Friday, March 31, 2006

Poetry Friday

Begun by Big A little a; and more poetry at Jen Robinson's Book Page and Students for Literacy Ottawa.

My contribution this week:

It's not so much that I like The Passionate Shepherd to His Love by Christopher Marlowe, which I do:

Come live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.

There will we sit upon the rocks
And see the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

There will I make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroider'd all with leaves of myrtle.

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull,
Fair linèd slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold.

A belt of straw and ivy buds
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my Love.

Thy silver dishes for thy meat
As precious as the gods do eat,
Shall on an ivory table be
Prepared each day for thee and me.

The shepherd swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my Love.


But I LOVE the The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd by Sir Walter Raleigh:

If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd's tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy Love.

But Time drives flocks from field to fold;
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold;
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complains of cares to come.


The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward Winter reckoning yields:
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy's spring, but sorrow's fall.


Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies,
Soon break, soon wither—soon forgotten,
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw and ivy-buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,—
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy Love.

But could youth last, and love still breed,
Had joys no date, nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy Love.

If you're looking to read more about Walter, there is a great book about his wife, Elizabeth Throckmorton. It gives one of the better explorations about the politics of the Tudor court, with particular regard to family: My Just Desire : The Life of Bess Raleigh, Wife to Sir Walter by Anna Beer. In reading MJD, things that I read elsewhere "clicked" to explain some of what was (and was not) happening in the Tudor court.

Buffy Quote of the Week

"We find it, we alert the Slayer, we help her destroy it, we save Sunnydale . . .
Then we join her gang and possibly hang out at her house."
-- Andrew, Ep: Conversations With Dead People

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies)

Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen Headley.

The Plot: Patty Ho is half-Taiwanese, half white. She was born in the United States, but she feels like she doesn't belong anywhere. At home, there is her ultra-strict mother and overachieving going-to-Harvard brother; there are less than a handful Asian kids at school (and certainly no half Asians), all who are "China Dolls" -- something Patty is not. When a fortune teller predicts that Patty will end up with a white guy, Patty's mother decides she can change fate by sending Patty to Math Camp at Stanford.

The Good: Patty is funny! But it's a dry sort of funny, a snarky sort of funny that is hard to explain.

While reading this, I was reminded of Gretchen Yee in Fly on the Wall. Patty is first generation; isn't living in a diverse town; and isn't in a diverse school. And as Patty finds out - these things matter.

Patty dreads Math Camp, in part because it's part of the Asian "super smart" stereotype she rebels against. And sure enough, she finds a lot of Asian students... but she also finds out that they don't fit the stereotype. Especially the very cute Stu. For the firs time, she is in a truly diverse world.

What Patty also finds is what many teens find the first time they are truly away from home -- that she has the freedom to not so much reinvent herself as to discover herself. And, that finding yourself does not mean abandoning your self or forgetting where you started.

I liked Patty's conflict -- she is good at math, but she likes writing. What should she do? I also was good at math, and while I didn't go to math camp, did go to an engineering for women week long summer program. In which I discovered that just because someone is good at something doesn't mean the person has to like it.

There is also the issue of culture and immigration. Patty looks at the "typical" lives of her friends in high school and wishes she was white; that she had the "normal" house, without the mother who speaks in an accent, and without the strange food. I can't think of the titles, now; but having read other books that deal with the first generation conflict, the tension between the culture of the "old country" and the "new", I know what Patty does not -- that her struggle is more typical than she knows. It is difficult to have a foot in both worlds.

Patty has to confront not only the bias and assumptions of her classmates; she also has to confront her own.

Finally, this book is about being OK with yourself -- being more than OK. About liking yourself, and being proud of yourself. For Patty, that includes learning that she is hapa -- half Asian, half white -- and embracing that.

Other links:

Author's MySpace page.

Cynsations interview.

Nothing But the Truth College Scholarship (deadline July 31 2006).

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Thief

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner.

I'm hearing a lot of good buzz about The King of Attolia. It's the third in a series, and I haven't read the first two, The Thief and The Queen of Attolia. So, in order to read TKOA, I took home The Thief.

I'm in love. I've fallen in love with characters before -- I think Will Stanton was my first book boyfriend. And there have been others, like Mr. Darcy. But it's been a while.... until I met Gen.

Oh, yeah, the plot.

The Plot: Gen is a master thief -- in prison because while he may be a master thief, successfully stealing the King's seal, he then boasted about it. In public. Including showing the King's seal to one and all. And thanks to the boasting, he is now in prison. He's lost track of time, until the King's Magus comes to him with a deal: Gen will be let out of prison. Provided he helps Magus steal Hamiathes's Gift. Gen says yes -- hello, it's getting him out of prison, of course he's going to say yes -- all the while plotting, wondering how he can make this situation work for him. Top on the list, of course, is not returning to prison.

