Friday, September 29, 2006

Poetry Friday

Congratulations to Jack Prelutsky, the first Children's Poet Laureate.

Last Night I Dreamed of Chickens by Jack Prelutsky

Last night I dreamed of chickens,
there were chickens everywhere,
they were standing on my stomach,
they were nesting in my hair,

The rest of the poem is here.

Journey Woman shares a Calvin & Hobbes poem, A Nauseous Nocturne
A son at college is on A Wrung Sponge's mind
Cauliflower is celebrated in an original poem (called Broccoli and Cauliflower) at Gotta Book
KRM shares an original poem at The Simple And The Ordinary

Prelutsky is congratulated at Big A little
Roald Dahl may be found at Jen Robinson's Book Page
Escaping drying dishes via Shel Silverstein at Little Willow's Bildungsroman
Leaves are Falling at Check It Out
Under a Magnifying Glass at Farm School
This poem on Fire and Ice can be found at Susan Taylor Brown's livejournal
Shel Silverstein via YouTube at Bookshelves of Doom and A Fuse # 8 Production
Year of Reading shares Reluctance by Robert Frost

Prelutsky's Halloween Countdown appears at Blog From The Windowsill
Evangeline musings at Semicolon

Longfellow at Scholar's Blog
Another great poet, Mary Ann Hoberman, is championed at Chicken Spaghetti
Rodeo (actually, Miss Rodeo) spotlights a sonnet
Enjoying Garden Gossip at What Adrienne Thinks About That
Adventuring after dark with The Moon at MotherReader

Yes, I took some liberties with titles and authors but I think you see why! If I've missed you, please let me know in the comments (and let me know where you fit in the above; additions will be in bold.)

Added: Blog From the Windowsill at P

Thursday, September 28, 2006

It's Never To Early To Ask

Are you going to ALA Midwinter? I am!

Seattle, January 19-22, 2007.

We had a great blogger dinner in New Orleans; let me know if you're interested in getting together in Seattle.

Jennifer Holm

On Tuesday I went to see Jennifer Holm. There was a nice turn out, including some of Holm's relatives who are mentioned in Penny from Heaven. (Holm's RL relatives are from this area of NJ).

Holm read from PFH and also answered questions.

One of the things that impressed me is the research that Holm did for PFH. Holm uses her mother's story and stories her mother told about growing up as the inspiration for this children's book set in 1953. Who hasn't heard a relative speak of growing up and thought, that would make a good book?

Why it works so well for Holm is that Holm goes the extra step. While the inspiration is acknowledged, and the real stories used, Holm is clear that she is writing fiction. She also doesn't end her research with her relatives; Holm researched, spoke with Italian American scholars, and immersed herself in 1953 for three years.

Why does this impress me? Because it shows that Holm cared enough to get it right; and realized that recollections were not enough. Holm cared enough to listen to radio shows from the 50s so her "ear" would be in the 50s and the language spoken by her characters would reflect the 50s. She didn't say, "I know how Italian Americans are in Jersey because of my mother and my own childhood"; she made sure she got it right with research and by consulting scholars.

My friend Christine and her kids also attended; her post about it is here. Chris remembered her camera, while I did not, so thanks to Christine I have this picture of Jennifer Holm with Christine's two children (K and S, my godson (he's taller than that, but he's sliding down the tree):

This is me getting books signed for Queen Lucy and Skater boy. I'm drinking the caramel hot apple cider (don't you love Fall!!)::


That's a woo and a hoo for Annette Simon! And a yay and a hay for Rafe Martin!

AIGA, the professional association for design, has selected a group of 100 examples of outstanding book and book cover design produced in 2005. Included in the list is Simon's Mocking Birdies and Rafe Martin's Birdwing! (There are other children's books on the list, but I haven't read or reviewed them. Go here to see the whole list.)

Thanks to A Fuse #8 Production for the news.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Banned Books Week

2006 BBW; Read Banned Books: They're Your Ticket to Freedom In honor of Banned Books Week, ban a book!

Seriously, at least once during BBW, I get asked about why the library is banning books. Sometimes it's a customer who doesn't get the display; once, it was a reporter asking us why we were celebrating banning books.

My take on banned books: It's up to you to decide what you read; it's not up to your neighbor. As for your children, it's up to the parent and child/teen as to how that is handled; it's not your neighbor's choice. I get a bit ornery about someone telling me what I cannot read.

Outside Of A Cat invites everyone to read and comment on a book that was banned.* I think I'll adopt Forever by Judy Blume; I haven't read it since my high school years, so it'll be interesting how it holds up.

As you look at the lists, keep this in mind: these are the challenges that ALA knows about, or the ones that make the paper. The challenges are made for many reasons; some of the titles are childrens, some young adult, others adult. I guarantee you -- for each one that is publicly known, there are ones that are kept hush-hush, because of fear of bad publicity. I wonder what the numbers would be if all challenges were reported.

The lists: 2005 list of most challenged books; the 100 most challenged books from 1990 to 2000.

Chris Barton at Bartography has an interesting story of trying to explain book banning to his son.

* And for the strict constructionists out there, for this, 'banned' doesn't mean the government stopping you from carrying the book over the border; within this context, 'banned' means both successful and unsuccessful challenges to remove a book from a library (public or school) or to limit it's availability to the degree that it may as well be unavailable. I also see it as implicitly including only those challenge based on subjective rather than objective criteria. (See my previous post on book selection, which shows sources of objective criteria as opposed to personal, subjective reasons). BBW is important as a reminder that in some places, your neighbors want to decide what you and your children can and cannot read by making those books impossible to find in public and school libraries. Do you really want them to have that power over you and your children? And how many people really have the funds to just go onto Amazon and buy these books?

The Edge of the Forest, Issue 7

The Edge of the Forest, Issue 7 is up.

Kelly at Big A little a has a round up of what is in the current issue as well as a call for reviews for Issue 8.

My contribution: a review of Haters by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez. (TEOTF link to the review is good until the next issue is up, then go to the Archive).

7th Carnival of Children's Literature

The 7th Carnival of Children's Literature is up at Wands and Worlds. Click on over to revisit favorite posts and blogs and to discover new ones. I know, you think you have all the blogs about children's lit on your blogroll or at bloglines so why should you go look?

Trust me, there is at least one new blog or blog that's new to you.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Flux: RSS feed

As a follow up to this post, here is the feed for the Flux blog:

Party for Hugging The Rock

Just a reminder about the book launch party for Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown. It's this coming Wednesday, September 27th, at 7 p.m. in Mountain View, CA. Details here.

