Wednesday, May 31, 2006

CBI Bisto Book of the Year

The Winner of the CBI Bisto Book of the Year is Kate Thompson, for The New Policeman. (I couldn't find a US publication date.)

The EilĂ­s Dillon Award went to Deirdre Madden, author of Snakes’ Elbows. (Again, I'm unsure of US date as Amazon appears to be listing the UK versions.)

There were three Honour Awards presented to: Oliver Jeffers for Lost and Found (US Edition), Kevin Kiely for A Horse Called El Dorado (no US edition) and Eileen O’Hely and Nicky Phelan, author and illustrator of Penny the Pencil (no US edition).

Children's Book Ireland is the national children's book organization of Ireland. Complete information is here. General information on these awards is here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

An Interview With Ally Carter

I have an interview with Ally Carter over at Pop Goes the Library. Ally is the author of one of my Best Books of 2006, I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You.

She is also the author of Cheating at Solitaire, which I have yet to read but based on the first chapter, available here, looks fabulous.

Buffy Quote of the Week

"I'm probably the only girl in school who has the Coroner's Office bookmarked as a 'favorite place.'"
-Willow, Ep: Some Assembly Required

Monday, May 29, 2006

Shannon Hale on Kids Becoming Readers

Confession: Princess Academy is the first and only Shannon Hale book I've read; but I love it and plan to blog about it soon. In drafting the post, I found Shannon Hale's blog. (Not that it was lost or hidden or anything, the link is right there on her website.)

Today's post: 10 Ways Parents (inadvertently) Discourage Their Kids from Being Readers

Go, now, and read it.

I'll wait.

Did you notice what was not on that list?

I know! A post about kids & reading that did not call TV eeevvvviiiiillll. How cool is that?

I have no idea whether or not Shannon watches TV; and truly, it doesn't matter. What does matter is that here's a great post that doesn't bash TV. And, bonus, has great points. Of course, I love that she mentions library visits; but she also mentions reading aloud; and not pressuring kids to read only one type of book (such as the books that the parent loved).

On behalf of those of use who watch TV and read, I say, thank you, Shannon.

Now I'm off to finish King Dork. And to watch a little TV.

Eragon Film

While I myself have yet to read Eragon beyond chapter 3 (either in book or audio form) (conclude what you will about that), I am very interested in the film, because I heart Jeremy Irons.

I was first introduced to Jeremy by Brideshead Revisited, which inspired me to read the book and become a lifelong fan of Evelyn Waugh. The love of JeremyIrons (he's one of those both names makes his name type of guy) grew with Reversal of Fortunes. And he was just perfect as Dudley in the most recent Elizabeth miniseries on HBO.

More info at Fuse # 8 on the upcoming film.

(And please don't be jealous, Luke!)

The 48 Hour Book Challenge

Man, this is why I love the Internet.

MotherReader has come up with a fabulous idea: the 48 Hour Book Challenge.

(Huh... I could have sworn that I had MotherReader on my blogroll; it must just be my bloglines. Sigh. Time to do some housekeeping.)

How many books can you read and blog about in 48 hours?

The time period: The weekend of June 15th, starting 7 a.m. Friday June 15th and ending 7 a.m. June 19th. Any 48 hours within that time period... Hm. While I work June 17th, it's only 3 hours... and I'm getting my hair colored on June 18th, which is good reading time.... oops. Back to the Challenge.

To sign up, go on over to MotherReader and comment to the post.

And, in my not so humble opinion, it's totally fair to start stockpiling thin books to read during this weekend... even if you already have a huge TBR pile.

Summer Reading List

Link free, as it would take too long.

Just as information sharing; I'm going to be doing visits to a local middle school (grades 7 to 8) and here's the list I'm using. While I'm not going to talk to each class about each book, I like to have a large selection so that I can do different books for different classes; have a wide range, for reading level and interest; plus some titles come from the school's summer reading list and some from the Garden State Teen Book Awards list.

A Boy At War by Harry Mazer
Abarat by Clive Barker
Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
B for Buster by Iaian Lawrence
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate Di Camillo
Bindi Babes by Narinder Dhami
Blood Secret by Kathryn Lasky
Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Crispin: Cross of Lead by Avi
Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams
Dr. Franklin’s Island by Ann Halam
Dust by Arthur Slade
Emako Blue by Brenda Woods
Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
The Game of Sunken Places by MT Anderson
Girl in a Cage by Jane Yolen
Indigo’s Star by Hilary McKay
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Joey Pigza Swallowed The Key by Jack Gantos
Kira Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary Schmidt
Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce
One Of Those Hideous Books Where The Mother Dies by Sonya Sones
Piratica by Tanith Lee
Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach
So B. It by Sarah Weeks
Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan
Swords for Hire by William Allen
The City of Ember by Jeanne Du Prau
The Fire-Eaters by David Almond
The Oracle Betrayed by Catherine Fisher
The Rag and Bone Shop by Robert Cormier
The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman
The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer
The Shamer’s Daughter by Lene Kaaberbol
The Sign of the Qin by L.G. Bass
The Steps by Rachel Cohn
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

War Movies

I'm not good with dates. My one year anniversary of blogging came and went without my knowing. Memorial Day is here, and I'm not the good blogger; no book.

So instead, inspired by the movies showing on the TV, some of my favorite war movies. In no particular order.

From Here to Eternity. Montgomery Clift. Need I say more? A slice-of-life look at the lives of people in the days leading up to Pearl Harbor, including Monty as someone who loves being a soldier but refuses to be pressured into boxing. And Burt Lancaster, as a sergeant who's in love with his bosses wife and doesn't want to become an officer himself.

The Great Escape. Steve McQueen. Prisoners break out of a German POW camp during WW II. Classic.

The Longest Day. D Day. While known for its star filled cast, this is also a solid film about the invasion.

We Were Soldiers. Battle of Ia Drang, Vietnam, 1965. I prefer the full title of the book, We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young. Both book and film emphasize the strategy part of battle.

Black Hawk Down. Somalia, 1993. Army Rangers drop into Mogadishu to capture two warlords; while this quickly turned into worst-case scenario, what impresses me is what these men did to rescue themselves and others.

The Grand Illusion. World War I, escape from POW camps.

Gallipoli. The Battle of Gallipoli during World War I. The ending scenes are heartbreaking. How fast can you run?

I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang. World War I vet imprisoned, escapes, imprisoned, escapes. My paternal grandfather.

Regeneration. British World War I soldiers being treated for shell shock.

Gods and Generals and Gettysburg. The Civil War (American).

What would you add to the list?

The Family Stone

The Family Stone A fun romantic comedy that also looks at family dynamics. Eldest son Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) a successful businessman, brings his girlfriend, Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker) home for Christmas. His family do not like her one bit -- she's too uptight, too fussy, too cold. She talks too much. They are pretty obvious with their feelings; and Meredith ends up not only going to stay at the local inn rather than remain in the Stone family home, she also calls her sister, Julie, as emotional support. Problem is, for some reason, the family loves Julie, leaving Meredith as much an outsider as before. Soon, Everett and Julie look to be connecting emotionally; but don't feel sorry for Meredith. Because there are sparks flying between Meredith and Everett's brother, Ben (Luke Wilson).