The Good: Did I mention Gen is my new book boyfriend? While this is a YA book, Gen's age isn't given; he's probably in his late teens. He is snarky, funny, overly dramatic about things, smart, charming. He tries to keep his secrets, but sometimes he can't help boasting about his talent or his knowledge.

When it comes time to steal -- Gen puts his money where his mouth is. He does have what it takes; he's boasting about real talent. Not making it up.

This is also a good adventure yarn; once Gen is out of prison, there's a journey to find the location of the Hamiathes's Gift, so Road Trip! Road Trips are fun, and this one includes the Magus, who doesn't trust Gen; two young apprentices of the Magus, nicknamed Useless the Younger and Useless the Older by Gen (and yes, he does share this with the two young men); and a seasoned soldier, Pol, who is keeping an eye on Gen.

Turner has created three kingdoms with a complex history. It's important to the plot -- the King wants the Gift for political reasons.

Turner has reveals that left me breathless. And I won't say any more than that, because if you are one of the few people who haven't read the book yet -- well, I'm not going to give it away. (We can talk about it in the comments, tho!) She did it note-perfect; with the reveals making perfect sense, yet being a surprise.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Haiku for The Third Carnival of Children’s Literature

The third Carnival is on its way, and is being hosted by Semicolon. Full details are there, but the important things are:

Submissions are due Saturday, April 1st, no foolin'.

  • You may submit any post, but the theme is Poetry because April is National Poetry Month.
  • I have no idea what I am going to send; the pressure is on because that deadline is only a week away.
And so, my Haiku for the Carnival, with apologies to those who, you know, actually have talent.

Kid lit carnival
Share in the smiles and wisdom
Hurry, submit now

The Blue Girl

The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint.

The Plot: New School Year, New School, New Home: Imogene has resolved to start over. She's putting her bad-girl, gang-member past behind her. Everything is going according to plan: she's made friends with the shy and smart Maxine and she is not causing trouble, no matter what the popular jocks and cheerleaders say or do. Then Imogene meets Adrian -- the school ghost. Which attracts the attention of the fairies. Who feel a little threatened by Imogene and Adrian's friendship. And as we all know, fairies aren't always cute little creatures out of a children's storybook. They can be mean. But the fairies have chosen to mess with the wrong girl.

The Good: True confessions: this is the first Charles de Lint I've read. I know! Simply no excuse.
TBG is urban fantasy. While I also like traditional fantasy, there is something very appealing about fantasy that is part of the modern world.

I like the bad-girl back-story for Imogene; I liked it was something that was part of her, that she wasn't proud of, but at the same time, not ashamed. It made sense, and it gave her an edge that was needed when it was time to do battle with the supernatural.

I loved Imogene's courage and Maxine's strength. They need each other: as friends, but also as fighters as the battles with the fairies escalate.

Some of the characters were so fully developed that I began to wonder if they had been mentioned in other de Lint books, particularly that of Esmeralda.

Once the fairies and the supernatural make themselves known, I like how Imogene and Maxine respond. And part of the response? A trip to the library for research! (Yeah, it takes little to make me happy.)

Also good: alternating narrators. And an time line that cut back and forth between the present and the past, adding a growing layer of suspense.

To the Buffy fans: Imogene isn't Buffy -- she's Faith, and Maxine is Willow. And imagine if Xander had died a few years before -- that's Adrian.

To Supernatural fans: you could easily imagine Dean and Sam driving into town in the Metallicar to save the day, only to be told by Imogene sorry, dudes, day saved weeks ago, want to go out?

Brick

Brick sounds like a great movie; if it comes to the local theatre, I may even get a chance to see it before it comes out in DVD. I love the snippet of dialogue that was in this weekend's New York Times.

What is it about? Here are the first sentences from the IMDB Plot Summary:
Brick, the dynamic debut feature from writer/director Rian Johnson, won the Sundance Film Festival's Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision. Brick, while taking its cues and its verbal style from the novels of Dashiell Hammett, also honors the rich cinematic tradition of the hard-boiled noir mystery, here wittily and bracingly immersed in fresh territory - a modern-day Southern California neighborhood and high school.


Sounds cool, yes?

It also makes me realize how many film reviewers don't watch TV. I GoogleNews-ed Brick and noir and got 31 hits; adding Veronica Mars brought it down to 1, an article from the Guardian Unlimited.

Some people like movies; some like TV shows; some like both. I'm using this non-mention of VM as a starting point of a rant about why, still, watching TV is looked down on but watching movies, not so much. It's equally true inside the entertainment industry. Film stars are viewed as better than TV stars.

