Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Buffy Quote of the Week

Cordelia: "I'm just not the type to settle. If I go into a clothing store, I always have to have the most expensive thing, not because it's expensive, but because it costs more."
Ep: The Harvest

Monday, February 26, 2007

John Lewis In the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement


John Lewis In the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson, illustrated by Benny Andrews. Copy donated by Lee & Low. Picture Book.

The Plot: A nonfiction picture book about John Lewis, focusing on his involvement in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

John Lewis was born in 1940; this book traces Lewis's life as a child, through his adulthood, concentrating on his involvement in the Freedom Rides, SNCC, and the Selma to Montgomery March that ended in violence, as police and troopers attacked the marchers.

The Good: I didn't know who John Lewis was before reading this book;* it gives a nice overview of Lewis, and I can easily see using this book for programs for Election Day, Martin Luther King Jr Day (Lewis worked with King), or Black History Month.

Andrew's illustrations, which have a folk art look to them, illustrates some pretty violent episodes. Is this a children's book? Of course! This is part of our history; and Lewis's actions during this time are admirable.

History cannot be hidden because it is violent or unfair or difficult; and Lewis proves a role model who acts, who tries to make the right choice, who is a leader despite his youth. It's one thing to say you are for nonviolence; it's another thing to keep to that view when personally attacked; when you see other assaulted and killed. To keep with those convictions, and triumph, demands respect. Kids need books like this. Lewis saw that "it was time to turn things upside down in order to set them right side up." It is powerful, and important, to read about someone who believed that; who acted; and who continues to act.

Lewis's actions help bring about the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and over twenty years later, Lewis was elected to the House of Representatives. It's a post that he still holds.

The end of the book gives a "Life and Times of John Lewis" time line. Given I always want to know the "rest of the story," and like any 7 year old want to see "real photos" of the people, I'm happy to have as part of the book. It shows that while the events in this book took place 40 years ago, Lewis is part of the present. He's not some guy who lived in the past; he's very much a part of the present. Plus, photos! (Note that there is a typo in the timeline (it says Lewis was re-elected every 4 years when it should be 2 years); correction sheets are being sent out with the book, and reprints will have the correct number.)

*Which shows that I have not yet read Freedom Riders by Ann Bausum.

Links:
Lee & Low Page. (includes preview).
Wikipedia entry on Lewis.

Blog of the Day: Patrick Jones

Blog of the Day: Patrick Jones (actually, that's his website)

About the Blogger: If you have anything to do with teens and libraries, PatrickJones is a must-know. And yes, he's one of those people where the first name and last name run together into one name: PatrickJones. He's a librarian; he's written several professional books about teens and libraries; and he is now writing fiction for teens.

About the Blog: Or, rather, website. Find out about all the stuff PatrickJones does: his books, his presentations, and the like. While he is now concentrating on fiction, his books about teens and libraries are must reads. PatrickJones respects teens; and respects all teens. Fastest way to tell a kid that they are not welcome at a library? Sneer at their reading selections; tell them that's not "real reading." While non-librarians may be thinking "so what," if you are interested in what it means to be teen librarian; or interested in what teens are reading and why; pick up one of his books. Any library should have them, tho chances are even if it's "checked in" it's actually on a librarian's desk, annotated with post-its. PatrickJones also has a blog, which needs to be updated. And a MySpace page.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Poetry Friday updated on Sunday

Please check out the Poetry Friday post; I just updated to include whimsy!

Scrotumgate

I just posted about Scrotumgate at Pop Goes the Library, and I'll repeat it here:

If you read only one post about Scrotumgate, read Thoughts on the Great Scrotum Kerfuffle of 2007 by pixie stix kids pix. Please check out my full post over at Pop.

What I'll add over here. Pixie stix kids pix (which, by the way, is a typing tongue twister) says "An established kid_lit blogger can be given the same weight as a print reviewer with 25 years experience—in some cases more weight, because an electronic review is so immediate."

While I'm preaching to the choir here, what do you think about that?

I think print reviews (rather than reviewers) still carry more weight; but part of the reason I think that is that in terms of libraries and collection development, I see libraries as still relying on print reviews. I wonder if some collection development policies even allow for blog reviews to be used. And I know that many selectors don't read blogs. But pixie stix kids pix (only three typos that time) raises a point that we have kicked around in the blogosphere now and then: what are our responsibilities as book review bloggers?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Books

Brotherhood 2.0 is (are?) talking about books and bookshelves. I think I'm going to have to start a one book in, one book out rule. John Green says "buy another bookshelf"... he makes it sound so, so easy.

Here is the table with the books to read from the library; plus some of my own that I want to read soon.










This is the bookshelf in the bedroom. It's a mix of read books/ to be read books, but I own all of them. Most of the TBR are on the bottom shelf.













This is the table holding the TBR Graphic Novels. And magazines.










Actually, I've read one about half of these.










This is the workspace next to my desk.










One of the living room bookcases. Note it is full. I've read about half of them.










Bookcase by my computer. A mix of read books and reference type books.













Bottom shelves of the larger bookcases; these, along with the piles, are mostly review copies. (Hey, I just got back from ALA!)










This is the bookshelf that has Cheetah's and Peter Parker's books.










These are some of the boxes that have the books that are in storage.

Congrats to Bookshelves of Doom

On this awesome mention in Gawker. Yes, I thought about buying the T Shirt; but then I wondered, would I have the balls to wear it?

.... how about wearing it to the Newbery Dinner? (Of course, I don't have my ticket, so it's not a possibility. But imagine if we all wore one...)

Poetry Friday

Note: Post updated!!

My Poem:

I'm listening to Little House on the Prairie, so Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura, Carrie, and Mr. Edwards -- this one's for you.