If you go, please share the details!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Jennifer Holm In Holmdel, NJ

Jennifer Holm, author of such awesome books as Babymouse and Penny from Heaven, will be in Holmdel NJ next week:

On Tuesday, September 26th at 7 pm, she will be at:
Barnes & Noble
Route 35 South And Laurel Ave
Holmdel, NJ

And I will be there. What about you?

Buffy Quote of the Week

Spike: "Life's not a song.
Life isn't bliss, life is just this, it's living.
You'll get along,
The pain that you feel, you only can heal by living.
You have to go on living.
So one of us is living."
Dawn: "The hardest thing in this world is to live in it."
Ep: Once More, With Feeling
Complete Lyrics here.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


I had high hopes for Justice. I like the cast, I liked the idea of watching thru the trial and verdict and then seeing what "really" happened.

But I'm fast being disappointed and don't see this show lasting.


First, there is no legal stuff going on here at all. It's CSI with lawyers. It's all about big money testing and recreations and juries. Nothing legal. And the stuff they do costs extraordinary amounts of money. I don't think these people know how to write a brief.

Second, we're told they're this big bad defense firm who could care less about whether the client did it or not. But so far, they've won all three cases. And the "really happened" showed that all three times the client was not guilty. Yawn. I want a guilty person who gets off because he has the millions to pay for this team; I want an innocent person found guilty because that happens, also. Otherwise, they're not so big and bad. Instead, despite all the noise and nasty remarks and flashy suits, they're secretly a bunch of Robin Hood Do Gooders. I want a show about a criminal defense firm who doesn't always know if a defendant is guilty or innocent; doesn't care, because the point is a defense, not getting innocent people off; and I want some "really happens" that shows the blunt truth that guilty people get let go and innocent people get sentenced.

Third, back to the money; we've also seen three defendants we aren't terribly rich. Yeah, the first was, kind of, but since his motive was supposedly to get his wife's money, and the money was left in trust for the kid, he wasn't rich enough to afford the defense shown. Where are the big money clients?

Talk Like A Pirate Day

In honor of talk like a pirate day (and btw, wasn't that an awesome episode of Bones?)

My Pirate Name: Cap'n Hayley Knifenose

A slightly more scientific approach to my pirate name:

My pirate name is:

Captain Bess Rackham

Even though there's no legal rank on a pirate ship, everyone recognizes you're the one in charge. You have the good fortune of having a good name, since Rackham (pronounced RACKem, not rack-ham) is one of the coolest sounding surnames for a pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

And my ship is The Fall of Atlantis.

And a pirate song:

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
We pillage, we plunder, we rifle, and loot,
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho.
We kidnap and ravage and don't give a hoot,
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.

Full lyrics here.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

My Catalog Card

Originally uploaded by LizzB.

Courtesy of the Catalog Card Generator.

Any suggestions for a better Dewey number? I don't have the books at home.

New Homeschooling Blog

Adrienne has a Homeschooling and Libraries blog that is new to me (she started it this past May). I like the mix of resources.

As a librarian, I find homeschooling blogs to be an extremely helpful resource and very enlightening. I confess, before I began reading them I had the usual prejudices about homeschooling such as socialization and educational standards and what happens to the subjects a parent cannot teach. Please note my use of the word "had." I have a bunch of homeschooling blogs added to my bloglines account, and find them both insightful and informative and a great source for information. I began following Chris Barton's blog because of the process of publishing a nonfiction book (I cannot wait for his Day Glo book to come out) and found great history picture book resources. By Sunlight and Candlelight has an impressive round up of Middle Ages resource.

September Books

Books I reviewed from ARCs that were published in September 2006:

London Calling by Edward Bloor

Hugging The Rock by Susan Taylor Brown

The Boy Book by E. Lockhart

I'm Going To...

I'm Going To New York To Visit The Lions
Illustrated by Tanya Roitman
text copyright by Harriet Ziefert Inc.

The Plot: Isn't it obvious? Road Trip to NYC.

The Good: The story is clear and straight forward; the reading levels are defined: Level 2, Grade 1, ages 6 to 7, up to 100 words. As new words are introduced on a page, they also appear on the top of the page, highlighting the word and also allowing a beginning reader to match the two words.

I like the NYC setting and the illustrations that capture details of the city.

Oh and the lions? Not the lions at the zoo; the lions at the New York Public Library.

Easy readers are hard for me to critique. I don't read a lot of them; and the ones I tend to like are the higher levels.

While story is always important in a book-- kids aren't going to read if it's boring (or rather, not going to want to read if it's boring) easy readers also have the educational purpose of building reading skills by having a book that may be conquered by the reader (I can do it!) that is also a bit of a challenge (so that the child can step up to the next level.).

I'm a librarian, not a literacy expert. (Of course, patrons (and sometimes other people....) expect that librarian means an expert in all things.) When someone comes in asking about easy readers (or readers and any "reading level") it's a bit hard to judge. I don't know the child (and 9 times out of 10, the adult asking is solo.) I can do some reader's advisory; but no, I cannot off the top of my head say what words and sentence structure are those that are first grade or third grade. (That's why librarians are not teachers.) For easy readers, I do what parents do, and rely on the book itself. And that can be hard, because there is no universal standard for the levels found on easy readers. It varies by publishers. I've seen "low" level books that are harder than "high" level books, depending on the publishers. In the easy reader section, I have books with one or two words on a page next to Amelia Bedelia.

I do the usual with parents: try to get more information than "he's six" to determine a book; explain that the levels differ by publisher; recommend taking a handful of books that the child can then select; let me know what the level was that the child liked. And while sometimes that works, other times I get the combination evil eye/ sense of bewilderment from the parent: If you don't know, how can I? I sympathize, but sadly, there are no easy answers. Take a handful of books home or bring the child in to look at the books.

Which brings me back to this series; I really like that this publisher so clearly states what it means by a reading level, including grade and number of words.

I'm Going To Boston To Visit The Ducks

So the "I'm Going to READ" is not only a reading series, within the series there is an "I'm Going to..." series.

The Plot: Road trip to Boston.

The Good: This is similar to the NYC book, except it's set in Boston.

I think these are good both for kids who live in/around these areas, but also as mini travel guides for kids who will be traveling to these areas. And while some of you know my NYC love from previous posts, the Boston connection is that my grandfather's family settled there and I still have family there.

While the cool reference in the NYC book is the lions, here the cool reference is Make Way for Ducklings. Interestingly, MWFD is never mentioned by name; and while that may be for copyright issues, I love that the author knows that the child reader will know the book without having to mention the title. The kid will "get it", and will also appreciate that they are expected to "get it." It's a nice, sophisticated touch. Oh, and here are the ducks that are visited.

Great Booklist/ ALA Article on Easy Readers: Too Easy? Too Hard? Finding the Right Easy Reader.