And the difference between film and TV is?

Yeah, I don't see a big difference either. Answers to the differences between the two may point to how the story is told, or the budget for the story, or production issues. But I cannot think of a single answer that translates into one format being inherently superior to the other. Yet as I read the reviews of Brick, and get excited about seeing it, I can't help but wonder that the reason Brick is described as a "genuinely inspired conceit" is because those who review film don't see what is on TV and even if they are aware of current programs, they don't see TV as important. If it hasn't been done on film before, it's inspired; it doesn't matter whether or not it's been done on TV.

Nothing against Brick; I'm can't wait to watch it. I think it's one of those interesting coincidences that it and VM are being done at the same time. But I think my viewing experience will be richer and fuller from knowing Veronica.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Poetry Friday

Kelly at Big A little a is starting a Poetry Friday. I read more poetry as a kid than I do now. Part of the reason is that we had anthologies and the like at the house, most being books my mother had purchased for college classes. One of my favorites was The Arbuthnot Anthology of Children's Literature, 4th edition. Not the typical favorite of your regular fourth grader, but I loved it. Which goes to show, that the books you have around the house, waiting for your child to discover, are important.

Anyway, this is a poem that was included in that Anthology. It gave me chills then, and it still moves me. And it started a love of all things Robin Hood (TV or movie).


A SONG OF SHERWOOD
by
ALFRED NOYES

Sherwood in the twilight, is Robin Hood awake?
Grey and ghostly shadows are gliding through the brake,
Shadows of the dappled deer, dreaming of the morn,
Dreaming of a shadowy man that winds a shadowy horn.

Robin Hood is here again: all his merry thieves
Hear a ghostly bugle-note shivering through the leaves,
Calling as he used to call, faint and far away,
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Merry, merry England has kissed the lips of June:
All the wings of fairyland were here beneath the moon,
Like a flight of rose-leaves fluttering in a mist
Of opal and ruby and pearl and amethyst.

Merry, merry England is waking as of old,
With eyes of blither hazel and hair of brighter gold:
For Robin Hood is here again beneath the bursting spray
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Love is in the greenwood building him a house
Of wild rose and hawthorn and honeysuckle boughs:
Love is in the greenwood, dawn is in the skies,
And Marian is waiting with a glory in her eyes.

Hark! The dazzled laverock climbs the golden steep!
Marian is waiting: is Robin Hood asleep?
Round the fairy grass-rings frolic elf and fay,
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Oberon, Oberon, rake away the gold,
Rake away the red leaves, roll away the mould,
Rake away the gold leaves, roll away the red,
And wake Will Scarlett from his leafy forest bed.

Friar Tuck and Little John are riding down together
With quarter-staff and drinking-can and grey goose-feather.
The dead are coming back again, the years are rolled away
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Softly over Sherwood the south wind blows.
All the heart of England hid in every rose
Hears across the greenwood the sunny whisper leap,
Sherwood in the red dawn, is Robin Hood asleep?

Hark, the voice of England wakes him as of old
And, shattering the silence with a cry of brighter gold,

Bugles in the greenwood echo from the steep,
Sherwood in the red dawn, is Robin Hood asleep?

Where the deer are gliding down the shadowy glen
All across the glades of fern he calls his merry men--
Doublets of the Lincoln green glancing through the May
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day--

Calls them and they answer: from aisles of oak and ash
Rings the Follow! Follow! and the boughs begin to crash,
The ferns begin to flutter and the flowers begin to fly,
And through the crimson dawning the robber band goes by.

Robin! Robin! Robin! All his merry thieves
Answer as the bugle-note shivers through the leaves,
Calling as he used to call, faint and far away,
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.


Michele at Scholar's Blog shares one of her favorite poems.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Buffy Quote of the Week

"Have you heard, they call him 'William the Bloody' because of his bloody awful poetry."
-- Partygoer about Spike, Ep: Fool for Love

NJLA

Are you going to the New Jersey Library Association Conference?

Interested in a "Jersey Bloggers" get together?

If so, please email me at lizzy.burns @ gmail.com.

Right now, it looks like Tuesday at lunch works for the most people.

Thanks!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award is ALA's new award to recognize beginning reader books. Here's a round-up of the titles and my opinions. I think I've mentioned before that I try to just say what I like about a book; if I don't like it, I won't review it. But as I read the Winner and Honor Books, twice I encountered a plot device that bothers me. I don't read a lot of beginning readers, so I don't have a context in my reading. Maybe this is common in these books. And maybe it reflects reality for many kids.

But I'd like to think that even if I read a lot of them, this particular thing would still bug me. And for what it's worth: I didn't pick up on it. My niece, 5 year old Queen Lucy, noticed it first. And it bothered her.

