Friday, June 30, 2006

Poetry Friday: The Geography of Girlhood

The Geography of Girlhood by Kirsten Smith


Fourteen is like rotten candy,
fourteen is the joke no one gets.
When you're fourteen,
you look good only once a week
and it's never on the day of the dance.
When you're fourteen,
you have a mouthful of metal
that no one wants to taste.
Fourteen is going to bed at night
and wishing you could wake up with a new face
or a new dad or better yet,
a new life
that doesn't look anything
like this one.

Kirsten started out as a poet, became a screenwriter, and on the strength of her poems sold the book that became TGOG. She's as cool as she sounds; at ALA, I was at a Little, Brown dinner and Kirsten was one of the authors. She read from her book and it was amazing.

The Plot: Penny Morrow is 14 and just wants a new life. Part of it is being 14; but part may also be because her own mother set a pattern of escape, leaving when Penny was 4. TGOG covers the next three years of Penny's life as she struggles with mastering the geography of life.

The Good: This is a serious book but it also is funny. Penny is the understudy in the school play and when her big moment comes -- they end up cancelling the play. When she gets her first kiss -- she faints.

But it's also serious, as she tries to figure out who she is, what she wants, and whether to stay or go. Penny looks to her older sister for guidance, but her sister is busy, so Penny watches, trying to pick up cues about what it means to have a boy fall in love with you. Penny also falls for the boy; and whether it's because she loves him, is competing with her sister, or just following the steps her sister left is unclear.

I loved how much time is covered in this book -- three years. Because it's poetry, there are no unnecessary details, yet Penny and her friends and family are communicated so that you recognize them. Yes, I know that boy; went to school with a girl like that.

Edited to add: I forgot to say how much I liked the individual titles of the poems. They are sideways, on the top left hand side of the poem. If you read them, they give a bit of extra info; for example, the first poem has Penny looking at her town from a boat in the bay, dreaming of escape. The title is Pop. 9,762; which appears to illustrate just how small a town it is. Later on, it has additional meaning. Because the titles are to the side, a reader can ignore them and go straight thru the book, concentrating on the text. It's up to them.

Kirsten links: interview with MovieMaker; Young Adult Books Central interview.

Some other lines from the book that I loved:

Denise's sobs were the sound of a prom dress
being taken off in a parking lot --
slit and satiny and torn.


All I know is
at this moment I feel like
I can do anything I want
and be anyone I want
and go anywhere on the globe
and call it home.


And finally, the return of the Poetry Friday roundup. Looks like it's summer vacation for many in the kidlitosphere, with travel, ALA, and vacation.

Blog From The Windowsill and a review of Once Upon A Tomb
Book Buds and Rejection Letter Haiku
Bookshelves of Doom and the best mosquito poem ever
Jen Robinson and a poem from the Railway Children (another book I've never read)
MotherReader and Got To Dance
Scholar's Blog and Three Poems (it's hard enough to think of one some days!)

Please email me or leave a comment if you're not on the list.

Edited to add: Here in the Bonny Glen with Rilke
Susan Taylor Brown highlights Rod McKuen
Little Willow and Flowers
A Fuse #8 Production remembers it's Poetry Friday

Edited to celebrate Canada with Farm School

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

ALA: The Books, Part One

Hopefully, there will be a Part Two when my second envelope arrives. I'm a little bit worried, as the two envelopes were mailed at the same time and only one arrived, and that one was all taped up. As if it had opened. Yet there were no markings from the post office to say something bad had happened.

Three most important missing items:
a signed Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems; I complimented him on You Can Never Find A Rickshaw When It Monsoons and mentioned my blog and he said he read it and to rock on!
a signed Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, who when he saw my name spelled it aloud as "L I Zed" which I thought was way cool;
and an ARC of Sara Zarr's Story of a Girl. Which was my "must, must, must" get book of the conference. I'm not sure what else is in that envelope. I'll let you know if/when it arrives. I will be pissed beyond the telling if I've lost all three.