Old Dan Tucker was a fine old man
He washed his face in the frying pan
He combed his hair with a wagon wheel
And died of the toothache in his heel

Get out the way for old Dan Tucker
He's too late to git his supper
Supper's over and dishes washed
Nothing left but a piece of squash

The rest of the song is here.

The Round Up:

Big A little a cheers us up with The Best Game the Fairies Play by Rose Fyleman

Little Willow of Bildungsroman features A Town Window by John Drinkwater

The Blue Rose Girls are overachievers with Fairy Tale Poems: books. and poems. and links to more poems. I lost count.

Bookshelves of Doom reviews All You've Ever Wanted and Other Stories by Joan Aiken that includes a story about poems that come true.

MsMac at Check It Out is all about the book: Jazz by Walter Dean Myers.

Math + Poetry = Chicken Spaghetti.

Educating Alice combines poetry, blogs, and history. Which is why Monica is the most awesome teacher in awesomedonia, and if I had children, I would move to NYC just so they could be in her class.

Fuse Number 8 has three Poetry Friday posts: Scrotum Poetry (which includes poetry by Elaine Magliaro, a Blue Rose Girl Poetry Friday overachiever); Minnesota Legislation; and finally, Tell Me If You've Heard This One Before by Susan Ramsey.

Journey Woman is at DisneyWorld; meanwhile, back at the blog, she has John Updike's Seagulls.

MotherReader reviews the book Speak to Me by Karen English in honor of Black History Month. She also addresses the timeless question -- do I blog? Or do I shower? Blog readers are happy with her answer; her coworkers, not so much.

Scholar's Blog has The Mind is Like a Hawk by Walter McDonald. And, Michele shares with us her fiction blog. Yay Doctor Who!!

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast has a nod to Haven Kimmel's earlier works of poetry along with other random bits of info in the same post, thereby joining the "overachiever camp", as opposed to the "still not sure what I want to post can I get away with another nursery rhyme camp." I am not in the overachiever camp.

Swarm of Beasts rounds up some of the best Newbery-inspired poetry. And yes, it's all about the scrotum. And yes, I have used that word more in the past week than I have in, well, ever.

Poetry + Science = What Adrienne Thinks About That

The Wordy Girls are in an artistic mood and share three poems. (More overachievers!)

Martian Poetry is found at Writing & Ruminating. (Never heard of it before; very, very cool.)

An original haiku, Change, at A Wrung Sponge.

Gosh, A Year of Reading has a poem by Ron Koertge about everyone's favorite girl sleuth, Nancy Drew. (who appears, in this version, to be related to MacGuyver.)

Let me know if I missed you!

Edited to add: Jane Yolen shares original poetry.

and edited again:

And Gregory K at Gotta Book has a fib he dedicates to Susan Patron's The Higher Power of Lucky and the Newbery Committee. Three guesses what word he uses not once, not twice, but thrice!

and this just in from HipWriterMama: I Want to Be by Thylias Moss (in honor of Black History Month)

And I'm so sorry this wasn't done sooner: Emily at whimsy reviews the Cybils poetry winner.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Blog of the Day: Original Content

Blog of the Day: Original Content

About the Blogger: Gail Gauthier writes books for children and teens.

About the Blog: Gail's observations about children's literature are a must-read, whether they are personal (about writing and selling and marketing) or are about the books that she is reading or the latest news. I love that Gail is unafraid to say exactly what she thinks; and she is funny; and she is blunt. And she makes me think.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Buffy Quote of the Week

The Master: "You . . . are dead."
Buffy: "I may be dead, but I'm still pretty. Which is more than I can say for you."
Ep: Prophecy Girl

Portrait of Liz B by Cheetah


Wolves


Wolves by Emily Gravett. Library copy.

The Plot: Rabbit gets a book on wolves out of the library. He's so captivated by the book and involved in the reading that he doesn't notice it when the wolves leave the book.

The Good: Because I like picture books a little bit twisted, this quickly earned a place on my Best Books list. Even tho this book falls under the "holy Hannah it's brilliant, but who will I read it to?" dilemma.

The book rabbit is reading is the book you are holding in your hands. Examine the endpages, look at the cover under the dustjacket: yep, you're reading rabbit's book. And if you're reading rabbit's book, and you know how that story ends . . .

I also have a wee bit of a spoiler dilemma because part of my initial joy was a "did they just do that?" reaction.

So spoilers!!!!

Yeppers, spoilers, skip it if you don't want to know.

As rabbit reads the book, the reader notices the wolf leaving the book. And eyeing the rabbit. Just when we learn that one thing that wolves like to eat is . . . rabbits. Next we see a scratched up book jacket that does not bode well for the rabbit. And one of the last pages shows rabbit's mail, clearly neglected, letting you know -- yes, the wolf ate the rabbit.

But for those of you who want happy endings, well, we have an alternate ending! And it's impossible to read without hearing it said in a silly, we all know this is impossible but let's pretend, shall we? voice, that says that this wolf was a vegetarian and he and the rabbit sat down and ate jam sandwiches. Part of the fun of this ending? It's clearly created from ripped up pages of the book; clearly made up.

It's like Stephen King or the X Files for kiddies. Cheetah will LOVE this. When you're looking for a story to read to older kids -- those too old for picture books, but you need something that will be short, hold their attention, and create a bit of respect, humor them, let them know that you know that they aren't little kids -- pick this one. And at least the teacher will giggle at the end note: "The author would like to point out that no rabbits were eaten during the making of this book. It is a work of fiction."

My favorite picture books are the ones that are quirky, or different, or twisted; or that require the reader bring something to the book. This hits all those spots; so a Best Books of 2006.