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award 2006 Winners

2006 Medal Winner

Henry and Mudge and the Great Grandpas written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Suçie Stevenson.
The Plot: Henry and Mudge visit Great Grandpa at his nursing home, along with all the other "great grandpas" who live there. It's a fun book, with a trip to a swimming hole, swimming in "skivvies" (underwear) and a spaghetti dinner. Henry and Mudge are a lot of fun.

In reading this with Queen Lucy, we had a stumbling block that really bothered me. I try not to go negative in my reviews and comments, but I couldn't find this addressed anywhere and it was something that caused quite a discussion as we read. Queen Lucy is happily reading along with me, giggling at the idea of going swimming in your underwear. Then:
Henry looked at his mother.
"No girls allowed, Mom," Henry said.
Henry's mother smiled.
"Anyway," she said, "I was going to make spaghetti for the grandpas."
And Queen Lucy turned to me and said, "why can't girls go swimming?" I said something about boys and girls seeing each other in their underwear, but to a girl who spends her entire summer at the beach, where bathing suits cover the same parts as underwear, and who is still young enough to share a bathtub with her three year old brother... well, I could tell she was having a problem with it. How do I explain why Mom stays home to cook while the boys go have fun? Pushing the point, Queen Lucy asked, "does this mean Mudge is a boy?" Because Mudge got to go swimming.

I'm bothered that Queen Lucy is bothered; it was enough to take her "out of the story", which is never good; but I'm glad that she's listening and paying enough attention to notice this stuff.


2006 Honor Books:

Hi! Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold.
The Plot: A boy catches a fly to be his pet. You think a fly cannot be a pet and is only a pest? Think again.

Cool cover, cute story, and I loved how the fly knew the boy's name. Queen Lucy loves animals of all kinds, and this was her favorite.

A Splendid Friend, Indeed by Suzanne Bloom.
The Plot: Bear is reading a book; so Goose wants to read. Bear is writing; so Goose wants to write. Can they work this out?

This is a picture book; but what I loved about it is that it pays attention to visual literacy. Goose has all the lines, and they are simple enough for a beginning reader. Bear has none; but his thoughts are crystal clear from his body language, so the reader has to interpret what is going on from how Bear turns or holds his head. It's also a familiar story to anyone with a younger brother or sister.

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa written by Erica Silverman and illustrated by Betsy Lewin.
The Plot: The adventures of Cowboy Kate and her ever-hungry horse Cocoa.

Queen Lucy loves animals, so this was a hit with her. I liked how Kate and Cocoa took care of each other. I also liked how the horse (despite talking!) was "real": Kate and Cocoa were out working, she was feeding him real horse food, she had to take care of Cocoa before going to sleep.

Amanda Pig and the Really Hot Day written by Jean Van Leeuwen and illustrated by Ann Schweninger .
The Plot: Amanda "was never so hot in my whole life." So what will she, her friends and her family do, when even your hair ribbons are hot?

I liked how it perfectly captured a hot and sticky day, and the things that can be done to try to be less hot: eat a Popsicle, run under the hose, drink lemonade, wait outside for a breeze after the sun goes down.

But, thanks to my niece, I was also sensitive to the fact -- and surprised by the fact -- that I ran into my second "no girls allowed" book! And once again, the girls don't challenge it so much as adjust their own expectations. (I did not read this one with the Queen, so I cannot share her reactions. And I think I may hold off reading this one with her.)

Oliver (I think this is Amanda's older brother) is building a fort, and when Amanda wants to help, she is told "no girls allowed." And Mom's response to Oliver's being "mean" is that it's silly to work on a hot day, why not sit in the shade? So Amanda sits in the shade having a tea party; and negotiates entry into the fort by sharing lemonade. But she still isn't allowed to help build the fort.


So that's my roundup; and I'm not sure if I'm being over-sensitive and over-reading. But in all honesty, I'm not sure what I'm more surprised about: this matter of fact "no girls allowed" in 2 of these books; or the reaction (or non-reaction) to "no girls allowed."

Particularly for those who read a lot of these books, or other books in these series: is this a common plot device? I understand it when I come across it in books that date from the 50s, but I was quite surprised to see this exclusion; especially since it was then combined with the girl either staying home to cook for the men-folk, or combined with the girl sitting back and doing nothing instead of making her own fort.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Edge of the Forest

Issue 2 of The Edge of the Forest is up.