What came home, in envelope number one and my bag (as mentioned, 7 pounds overweight). Considering I'd been to BEA, I tried to be choosy about what I took. Unless noted, they are ARCs:
The Killer's Tears by Anne-Laure Bondoux, because it had a blurb from David Almond;
The Intruders, because it looks like a great haunted house story;
Diva: A Novel by Alex Flinn, because it's Alex Flinn and because I believe it's a companion of sorts to Breathing Underwater;
Gideon: The Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer because I was attracted by the packaging (the paperback ARC is in a box with a cutout to show part of the ARC cover);
Theodora Twist by Melissa Senate, because I'm quite hooked on the "what if Lindsay Lohan was a real person" books (and by the way, I cannot wait to post my review of More Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet because it is wonderful and digs much deeper into what it means to be working since you're two);
A Princess of Roumania by Paul Park, I've wanted to read this since last year;
Caddy Ever After, because I adore the Casson family and if Hilary McKay wrote the phone book, I'd read it;
The Pinhole Egg by Diana Wynne Jones; me: "is that a new Diana Wynne Jones book?" in total disbelief; the kind publisher people at Greenwillow Books/ HarperCollins kindly said yes AND it's a Chrestomanci book AND gave me a copy;
Corbenic, when I saw it was by Catherine Fisher, I grabbed it, as I've wanted to read this since early May;
Give Me Liberty by L.M. Elliot, which at first I didn't want because recently I've been burned by bad historical fiction but then I saw that it was by the same author as Annie, Between the States so knew it would be good;
The Melting Season by Celeste Conway, because it's about ballet (or at least a ballet student, and who doesn't love The Turning Point and Billy Elliott and Center Stage and that episode of Angel;
Scarlett by Cathy Cassidy because I liked the title and the cover;
The Pull of the Ocean by Jean-Claude Mourlevat, because it sounded different (a modern reinterpretation of Tom Thumb); and
The Wave Walkers: The Pirate Curse by Kai Meyer because pirates. Who can say no to pirates?

Signed copies:
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. TLS was at the author dinner I attended that was given by Little, Brown; he was cool, did a great reading, and is a candidate for Fuse No. 8's Hot Men series (alas, quite married, not single);
Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, with illustrations that I just want to cut out of the book and frame;
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, a copy for me and a copy for David's true love, Brian (in addition to telling David about Brian's love, I also told David that I own his 10 Things I Hate About You, which I think I need to attempt to get signed by DL);
What Happened to Cass McBride by Gail Giles, another author I met at the Little, Brown dinner, and this book is so good I had nightmares;
The Geography of Girlhood by Kirsten Smith, another author met at the Little, Brown dinner, who was amazing and cool and funny, and is also a screenwriter including the screenwriter for 10 Things I Hate About You. This book (like Gail Giles') deserves its own post (these are the only 2 books on the list that I've finished reading), but in the meanwhile, let me repeat: cool author with a great book about trying to grow up in a world with few maps or road signs;
Joey Pigza Swallowed The Key by Jack Gantos, who was extremely funny at the Booklist program;
Everlost by Neal Shusterman, and by the way, what is it with authors, being funny and cute? (and yes, Jack Gantos was also cute. As I said, it seems like all the authors are cute.)
And finally, Book Club by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum. I'm kicking myself for not getting the shirt, "What happens in storytime stays in storytime."

Some of this is crossposted at LMW.

I'm Back

I'm back from ALA. Tons of stories about food, New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina recovery, authors, bloggers, books, airplane travel, the four pounds I gained, the seven pounds my luggage gained, swag, and so much more.

But I do have to go into work, and tonight I'm going to see the Wolfe Tones, and I feel like I am in desperate need of a Time Turner to post it all and do it all. Even now, I'm wanting to just say a little more but I must go. Either Friday or Saturday, I'll be catching up here (and at Pop and LMW.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

ALA Bound

And I'm not even packed.

If I can check in, I will. If not, I'll be back next week.

Monday, June 19, 2006

48 Hour Book Challenge: In Conclusion

Because of work I didn't start until Saturday afternoon, and I posted my last review after the official end.

That said, my total round up was six books (including one graphic novel) for a total of 1,407 pages.

Amazing Grace: 48 Hours

Amazing Grace by Megan Shull, finished after midnight, 247 pages. (Yes, I'm posting after the end of the "official" 48 hours, but it is within my 48 hours, and last night I wanted to sleep.)

Teen celebrity runs away to an anonymous, working class world, finds love, acceptance, and herself. Yes, it is similar to True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet, but that book is a humorous look at the running away; this one is more serious. And interestingly, in the humorous book, the people lied to by the celebrity are hurt, while the ones here in Amazing Grace are very accepting.

Both books start with the break; in the past is both the celebrity itself and the actual work involved in obtaining that success. The "serious" book has Grace (now known as Emily) almost untouched by her celebrity; she's never had a drink or a boyfriend. Yet the "humorous" True Confessions has a teen celebrity who is no virgin, and has just gotten out of rehab. Part of that may be the work behind the celebrity, with Grace being a tennis star, and so as an athlete with endorsements is "just visiting" celebrity town, while Morgan of True Confessions is a movie star so lives there 24/7.

I find it very interesting that neither look at the work or sacrifices or the adult role in achieving the success, until the point where the teen wants or needs to get out. The role of stage parent is an interesting one, yet here there is almost no stage parent, except a reference to a dead father who loved tennis. Would a parent who sued for her child's right to turn professional at 13 be the same who is instantly so supportive of the child wanting to leave?