Links: I'm Going To Read series; Kids' Book Recommendations: Easy Readers.

Edited to add: About MWFD, has anyone else heard the urban myth about Richard Nixon being included in the swan boats? I heard it first at library school, couldn't find anything to support it (I even emailed the Nixon Library, who kindly responded that they had no documentation about a link between McCloskey and Nixon. I have no idea where the copy of that email is.) This article also points out that the picture on page 7 looks like Nixon.


Rash by Pete Hautman. 2006.

The Plot: It's the future, and it's safety first all the way. And no hurt feelings. Well, basically anything that anyone has ever thought could be bad, or is bad, is also illegal. Take Bo's dad, who is in prison for road rage: yelling and banging his fist on a car. It's a problem having a parent in jail; but, it's not uncommon since 24 percent of the population is in jail. Break a rule, go to jail.

Bo is falsely accused of spreading a rash at school, loses his temper, and goes to jail. Once there, his assigned work is to make frozen pizzas. But something else is going on; the warden likes football and has started an elite football squad. Bo's about to find out the real meaning of competition.

The Good:

Competitive sports are either outright illegal (such as football) or so heavily regulated and full of safety equipment that the sport is practically unrecognizable. Bo runs; but here he explains all the safety equipment:
Back when Gramps was in high school, kids ran faster. Gramps claimed to have run 100 meters in 11 seconds, and the mile in 4:37. That was before the Child Safety Act of 2033. Now every high school runner has to wear a full set of protective gear -- AtherSafe shoes with lateral ankle support and four layers of memory gel in the thick soles, knee pads, elbow pads, neck brace, tooth guard, wrist monitor, and an FDHHSS-certified sports helmet. We raced on an Adzorbium® track with its five centimeters of compacted gel-foam topped by a thick sheet of artificial latex. It's like running on a sponge.
Rash is well written; but it also offers plenty for book discussions. Here is Bo explaining why prisoners have to work:
Of course, without [prisoners], there wouldn't be anybody to do the manual labor that makes this country run. Without penal workers, who would work the production lines, or pick the melons and peaches, or maintain the streets and parks and public lavatories? Our economy depends on prison labor. Without it everybody would have to work -- whether they wanted to or not.
I recently read Inexcusable by Chris Lynch. Which I need to blog about; I did like it. But the book gave me a sense that organized sports equals bad, and I have read reader's comments that said that organized sports encourages or creates bad behavior in boys. So it was a relief to read Rash, and to read something that is a defense of football; a defense of it as an outlet, that competition can be good. Hautman also has some negatives (jocks pushing non-jocks around), but he does not label the sport itself as negative.

Rash is a world that has tried to legislate away violence, anger, aggression and hurt feelings; and the repercussions are serious. And humorous. All those things are part of life; and people, and their society, become ill when they try to suppress these feelings, legislate against the feelings, and remove any type of outlet for those emotions.

What else is good: this is a dystopia, but it's much funnier and more light hearted than Feed. There is a lot of "wow, people were so odd in the old days, can you believe what they thought or did." And since that is something people think now about people in the old days, it's funny (while giving one something to think about). Some of the humor also comes from the surprisingly little reveals about the future; Bo, for example, is short for Bono. Cracks me up that kids in the future will be named Bono.

Links: Publishers Weekly interview with Pete Hautman (interesting because Hautman isn't himself a "team sports guy" yet the team sports part is so great!) Author's blog.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Flux: A Big Contest

Have you noticed I'm catching up on things I meant to post but somehow didn't?

Flux is a new imprint dedicated to fiction for teens and they are running a contest:
Flux and the books we publish are generally about change, particularly the changes that happen when you're a teenager. In 500 words or less, tell us about how change has affected your life. Five winners will be selected to receive a complete set of signed Flux books.
Full details are here. Entry deadline is October 11.

Flux has a blog; but, I'm having trouble finding its RSS/Atom feed to add it to my bloglines. If you have the URL for that, please let me know. (and yes, I have emailed them about it, I just haven't heard back yet!)

Finding Children's And YA Lit Blogs

I'm a bit late with this one, but Tasha at Kids Lit has started a new way to find Children's and YA Lit blogs:
I have started a new project inspired by the recent talk on Child_Lit about children's literature blogs. I have a page where I am compiling a list of those of us who blog about children's literature. I have only worked on it in my free time yesterday, so it does need some refinement. Also, if you don't see your blog listed, that means nothing because I am still working my way through my own bookmarks as well as those listed on other people's blog rolls. If you want to make sure I won't miss you, please comment here or send me an email:

I've been playing with, but not seriously; so don' t expect much if you take a peek. Let's just call it experimenting with technology and a work in progress.

Princess Academy

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale; Newbery Honor Book.

The Plot: Miri lives on Mount Eskel; her family, like the entire village, works in the quarry. All Miri wants to do is take her place as an adult and work in the quarry, but her father has forbidden it. Miri's world is turned upside down when representatives from the king of Danland announce that the priests have decided that the Prince's wife will come from Mount Eskel.

How to prepare all these village girls for life as a Princess? A Princess Academy! But this is more than a "make over", more than learning how to use the correct knife and fork. It's hard work, and the girls are isolated from their families and well aware of the stakes; becoming Princess means they can leave their poverty stricken lives.

The Good: With the title Princess Academy, and the rags to riches story, of course the reader thinks, Cinderella. And yes, as the story is read, one can see fairy tale inspired plots and characters. But the Cinderella character isn't who one may think; and fate turns out to be as much about deliberate choice and action as about a priest's prophecy. (I adored Buffy and Angel as much as the next person, but I prefer to think we make our own fate. And Princess Academy is all about making our futures.)

Princess Academy deserves each and every one of its awards. (In the whole literary v. popular debate that arises, particularly over the Newbery, my POV is that the two aren't mutually exclusive; IMHO, PA proves my point. Literary and popular. It's like a Reese's cup, two great tastes that taste great together!)

Spoiler-related discussion:
The prize appears to be marrying the prince and becoming princess; but it's not. The prize is about education; expanding one's world views; making and taking opportunities; and recognizing that different people have different yet equally valid views. What makes one person happy may make another miserable.

The education includes reading; but it's more than that. This book also shows the value of learning about diplomacy, commerce, and economics. I know, how many times is commerce realistically discussed in books! And in a way that is not a lesson, but an essential part of the plot.

Part of why Hale is a genius is that there is no "mean girl". At first, there appears to be; but what it turns out to be is that some girls were at their worst because of competition, and others at their worst because they were in an unhappy situation without any escape. The Princess Academy doesn't only train the girls to be princesses; it also shows them a different way of living, both in making village life better but also in giving those who want it a way to leave the village.