Links:
Planet Esme review.
An interview at Pan Macmillan.
A Fuse #8 Production review.
WATAT review (scroll down).

Blog of the Day: The New Misrule Blog

Blog of the Day: The New Misrule Blog

About the Blogger: Judith Ridge knows a lot about children's literature. She writes, she teaches, she edits, she does it all.

About the Blog: The blog gets its name from a classic children's book; an Australian book, which I have never read.* Judith is from Australia and I am the best. person. ever because I am resisting any and all Australia-type jokes such as .... Ha. Not even doing THAT. Given that Australian YA authors are amazing and keep winning Printz Honors, anyone reading kids and teens books should be keeping an eye on what is getting published in Australia. And one way to do that is thru Judith's blog, despite the frustration of hearing about a book that isn't out in the US yet. Oh, and another thing? Judith is a fan of Good TV (Buffy, Veronica Mars, etc.)

* But I just found it at Amazon so I'm adding it to my Wish List.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Manga Claus


Manga Claus: The Blade of Kringle by Nathaniel Marunas; art by Erik Craddock. Copy from publisher (Razorbill/Penguin Young Readers.) Graphic Novel.

The Plot: An elf's plot to get a change in job responsibilities goes horribly wrong, resulting in an attack of evil demon possessed teddy bears who try to take down the North Pole. Only one man can stop them: Manga Claus.

The Good: "Honor. Loyalty. Tinsel."

And even better: the evil demon possessed teddy bears are evil demon possessed NINJA teddy bears. I know!

This book begins with Santa in Japan, receiving a gift of a couple of sword. The backstory is hinted at: our Santa gets around, including hanging out with the samurai in Japan. He looks like the Santa we all know. Meaning in red jacket with the appearance of plumpness. Then it's the present, and that darn Elf stirs up trouble. See, he thinks that if he brings a Ninja Nutcracker to life and then comes in to save the day, Santa will love him best. (Hey, it's the worst movie ever, but Fritz should have watched Endless Love to realize that this never ends well.) When Fritz does this, he gives the time honored Bwa hah hah of evil. Followed by a coughing fit.

And that's the humor, folks. I, for one, adored it; and loved this tongue in cheek semi realistic behind the scenes look at Santa's workshop ("Tomorrow we build those dolls that pee -- always a messy business...")

Cheetah, age six, asked upon seeing the cover, "is this a book where Santa is evil?" Nope, I answered. Tho I agree with her that he looks evil. No, Cheetah, it's not evil Santa; but rather, once Santa gets his swords and prepares to fight, he becomes buff hot bod Manga Santa who is ready to take those demon possessed Ninja teddy bears down.

It's like a horror movie; except Santa is the action hero. I just wish I had read this & posted it timely. Like, not in February.

The Links: Sandbox:Interview With Nathaniel Marunas and Erik Craddock
A Year of Reading review.
Manga Santa's MySpace (with hysterical song)
Writing and Ruminating review.

Blog of the Day: Marlene Perez's LiveJournal

Blog of the Day: Marlene Perez's LiveJournal

About the Blogger: Marlene Perez is a YA author (the first book I blogged about was Unexpected Development by Marlene).

About the Blog: About writing; upcoming books; TV shows, including Veronica Mars (and what's with naming that guy Piz anyway? That name alone is reason to dislike him); and various and sundry things.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Exiles At Home


The Exiles at Home by Hilary McKay. Library copy.

The Plot: The four Conroy sisters introduced in The Exiles return! This time, it follows a year in the life of Ruth, 13, Naomi, 12, Rachel, 8, and Phoebe, 6. During this time, the girls "illegally" sponsor a boy's education in Africa; illegally, because it's done without the permission of the parents. Each month, they scramble to come up with new ways to earn the monthly stipend they have promised.

The Good: It's Hilary McKay. Have you all not yet been converted to the cult of "anything she does is good"? No?

The Exiles followed the girls during the summer they spent with Big Grandma. Now, we follow them for a year. While I strongly recommend reading The Exiles because it's a great book, you don't have to read it to enjoy The Exiles at Home. McKay quickly sorts out the four girls and introduces you to the way they view the world. That view is best summed up by young Phoebe, that there is "nothing worse than what happens to you by not doing it."

In a way, the girls remind me of Peter Pan. In that, the Conroys are seductive; you love them, laugh with them, turn the page, half in fear of what they think of next. But like Peter Pan, they are still very much children, with their own dedicated world view. It's very matter of fact; honesty and blunt; sometimes callous; always entertaining.

The older girls deliberately teach the next door baby some rather naughty behaviour just so they can keep a baby-sitting job. I laughed so hard I cried; and luckily, the mother was rather understanding of it all. One example is teaching the poor baby the game of Omelette, which consists of crawling around a couch at top speed shouting "omelette" until one loses all sense. Ruth observes, "she was dizzy and the world whirled and the word took possession."

While the "getting the money for the boy in Africa" is the book long plot, the delight is in the every day things the Conroys do. After Christmas break, Ruth is in such a rush that she leaves on her PJ top and doesn't realize it till she gets to school. Ruth, surveying her bedroom, observes that it is "only a mess in patches. Bits of it are still tidy." Phoebe creates a zoo, and as people bother her, she puts them in the zoo.

Rachel, on what people think of her: "Rachel thought that Mrs. Collingwood was the only person who realized how very nice Rachel really was, or could be, if it was convenient for her to be nice all the time, which it wasn't."

Naomi, and her belief in the written word: "Anyone can garden; thousands of books tell you how."