I think it's this: in Amazing Grace (as with True Confessions) the teen wanted to regain her childhood. Thus, a responsible parent willing and able to be a "real" parent is necessary for the child to retreat out of the professional word. So in both, when the teen becomes a teen again there is not only an aunt who assumes parental responsibility, but there is a Mom waiting to be a "Mom." Because if the mother were the true stage parent, that parent would never have consented to breaking contracts and dropping out -- which means that the story wouldn't be about a teen becoming a teen, but, rather, a teen having to become an adult to break the ties with the parent to take the reigns of her own career. In order to have the teen enjoy the life of an average teen, Mom must "be" a caring supportive Mom -- which leaves the question (and here more than in True Confessions), who was driving the bus? Because, on a serious note, like Gregory K and his fibs and his book deal -- there are no Cinderella stories in success. There is work, hard work. And Grace's work didn't just happen. I'm not saying this book ignores that; there are references to how Grace become a celebrity. All I'm saying, Amazing Grace does not explore the darkness and corruptness that sometimes happens when the parent is living off the talented child and the child has become a commodity.

These are the books that answer the question, what if Britney/Lindsay wanted out? They don't answer the question, how did Britney/Lindsay become the "star"? And they also don't explore, what happens when the child wants independence, ala Michelle Williams?

Enough seriousness. I also liked how in the end Grace may give up on "celebrity" but not on tennis. And that there were no mean girls.

(Note: I am not commenting on the similarities to say, ooh, look how similar they are! I'm commenting because I think it shows some interesting points that both authors are making, with the main one being, hold onto and enjoy your teenage years instead of rushing into responsibility and adulthood.)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Red Judge: 48 Hours

The Red Judge by Pauline Fisk. 202 Pages, Finished 8:04 p.m.

Odd mix of fantasy / not fantasy / not quite magical realism, either.

Zachary/Zed Fitztalbot feels responsible for his older sister's accident; and his father also blames him, and dumps him at the abandoned house of his recently deceased grandmother.

It's unclear how much of the next week or so Zed dreams, imagines, or is real; Welsh myth and legends come to life, reality changes, as Zed confronts his own guilt about his sister, his failure to fit into the Fitztalbot family, and questions about his own past.

It's something I need to reread when I have more time, to try to work it out. Because it's neither straightforward fantasy nor real. Apparently, part of a trilogy so I need to look for those other books. I'm reminded of both Alan Garner & David Almond.

Fables: March of the Wooden Soldiers: 48 Hours

Fables: March of the Wooden Soldiers. Finished 4:27, 231 pages.

A Graphic Novel, but not for kids.

Starts with a quick intro of people and plot; which was just as well because somehow I missed the 3rd in this series. Basically, refugee Fables (Pinocchio, Rose Red, Prince Charming) have been living among us in Fabletown, in Manhattan, having fled their magical homelands because of the mysterious Adversary, who hunted and killed the Fables.

This series is about the Fables as they live in exile. This is not a cute retelling; it's dark & gritty.

It's also a lot of fun trying to figure out who the stories & characters are.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase: 48 Hours

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken, finished 2:17, 149 pages. Time out for lunch and getting hair done.

This was a reread of a childhood favorite. I'm happy to report it stood the test of time, with the adventure & Gothic elements I remembered.

What does Wolves have?

Evil governesses, stolen fortunes, prison like boarding school, escape, shipwrecks, poor & sickly Aunts, brave kids, orphans, last-minute surprises, kindly people, mean people, food, funny names, secret passages, grand houses, poverty, and of course wolves; it has it all.

The plot and characterization remain solid; but I still don't see anything here that says, Alternate World. The "unrealistic" elements just seem part of the natural order of things; or the nature of it being set in another country and another time. In reading a bit about this series (comments in Amazon, I imagine that the AU is clear in the books that are sequels to this one) (tho I also understand they are not sequels per se).

Cousins Sylvia and Bonnie Green are "cool girls," particularly cool in their friendship and in their strengths and weaknesses, which complement each other nicely. I like when there is more than one way of being cool. I especially like that a rich girl like Bonnie isn't an spoiled brat and is constantly appreciative and respectful of those around her, while still being brave, resourceful, and fun.

I'll have to add the other books in this "series" to my To Be Read list.

I'm off to the pile of unread books to decide what I'm in the mood for now....

Sir Thursday: 48 Hours

Sir Thursday by Garth Nix, Series: The Keys of the Kingdom, and yes they really should be read in order. 344 pages, finished at midnight last night, time off to eat.

