Thursday, August 31, 2006

Happy Blogday

I got tagged by Readable Feast for BlogDay 2006. It sounds like a fun, so here goes:

Happy BlogDay 2006! Here's how you can participate:

  • Find five new blogs that you find interesting.

  • Notify the five bloggers that you're recommending them on BlogDay 2006.

  • Write a BlogDay post today with a short description of each blog, and a link back to each one.

  • Add a BlogDay 2006 Technorati tag and/or link back to the Technorati BlogDay 2006 page.

  • Link to the BlogDay website.

  • So here are my five blog choices:

  • Journey Woman - assorted book quotes and musings, plus she's a fellow Jersey Girl.

  • A Year of Reading - two teachers chat about books and reading, with the goal of having read the Newbery pick (a goal I share).

  • Chasing Ray - The amazing Colleen Mondor, who blogs about books (especially but not exclusively YA) and literature.

  • Wands And Worlds - Reviews of sience fiction and fantasy books for children and teens.
  • bildungsroman by Little Willow -author interviews and book reviews.

  • Technorati tags:

    Tuesday, August 29, 2006

    Advance Review Copies

    I'm a bit torn about posting reviews of books that are not available to the general public yet. On the one hand, I'm all excited about a great book that I just read and want to share; on the other, I know I get frustrated when I read a review of a book then find out I have to wait months to buy it. I sympathize with those who have to wait for the actual publication date. I wonder, should I wait closer to the date of, or after, publication? And I do have some reviews in my draft file, waiting to be posted. But maybe readers are happy for the heads up. And, there's the conversation element; when I read someone else's review of a book, I get inspired to post my own, or want to have a conversation via blog about that book.

    For those of you who may be wondering how the heck a person can review books before the publication date, here is the simple explanation.

    Most publishers have advance review copies of books made. They are also called ARCs, galleys, review copies, etc. Most are paperback; none are in final form. Maybe it's just a few typos that will be fixed; upon occasion, more significant rewrites are done between the advance copy and the real publication date. A cover design may change.

    The purpose of ARCs: to see what the finished product looks like; to get an early copy into the hands of reviewers and buyers (both bookstores and libraries); and to start buzz.

    How does a regular person get ARCs? Well, a regular person isn't supposed to get them because they aren't for the public. I get my ARCs several ways: one, thru work, as the current selector of YA fiction for MPOW. The publishers provide some to libraries, hoping that I'll read it and say the library must have 100 copies.

    Two, as I've posted on this blog (see the bottom of my sidebar), some publishers and agencies donate copies here for the purpose of review. This is done with the clear understanding that any review is independent of the donation; it can be good, bad, or indifferent. My personal policy is that I rarely blog about books I don't like. While those donations make it easier for me to read certain books, because I have access to them, it doesn't affect how I review books.

    Three, by attending professional conferences and conventions (such as BEA and ALA) where publishers give away ARCs to conference attendees. Seriously! You walk thru the convention hall and there are piles of books, saying "pick me, pick me." Sometimes you actually have to say NO to the free books, because it's too much too carry.

    Four, from the authors themselves. The authors get ARCS for promotion purposes, which may be a contest, another give-a-way, or giving it to a reviewer (including a blogger.)

    The most important thing to remember about these: they are not the finished book. The author gets no money from the initial distribution of these items. And I haven't paid for them. Which means, what do I do with them when I'm done?

    Selling ARCs is a big no-no. As an unfinished product, it's not fair to represent on ebay or elsewhere that it's the same as the final version. Plus, it takes revenue away from authors (and I believe in capitalism). So I tend to pass them along when it's "promotional" by giving them to another reviewer/blogger or librarian; I've also used them with teen groups in the library, explaining to the teens that it isn't the final book and requesting their feedback for purposes of purchasing, promoting, booktalking, and reviewing. Finally, I throw them out.

    But wait, you say! You just said it's not the final final version. True that. If reading typos in a book drives you crazy, you'd hate ARCs. You have to be willing to ignore those glitches. Because I do sometimes quote, I try to note when I've reviewed from an ARC, so you're not going, "huh, that's not what I read." And it's one of the reasons I hesitate with negative reviews based on ARCS; what if what I disliked gets changed? I've read at least one author blog about revising an ending from ARC to final copy; and during BEA, I heard rumors about a book that wasn't ready getting put into ARC format because they wanted something in people's hands. So I assume that if I've read something I liked, they're not going to change it; but if I read something I didn't, wait to see the final version in case it's fixed.

    Monday, August 28, 2006

    A sign that summer is over?

    They're back -- the Students for Literacy Ottawa have started to post regularly. Welcome back!

    Buffy Quote of the Week

    "They had fangs. They were biting people.
    They had this look in their eyes, totally cold, animal.
    I think they were Young Republicans."
    Andy, The Movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer

    Thanks to Jackie at interactivereader for the quotage. (and she has a cool blog -- I love how she describes books she doesn't like as anvils hitting her on the head. I've had many a near concussion from an anvil-icious book).

    Cheating At Solitaire


    Cheating at Solitaire by Ally Carter.

