Friday, September 28, 2007

Cybils: The Young Adult Fiction List

How much do I love the Cybils?

Well, in addition to being involved with the Middle Grade Fiction, I'm on the Judging Panel for YA.

The organizer: Jackie Parker (Interactive Reader)

Nominating Panel:
Stacy DeKeyser
Trisha (The YaYaYas)
Anne Heidemann (Librarianne)
Charlotte Taylor (Charlotte's Library)
Becky Laney (Becky's Book Reviews)
Eisha (Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast)
Jackie Parker (Interactive Reader)

Judging Panel:
Liz Burns (A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy)
Jennifer Laughran (Not Your Mother's Bookclub)
Sarah Miller
Maureen Kearney (Confessions of a Bibliovore)
Jen Robinson (Jen Robinson's Book Page)

Cybils: The Middle Grade Fiction Panels

This year, I'm the organizer for the Cybils for Middle Grade fiction. Yep, I'm just the girl who can't say no! And why should I say no to things that are fun?

The other people who think reading the latest and best Middle Grade fiction titles 24/7, and then passionately discussing same, is more fun than the funnest thing in fundonia, are:*

Nominating Panel:
Kate Messner
Erin (Miss Erin)
Little Willow (Bildungsroman)
Sherry Early (Semicolon)
Amanda Snow (A Patchwork of Books)
Jocelyn Pearce (Teen Book Review)
Kerry Millar (Shelf Elf)

Judging Panel:
Stacy Dillon (Booktopia)
Betsy Bird (A Fuse #8 Production)
Zee (Zee Says)
Christine Norris
Bruce Black (Wordswimmer)

*Just try diagramming that sentence. I double dare you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Nominate a Book : YALSA

For the longest time, I've been meaning to do a post about how one can nominate books for various YALSA lists and Awards.

What do I see but Snow at The Only True Magic has posted about it! So, if you want to nominate a title for BBYA, popular paperbacks, or, yes, the Printz, go over to The Only True Magic and read Snow's post.

September Carnival of Children's Literature

Wow, where did September go?

Meanwhile, see what's been happening at your favorite blogs (and discover some new ones.) The September Carnival of Children's Literature is over at Charlotte's Library.

I'm ashamed to say that time got away from me and I forgot to submit an entry. But, I can enjoy everyone else's!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Edge of the Forest, September 2007

The September issue of The Edge of the Forest is now up.

Courtesy of Kelly at Big A little a, here is a list of some of the great features this month:

An interview with Phil Bildner, by Camille Powell.
An appreciation of Patrick McDowell's picture books, by Adrienne Furness.
Kelly discusses Anglo-American versions of Baba Yaga tales in Baba Yaga Heads West
I review Barry Lyga's Fanboy and Boy Toy
Kim Winters talks being on retreat in A Day in the Life
Betsy Bird (A Fuse #8 Production) tells us What's in their Backpacks?
Robin Brande is this month's Blogging Writer
Sounds from the Forest talks with Mary Anne Hoberman and Deborah Freedman (Brought to you by Just One More Book!!)

Plus, of course, reviews in all categories—from Picture book to Young Adult.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Welcome to Readers of the Cybils Blog!

I'm the highlighted organizer over at the Cybils blog.

A note about the photo: Nope, it's not me. I'm not a big fan of photos of me, and maybe one of these days I'll get a professional photo of me that I like to use for things that use photos. In the meanwhile, I use a photo of my grandmother.

Monday, September 17, 2007

King Arthur: Excalibur Unsheathed: An English Legend

King Arthur: Excalibur Unsheathed: An English Legend by Jeff Limke and Thomas Yeates. Copy supplied by publisher, Graphic Universe, in support of last year's Cybils.

The Plot:

King Arthur; the focus is the younger years, and the take is grounding it in English history.

The Good:

It seems like most of the Arthur (re)tellings I've read recently jump to the end, with the focus on old(er) Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere, Mordred. So it's nice to see one that focuses on the early years and Arthur building his kingdom and his power base; to learn of his early adventures and victories and Arthur becoming king, in name, and in power. Kingship starts with the sword and the stone but is made real with battles, kidnappings and quests.

It's always a little sad to read early Arthur, knowing the darkness which will come.

Age: good for younger readers. As with any tale originally told for adults, as well as a tale that has so many variations, the author doing the retelling has to decide what to include and what to exclude. Here, the details of Arthur's birth are omitted.

Included are websites and books for further reading, including The World of King Arthur by Kevin Crossley Holland;; and information on La Morte D'Arthur. The art is based on both historical and traditional sources.


The Comic Wire interview with Jeff Limke

Teens Read Too review

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Seventeenth Summer

Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly. Library copy.

The Plot:

Angie, a recent graduate of a small, all girls school, meets Jack, a popular kid who just graduated from the local public school. They start to date and she gets pulled into the popular crowd; she'll be leaving for college in the fall. Jack won't. Angie has no idea what to do with all her feelings and emotions, as she moves past childhood.

The Good:

A haunting, lyrical book, where, quite frankly, nothing much happens. This is about the journey, not the trip.

It's a quiet book, much like Criss Cross. It was published in 1942; Daly wrote it in college; so despite the date, this is really a book at small town America between the wars, in those last golden years before WWII. Angie leaves childhood behind after that summer; the reader knows that all those golden boys, Jack, Fritz, and Swede, will no doubt be seeing battle soon. (Martin, I'm sure, will come up with a bogus deferment. More on him below.)