David Levithan is Garth Nix's editor? And Chris Wooding? I find that interesting, because these are 2 fantasy writers I adore and I have to say congrats to David. The interesting part isn't that David's a great editor -- it's that he's a great editor of fantasy. Now I want to dig around for some of his interviews to see if he's a fantasy reader, and if he plans to write a fantasy himself. (And while some of his work is, I know, not taking place in the "real" world, they are not fantasy the way Nix's and Wooding's work is fantasy.)

But enough about David. (No, we are so not on a first name basis, but it makes me look cool, no?)

Why Garth Nix is fabulous: he's created 2 alternate worlds and, through all the books, remains consistent. The worlds do not contradict their rules; the realities make sense; and they are incredibly complex and layered. Nix has to keep track of a lot of things and I wonder if he has a "bible" with lists and rules and maps and the like. Because I cannot believe he can keep this all straight in his head. The world of Keys to the Kingdom is just too dense, too intricate.

What is also interesting is that in Book 1, I thought Arthur was of "our" world, going into the "other" world. But as details of Arthur's world emerge, I realize his Earth is not our Earth. (Truth be told, there may have been details that revealed this earlier which I just thought were Australian things rather than otherworld things.) Not only do I wonder about Arthur's actual origins, but now I wonder about Emily, his mother, who seems a bit too quick on the pick up when dealing with Denizen-inspired disease.

Loved the interchange between Suzy Blue and Michaeli. Love the mythology. I do find that I forget the minor characters between books; so I look forward to all 7 books being published so I can read them in a row, as if it were one big book.

Next: Wolves of Willoughby Chase, which I began at 10 while getting my hair done.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Permanent Rose: 48 Hours

Permanent Rose by Hilary McKay, 234 Pages, finished 5:16. (took a break to look at a house with my mother & aunt.)

How much do I love McKay's writing? I almost want to go right now to the bookstore and buy everything she has written, because it's the type of writing that is enjoyed so much it must be owned.

Love the Cassons; love that even Bill, who I should hate, I just forgive. I love the messy, untidy, loving family that should be dysfunctional but isn't. And how McKay does make so much of the every day things of life, turning the normal into adventure.

And I love the miracle reunion of Tom & Rose, brought about by Sarah & David, and, well, everyone -- a miracle that happens out of love.

Next: Sir Thursday by Garth Nix. Be back soon.

And She's Off And Reading....

I've begun the 48 hour challenge. I got in from work, ate lunch, and am beginning with Permanent Rose by Hilary McKay, 234 pages. See you soon!

Friday, June 16, 2006

48 Hour Challenge: Open Post Friday

Poetry Friday

With the MotherReader of all challenges starting today, I won't be adding the list of Poetry Friday contributors until Monday.

One of my favorite Mark Twain short stories takes place in heaven, with the modern (19th century) person amazed that so few people speak English. Even in England! English as we know it is a fairly new language. *

So my Poetry Friday selection is a shout out to Old English: Beowulf:

Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum,
þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum,

monegum mægþum, meodosetla ofteah,
egsode eorlas. Syððan ærest wearð
feasceaft funden, he þæs frofre gebad,
weox under wolcnum, weorðmyndum þah,
oðþæt him æghwylc þara ymbsittendra

ofer hronrade hyran scolde,
gomban gyldan. þæt wæs god cyning!

(For the rest of the original text, go here.)


Lo, praise of the prowess of people-kings
of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped,
we have heard, and what honor the athelings won!
Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes,
from many a tribe, the mead-bench tore,
awing the earls. Since erst he lay
friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him:
for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve,
till before him the folk, both far and near,
who house by the whale-path, heard his mandate,
gave him gifts: a good king he!

(For the rest of this translation, go here.)

Additional resources: The upcoming film;
the Seamus Heaney translation;
the wikipedia entry;
the Old English translator;
Michael Crichton's Eaters of the Dead reinterpretation and the film adaptation, The 13th Warrior;

Mark Twain's story (and I forget the title!) has made me quite forgiving of modern movies set before the 15th century, in that how can we mock Kevin Costner for an English accent (or lack thereof), when had the film been "real" we would have needed subtitles? Even for those with English accents?

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Because it's fun to say.

Melissa Wiley coined it; Wands and Worlds used it; since I'm the third person, that makes it a real word, right?

Oh, yep, must use it in a sentence.

This weekend, the kidlitosphere will be reading and reviewing in response to MotherReader's 48 Hour Challenge.

It's official. Kidlitosphere is a real word.

Edited to add another user: Suitable for Mixed Company.

Woof Woof

Woof! Woof! by David A. Carter

See a shape; guess what it is; turn the page and find out if you're right. Watch as the shapes take form.

This appears to be a simple story; but it has more layers than that. It requires thought and input from the reader, making this an active book, rather than a passive story. To look at just the words would result in missing the point of the book.