    The Plot: Julia James is a famous self-help writer. Her area of expertise? Being single -- and being happy and fulfilled being single. She's written such books with titles like Table for One, Spaghetti and Meatball: Meals for the Single Person and 101 Ways To Cheat At Solitaire. Who needs a boyfriend? Then the news hits the tabloids: Julia is dating! And not just anyone -- he's a handsome actor. Her credibility is disappearing. And none of it is true; she doesn't even know the guy. She's not about to let her career and her life get ruined.

    The Good: I loved Julia's books and how Julia got famous. Carter has excerpts from Julia's books scattered throughout CaS; she perfectly captures the genre.

    The plot is amusing; Julia is a successful writer, single, happy and content and accepting her lot. Her many fans view her dating someone as a betrayal of all that; so Julia has to think fast and examine what she is saying and why. She has to consider her career, her writing, her life, her family -- and her heart. Because this is also a romance between Lance and Julia, two strangers thrown together by circumstance.

    Julia is a good level of famous; she gets recognized but not bothered. Until the press stars reporting on the trumped up story of her romance; suddenly, she finds herself living the life of a Star, hunted by reporters, sneaking out of houses. And I also love that Julia is a normal person.

    The chemistry between Lance and Julia works, but what really works, and what kept me reading, is the friendship chemistry: Julia, her sister Caroline, and her best friend Nina are wonderful: funny, blunt, flawed, sympathetic, with just enough crazy. I was reminded me of my own family and friends (without the whole breaking and entering part.) I wanted to hang out with these three women, sharing a glass of wine, planning crimes (You don't want to know why they have to break into the neighbor's house, do you?) I cannot wait for the sequel, Learning to Play Gin.

    Links: My Pop Interview; the Little Willow interview; another interview. My review of Ally's YA book, I'd Tell You I'd Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You.

    Sunday, August 27, 2006

    L.M. Montgomery

    I loved Anne of Green Gables as a kid. Adored Anne-with-an-E Shirley. I tried reading the sequel but was a bit bored with old Anne; when I was older, then I returned to the series and flew thru them. I didn't read Emily (she's on my to be read pile, I swear.) I liked Kevin Sullivans's various adaptations, including the Story Girl/ Road to Avonlea series (but let's not mention that horrible Anne Goes To War movie, OK? I'm pretending that doesn't exist.)

    I started reading L.M. Montgomery's journals when they were first published. Wow. That was when I fell in love with not only Anne, but also her creator. I like the journals because they give a "real life" glimpse into life at the turn of the century; I also liked seeing how the fiction of Anne and Emily and others were created. Most importantly, Maud isn't Anne; and critics of LM Montgomery tend to forget that.

    Any-who, I was reminded of all that when I saw this over at Kate's Book Blog: L.M. Montgomery in Response to Her Critics. It's the perfect look at the person behind the books; and also a great response to the type of criticisms still being made.

    The Edge of the Forest, Issue 6

    Issue 6 of The Edge of the Forest is now up.

    Why check it out? So you can read:

    an interview with Linda Sue Park and an interview with Melissa Wiley;

    Features on: Junie B. Jones, the lighter side of death; and cats;

    and the thirteen book reviews, best of the blogs, and in the backpack. There is also an archive for past issues.

    My contribution? A review of Penny From Heaven by Jennifer Holm.

    The Boy Book

    The Boy Book (A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them) by E. Lockhart; sequel to The Boyfriend List. Reviewed from ARC; publication date is September 2006.

    The Plot: Ruby Oliver from The Boyfriend List returns for her Junior Year. While Ruby is not friends with her ex-friends, they are no longer her enemies. Still, she has to navigate life with one friend (Meghan), no boyfriend, and a lot of questions about life.

    The Good: Ruby remains likeable and sympathetic as she struggles with issues such as friendship, boys, lust, and love.

    "The Boy Book" refers to the book written by Ruby and her ex-friends: Kim, Cricket, and Nora. It includes sections on "Rules for Dating in a Small School," "What to Wear When You Might be Fooling Around," and "Levels of Boyfriends." Levels go from "Friend-Boy" to "Hopeless Crush" to "Boyfriend" to "Serious Boyfriend." Excerpts from the Boy Book start each chapter. In addition to being funny, they give insight into the person Ruby used to be and the friendships that she lost. It's also interesting to think that these girls have created a world of rules; and according to these rules, Ruby did indeed betray her friends.

    As with any good unreliable narrator, the reader sees things that Ruby doesn't; or at least, that Ruby isn't read to admit. For example, when Rudy relates her interactions with Angelo, she tries to paint herself as passive, not active; reacting, not acting. She "has" to sit next to him. At another point, she doesn't admit that she has dressed up to be attractive (she argues that she is following the rules of What to Wear When You Might Be Fooling Around, by creating a non-fooling around outfit. That just so happens to be very cute and attractive.)

    As TBB progresses, Ruby slowly realizes that she as been active; she has been acting; labeling it as passive or reacting was the way that she could avoid responsibility for things that happened. It's a great moment when she finally decides not to have something "just happen" and to take control of her life and her emotions and her actions. I'm not saying that Ruby is passive aggressive or deliberately manipulative; rather, she's a teen who isn't in touch with her own motivations and doesn't know herself.

