Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Edge of the Forest

The April edition of The Edge of the Forest is available.

My contributions include reviews of:

George Washington, Spymaster : How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War by Thomas B. Allen

George vs George: The Revolutionary War As Seen By Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer

Behind the Curtain: An Echo Falls Mystery by Peter Abrahams

TEOTF includes numerous reviews of books for children and teens. Other highlights: a feature on Small Press Month and an interview with Michael Buckley, author of the Sisters Grimm books (and candidate for Fuse # 8's Hot Men of Children's Literature).

The King of Attolia

The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

The Plot: Costis is a loyal guard to his Queen, the Queen of Attolia. Like most loyal Attolians, he is angry that The Thief of Eddis has manipulated his way into becoming the husband of the Queen and is now the King of Attolia. The King is nothing more than hick from Eddis, and a thief to boot. He kidnapped the Queen to force her into marriage! And when Costis cannot bear it any more, he punches the King.

He has punched the King in the mouth.

Costis expects disgrace; he expects his family to lose everything; he expects to die.

But the King lets Costis live. And Costis finds out that he has a thing or two to learn about the King of Attolia.

The Good: Let's just say if you knew me in person, you'd see how I get downright giddy and smiley and giggly like a schoolgirl when I try to talk about this book.

TKOA lives up to the two prior books that feature Eugenides aka Gen, the Thief of Eddis and now the King of Attolia. Gen was introduced in The Thief, published in 1996, and returned in The Queen of Attolia, published in 2000. Silence. Deep, appalled silence. TKOA stands alone; but there is room for a sequel (or 5 or 10). And the idea of having to wait so long for the next one . . . . I can't think about that now. I want to instead concentrate on the good, which is, quite simply, my love for Gen. And for MWT's writing.

Eugenides is brilliant and stubborn, brave and stupid. What else? Arrogant. Vain. Insufferable. Rude. And you can kind of see why Costis and the Attolians who don't know our Gen like we do would dislike Gen to the point where punching him (punching a one armed man! who is King!) seems like the right thing to do.

This book can work for the new reader, because, like Costis, they don't realize that Gen is, well, Gen. They'll be surprised and thrilled by the reveals: by Costis beginning to see who the real Gen is, and what he is capable of, rather than the face of the young fool Gen presents at court.

For those of us who know Gen, part of the delight is in knowing how wrong Costis is, and the wonderful anticipation of waiting for the reveal. For once, we are on Gen's side, we "know" what to expect, we are part of the tricks and strategy. Or are we? Gen still has a few surprises up his sleeve, and even the person who thinks he knows Gen may discover that he or she doesn't know the King of Attolia.

MWT is BRILLIANT, with a multiple layered story that uses narration and point of view to tell this story. If TQOA was about the strategy of war, TKOA is about the strategy of politics. Part of that strategy is about being King; Gen is the Thief; but does he have what it takes to be a King? Especially King of a country that hates him?

Yes, I am smiling as I write this because MWT has also created an extremely realistic world, where the countries of Sounis, Eddis and Attolia are all very real; each is a mix of gray, with no "good" country nor "bad" ruler. Part of my delight is knowing that there is so much more still to be told: will these three countries be able to unite to fight the Mede? Can they retain their independence? What is happening with the Mede? Where does Gen's loyalties lie?

The Queen cut off Gen's hand; and now they are married. And it may be wrong, but I adore these two together. The balance of power, of love, of politics, of loyalty, is, gosh darn it I think I've run out of adjectives!, anyway, the love story is touching and raw and weird.

TKOA is one of the best books I've read in a long time. I'm recommending it right and left, not just to teens but also to adults. If there is any justice in this world, TKOA will be an award winner. This is one of my Best Books of 2006.

Favorite lines:
You don't think you deserved to be promoted after [the battle of] Thegmis; you said you were just doing your duty. Enkelis never lets a good job go by without taking credit for it. He wants to be captain someday so he makes sure he is better than anyone else. You just want to be better.

Who would want to be married to the woman who cut off his right hand?

She is ruthless. And it is a good thing she is, because she wouldn't be Queen if she weren't. She is brilliant and beautiful and terrifying. It's a fine way to feel about your queen, not your wife.
And sadly, if I continue with my favorite lines, I will reveal too much of the plot.

Sebastian's Roller Skates

Sebastian's Roller Skates by Joan de Deu Prats, illustrated by Francesc Rovira. Originally published in Spain.