My contributions: Teens and Seniors, an article made possible thanks to the insightful commentary from Suzi at Words, Words, Words; Chris Barton at Bartography; D.L. Garfinkle; and Mary E. Pearson. I have a book review (scroll down, it's the second one) of the upcoming I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You by Ally Carter, which you will love if you watch shows like Buffy and Alias. Finally, I have a nonfiction review of Let Me Play : The Story of Title IX: The Law That Changed the Future of Girls in America and while the book is about sports, my review is about how the Law is a good thing.

Other highlights: Author Jane Buchanan Talks About Judging the SCBWI Golden Kite; Gail Gauthier is this month's Blogging Writer; and many more book reviews and blog highlights.

Why are you still reading this? Go to The Edge of the Forest!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day

In celebration of St. Patrick's Day:

Becky at Farm School has put together a great list of books, music and movies;

Melissa at Here in the Bonny Glen has some additional recommendations.

What is my favorite poem by Yeats? It's impossible to pick just one. I adore this:

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.


But Easter 1916 is probably the one that always gives me chills:

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terribly beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road,
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse splashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute to minute they live;
The stone's in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse --
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

No, I'm not going to have corned beef & cabbage. My great-grandmother (born in Ballyhahill) would be appalled; "it's not Irish, it's a meal of poverty. It's not going to be in my house." So it's not a meal our family eats today, or any day, really. But we will have our soda bread and our tea.

Read Any Good Blogs Lately

Read Any Good Blogs Lately is the most recent "To Market" Column by Raab Associates. It looks at the role blogs are playing in the publishing industry. It's worth a look. According to a recent survey by Raab Associates, the two blogs most frequently mentioned: Read Roger: The Hornbook Editor's Rants and Raves and Cynsations by author Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Other blogs frequently mentioned by those taking the survey:

About.com Children's Book Site by Elizabeth Kennedy;
Book Moot, hosted by Camille;
Chicken Spaghetti, by Susan Thomsen;
The Fire Escape, by Mitali Bose Perkins; and
Big A little a, by Kelly Herold.

Raab Associates also has a Reviewers Checklist database, with information on new books for children, teens, and families.

Library Journal Movers & Shakers 2006

Library Journal has announced this year's Movers and Shakers, and I'm very psyched; I'm friends with 2 of them, and they are both awesome people and amazing librarians, who make the world a better place.

Sophie Brookover, founder of the Pop Goes the Library; and Valerie Bell, Chief of Branch Services at Ocean County Library (my place of work).

Congratulations, Sophie & Val!!!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Buffy Quote of the Week

Richard: "You have weird friends."
Xander: "News from the file marked 'duh.'"
Ep: Older And Far Away

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sing, Nightingale, Sing

Ten Reasons Why Sing, Nightingale, Sing! by Francoise de Guibert, illustrated by Chiaki Miyamoto is a cool and fun book:

  1. Who doesn't like birds? This tells about 60 different birds, from appearance to habits to food.
  2. The illustrations are clear and detailed.
  3. You know how frustrating it is to read about a sound being described, but how you just can't "get it" because it's a sound, music, a bird call? Or at most they give you an Internet link that may or many not still be working, and that depending on your connection you may or may not hear? Not to worry: find out what all the birds really sound like thanks to the included CD, with music by Daniel Goyone. It's birds and music; way cool.
  4. Sometimes, we read for story; other times, for information. This is a great information book, the type that you don't so much read page by page, but rather bird by bird, depending on what you're interested in. Having just read Birdwing, I first read about swans.
  5. The birds are pictured together in their typical environment, so its realistic; it's not swans are pictured next to sea gulls next to parrots, in some imagined bird utopia where all birds live regardless of "real" habitat.
  6. I love footnotes and indexes and endnotes. Since this book is grouped by habitat, there are references to make it easy to find the bird you're interested in. It not only make this book easy to use, but it's a fun way for kids to start using these types of finding aids.
  7. I'm not a birdwatcher. I can barely tell a blue jay from a robin. But I loved leafing through this book, admiring the illustrations, and learning about birds that I usually only know through books.
  8. Eight, eight, I forget what eight was for.
  9. My niece, Queen Lucy, is usually very understanding about having to wait to take a book home until Aunt Sissy has reviewed it. In this case, however, she insisted that she bring it to her house immediately, leaving me to make scrawled notes on post-its while she was putting her jacket on. It passes the "must own it NOW" test of a five year old.
  10. And I put the scrawled notes in a safe place, and they are now LOST, so I had to go by memory, and this book and its details were good enough to stick in my memory without notes.
Bonus points to the first person who can name the reference made in number 8.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Darkhenge

Darkhenge by Catherine Fisher

The Plot: Rob is a talented artist. Right now, he's using his art as an escape from home. Home has been little more than a house he lives in, ever since his younger sister, Chloe, was in a riding accident. For months, she's been in a coma. Rob's talent brings him a job, at an archaeological site that has found something truly unique: an ancient upside down tree.