Angie is quiet and an observer, almost passive. Much is made of her not being part of the crowd before meeting Jack; she mentions girls she went to school with, but no friends. It's as if she didn't start to live until she met Jack. And, in many ways, in this place and time, it's true. Without a boy, a girl who walks alone to town to get a Coke will be talked about. The rules are complex to the point of being an alternate world, about when it's OK to call a boy (apparently, never); when it's OK to go steady with a boy (apparently, rarely.)

I'm sure this can be viewed as "clean" romance; Angie questions whether it's OK to kiss Jack on a third date, even though she likes him; a declaration of love stops the world; she doesn't understand what "necking" is, or the "fast" reputation of certain girls.

But. But. There is so much more here, obvious to the reader who is, well, a little big older. And wiser. The couple who are in the back seat of the car and so quiet. We know, or suspect, what they are doing, even tho Angie does not. Just as we wonder at the inclusion of the young Dolly, from the poor family, going out with "the crowd" and drinking beer.

There are the couples who disappear, the places people park. But, most tragically, Angie's older sister, Lorraine, home from college, who wants, yearns, for something more out of life and is also lonely. Lorraine's sad story is the dark side of the AndyHardy movie like romance of Angie and Jack, with its chaste kisses and whirlwind of unknown (so unacted upon) feelings and emotions, where holding hands is overpowering. Lorraine meets Martin, in his mid to late 20s. From the text, it's clear that Lorraine wants and needs a boyfriend; and that she has broken "the rules" by accepting dates within too short a time period and calling a boy. From the comments she makes to her younger sister, I wonder. While a strict reading of the text makes it seem that the only lesson is, "don't accept a date too quickly or the boy will not really care for you," just how far did Lorraine go, in trying to keep and capture Martin?

Happily, the only "punishment" Lorraine suffers is the gaining of knowledge. Oh, and Martin drops her, coldly, cruelly. Lorraine returns to college, having lost her innocence; even if she didn't sleep with Martin, she is a bit colder in her heart. But in looking up more information about the author, I discovered that Maureen based the sisters in her book on her real life sisters. In real life, Lorraine was Kay Daly Leslie, who became a vice president of Revlon important enough to warrant an obituary in Time Magazine. Yes, I thought, she made it out of the small town and did indeed find what she was looking for.

The writing beautifully captures a summer and a summer romance; of wanting and yearning and searching and thinking. And I do wonder; how much did Daly herself know? A few times, the other characters comment on or react to Angie's being, well, "a good girl" who is unaware of certain things. Was Daly similarly ignorant about what the others were hinting at? Or was Daly well aware, and crafted the book knowing well what was OK and not OK for a teenage girl to write (and read) in the early 1940s? Because often, the writing is full of want and desire.

Speaking of the 40s, one of the things I love about books like this is the look into the past. This provides a feel of the early 1940s that no "historical fiction" book could deliver; from the class issues between Jack and Angie (she has a near breakdown from Jack clicking his teeth with a spoon as he eats ice cream and strongly suspects that his father eats dinner in his shirtsleeves, and believes the reader will be equally appalled), to the mother's odd illnesses, to the local hangouts where teens drink beer and smoke (and no one, NO ONE, minds about ashes or smoke, let alone drunk driving.)

Would teens today be interested in this book? I think those who liked Criss Cross. I think younger teens. And I think those teens who are, like Angie, more sheltered. Some communities have Nick and Norahs; others have Angies.


The Semicentennial of Seventeenth Summer: Some Questions and Answers from The ALAN Review
In Memoriam notice for Maureen Daly
The Longstockings review

GLBT Month at Young Adults Book Central

September is GLBT Month at Young Adult (& Kid's) Book Central (YABC).

To quote the YABC site: While most GLBT teens today don't have to deal with as much prejudice as in the past, attitudes and acceptance vary greatly from place to place and from school to school. Luckily, they have an ever-growing range of books and authors to look to for help, understanding, and information (IMHO the best defense against mis-information and misconceptions is arming yourself with the facts). After all, we're all human beings and we're all in this together. It only makes sense that we all try to get along, no matter our sexual orientation (or political or religious affiliations).

So, the YABC dedicated September as GLBT Month, and is all about GLBT books and the people who write them and read them and whose lives are saved by them. The YABC Blog is full of interviews and reviews. And, there are five different contests, with prizes!

I'd been planning to post about this from the time I read about it; and you see how bad I am with timing, and how busy, when it's taken this long to actually do it! But I was inspired following this YABC post about the negative feedback the site has gotten. Follow the links. It's quite depressing.

The Cybils!

It is time for the Cybils!

What are the Cybils? The long answer is here, and the short answer: a book award by bloggers to recognize that a book can be both high quality and popular. This is the second year.

What types of books? Children's and young adult, with the full list of categories and organizers here. Yep, that's my name as Middle Grade Fiction organizer.

If this is the second year, what were the winners last year? The full list is here.

How can I help? I was hoping you'd ask! They Cybils blog has all the details here. If you want to nominate a title, you can. Anyone with an email address can nominated one title per category.

What to do with all the nominated titles? Basically, the organizers have been selected. We organize; keep track of nominated titles and who is reading what and that all books get read. All books get read... The Cybils has a two-part process for readers. First, a group of panelists read all the books. This doesn't mean that each person reads each book; rather, each book will be read by at least one person. Those panelists then determine the short list.

