencing a mini midlife crisis. It doesn't overwhelm Libby's story, but the father's story arc complements his daughter's.

Other stuff: The Cynsations Interview. The author's web page has neat information on Libby's LA (of course the Queen of Cool lives in LA! D'uh.). If you scroll down the Amazon page for the book, you see the "Amazon Connect" information. I haven't had a chance to look into this new feature, but it leads you to an Amazon author page.

I'm adding this to my Best Book of 2006.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Sir Thursday

All excited about the next Keys to the Kingdom book by Garth Nix and eager to read my review of Sir Thursday?

Sorry, you have to wait because unlike some lucky people, like Tasha at Kids Lit, I don't have an ARC.

What to do while waiting? If you haven't read the first few books in the series, read them now! Or you can become obsessive like me and play the Enter the House online game over at Scholastic. I'm at Level 3 in Wednesday.

Edited so that the last sentence made sense. Cause sense is good.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

All Of A Kind Family

I loved the All Of A Kind Family books. I am thisclose to buying the whole set, just for the pleasure of owning them. (C'mon, you know what I mean - that some books not only have to be read, but have to be owned.)

If you read these books, you have to check out this article about them: Family Affair
How a faraway girlhood became part of my own
by Melanie Rehak. It's at Nextbook, "a gateway to Jewish literature, culture and ideas." Like Rehak, these books taught me about Jewish holidays and culture. But they also gave me a glimpse into life in turn of the century New York City, a time and way of life that is long gone. I've always been partial to any book set in the early part of the 20th century, in part because my grandmother was raised in NYC during that time and I see it as a peek into the world she knew.

Additional information on the All of A Kind Books and their author, Sydney Taylor, can be found at the Sydney Taylor Book Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries.

Pop Has Moved

Just a reminder, Pop Goes the Library is now at

The new feed, for those of you using bloglines and the like, is

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


PBwiki logo
So I read in someone's blog (I forget whose, sorry!) that they were going to set up a PBWiki for books read.

And I thought awesome idea, especially because I don't blog about all the books I read. So I set one up at But don't bother looking at it yet as it has no real content because I haven't had time yet to figure out what I want to do and how to do it. Set up with book or movie pages, and then by month? Or do month pages? I know, it's not easy figuring this stuff out!

Edited to add: D'uh. Leave it to me to make a mountain out of a molehill. OK, so I've started putting up my books read / movies watched.

Why do I read something & don't blog about it? Mostly time. I don't have the time to do more than a few titles a week. As I was putting up the January list I kept on seeing titles I loved that I didn't blog about yet. So I'll add a link to my sidebar, and if you ever see a title listed that I haven't spoken about, let me know.

And if anyone knows the code to show something has a strike thru it in blogger, I'd love to know. Thanks.

Books for Second Graders

My reading is mostly YA and older J, with picture books that catch my eye. I know that there are good books out there for second graders, but that is my weak spot.

Thank goodness for Chicken Spaghetti, who has put together a very nice list of books for second graders. So now I have something to say other than Magic Treehouse.

Buffy Quote of the Week

"Don't make fun. I worked long and hard to get this pompous."
-- Riley, Ep: Fear, Itself

Monday, February 13, 2006

So Yesterday

So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld

The Plot: Hunter is a "cool hunter," always on the lookout for the Next New Thing. It's not that he's a victim to cool; rather, he's someone who gets asked to focus groups to decide whether a product and its ad campaign are cool or not cool. In his "pyramid of coolness", he's close to the top: a Trendsetter. At the top of the pyramid? Innovators, the people who do the things first who inspire others.

Hunter meets Jen, an Innovator, and finds himself falling for her -- and getting pulled into a mystery when his friend Mandy disappears. Missing people, sneakers so wonderful they take your breath away, weird ad campaigns, purple hair, a chase across rooftops -- Jen's an Innovator, and about to turn Hunter's life upside down.

The Good: Hunter's pyramid; starting at the top, Innovators; Trendsetters; Early Adopters; Consumers; Classicists; Laggards.

This is anti-consumer; but with its approach to how trends are invented and sift thru the culture, it also acknowledges the importance and impact of trends in people's lives. It's much more than "brands are bad," because some of what happens isn't brand-related.

It's about those people with the "shine" of new ideas, and those who honestly think those ideas are interesting, and how that trickles down. Yes, it's anti-consumerism; but I also think its anti-snobbery, skewering all levels of the pyramid. It laughs at both the person wearing last year's pants and the person jonesing this year's cell phone, but at the same time understands the want and need.

SY is also a solid mystery, as Hunter and Jen try to figure out what happened to Mandy and the bootleg sneakers.