(Thanks to Big A little a for the author link, above.)

The Plot: Sebastian is a shy little boy, who won't speak up for any reason; not to say hello; not to tell the barber that he doesn't like his haircut; not to make friends with the girl in class. Then one day he finds a pair of roller skates.

Sebastian cannot resist the roller skates, and as he slowly builds up skating skill and confidence, so, to, does he conquer his shyness. While Sebastian practices on his own, it's thanks to a rather large dog that Sebastian realizes that he's become a good skater.

The Good: I love the pictures; as shown in the cover, a mix of painting and collage.

Sebastian achieves through his own work; while one may wonder who left the skates for Sebastian to find, it is Sebastian who decides (after finding the skates in the same place for two days in a row) that he will skate, and Sebastian teaches himself. I love when children have autonomy in book, and there is no Deus Ex Machina grown up. (What's the term for that? Deus ex Adult? Grown Up Ex Machina?)

This book is from Kane/Miller, a company that publishes books from around the world. Books like Sebastian's Roller Skates, even tho they never say "Sebastian lived in Spain" or anything else to indicate that place, still have a sense of place that is not America. I love how there is that "feel", in the drawings, in the text, in the pictures of Sebastian's school, that reveal that this not taking place in the US. At the same time, the story is one that can be enjoyed by any reader, wherever they live.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Bit Of This, Bit of That

Best line about "quiet" books that I've read in a long, long time: Proponents of mimetic fiction will argue that real life is just a bunch of things that happen. But if fiction is going to be as boring as real life, what's the point in reading it?. Swarm of Beasts is reviewing a book I have not read, but I have had this reaction.

Best reaction to Kaavya's "photographic memory for passages, but not for authors and titles" defense: If you have photographic memory, and cannot discern your own thoughts from that of another writer's, DON'T become a writer! (Of course, part of the reason that it's the best is it's Meg Cabot. And part of the reason is I had just posted something similar in comments over at Bookshelves of Doom.)

Best thoughts about keeping on eye on what really is at issue: This is a victory not just for Megan, but for writers everywhere, affirming that an author's work and the voice she writes in, whether she writes YA or chick lit or the most sober literary fiction, belongs to her, and her alone -- an important point that got lost in the whole gleeful schadenfreude pile-up. But then Jennifer Weiner is always awesome. I am so tired of the "doesn't count because its not real fiction" or "doesn't count because it's fiction" or "doesn't count because all those books sound alike" arguments. Thanks to Jennifer for putting the focus on what is important.

Best comment by an author (Mo Willems), arguing that he is not "hot": Let me say for the record that I, categorically, am not hot. I am ‘luke-warm’ on a good day.In the interest of proper categorizing (you are a librarian, no?), I suggest a new sub-heading of “Ehh…” for me and other unfortunate ‘tepid men of children’s lit’ you may encounter in the future (in order of tepidity, obviously). In answer to Fuse # 8's Hot Men of Children's Literature.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Poetry Friday

In elementary school I loved Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses.

My Shadow

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an India-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all.

He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;
I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed

Founder Big A little a; other Poetry Friday offerings at Farm School; Book Buds; The Simple and the Ordinary; Chicken Spaghetti; Jen Robinson; and Scholar's Blog.

If I didn't see yours, please just leave me a note and I'll update the participant list.

Updated to add: Little Willow.

And Blog From the Windowsill.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Buffy Quote of the Week

"If the apocalypse comes, beep me."
-- Buffy, Ep: Never Kill A Boy On The First Date

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Yes, It is Plagiarism...

...when you copy someone's original work.

I'm sure you all know about Kaavya Viswanathan and the copying of Megan McCafferty's books.

And since as of this post Kaavya has said that the borrowing was "unintentional and unconscious" but did exist; and the publisher has said that future editions will be revised, I feel safe saying that copying was done. As others have pointed out, over 40 instances of copying. Which means that it's not one mistake; it's over 40 mistakes.

I've read a few "I feel sorry for Kaavya" type things recently. And guess what? I don't.

Kaavya got paid $500,000. She is a sophomore at Harvard. She's grown up enough to get paid a half million dollars and to be at an Ivy League school; so she's old enough not to copy another's work.

Kaavya told Katie Couric that she is "profoundly sorry", per the Katie Couric interview? And "all she can do" is change the book?