The Good: I love these types of movies. And romantic comedies are like other things not taken "seriously" by critics, (*cough*YA and children's books*cough*) people say "oh just another romantic comedy" thinking they are all the same and easy to make. But it is not easy to make a good romantic comedy. Friends, I have seen many, many bad ones. This one? Terrific.

I would watch Sarah Jessica Parker read the phone book. She is wonderful; and I have followed her career since Square Pegs. She makes the "cold fish" very sympathetic. Meredith may put her foot in her mouth repeatedly, but SJP handles the character so that not only don't you hate her, you like her. The rest of the cast is equally amazing.

In "triangle" movies like this, an interesting phenomena takes place. When it's romantic comedy with a guaranteed happy ending, with two people dating and then the "true love" interest entering the picture, the two original daters -- even if engaged -- are never shown engaging in physical contact. Not even a kiss. It's as if they're dating in the 1950s. Here, too, tho Everett is thinking about becoming engaged to Meredith, they don't even share a kiss. Because the viewer needs to cheer the new relationship, yet not view the people as "cheaters", we are told about the existing couple but shown little about their being a couple.

What is great here is that it works for both Everett and Meredith. In Serendipity, for example, both main characters are with other people; there is no real physical interaction shown in those existing relationships. Not only that, but the original significant others are also clearly shown not to be the "right" person, to the point that that person is so annoying/ shallow that one wonders why the main characters ever got involved with them. In The Family Stone, the original person is shown not to be "right", and it's done without condemning the "other" person. It's not that Meredith isn't right; she's not right for Everett. So, while Meredith may not be the right match for Everett, there are sparks with Ben. There is no bad guy. In a way, there is no cheating.

What else did I like? Thad, the youngest brother, is hearing impaired. One of Meredith's many missteps is not handling the situation well -- she speaks loudly. All the Stone family members automatically sign as they talk; it's done in a very "this is second nature" manner, as would be true of a family with a hearing impaired family member.

One thing I like about movies is the viewer has to think for themselves, sometimes more so than when reading a book. For in a book, we are told everything; in a movie, by watching the background, dress, scene, etc., we have to come to our own conclusions. Everett starts as the perfectly groomed businessman and ends up grubby and in sweats; sister Amy gets a gift of a snow globe, that only makes sense if you noticed that she had snow globes in her bedroom.

The best thing about the movie? Luke Wilson. I think he's my new movie boyfriend. He doesn't know it yet, of course.

What I didn't like? OK, this is a pet peeve of mine, but I want to rant a little bit. (I know, I do have a lot of pet peeves.) One of the reasons for the Stone family not liking Meredith has to do with money / class; Meredith comes from money. It's not a big point; it is just one of a few lines thrown out and it really isn't followed up. Everett is shown to be a successful businessman; Amy comes home with laundry, so I figured she is starting out on a career and struggling. But based on the house that the Stones live in, even if I assume it's inherited (but that's not in the final movie version), the Stones are simply upper middle class to Meredith's upper upper middle class. Since Meredith's family home is not shown, it may be richie rich. Who knows. Point is, the Stones are shown to be so comfortable -- and Meredith never mentions money -- that it's jarring when the issue of class / money difference is mentioned. And I think it shows that Hollywood doesn't quite realize what middle class really looks like.

The movie is rated PG-13. While sex is not shown, it is talked about. Truthfully, I don't see how this would have any teen appeal; it's a movie for grown ups. And I do enjoy watching movies that show grown ups my age in romantic comedies. Love isn't just for teenagers and twentysomethings.

On a slightly unrelated note, I'm very turned off by the trailers being shown for The Break-Up. Bickering as romance dates back to Pride and Prejudice, if not earlier; and can work very well. But the scenes shown on the trailer make me feel -- uncomfortable. Too real; too nasty; and while I see the comedy, I don't see the romance. Now, if this had been talked up as War of the Roses, I would understand. The trailers are making me want to not see this movie.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

You Can Never Find A Rickshaw When It Monsoons

You Can Never Find A Rickshaw When It Monsoons: The World On One Cartoon A Day by Mo Willems

After he graduated from college in 1990, Mo Willems took a year to tour the world; this was a low-key, not much money, backpack and few showers tour. While sometimes he went where the tourists go, he was also just as interested in hitch-hiking to places where he was the only traveler. It's like the Amazing Race, without the race.

Mo didn't keep a traditional journal; instead, each day he drew a cartoon about something that caught his fancy. These were rarely "tourist" things, but rather slices of life; a peek at the differences in people and lives and culture. And sometimes, a peek at himself during his travels. It's about observing ourselves and others.

This is a book for the grown-ups; with an adult perspective and outlook. (In other words, don't think "oh Mo does those cute picture books of pigeons and bunnies, so it's OK for my 2nd grader to read this." No, no, it isn't. No matter how advanced he is. Well, OK, if you read it first and decide it is OK, then it is, that's your choice; but don't assume that because Mo writes picture books, that everything he ever does is at the picture book level.) (Sorry for the mini rant, but one of my pet peeves is the assumption by people that if an author wrote x at a young readers level, all that the author wrote is for that young readers level, and then they get all angry and huffy when that isn't true.)

It's funny, insightful, and a quick read. It's also a way for those who don't have the time, money, or confidence to take such a trip to experience such a trip (time = Mo took a whole year off to do this tour; money = even tho this wasn't the Paris Hilton world tour (Mo had one pair of pants! One!), still, even the most frugal around the world hitch hiking tour takes money), and confidence (this wasn't Mo's first trip abroad, so in some ways he had the experience to make this solo trip doable; and neither at 21 nor now would I ever think about doing what he did alone. I read too many true-crime books.)

There is the familiar and the new; and I think anyone who has ever traveled, whether at home or abroad, whether for a week or a year, will nod their heads in recognition.

An interview with Mo Willems at Drawn; how funny, Fuse #8 also posted about this today!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Little Sap and Monsieur Rodin

Little Sap and Monsieur Rodin by Michelle Lord, illustrated by Felicia Hoshino

The Plot: Historical fiction set in the early 20th century. Little Sap, daughter of a rice farmer, earns a place in the royal dance troupe of Cambodia. Later, as one of the royal dancers, Little Sap travels to Paris, where the artist Auguste Rodin sketches the dancers.

The Good: The author's note informs us that this beautiful picture book is as historically accurate as possible, though not much is known about the real Little Sap. Instead of leaving the reader wondering, she explains that "although many details in the story are imagined, the main events are true and the dialogue is taken from actual quotes." I love when historical fiction is clear about what is history and what is fiction.

Aside from that, it's the story of a girl who works hard to better her life and that of her family; and does something, dance, that takes discipline and hard work.

The artwork by Hoshino is rich and gorgeous.

This would be a great selection for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (which is May); it's not the typical Asian Pacific picture book, typical being all too often a story that is set either in Japan or China and is usually a folk or fairy tale. It's a book that celebrates Cambodia and it's art, dance, history, culture, and impact on the world.