It's usual to find tension between those who want to see the world and those who are content to stay home. Depending on the book, the explorers don't know what they're giving up by not being content with the world they have, or the stay at homes are complacent and unimaginative. What is great about Hale is there are no such judgment; it's not selfish to leave, nor is it backward to stay. Each choice is valid.

The third reason Hale is a genius is she only reveals a little bit of this world, of Mount Eskel, the countries and histories and conflict. There is just enough for the story; but I was always confident that Hale knew everything, that this world was complete. While I don't want a sequel -- Miri's journey is satisfactorily completed by the end of the book -- I am intrigued by her world, and would love to read a companion book set in Danland.

And the final reason Hale is a genius: she likes Joss Whedon. (scroll down, it's there.)

Links: Washington Post: We Interview Shannon Hale. Kids Reads Author Talk.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I Love YouTube

I saw this at Entertainment Weekly's Pop Watch. It's Tom Cruise in Cocktail as told by Bollywood.

What Do You Mean By "Reading?"

As Shannon Hale continues her intelligent, thoughtful postings on classics, she quotes Laurie Halse Anderson's reaction to current, low reading scores:
Read this from a report of the National Institute of Literacy:
"The ability to read and understand complicated information is important to success in college and, increasingly, in the workplace. An analysis of the NAEP long-term trend reading assessments reveals that only half of all White 17 year olds, less than one-quarter of Latino 17 year olds, and less than one-fifth of African American 17 year olds can read at this level.

By age 17, only about 1 in 17 seventeen year olds can read and gain information from specialized text, for example the science section in the local newspaper. This includes:

1 in 12 White 17 year olds,
1 in 50 Latino 17 year olds, and
1 in 100 African American 17 year olds."

I wish we had all of our 17 year olds to the point where we could have them enjoy Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Thoreau, and, yes, Hawthorne. But to get them to that point, THEY MUST LEARN HOW TO READ. Their chances of developing into literate adults are greatly enhanced if we hand them books that are interesting, engaging, and written in the vernacular. Most of the Classics do not fit that definition.

(end LHA quotage)

Here's something I've always thought when I read reports like this. The critical words are "read and understand complicated information", such as "the science section in the local newspaper." It could just as easily be any of the following texts that high school graduates should be able to read, understand and critique: newspapers, magazine articles (including blog posts!), work memoranda .... do you see where I'm going?

Within the context of this report, reading isn't literary reading or fiction reading. It's not decoding the meaning of the color green or the use of mirrors or foreshadowing. It's about being able to know when a newspaper is reporting a story accurately so that an educated voting decision can be made. It's understanding the reports on stem cell research so you know what the heck it is, rather than simply what politician is for or against it. It's about writing what has gone on in your corporation during the past year in a way that explains honestly why stock shares are up or down. It's about following procedures in a company manual. It's a lot of nonfiction reading, and analysis; about using the right words to communicate meaning rather than metaphor.

So my question is -- how and when is that being taught? Is it even part of the high school criteria? Because while I love literature, and books, and reading fiction for pleasure, I want the people running companies, voting, diagnosing diseases, arguing legal cases, doing my plumbing, etc., to be able to read and understand information. And teaching Shakespeare isn't going to do that. At law school, I had a legal writing class to teach the correct way to read and write legal briefs and documents; I'm sure that other professions have similar things.

(I'm not saying no Shakespeare; I'm saying Shakespeare isn't the answer to the problem raised in the report.)

Edited to add: I am not disagreeing with Laurie Halse Anderson; I actually agree that getting someone engaged in and interested in reading is the first, vital step; I'm just saying, that in addition to looking beyond classics to engage the reader, look beyond fiction, especially when the study isn't about fiction. Building on & agreeing with her thoughts, not disagreeing. I'm afraid I may not have been clear about that!

Top 5 Books of 2006

What are your top 5 books for 2006?

And yes, that means books published in 2006.

MotherReader wants to know. Post your list at your blog, then let MotherReader know by posting at this link.

Categories: (c'mon, we're librarians and book people, if we do lists there have to be categories!)

Picture Books
Younger Elementary
Older Elementary
Middle School
High School

Maximum: Five in each category. People's lists are appearing in blogs and on comments at MotherReader's site.

Post by September 20; she's then going to pull it all together into one long list.

(sigh of pleasure... I love lists!)

People who look left towards my sidebar know I have a running list of my 2006 favorites. It's not as up to date as it should be.

Going by the MR categories, my current top list (and yes, I know that means I'm both behind in reviews and/or in updating my sidebar):

High School:
a brief chapter in my impossible life by Dana Reinhardt
King Dork by Frank Portman
The Queen of Cool by Cecil Castellucci
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Middle School:
Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller
Sir Thursday by Garth Nix
I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You by Ally Carter
The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (OK, there is nothing inappropriate in here for Middle School, but I think it's a better fit for High School, but it didn't fit on my list!)
The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer

The following ones are areas that I don't read much in, hence not as many titles.

Upper Elementary:
Penny From Heaven by Jennifer Holm
Hugging The Rock by Susan Taylor Brown

Younger Elementary:
Babymouse: Rock Star by Jennifer Holm

Picture Books:
Learning To Fly by Sebastian Meschenmoser
One White Wishing Stone: A Beach Day Counting Book by Doris K. Gayzagian
Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! by Mo Willems

Again, the short lists reflects my not reading as much new books in those areas. I'll go and think and come back and revise, if necessary.

Poetry Friday: My Last Duchess

My Last Duchess by Robert Browning

That's my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf's hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will't please you sit and look at her? I said
"Frà Pandolf" by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 'twas not
Her husband's presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps
Frà Pandolf chanced to say "Her mantle laps
Over my Lady's wrist too much," or "Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat": such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart -- how shall I say? -- too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, 'twas all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace -- all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men, -- good! but thanked
Somehow -- I know not how -- as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech -- (which I have not) -- to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, "Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark" -- and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
--E'en then would be some stooping, and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will't please you rise? We'll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master's known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we'll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

So Yesterday

So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld

The Plot: Hunter, 17, is a professional "cool hunter." He's an observer, who looks for what the true Innovators are doing and reports back to the corporations that pay him; and then those corporations can adjust what they make, and how they advertise it. What does he observe and look for? The "next" fashion trend, the people who are making fashion rather than following, whether it's what cell phone is cool or how you tie your shoes. When Hunter's friend disappears, he finds out that things aren't always what they seem. And he discovers the coolest sneakers, ever.