Why is cool important? And brands? The thing is -- and its addressed in this book -- it isn't all shallow. Whether the author is right or wrong, I found interesting the history of such trends as neckties, and whether the American with Disabilities Act is responsible for current skate culture. "Trends" are about more than brands.

Different groups have different trends and different things that are cool. A "Logo Exile" may indeed be "anti consumerism," but isn't anti-trend or anti-cool. And if being an Innovator requires living in New York City and not the dreaded New Jersey ... Well, I'ld love to move to NYC myself. Maybe get a job in publishing. Have a cool studio (see, I'm not demanding!). But I'm well aware how expensive that is; and to have implicit throughout the book that those who are Innovators are those who can afford to live in NYC.... Well, isn't that just the biggest brand there is? The brand of living in NYC, at the right address? Is the Logo Exile who cannot stand to live in NJ any different from the person who will only buy certain brands?

And this is one of the things that is so cool about this book. It's not a black and white, you're shallow for liking x brand book. It's shades of gray, and its more show than tell, leaving the reader to reach his/her own conclusions.

First Carnival of Children's Literature

Here in the Bonny Glen has the First Carnival of Children's Literature up.

Basically, this is a "gathering of posts" that all have to do with children's literature.

The Good: Many different parts of the blogosphere are represented. If you go take a look, part of the time you'll be nodding, "oh yeah, I remember that post" and the other part you'll be clicking to discover something new. And that's what a carnival is for -- to discover new posts, new blogs, new points of view.

Check it out; you'll be glad you did.

The next Carnival of Children's Literature will be in March, hosted at Chicken Spaghetti.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Could A Tyrannosaurus Play Table Tennis?

Could A Tyrannosaurus Play Table Tennis? by Andrew Plant (picture book).

An ABC picture book that asks, "could an Iguanodon ice skate?" "could a Lambeosaurus do the limbo?"

The Good: dinosaurs and kids are always a good mix. The pictures are realistic and colorful. Plant paints the dinosaur in scale to the modern day activity, to give the reader a grasp of just how big, or little, the dinosaur was.

For the scientifically inclined, each dinosaur also has a the pronunciation of its name (LAM-bee-oh-SORE-us), the meaning (Lamb's lizard), period (Cretaceous), area (North America), height (49 ft) and eating habits (herbivore). The different time periods are shown in a colorful chart on the inside front page.

The author is Australian, but he hasn't changed the terms used. He does understand that non Australians may be unfamiliar with some things, so there is a glossary for cricket, netball (I need to know this for all they Australian YA books I read!) and quoits. But in looking up Google, some of these are actively played in the US. Cool.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Children's Book Meme

As seen originally on Big A little a and Chicken Spaghetti. I'm trying to answer as I would have when I was a kid (bonus: as a teen).

What were your three favorite children's series?
1. The Dark is Rising
2. Narnia
3. Little House on the Prairie
Hon. Mention: The Great Brain books.
YA Bonus: The Pern books.

What were your three favorite non-series children's books?
1. Master Skylark
2. Harriet the Spy
3. A Proud Taste For Scarlet And Miniver
Hon. Mention: City Underground
YA Bonus: Norma Johnston books.

What were your three favorite children's book characters?
1. Will Stanton.
2. Anne Shirley. Not in either of the above categories, in that when I was a kid I loved the first Anne book and the others bored me; I didn't like them until I was in my teens.
3. Menolly.
YA Bonus: Ford Prefect. Cause he's the hoopiest frood.

Bonus Round #1:
Q. Who wrote your least favorite childhood books?

A. what did I read that I didn't like? I know I read stuff I didn't like but it's bad memories that have been obliterated from my mind. I never could read anything by Dickens other than A Christmas Carol, but that's more YAish than childhood.

Bonus Round #2
Q. What was the saddest moment in your childhood reading?
A. Master Skylark, when Nick wanted to go home and couldn't. I LOVED this book and cannot bring myself to reread it for fear of it letting me down.

Bonus Round #3
Q. Which adult book scared the bejeezus out of you?
A. Now I'm trying to remember WHEN I read certain books. Darn, this is hard. There was a book of ghost stories in about 4th grade that I bought from the scholastic book club, so was a kids book, that had a story about a man killing and dismembering his wife (I know! In a scholastic book club! It was the 70s, what can I say.) Anyway, there was this picture in pen and ink that freaked me out so badly I buried it in the trash. I think it was the woman with blood and.... OK I have to stop. The book was so bad I had to get it the hell out of my house. But it wasn't an adult book.
An adult book? Let's go with Burnt Offerings.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Why, Meg? Why?