Interesting links: Interview with author and illustrator;
Musee Rodin;
the Cynthia Leitich Smith cynsations author interview;
more about Rodin and the dancers;
and this fascinating article, Dancing in Cambodia by Amitav Ghosh that addresses the dancers' trip to France, Rodin, and the connections to Pol Pot.

Also check out the Book Moot review, reminding us that "kids MUST find themselves in their school library."

Friday, May 26, 2006

Thank You, Jay R. Hill

So there's talk of banning some books down in Hernando County, Florida. Including banning Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall In Love just because of it's title, which I mentioned in my review of the book, here.

I was reading Maryrose Wood's blog (where she said some nice things about me and my review, thank you!) and found out about this awesome response to the banning attempt.

Jay R. Hill wrote in to thank the banners for the reading list! Mr. Hill looked up the reviews of the various titles and found that "based on over 1,500 reviews on, they average 4.5 stars out of a possible 5." In addition, where the board members have found only bad language, Mr. Hill found books that "revolve around the theme of growing up in a difficult environment," and will be adding them to his family's summer reading list. Finally, he notes that his daughter will be a student at a local high school and hopes that she will be able to find these books on the bookshelf.

Thank you, Mr. Hill! When book banners get going, they like to speak in broad language to justify their broad actions. If the banner were only concerned with his/ her own child, it would be an individual, family decision about what books to read or not read; but the banner goes beyond his or her own family, appointing themselves the person who gets to decide that for other families. Thank you, Mr. Hill, for speaking up and saying, you don't represent me. And for saying that in point of fact -- these are the very books that I want my child to read.

Maryrose suggests "let's all give a big “Woot! Woot!” to Mr. Hall for sharing his opinions. "

Woot, Woot!

Update Your Addresses

There's some moving and expanding and changes going on in the blogosphere:

Michele has always been clear that she is discussing books and may use spoilers; but there are spoilers and then there are spoilers, so she is experimenting with a separate site for the Very Big Spoiler book discussions. I am interested in seeing how it plays out; as she notes, LiveJournal allows for "cuts" that allow the writer to "hide" spoilers from those who don't want to see them. A reader must click on the link. However, even that solution isn't foolproof. I read most of my blogs in Bloglines, and for some reason the option disappears and instead the entire post appears.

Sadly, Judith Ridge fought the spammers and the spammers won. She's been forced to move her blog to a new address.

Tasha S. of Sites and Soundbytes and Kids Lit, among others, has a new job. Congratulations!! She hasn't announced yet how that will affect her most-wonderful blogs.

Melissa Wiley has added a new blog. Here in the Bonny Glen will remain active, but she is also going to be blogging at The Lilting House. As she explains, "Bonny Glen will continue to focus primarily on literature and the living-books lifestyle, and The Lilting House will focus on homeschooling, educational issues, and special needs children." The Lilting House is part of Club Mom; while I'm not a Mom, I'm always interested in reading things that will give me insight about what library patrons and readers are interested in, so I'll be checking out Melissa's blog and the other ones there.

Poetry Friday

Casey At The Bat
by Ernest L. Thayer

The Outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that -
We'd put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a fake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey's getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile on Casey's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
"That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one," the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand;
And it's likely they'd a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shown;
He stilled the rising tumult; he made the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, "Strike two."

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey's lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville - mighty Casey has struck out.
I was trying to figure out what poem to pick while I was going thru my pile of books to be read. And, happiness, in a pile of books sent by Raab Associates I found Casey at the Bat, illustrated by Joe Morse. CATB is part of the "Visions in Poetry" series from Kids Can Press; it matches classic poems with contemporary illustrations.

The result? A poem written in 1888 becomes urban and modern, set in a city with cars, chain link fences and apartment buildings. Instead of being remote, with either an idealized or a historical setting, it is real; it's a poem that is now boy friendly.

Because Casey has been illustrated so many times, I can also see this being used to show how illustrations change and affect the text. Pictures matter; pictures can change or alter meaning. What better way to show that than with multiple versions of the same text?
Some examples:

Illustrated by C.F. Payne.

Illustrated by Christopher Bing

Michele starts the party early (Poetry Thursday!) with one of my faves, Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Here in the Bonny Glen brings us some Dylan Thomas (and a solution to what to do with an author whose works are still in copyright).
Chris Barton reviews a book that tours America using art and poetry.
Little Willow brings us David Levithan (Brian will be happy.)
Chicken Spaghetti (also mindful of copyright) with Julia Donaldson (v. v. funny).
Jen Robinson honors her childhood with a classic.
Bookshelves of Doom lets us know that banning also involves poetry.

I'll update this afternoon with more links.

Big A little a, with Once Upon a Tide, a book that is going on my Amazon wishlist;
Blog From The Windowsill shares Wild Geese by Mary Oliver; I'm not sure what I like more about Poetry Friday, being reminded of poems I love or, as here, discovering something new and getting chills;
book buds and ee cummings;
MotherReader with an original Ode to Mo (post a comment already, Mo!);
Farm School and Emily Dickinson;
The Simple and the Ordinary and the Whole Duty of a Poem;
Mungo's Mathoms brings my favorite, Yeats.

Oh! And Blog from the Windowsill shares one of the "should be banned" poems.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Book Of Bunny Suicides

The Book Of Bunny Suicides by Andy Riley

How to explain? It's dark humor at it's best; and like The Far Side, it requires the reader to bring something to the reading: cultural or historic knowledge to decode just what the heck the bunny is doing.

It's funny, it's twisted, it's clever; as bunny after bunny thinks of some new way to exit. Like the bunny who crawls away from the oasis; or the bunny who orders the latest Harry Potter and then sits patiently under the mail drop, waiting to get conked by the heavy book. The bunny suicides are all extreme and over the top.

This is a book for adults and older teens; if you have a bunch of teens hanging out, especially those who are quoting Monty Python, bring this out. They'll love it.

The Website for the book includes some cartoons. And I should have guessed -- the author is British (and yes, without knowing that you may miss the punchline for a cartoon or two.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Buffy Quote of the Week

"I could so save the world if somebody handed me superpowers. But I'd think of a cool name and wear a mask to protect my loved ones, which Buffy doesn't even."
-- Dawn, Ep: Real Me

Raising a Little Stink

Raising a Little Stink by Colleen Sydor and Pascale Constantin

The Plot: A "lazy old lion" escapes the zoo; the lion yawns and out climbs a lazy old lion tamer; under the lion tamer's hat is a lazy old circus mouse; and in the mouse's ear is a teeny tiny stinkbug. These four, "happy to be free at last," find a little cottage and make themselves at home.

Except three of these four are lazy. The stinkbug does everything, from sewing curtains to making bananas flambe to running out for a remote so that the lion, lion tamer, and mouse don't have to get up to change to the channel on the TV.

The Good: I love how the lazy lion and company just get lazier when they sit around the house doing nothing. And the lion, lion tamer and mouse look so tired that I began yawning.