The Good: This is a great mystery, set in a very real world, but for some reason reminded me of science fiction. SY pulls things apart; Hunter finds something that is important to him, almost Eden-like; he wants it back and wants to return. Also, the way that Westerfeld presents the pyramid of cool and how the advertising and fashion world work is almost like a whole different culture and world.

I also loved how Westerfeld looks at fashion, style, and trends. What is "cool"? In SY's world, people are judged by what they wear and how they wear it; and sometimes it is a natural expression of a person, for another it's unconscious, and for another it's a quite purposeful following of the current trend. Cool is about self-expression, manipulation, and being manipulated. It's about fear, identity, belonging. Being an individual and being part of something. And all that is also reflected in the mystery.

What is interesting about Hunter is that he is more aware of it than the average person; and also points out that the person who says they are aware so insists that they don't follow trends (and aren't being manipulated) are simply following another trend. Another type of judgment.

Before you say you're not in this fashion equation, take a look at the Pyramid of Cool:

Innovators: They create the style, but are so innovative that others may not think they are "cool" because they aren't following a trend. Yet somehow, these are the ones who start the trend.
Trendsetters: Basically, they see the Innovation and turn it into the new trend. These are the cool ones, so that others then jump aboard.
Early Adopters: The first group of people to follow what the Trendsetters are doing. If Trendsetters do something because they saw someone on the street; the Early Adopters do it because they saw it in a magazine.
Consumers: By the time it's taken up by the regular people, both the Trendsetters and Early Adopters are so over it. (Of course, the Innovators were barely aware of it.)
Laggards: The people who don't change their style, ever. It's not that they are style resistant; it's that they are change resistant, and if it was good enough for high school, it's good enough now, gosh darn it.

If you still think this doesn't apply to you... remember, fashion can be about things other than clothes. So you may be a Laggard about clothes, but when it comes to technology, you're an Early Adopter.

Other Links: Scott's blog; The King of Cool Codes (newspaper article); the Bookshelves of Doom interview; the Bildungsroman interview by Little Willow (interview of Scott and his wife, Justine Larbalestier.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Great Antagonists of Children's Literature

Journey Woman is putting together a list of Great Antagonists of Children's Literature. There is also a related contest going on, information here (deadline September 19). I love Starbucks but it looks like all the good bad guys have already been named!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Buffy Quote of the Week

Buffy: Are you jealous?
Angel: Of Xander? Please. He's just a kid.
Buffy: Is it 'cause I danced with him?
Angel: 'Danced with' is a pretty loose term. 'Mated with' might be a little closer --
Buffy: Don't you think you're being a little unfair? It was one little dance, which I only did to make you crazy, by the way. Behold my success.
Angel: I am not jealous.
Buffy: You're not jealous? What, vampires don't get jealous?
Ep: Some Assembly Required

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years Ago Today

Five years! Are you sure it wasn't yesterday?

I was getting ready to visit my best friend when my sister called and said that the radio said that a small plane had flown into the World Trade Center, could I put on the TV to make sure it wasn't some sick joke? So on went the TV and while I was on the phone with her, I watched as the second plane hit.

For some reason, I felt compelled to still go and visit my friend. Insane, in retrospect. I stopped and got gas; the attendant told me about the planes and the towers and I just nodded. He was shocked and appalled. On the way up, as I got closer to her house, every now and then cars were pulled over to the shoulder and people were standing, watching.... because those were the areas on Route 9 where you could see the city, and the towers burning.

Her TV was out, except for one channel, so we listened to the news on the radio and then went down to the water to see for ourselves. The towers had fallen by then, and we could see the dust cloud from the debris of the towers.

Trying to remember, who works where? Where is their office? Was that downtown or uptown? Phone calls not going thru; hours of people checking in, people calling, yes, he's OK, she's OK, people walking across bridges, arriving home hours later. Not everyone made it; the call from my uncle, saying his wife's cousin was at Cantor Fitzgerald. They baptized his youngest at the memorial service.

The son of a friend of my parents decided to go into work late, and surfed instead. So lived.

Days later, standing in line at BabyGap to pay for something, the woman in front of me talked about how her boyfriend was doing clean up work at the site. And all he could talk about was the smell and the body parts. And the smell.

My mother's cousin also worked at the site; he died about seven months later. The autoposy said he was full of asbestos; from the site? Who knows.

I live in the area of New Jersey that is full of commuters; it was, and is, endless, the stories, the connections, the loss.

A year ago, someone from out of state asked why there were so many 9/11 memorials in NJ. After all, in happened in New York.

Yes, it happened in New York. But they commuted from New Jersey and Connecticut and Long Island. They went to work, they got on planes for business trips and vacations. They did nothing wrong. It wasn't their fault.

It didn't just happen to New York.

What Medieval Plague Do You Have?

I saw this at Sarah's Bookarama and couldn't resist.

Which Medieval Plague Do You Have?

Congratulations! You have The Plague! The ABSOLUTE premier disease of the Middle Ages, you probably caught this by the bite of an infected flea or from someone with the pneumonic form. You are suffering from swellings called buboes, in the lymph nodes of the neck, armpits and groin. These are going to become very painful as they fill up with blood and pus. Your headache is going to get much worse, your temperature will become unbearable and you will soon be delirious. Vomiting and diarrhea will accompany all of this. More bad news is that there is a 75% mortality rate. The good news is, if you live, jobs are going to be much more plentiful!
Take this quiz!


Make A Quiz More Quizzes Grab Code


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Now That I Have A Title....

I just have to write the book:
Remember, when in doubt, just add booze.
My best-selling young adult novel is The Not-So-Terrible life of a French Toast Vampire.
Take Your Very Own Best-Selling YA Novel today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Name Generator Generator

Friday, September 08, 2006

Emily Reads: Haiku

I just discovered Emily Reads (good things come from googling one's blog) (oh, you do it, too!).

Emily's blog is a lot of fun; all of her book reviews are in the form of Haiku. I know! So cool!

Here's a taste, her review of Caddy Ever After:

Another winner --
But why name it for Caddy?
She barely shows up.

Poetry Friday

Taught Me Purple
by Evelyn Tooley Hunt

My mother taught me purple
Although she never wore it.
Wash-grey was her circle,
The tenement her orbit.

The rest of the poem is here.

I'll be back later tonight to do a round up.