The mother, on trying to understand her daughters' latest scheme: "'Tell me,' said Mrs. Conroy, 'exactly what you are talking about: as if I were a very stupid person.'"

Links: Bookshelves of Doom review.

Monday


Monday by Anne Herbauts. Copy supplied by publisher, Enchanted Lion Books. Originally published in Belgium as "Lundi".

The Plot: This rather defies a simple plot description. Surreal is the best way to describe it: Monday is the figure you see on the bookjacket; the book begins with a description of his week, interactions with his friends, and as the seasons change so does Monday.



"Monday is his name.

"Monday awaits Tuesday.
On Tuesday, he thinks about Wednesday.
on Wednesday, he feels so small,
So very small,that by Thursday
he no longer knows if
tomorrow will really be Friday.
On Saturday, he is astonished.
Sunday passes in silence."


Next, his friends Lester Day (a big coffee pot) and Tom Morrow (a cat like creature with wings) visit. The seasons come and go, again vaguely personified. Spring, a cloud, a sky creature, speaks in italics: "I am spring. I am green, I abound."

The word play continues throughout the book, as

"Lester Day plays backwards,
Tom Morrow plays wonderfully well
and Monday is just delighted."

Monday disappears during a snowstorm; his friends look for him; and when he reappears, his is still Monday, but his appearance has changed slightly.

The Good: This is not your typical children's book. The design is original and goes beyond just the illustrations: the weight of the paper changes as the story progresses, getting thinner and finer as Monday disappears, ending with a new Monday and weight and feel the same as the first page. Would I have realized this if the publisher hadn't put it in the cover letter? I don't know; but I love that type of detail, that may not be obvious but is there, being picked up even if you're not sure what exactly is going on.

Other physical things about the book: the cover is sturdy cardboard, with a cutout of Monday's house. Monday, with his chair and his cup of tea, are seen thru the cutout and are on the first page of the story. The cover also has bumps; snow; and when Monday is lost in a snowstorm, those bumps appear on those pages.

Details in the pictures: when Lester Day and Tom Morrow are in the snowstorm looking for Monday, they wear the scarves Monday was shown making earlier.

From the quotes, you can see it's not just the illustrations that are almost dreamlike; so, too, are the words, which are almost poetic.

Weird, surreal, delightful, different, original; about the passage of time, the change of seasons, how people change ("Monday comes, albeit a little different") or, perhaps, are reborn. Something is lost; something is gained.

This is a compelling, fascinating book.

Links:
The New York Times Bookshelf Review.
the recollected, recreated review.
Book Buds review.

Blog of the Day: Mad Chatter

Blog of the Day: Mad Chatter

About the Blogger: Dr. Ruth Cox Clark, YA and Children's Literature professor

About the Blog: A great combination blog; while it's mostly blogging about books, posts also cover plays, movies, and life in general. One recent post included a new grandchild, a performance of The Vagina Monologues, and some buzz on an upcoming YA book, My Desperate Love Journey .

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Lisa Graff Blog Tour

Catch up on the whole Lisa Graff blog tour for her new book, The Thing About Georgie.

The Blog Tour, taking place this last week and ending today:

Monday The Longstockings
Tuesday Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Wednesday Big A little a
Thursday Bildungsroman
Friday A Fuse #8 Production
Saturday MotherReader
Sunday Gothamist Edited to direct link to interview at Gothamist

The Questions that weren't asked:

You've mentioned that you like tea. What kind of tea?

How did you come up with The Thing About Georgie as a title? (Lately, I've been a wee bit obsessed with finding out how and when books get their official title.)

Why Georgie? Why not Michael or Trevor of Eamonn?

and, in a nod to Pop Goes the Library, What is your pop culture area of expertise?

American Born Chinese


American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. Copy from publisher, First Second; Cybils winner.

The Plot: Three stories are being told: of the Monkey King, who strives to be something he is not; and is then mocked and excluded and humiliated for being who he is. Of Jin Wang, from San Francisco, who is always introduced as being "from China", with his name mangled, despite being born in America. He wants to fit in. Then there is Danny and his cousin, with his cousin the embodiment of every negative stereotype in the world, from how he pronounces his words to his clothes to what he does.

The Good: As the chapters alternate stories, from myth (Monkey King) to realistic (Jin Wang) to bizarre (Danny is obviously Caucasian and his cousin is every negative Asian Stereotype personified) the reader wonders, how does this all fit together? Once the pieces of the puzzle click together, it's very satisfying and the reader wants to go back and start over, to pick up what was missed and to see how the stories overlap.

American Born Chinese is about the Chinese American experience; about growing up when people think because of your appearance you cannot be "American". But it is also about conflicts between immigrants and first generation children, about discovering your self, about teenagers and high school politics, about perceptions of yourself and others. For those teachers who match up modern day YA books with classics, I would match this up with any book that is about the first generation experience in America.

American Born Chinese won this year's Printz Award, as well as the Cybils for Graphic Novels (age 13 plus.)

Links:
the infamous rant against Graphic Novels and the National Book Award.
Gene Yang responds.
Outside of a Cat review.
The Brookshelf review.
Librarina review.
Reading YA: Readers' Rants review.
The Rock & Roll Librarian review.

Confession: I went looking for links and between the Printz and Cybils, I was overwhelmed by the number of blogs mentioning this title. So if I left out your review, let me know in the links, and I'll fix that right quick.

In The News

Like everyone else, I've been following the news about the word "scrotum". Head over to Fuse #8 for links and discussion. Apparently, LM-Net, a listserv I don't belong to, was discussing this so I both joined and began to search archives.

And that's when I learned about Julie Amero, the substitute teacher facing 40 years of prison for exposing students to pornography on the Internet (story at the New York Times.)