I liked that, because it was the stinkbug's nature to be a busy bee and doing and acting, that he did stuff for the lion & co., including running their errands. Basically, he was a nice bug being nice; and he was happy to do it. "But the stinkbug ... although he was extremely good-natured, he was definitely nobody's fool." Eventually, the stinkbug says enough. And responds by stinking up the place. So the three lazies take off.

"And [the circus] is where the three lazy creatures remain to this day, for, as the lion likes to point out, working for a living may stink, but it's a bed of roses compared to living with a little stinker." So basically: working stinks.

Yes. Yes, it does.

But it also stinks to be taken advantage of; and I love that the stinkbug puts his foot down and remembers, "it never hurts to raise a little stink every now and then."

Kids Can Press, the publisher, includes a feature where you can look inside the book.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

One White Wishing Stone

One White Wishing Stone: A Beach Day Counting Book by Doris K. Gayzagian, illustrated by Kristina Swarner.

A mother, a daughter, a day at the beach.

It begins, "one white wishing stone, smooth and round and cool"; "two periwinkle shells in a tidal pool." After ten, "I make a castle in the sand / with walls and steps and towers / and trim it with the things I've found / and make believe for hours."

The Good: This is the author's first book and she is poetry champion. (Hey, maybe I should have saved this for Friday!)

I also liked how the numbers matched the object depicted (tho I think that the 5/ five fingers of a starfish could be confusing to young children) and that when the castle is made, it does contain the correct number of objects found.

I grew up by the beach; so this book set at a beach, with a child doing what I did at the beach, makes me happy. And Queen Lucy and Skaterboy are also little beach bums.

What made me fall in love with this book are Kristina Swarner's illustrations. I'd want any one of them framed. The textures are amazing (according to the book, its watercolor and pencil).

Published by National Geographic.

More artwork by Kristina Swarner is here and here.

Sex Kittens And Horn Dawgs Fall In Love

Sex Kittens And Horn Dawgs Fall In Love by Maryrose Wood

The Plot: Felicia, 14, has a crush on Matthew. He's all she can think about; all of her poems are about him, she has found out everything about him (he likes science and is raising rabbits for a project), she can barely speak when he's around. She doesn't know what to do about it; he clearly doesn't feel the same way she does. Felicia decides on honesty, and tells him how she feels.

The Good: Felicia, 14, along with friends Kat and Jess, are freshmen at the Manhattan Free Children's School, a small private school where the Free Children "are supposed to pass the time by digging deeply into our passions, creating our own learning plans, being self-directed and self-motivated and self-self-self." (I have no idea what Real Life school MFCS is based on. But it sounds like a cool place to go.)

It's set in Manhattan, and I love books set in NYC. The school is by Gramercy Park. While the school is private, this is not a snooty, rich kid school. No labels are mentioned; while Felicia's dad is living in the burbs in a McMansion, Felicia and her mother live in a one bedroom apartment. Her friends are from a variety of backgrounds.

In many ways, this is the anti-Gossip Girl book; yes, it's a private Manhattan school, but these kids don't obsess about labels and clubbing and popularity. These 14-year-olds act and think and talk like real 14-year-olds. It's a true middle school book, with no sex or drugs, and when the girls think about their crushes the farthest they think is a kiss. The kids eat; no bulimia or anorexia here.

The girls are also silly -- silly in a way that is so typical of young teens. Take the title; it's because the girls, at the start of the school year, were hanging out in Felicia's mother's store and saw a Tarot card pack made up of kittens. After oohing and shrieking at the cuteness, the girls decided that they were kittens. Why the sex kittens? Because the cutest picture is of kittens in a high heel shoe: the sex kittens, and "the card said something about the life force and connection and rebirth". It makes perfect 14-year-old sense. And if they are kittens, boys have to be Horn Dawgs. They use these terms innocently.

My favorite part of this book is the honesty. Felicia tells Matthew how she feels; and together, they decide to explore the "x factor of love" as a science project. Why does a person fall for another? Why is the feeling sometimes reciprocated and sometimes not? It's an exploration of love; and for middle school girls, it's a nice look at emotions and acting on emotions with respect. There is no game playing or nastiness. Even Felicia's and Matthew's "experiments" are low key and honest; Felicia muses about opposites attracting and wonders whether, if she dresses differently, she'll attract Matthew's "x" factor. And here is part of the antiGG: Felicia's "dressing up" is switching from jeans to a skirt.

This book, title aside, is perfect for the middle school crowd; it's a great school book about friendships and crushes, with no mean girls or game playing or label worshiping.

YA and kids books usually involve poets and writers (like Felicia), followed by artists and musicians (like her friend Kat), so finding books that have science as a passion is cool.

As for the title. Kittens is part of one of the more recent book banning efforts. This is a great book for high school and also for middle school. IMHO, the only reason this book is on that list is the title. Seriously, this is one of the "cleanest" books I've read in a while. The title, and the girls calling themselves the "sex kittens", is the edgiest thing about the book and done by them in innocence. They've named themselves for a cute picture of kittens; all these girls want is for the boys the like to notice them; to hold hands; to have coffee; and to kiss. This is an age when girls think about those things; and how nice for a book to address this in a way that isn't "too much information" and doesn't talk down to kids and doesn't get preachy. Heck, the Common Sense Media review ("your trusted source for family friendly reviews") gave this 4 out of 5 stars, saying "terrible title masks terrific book for teens! Totally age-appropriate."

The title does make sense when the book is read; and as I said, it's innocent. This is a perfect book for young teenage girls and they will love it. I hate the idea of giving in to book banners; but the title may be a barrier and part of me wonders whether the title could be changed for the paperback edition.

Monday, May 22, 2006

I Am

Which Classic Female Literary Character Are you?

You're Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen!
Take this quiz!


Make A Quiz More Quizzes Grab Code

Thanks to Gail for the quiz. I'm sure if I'd picked babysitting instead of reading, I'd also be Beth.

Flat Storky

Brian and Storky recently went on a whirlwind world tour!

The tour was inspired by an interesting conversation about reading choices. Be sure to read the comments (include Debby Garfinkle's). Debby said, "Hey, girls can write good YA books too." and Brian responded, "Oddly enough, I don't care if a boy or a girl wrote a book. I don't seek out black writers or gay writers or paraplegic writers. I seek out good writing and fun stories. Some of these books were recommended to me. Some are there because I like the writer. No gender bias in mind."

Of course, since it's all about me, I began to think about my own reading choices, particularly as I look at the huge pile of Book Expo books.

Like Brian, I seek out good writing and fun stories; but I also have to sometimes push beyond what I want to read to what I need to read. If it was just about me, I wouldn't have to; but as a librarian, who will be doing readers advisory, and as someone who likes to review books, I need to read more broadly then my personal preferences. So yes, I do try to look at the mix of authors, topics, and genres I've read, and seek out what may be a hole in my "to be read" pile.

Of course, I'm not ridiculous about mixing up my reading. For example, I have a huge hole in my "to be read" pile -- called "serious adult books". And that, my friends, is an area that I feel perfectly fine ignoring.