    TBB is daring because Ruby isn't a cool, hip, self-assured chick; she's a searcher. She's someone who thought she was cool, but really, before this it was her friends and her friendships that guided her. She created a rule book because she needed rules. TBB is the best kind of sequel; it's not just seeing Ruby's life for another year, it's getter a deeper understanding of why she went into panic attacks when she lost her friends and her rules. At first, it seems like she is searching for new rules; but she is really searching for who she is. And it's a search that she was forced to make; Ruby, I think, would have been just as happy being the old-Ruby, at least for a little while longer.

    Ruby remains likeable; you root for her; even if sometimes, viewed objectively, you can see why her friends dumped her. This is a look at girl friendships and friendship dynamics that avoids the easy labels of "Queen B" and mean girl, even tho at times it looks like some of that is what is going on. I'm not sure if another book is planned; but while Ruby has grown more by the end of this book, she does has further to go and I look forward to visiting with her again and seeing how it all works out for her. I also love the way Ruby talks and how she looks at things. I want another book just to hear more of Ruby's observations.

    Quotes I loved:

    Someone asks Ruby, "What do you like to do? That's what I'm asking. What activity do you like to do?". Ruby answers, "I like to swim. And read. And watch movies. But can you imagine a catalog description for that? 'Exploring the Shallow Life: Students will enjoy a double feature of Love, Actually and Bridget Jones's Diary, wallowing in the hotness of Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, followed by thrift-store shopping, intensive reading of mystery novels, and a dip in the pool. Evenings will be spent consuming Popsicles and experimenting with cosmetics." I would so sign up for that course! Except for the whole swimming thing.

    "Boy Speak: Introduction to a Foreign Language.
    What he says: I'm so messed up.
    What is understood: He needs my support and help.
    What he means: I want you to leave me alone."

    "Because on some level, even though it never turns out to be true, and even though I should know better, I still expect life to be like the movies."

    Links: E. Lockhart's blog; an excerpt from this book.

    Saturday, August 26, 2006

    The Elegant Variation: When The Bar Has No Lower to Go...Choices*

    Check out the comments over at the The Elegant Variation: WHEN THE BAR HAS NO LOWER TO GO ... CHOICES*.

    In this corner, The Elegant Variation, who started with a post about YA titled "when the bar has no lower to go."

    In that corner, many YA authors and readers, including Cecil Castellucci. (It's CC who TEV credits with getting him to change his title to "Choices.")

    Read the comments as many YA writers weigh in TEV's initial insistence that reading YA means you don't want to be a member of "Grownupland."

    Interestingly enough, one of my many pet peeves is people who think it's a good thing not to grow up. So you'd think I'd be on the side of anyone who is arguing that people should, well, act like grown ups if they are, indeed, grown ups. But, I measure whether one is or is not an adult not by reading choices, but rather by things like responsibility, maturity, and commitment (as well as other things that have more to do with how a person lives their life and treats others than what is their reading or viewing choice.). Not whether or not someone prefers a happy, or even hopeful, ending to a book.

    Another point getting hashed out over at TEV is what makes something YA (or fantasy or fill in your genre or format.) If a book fits within the fantasy genre, yet it is a classic, or the author insists that it's not fantasy, does that mean it's not fantasy?

    While we're on the topic, can someone please explain to me why the ending of the book is the sole way to judge a book? Specifically, TEV states: "For someone to say (as the interviewee in the piece did) that base their reading choices on seeking out upbeat endings represents - to me anyway - a terrible lowering of the bar; a life in permanent adolescence where everything resolves all nice and sitcom-like at the end of 30 minutes."

    WTF? Personally, I disagree that wanting or seeking out an upbeat ending means any such thing; neither does an upbeat ending condemn a book to being bad. When it comes to endings, what matters is this: has the book "earned" its ending; that is, does the ending make sense, given the characters and what has happened to them during the course of the book? An upbeat ending can make perfect sense in a well-written book; a downbeat ending can be nothing more than didactic and anvil-like. And vice versa.

    Well, enough ranting for now. I'm way behind in reviews so let me get busy!

    Friday, August 25, 2006

    George Crum and the Saratoga Chip

    George Crum and the Saratoga Chip by Gaylia Taylor, illustrated by Frank Morrison.

    Plot: George Crum invents the potato chip.

    The Good: It's a true story! The potato chip was invented! Who knew? And how amazing must it have been to have tasted one the first time ever.

    This is a title I received from Lee and Low Books, and I am consistently impressed with their titles.

    GC&tSC is great for several reasons: it's about food, and it's always fun to find out the origins of food we take for granted. It's also about diversity; George Crum is "part Native American and part African American." (The Author's Note elaborates on George's background.) And it's about a bit of history not usually found in children's books: George was born in 1828. George is a person of color in the pre-Civil War North (specifically, the Adirondacks). The book (which is more about George's personal history) states that "people of color in the United States were often treated as inferior to white people."

    Pictures illustrate the reality of this world. George becomes a chef; and the pictures show that the waitresses and waiters are all people of color, while all of the restaurant patrons are white.

    George is likable; and he has, as the book says, good days and bad days. (What kid isn't going to relate to that?) It's one of the bad days that inspires his creation of the potato chip. Someone complained that the french fries were too thick, and George's response was along the lines of, "you want thin, Lady? Let me show you thin. And while I'm at it, I'll cook it a little too long and a little too hot." Except the person complaining loved them. And thus "Saratoga chips" were born. Again, what kid isn't going to love that part of the story?