The words that are used are basic (legs, bodies), so that this could almost be an easy reader. Adding to the "easy reader" nature of it is since this is a guessing game, the guessed words help develop word recognition skills. See small triangles, guess "ears" and turn the page to find the word ears.

I can be very sensitive to touch and to sound. I love the feel of this paper; it's thick, heavy, substantial. In part because of the "game"; the shapes that are cut out on one page are on the next page to make a shape. And by "on" I don't mean it matches the size; run your fingers over the page, and it's the actual cut out glued onto this page. Just another detail to be noticed.

I like the bold colors: white, red, black, and then finally the sun on the last page.

When Queen Lucy saw this, she loved it (and since my copy was from MPOW, we took a trip to the bookstore where we found this in the Pop Up Section). She loved that she was contributing to and shaping the story; but once she knew the story, she liked rereading it because she knew what to expect.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A New Blog In Town

Chris & I have started a new blog. It's still in the baby stages with 2 (yes, two!!) whole posts. It was Chris's idea; instead of talking about books after we've read them, to talk about them before. Why pick that book? What made you decide to read that author? We're calling it Librarian's Most Wanted. We hope to get some additional regular contributors, as well as guests who will share what is on their hold list or "to read" pile.

Congrats to Gregory K & his Fab Fibs

Gregory K at Gotta Book has a book deal. Go there, read the details and leave your congrats.

Now that you're back, you know what I like about this? Well, yes, anything that is positive for bloggers, especially lit bloggers, especially kid lit bloggers, is good.

But also, this is the best type of Cinderella story. In that it isn't. Gregory K. has been working hard, making contacts, writing, and it has paid off. This didn't happen to him; he made it happen.

ALA New Orleans

Are you going to New Orleans? Let's make our mark with a Kid/YA Lit Get Together.

Current participants include:

A Fuse # 8 Production

Unfinished Chapter 80.

We are currently planning to meet for dinner before the Booklist "What's So Funny" Program on Friday. Description: Booklist is hosting “What's So Funny?” on Friday, June 23, from 8 to10 p.m. Featured speakers Jack Gantos, David Lubar, Mo Willems, and Lisa Yee will talk about how they create books that make us laugh.

Email me if you want to meet! And if that's not good for you (I know Oracle doesn't get to NO in time), perhaps we can do something pre Printz?

And if you'll be there but have no time, still let me know in the comments. I think it would be cool to have a list of the kid/ya lit bloggers who are at ALA and who may be reporting back.

Buffy Quote of the Week

Olivia: "All that time you used to talk about witchcraft and darkness and the like . . . . I just thought you were pretentious."
Giles: "Oh, I was. But I was also right."
Olivia: "So everything you told me was true."
Giles: "Well, no. I wasn't actually one of the original members of Pink Floyd."
Ep: Hush

Monday, June 12, 2006

Product Placement In YA Lit

The article everyone is talking about at the New York Times: Product Placement Deals Make Leap From Film to Books.

Is product placement necessary? Is it better to describe a teenager wearing a specific brand of jeans with the assumption that the teen reader will instantly "know" the wearer's status, socially and economically? Or is it better to say that the teenager was wearing last year's jeans or the trying to hard brand? Part of me thinks that using product names dates a work and gives it a very limited shelf life. Plus, what if the writer and advertise is "off", and the brand that's supposed to be cool isn't?

But does it do that for movies? Or TV? Hairstyles date film; how high someone wore jeans even 5 years ago makes us laugh. But I still watch and enjoy those films and TV shows.

And why shouldn't writers have access to the same revenue stream as films and TV?

If someone is willing to pay for their product to be mentioned -- what about when the product isn't mentioned in a flattering light? If the brand of jeans is used to illustrated the girl who is trying to hard to make friends and is therefore marked as the wrong brand -- could the manufacturer sue a book for using that brand without permission? (Part of me really, really wants to look that up and is wishing for access to legal databases. Admire me or feel sad for me, it's your call.)

Does product placement work? Hey, I've seen things on TV -- a chair, a pair of PJs (yes, the Buffy sushi ones) -- and wanted them. I have a jacket and a bag I bought because they remind me of ones I saw and loved on Veronica Mars. But would reading about it make me want to have them? I think I need to see the item to covet; while reading about it just helps me define the character or setting or place.

Enough rambling.

Here are some product placement links:

Snopes dishes the truth about ET, M&Ms and Reese's Pieces.

The Wikipedia entry.

Brand Hype, tracking product placement.

Comic Books and Product Placement -- with comic books being the product placed.

Comic Books and Product Placement -- with products being placed in the comic.


March by Geraldine Brooks.