What is the connection to Chloe? And who is the mysterious man, who seemed to appear out of nowhere, and what is his connection to all of this?

The Good: Fisher makes use of many myths and legends: including Taliesin and Ceridwen, Lady Guest's Mabinogi, The Battle of the Trees, The White Goddess by Robert Graves, Taliesin: The Last Celtic Shaman by John Matthews. You don't need to have read these works or to be familiar with these works to enjoy Darkhenge; but it does give additional depth, and it's fun to be able to recognize Fisher's source material and to see how she uses it. This isn't a retelling; more along the lines of updating and re-imagining.

Rob is an artist; Chloe, it turns out, was an aspiring writing, overshadowed by her older brother. The use of language, the power of language, and the gift of language, of the written word and of story -- and the power of story -- are explored.

The "real" and the "mystical" overlap; what is the source of Chloe's coma? Can it be fixed?

When we make up a story, can it become real -- more real than the world we live in? And if we found a way into that story, would we want to leave?

This story takes place in Avebury, England, and as I've mentioned earlier, I love books set in the UK. Bonus points that Avebury is a real place, showing that Fisher was careful and thoughtful in choosing her setting.

I like Rob's family and friends; they are real, complex, people, from his best friend to his actress mother.

Finally, I loved the archaeology. I would have loved to have been an archaeologist, except I stink at languages, and that would have been a problem. Instead, I watch -- and drool over -- Time Team. Hey, did you know there were Time Team books?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Blackthorn Winter

Blackthorn Winter by Kathryn Reiss

The Plot: Juliana, 15, is upset at her parents' trial separation. Her father had gotten busier and busier at work; her mother is an artist. So her mother decides to move to a small arts colony and pursue her art. Unfortunately, that means leaving California for her mother's native England, to a small seaside town, Blackthorn. Juliana's younger brother and sister, Edmund and Ivy, are excited about the move, but Juliana misses her friends and her family.

Shortly after the family arrives in Blackthorn, someone is murdered. Juliana decides she has to investigate, whatever the cost.

The Good: Juliana and her brother, Edmund, are adopted; Ivy is not. While there are questions about Juliana's birth parents, that mystery is the B (if not the C) Plot of the book. Most books with an adopted teen have a primary story line of finding and connecting with the birth parent. That's not the primary storyline here, and it is refreshing.

This is a mystery that doesn't involve ghosts, which is also good. Juliana pursues the truth, no matter what the cost. If that means investigating a new friend's mother -- she'll do it. In that way, Juliana reminded me of Veronica Mars.

Like Veronica, Juliana is driven to solve the mystery. It may be in part because of the mystery of her birth mother; it may be because she is lost and alone, and the investigation gives some meaning to her days.

I also love books set in England. Blackthorn seems like something right out of a BBC series.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Banned in Boston

Over at the Simple and the Ordinary, my friend Christine is mulling over how people react to books which they feel threaten their beliefs. It's well thought out, and she decides


Is it wise to be careful what things we expose ourselves and our children too? Yes - of course.

Should we make a crusade out of popular books because the opinions expressed in them don't match our religious convictions? No.

Why not? Because people not willing to allow themselves to be open to other points of view; to not give themselves a chance to understand why they believe what they believe, are not allowing themselves to grow and strengthen their faith.

When we are small we believe because our parents tell us to. But if at some point in our lives we don't question why we believe that and come up with our own reasons, we will never get beyond the point of 'because my parents said so.'



Christine is my good friend in the real world, and has just started blogging.

Buffy Quote of the Week

"The chip is something they did to me. I couldn't help it. But the soul I got on my own. For you."
-- Spike to Buffy, Ep: Sleeper

Why That Book?

An interesting discussion is taking place in the blogosphere, regarding selection of books, with an emphasis on when decisions about purchasing is equal to censorship and when it is not. The origin of the discussion is the news story about a school board who decided not to purchase some books from a list prepared by a group who had been organized for the purpose of recommending titles for purchase.

What we don't know (or at least, I couldn't find, so if you have a link to information, pass it on & I'll update accordingly): what, if any, existing collection development/ selection guidelines were in place; what is or is not in the current collection; the full list of recommended books and removed titles.

I won't get into the actual discussion at this point, except to say that the discussions have been interesting. Check out Here In the Bonny Glen's original post, and subsequent post (where I left comments that are way too long); Farm School; BookMoot, and I'm not sure which library she's talking about, but it shows what it feels like when it's the books you like that people don't want; and the Horn Book blog.