The short list then gets announced and handed to the judges, who read those titles and determine a winner.

Want to volunteer? Well, check the Cybils blog post asking for volunteers to see if you meet the criteria and are willing to live with the guidelines. For example, "You’ll naturally want to blog about the books you’re reading; just don’t indicate how you intend to vote."

So, what are you doing over here? Go over to the Cybils blog, read up, and volunteer!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Poetry Friday: Summer is Gone

Summer is Gone-- anonymous, 9th Century, Ireland. Translated by Kuno Meyer

My tidings for you: the stag bells,
Winter snows, summer is gone.

Wind high and cold, low the sun,
Short his course, sea running high.

Deep-red the bracken, its shape all gone --
The wild-goose has raised his wonted cry.

Cold has caught the wings of birds:
Seasons of ice -- these are my tidings.

Other translations: Here, here, here.

The round up is at Hip Writer Mama.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Blogging For A Cure

Last month, Robert Mercer, Grace Lin's husband, died. He had battled cancer for several years. Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast has this post, explaining a bit about an upcoming fundraiser:
By now, you have probably read the very sad news of the death of Robert Mercer, Grace Lin’s husband, at the end of last month, due to cancer.

You may remember from our May ’07 interview with Grace that she was the driving force behind the Robert’s Snow: for Cancer’s Cure fundraising effort after Robert was initially diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma and after writing Robert’s Snow (Viking Books; 2004) soon after that diagnosis. The fundraising effort entailed the auctioning off of special snowflakes, created by children’s book illustrators, whom Grace had gathered together in the name of raising money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI). The auction raised a great deal of money in its first year after the publication of this book, which features these illustrators, many of them award-winning, and their creatively and uniquely designed wood snowflakes for the cause. One hundred percent of the royalties from the book’s sale went to the DFCI to support sarcoma research. Robert’s Snow is in its third year and has already raised more than $200,000 for Dana-Farber. (You can see the 2005 snowflakes here).

This year, more than 200 well-known children’s book illustrators from around the world have been given a five-inch wooden snowflake to decorate at will. Like actual snowflakes, each design is unique. The 2007 online auctions for bidding on these hand-painted snowflakes will take place in three separate auctions, open to everyone, from November 19 to 23, November 26-30, and December 3-7. You can read here for more information.

Jules goes on to explain how we in the blogosphere can help make this auction a success:

What we in the kidlitosphere community want to do to help drive traffic to the site for this year's auctions and help raise money for the cause is highlight at our blogs the illustrators who have created snowflakes for these upcoming ’07 auctions'; as well as post the unique snowflakes they have made (one at a time at each blog, which the DFCI has graciously given us permission to do), ultimately driving as much traffic as we possibly can to the Robert's Snow online auctions. Many bloggers have expressed a desire to do something, and we think this can be our unique contribution.
Please, head over to Seven Impossible Things... to get the information on how this will work. For this to be as successful as possible, we need to be coordinated in our efforts, and Jules at Seven Impossible Things... is keeping track of everything: what blog is highlighting which illustrator, making sure we don't duplicate efforts, and also compiling a master list of the illustrators and the blogs posting about them. So Seven Impossible Things... has some simple rules and guidelines for those blogs wishing to participate.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Teen Read Week

Teen Read Week is coming up in October; many of you have read about the inspired teaming up of Readergirlz and YALSA, with their 31 Flavorites. And I want to blog a bit more about TRW and Readergirlz and YALSA, but first, I wanted to explain a bit more about Teen Read Week. It's sponsored by YALSA (the YA Section of ALA); it's October 14 to 20, 2007.

Why Teen Read Week? Well, as the YALSA website says, "Teen Read Week is a national literacy initiative aimed at teens, their parents, librarians, educators, booksellers and other concerned adults. It began in 1998 and is celebrated the third week in October."

Here's the thing; as you can see by the Readergirlz initiative, it's not just YALSA saying "Teen Read Week." YALSA does a ton of stuff connected with this; they get sponsors and collaborate with organizations; they promote teens, reading, and YA lit to the world at large, using TRW as a focal point; they put together a ton of resources, including a wiki with book lists and program ideas, sample press releases and a ton of other goodies).

While TRW is the third week of October, registration for TRW is NOW and ends September 17th. And the reason I'm posting about TRW is as a reminder to go and register! (And yes, I'm usually so bad at remembering these dates that it wasn't until I heard from Stephanie Kuenn at YALSA, reminding me that the registration deadline was fast approaching, that I registered.)

Registration is here. It's free; it's easy; and no, you don't have to be a member of ALA or YALSA in order to register. And you don't have to be a librarian : "Teen Read Week is a national literacy initiative aimed at teens, their parents, librarians, educators, booksellers and other concerned adults. If you would like to participate, just register."

So can nonlibrarians register? YES! When you go to register, title and library are optional; but, to show YALSA blogger involvement, why not put down "blogger" as title and your blog & URL in the library box?

Why register? I mean, it's not like you have to in order to participate or to use the resources for TRW that are at the YALSA site.

To quote from the YALSA website again, "YALSA is a non profit organization that depends on its members for support. By registering, you are letting us know that teen literacy is a concern and you are willing to do something about it! By registering, you are telling YALSA that this program is worthwhile, and we will continue to sponsor the week."

In other words, YALSA (like any other organization) cannot just say "we had TRW"; they need numbers and feedback to say, "it was a success." So, unless you officially register, you're not in the headcount, as it were, so you may as well be invisible. Too many invisible participants and suddenly TRW doesn't look successful, even if it is. So please; register!