Book Expo

I posted about Book Expo over at Pop.

And now for post that is more teen lit/ kid lit in nature. So sit back and enjoy the squee.

I met Lara M. Zeises!!! With Lara was the very nice Laura Bowers (who has a YA book coming out next year) and thanks to the two of them I got a prime space in line to get not 1, not 2, but THREE books signed by Meg Cabot.

I got The Boy Book signed by e. lockhart. As an aside, I'm never know whether to not to mention my blog when I meet authors. I did mention it to e and she remembered my review of Fly On The Wall, which was way cool, but then I felt guilty about holding up the line of people wanting to get books signed so didn't chat any more than that.

David Levithan was there; now, as an aside, Carlie W. adores David and could not be at the author signing so Melissa and I went and waited in line; and the rule is one book per person, which meant that we could get one book for Carlie and the other book -- well, it wouldn't be pretty. And when we explained our dilemma to David, he signed the ARC for Carlie and also signed one for Melissa and one for me, so that we had two books for one person. So I have a signed wide awake.

Other autographed books: Rick Riordan's The Sea of Monsters;
and Catherine Gilbert Murdock's Dairy Queen;
an anniversary copy of Bunnicula for Skaterboy;
Gail Carson Levine's Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg for Queen Lucy;
and Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You for Christine's daughter (yes, I picked up things for my godson also, but not anything signed).

In total, I picked up over 60 ARCs and books. I love them all; some are going to other people; and I do hope to read as many as possible. That said, and not repeating any books already mentioned, the ARCs I am putting to the top of the pile are:

Storm Thief by Chris Wooding, because I adore everything he writes. I don't even know what it's about; I haven't even flipped the book over to read the back.
Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith, because I've been following the progress on her blog so am eager to read it.
How to Ruin A Summer Vacation by Simone Elkeles, from Flux, yes, Brian, I did stop by and what an awesome tote bag!! I got How To Ruin... signed. Yay. Simone was very friendly, as were the other Flux people.
The Mislaid Magician, or Ten Years Later, by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, the new Sorcery & Cecelia book. (edited to change mermaid to mislaid because I was in a rush, but c'mon, Mermaid Magician would also be a cool name for a book!)
Vampyrates by Justin Somper, because best. title. ever.
The Loud Silence of Francine Green by Karen Cushman, because I love Cushman's work, even tho I'm afraid of how the church is going to be depicted.
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, because hello, John Green.
Ophelia by Lisa Klein, because I love retellings.
Bread and Roses, Too by Katherine Paterson because it's Katherine Paterson.
and Shannon Hales' latest, River Secrets. Because I loved Princess Academy.

While waiting in line for Bunnicula to get signed, I spotted Cecil Castellucci. But was way too chicken to actually approach her and say something normal like "hi, I love your books".

I've been reading various blogs about BEA, and I'm not seeing any other kid lit bloggers. My advice for next year: go!!

Carnival Of Children's Literature

The current Carnival of Children's Literature is up at Melissa Wiley's blog, Here in the Bonny Glen. It's a great place to go find out about children's literature blogs, books, and what people are talking about.

The next Carnival will be hosted by Big A little a.

And I will be hosting in September!

The Edge of the Forest

The latest edition of The Edge of the Forest is up for your reading pleasure. Big A little a highlights the contents.

My contributions include reviews of:

Bodies From the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii, because Pompeii is fascinating. I would have loved to be an archaeologist, but I am very bad at languages.

Being Bindy by Alyssa Brugman, because I love Australian YA fiction, and I love middle school fiction that doesn't treat the reader like a little kid but also doesn't go all Gossip Girl; and

the movie version of The Thief Lord, which the 12 year old me would have loved.

Other reviews and highlights include Nothing But the Truth (And A Few White Lies) by Justina Chen Headley, which I reviewed here; an interview with Mitali Perkins; and a "kid picks" roundup from NYC homeschoolers.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Anyone But You

Anyone But You by Lara M. Zeises

The Plot: Critter,17, and Seattle,15, are quasi-stepsiblings. Years ago, Seattle's father moved in with Jesse and Critter's mother; her Dad took off, leaving Sea behind; and Critter's mother has raised Seattle as her own daughter ever since. School's out, and both teens have nothing better to do than to hang out waiting for summer school to start. They sneak into a private pool, where Critter meets a rich girl; then Seattle falls for a cute guy. The quasi-family dynamics are about to change, and no one is prepared for it.

The Good: Zeises addresses complex questions of family, love, and relationships. Critter and Seattle are stepsiblings, but are not related by blood or by law. They have also always been best friends; and both get confused by their own jealous feelings as their closer-than-a-sibling but not-quite-a-sibling best pal falls for someone else. The author works her way thru these tricky emotions, without giving easy answers. I especially liked how the teens had to work their way through whether their emotions were those of family, of best friends, or something more. Their relationship lacks a real name; which means it lacks boundaries or rules; which means it is also suprisingly fragile.

This is a working class family; when Seattle's father left, he also left debts, and Layla (Critter's mom) has been working nonstop to take care of her family. The car breaks down, the air conditioner doesn't work, yet she insists that Critter's and Sea's priority is to concentrate on school. This is a family that is struggling, financially and emotionally.

Sea's father comes back into the picture, raising new issues of responsibility and love. I loved how Zeises allowed Sea to be angry -- to be very angry -- and that the father was not let off the hook. Sea's fears of abandonment work nicely with her worries about whether the boy she likes likes her back, and whether she is about to lose her best friend, Critter.

This is a high school book; the feelings and emotions that the Sea and Critter deal with are mature. (Code for Critter engages in certain activities with a local girl -- a friend with benefits.)

I did have one pet peeve: the names. Sorry, Lara. But even tho Critter was short for Christopher, and Scooter for Scott, I thought the names too over the top. But, on the good side, I was reminded very much of The Outsiders (Soda, Ponyboy) and wondered if the odd name choices were deliberate; they both share a working class world.

Sea is a skateboarder, which was way cool.

Author interview at cynsations; the Pop Goes the Library interview.

Buffy Quote of the Week

"I was actually at Woodstock. That was a weird gig. Fed off a flower person and spent six hours watching my hands move."
-- Spike, ep: School Hard

Harry And The Potters

I just posted about Harry and the Potters over at Pop Goes the Library.

Some extra thoughts:

Jill came down to see HATP and we had a lot of fun! She was a great help, directing kids to the right place in the library, and also put up with me having to work the event.

I love how the DeGeorge brothers (the geniuses behind HATP) didn't just write songs about Harry Potter; they wrote songs as if they were Harry Potter. And perform them as if they were Harry; well, one is Harry Year 4 and one is Harry Year 7, and imagine if Harry decided to express his anger by writing punk songs. It makes so much sense that Harry would have a band.

When you listen to the lyrics, and see HATP perform, what is also clear is how much they respect the books and their audience.

So if they are coming to a town near you, Drop Everything and Go!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Favorite Paper

Michele and I discussed the importance of pens below.

Apparently, JK Rowling has a favorite type of paper.