So, my two cents, such as it is: ideally, a school will have collection development policies in place and will follow them. See: School Library Collection Development; the ALA Workbook for Selection Policy Writing. One criteria: "favorable reviews found in standard selection sources." Traditionally, this has meant published journals.

Without further ado, here are some of the "standard selection sources" I use, in no particular order. They should be available at your public library or through a database that you can access via your library. Barnes & Noble, and to a lesser extent, Amazon, have paid the publishers for permission to use reviews on their website, so you can find them when you look for individual books. And, of course, they are available for purchase.

Oh, and it's not uncommon for the reviews to contain spoilers, since they are being used to assist in purchasing decisions. Some limited material is available on-line. Most of these journals also "star" exceptional material.

The Horn Book Magazine and the Horn Book Guide. Reviews children's and young adult; includes age level of audience.

Kirkus Reviews adult, children's, young adult. Reviews are known for being blunt -- if they don't like something, or think it's poorly written or plotted, they say so.

Booklist Published by the ALA; policy is to review only books they like (so if the book is not reviewed by them, it could be because it didn't pass muster).

School Library Journal Reviews preschool to high school; and professional materials. Their book review policy is here.

VOYA Voice of Youth Advocates Journal. Middle school & high school reviews. Reviews both quality (on a grade of 1 to 5) and popularity (on a grade of 1 to 5).

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Review codes range from "special distinction" to "not recommended."

Some reviewers are paid; others are not. Many books are reviewed from galleys or ARCs. And there can be a wide range even amongst these; one publication may love and star a book, and another think it's a very narrow audience ("only for those libraries were science fiction is popular").

As for online reviews -- hey, you know who we are! But I'll give a plug to The Edge of the Forest.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Dear Frankie

Dear Frankie, rated PG-13 for language.

Frankie, age nine, his mother Lizzie and his grandmother frequently move; this most recent time finds them in a seaside Scottish town. Frankie doesn't remember his father, who works on a ship, the HMS Accra, but maintains a relationship with his son through letters. What Frankie doesn't know is that his father isn't on the ship and isn't writing the letters; it's his mother. But it turns out that the Accra is a real ship, coming to town, and Frankie is excited to finally get to see his father.

His mother has a choice: tell her son the truth. Or hire a stranger to pretend to be Frankie's dad. She hires a stranger.

The good: a wonderful film. Quiet, soft -- not an American film. Meaning, it's enough to have the family drama and the interactions between Lizzie, Frankie and the stranger. There's no Big Crime Caper or Kidnapping or Secret Spies or any of the other "big" plots that American movies tend to throw into the mix, because they don't get that a movie can stand alone without the Big Splashy Thing. (Case in point: compare Ghost to Truly, Madly, Deeply.)

This is about what a mother will do to protect her child; to communicate with her child; will sacrifice for her child.

It's about how sometimes, a person has to stop running and hiding. It's about when honesty is good; and when it's not. It's about connections between people.

And it's a love story, the love between a parent and a child.

Pop News

Some book related highlights over at Pop Goes The Library:

Sophie B. has an interview with Frank Portman, author of King Dork.

Kane/Miller announces a new early reader series, with some giveaways for librarians.

Please note that Pop is at a new address: www.popgoesthelibrary.com

Carnival of Children’s Literature, No. 2

Step right up, step right up, and make your way to the Carnival of Children’s Literature, No. 2: A Coney Island Adventure! The kind host is Chicken Spaghetti. You'll see some favorites, make some new friends, and have a lovely time. I first ran quickly amongst the rides and attractions, to see who was there, and now am going to take my time, savoring each post.

Hollywood, The Oscars & The Movie Theatre: A Rant

Dear Hollywood,

I love the Oscars. I really enjoyed last night's show! Great fashion, music, not overly long, pretty people in pretty clothes. And Reese won! Who doesn't love Reese? (I guess the people who didn't win aren't feeling the love. Oh well.)

And I totally agree with you about movie piracy! Stealing is bad.

But PLEASE stop the "you must all go to the movie theatre" mantra. Cause it's starting to bug me.

First, you are being a bit elitist. And while George (love ya, George! From Facts of Life on!) gave a wonderful defense of Hollywood not being "mainstream", let me tell you....

It is elitist when you say, go to the movies, but to SEE some of the nominated movies I have to drive over an hour. Dudes, you don't get that the only way many of us will see the movies is thanks to DVD, because our local theatres don't play them. I'm just guessing here -- but I think more people are seeing films when you consider DVD. And that, IMHO, is a good thing.

Second, I firmly believe that everyone deserves to get paid for what they do. And paid fairly. At the market rate. It's totally unrealistic to expect a star to say, hey, it's OK, you're offering me $50 million but I'll take $5 Million. But Hollywood, you're making millions. Individuals are making millions. You've got presenters whose swag from ONE NIGHT -- let's not count the other parties or Sundance -- totals more than double what I make in a year.