Let's see.... perhaps the book should be taken off the market? Perhaps it shouldn't be highlighted on her publisher's website? Perhaps money should be paid to the person whose work was stolen? Perhaps Kaavya shouldn't be let off the hook with "I'm sorry but I didn't meant it"?

Is there also responsibility from her publishing house? Hell yes. McCafferty is well known; and I am very disappointed to think that those working at the publishing company are so unaware of these current books that no-one in-house picked up on this. When I checked the publisher's website, it was still promoting the book as if nothing had happened.

The victim here is Megan McCafferty, a hard working, talented writer who is at the heart of a scandal that she didn't create.

So, in my humble opinion, I'm sorry is not enough.

Edited to add: link to the 45 instances. It's a PDF file from Publisher's Marketplace. And my latest pet peeve? The defense that all teen lit sounds alike anyway, so how can someone copy something so generic?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

May Day

May Day by Jess Lourey.

The Plot: Mira James, a twenty-something grad student, leaves Minneapolis for a part time job in a library in rural Battle Lake. She's barely settled in when she finds a dead body in the stacks.

The Good: It's a little bit mystery, a little bit chick-lit, a little bit fish out of water, a little bit small town story, and a lot of fun.

Mira has been getting by in Minneapolis; her decision to move to Battle Lake is about leaving one place than going to another. May Day is part "throw everything into a car and start over" fantasy.

This is the start of a Murder by Month series by Lourey; the second title is June Bug, to be published next year. I LOVE that the Murder by Month series didn't start at either the beginning of the year -- January -- or the other month people think of as a beginning, September.

The dead guy she finds in the stacks? Turns out to be the guy she was dating; it's hard out here for us singletons!

And finally, I adored the pop culture references: Mira thinks, "I marveled at how much television had prepared me for life," because Charlie's Angels (the TV series!) is her inspiration and guide book for breaking into someone's home in pursuit of solving the murder.

Finally: The Pop Goes The Library Interview with Jess Lourey.

Walden Media & Bridge to Terabithia

This week's Entertainment Weekly includes a very interesting article, The Family Business, about Walden Media.

The Good: information on the anticipated shooting schedule for the remaining Narnia books, as well as insight into Walden's philosophy behind adapting children's books into movies.

The paragraph that gave me pause:

Filmmakers who work for Walden say the company is surprisingly -- and refreshingly -- hands-off. "They are not keen on fart jokes, dirty words, and unintelligent, cheap solutions. Fortunately, neither am I," says Rugrats co-creator Gabor Csupo, who's currently directing Walden's adaptation of Katherine Paterson's trip-into-fantasyland Bridge to Terabithia.
OK, I'm hoping that the director knows what this book is about and it's a clueless reporter -- but damn, someone on staff at EW should have let the reporter know that describing Terabithia as a "trip into fantasyland" is like describing Veronica Mars as a TV show about a cheerleader.

Tho, to be fair, I read Terabithia during my fantasy phase and did indeed pick it up expecting a Narnia like fantasy. Boy, was I surprised. But my excuse is I was ten at the time, and not a reporter for a national magazine.

Duck & Goose

Duck & Goose by Tad Hills

The Plot: A duck and a goose find a strange round object at the same time.
"What is that," Duck quacked.
"That's a silly question," Goose honked. "It is a big egg, of course."
Each decides that it is "mine."
"I saw it first" insists Duck, while Goose claims, "I touched it first."

The Good: As is obvious to any age reader, the round object with orange, red, and yellow spots is not an egg. It is a ball. So from the first, the reader is actively engaged in the story because they know something that Duck and Goose do not.

Duck and Goose squabble over everything: who saw it first, who is going to sit on it, who is going to teach it to quack or to honk. Eventually, they begin to see what they have in common (waddling and swimming) and become friends.

The endpages show the field, trees, and stream that make up the world found within the book; and if you look carefully in the front endpages, you can find the egg. Er, ball.

Resources from the publisher include a Duck & Goose activity page (pdf file.)

A good book for storytime for this year's Collaborative Summer Library Program, Paws Claws Snails & Tales.

Friday, April 21, 2006

I Need Permission?

Interesting post over at Read Roger, the blog of Roger Sutton of the Horn Book. Apparently, a publisher is arguing that a reviewer needs permission to review a book. Here's the pertinent language from the post:
So today we were threatened with legal action by a disgruntled publisher who wanted us to stop reviewing their books. They wrote that if we did review any more of their titles, they would "seek legal remedies on the grounds that your publication is publishing misinformation" about their books. Meaning we don't like them very much. On the phone, I was told by the publisher that we (or any review media) need permission from them (or any publisher) in order to review their titles.