From what I've read, Amero had the following bad luck: she didn't know much about computers, the school was not up to date with filters, no other teacher helped her out, and pop ups (spyware/ adware) took over the classroom computer. Here's a column on the case from the Hartford Courant. Also read Questionable Conviction of Connecticut Teacher in Pop-up Porn Case.

Parrotfish

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger. Advance reviewer copy from author. Publication date: July 2007.

The Plot: Angela remembers being age six and the swim teacher saying, "boys in one line, girls in another." Angela was puzzled: "why did everybody think I was a girl?" Ten years later, Angela realizes that "inside the body of this strange, never-quite-right girl was hiding the soul of a typical, average, ordinary boy."

Angela picks a new name: Grady. And with short hair, bound breasts, and a boy's wardrobe, Grady quietly yet proudly comes out as transgendered and starts living life as a boy, both at home and at school.

The Good: Do you know how hard it was to write that plot description without using "her" or "him"? Wittlinger avoids those difficulties by having Grady tell his own story, in first person.

Reviewing a book so far ahead of its publication date is tricky. As with Beige, I'll hold off being too spoilery.

I began the book thinking Angela/Angie/she, as that is what the main character is called. But then Angela announces choosing Grady for a name; I quickly began thinking "Grady" (Angie's family had used Angie for sixteen years, I had only used it for a few pages) but found myself thinking she, she, she until about page 200 when I started thinking he, he, he without even realizing it. About that same time, I stopped picturing a girl dressed as a boy and started picturing a boy. As a reader, my journey was mirroring the journey of the people in the book.

This is not a message book about being transgendered; this is a coming of age book about Grady, who happens to be transgendered. Grady learns what is needed to be a real friend, sibling, child; and to be all those things, he has to learn how to be himself. That's a common teen journey. And that alone is reason enough for this to make my Best Books Of 2007.

Grady is strong; but he doesn't realize how strong he is. To start dressing as a boy, changing one's name in the middle of the school year, and honestly telling everyone requires strength; a weaker person would have continued to be quiet, on the sidelines, and waited for a new school year.

Grady is now in high school; but he, along with his sister Laura and brother Charlie and best friend Eve, was homeschooled. Homeschooling is not portrayed as a negative; Grady and Laura are now in high school because a, their mother decided they had gotten beyond what she could teach, b, socialization. As for socialization -- the kids went to soccer, swimming lessons, and the like; Grady specifically says that "socialization" really means that "they hoped that being around boys would make me act like more of a girl." So this is NOT saying homeschooled kids aren't well socialized! It's saying these parents, suspecting something was up with their child, yet not being sure what, thought that going to school would change Angela.

I also have to point out the humor in this book. Think transgendered teen, and you think angst and depression. Not so! Wittlinger not only doesn't make this a "if you are transgendered it's all sad" book, she also adds humor that had me laughing out loud (and thinking this would make a great movie.) For example, Grady lives in "that house." You know, that house -- the house in the neighborhood that is so over-decorated for Christmas that you wonder about their electric bill and how people find the time to put together something so extravagant. Grady's father has everything from reindeer to a nativity scene to bears; the family actually dresses up in Victorian clothes. This, despite the fact that Mom is Jewish.

I want to repeat this book is as far from a didactic message book as one can get. Which, to me, would mean a fiction book that is really a non-fiction book dressed up with a story, resulting in thin plot and thinner characters. Here, at all times the story -- Grady's story -- is what drives the book, as it should be with any good book.

The book's title comes from the parrotfish, an animal that can change its own gender. Beyond that, this book stays away from religion, politics and other arguments about transgendered people, concentrating instead on the story of one boy's struggles. Certain issues are dealt with: changing for gym, bathrooms, breasts. They are things someone would wonder about, so they have to be addressed, but it's done briefly and matter of factly.

I also want to say that there is so much more I want to talk about; but it'll wait until a few months after publication. What else can I safely say now? Wittlinger surrounds Grady with a mix of supportive and non-supportive people; but at all times the supporting characters are well rounded. None are one-dimensional; none are used solely to spout things in either opposition to or in support of Grady.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Tantalize


Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith is now available; my review from the ARC is here. Copy from BEA.

Links:
The YA Authors Cafe author interview.
Smith's online background bibliographies (and while you're there, check out the other Tantalize links)
not your mother's bookclub author interview.
Bookshelves of Doom review
Laura Bowers' review

Win a galley of Beauty Shop For Rent

Win a galley of Beauty Shop For Rent by Laura Bowers. Full details are over at her live journal.

The book description, via Amazon: "Abbey Garner has a plan: to earn a million dollars by the time she's thirty-five. Financial independence will allow her to break the cycle of unhappiness endured by the women in her family. Determined to fulfill her dream, Abbey works at Granny Po's struggling beauty shop, where the feisty Gray Widows go to primp, polish, perm...and, of course, gossip. There, among the hair dryers and perm rods--and with the help of a new friend--Abbey finds the courage to open her heart and take risks required for her to live life to its fullest."

Why I Like Reading Scholar's Blog

OK, yes, there are the reviews of fantasy books.

But better than that : Michele is, indeed, a scholar. As you can see from her sidebar, she originally concentrated on literature from World War I. Michele takes that same dedication to her reviews, regardless of the book.

Bluntly: she's no literary snob.

Right now, she's on a Doctor Who kick that has extended to the series tie-in books. Talk about a niche that gets no respect! Yet Michele treats the books with the same type of respect, and analysis, as she would any other book.