Cross posted at Pop Goes the Library.

Alison Lurie on Harry Potter

Alison Lurie reviews the Harry Potter series in Pottery at The New York Review of Books. (Thanks to Educating Alice for the link.)

It's an interesting and thoughtful read; even if I didn't always agree with her. For example, I found this description of the four houses funny, but not entirely on target: "The student population of Hogwarts, like that of most high schools, is divided into jocks, brains, nice guys, and dangerous Goths." On the surface, amusing; but the Slytherins as Goths? Nope, doesn't work. But it did make me laugh.

Overall, I liked the essay because it approaches the series as the whole, also addresses the film, and avoids the now-tiresome "poor quality writing/ it's all about the marketing" arguments.

One final thing; Lurie, likes others, bemoans how the cast is getting "too old" for the roles they play.

Yes, it's true that sometimes actors play people their own age; but not always. It's not the only mark of a good, believable performance.

Yes, Ione Sky was playing her age in Say Anything; but John Cusack was already in his early 20s. Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Seyfriend played their ages in Mean Girls; but Rachel McAdams, playing Lohan's peer, is ten years older than Lohan. Tom Cruise was already 21 when he played teenagers in Risky Business and All the Right Moves. Three of the five Breakfast Club members were in their 20s. This game can, of course, go on and on and on.

The idea that the chronological age of the actor must be the same as the role they played, otherwise one must "suspend disbelief" is, to me, ridiculous. Case in point: Snape, as a classmate of James and Lily Potter, is 21 years older than Harry, so is in his 30s. I adore Alan Rickman. I firmly believe no one else could have played Snape half so well, and I cannot wait to see what he does with the role for the last two movies. Yet Rickman is 40 years older than the actor playing Harry Potter. I cannot recall any fuss being made about his being too old. Same for Gary Oldman, who is 30 years older than the kids rather than 21; David Thewlis is close to being the "right age" for a classmate of James Potter, but even he is 26 years older than Daniel Radcliffe, not 21.

In terms of the teenage cast aging and not being replaced: I find it remarkable that even the small roles haven't been recast. And the more interesting argument to me is not the "oh, the actor is too old!" but rather, how, now, does the actor's physical look match the person described in the book? Is that look still right? Because isn't that what Rickman, Oldman, and Thewlis were judged on -- not their ages, but did it "fit"? Was the performance believable? And, for the teens, the extra worry of, if a character is always described as short, yet the actor has become tall, what then?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Lessons From A Dead Girl

Lessons From A Dead Girl by Jo Knowles. Reviewed from ARC; Copy from BEA 2007. Publication date November 2007. I'm adding it to my personal Best Books of 2007.

The Plot:

Laine and Leah have been friends forever. Since fifth grade. As high school students they drifted apart. There are secrets. Secrets Laine never wanted made public. I wish you were dead, Laine thinks. And now Leah is. Why? What happened?

The Good:

I began reading this book. Put it down. Didn't want to finish it or read it or even think about it.

Not because the book is bad or poorly written. No, quite the opposite. This is a wonderful book. I had trouble reading it because what Knowles writes about is so disturbing to me. It's about how children hurt each other; how cruel they can be, how love and hate and like and trust and betrayal are all combined.

"Each time [my mother] says Leah's name, I get pulled back there, to the time when Leah and I were still best friends. The feelings come rushing into my chest. I try to shake my head. Swallow. Push them back down. Strengthen the mortar and rebuild my wall. But I see us anyway. One scene after another. Leah, always the leader, teaching me the complicated rules about trust and secrets and what it means to be her best friend. There were so many hard lessons. But what good are they now? What good are the lessons from a dead girl?"

Leah is dead. Liane is curled up in bed, convinced she is responsible, thinking back on their relationship. On the games Leah initiated, games of "practicing" being married and being with boys.

I found this devastating to read. It is so painful; and so scary, what children can do to one another, what teens can do to one another. The abuse and teasing and tormenting and control; the kids who do things, the kids who let it happen, the strange dynamics of friendship. The fear of a child being Laine; of a child being Leah. Of being Laine. Of being Leah.

Leah; who damages Laine. But, of course, Leah herself has secrets. Her actions, her tormenting, her torments don't come out of the blue.

This book is beautifully written; Knowles manages to create sympathy for both Laine and Leah. And she doesn't answer all the questions she raises. In some ways, Laine and Leah are a twisted love story. Twisted not because it is two girls; twisted because of how Leah uses power, secrets, and abuse to get what she wants and to manipulate Laine. And Laine, left with questions unanswered about who she is.

What else?

Knowles doesn't just give us a look at the secret and troubled lives of children, and how that haunts the adults they become. She also gives us forgiveness and understanding. This could easily have gone the after school special route of making Leah eeeviiiillll. But; she isn't. She is a broken child. And by the end, the reader weeps for both Leah and Laine.

Also of interest: how isolated Laine is, how alone. She has parents and an older sister, but they are very absent from the story. If a movie was made of this, it could easily be done without ever showing the parents.


YA Fresh review
Class of 2k7: Jo Knowles
Booktalks -- Quick and Simply booktalk (by Nancy Keane)
edited to add:
Reading Rants review
and edited again:
Jen Robinson's Book Page review

Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L'Engle died on Thursday at age 88.

AmoXcalli has a round up of news and blog postings.