Added Friday evening:

Because I could not stop for Death at The Simple and the Ordinary
George is a monkey who’s always quite curious at GottaBook (original by Gregory K)
Living in New York, you think you've seen everything at Chicken Spaghetti
My father's face is brown with sun at Farm School
On the other side of the door at A Wrung Sponge
She comes like the hush and beauty of the night at Susan Taylor Brown's LiveJournal (bonus poem in the comments)
Tell me, O Octopus I begs at Journey Woman
There is not much difference in the actual at Big A little a
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night at Jen Robinson's Book Page
Winter-Piece: You wake, all windows blind - embattled sprays at Scholar's Blog (edited to add title)

Poetry Book Reviews:
Beware, Take Care at Blog From The Windowsill
For The Good of Earth and Sun: Teaching Poetry and Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School at A Year In Reading
Moving Day at Fuse Number 8

Honorary Mention:

Because even tho it wasn't posted on Friday, it's great and awesome and Steve Irwin deserves a Viking poem: Farewell Crocodile Hunter by Garth Nix

Did I miss you? Blame bloglines, blame blogger, don't blame me. Just post a comment and I'll update Saturday.

Added later Friday Evening:
Wow! It sure is good to be you at MotherReader

Added Sunday:
September: By all these lovely tokens at Bildungsroman/Little Willow
The Author to Her Book: Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain at Here in the Bonny Glen

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

New Voices Award

Via the Create/Relate blog by Anastasia Suen:
LEE & LOW BOOKS, the award-winning publisher of multicultural books for children, is pleased to announce the seventh annual NEW VOICES AWARD. The Award will be given for a children’s picture book story by a writer of color.
See the Lee & Low website for more details. The Create/Relate post is here.

I'm always impressed with the titles from this publisher.

Buffy Quote of the Week

"That's the great thing about beer. Makes all men the same."
--Jack, Ep: Beer Bad

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mystery At The Club Sandwich

Mystery At The Club Sandwich by Doug Cushman.

The Plot: Nick Trunk, detective, investigates a theft. A singer has lost her marbles.

The Good: This is a mystery that is a picture book. I love sophisticated picture books; personally, I enjoy them, but I also love options for those kids who are reluctant readers, or who are in ESL, or have a learning issue, or whatever - I love when they have picture books available that aren't aimed at babies. Also, on a professional level, it's easier to do a read aloud with a picture book to a whole class.

This book plays with language; so, the reader (or listener) needs to know certain things about how language works to get the jokes. For example, Nick introduces himself: "My name is Nick Trunk. I am a detective. People hire me to find things. I do not charge much. I work for peanuts." Why is this funny? Nick Trunk is an elephant.

Nick continues, "One morning, the door to my office opened. In walked a beautiful lady. She looked like trouble."

"My name is Trouble," she said. "Maggie Trouble."


Needless to say, the person who lost their marbles, lost real marbles.

The pictures provide visual clues; so a careful reader, meaning someone who is also looking at the pictures, will easily solve the crime. When I read this to a group of kids ages six to eleven, they quickly figured out the plot. But hello, you name someone Trouble and that's a pretty big flag.

You know what? That's OK. Part of a the pleasure that comes from reading a mystery is the feeling of smartness in figuring it out, either before or at the same time as the people in the book. (That said, a bad mystery is one where it's so obvious it's laughable... this one has plenty of red herrings, false clues, and unfolds at a nice pace.) Plus, this is a great introduction to detective stories.

American Indian Youth Literature Awards Announced

Criteria: "This new literary award was created as a way to identify and honor the very best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians. Books selected to receive the award present Native Americans in the fullness of their humanity in the present and past contexts." (from Press Release, link below)

Presented by: American Indian Library Association (AILA), an affiliate of the American Library Association (ALA)

Picture Book:
Beaver Steals Fire: A Salish Coyote Story, by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, illustrated by Sam Sandoval, and published by the University of Nebraska Press.

Middle School:
The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich.

Young Adult:
Hidden Roots by Joseph Bruchac.

Press Release here.

Additional Links: American Indians In Children's Literature

Interviews by Liz

June 10, 2006
Interview with Jill I.,

May 27, 2006
Interview with Ally Carter,

April 14, 2006
Interview with Tanya Lee Stone,

April 10, 2006
Interview with Jess Lourey,

April 1, 2006
Interview with DL Garfinkle,

March 11, 2006
Interview with Mary E. Pearson,

January 31, 2006
Interview with Jeff Chow,

August 1, 2005
Interview with Cathy Belben,

June 24, 2005
Interview with Jennifer Blanc,

More Kiki

As I noted in my review of Kiki Strike, my mother grew up in DeeDee's neighborhood (but that was lo those many years ago. Actually, my mother grew up in the same apartment that her mother grew up in. (Back then, it was an Irish working class neighborhood.) And now I cannot even afford to think of living in that area. Of course, it would probably be better if I first got a job in NYC. Ah well.)

My mom loves NYC history, so even tho I didn't think of Kiki as her type of book I passed it along to her.

How much does she love Kiki? She is sending it to her sisters. She is talking about other people who may like this book. She teaches high school (math), and has already said she plans to pass it along to students. She liked it because of the NYC background and history; but loved it because, well, who wouldn't love Kiki?

Mom isn't a YA reader (tho I did sneak A Northern Light into her summer reading pile and she loved it.)

Upon finishing Kiki she asked me, are you sure this is a YA book?

Yes, yes it is.

If there's one YA book you pass along to people regardless of their age... it's this book.

(tho as my mother looks at this she also wants to add that A Northern Light was also a wonderful book.)

Fear And Loathing In New York

Actually, the workshop is Fear and Fiction: The Power of Children's Books and the Inner Life of the Child, a conference co-sponsored by the Yale Child Study Center and the Anna Freud Centre in London. It's being held at the Bank Street College in New York City on Saturday, October 21, 2006. Participating authors include: Gregory Maguire, David Almond, Chris Crutcher, Robie H. Harris, Lois Lowry, Pam Munoz Ryan, Martin Waddell, Mo Williams and Jacqueline Woodson.

And I'm going!!! Yay, me!!!

So if you'll be there, let me know.

A Request for Authors

I know that promoting a book is hard work, and that often it's done entirely on "author time." And that part of that work is contacting your local library about purchasing copies.

A simple request -- if you're going to do this, it would be really nice if you had a library card.

I'm just saying.

Monday, September 04, 2006

London Calling

London Calling by Edward Bloor. Reviewed from ARC; publication date September 2006.

The Plot: Martin Conway is having problems at school, problems his self-sacrificing mother chooses not to see. Martin is burdened by the sacrifices his mother is making to send him to a school he doesn't want to be at; by the failure of his parent's marriage; by his poor relationship with his alcoholic father; and by the pressure of living up to his mother's father, a World War II hero.

When Martin's maternal grandmother dies, he is left her radio; and when he listens to it, he finds himself transported back in time, to London during the Blitz. Back in the modern world, he begins to look into the history of London, the Blitz, and the people he meets when back in time. He begins to discover secrets he didn't know existed, and finds answers to questions people wanted to keep hidden.