I'm lucky that I do get some review copies, from publishers, authors, and agencies. My policy is to post about the books that I like. If I don't like a book, I won't post about it. (Tho before anyone reads anything into that statement, I also sometimes don't post because of time. Like right now I have about 10 reviews to post.) And that's pretty much understood as a given by those who provide the copies. And I also post about books I buy or books I borrow from the library.

So under the theory given above -- I'd have to get permission first?

I don't think so.

Oh, and for what it's worth, I do say when I don't like a book; on comments to other blogs or online book discussions and the like. (Those of you on adbooks know that I can be quite blunt about not liking a book!) I just prefer not to do it here (too little time, too many books. And TV shows. And movies.)

I think I'm probably most intrigued by the argument that the Horn Book is "publishing misinformation." How can opinion -- which is what a review is -- be misinformation? I'm trying to imagine it. I know I've read reviews where it's been clear that the reviewer didn't "get" something (humor or fantasy or whatever.) And I often find that the reviewers have their own agenda in reviewing books (for the New York Times Book Reviews, I often learn more about the reviewer than I do the book.) But to call that misinformation seems a little strong.

Hat tip to Fuse #8 for the story.

Poetry Friday

I had already decided to do one of my favorite poets ever -- but particularly in High School and college -- when I saw Big A little a's choice and I had to chuckle. Kelly picked Ted Hughes; while I had already decided to do Sylvia Plath.

I'm going with one of the early poems:

Mad Girl's Love Song

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

The rest of the poem is here.

Other Poetry Friday contributions: Farm School; Jen Robinson; A Fuse #8 Production; Little Willow.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Buffy Quote of the Week

Drusilla: "The King of Cups expects a picnic, but this is not his birthday."
Darla: "Good . . . point."
--Ep: Fool For Love

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Queen of Attolia

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. Sequel to The Thief.

The Plot: Eugenides, The Thief of Eddis, returns. In The Thief, he stole Hamiathes's Gift; and the Queen of Attolia was not happy. Gen -- Eugenides -- had outwitted her. Escaped her. Eugenides is well known now; but he cannot stop being the Thief, including spying in Attolia and taunting the Queen by leaving trinkets by her bed. As she sleeps. The message is clear: The Thief of Eddis can enter the palace of the Queen of Attolia and not be caught.

Except ....

He can be caught. And is caught.

And the Queen of Attolia considers what manner of death... how to set an example... as the Queen of Eddis offers ransom and threatens action, in exchange for the return of her Thief. The Queen of Attolia decides to let Eugenides live; but does inflict a price. The traditional punishment for a thief. Cut off his hand.

Eugenides is returned to Eddis, a broken man. The Queen of Eddis does not take the mutilation of her thief lightly; and now Eddis is at war with not only Attolia, but also neighboring Sounis. And all the while the faraway country of Mede watches, and plots, hoping to take over all three countries.

The Queen of Eddis comes to Eugenides, aware that they may lose the war.
"What do you want a useless one-handed Thief for? . . . I can't steal things without two hands. That's why she cut one off."

"There are a lot of things that a person with two hands couldn't steal. . . . Steal peace, Eugenides. Steal me some time."

The Good: Believe it or not, that contains no significant spoilers; Eugenides loses his hand on page 25.

The politics are amazing and intricate. This is a book of war; but not of the battles. Those take place mostly offpage; rather, it's the plotting of war, and the intelligence gathering, and the planning. Two armies don't just run at each other and wave swords; there is concern about where, and how, and why a battle takes place. This book shows the chess game going on behind the war; but be very clear. This is no game to those involved.

I LOVE how the Queen of Eddis is Eddis and the Queen of Attolia is Attolia. Once they had other names; but now, they are the title.

And there is romance. A slightly warped but rather delightful romance, actually. If you have read even the briefest description of the The King of Attolia, you're aware of it. But I'm not even linking to that book; I don't want to tempt you.

And of course, drum roll -- is Eugenides still my book boyfriend?

Liz & Gen

Mr & Mrs The Thief of Eddis.


Yep, I've been doodling that on my notebooks. So I'd say yes, I'm still rather in love with the boy. (And for some reason, keep picturing him as Gregory Smith, and I have no idea why because Gen isn't anything like Ephraim. And I haven't watched Everwood in a year.)