In my drafts pile are reviews of the Time Quintet books.

Like many readers, I loved L'Engle. Hearing of her death is like hearing of the death of someone I knew. I want to pull out all her books and reread them. I want to revisit her strong girls like Meg Murry and her complex women like Katherine Forrester. And I both hope, and fear, at what will come next. Do I want her journals published? Do I want to read whatever fragments exist of the grown up Meg Murry story?

I'm trying to recall whether the first book of hers I read was A Wrinkle in Time or Meet the Austins. A Wrinkle in Time was part of one of those boxed sets of Newbery books, and I read it because I was bored. And just adored it; adored smart, grumpy Meg Murry, her family, the adventure. I was a bit on the young side, because when I went to read the sequels right away they didn't do anything for me; I waited a few years, tried again, and liked those, also. It was because of the "tried again" approach to L'Engle that I read most of her work as a young teen (so am quite amused by the Times calling her a children's writer.) And it was one of the ways I learned that some books are read too early.

Meet the Austins; such a different book, yet at it's heart, another great main character and family. As an adult, I sympathize with the charges made that sometimes L'Engle's families are a little too perfect. As a child, most of the dated references went over my head or I ignored them. It was only on rereading that I discovered that Mrs. Austin had been a singer and the Austins met during the war. And it's a little sad that while L'Engle was obviously referring to World War II, we've had enough wars that the reference doesn't date the book.

I do have problems with some of the dated information; most noticeable, The Moon By Night, where Mother doesn't wear pants because Daddy doesn't like women in slacks. It jarred me when I read it; bothers me still; but helped to temper my view of those "perfect" families. I adore The Moon By Night because it first gives us Zachary Gray. Even tho Zachary Gray helps to mess up the L'Engle timeline, especially when viewed in context with A Severed Wasp.

A House Like A Lotus is one of my favorite L'Engle books. Oh, the questioning, the smart characters, the sense of purpose, along with the loneliness and isolation and seeking... Plus, a character who loses her virginity for reasons other than love? I'd never read that before. And the struggles of Polly O'Keefe... isolated, lonely, despite the large family. Those who say the family life in L'Engle's books is idealized should remember how unhappy Polly is here. Sadly, while I'm sure L'Engle strove to make the lesbian couple real and true, the scene of the drunk older woman making an awkward pass at Polly doesn't hold up.

I have to laugh at remembering how Ellen Emerson White's books interrelate and how I love it and how I also know it has given EEW a bit of a headache (my word, not hers) as she wonders, can Rebecca's daughter be in a book about Dana if Dana babysat Rebecca's children. Long before Sarah Dessen, Madeleine L'Engle was using the same characters in different books and series, and it would be great fun for us to try to figure out a timeline for that! Quite simply, at some point I think she stopped worrying about the years and just wrote.

I met Madeleine L'Engle at a conference once; it was the mid 1980s and her husband was still alive. I wrote to her afterwards, and somewhere I have a lovely note from her in response. For several years, I received the Christmas newsletter she sent out. (All in boxes, somewhere.) She was, as one would expect, lovely, charming, friendly.

As I continue to think about her books and her writing, I realize how many things L'Engle did has influenced what I like in a book. I like a good story. I like believable characters who are smart. I like questions. And I like it when the books create their own universe, with the same people revisited, either in a big way (with a sequel) or a small way (Philippa's portraits appearing in a book.)

Oh, wow! And as I write this, I realize this is something else that Ellen Emerson White has done that L'Engle did: take a teenaged character from a YA/children's book and revisit them as an adult in a book for adults. A Severed Wasp continues the story begun in The Small Rain; A Live Coal in the Sea continues the story of Camilla. It's been a while since I read these; but what strikes me is, if her children's/YA books tend to idealize certain family traits, her adult books are full of betrayals and disappointments. While Meg Murry never got the long-promised adult book of her own, the stories about her daughter, Polly, hint at some of Meg's own disappointments and choices.

The New Yorker did a rather fascinating, if brutal, article on L'Engle several years back. I found it uncomfortably unforgiving in tone; yet it did provide interesting insight into an author, and how a writer shapes her world. (Full text is here.) The article was discussed by The Lipstick Librarian here and here.

I include the negative article here, because it's good to show both sides; and because it does raise interesting questions about creativity. And because the discussion here includes people who know L'Engle writing in her defense, so has some lovely memories of this wonderful woman. And if that portrait made L'Engle more human; so what? We should not idolize our heroes, but realize they are just as human as we are. (As I reread that story, I'm struck by how the author omits any references to L'Engle's adult books. Her adult books are a must read to get a full picture of L'Engle as a writer.)

I think, as a writer, L'Engle shaped her books to tell a good story and to tell the stories that she needed to tell as a person and a writer. And if in doing so she changed facts, so what? Especially if the books are fiction or memoir. It reminds me of the end of The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving, actually: "So we dream on. Thus we invent our lives. We give ourselves a sainted mother, we make our father a hero; and someone's older brother, and someone's older sister - they become our heroes, too. We invent what we love, and what we fear. There is always a brave, lost brother - and a little lost sister, too. We dream on and on: the best hotel, the perfect family, the resort life. And our dreams escape us almost as vividly as we can imagine them.''