Me, reading a grown up book! And a Pulitzer Prize winner, no less! What's up with that?

The Plot: It's 1861, and March is an Army Chaplain for the Union. He tells not only of his wartime experience, but also thinks back on different times in his life: as a wandering tinker in the South 20 years before, meeting his wife, raising his four daughters . . . .

The Good: Where others see literary fiction, I see Fanfiction. Retelling the story of Little Women from the POV of the mostly absent father: very cool! The definition of fanfiction I like to use is broad: "When authors write stories featuring characters from other stories, movies or TV shows in new situations or adventures."

Some would say that it's not fanfiction when the original work upon which it is based is out of copyright. I say, that just makes it fanfiction which the author can legally sell as a published work. To me, the basic element of fanfiction is falling for an existing story and wanting to delve deeper into that universe by creating original works that take place in that universe.

My point? Fanfiction writers get quite a bit of disrespect; most of it from those who have no idea what it is, or from those who don't understand the history of fanfiction. Two good articles to look at are : Too Good To Be True: 15o Years of Mary Sue by Pat Pflieger and Fan Fiction, Fandom and Fanfare: What's All The Fuss? by Meredith McCardle (PDF, Law Review Article.).

And about March: it kind of annoys me that if a someone wonders how the Harry Potter story would look like told from the point of view of someone other than Harry, they are looked down on; but when a "real" author does it with a work no longer copyright protected, they get prizes. Which isn't about the book, but rather, about reviewers and the like.


What I liked about March: as historical fiction, it's almost perfect. Brooks has done her research; no "it's fiction so I can make up whatever I want" to be found here. She researches her time, her place, and both the March and Alcott families. (Do I even have to tell my readers that the March family was based on Louisa May Alcott's family?) Most importantly, Brooks never has March or any other character be a modern person set down in the past. March, Marmee, and the others remain, at all times, people of their time period; progressive in some areas, even ahead of their time, perhaps, but never with a 21st century mindset. One thing that remains is snobbism and classism that most historical fiction books like to either ignore, or to have their characters realize and change.

There is also a wonderful Afterword where Brooks discusses the research she did and points out the facts that she tweaked in order to serve the purposes of the story.

What I didn't like: why the mystery about March's first name? Jo names Rob after his Grandpa, so why doesn't Brooks ever say that March is Robert March? (If she did, I missed it.) (I think Brooks was using the original first Little Women as the only canon text.)

March himself. Now, admittedly, I'm one of those who both admire Bronson Alcott's politics and educational theory but also dislike a man who lived off his daughters. And I did get angry at March for his actions (and non actions) after his family became poor: better not to work and to read books, and justify it by feeding his family less. (Who really needs three meals a day?) No wonder Beth died.*

But what made me want to not finish the book itself was that March was a Holly Martins. I love The Third Man and I like Holly in the movie, recognizing his faults and being a bit amused by them at times. But to have March be the Holly character over and over again; to repeatedly have March think he knows it all while knowing nothing, and to blunder ahead making situations worse, was just annoying, especially as he grew older. Realistic? Perhaps.

But I'd much rather spend 15 hours with a person I like and respect. Anyone who wants to know the "right" way to write a work of historical fiction should read this, and I'm glad I didn't let March himself stop me from reading it. But I had a hard time understanding just why the March daughters held their father in such high esteem.

Note: I waited until after I had written this to start seeing who else had discussed the fanfiction aspect of this book. See: Fanfic: force of nature; What is Fanfic.

Geraldine Brooks had an article in the Guardian, Brave New Worlds, about Bronson Alcott. While Brooks notes that Alcott's reputation was "unfairly sullied", I don't see it, even after reading the article. Yes, there is much to admire about him. But, I also still see him as someone who let his family down in many important ways.

* Edited to remove sarcastic comment about Beth's death, cause it was mean of me. And the real life Beth & fictional Beth had real health problems. Sorry about that. It was unnecessary & rude.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

200 Cool Girls From Children's Literature

The nominations have been made, the votes tallied, and Jen Robinson has the list of the 200 Cool Girls From Children's Literature, including a top 20.

It's an awesome list, that spans genre, age group, and publication date. There are picture books, young adult books, books from 100 years ago and books published last month.

Because more than one "cool girl" exists in some books, it's not 200 books but 200 girls. For the top 20, I know 13 girls; from the top 200, I know 120. ("Know" meaning read their book(s).

What is especially cool is each is unique; each has her own strengths and talents; these girls are not cut out form one cookie cutter mold.

Buffy Quote of the Week

"As Willow goes, so goes my nation."
-- Oz, Ep: Homecoming

A Certain Slant of Light

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

The Plot: Helen panics when a boy notices her in school. It's been a while since someone has looked at her and truly seen her. Not since she's been dead. Helen is a ghost; and humans don't see ghosts. But this one sees her.