    Of course, I have to know the "real" story, and the one page author's note wasn't enough for me. I wanted to know more about George and his family in 1820s New York state. I wondered what became of him, whether he got financial credit. It's not easy to find information out about this time period; and I give a lot of credit to the author and illustrator for the research they did for this book. The author explains, "although there is little definitive information about George Crum and the invention of the potato chip, I have created this story based on the more substantiated existing facts."

    It's a great story. I can't wait to use it on my next school visit.

    Additional links: Photograph of George Crum; potato chips were invented; another version; and another version; and one more; the snopes version.

    I couldn't find an online version of George's recipe, but here is the Family Fun recipe.

    OK, one more link because it says German TV is making a documentary about George Crum.

    Poetry Friday

    Barbara Allen’s Cruelty

    In Scarlet town, where I was born,
    There was a fair maid dwellin’,
    Made every youth cry Well-a-way!
    Her name was Barbara Allen.

    All in the merry month of May,
    When green buds they were swellin’,
    Young Jemmy Grove on his death-bed lay,
    For love of Barbara Allen.

    He sent his man in to her then,
    To the town where she was dwellin’;
    ‘O haste and come to my master dear,
    If your name be Barbara Allen.’

    So slowly, slowly rase she up,
    And slowly she came nigh him,
    And when she drew the curtain by—
    ‘Young man, I think you’re dyin’.’

    ‘O it’s I am sick and very very sick,
    And it’s all for Barbara Allen.’—
    ‘O the better for me ye’se never be,
    Tho’ your heart’s blood were a-spillin’!

    ‘O dinna ye mind, young man,’ says she,
    ‘When the red wine ye were fillin’,
    That ye made the healths go round and round,
    And slighted Barbara Allen?’

    He turn’d his face unto the wall,
    And death was with him dealin’:
    ‘Adieu, adieu, my dear friends all,
    And be kind to Barbara Allen!’

    As she was walking o’er the fields,
    She heard the dead-bell knellin’;
    And every jow the dead-bell gave
    Cried ‘Woe to Barbara Allen.’

    ‘O mother, mother, make my bed,
    O make it saft and narrow:
    My love has died for me to-day,
    I’ll die for him to-morrow.

    ‘Farewell,’ she said, ‘ye virgins all,
    And shun the fault I fell in:
    Henceforth take warning by the fall
    Of cruel Barbara Allen.

    Links: Another version; wikipedia; the film Songcatcher (it has a great soundtrack, including a version of Barbara Allen, plus Aidan Quinn)

    *****************

    Bildungsroman (Little Willow) and Emily Dickinson (and since this is going thru my head now I feel compelled to share)

    Farm School has an August poem (and it sounds like one that Anne would have loved)

    Journey Women and an A.A. Milne poem (but from the Pooh Books, not the Poetry Books)

    MotherReader spends some time with the birds (and is very happy to have me back from vacation)

    Scholar's Blog and Wordsworth (I love the discipline to be found in old poems)

    A Wrung Sponge has a poem for her oldest son, who is leaving for college (congratulations to you both)

    Here's to Ewe, A Year in Reading (check out the books she's reviewing, and you'll be a bit more forgiving of my bad pun)

    Additions:
    Blog From the Windowsill says good-bye to Pluto (poor Pluto, getting downsized! Shouldn't we be taking him out for a drink?)
    Susan Taylor Brown has a poem for all of those people who have to have day jobs (which is all of us; where's that lottery ticket?)
    Check it Out and poetry from around the world (I'll be checking MPOW to see if they own this collection)
    and
    Gotta Book originally commemorates Pluto's de-planeting (not in a fib, but just as terse)
    and Greg Leitich Smith has no poetry whatsoever, but does have some scientific input into the whole Pluto mess (and it's so cool, what with the Pluto poems, that I had to include his post)

    Tuesday, August 22, 2006

    Me, Lily & Rory?

    I saw this at Sara Zarr's Blog and couldn't resist.

    Literary One Shot Wonders

    As posted at Blog of a Bookslut, John Sutherland reflects on literary one shot wonders, wondering why some authors publish no second book: too paralyzed to say anything more? Perhaps they felt they had said it all?

    I haven't read the original article, because for at least one of the people on his list, the reason for no more books is easy: Death. Actually, as I google dates, make that two people.

    Man, it's tough to be an author. There's no good excuse for not putting out a second book.

    Buffy Quote of the Week

    "You're Watchers. And without a Slayer you're pretty much just watching Masterpiece Theatre. You can't stop Glory. You can't do anything with the information you have on her except publish it in Everyone Thinks We're Insano's Home Journal."
    - Buffy, Ep: Checkpoint

    Monday, August 21, 2006

    Trebor Nosnibor

    Awesome name, as Journey Woman reminds me.

    Like JW and Drawde, I was fascinated by backwards words. It was part of the reason I loved the short story, Those Who Walk Away for Omelas. As I recall it, the LeGuin's author''s note said the name came from reading a town name backwards.

    I was never sure if I'd be Zil Snrub or Htebazile Snrub. Either way, the last name isn't so great but I like my first names.

    So, what's your backwards name?

    Sunday, August 20, 2006

    Blogroll

    I've begun to update my blogroll. Yes, I know it's way out of date.

    I'm only partway thru, but my Aunt is here and I'm taking a break. I'm going over comments and my bloglines account, but to be on the safe side, comment here so that I'll include your blog.