L'Engle used her life, her creativity, her talent and gave us invented dreams. I am thankful for it. I am thankful at how many books she did leave.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Poetry Friday

Donal Óg
by Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory

Translated from an anonymous eighth-century Irish poem

It is late last night the dog was speaking of you;
the snipe was speaking of you in her deep marsh.
It is you are the lonely bird through the woods;
and that you may be without a mate until you find me.

You promised me, and you said a lie to me,
that you would be before me where the sheep are flocked;
I gave a whistle and three hundred cries to you,
and I found nothing there but a bleating lamb.

You promised me a thing that was hard for you,
a ship of gold under a silver mast;
twelve towns with a market in all of them,
and a fine white court by the side of the sea.

You promised me a thing that is not possible,
that you would give me gloves of the skin of a fish;
that you would give me shoes of the skin of a bird;
and a suit of the dearest silk in Ireland.

When I go by myself to the Well of Loneliness,
I sit down and I go through my trouble;
when I see the world and do not see my boy,
he that has an amber shade in his hair.

It was on that Sunday I gave my love to you;
the Sunday that is last before Easter Sunday.
And myself on my knees reading the Passion;
and my two eyes giving love to you for ever.

My mother said to me not to be talking with you today,
or tomorrow, or on the Sunday;
it was a bad time she took for telling me that;
it was shutting the door after the house was robbed.

My heart is as black as the blackness of the sloe,
or as the black coal that is on the smith's forge;
or as the sole of a shoe left in white halls;
it was you that put that darkness over my life.

You have taken the east from me; you have taken the west from me;
you have taken what is before me and what is behind me;
you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me;
and my fear is great that you have taken God from me!

The round up is at Semicolon.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz . From library. DVD.

The Plot:

Nicholas Angel, super cop, gets sent from London to sleepy Sandford. Angel is a by the book crimefighter, but he's made his London colleagues look bad; hence, he's been exiled to "village of the year" Sandford.

At first, it's typical fish out of water as Angel sees crimes in everyday behavior. But is Sandford really so perfect?

The Good:


Simply put, the best movie I've seen this year.

And see, I don't want to say too much .... I don't want to spoil anything for you.

This movie is funny. And it's funny on so many levels; but it's also full of unexpected twists and turns. And a lot of the humor is because it is full of references to other movies; obviously, cop movies, but also westerns, cult films, even Harry Potter.

OK, a bit less scattered. Angel is a fish out of water; and there's laughs as "mr big city police officer" adjusts to sleepy Sandford, Sandford that looks like a dream version of England. But... there's more to Sandford.

Even better (at least, if I can believe the DVD extras), the makers of the movie did talk to actual police officers. To try to get it "right."

And along the way, the references! It's in the lines characters speak, in the names of people, in the shots, in the editing. This movie demands multiple viewings; and yes, you have to listen to the commentary and other DVD extras.

So, if you like funny movies; "get" English humor; and like adventure films. watch this!

Rated R: for violence and for language. But, it's all said with British accents! So it's not so bad!

The Qwikpick Adventure Society

The Qwikpick Adventure Society by Sam Riddleburger. ARC provided by author.

The Plot:

The Qwikpick Adventure Society is comprised of three kids: Lyle Hertzog (who is recounting their adventure, using the typewriter his Dad got him), Marilla Anderson (who took the pictures) and Dave Ruskin (maps.)

And the adventure involves a poop fountain. Oh no, I'm quite serious.

The Good:

This is a great, old-fashioned fun book. Three kids who hang out together and have an adventure: going to see the sewage treatment plant. Because the town is about to update the treatment plant so it will no longer have a, erm, poop fountain. The humor is from the kids, from the journey to the sewage treatment plant and what happens there.... I was laughing and almost throwing up at the same time.

Quotage is needed to convey the humor:

"But the word adventure is stretching it a lot.
"We didn't stop a smuggling ring or get mixed up with the mob or stop an ancient evil from rising up and spreading black terror across Crickenburg. . . . But we did see something that not many other people have gotten to see and no one will get to see again: the Amazing Poop Fountain at the Crickenburg Wastewater Treatment Plant."

Part of my love for this book? The amazing amount of times "poop" is said and each and every time it is a correct usage. What other word would you use? OK, technically it's a "sludge fountain"...but I love when the kids realize that really means poop.

I also like that it's more than just the story; there is the typed part, but also handwritten notes (as Marilla and Dave add their two cents worth), photos, even a mini comic book. I love the mix of ways to convey a story: it adds dimension to the plot and the characters.

Full disclaimer: the author lives in the same area that my aunt does. I love going down for 16 Hands. Sometimes, I think, wow, it would be cool to move down there (around Floyd County); but I'm not sure I'd survive the winters.

Anyway, "knowing" the area this takes place was an added treat. But, aside from that, it is a great setting; not just the Southwest Virginia setting, but also the working rural poor. Lyle's parents both work in the Qwikpick (Dad had a better job, but the factory closed up); they live in a trailer park. Lyle's writing this story on a typewriter because that is what the family can afford. Lyle's a good kid; he appreciates that getting the typewriter is the best his family can do for him. Marilla's family has seen a reversal of fortune because of a family illness eating up all their money, so they, too, live in the trailer park. How refreshing to read a book about kids who live in a trailer park -- with loving parents. No abusive drunks, no drugs.

The Great Origami Pegasus Triumph. No, I cannot explain more, but this had me laugh out loud.

Also good? Marilla's family are Jehovah's Witnesses. And it's just that matter of fact; no negativity, no stereotypes about it. It's who and what she is.