Storytime Books

I know what picture books I like; but that doesn't always translate into good storytime books. Given time, I can track down some titles.

Often, an adult is looking at me with an "it seemed like a good idea at the time" expression on his or her face as they explain that they volunteered to read a book to their child's class and now they need that book for tomorrow. (And yes, it's probably 15 minutes before we close.) And suddenly, as they stand in the middle of the library full of picture books, the adult realizes: It's not that easy, is it, picking out a good storytime book?

No. No, it's not. Which is why we have our various Reader's Advisory resources. A Fuse #8 Production has a great list of Sure-Fire Storytime Hits. I'm making sure I have office copies of all and that a print out is by the reference computer.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Jane takes on William!

My niece and nephew (Queen Lucy, five and half, and Skater Boy, three) spent Friday night at my house. All went very well (blogging typos aside), with one little problem.

Late Friday afternoon, Skater Boy went looking for his Spider-Man action figure, which he was sure he had packed and put in the bag. We went through his suitcase (and Queen Lucy's) three times before determining that the action figure had been left home. Tears threatened. Trying to preserve happiness, I tried to figure out what I had that could make him happy. Books? He loves books, but please -- you cannot play "here's the bad guy" with a book. Stuffed animals? He's not a baby.

Then Skater Boy looked up my bookcase, up up up, and he smiled. Skater Boy has an awesome smile. What had he spied at the top of the bookcase?

"Open that box."

Skater Boy had found an action figure. Oh, better than that: he had found three. Only for him would I do it. I opened the boxes.

And first, the Librarian was walking down the street.

And then the Bad Guy, William, attacked her.

And then Jane rescued the Librarian.

I, of course, was the Librarian. Skater Boy was the Bad Guy; Queen Lucy was Jane.

And the kids took the action figures home with them. Apparently, they held up very well at bath time.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

I'm A Pill Bug

I'm A Pill Bug by Yukihisa Tokuda, illustrated by Kiyoshi Takahasi

The Plot: A non-fiction book about the pill bug.

The Good: The book begins with asking the reader, what am I? "A ball? No, not a ball." And since I had just finished Duck & Goose, which involves mistaking a ball for an egg, I was very amused.

This is non-fiction that is perfect for the younger set (ages 3 to 7): the vocabulary is accurate yet not too sophisticated; the details are interesting; and the illustrations are engaging. Cool details include what pill bugs eat (practically everything including their own old shells -- gross) and that they are constantly pooping (and the illustration -- as you can see from the cover -- does include the square shaped poop.) The illustrations also include a page that shows "this is how big I really am." I also liked that the book didn't dumb itself down: included, in a very matter of fact manner, is information on how pill bugs protect themselves from ants (rolling themselves into a ball) and how that works with ants but frogs? Not so much.

The kids I read it with immediately identified the bug: "we have them in our yard!" And added a threat to pill bugs not addressed in the book: "we step on them."

The Edge of the Forest Review is at Vol. 1, Issue 2.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Learning To Fly

Learning To Fly by Sebastian Meschenmoser

This little picture book has been making the rounds of child lit bloggers: Big A little a, Book Buds, A Fuse #8 Production, Kids Lit.

The Plot: The human narrator explains: "Last night, I found a penguin. He told me he'd been flying. But . . . penguins can't fly." And so begins the story of the man who befriends the penguin and the penguin who tries to take flight.

The Good: This book, translated from the German, is delightful. I love some of the sentences: "He looked so heartbroken that I believed him."

I also loved the pictures; simple black and white pencil drawings, with the occasional use of one color to highlight something. It reminded me of the picture books I had loved as a child, such a the original We Were Tired of Living In A House. I always think of drawings like this as being for "real" things; so they are a serious balance to the sometimes silly things that the penguin and man do.

As Fuse #8 points out, those who look at this book and say "but penguins can't fly" or see animal cruelty in the various attempts of the penguin to take flight don't get it. This isn't a realistic book to put in amongst non fiction; this is a book about believing in something.

And it's funny! The man and the penguin "even studied books about flying," and as the man looks at thick tomes the penguin reads a Super Man comic book. One attempt is the man with a bow and arrow, except the penguin is the arrow. The humor is similar to The Book Of Bunny Suicides. LTF is NOT about a penguin learning to fly; it's about belief, and being inventive, and getting a chuckle out of the serious not-serious attempts.