And you know, I respect that. Cause I personally prefer narrow ruled. And I do like a paper with the right weight and feel.

Poetry Friday

A Parental Ode To My Son, Aged Three Years and Five Months
by Thomas Hood

Thou happy, happy elf!
(But stop,—first let me kiss away that tear)—
Thou tiny image of myself!
(My love, he's poking peas into his ear!)
Thou merry, laughing sprite!
With spirits feather-light,
Untouch'd by sorrow, and unsoil'd by sin—
(Good heav'ns! the child is swallowing a pin!)

Thou little tricksy Puck!
With antic toys so funnily bestuck,
Light as the singing bird that wings the air—
(The door! the door! he'll tumble down the stair!)
Thou darling of thy sire!
(Why, Jane, he'll set his pinafore a-fire!)
Thou imp of mirth and joy!
In Love's dear chain so strong and bright a link,
Thou idol of thy parents—(Drat the boy!
There goes my ink!)

Thou cherub—but of earth;
Fit playfellow for Fays, by moonlight pale,
In harmless sport and mirth,
(That dog will bite him if he pulls its tail!)
Thou human humming-bee, extracting honey
From ev'ry blossom in the world that blows,
Singing in Youth's Elysium ever sunny,
(Another tumble!—that's his precious nose!)

Thy father's pride and hope!
(He'll break the mirror with that skipping-rope!)
With pure heart newly stamp'd from Nature's mint—
(Where did he learn that squint?)
Thou young domestic dove!
(He'll have that jug off, with another shove!)
Dear nurseling of the hymeneal nest!
(Are those torn clothes his best?)
Little epitome of man!
(He'll climb upon the table, that's his plan!)
Touch'd with the beauteous tints of dawning life—
(He's got a knife!)

Thou enviable being!
No storms, no clouds, in thy blue sky foreseeing,
Play on, play on,
My elfin John!
Toss the light ball—bestride the stick—
(I knew so many cakes would make him sick!)
With fancies, buoyant as the thistle-down,
Prompting the face grotesque, and antic brisk,
With many a lamb-like frisk,
(He's got the scissors, snipping at your gown!)

Thou pretty opening rose!
(Go to your mother, child, and wipe your nose!)
Balmy and breathing music like the South,
(He really brings my heart into my mouth!)
Fresh as the morn, and brilliant as its star,—
(I wish that window had an iron bar!)
Bold as the hawk, yet gentle as the dove,—
(I'll tell you what, my love,
I cannot write, unless he's sent above!)
I'll update tonight with other Poetry Friday Blogs.

Edited to add:
Blog From The Windowsill (for Mother's Day; if I'd been thinking, I would have saved my poem for Father's Day);
Book Buds (pirates) (prompting me to say, but where's the rum?, because that never gets old);
Farm School (to stay sensitive up to the end / Pay with some toughness for a gentle world);
Jen Robinson (Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—) ;
Little Willow (TS Eliot & cats):
Scholar's Blog (They went to sea in a Sieve, they did, / In a Sieve they went to sea).

Susan Taylor Brown (who has an amazing verse novel Hugging the Rock being published this September).

The Simple & The Ordinary (Mother's Day.)

And sorry that it's Saturday night already but I tonight was Harry & the Potters at the library and then an early Mother's day out with my Sis & Mom so:
Big A little a (the most wonderful Kelly, who has helped us make poetry a part of every week);
Chicken Spaghetti (attempting shared poetry);
Fuse #8 Productions (with a book review that reminds me of The Loneliest Monk, another joke that never gets old).

If I missed you, blame my bloglines; and remedy the situation with a comment letting me know about your Poetry Friday contribution.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lisa Scottoline

For those of you who like mysteries, the Friends of the Ocean County Library system (aka MPOW) are having an author program featuring Lisa Scottoline next Wednesday, May 17th. It's in Toms River, New Jersey. Actually, it's two programs; you can either go to a breakfast or lunch event to hear Lisa S. speak.

In addition to being solid mysteries, I am partial to Lisa's books because they are legal thrillers set in Philadelphia; and I used to practice law in Philly. It's fun to revisit old haunts in books.

Details about tickets and directions are here. (I will be at the breakfast event.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory

The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why An Invented Past Won't Give Women A Future by Cynthia Eller.

I first read about Eller in Slate right around when I'd read yet another fiction book presenting "the Great Goddess" as fact. Now, I know fiction is, well, fiction; but I also know, having learned about Eleanor of Aquitaine primarily through fiction books, that people believe what is found in books. And with good reason. And authors understand that and try to have the facts right; even in fiction.

It's one thing for someone to write acknowledging that they have fictionalized something (which is why I love notes in my historical fiction); and quite another to act as if the made up stuff is true (yes, I'm looking at you, Dan Brown.)

Aside from that, whenever I've read about the Great Goddess stuff, I'd always wondered about the basis for it. Considering the lack of records and all. And considering I'm a total History Channel junkie, this book called my name.

Eller answers these questions; sometimes a little to dryly and a little too academically for my taste. Aside from that, this is a fascinating look at myth, the origins of myth, it's importance, and it's problems. Eller goes to the source, to the digs, to the myths, and goes to the not that distant past of 19th century archaeology, to examine the belief in an ancient great Goddess and the "good" world before evil patriarchy.

The book is also discussed in detail at Salon. The Slate article also mentions another online article about this debunking at the Atlantic Online, called Scholars and Goddesses, for those who want something shorter than the Eller book.

(I know! I read books other than teen books and pop culture magazines! And they're long! With little plot or conversation! Sh, don't tell.)

Who Likes The Wind?

Who Likes The Wind by Etta Kaner, illustrated by Marie Lafrance.

The Plot: At first I thought this was a picture book:

Who likes the wind?
I like the wind because it pushes my boat. I wonder why the wind blows.
I like the wind because it blows the leaves onto the ground. I wonder why leaves fall from trees.

Lift the flap of the page, and it's no longer a picture book. Rather, its a short, sweet, simple scientific answer that tells just enough to answer the question, complete with pictures.

The Good: Because of the mix of story and science, and the small size of the book, this wouldn't work as a storytime book. What it does nicely is work for reading aloud to a small group of kids; and it's a nice book to use to introduce complex subjects (why does the wind blow?) in an understandable way.

Kids like to know the why of things; and this book does a great job of that. I have to say, most parents I see at the library head straight for the children's fiction section, and rarely look at nonfiction section. There are many, many non-fiction picture book gems in the library and bookstore that can be read just for fun. Sometimes I think I should do a display with a sign, "Non Fiction: It's Not Just For Homework!"

Oh, and did you know that leaves have small holes in them? That let in ice? So the tree grows a cork-like wall at the end of leaf stem to protect itself. And then the leaf cannot hold, and it falls.

You knew it? Well, I guess I may have learned it in third grade, but I liked learning it again, along with some of the other things (like why I smell bread....which is kind of cool until you realize hey, this may also apply to some not so nice smells.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Veronica Mars

"My name is Cassidy."

Great, great, great episode. Didn't see half of it coming. Cannot wait to watch it on DVD.