    Party for Hugging the Rock

    The only thing worse than not being invited to a party you really, really want to attend?

    Being invited and not being able to go.

    Susan Taylor Brown's new book, Hugging the Rock, is being celebrated with a Book Launch Party. Yay for Susan and this great new book. If you're lucky enough to live close to Mountain View, CA, and want to attend, check out the details of the party here.

    Saturday, August 19, 2006

    Poetry Friday. On Sunday.

    You get back from vacation (several intense Disney days) thinking of all the email you have to read, the tons of stuff at Bloglines, the many to-dos on the list, and one of the first things, of course, is checking out the Poetry Friday posts.

    All I can say is a ya and a hoo and a yay yay yay to MotherReader, who has a nice round up of posts from this past Friday. I'll be back on track this week!

    Sixth Carnival of Children's Literature

    The Sixth Carnival of Children's Literature is at the Castle of the Immaculate.

    It's summer time, so make some ice tea (I like mine unsweetened, how about you?) and sit back and enjoy. As usual, it's a great list with bloggers from all areas of the kidlitosphere.

    Saturday, August 12, 2006

    On Vacation

    What a time to fly, eh?

    Enjoy your week!

    Winnie the Pooh

    I was reading the answers to the Book Meme and came across this by MotherReader:

    When I was in fifth grade, an adult saw me reading Winnie-the-Pooh and commented what a sophisticated book it was. It left me with a life-long appreciation of the humor in Winnie-the-Pooh that I think many kids miss because they think the book is too young for them. It also gave me a firm conviction not to rush kids into older books, so when they do read a book they will appreciate it.

    Let me say how much I love that adult who not only did not dismiss MotherReader's book choice, but also said something encouraging and positive about it. I hope I can be that adult in children's lives.

    But my second point:

    What books do kids read "too soon"? What books should be read (or reread) when a child is older? Sometimes it's a situation like Disney, where the book has been turned into a cartoon that is viewed as "babyish;" sometimes it's a book like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, where parents think that because the movie is OK for their child, so too are the books.

    Whatever the reasons, what books can we "take back" for older readers?

    1. Winnie the Pooh
    2. The House at Pooh Corner
    3. Grimm's Fairy Tales
    4. The Lord of the Rings
    5. Harry Potter (most notably, the more recent/ older books)
    6. The Wizard of Oz books
    7. Anne of Avonlea and the other Anne sequels

    and the reason I'm not doing more is I have to pack.

    Book Meme From Big A little a

    1. One book that changed your life?

    None.

    There are books I love, or books that have special meaning. And there have been books where I've read something and there's been that internal "click", of either recognition or insight. But changed my life? Not really. I know I blogged about Harry Potter, but I wouldn't go so far as to say one book changed my life.

    I'll add why I'm resistant to the idea of one book changing my life. Because when book banners or censors start talking about why they don't want a child to read a book, it gets tied to how they are afraid of the impact that book may have. How can I respond that it takes more than a book to have an impact on a child, if I'm going to say that a book had an impact on me? If I acknowledge that a book can save a child -- why isn't the flip true, that a book could damage a child?

    So I think there are many factors that change us. Books are one of them.

    2. One book you have read more than once?

    I haven't had time recently for rereading. Authors I love to reread include old favorites like Ellen Emerson White and Norma Johnston. I also want to revisit some of the "classics" that I may have read too soon.

    3. One book you would want on a desert island?

    Tough call, because what I want to read can vary based on my mood. What would I want on a desert island -- something that gives me comfort and makes me feel less lonely. Something that offers escape. (I guess it would be cheating to say The Dummies Guide to Getting Off A Desert Island?) I'd say Pride & Prejudice, because it has romance and family.

    4. One book that made you laugh?

    Most recently: King Dork.

    5. One book that made you cry?

    As a child, it was Master Skylark.

    6. One book you wish had been written?

    All of them? Naming just one, A Room On Lorelei Street. Silly me, I read it as what book do you wish YOU had written. What book do I wish had been written? The much rumored but never published Meg Murray O'Keeffe as an adult book by Madeleine L'Engle.

    7. One book you wish had never been written?


    There are books that I finish reading and think, well, there's three hours of my life I wont' get back. But often it turns out that my hate is another's love, so I don't wish any book unwritten.

    8. One book you are currently reading?

    I just finished Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and am in love with it.

    9. One book you have been meaning to read?

    So many books, so little time.

    10. Now tag five people:

    Tag. You're it.

    Started by Big A little a; check there for a list of sites who filled this out.

    Friday, August 11, 2006

    From Owls To Toads

    One of the local papers covered my Harry Potter night: Waretown library conjures up some magic.

    My favorite quote is, of course, the girl who, upon tasting the dirt flavored Bertie Botts Beans, said: "I ate dirt once, and that really tastes like dirt." And I'm quoted once or twice.

    The Next Carnival of Children's Literature

    The next Carnival of Children's Literature will be at the Castle of the Immaculate.

    Want to submit? Here's the cool thing: go over to Here in the Bonny Glen, check out this post, and you'll also see a Carnival button. Hit the button to submit posts, and there's a simple form to fill out. Awesome. I love technology that makes life easier.

    Submissions due by August 16th.

    (I want one of those carnival buttons....)