For the record: my favorite series tie in books of all time were for original Battlestar Galactica.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Poetry Friday -- Edna St. Vincent Millay

I adore Edna St. Vincent Millay. In my college years, in my Women & Poetry class, the professor was all about the newest! latest! poet, rejoicing in the explicit poetry that showed how women were now truly free to express themselves. Don't get me wrong; there was much that I read that I liked. But then as now, I was the ornery sort, and didn't believe that it was only the newest poets who wrote the truth and wrote from experience.

When we each had to do an author study, I did Millay, to show that no, one did not have to use unprintable four letter words and description to have hot! sexy! poetry. And that poetry from your grandmother's time was just as good as poetry today. At the end of my presentation, the whole class was going "wow" and I (or rather Millay) had won them over.

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why (Sonnet XLIII)

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.

The rest of the poem is here at Poets.org.

Fun Millay facts include:
her husband Eugene Jan Boissevain had been married to Inez Milholland.
she was friends with John Reed (and I cannot believe how many people have not watched Reds, what's with that?)
Millay's house aka the narrowest house in NYC aka I'd love to live there
Previous Millay posts by me

Kelly has the round up at Big A little a

Time For A Pool

How long until the posts start about the poor kids who went to see Bridge To Terabithia expecting Narnia and getting Love Story?*

As someone who had to give the heads up to my sister (no, no, don't take Cheetah, please don't take her!), I know there are many well intentioned parents who are going to have one major WTF moment in the theatres this weekend. And have to deal with something they totally weren't prepared for. Which isn't fair to parent or child.

It's a shame -- everyone says its a great film, a wonderful adaptation, so what are the advertising people thinking?

Maybe I'm over reacting, or anticipating the worst, but I'm afraid of a backlash based on the movie not delivering what the trailer promises.

* OK, so that example of a death movie sucks. But I'm a bit tired so cannot think of the good "cried my eyes out" death movie to use here. Suggestions welcome, I'll edit the post and credit you.

Edited to add: 2nd Gen Librarian review. Very interesting, including audience reaction.

I Must Have It

I must own this shirt.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda


Deogratias: A Tale Of Rwanda by J.P. Stassen. Copy donated by publisher, First Second; Cybils long list. Graphic Novel.

One of my Best Books of 2006.

The Plot: A historical note at the front explains that Deogratias is set in late 1994, early 1995, in Rwanda, and gives background about the Hutu majority and Tutsi minority of Rwanda. This is a work of fiction; it is the story of Deogratias, a teenage boy who is a Hutu; and two teenage sisters who are Tutsi, Apollinaria and Benina. It begins after the Rwandan Genocide (800,00 to 1,000,000 dead); and has characters from all sides, the Hutus, the Tutsis, the observers, those who acted and those who did not.

The Good: A must read. Stassen accomplishes much with few pages (less than 80!) and few words. He tells of life before and after the Genocide; he includes the various factions and entities present, from the UN peacekeeping force to the Rwandan Patriotic Front to the Interahamwe. The brevity helps; too many words would drown this story. The simplicity emphasizes the horror.

Deogratias is told in flashbacks; at first it is a bit confusing (what is happening when?) but it quickly becomes apparent that Deogratias's appearance lets the reader know whether the setting is the present (1995), with Deogratias dressed in rags, or the past (1994), with his clothes fresh and clean and whole. And, of course, the change in his dress is not just because time has passed; the battered outward appearance reflects Deogratias's emotional and psychological damage.*

There is a mounting sense of dread in this book; Deogratias is alive, obviously affected by the events that unfolded, but just how badly he has been injured is not known until the last pages. How did he get to where he is? And why is he so shattered, when he was not part of the ethnic group that was targeted for extermination? And what happened to those two sisters? With each page, there are glimpses of just how bad it will get, and little bits of hope to hang onto.

What happens to a person who lives thru such horror? What is moral? And of course -- what would you do?

This is an incredible chilling and powerful story; not only because it is about such a horrific time, but also because Deogratias's personal story is so tragic. What would someone do, at that time, in that place?

You will remember these people and this story for a long time.

*For some reason, lately, when I've been reading graphic novels one of the questions I've asked myself is, "did this have to be told in a GN format?" Why use pictures instead of words? Deogratias is one of those books that would not have worked half so well without the illustrations; something would have been lost if only words had been used.

Links:
The film Hotel Rwanda, based on true events.
Reading YA: Readers Rant review.
Bookslut In Training review, from column Kids At War.
Words, words, words review.
Chasing Ray loved this book, also, and like me wonders, where are the awards for this book?

The Rwandan Genocide happened over a decade ago. What about events going on today?
Here are links about what you can do about Darfur:
Save Darfur;
Darfur: A Genocide We Can Stop;
Human Rights Watch: Darfur;
UNICEF.
Darfur Eyewitness (from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum).

Cybils

The Cybils winners have been announced!

Coming soon: my reviews of all the YA books on the shortlist along with the winner.

Blog of the Day: Librarina's Blurty

Blog of the Day: Librarina's Blurty

About the Blogger: Chrissie Morrison is a Tween Librarian. (BTW, how cool is that? Not Youth Services that happens to include teens;, not Teen that happens to also do Tween -- Tween.)

About the Blog: Chrissie discusses the books she's been reading (mostly tween books), along with audiobooks, tween waiting list, and what she has pre-ordered. Chrissie is someone I've "met" online, on the adbooks discussion list.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I'm Hoping For A Snow Day Tomorrow

So I can make Finn's Cream of Chestnut Soup.

L. Lee Lowe is the author of the on-line YA fantasy book, Mortal Ghost, also available as podcast. And she offers us a "taste of heaven".

Usually, I just get books in envelopes. Now, I have candy AND a Babymouse Doll AND a recipe.

Life, it is good.

Babymouse











Who doesn't love Babymouse?