"Can you give me a reason? I didn't think so."

Buffy Quote of the Week

Woman at bar: "He said he loved me."
Anya: "Oh, gee, then I guess he must have meant it, 'cause hey, guys never say anything they don't really mean, do they?"
Girl: "But we--"
Anya: "They say, "I love you," and, and you think it's true. They say, "Oh, Anya, I want to be with you for the rest of my life," and, and you believe them, you believe they feel the same way about you, because that's the way love's supposed to be, right?"
Girl: "Who's Anya?"
Anya: "And then you get all excited with the tingly anticipation, but wait! Not so fast! There's the apocalypse, a-and the back from the grave, and the blah blah blah blah blah, and by the time you're finally standing there in that beautiful expensive white dress you've dreamed about ever since you became human, he's gets all heebie-jeebie and decides, "you know, I'd rather just go steady.""
Ep: Seeing Red

Sunday, May 07, 2006

True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet

True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet by Lola Douglas

The Plot: You know the teen actresses who are size 0 and complain about clothes being too big? Who somehow get into all those clubs even tho they are SO underage? Who live that wild and crazy life?

You've just met Morgan Carter, acting for over half her life, the main financial support of her mother. You've seen her and envied her glam life.

The envy stopped just around the time she almost OD'ed and then spent six months in rehab. Her manager isn't sure what to do; Morgan loves acting and wants to go home. Nope, says Sam. His idea? She should take it easy for a year, away from temptation, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Pretend to be some regular plain jane girl, named Claudia Miller. And once her year in Typical High School is over, reveal all and have the Best. Comeback. Ever.

The Perfect Plan... can Morgan play this role of a lifetime?

The Good: Any pop culture junkie, like moi, will adore this fictional "behind the scenes" look at a Teen Queen trapped in Suburbia.

Part of the reason no-one recognizes Morgan/Claudia is she dies her hair brown. Wears glasses. Buys her clothes in Target. And in the months of rehab, Morgan started eating normally so has gone up quite a few sizes.

Part of this book is dream fulfillment, both bad (I'd like to see Lindsay Lohan try to live on $500 for clothes!) and good (imagine being famous girl.) But this is more than an escapist, "what would it be like to be her" book.

Morgan is trying out being a new person; doing things she normally wouldn't, like, you know, study. We laugh with Morgan, rather than at her. And Morgan is funny. But this is more than a fish out of water story; it's about reinvention and starting over. Morgan has problems with her mother, and an absentee father; she has a best friend who sometimes says stupid things. Doesn't that describe a lot of teenage girls?

It would be easy, very very easy, to mock Morgan. There's a painful moment when Morgan, as Claudia, hears teen girls tear her (Morgan) apart. And she has to sit there and take it, because she's Claudia, and the girls heap on the abuse, because hey, Morgan isn't real.

Our weird cult of celebrity... but, we say, they get paid millions. They travel, buy anything they want, eat great food, hang out with awesome people. So what if we say they're too fat, or too skinny? Too slutty, too trendy? Douglas is sympathetic to Morgan and the other teen queens; sympathetic to what they're living thru, what they've missed out on, and even sympathetic to their ambitions. Because while yes, Morgan has been acting since forever; and yes, Morgan realizes that the fast times were no good; Morgan likes acting. She wants to have a career. She just needs to figure out how to have a healthy life and a healthy career.

Other links: An article mentioning Lola. An interview with Lola. And yes, there is a sequel.

Once Upon Stilettos

Once Upon Stilettos by Shanna Swendson

The Plot: Katie Chandler works as an executive assistant at Magic, Spells, and Illusions Inc. She's not a wizard; but she is immune to magic. Which means that she's great to have around, to see through enchantments. But then Katie begins to realize that she's not seeing what she's supposed to be seeing -- her magical immunity has disappeared. The timing couldn't be worse, as her parents (who know nothing about magic!) are visiting NYC from out of town, she's got a crush on her coworker, Owen, and the CEO (Merlin) is counting on her special abilities to find a spy.

And there's those fabulous red shoes she just bought; and like all new shoes, they put a bounce in her step and make her feel wonderful.

The Good: Have you ever wondered about the post-Hogwarts life of young witches and warlocks? Where do they go to work? How do they interact with other people? Here's your answer! In Katie's modern magical world, the magical world and non-magical world co-exist side by side, helped along by spells and enchantments so that the non-magical don't notice people with wings and gargoyles.

It's a PG rated Sex and the City in a Magic world, narrated by Bridget Jones. (yet, always original!)

This is a nice, breezy romance, combined with the fun of magic. I didn't read the first book (Enchanted Inc.), which introduced Katie & co., but this book explained enough (without over explaining.) While both books are set in the same world, with the same people, it's not the type of series that must be read in order.

I liked the mix of adventure, fun, and romance; and I loved Swendson's way with words. Katie goes to a wine dinner and listens to the wine conisiur talk about the various wines: I'm sure you noticed the lush texture and hints of passion fruit and pear. Katie's response: I hadn't noticed any of that. I pretty much just tasted wine. If it was all made out of grapes, how was it supposed to taste like passion fruit?

Katie gets inspired to investigate the company spy: I imagined myself having a burst of insight the next morning, calling a staff meeting, then outlining the evidence that led to the dramatic revelation of the culprit, just like Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately, I seemed to be more Inspector Closeau than Sherlock Holmes. At best, I was Jessica Fletcher with a slightly better wardrobe and a lower body count among my friends and neighbors.

About those new red shoes: The salesman returned with a box, then kneld at my feet. As he slid the shiny red pump onto my foot, I knew exactly how Cinderella must have felt. I felt a surge of power, like I could take on the world and have any man I wanted. . . . Before [my mother] could stop me, and before I could change my mind, I handed my credit card over to the salesman. If I didn't eat out for a month and stayed away from the bookstore, I could probably pay the shoes off in a couple of months. By then, I was sure I'd have worn them several times and my life would have changed completely. Who hasn't felt that way about new shoes or a new outfit?

This isn't a teen book; but this is a fun read for those kids in college who grew up on Harry Potter.

Shanna's blog is the umpteenth one to mention Wives and Sisters by Natalie R. Collins, so I figure that's a sign and I just put a request in at the library. That, and I've become addicted to Big Love.

Stanley's Wild Ride

Stanley's Wild Ride by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Bill Slavin

The Plot: Stanley is in the yard, minding his business, longing for "something exciting. Something ... MORE." (Kind of like Debbie from Criss Cross.) Stanley takes action; digs a hole; and runs for it. He gathers up his friends and they have a dogs night out.

The Good: Each of the dogs escapes it's yard a different way.

And I love what "dogs gone wild" do: they eat tasty garbage, soak the tires of a fancy car; chase a cat up a tree.

They are on top of the world -- rather, the Big Hill. "We can see the whole world from here!" Stanley discovers a "thing". A skateboard. Stanley gets on and the next thing he knows, each of his pals has also found a wheeled vehicle and off they go!

The dog on the skateboard cracks me up.