    Poetry Friday

    ELETELEPHONY
    by Laura Elizabeth Richards

    Once there was an elephant,
    Who tried to use the telephant—

    No! No! I mean an elephone
    Who tried to use the telephone—

    (Dear me! I am not certain quite
    That even now I've got it right.)

    Howe'er it was, he got his trunk
    Entangled in the telephunk;

    The more he tried to get it free,
    The louder buzzed the telephee—

    (I fear I'd better drop the song
    Of elephop and telephong!)
    ********************
    Favorite childhood memory: well, one of them at least, is my mother saying this. It was one of the first poems I memorized. Cool things I learned from Wikipedia: Laura Richards' mother wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic; and Laura herself won the Pulitzer Prize. (Nope, not for this poem, silly! But how cool would that be? It was for a biography of her mother.)
    ********************
    Poetry Friday Participants:

    It's Jane's Choice at Here in the Bonny Glen (and she picked one of my favorite poets)
    And I'm beginning to think It's all about me, since Susan Taylor Brown picks another of my favorite poets

    A wrung sponge introduces me to someone new (see, again with the me, me, me.)

    A Year of Reading makes me laugh
    Little Willow fills me with a longing to visit friends (and makes me wish I lived in a thirtysomething world where everyone lives close by)

    Farm School has a poem I know (I didn't intend to make all of Poetry Friday about me, but I'm on a roll now)

    Jen Robinson reminds me of the type of conversations I'll have with Queen Lucy & SkaterBoy while we're in Disney

    Based on her PF post, I want to ask MotherReader what she thinks about the Richards poem

    Scholar's Blog has.... what? nothing? Michele, are you OK? You never miss PF!

    If I missed you, let me know in the comments, and I'll update tomorrow.

    Thursday, August 10, 2006

    Buffy Quote of the Week

    Angel: "I was a man once."
    Jenny Calendar/The First: "Oh, yes. And what a man you were! A drunken, whoring layabout and a terrible disappointment to your parents."
    Angel: "I was young. I never had the chance to -"
    Jenny Calendar/The First: "To die of syphilis? You were a worthless being before you were ever a monster."
    Ep: Amends

    Monday, August 07, 2006

    Problem With Summer Giveaway

    Cross Posted from Pop Goes The Library:

    I just saw this on LISnews and wanted to pass the word. It's from the Star Press, a paper in Indiana.

    State warns of lead in toys given by libraries. "INDIANAPOLIS-- State health officials today issued a consumer health alert for bendable animal toys that were given away at libraries around the state, including the Muncie Public Library, during summer reading programs in June and July." The complete story is here.

    The paper is silent about the vendor for the bendable animal toys; there is a photo with the article. The toys sound similar to items sold by both Upstart and Oriental Trading.

    I AM NOT SAYING THAT THE TOY IN QUESTION IS FROM EITHER OF THOSE VENDORS. But, if your library has bendable animal toys that look like dogs and cats, you may want to investigate further to see if you have the same items that the Indiana libraries purchased.

    Other reports on the toy: WTHR, noting an Indiana distributor for the toy; the News Sentinel; another item from the News Sentinel with a different photo of the toys in question.

    UPDATED: I just found the Indiana State Department Of Health News Release, here. It specifically states: The toys were recommended as prizes to other libraries through a Web site run by the Collaborative Summer Library Program.

    Sunday, August 06, 2006

    Reading Classics Round-Up

    Based on the comments, here is the list of ways to encourage reading classics. I was going to just put together a list, but I couldn't help commenting along the way. I believe that no "one" of these is the magic way; I think it's a combination of these.

    * Anthologies. The one I read as a kid is the Arbuthnot Anthology of Children's Literature, now out of print. A much more recent book: The Norton Anthology of Children's Literature, published last year. I am itching to take a peak at this year's Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature, but it's out of my price range. When considering purchase one of these, remember the purpose as a potential reader is to have a taste of everything, and to be inspired to track down more of a particular author. Another issue: copyright. As you wonder why x isn't included, it could be because it wasn't available or was too expensive.

    * Books in good condition. Notice I didn't say new; I am sometimes more enthralled by an old book than a brand new one, but some readers get very turned off by dusty, musty books. If part of what you want to do is entice a kid into reading a classic, why not have the classic look as appealing as the just published book? And the problem with old books is condition; first time I read Pride and Prejudice, got to the last page and it was missing.

    * Books with good covers. Check out the New York Review of Books Children's Collections, which has reprinted many out of print (or out of sight) classics, including children's books. We all judge books by the cover, so why not hunt for the classic with the best cover?

    *Unabridged and abridged versions. While I tend to side with Roger on this one, I think it's a valid point that a well done abridgment can be a gateway book to a reader. I also think it's wise to not confuse story with words; a person may not be a "reader" but may love a good story. If an abridgment brings that story to the person, where's the harm? My main concerns: it's a well done abridgment, and it's up front and obvious. Nothing worse than a person thinking they read a book when, in fact, they haven't.

    *Having the book on the shelf. For libraries with enough space, this may mean shelving the book in different areas (J, if appropriate, YA, Adult, and Non Fiction (the 800s)). And it means parents having books on their shelves. Yes, libraries are great; but it's also great to have a home library.