I already adore Meg Cabot. So why does she keep doing things that make me like her even more?

Meg watches the new Battlestar Galactica. And Bones. And likes Serenity.

I bet that if I started singing, "Jayne, the man they call Jayne, he robbed from the rich and he gave to the poor" Meg would totally say, "stood up to the man and gave him what for."

In honor of Jayne and Serenity and Meg and Joss Whedon all that is good in the world:

The Ballad of Jayne

Jayne, the man they call Jayne
He robbed from the rich
And he gave to the poor
Stood up to the man
And gave him what for
Our love for him now
Ain't hard to explain
The hero of Canton
The man they call Jayne

Our Jayne saw the mudders' backs breakin'
He saw the mudders' lament
And he saw the magistrate takin'
Every dollar and leavin' five cents
So he said "you can't do that to my people"
He said "you can't crush them under your heel"
So Jayne strapped on his hat
And in 5 seconds flat
Stole everythin' Boss Higgins had to steal

He robbed from the rich
And he gave to the poor
Stood up to the man
And gave him what for
Our love for him now
Ain't hard to explain
The hero of Canton
The man they call Jayne

Now here is what separates heroes
From common folk like you and I
The man they call Jayne
He turned 'round his plane
And let that money hit sky
He dropped it onto our houses
He dropped it into our yards
The man they called Jayne
He stole away our pain
And headed out for the stars

He robbed from the rich
And he gave to the poor
Stood up to the man
And gave him what for
Our love for him now
Ain't hard to explain
The hero of Canton
The man they call Jayne.

Lyrics by Joss Whedon, Firefly, Ep: Jaynestown

Monday, February 06, 2006

A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl

A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

The Plot: Josie, Nicolette and Aviva are 3 different teenage girls who each fall for the same bad boy, TL. A book in verse.

The Good: The verse is the same sort that teenage girls write, so you really get into the heads and into the emotions of the three narrators.

This is frank in its treatment of teens, sex and sexuality. While its blunt, it's not graphic ... meaning I've read things that are more explicit in most mainstream romance novels. Meaning, the teens who would be reading this probably will have read those novels.

Josie is just starting high school and says, "I'm not stuck up. I'm confident." But it's easy to be confident and sure of yourself when you've never been in a situation that could cause doubt or could bring temptation. I've read studies that wonder why do girls change at 12, at 13, lose their confidence? I think because its easy to be strong when you've never been tested. Josie is tested. And luckily is made stronger by the experience rather than broken by it.

Nicolette is a junior who sees sex as "all about the power. Who's got it and who doesn't. If I say who and I say when and I say what then I have it. Simple as that." She's about to find out it isn't that simple.

Aviva is a senior, but since she's not in any one particular clique she's a bit out of the loop about the gossip. She's elated that TL knows her name. And finds out she also believes what she wants to believe.

Each girl struggles with the conflict between how TL makes her feel -- emotionally flattered and physically turned on -- and what her head is telling her. Because with each girl, there are signs that TL is indeed bad: a manipulator. A liar. A user. And each girl, for one reason or another, refuses to see the truth of the situation because of emotions and hormones. Hears the whisper, this isn't quite right, yet ignores it.

Is a bad boy good for a girl? Each girl is left a little older and wiser. Wiser about herself. And while I hate to talk about "messages" and prefer to let the story speak for itself, I hope that the teenagers reading this will be able to apply this to their own lives and recognize the bad boys before they get hurt.

TL is, no doubt, self-involved, a manipulator and liar. He's a user. OK here's a comment that's not about the book but about the boy: he's not unique. Why? Why do boys and men think it is acceptable to use people this way?

In the book, TL's protected by his status (jock, popular) and his friends, including girls. The book also shows how girl v girl competition over a guy allows a guy to be a player. And finally -- communication. The girls who are his victims are silent from fear or embarrassment, or ignored because they aren't the cool kids. Or, as is the case with Nicolette, suffer from "it won't happen to me"-itis. There's also very much the "blame the victim" attitude amongst TL's peers: that the girl should have known better. (Ah yes the wonderful, if you've been lied to or manipulated, its your fault for believing, rather than the fault of the one who lied. Great stuff, logic. Not.)

A final thing I like about this book is that there is no good boy. At first, I was a bit upset about that, thinking, there are good guys out there, it would be nice to have at least one show up. But when I reread ABBCBGFAG, I realized it would have been easy and expected to have at least one girl end up with a guy who is not "bad." Because the point of the book isn't the boy, its the girls.

On Tuesday, February 7th, Tanya Lee Stone will be the guest author at the YA Author's Cafe. It starts at 8:30 p.m. EST.