I think this would work best one on one, so that the pictures can be discussed. The text is simple enough for a beginning reader; the pictures, as noted, are a bit "older" so that this is one of those picture books that can be used with older students.

I read this book about a month ago -- and it stayed with me. And it held up on rereading. And I noticed new things in the deceptively simple pictures. You know what that means, don't you? Yep. It's being added to my top books of 2006.

Edited to correct typos from blogging with child on lap.

Various Updates

Head over to Pop for some recent interviews:
Tanya Lee Stone, author of A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl;
Jess Lourey, author of May Day;
D.L. Garfinkle, author of Storky: How I Lost My Nickname And Won The Girl;
Christopher Krovatin, author of Heavy Metal And You;
and Mary E. Pearson, author of A Room On Lorelei Street.

I just found a fabulous blog: The History of Television by Stephanie Lehmann. I'm eager to read her latest book, You Could Do Better, about someone who works for the Museum of Television and Radio. (By the way, what an awesome job to have!) The Museum has it's own Blog, called the Blog Potato.


Cottage Blessings just shared the good news: Melissa Wiley (author, mother, homeschooler) of Here in the Bonny Glen welcomed her new baby girl this morning. Congratulations!!

Poetry Friday

Congratulations to Gregory K at Gotta Book for the New York Times article about fibbing! (Thanks to A Fuse # 8 Production and all the others who posted about this awesome article.)

It's Poetry Friday, trademarked by Kelly at Big A little a. Other participants as of this posting time are: Chicken Spaghetti; Here in the Bonny Glen; Jen Robinson. If I missed you, or you post later in the day, please let me know and I'll update this post.

My contribution is from Gerard Manley Hopkins:

Spring and Fall
to a young child
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

POETRY CONTRIBUTORS UPDATED: Little Willow with Lewis Carroll.;
UPDATED AGAIN: Chicken Spaghetti fibs; and also a poem for Melissa's new baby girl at Farm School.

Buffy Quote of the Week

"I don't handle rejection well. Funny, considering how much practice I've had."
-- Xander, Ep: Prophecy Girl

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Sword of Straw

The Sword of Straw by Amanda Hemingway

When I posted about The Thief, I explained how it was the first book in a trilogy, the third one was getting buzz, so of course I had to start at the beginning.

But then I read the post at Bookshelves of Doom about Pern, that reminded me about reading books out of order. It got me thinking; when I was a kid, I didn't care. I found a book that looked interesting and read it. If it turned out to be a part of a series, I shrugged and then found the others, but I didn't obsess about first finding the first book and then reading the rest in the proper order. If I had a choice, I read in order; but between no book and out of order book, I as book girl every time. Reading "out of order" did not ruin my love for the books or series. Some books I recall reading "out of order": Pern; Dark is Rising; Little House on the Prairie; All of a Kind Family.

What reading out of order taught me:

1. to immerse myself in the world that I enter. It doesn't matter that things aren't fully explained; I accept it, I read it, I fill in details if need be. Now, when I read books I don't expect to be told every little detail from the beginning, or to have my "hand held" by the author as they set up the story.

2. to enjoy the journey as much as the end. Since I'd go back and read the prior books, I knew things about the characters or plot. And it didn't matter; it was about enjoying the place and the characters. And it's why I hate it when someone knowingly (and happily) tells me the surprise ending of something on purpose (what is it with people who enjoy spoiling?); but I still read and enjoy the book (so the deliberate spoilers win the battle but lose the war.)

3. to like a good prequel. Because when you've read the 3rd book 1st, the other two tend to be "prequels". Which means I appreciate books that fill in details of the present by taking me into the past. I don't need to read about the world in chronological order. And I understand why sometimes you need to read (or write) a story out of order; linear isn't always best.

4. to enjoy fast forwards and flashback theatre. Again, when you read out of order that is what happens; you find yourself 2 years further than you should be, or suddenly reading about Charlie's birth. So that when this happens in one book, instead of over several, you're cool with it.

5. to read for more than the "what." The "how" and the "why" are equally important. I think this is why I enjoy nonfiction, especially history and biography. I've actually had people (including librarians) ask why read NF when all it does is restate the facts? Or, since you know what's going to happen, why bother reading? Because the how and why are important; not just something you rush thru to get to the what.

In other words, it taught me to be a better reader.