    *Various formats of the story told in the classic; with other formats including movies, TV shows, cartoons, comics, and graphic novels. Maybe it will inspire the person to pick up the actual book; maybe, it will help the reader with an otherwise difficult story. (I swear, the reason I ended up loving Moby Dick was because of the movie versions and comic version I had read before I read the actual book.) Not to mention that classics like plays were meant to be watched, not read.

    *Self-expression; wanting to be the type of kid who reads classics. Frankly, I'm not sure what an adult can do to "make" a kid be this type of kid. Tied into this is a certain type of peer pressure; if everyone is reading, and enjoying, a book, you want to, also.

    *Reading aloud and audiobooks. Some classics were meant to be heard; and it's another great way to introduce and share in the love of literature. (What's also great about audiobooks -- knowing the right way to pronounce a word.)

    *Don't force it. (Encourage, yes. Force, no.)

    *Good booktalking. If the book sounds interesting, a kid will want to read it. Which brings us back to the appearance of a book: it needs an appealing cover, to look enticing, and to also have a good blurb.

    *A belief that reading the classics is important. While there are certain things adults can do such as chat up their own love of Dickens or Austin, or be the English teacher with the Will Shakespeare statue, part of this is the kid's personality; because just as one kid will be swept up in the love of classics, another may be turned off.

    *Buying books, and encouraging kids to buy books. A box of books at a yard sale can be a treasure chest for a reader.

    *Good teachers who make literature exciting.

    *Letting the reader decide what he or she is ready for. Some "classics" were meant for high school or college age; others are for younger readers. Don't miss out on the fun of age appropriate classics such as Swallows and Amazons.

    Thank you all for your comments and insights.

    King Dork

    King Dork by Frank Portman

    The Plot: Tom Henderson is trying to make it thru high school -- he has a best friend (Sam Hellerman) based merely on alphabetical order, a band that spends most of its time thinking up cool album names, and a hippie stepfather. He's a self-described King Dork, a loser. Then he finds his dead father's copy of Catcher in the Rye, and begins discovering things about his father, and himself.

    The Good: Laugh out loud funny. As you can see, I've added it to my Best Books of 2006 sidebar.

    I love the idea of connecting with a missing person by a shared book; not just any book, but the actual, physical book held and read and written in by the parent.

    I like that Tom is an unreliable narrator.

    I adore that Tom hates Catcher in the Rye and the whole Catcher cult. People either love or hate CITR; count me as one who doesn't get what is so darn great about it. (I read it and thought eh, a book about a spoiled rich boy who thinks his life is so hard when it really isn't; I've been advised to read it now that I'm older, which, of course, leads to the whole is it or isn't it YA argument.) Anyway. Since I've never thought Catcher was all that, and Tom doesn't either, Tom and I instantly bonded. (Interestingly, I've heard at least one person say that this caused an instant dislike of Tom, because Tom was trashing the.best.book.ever, and so they had a hard time getting into the book.)

    I also loved the look at creativity. Tom has a band, and they spend most of their time thinking of the perfect band name and album covers. But upon occasion, they also write original songs. Portman, himself a musician, shows how part of becoming an artist and finding one's own voice includes being "inspired" by another's work to the point of unintentionally copying. (Discuss amongst yourselves who I'm talking about. Further discussion point: the roles of adults in the lives of young artists, who should be aware of this "inspiration").

    Tom explains, "I wrote this song called 'Kyrsten Blakeny's a Total Fox,' only to realize that what I'd done was basically rewrite 'Christine Sixteen' with new, suckier lyrics." Later, he gets irritated at his stepfather saying a new song sounds like something else. His friend says, "You know, 'My Baby Who Art in Heaven' does sound an awful lot like 'Sweet Jane.'" "Fuck," I said. " (Let me just add that the way Kyrsten spells her first name? Cracks me up.)

    There was a recent book about teenage boys and sex, which I hated. The point of that other book was to make teenage boys more sympathetic; I read it and thought, this is the book I'd want my fictitious daughter to read if I wanted her to never date or trust a boy. I mention this unnamed book just to say, where that other book failed, King Dork succeeds.

    A book that is honest and funny and about sex and does make teenage boys sympathetic and lovable? King Dork. The boys are dorky, sometimes stupid, think about sex a lot. They hook up with girls. (And this is where I know that Tom is an unreliable narrator, because I don't think anyone who is such a "loser" as Tom describes himself is going to be getting the action he gets.) But you're always rooting for Tom, and liking Tom, and laughing with Tom.

    I wonder about the audience of the book; is it teens, or is it people my age? I think the target audience for this book is older teens (age 16 and up into college); but this is also a crossover book adults will love.

    There is a mystery plot that Tom tries to unravel, about his father, and the cause of his father's death. In all honesty, it's a weak mystery; the joy of this book isn't what happened to Tom's dad but rather, what is Tom going to say or do next? So, the remainder of my review will be highlights from Tom.

    Tom on the education he's getting: "My academic achievements were second to none, yet somehow I instinctively knew I wasn't going to solve this particular problem by making a collage or appreciating ethnic food or putting on a skit."

    Tom on his father's book collection: "Among them was a beat up copy of The Little Red Book, which is a collection of retarded sayings by this chubby mass murderer from China."

    Tom on putting together the clues of his father's life: "And that road of reasoning leads to an entirely different way of looking at it, which is that all these elements are random and not really connected to each other in any particular way, except to the degree that Sam Hellerman and I tried to make them make sense by coming up with a storyline to tie them together."