ALAN Article, Now and Forever: The Power of Sex in Young Adult Literature by Tanya Lee Stone (pdf file).

Tanya Lee Stone's Boyfriend's List at E. Lockhart's blog.

Added Note: Is anyone else having problems with Blogger & Internet Explorer? And isn't it odd that Blogger's spellcheck doesn't recognize the words blog or blogger?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Pop Is Moving

At least there is no kitchen to pack up. Which takes longer, a kitchen or a bookcase? And how come, in movies and TV shows, people can pack up their life in one suitcase? Or a VW bug? It's just not possible.


The library blog to which I contribute, Pop Goes the Library, is moving.

From the Pop blog: "Set your calendars and Bloglines subscriptions, gentle readers: On February 13th, Pop Goes The Library is moving to swanky new digs at Christine Borne, owner of, has been a stellar, gracious, and generous hostess, but the time has come for us to fly the nest. Once again, that's Monday, February 13th at We hope to see you there!"

A Bit of This, A Bit of That

An Interview with D.L. Garfinkle, author of Storky, is at ALAN Online.

Gail Gauthier at Original Content talks in her Feb 3 post about how some "publishers are interested in raising the definition of YA into the early twenties." I can see how publishers would want to target twenty-something readers. But I don't see why it needs to be done by changing the definition of "young adult".

Over at Bartography, Chris has been sharing the nonfiction American history books he has been reading with his six year old. The current time period they are reading: 1775-1825.

Carnival of Children's Literature

Melissa Wiley of Here In the Bonny Glen is hosting a Carnival of Children's Literature on February 13, 2006.

What she is looking for: "Any post related to children's books is a candidate for inclusion: book reviews, interviews, stories about reading to your kids, literary adventures in and out of the classroom, you name it. Authors and illustrators, we'd love to hear from you, too!"

Additional details are at her blog (links above). Deadline is February 11th.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Best Books of 2005

It's 2006, so I'm moving the Best Books of 2005 list. I'll keep a link to it on the sidebar.

  • The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart

  • Confessions of a Closet Catholic is Sarah Darer Littman

  • Down the Rabbit Hole: An Echo Falls Mystery by Peter Abrahams

  • Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

  • Good Brother, Bad Brother: the Story of Edwin Booth & John Wilkes Booth by James Cross Giblin

  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

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

  • The Order of the Poison Oak by Brent Hartinger

  • The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of 4 Sisters, 2 Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

  • Poison by Chris Wooding

  • Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

  • A Room On Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson

  • Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach

  • Stained by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

  • Storky: How I Lost My Nickname and Won The Girl by D.L. Garfinkle

  • Tadpole's Promise by Jeanne Willis

  • A Wreath For Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson
  • Cynthia Leitich Smith

    Cynthia Leitich Smith's website had been redesigned. Click over and take a look! I'd forgotten just how much good content Cynthia has at her site. I think my favorite part of the site is the Bibliographies, including everything from Asian American children's and young adult books to grandparents in books to war and peace.

    Can you guess my problem with these lists including Cynthia's favorite YA reads?

    Yep, you're right. I get sidetracked with me, me, me and begin counting how many I read and then wanting to put the others on hold. (If I counted correctly, Cynthia has 102 titles and I've read 34 of them.)

    Why I like this website: well, it has everything an author website should. There is information about Cynthia and her books, including contact information and information on visits and talks. Because Cynthia blogs (see below), there is also always up to date information on authors and books and Cynthia herself. Finally, Cynthia also has great resources for children's and young adult literature.

    Other links: in addition to the website, Cynthia has two blogs, cynsations ("quirky, thoughtful, angsty, joyous musings on all things life and book from a writer who finds her heroes in the sunshine and in the shadows", which is where you can find some amazing interviews with authors) and spookycyn ("author Cynthia Leitich Smith on the fangs-friendly side of gothic fantasy, horror, comedy, mystery, romance, suspense and all blessings Texana").

    The new website was designed by Lisa Firke of hit those keys.

    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    It Takes Little To Amuse Me

    Found these via MetaxuCafe.

    I found these most wonderful rules at Reading Matters:

    The Official Rules for Writing Historical Fiction

    The Official Rules For Writing Arthurian Fiction

    The Official Rules for Writing Medieval Fiction

    I'm not sure what cracks me up more...the stirrups issue for Arthur, or the lack of real historical names in historical fiction. See, I love historical fiction and I also love history. There are some things I don't mind, such as "modern" language because hello, it's not like I'm reading a book written in actual Old English, right? So as long as its modern English, why not modern slang? But actual things -- such as the insistence that medical treatments 1,000 or 2,000 years ago were as good as or better than today, despite the historical mortality rates -- do bug me.