Many thanks to Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm; and the lovely copy of Babymouse: Heartbreaker, along with a copy for MPOW, along with a Babymouse doll that Cheetah will adore.

Happy Valentine's Day To Me!













Because, really, it's all about me.

Many thanks to Robin Brande for the most delicious candy ever: Moose Munch.

If you're going to cheat on your diet, it's the only way to go.

It's Almost Time!

It's almost time for the Cybils winners to be announced. What to do while waiting?

Why not read my article, From the Bloggers: A New Book Award. It's all about the Cybils!

It appeared in the most recent issue of Extra Helping, the School Library Journal's weekly e-newsletter. You can sign up to receive the newsletter for free at the SLJ site.

And those of you who are here because you read that article; thank you, and I hope you enjoy the blog!

Blog of the Day: Leda Schubert

Blog* of the Day: Leda Schubert Website

About the Blogger: Schubert is the author of children's books; her most recent is Ballet of the Elephants.

About the Blog: Information about Schubert's books; a Q&A, including her middle name, and while I love her middle name, combined with her first name it is almost a tongue twister; and a "Just for Kids" section that gives additional information on her work.

*Blog, Website, does it really matter?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Maureen Dowd and Chick Lit

Well, I was going to rant about Maureen Dowd's Saturday column in the New York Times, Heels Over Hemingway, but GalleyCat has done such a nice job of rounding up all the online criticism that I'll just read that and nod.

It's hard to say what is my "favorite" part of Dowd's column; Dowd not realizing that Angus, Thongs is a teen book; the phony pseudo intellectual snobbism; or that there hasn't been a good anti-war novel written since The Red Badge of Courage.

(This GalleyCat entry links to where you can read the column for free.)

Blog of the Day: Interactivereader

Blog of the Day: Interactivereader

About the Blogger: Jackie is a librarian; and, like me, involved in the Cybils. (Jackie was on the YA panel that had to read the loooong list; I'm on the shortlist panel.)

About the Blog: Jackie reviews and discusses books and book news; it's mostly teen, but not always; and she also compiled some interesting Cybil stats.

CJRLC Tech Challenge

As I just posted over at Pop Goes the Library, The Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative has issued the CJRLC Tech Challenge for "anyone who works in a CJRLC member library". Full details are here.

I work for a CJRLC member library; and I'm taking the challenge! Let's see what I still have "to do."

The short version of the challenge:

1. Start a blog relating to your library interests; post once a month, including photos! Done!

2. Start a Flickr photo account. Done!

3. Subscribe to an aggregator like bloglines and set up RSS feeds from blogs or websites. I subscribe to Bloglines (and that's how I read most of my blogs.)

4. Read about Web 2.0 and Library 2.0; post some comments on your blog. I'm going to have to check over at Pop to see if I have ever posted on either of these topics; in the meanwhile, I have a great idea for a post about Web 2.0 for this site, so stay tuned!

5. Learn to use at least one of the following: LibraryThing, Google Maps; De.licio.us; or Squidoo.
Being an over achiever, I'd like to learn how to use all of them. In the meanwhile, I did start accounts with both De.licio.us and Squidoo, I just have to make better use of them both.

6. Teach someone else how to use one of the technologies described above! Done: I've done formal workshops for places like CJRLC and MPOW and also informal one on one sessions.

The deadline is May 24, 2007. How to enter, etc. is also all at the CJRLC website. To support its members, the CJRLC is offering training.*

Even if you aren't a member library of the CJRLC -- take the challenge!

Friday, February 09, 2007

King of Shadows Book Discussion

The King of Shadows book discussion is taking place over at Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone. It's not too late to join in the discussion!

Next month's book: The House in Norham Gardens by Penelope Lively.

Poetry Friday: The Braid

A Book Review for Poetry Friday. Round up is over at The Blue Rose Girls.

The Braid by Helen Frost. 2006. Copy from library. Cybils long list.

The Plot: 1850. Scotland. People are being forced off the land they have lived on for generations; the MacKinnons decide to move to Canada for a new start. Grandma Peggy doesn't want to go. On the night the family is to leave, Sarah, 15, runs away; she wants to stay in Scotland with her grandmother. There is no time to go after her; so the rest of the family, including her sister, Jeannie, 14, make their way to Cape Breton, Canada.. The Braid tells the story of sisters Sarah and Jeannie and their now-separate lives. The Braid is also something physical; the girls had braided their hair together, and as they slept Sarah cut it, leaving half with her sister.

The Good: People in power are not nice to people not in power. That's the fact. Here, the MacKinnons (and others) are affected by the Highland Clearances. The parents along with Jeannie, Flora (6), Margaret (5) and baby Willie make their way across the Atlantic to Cape Breton. This is a work of historical fiction that is true to the facts of the time. That sentence is code for people die during the crossing. Yes, I cried. But that's all I'll say.

Frost alternates between Sarah and Jeannie's narrative poems and praise poems that celebrate aspects of the sisters' lives.

Sarah stays and moves with her grandmother to an isolated island; she finds community and perhaps love.

Jeannie survives the voyage, but the future the family hoped for is not the future they find. Jeannie struggles and wonders about her sister.

Frost stays true to the time; neither Sarah nor Jeannie are literate; the family separation is brutally final, with no hope for direct communication. In a time of cell phones and text messaging, it is almost impossible to imagine a time where it would be months before Sarah learns of the deaths of some of her family. As time goes by, all the girls have is hope that the other is doing well, hope that somehow they will connect.

Most brilliant of all is how Frost braids together the girls stories. For the narrative poems, the last word of each line of one poem becomes the first word of each line of the next poem. For the praise poems, the last line of one poem becomes the first line of the next. Independent, yet dependent; alone, yet connected.