    About boomers: "You stuck it to the man, killed half of your brain cells, and dumbed down the educational system: you are the greatest generation."

    And don't ignore the hidden gems found in the glossary, which includes a handy pronunciation guide.

    boomers: the most annoying generation
    bob dylan: BAY bee ZIM er mn
    KISS: nites in SERViss uv SAY tan
    The Smiths: da smurfs

    Links:
    The Pop Goes the Library Frank Portman interview. If you're thinking, why doesn't Liz mention the music in the book? Sophie & Frank have it covered in the interview.
    Dr. Frank's blog.

    A Series of Unfortunate Events

    I've been making my way thru A Series of Unfortunate Events, listening on the drive back and forth to work. My most recent listen was to The Carnivorous Carnival. I followed Jill's advice to then read Lemony Snicket: An Unauthorized Autobiography before continuing on to the rest of the series.

    Can I just say Wow? I am so blown away by these books. Daniel Handler is brilliant, on so many levels. First, of course, is the way he plays with language; next, is the wonderful plotting as the story unravels, book by book; and finally, by capturing the imagination of so many readers.

    I'm making my way thru the series, expecting certain things to happen (children in peril; children thwart Count Olaf; children save themselves, Olaf runs away, Poe shows up.) And then I get to the Vile Village -- and it changes. And suddenly, the kids are on their own, and the series keeps sliding from its original black (evil Count Olaf) and white (poor innocent Baudelaires) to gray. And the illusion of safety is ripped away. And the ending of Book 9 -- well, the only reason I didn't plunge into the next book is Jill said I had to read the unauthorized autobiography first, and I trust Jill.

    And now, I'm thinking, what the hell is Handler doing?

    And then they took him,
    They took him far away,
    They took him in the dead of night,
    Beneath a moon of gray.
    They took him from the kitchen,
    Like you'd take a midnight snack,
    The VFD, they took him
    And the never brought him back.

    And that's from when the VFD were good guys. The Unauthorized Autobiography plunges deeper into gray areas, yet continues with the fun language and writing. This story is a puzzle, that keeps getting more complex; yet not in a way that turns off young readers. This is sophisticated storytelling, with some very mature themes being introduced. Plus, it's so smart, with little details that you may miss if you're in a hurry. Following the "see" in the index leads to the following: Quagmire triplets, see abductions; abductions, see last minute escapes; last minute escapes, see running for one's life; running for one's life, see Snicket, Lemony.

    There's all the Internet chat about whether or not Harry will die. Cutting to the chase, I find it highly unlikely that Harry will die because frankly, it's not that type of series. However, as ASOUE proceeds, it appears to me that there will be some startling revelations that will be just as shocking, if not more so, than a dead Harry. What have the Baudelaire parents done, as members of VFD, an organization that uses disguises and takes children? Is their mother a Snicket? And I don't want to begin with some of my other questions, because I still have more books (10, 11, 12, not to mention the Beatrice book and 13) left to read.

    Contest At Readable Feast

    A Readable Feast has a contest to give away a Fodor's ... With Kids book. Especially since one of them is for Disney, and I leave for Disney soon, I figured, what the heck? So I'm entering. Check out the rules in the link above to enter (either by posting about the contest or leaving a comment at the blog).

    A Readable Feast is a ClubMom Blog. Nope, I'm not a mom, but when Melissa Wiley began posting over at The Lilting House, I checked out some of the other blogs, found interesting things about books, recipes, travel and pop culture, and added a few to my bloglines.

    Friday, August 04, 2006

    Poetry Friday

    Anchovies, anchovies, you're so delicious
    I love you more than all other fishes.
    -- Dawn, Ep: Conversations with Dead People.

    OK, so not my best contribution to Poetry Friday, but I worked this morning then spent the afternoon at the Boardwalk with one of my best friends and her two kids and seriously, this is the best I can do.

    Links to other Poetry Friday'ers will be posted sometime tomorrow.

    UPDATED: Poetry Friday links:

    Big A little a and
    Ode to the Book
    Blog From the Windowsill shares two poems for a friend
    Bookshelves of Doom and Hiaku contest (results plus a new topic)
    Susan Taylor Brown and
    LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka)
    Farm School recommends Rhyming Dictionaries
    Little Willow and Don't Leave A Diva (with link to an audio clip)
    MotherReader reviews Yellow Star and a Search Fib
    Scholar's Blog and Shelley's Birthday
    A Wrung Sponge and Butterfly Poetry
    A Year of Reading and
    Confessions of a Reader

    Let me know in the comments if I missed you. Bloglines was acting a little funny.

    Wednesday, August 02, 2006

    Carnival of Storytelling

    Be the Story has the recent Carnival of Storytelling. There are some interesting links (including to one of my recent classic rants, I mean, rant about classics). A new carnival on a hot day like today is great, because enjoy the fun and the links and get to stay inside with air conditioning. Carnivals and air conditioning, perfect together.

    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    Buffy Quote of the Week

    Xander: "I bribed him."
    Buffy: "How much?"
    Xander: "Twenty-eight bucks. Does the Council reimburse for that stuff?"
    Giles: "Did you get a receipt?"
    Xander: "Damn."
    Ep: Enemies

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