    Having just finished reading The Great Mortality : An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time by John Kelly, I'd like to add the following rules:

    1. The Hero and Heroine must bathe frequently, despite all factual data stating this never happened.

    2. The Hero and Heroine live somewhere with an advanced, clean, and efficient sewer system, rather than the actual "dump it in the street" method. They live in a world without smell and refuse.

    3. There are never rats. Never, ever, ever.

    Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    a brief chapter in my impossible life

    a brief chapter in my impossible life by Dana Reinhardt

    I proudly announce the first of my Best Books of 2006! It's beautifully written and a wonderful exploration of family.

    The Plot: Simone is a junior in high school. She thinks her life is full and complete: Mom's an ACLU lawyer, Dad's a political cartoonist; she has good friends, and her younger brother Jake just started high school. The family defines normal, and her problems fall under that category also: what club to join at school? what to do about her best friends new relationship, with a guy Simone doesn't like? especially when her friend starts sleeping with him? and what about the guy Simone may like, who works at the coffee counter and may or may not have a girlfriend? Then another problem falls into her lap. Her parents announce that Rivka wants to get in contact with Simone.

    Rivka -- Simone's birth mother. Simone has no desire to find out anything about Rivka; she's quite satisfied with life as she knows it. But her parents won't let it go and now Simone is getting answers to questions she never wanted to ask.

    The Good: Simone and Jake have a great sister/brother relationship, one of the closest I've seen in a teen book in a while. The parents/teenager relationship is also positive.

    Simone's family is proudly atheist. That's not something one usually sees in a teen book. When Simone starts questioning, part of what she questions is this "unshakable belief in the absence of a higher power." This is not a book about religion; but it is a book about belief, and about being able to ask questions. I found it especially refreshing that Simone's questioning is about Simone trying to figure things out; it is not about rebellion. Simone's family is close enough and loving enough that she can safely ask those questions and seek answers -- safe in that she isn't risking her family's love.

    Simone finding out about her birth mother, and learning Rivka's story, parallels things going on Simone's life and helps her understand more about her own life. I like it when the stories that seem to have nothing to do with each other end up complementing each other. As Simone learns more about Rivka, she starts seeing and appreciating other perspectives. Personally, I think that is a key component of a young adult book; the main character moving from thinking there is only one valid perspective towards realizing that different people have unique and equally valid points of view.


    Millions (film) and Millions (book); both written by Frank Cottrell Boyce

    Last night I watched the film version of Millions; I had read and loved the book.

    The Plot: A bag full of money lands at the feet of 7 year old Damian. What do you do when money falls out of the sky? Older brother Anthony, age 9, wants to invest it. Damian, convinced its a gift from God, wants to give it to the poor. And the people looking for the money have their own ideas.

    The Catch: England is about to change to the Euro, so Anthony and Damian cannot hold onto the bag full of pound notes. It has to be spent, and soon. Damian wants to give it to the poor, if he can find any. Anthony has big ideas -- put it in a bank, buy investment property -- but his age means he cannot do that. The only option: spend, spend, spend.

    The Good: Very funny. Very sweet. And, with the appearance of the saints, also contains a nice touch of magical realism.

    Damian & Anthony's mother is dead, and the father is struggling to make ends meet, and, despite working long hours, does his best to be a good, loving, attentive father. It's nice to see that good parent/child relationship.

    Damian is a bit obsessed with the saints; he reads about them, talks about them, has visits from them. He also asks if they know a Saint Maureen. This works well; Damian's fascination with saints is understandably a way of trying to connect to his mother. It also isn't that unusual; when I was about ten or twelve, I had a book of saints (cannot remember title or anything like that) and, like Damian, was particularly fascinated with those who were martyrs. One thing that works is that while some elements of this film are humorous, the film (and book) are always respectful.

    Book v. movie: I find it intriguing that the same person wrote both. Even more so that Boyce knows that since these are 2 different ways of knowing a story, different things are required for the telling. In a way, its like having two different interpretations of the same story, rather than a book based on a film or a film based on a book.

    A bit about the book that's not in the movie: I loved the mini-lesson in economics. Anthony and Damian start spending money at school, and the school yard economy is impacted.

    My current favorite saint: Clare of Assisi, Patron Saint of Television

    Interesting links: Boyce's Top Ten Saints; Boyce wins Carnegie Medal 2004; Saints and Angels at Catholic Online. Damian's favorite website, (this was in the book, not the movie) (and yes, this last site was created as a tie-in.)