The Good: Martin's evolution is very believable, as he tries to reconcile the different aspects of his life and his history.

Bloor uses an odd device; an adult Martin is telling the story of what happened to him as a young teen. The adult lives in our future, with his 12 year old past being our present (and the Blitz is everyone's past.) I'm not sure why he did this, but I felt as if the present were more 1950-ish than today because of it.

Bloor doesn't explain what is happening with the radio; is Martin seeing ghosts or is he indeed traveling into the past? What is happening in the past, the present, and the future?

The story is full of betrayals and truth and secrets. I love that LC honors the Blitz and those Londoners who lived during that time; at the same time, Bloor does not deify those who lived then, and instead confronts the "greatest generation" label placed on everyone connected with world war II. He shows that they were not heroes; but neither were they traitors; they were men, with weaknesses and faults. Humans. And as soon as Martin can escape from thinking of people as either strong or weak; hero or loser; he frees himself.

I also loved Martin's sister, who helps him with the research that takes place on the Internet but also in real life, as they track down documents and people. I also liked how it shows that sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to get the real story.

Links: It's impossible to read this book and not think about Frequency. I'm not sure the connection to the song.

Sad News From Australia

Steve Irwin died after being stung in the chest by a sting ray; a truly one in million accident, as he was stung in the worst possible place, his chest.

Children's author Colin Thiele has died.

Thanks to Judith Ridge for the information.

Chicken And Cat

Chicken And Cat by Sara Varon.

The Plot: In this wordless picture book, country cat visits city chicken and has city adventures: Cat sees rats and cockroaches and goes on a trip to Coney Island. Cat misses the flowers of the country, so plants some in a nearby lot, bringing a bit of the country to the city.

The Good: I like wordless picture books because they allow any "reader", even those who aren't yet reading, to read the book. I like how that brings out both visual decoding skills and imagination.

I like the illustrations, which of course are so important when there are no words to explain what's going on.

In one picture, Cat looks out the window; in the next, we're outside the building, looking in the window at Cat.

I found it very funny that Cat and Chicken never have on any clothes, but when they go to the beach, they put on bathing suits.

Carnival Of Children's Literature: Submissions Sought

Summer's over!

And the next Carnival of Children's Literature will be held at Wands and Worlds.

Full information on how to submit an entry is here.

If you scroll down my sidebar to where I keep my buttons, you'll see I FINALLY got the Carnival button working (for some reason, it kept insisting on bleeding across the entire webpage. Until today. Yay, mindless cutting and pasting!)

As a recap to those who are new to Carnivals:

It's basically a round-up of posts from across the kidlitosphere (children's literature blogosphere); you submit one post from your blog (details above); the blog hosting the carnival (this time, Wands and Worlds) assembles them in a fab way; then the Carnival is posted at that site.

When you go to the Carnival, it's a combination of revisiting posts you remembered reading, reading posts from blogs you swore you'd been reading so how did you miss this post, and discovering new blogs. And it's good exposure for your own blog. See that button I told you about? There's a link to the archives of the Carnival, so you can go and see what I'm talking about. They're held monthly; and the person who started it all is She Who Never Sleeps, Melissa Wiley.

Posts can be reviews, editorials, just about anything.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City

Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller.

The Plot: Ananka relates how she first met the legendary Kiki Strike six years before, when they were both twelve. She followed the mysterious vigilante Kiki and helped recruit the four other Irregulars, uniquely talented Girl Scouts: DeeDee, scientific genius; Oona, expert forger; Betty, master of disguises; and Luz, inventor. Kiki is the leader; and Ananka is research girl. Their mission: to explore and map the mysterious New York City "Shadow City", an underground labyrinth of rooms and tunnels and escape hatches.

But the girls realize that Kiki isn't being honest with them, and when the exploration goes tragically wrong, Kiki disappears, the FBI shows up, and the Irregulars drift apart.

Two years later, strange robberies take place that only could be done with unique knowledge of the Shadow City. It has to be Kiki Strike; the girls band together one more time, to solve the crimes and find Kiki. But maybe Kiki will find them first . . .

The Good: This is a fabulous book; the writing and voice are amazing, the plot is fast moving, intricate, and clever, and the girls are inspiring and likable and unique. It's Harriet the Spy meets James Bond; you think Alex Rider is something? Well, imagine if Alex put together his own super spy organization.

Have you ever watched a movie with spies or a crime caper, where the team has been working together for years and they are skilled, capable, with chemistry and one liners? And have you ever wondered how the team got together? If so, KS:ITSC is for you. It has adventure, history, mystery, and humor. It's a girl power book, but I also think your Alex Rider and Artemis Fowle fans will love it. It also celebrates brainy, nerdy, loner girls; and while I love Nick & Norah as much as the next girl, I know that I would never, ever be cool enough for them; I wouldn't be hanging out with them at any NYC clubs. The Irregulars, tho? They're my people. We'd have cafe au lait together.

Ananka is relating her past, so it's a bit of tough reporter with a hint of fondness , as an 18 year old looks back on her youth. She's worldly wise now, but not so much then, and it works perfectly. So while the book is about girls aged 12 to 14, it also has the sophistication of an older teen voice. Some examples: "Until the age of twelve, I led what most people would consider an unexceptional life. My activities on an average day could be boiled down to a flavorless mush; I went to school, I came home, I took a bath, and I went to bed. Though I'm certain I didn't realize it at the time, I must have been terribly bored."

And Kiki. Let's just say, I want a Kiki Strike T-shirt and I want it now. One of the many joys of this book is that it is absolutely believable that a 12 year old 7th grader could assemble a crackerjack team of other 12 year olds. She is intelligent, mysterious, driven, talented, and sometimes cranky and demanding.

I also love the time frame in this book; in addition to the whole book being a flash back told by 18 year old Ananka, it's also a story that takes four years to unfold. Four years! Why? Because teams don't just happen. Good plans aren't made in twenty four hours. It takes weeks and months, and this book allows that to happen.

Between the Irregulars and the bad guys, Miller juggles a big cast of characters and does it well. The girls are a mix of ethnicities and income levels and families, which sometimes causes tensions.

Almost every chapter ends with helpful spy / detective tips from Ananka. "Until now, [my] diaries have sat undisturbed on my bedroom shelves, cleverly disguised as Harlequin romances." Tips include How to Take Advantage of Being a Girl; How to Catch A Lie; How to Prepare for Adventure.

I mentioned history; KS:ITSC takes place in New York City, and many of the places mentioned are real. I so want to take a Kiki Strike City Tour now! It's one of hidden houses, cemeteries, castles, inns and cafes and streets were murders took place not so long ago.