So why, I wonder, am I now so insistent about reading books in order?

Just in time, I got an ARC of The Sword of Straw (second in the Sangreal Trilogy) to find out if I still had it in me; could I read and enjoy and understand a book out of order?

The answer is yes. And now I'm eager to read book one, The Greenstone Grail.

(Mini rant aside: I had an awesome post on this, if I do say so myself, and blogger ate it. Ggrr.)

The Plot: When Nathan, 13, dreams, he goes to other worlds and universes. Literally; go check his bed and you'd find it empty. He sometimes goes to sleep in clothes because showing up somewhere else in pajamas? Awkward. The previous year, dreaming had taken him to worlds where he found the Grail, and brought it back to his quasi uncle/mentor Bartlemy Goodman, a mysterious, older than older magician. Bartlemy is one of the good guys; and as Bartlemy relates the tale of the Sword of Straw, Nathan dreams of a dying city with a wounded king. Ready or not, another adventure is about to begin.

The Good: This has a bit of everything: science fiction, with the multiple worlds, universes, and aliens. Nathan himself may be half alien, but he doesn't know it.

There is also fantasy; magic and witchcraft; Nathan's friend Hazel is tempted to make a spell so that the boy of her dreams loves her; and while she's at it, why not take care of that popular mean girl?

And, as you may have guessed, references to Arthur and Celtic mythology and legends. It's equal parts retelling, reinventing, and reinterpretation.

Plus, it's funny! Not over the top situational funny; and not because of a character's POV funny. Rather, there are lines that are almost throw away, that you read and it takes a second and then you chuckle. Very dry, and impossible to take a line out of context and put it here and have you laugh.

The many references, that are quick and varied: Donald Rumsfeld and Narnia. Carrie and Lorelies. Politics, books, movies and pop culture. And the best possible references, in that the author never pauses to explain them. Like Joss Whedon, you either get it or you don't.

The author is also known as Jan Siegel; Michele at Scholar's Blog has info on her previous trilogy. The trilogy was good, but I was unhappy at the ending; Michele's blog is very spoilery (not in the "I want to tell you all the ending" way, but in the way I am spoilerish; it's the only way to have a proper discussion of a book.)

And I'm publishing this before Blogger eats it. Again.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Edge of the Forest

No, the new issue of The Edge of the Forest isn't out yet. We're working on it!

In the meanwhile, I did want to point out to that TEOTF is looking for submissions.

"Are you interested in contributing to The Edge of the Forest? Please send your inquiries to kidslitinfo @"

Friday, April 07, 2006

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday was started by Kelly at Big A little a. Participants this week include Students for Literacy Ottawa and Jen Robinson.

Edna St. Vincent Millay is one of my all time favorite poets. In college, I was constantly checking out the Collected Poems and was very happy when I was able to buy my own copy . I am still thankful to those college librarians who, recognizing my obsession with the book, never charged me late fees.


We were very tired, we were very merry--
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable--
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hilltop underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry--
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry,
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry,
We hailed "Good morrow, mother!" to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, "God bless you!" for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

UPDATED TO ADD: Michele at Scholar's Blog has three great contributions, including 2 favorites of mine and one that is new to me.

UPDATED AGAIN TO ADD: Gregory K at Gotta Book and Chicken Spaghetti, both who are fibbing.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Buffy Quote of the Week

"A vampire isn't a person at all. It may have the movements, the memories, even the personality of the person it takes over, but it is a demon at the core. There's no halfway."
--Giles, Ep: Angel

Monday, April 03, 2006

Third Carnival of Children’s Literature

The Third Carnival of Children’s Literature is at Semicolon; the theme is poetry, in celebration of National Poetry Month. There are a lot of great posts and links; I love the arrangement -- a post a day -- so you can either jump right in and read them all right now, or bookmark and enjoy a post or two a day. As I've found with past Carnivals, its fun to be reminded of posts I've read and to discover new bloggers.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

A Few Updates

Thanks to the inspiration from A Fuse 8 Production, I've spent the morning updating my links. Looks like Kids Lit was also inspired to do some cyber spring cleaning.

I'm experimenting with MySpace, to see how it differs from a blog and what it offers. So far, I like how easy it is to add friends and I like Teen Lit Group. The friends feature is more a networking thing than a "we hang out all the time and go to the movies and meet for coffee" friends. Any hints on using MySpace, or any suggestions, let me know.