Age rang: I agree with the book jacket, that says ages 8 plus/ grades 3 up. In terms of younger readers, unless you have an issue with the word "poop," or a problem with the reality that some kids live in trailers*, it's a good read. And I also think that older readers looking for hi-lo titles will enjoy it. The use of comics, photos, etc., makes it a fun read; plus the kids are written in such a way that even young teens will have a laugh. Especially over The Great Origami Pegasus Triumph.

This book demands a sequel.

One more thing. Having just lived thru a summer of having to give boys books that, well, aren't the type of things they are interested in ... let me just say. THIS book should be on summer reading lists. It would make librarians happy to be able to give this one to the reluctant reader who is engaged in a war of wills with the mom because they don't want to read (insert Newbery winner here.)

*I kid you not, I had a parent at the library object to Because of Winn Dixie because she didn't want her kid to know that people lived in trailer parks. Can you imagine? And, while Lyle's family is struggling for money, I've seen some awesome mobile homes. We cannot all afford to live in McMansions.


The inspiring fountains of poop at The Roanoke Times
Cece Bell (the author's wife)
QwikPick homepage (for the book)
A Year of Reading review
Hey! There's a really cool T-shirt! (no, not of Poop. Hey, did I mention that "poop" is PeterParker's favorite word? Yeah, he's 4. I know.) More info on the T-shirt here (yes, I just did a typo of another word for poop instead of shirt. He he. I did fix it, tho).
Just Like the Nut review
Original Content (Gail Gauthier) comments

(I'm sure I read a few more reviews, but cannot find them, so if I missed you, leave a link in the comments.)

Buffy Quote of the Week

"Demons. Not that bright."
-- Buffy, Ep: Anne

Monday, September 03, 2007

Top 100 Songs From Graduation Year

From Christine at The Simple & The Ordinary.

It's simple: what songs did you like the year your graduated from high school.

Bold = I loved it!
Underlined = I liked it ...OK, I'm changing this to italics, I liked it, because that's easier on blogger
Strikeout = I hated it!

List of songs from this site

Top 100 Hits of 1984/ Top 100 Songs of 1984

1. When Doves Cry, Prince
2. What's Love Got To Do With It, Tina Turner
3. Say Say Say, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson
4. Footloose, Kenny Loggins
5. Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now), Phil Collins
6. Jump, Van Halen
7. Hello, Lionel Richie
8. Owner Of A Lonely Heart, Yes
9. Ghostbusters, Ray Parker Jr.
10. Karma Chameleon, Culture Club
11. Missing You, John Waite
12. All Night Long (All Night), Lionel Richie
13. Let's Hear It For The Boy, Deniece Williams
14. Dancing In The Dark, Bruce Springsteen
15. Girls Just Want To Have Fun, Cyndi Lauper
16. The Reflex, Duran Duran
17. Time After Time, Cyndi Lauper
18. Jump (For My Love), Pointer Sisters
19. Talking In Your Sleep, Romantics
20. Self Control, Laura Branigan
21. Let's Go Crazy, Prince and The Revolution
22. Say It Isn't So, Daryl Hall and John Oates
23. Hold Me Now, Thompson Twins
24. Joanna, Kool and The Gang
25. I Just Called To Say I Love You, Stevie Wonder
26. Somebody's Watching Me, Rockwell
27. Break My Stride, Matthew Wilder
28. 99 Luftballons, Nena
29. I Can Dream About You, Dan Hartman
30. The Glamorous Life, Sheila E.
31. Oh Sherrie, Steve Perry
32. Stuck On You, Lionel Richie
33. I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues, Elton John
34. She Bop, Cyndi Lauper
35. Borderline, Madonna
36. Sunglasses At Night, Corey Hart
37. Eyes Without A Face, Billy Idol
38. Here Comes The Rain Again, Eurythmics
39. Uptown Girl, Billy Joel
40. Sister Christian, Night Ranger
41. Drive, Cars
42. Twist Of Fate, Olivia Newton-John
43. Union Of The Snake, Duran Duran
44. The Heart Of Rock 'N' Roll, Huey Lewis and The News
45. Hard Habit To Break, Chicago
46. The Warrior, Scandal
47. If Ever You're In My Arms Again, Peabo Bryson
48. Automatic, Pointer Sisters
49. Let The Music Play, Shannon
50. To All The Girls I've Loved Before, Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson
51. Caribbean Queen, Billy Ocean
52. That's All, Genesis
53. Running With The Night, Lionel Richie
54. Sad Songs (Say So Much), Elton John
55. I Want A New Drug, Huey Lewis and The News
56. Islands In The Stream, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton
57. Love Is A Battlefield, Pat Benatar
58. Infatuation, Rod Stewart
59. Almost Paradise, Mike Reno and Ann Wilson
60. Legs, ZZ Top
61. State Of Shock, Jacksons
62. Love Somebody, Rick Springfield
63. Miss Me Blind, Culture Club
64. If This Is It, Huey Lewis and The News
65. You Might Think, Cars
66. Lucky Star, Madonna
67. Cover Me, Bruce Springsteen
68. Cum On Feel The Noize, Quiet Riot
69. Breakdance, Irene Cara
70. Adult Education, Daryl Hall and John Oates
71. They Don't Know, Tracy Ullman
72. An Innocent Man, Billy Joel
73. Cruel Summer, Bananarama
74. Dance Hall Days, Wang Chung
75. Give It Up, K.C.
76. I'm So Excited, Pointer Sisters
77. I Still Can't Get Over Loving You, Ray Parker Jr.
78. Thriller, Michael Jackson
79. Holiday, Madonna
80. Breakin'... There's No Stopping Us, Ollie And Jerry
81. Nobody Told Me, John Lennon
82. Church Of The Poison Mind, Culture Club
83. Think Of Laura, Christopher Cross
84. Time Will Reveal, Debarge
85. Wrapped Around Your Finger, Police
86. Pink Houses, John Cougar Mellencamp
87. Round And Round, Ratt
88. Head Over Heels, Go-Go's
89. The Longest Time, Billy Joel
90. Tonight, Kool and The Gang
91. Got A Hold On Me, Christine McVie
92. Dancing In The Sheets, Shalamar
93. Undercover Of The Night, Rolling Stones
94. On The Dark Side, John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band
95. New Moon On Monday, Duran Duran
96. Major Tom (Coming Home), Peter Schilling
97. Magic, Cars
98. When You Close Your Eyes, Night Ranger
99. Rock Me Tonite, Billy Squier
100. Yah Mo B There, James Ingram and Michael McDonald