While this book stands alone, there is room for sequels. I cannot wait to jump on the Vespa and join Kiki and the Irregulars in a new round of adventures. This book is for teens; but I would recommend it to younger readers and also to adults. It's going on my best books list!

More quotes I adored:

"The good news is, with the right attitude and attention to detail, you can become whatever you want."

"If by now you're a little confused, don't be too hard on yourself. Life is confusing, and anyone who claims that she has all the answers has probably uncovered the wrong ones."

"I decide that the real lesson to be learned from fairy tales is that things are rarely what they seem."

Edited to add: My mother grew up on West 106th street, which is where DeeDee lives. And the website for Kiki Strike has a lot more than just Ananka's blog.
Links: Ananka's Blog. Not surprisingly, when I took the "what Irregular are you" quiz, I was Ananka.

"You're Ananka

You love to read and write. Friends may call you "bookish," but you prefer the term "well informed." While you're not the most vocal member of your circle of friends, you can step up and be a leader when you need to be. What you lack in organizational skills, you make up for in brains and determination. You're a curious individual with a good head on her shoulders."

Teenreads interview.

Edited to fix a mistake with a name. Darn you, spellcheck!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Request: SF Titles for the Under 12s

Lady Rona has a request: science fiction for under 12s that is not speculative fiction (such as Among the Hidden) and not fantasy.

For the life of me, I'm having trouble thinking of recent titles; all I could come up with are things from when I was an under 12, or things that are firmly YA (such as Double Helix).

Any suggestions?

The Great Mortality

The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time by John Kelly

The title explains it all, doesn't it?

A very reader-friendly history book.

My random thoughts:

The amount of filth, refuse, garbage and body wastes that people lived with in the past is staggering. Unimaginable. Best invention ever? indoor plumbing.

And the rats! ew. Ew. Ew.

I love time travel books; I love history books. Every time I get into one of those "wouldn't you like to see the past" modes, I will remember this books because I so would not survive the stink. I'd be curled up in a corner, trying not to breath thru my nose, in total mental shutdown.

Cool bits, that show how everything is connected (and yes, the study of history is important and yes, that includes having dates memorized and learning about dead people and empires and countries): the impact of the collapse of the Roman Empire was ginormous; as well as environmental issues impacted by those things no one had control over, like earthquakes, tsunamis, rain, heat, cold. I was also impressed with how international the plague was and how interlinked the world was, from China to Italy to Greenland. Also intriguing was the impact of the plague and the breakdown of community on society, economy, and religion.

And slave markets full of Ukrainians? Who knew?

Boys And Reading

Boys and reading is a hot topic. Arthur Slade (author of Dust, one of my favorite books of all time) recently blogged about getting boys to read. It's a great round up of tips and links, including SIBYLs (songs inspired by literature) and using YouTube and podcasts.

Cross posted at Pop.


Mimus by Lilli Thal (translated from German)

The Plot: Prince Florin's father, King Philip, is negotiating a truce between his country, Moltovia, and Vinland. Prince Florin is overjoyed when his father sends for him to join in the celebrations of peace. When Prince Florin arrives at King Theodo's court, he discovers it's a trap; his father has been taken prisoner, his knights and nobles either killed or imprisoned, and now Florin is a prisoner, also. King Theodo finds it amusing to humiliate young Florin by turning him into the lowest of the low -- a jester. Every day, Florin must learn how to keep the king amused, as Florin's father rots in the dungeon and Florin's homeland is attacked.

The Good: This is set in an alternative Middle Ages; it's subtle, done mainly so that Thal can have this be historically accurate yet create her own kingdoms, kings, history and motivation. It works extremely well. The names are slightly familiar: Vinland, Frankenland, Angelland; the history is similar, with references to Persia and the Greek gods. While this isn't "historical" in that it's not tied into real people, countries, or events, it is historical in terms of capturing the feeling of a time and the way people lived.

Florin is totally humiliated by his reversal in life: "sooner or later he would go mad with shame." And isn't that what most kids are afraid of? Shame. Dreams of being in school naked, fears of people laughing. This is combined with a reality of many children's lives: a lack of power: Florin is a captive child, and should he misbehave or try to escape, the prisoners in the dungeon will pay the price in the torture chamber. He has no options. He is powerless.

Florin is given to a fool, a jester called Mimus. Mimus is initially rough with the boy; well, actually, he is always rough with the boy. He's not a nice, compassionate mentor. But he does become a mentor to young Florin. Florin, while not spoiled or arrogant, was privileged; and truth be told, it doesn't hurt him to see, literally, how the other half lives. How the lives of the rich and noble are possible because of those who sleep in straw and eat table scraps.

As Florin adjusts to his new life, he learns many things. Including the origins of the war between his father and Theodo; and what he learns surprises him and shifts his reality. It's not a world of black and white, but of gray. Revenge is sweet...but what happens when it is carried too far? It turns out that Theodo has suffered because of King Philip's actions; isn't he entitled to some revenge? But now Florin is suffering. When does the cycle end? Is it possible to have revenge and forgiveness?

The most important thing Mimus teaches Florin is not how to juggle or tell jokes; it's how to watch. To plot. To plan. To observe. To use what you have to not be as powerless as people may think. Florin the fool may be able to save his kingdom and his father in a way that Prince Florin never could.

This book has action, adventure, and a surprising amount of humor. (Surprising because Florin is constantly in danger and his father and nobles are being tortured). With the right booktalk -- that captures the adventure, the laughs, the danger -- this will fly off the shelves.

Webster schools & Rainbow Boys

I didn't blog about the Webster Schools and their decision to remove Rainbow Boys from their summer reading list because it looked like it was being covered by the blogosphere, and I didn't think I had nothing new to add (except sighs of not again). In case you don't know what I'm talking about, go over to AS IF (Authors Support Intellectual Freedom) , which has been covering it.

I'm blogging now because I try to be even-handed; not just complain, but also say Yay!, so I want to point out a editorial in the school's local paper that is nice, balanced, and supports the book being on the reading list: Webster schools cave to censors' pressure.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Poetry Friday

I was watching one of my favorite films so felt compelled to use this Sonnet by William Shakespeare today.

In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes,
For they in thee a thousand errors note;
But 'tis my heart that loves what they despise,
Who in despite of view is pleased to dote;
Nor are mine ears with thy tongue's tune delighted,
Nor tender feeling, to base touches prone,
Nor taste, nor smell, desire to be invited
To any sensual feast with thee alone:
But my five wits nor my five senses can
Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee,
Who leaves unsway'd the likeness of a man,
Thy proud hearts slave and vassal wretch to be:
Only my plague thus far I count my gain,
That she that makes me sin awards me pain.

There's a great round up at Big A little a.