Helen discovers that it's another ghost who can see her; and that James has found a way to inhabit a human body, Billy. Helen has a second chance at living -- and at love -- if she, too, can find a body. Jenny seems not to care about life, so Helen slips in and becomes her.

The Good: James's and Helen's use of Billy's and Jenny's bodies is creepy; but there is a point. Billy and Jenny each have a different reason for not valuing the life they have, but it's so invasive to have someone come in and take over their lives. James and Helen deserve a second chance; but at what cost?

I cried at the end; there's the afterlife scene that is, I'm sure, part wish fulfillment. But I fell for it and cried.

Actually, there is a lot of wish fulfillment in this book, but it's so beautifully done: it's about soul mates, true romance, and love, that reaches past life and death. It's also about forgiveness, forgiving others and forgiving yourself. And it's about embracing the life you have.

When Helen becomes Jenny, she does not take on Jenny's memories; Jenny and her memories still exist (and may come back) so Helen is left on her own, feeling overwhelmed as she doesn't know who Jenny is. How is she supposed to act? What is she supposed to say? Her life experiences are not her own.

I loved Billy's older brother, Mitch, who is struggling to be a good person and do the right thin; but he has no guide or mentor so it's hard for him. James's second chance isn't what he thought it would be, because Billy had gotten into trouble and James has to face the consequences.

Spoilerific thoughts in the comments.

Author interview at

The Hello, Goodbye Window

The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster, illustrated by Chris Raschka.

2006 Caldecott Medal

The Plot: The nameless narrator visits her grandparents. The "hello, goodbye" window is the kitchen window. When coming to visit, it's the Hello Window; when leaving, the Goodbye Window.

The Good: I only just realized that the narrator was nameless. That's pretty cool. (Unless, because I already handed this over to my niece and nephew, my notes are wrong and she has a name, and I'm just a stupidhead.)

The narrator calls her grandparents Nanna & Poppy; that's what Queen Lucy & Skaterboy call my parents.

I love the illustrations; they are colorful, alive, vibrant, and detailed, but there is also a roughness to them. The family is multiracial, but the text is silent on that. Just like a child would be. I love that a kid can look at this book and see themselves and their family, and it's done in a natural way, no "message" moment.

The child's perspective is note perfect: "When I get tired I come in and take my nap and nothing happens until I get up." The world ceases to exist as the child sleeps.

Another part I liked: "I'm glad because I know we're going home, but it makes me sad too because I have to leave Nanna and Poppy. You can be happy and sad at the same time, you know. it just happens that way sometimes." I love that "you know," so typical of a child's thoughts; letting you in on some bit of wisdom they have discovered.

Poetry Friday: The Saturday Recap

Yes, I'm a day late and a dollar short.

Anne Bradstreet (1612 to 1672) is one of those women I find so intriguing that I can't understand why there aren't more biographies and documentaries about her. Additional info here and here.

This is one of my favorites, in part because it illustrates how people cannot make snap judgments; the common modern opinion of Puritans is one that is usually negative, viewing them as a stern, joyless, loveless people. I guess they haven't read this poetry.

To My Dear And Loving Husband

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye woman, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the east doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor aught but love from thee, give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persevere
That when we live no more, we may live ever.


More poems may be found at the Poetry Archive.

Other contributors, all more timely than I:

Original Works:

A Fish Story from Gotta Book

The Journey From Idea to Finished Poem at Once Upon A Time There Was A Girl Who Wanted to Write

Favorite Poems & Poetry:

Amy Lowell at Here In The Bonny Glen

Billy Collins at Chicken Spaghetti

Christopher Marlowe at Jen Robinson's Book Page

Dorothy Parker at Little Willow

E. Pauline Johnson at Farm School

Emily Dickinson at Real Learning

Noel Bastable (by E Nesbit) at Bookshelves of Doom

Philip Larkin at Book Buds

Robert Herrick at Mungo's Mathoms

William Shakespeare at Wands & Worlds

William Wordsworth at Scholar's Blog

Excuses, Excuses at:

Big A, little a

Blog From the Windowsill

Did I miss you? It's been a week of headaches, computer viruses and blogger issues; so I apologize and if you include the link on the comments and I'll update.

Monday, June 05, 2006

48 Hour Book Challenge: Why Isn't Your Name On The List?

MotherReader has issued the 48 Hour Book Challenge; the current list of participants is here.

So, where is YOUR name?

Yes, you, too, can take part in this challenge! Go and sign up now!

Still here?

Why haven't you signed up?