Hollywood, stop telling me that my money is better spent going to the theatre instead of waiting for the DVD. Go crunch your numbers to find a way to pay people fairly (and I mean all people, don't start paying a screenwriter or "regular" actor or one of the crew less so you can keep paying the star more!) yet bring the cost of the movie theatre experience down to a price where going to theatre regularly is affordable.

Third, the theatre experience. There's the other people (like the attempted groper who sat next to me the last time in the theatre... ) And then there's the people who are eating all sorts of smelly things. And the people who bring little kids to adult movies, and then the kids cry the whole time. And the tall people who sit in front of me. Or the person behind me who thinks it's appropriate to put their smelly feet on the seat-back right next to me. I love seeing a movie on a big screen; really, I do. But unfortunately, the overall experience of viewing in a theatre is often something less than great.

So Hollywood: smooches. I still love ya. I love the Oscars.

But PLEASE stop giving me grief about loving you on DVD instead of in the theatre.

Call me! We'll do lunch.

Liz B.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Fly On The Wall

Fly on the Wall : How One Girl Saw Everything by E. Lockhart

The Plot: Gretchen Kaufman Yee goes to a New York City high school that specializes in the arts. She's an only child, rather fierce in her individuality and independence; her preferred art form is comics, her preferred character Spider-Man, and she's not about to let teachers tell her that that comics and graphic novels are not art. Gretchen is not comfortable around the opposite sex; to her, they are a different species entirely, not quite trustworthy. One day she wishes that she could be "a fly on the wall of the boys' locker room," just to find out what the guys really talk about. And the next thing she knows... she is. A fly. On the wall of the locker room.

The Good: Y'know, if more people watched Buffy, there would be less wishing going on. I'm just saying. Sometimes TV imparts very valuable life lessons. Be careful what you wish for; and it's all fun and games until someone pokes an eye out.

I PROMISE that since this doesn't come out until March 16th, I will not give any spoilers. But let me tell you -- it's difficult. Because I see myself as more of a book discusser than a book reviewer; which means, sometimes discussing the ending or resolution of a book -- hence, a spoiler. From the title, it's no spoiler that Gretchen becomes a fly.

I love Gretchen, who is a bit prickly. She's her own person -- but like many teens (and many adults!) she doesn't realize how she comes across to others; how others see her.

Her wish to listen in on the boys is originally selfish -- what are they saying about me? But after she becomes "a fly on the wall," she goes from listening in order to hear what the boys say about her to listening to what the boys say about themselves. They stop being "the other." She also finds out what others think about her -- and Gretchen ends up being surprised at the impact she has on the lives of others.

Gretchen's background is a mother who is Jewish, a father who is Chinese American. What works really well is that this is part of who Gretchen is; but just a part, no more or less than being a Spider-Man fangirl or a love of graphic art. Meaning, this isn't an "issue" book about Gretchen's ethnic/racial identity; it's a book about a girl, and that girl happens to be part Jewish and part Chinese American and a hundred percent funny.

OK anything else is way too spoilerish. Pick up this book, it's a quick, fun read and it'll make you think.

Links: Lockhart also wrote The Boyfriend List. The Cynsations Author Interview by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Poll at Lockhart's website. Lockhart's MySpace. Real life NYC high school for the arts.

And I cannot help it. Spider-Man moment. My 3 year old nephew, L, is a total fanboy about Spider-Man right now: watches the old cartoons, has the toys, has various items of clothes with Spider-Man, heck, even L's teddy bear has a Spider-Man outfit.

So here's the cute story: My mother is going thru a box of old family photos, and after L's initial interest in baby pictures of his mother (which he insists is himself) his attention turned elsewhere, until my mother held out an old black-and-white photo to me and said, "this is my mom and Mary Parker."

L: "Mary Parker? Mary PARKER?" In a long lost friend voice. Needless to say, Mary Parker died years before L was born; and she's not a relative we really chat about.

M: "Yes", staring at the excited boy.

L: "Does she know Peter Parker?"

M, glances at me as I whisper who PP is, then answers: "Yes, L, it's his mother."

At which point L took the photo and kept it as his own. Poor kid, if we're not careful, he'll go to kindergarten in a few years insisting he has a photo of Spider-Man's mother. (And as fans know, it just so happens that PP's mother is named Mary. But, I assure you, we are not related to and do not own a photo of PP's mother.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Buffy Quote of the Week

"You and I both know the things you hunger for, the things you need. Hey, nothing to be ashamed of; it's who we are, it's what makes Eternal life worth living."
-- Darla to Angel, Ep: Angel

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