I love Bill Slavin's illustrations. When Stanley is moping in his yard at the start, the picture takes up the entire 2 page spread; an airplane going across the sky is in the shape of a bone. When he runs away, and helps the others run away, things get a bit more claustrophobic. The pages contain a lot of white space, showing only the escape attempts. Once all the dogs are free, the pictures once again take up both pages.

I like how the illustrations track the text. When the dogs are doing anything they want, the illustration show the dogs eating garbage, soaking tires, chasing cats. And when Stanley starts his wild ride on the skateboard, his look is a priceless mix of "what have I gotten myself into" and "hey, I think I like this."

At the end, when Stanley is once again confined to the the yard, once again an airplane is making its way across the sky.

This time, it's in the shape of a skateboard. I adore this type of detail.

While Queen Lucy will love this because it's about animals, Skater Boy will adore it for the skateboard action.

Author interview at Kids Can Press; this will work well with the Paws Claws Scales and Tales collaborative summer reading theme.

metablogging - how I blog

Jill at Unfinished Chapter 80 poses an interesting question: How do you blog? That is, the actual writing part of blogging?

When I am blogging about a book or movie or TV show, what I usually do first is the research. At the minimum, that includes a site about the item. For the book, it's usually Amazon just because that's where I usually shop. (And, I've stopped, temporarily, the Amazon Associates part of creating links for items because it was too time consuming.) But, depending on the site and the information provided, I may do Barnes & Nobles or the publisher. For visual medium, that means IMDB,, and the official movie/network site.

For books, I then look for information about the author/illustrator, preferable their own site. I also look related information, like author interviews.

At this point, if I have run out of blogging time, these are all saved in a favorites folder called "story ideas". (But I'm thinking of changing that to the more specific "current blog post.") If I do have time to blog, I start the blog post with the following structure: book jacket photo, title, author; and then what may well be the end of the post, such as "author interview here." So it starts with all the links already there. With that structure in place, I start writing.

The actual writing takes place in the blogger software; there is usually no need to link anywhere since it's been done. I usually refer to my reading journal, where I record my impressions of books. (A typical entry has no plot summary, but instead lists what I liked, didn't like, fave quotes.) I look at it in preview, revise, read it out loud, revise. Post. Find a typo, edit, post.

Seriously, it doesn't take as long as it sounds.

When I write in response to something -- a news article or another blogger's post -- if I don't have time I save it in my story ideas folder. If I do have time, I link as I write.

While I like my story ideas folder, I find that I need to go in every month or so and clean it up because there are story ideas that go stale. By the time I sit down, everyone has already posted about it and I feel I have nothing new to add. Or, I posted and didn't delete the site from the folder.

If I'm writing something not for blogger, whether fiction or non-fiction, my first draft is handwritten; the second draft takes place when I'm putting it into Word; then I print out, revise, print out, revise. I have tried writing first draft on the computer but I get antsy tied down to one place to write (hence my increasing desire to get a laptop.)

By the way, Unfinished Chapter 80 is Jill's new blog; go take a look! Short description: an academic examination of children's literature. Long description: here.

So, how do you blog?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Ghost Whisperer

Stop laughing at me for watching Ghost Whisperer.

Yes, I know all the arguments against the show.

But I cannot help it. I love it, I adore how horrible JLH's clothes are, I like her husband, I like the moment where the ghost's mission on earth is done and he can walk into the light.

Last night, I totally didn't realize what was happening . . . me, who always, always, always, can see it coming, especially with a show like this. C'mon, it's not Veronica Mars!

But last night -- it surprised me.

I didn't see it coming at all.

And I cried like a baby.

updated to add: spoilers in comments about season finale. so if you don't want to know, don't read the comments.

This Book Is For All Kids, But Especially My Sister Libby. Libby Died.

This Book Is For All Kids, But Especially My Sister Libby. Libby Died.
By Jack Simon, Age 5, As Told To His Mom, Usually At Bedtime.

Elizabeth Margaret Simon (Libby) was born with a rare disorder and not expected to survive six months; she lived for three and a half years.

Her five year old brother Jack was left, trying to understand what had happened. And his mother, Annette, grieving for her lost daughter had to be there for her son. She started a diary of Jack's words; and that diary became this book.

It's a heart breaker. How can it not be?

The first page after the title is filled with words on a white background:


What follows is a child trying to figure out death, dying, what happens after, what happens to the survivors:

and when you die, you don't have to get chicken pox


I would like to ask her a sad question, too . . . Like how much does she love us and miss us.

This is a book that speaks to loss and to getting up every day after that loss and trying to understand what it all means. Hey, Libby... did you get the balloons we flew up for your birthday?

Simon uses simple designs so that the words are emphasized; the simplicity of design also gives the reader breathing room, to sort through their own feelings.

Who is this book for? For those who have lost. As with any loss, what works when and how is very much up to the individual. But I can easily see a parent, who is trying to help a child during a time when they themselves are needing help, using this book as a way to connect with their child and finding comfort for themselves.

An interview with the author, Annette Simon, is at Austin Mama. Simon wrote and illustrated mocking birdies.

Girl Detective

Colleen Mondor (Chasing Ray)'s latest Bookslut in Training column is up. It's called Girl Detective.

I want to add all of them to my to-be-read pile.

Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator by Jennifer Allison (which I am going to look for ASAP) and it's sequel, Gilda Joyce and the Ladies of the Lake

Lulu Dark and the Summer of the Fox by Bennett Maddison

Desert Crossing by Elise Broach (who wrote the wonderful Shakespeare's Secret) (and I just saw that Michele at Scholar's Blog reviewed Shakespeare's Secret today.)

and Darkhenge by Catherine Fisher, reviewed by me here. So while yay, I read this one, I did find out from this column that Fisher will have a new book out this summer, Corbenic, which reinterprets the Grail legend.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Friday Musings

Thanks to Brian, I found this delightful list of possible Summer Reading books. My favorite is Choose Your Own Adventure: Wagons Ho!. Which includes a more historically accurate job than is ever found in a children's book. Reminds me of how I used to think up new American Girls that would never, ever get made, like Rose, the American Girl who works in the Triangle Factory. Can't you imagine the fun accessories, and the valuable lessons on fire safety?

Lissa answers the question of "do you ever sleep" with "yes, but I don't do laundry." Lissa makes me want to homeschool. Except, of course, I don't have children. So instead I'll concentrate on the read, write, and no laundry part.

Does anyone else get really, really hungry while reading Spookycyn?

Harry and the Potters are coming to MPOW. (not so much a musing as, hm, did I tell you this? Should I assume that book folks read the library stuff?)

Poetry Friday

Given some of the poems I've posted thus far, I'm sure that this week's choice isn't a surprise.

From the original bad boy himself, George Gordon, Lord Byron:

We'll go no more a-roving

So, we'll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.

Other poems this week are at:

Big A little a;
Blog From The Windowsill;
Chicken Spaghetti;
Farm School;

A Fuse #8 Production;
Here In The Bonny Glen;
Scholar's Blog;
The Simple and the Ordinary.

Let me know if I've forgotten you!