What, you don't have a blog? And it's reading and reviewing? Nice try. Each day of the challenge weekend, I will be having open posts for nonblogger participants; so sign up, and post your reviews as comments to my open posts.

You're not a fast reader?

The challenge is like any marathon. It's not about winning, jumping up and down and saying, "I read the most! I read the most!" (Tho, admittedly, I'm a wee bit competitive so I may in fact do that.) It's about your own personal goals. Seriously -- it's about pushing yourself and your reading for one 48 hour period.

If you've never read one book in that short a time period -- sign up with a goal of one book. Typically read two? OK, so your goal is three.

Or maybe, like me, you have a thick book staring at you demanding to be read but the time hasn't been right. (My unread thick book is The Book Thief.) So, for you, the challenge isn't about a lot of thin books; it's that one thick book.

Other ways to define your challenge: pick a theme or a genre or an author. Gail Gauthier muses about reading some magical realism. You can indulge in old favorites; catch up on all that fantasy; read as much of a series as you can. I recently confessed to never having read Emily of New Moon, so now am considering having Emily be my 48 hour goal (despite the many other unread books that fill my home.)

Maybe the challenge won't be the reading but the reviewing. As I said, if you don't have a blog, I'll have an open post for you to use the comments to do reviews. Maybe (like me) it takes you a week or so to post about a book you've read; this is "down and dirty" review blogging time, to see how it'll be if you just sit down and post as/ after you've read the book. Or maybe your blog is about other things; so you go off theme for one day, and add books to your usual blogging about movies/ libraries/ knitting. Go crazy, live a little! Blog a book!

So see, there is NO excuse. Even if you're a homeschooling mother of three children under the age of nine who is also a farm wife who is also celebrating her wedding anniversary (hm, who could I be thinking of?), you can challenge yourself to do one book.

Join the fun! Take the challenge!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Poetry Friday

from The Merchant of Venice
by William Shakespeare

Tell me where is Fancy bred,
Or in the heart, or in the head?
How begot, how nourished?
Reply, reply.

It is engender'd in the eyes;
With gazing fed; and Fancy dies
In the cradle where it lies.

Let us all ring Fancy's knell;
I'll begin it: -- Ding, dong, bell.
Ding, dong, bell.


Founder Kelly, at Big A little a, has a nursery rhyme and its origins.

Blog from the Windowsill has two books about poetic form: one "good for a browse" and one "a very, very good one."

Get hip with hippos at Book Buds.

Bookshelves of Doom has Lewis Carroll.

Chicken Spaghetti shares A Blessing by James Wright.

Becky at the Farm School shares poetry news and Ogden Nash.

A Fuse #8 Production double dips with a poem and a book review.

Gotta Book has an original poem (not a fib!).

Sometimes I wonder if Lissa at Here in the Bonny Glen picks poems based on "what would Liz like." This time it's Seamus Heaney.

Jen Robinson makes me feel guilty by using a poem from Emily of New Moon; AKA the only LM Montgomery books I haven't read.

Mungo's Mathoms brings us a cat and dog duel.

Susan at Once Upon A Time A Little Girl Wanted To Write gives us a look into the creative process as she shares an original poem, including rewrite.

The Scholar's Blog continues to mess with my mind (England? What's the time difference again? Which way?) by jump starting with Poetry Thursday.

Happy Birthday, Christine! The Simple and the Ordinary celebrates with an insistence that "I'm not old." (Well, technically, you're almost two months older than me . . . But I'm also not old. Nope, nope, nope.)

Welcome to Renee of So Glad to be Here, who was inspired by a movie in selecting her contribution.

I'll update tomorrow with those who posted tonight.

Congratulations, Kerry Close

Kerry Close, from the Jersey Shore, won the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

I watched it along with the rest of the household. I think I knew one of the words. I was rooting for each kid, and disappointed for each kid when a word was missed. But, being that Kerry is from New Jersey (and the town where my sis lives, no less!), she was the house favorite.

More info on the spelling bee available here.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Ma, Mum, Mom, Mommy, Momma, Mother

Don Tate II of Devas T. Rants and Raves! (illustrator and HMOCL) has an interesting post about the names authors use for parents in books. He explains, "I have a dilemma, which maybe isn't a dilemma at all, but a matter of preference or background," and goes on to examine the use of Mom / Mother/ Momma in real life and children's books and what the connotations are for those different words for the same person.

It got me wondering about that; how often are authors sensitive to their own interpretations of words, and aware of what that word means to someone else?

For example, I call my mother Mom. When I read/hear Mother, I think that the story was written or set a long time ago; or, if set in the present, that the family dynamics are cold and distant. I wonder, is that just how I "hear" it? Or is indeed what the author intends I hear? I'll also make similar quick assumptions based on what grandparents are / are not called.