What I tried to do was remember, lo, those many years ago -- what did I like? What did sing along to? Do I care at all that Sophie B loses all respect for my music taste?

A number of these I had totally forgotten; thanks, YouTube, for the memories!

So of course, I tag the Pop Goes the Library crew: Sophie, Susan, Carlie, Melissa, John and Karen.

New Jersey Libraries Newsletter: Summer 2007

The New Jersey Libraries Newsletter Summer 2007 has an article about book blogs: Don't Know What to Read Next? Try A Blog!, written by Pop Goes the Library's Carlie Webber.

And, what do you know? Tea Cozy gets mentioned! Cool. I'm in good company: Read Roger, the Cybils, and Neil Gaiman.

Thank you, Carlie, and "hello" to all NJLA readers.

Click here for a PDF of the newsletter.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Plain Janes

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg. Copy: both an ARC from ALA Midwinter 07 and also a review copy supplied by the publisher, Minx. Graphic Novel.

The Plot:

Jane narrowly escapes injury in a bomb attack in Metro City; her parents, wanting safety, move to the suburbs.

Jane's questioning; Jane's not satisfied with life. She changes her hair from long and blond to short and black; and she uses the move to change the types of people she has as friends. Outsiders, instead of the popular kids.

But she wants more. Needs more. Or so she starts P.L.A.I.N.

The Good:

On the one hand, Jane is like any other city girl forced to move to the 'burbs: "It'll be four years before I can get back to Metro City, where there are vibrant people. Culture. Life."

On the other hand, while she doesn't realize it, she's using the move to keep people at a distance. She is also using the move to reinvent herself; when invited to the popular kids' table on the first day, she thinks, "I know this girl. I bet her name is Kim or Zoe or Cindy. I used to be this girl."

Something different turns out sitting with three other girls who, Jane assumes, are "her type of people." Problem is, they don't welcome her with open arms. The three other girls are Jane (Theatre Jane), Jayne (Brain Jane), and Polly Jane (Sporty Jane). And it's funny, and a bit sad, how Jane expects the others to just welcome her and how she has to earn her way in. She doesn't just earn her way in; she creates a friendship between them all that didn't exist.

Jane does it with the P.L.A.I.N.: People Loving Arts In Neighborhoods. See, Jane likes art; and she wants something more; and she's not a fan of the suburbs. Put it all together, and she's creating projects to bring art to the people, and to make them think. All done anonymously and quietly; a pile of stones sorted into a pyramid to protest new buildings, fireplugs decorated with hats and mittens, stuffed animals outside an animal shelter.

The projects are a mix of funny and thoughtful, silly and serious. The adults in town react negatively. Jane's scared parents think, if art can be done without people getting caught, the next step will be the terrorism they ran away from in the city. The police talk about trespassing and damage to property, but almost all the projects show are harmless, in the sense of property damage, and are often thoughtful and helpful (such as inspiring people to donate toys for a charity drive.)

The art: a book about the power of art has to be told with pictures, don't you think? Words couldn't describe the PLAIN projects. And with four girls named Ja(y)ne, the artwork also keeps these four as individuals. The panels project life, action, sadness, hope.

About the only thing I didn't like is that the book ended on a bit of a cliff-hanger. But good news! A sequel is planned.

My Summer Blog Blast Tour Interview with the author
Author Interview at Alice's CWIM Blog
Biblio File review
Big A little a review (with links to other blog reviews)
Emily Reads/ I read books haiku
Sara's Hold Shelf review
Kids Lit review
The Ya Ya Yas review
A Fuse# 8 Production review
Booktopia review

Saturday, September 01, 2007

YA Books On TV

TV Squad reports that Samurai Girl: The Book of the Sword is being made into a TV series for ABC Family. More info at Variety.

I read volume 1 a few years ago; and thought it was fast paced and I can easily visualize it as a TV show. The main character is from a very wealthy Japanese family (she gets her bathing suits tailored! I had no idea you could do that). It's her wedding day and all hell breaks out, people are killed (if I recall, I think ninjas attack?) and she runs away, drama, adventure, swords.

Oh, and for some reason it's all happening in LA (I don't recall why that's where the marriage was taking place.) And, she had been orphaned in a plane crash & was the only survivor.

Samurai Girl was included on the Ya Ya Yas' Asian Americans in Young Adult Fiction list.