A praise poem, Song:

The songs that enter children's ears
carried across centuries of
love, stay with them, bringing comfort,
setting their feet dancing, coming
back to them when their own children
first look up and see them smiling
or hear them weeping as they rock
strong boats upon a storm sea.

The last line of the praise poem before this one was "she sings into her children's ears"; the next praise poem begins, "a strong boat on a stormy sea."

I liked that the MacKinnon family emigrated to Canada. It's a silly thing to point out, but all too often in historical fiction published in the US the US is the only place people from Europe went. Um, so not true. Another pet peeve? Based on almost every fiction book about the Irish Famine* published in the US, no one stayed in Ireland. Moving to the U.S. is always the "happy ending" in the book. So it's nice to see a book that also tells the story of the people left behind; of Sarah and her grandmother.

On my "wishes that will never come true" list; while I found Jeannie's and Sarah's stories wonderfully complete, I do wonder about their descendants and wish for a book set in present day as the two links of the family reconnect. (Yes, I know they are made up people.)

Links:
interactive reader review.
kids lit review.
Linda Sue Park: What I'm Reading review.
Frost has assembled a wealth of links for The Braid, making my job way easier.
The Highland Clearances web project.
The Highland Clearances and effects on Scotland today.
The Highland Clearances: from the BBC, resource for children & teachers.
Two Lives Braided Together: the School Library Journal author interview.
propernoun review.
Booktalks: Quick and Simple Blog review (hey, I didn't know Nancy Keane had a blog!)
The Goddess of YA Literature review.
Sarah's Hold Shelf review. (these are in no order other than the order that I found them.)

*Edited to add: yes, this is the Highland Clearances, not the Famine, but I saw parallels in families being forced to emigrate. Wanted to clarify that's why I mention it; not that I confused the two.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Blog of the Day: The Flying Pig Bookstore

Blog* of the Day: The Flying Pig Bookstore

About the Blogger: An independent bookstore in Vermont.

About the Blog: These people know their stuff, especially children's books. Based on this website and bookstore alone, I want to go to Vermont. But, until then, I enjoy seeing what books they review and highlight. (And yes, you can buy online from them.)

*Today, not a blog. But remember, we're just going with the flow.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Blog of the Day: Educating Alice

Blog of the Day: Educating Alice

About the Blogger: Monica is a teacher; she's written books and articles on a number of subjects, including teaching history to children. And she's a fan of Alice in Wonderland.

About the Blog: Monica writes about children, children's literature, teaching children, teaching children using literature, and other sundry topics that come to her attention. I particularly like how she recognizes that there is no one size fits all for books and kids; she mentions how sometimes a class will adore one book, while other years, it's a "meh" reaction. Monica also talks about balance between being sensitive to students, yet challenging; and has written some great stuff about history, historical fiction and her concern with how fiction is used to teach history, and using primary sources to teach elementary students.

Hercules: The Twelve Labors. A Greek Myth


Hercules: The Twelve Labors. A Greek Myth by Paul Storrie, illustrated by Steve Kurth. Copy donated by Graphic Universe, in support of the Cybils. Graphic Novel. Cybils long list.

The Plot: Ancient Greece, Hercules, twelve labors.

The Good: Hercules is one of those people who are "in" the common knowledge, but really, how much do you really know? Seriously, can you name even half of the twelve labors? Without peeking over at Wikipedia, of course. This Graphic Novel is a great introduction for younger readers.

Storrie tells this part of the Hercules saga with lots of action and humor. During one labor, there is the boast that "my club will strike you down!" followed by a "perhaps not" when the club does not in fact slay the beast.

The illustrations are colorful; and since this is a classic retelling, using original sources, Kurth illustrates the book to reflect Ancient Greece, in the architecture and dress.

Also good: a map to help the reader understand Hercules' travels as he performed his twelve labors. I love maps, what can I say! Plus, there are websites for those who want to learn more.

Myths and legends can be a tricky thing for kids; while kids like to read about them, and schools like to teach them, they weren't originally for children. Which means the question arises: how much to include? What to exclude? For example, this version of the Twelve Labors is told without any mention of Hercules killing his wife and children.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Buffy Quote of the Week

"This is the crack team that foils my every plan? I am deeply shamed."
-- Spike, Ep: Something Blue

ALA DC

Are you going to the ALA Annual Conference in DC in June? I will be going, but I haven't registered yet. If you're going and interested in getting together for dinner or lunch, let me know; also, are you going to any of the "extras", either preconferences or awards? I'm trying to figure where to stay & what to include in my budget. And, you know, wondering what the cool kids are doing.

Thanks!

Blog of the Day: Adbooks

Blog of the Day: Adbooks. Actually, a website.*

About the Blogger: Moderated by Krista; an open Yahoo Group.

About the Blog: The "purpose is to discuss books written for adolescents, or young adults (YA)." Adbooks has a schedule of books to be discussed, but discussion about any YA book is welcome. Adbooks is the home of the survivor-like JHunt Award for Young Adult Literature. I'm a member.

*Note: As explained in Blog of the Day: Spicy Reads, sometimes a blog isn't a blog.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Valentine's Day

I saw this over at Cecil Castellucci (aka You Must Read Everything She Writes) and couldn't resist:
My Valentinr - lizb
Get your own valentinr

Welcome to School Library Journal Readers!

The February 2007 issue of School Library Journal is now available, in print and on-line. I'd like to welcome SLJ readers, who came here via my article in that issue of SLJ, Curl Up with a Cup of Tea and a Good Blog.

And those of you who are my regular readers and may not be familiar with SLJ, please go check out my article. It has my thoughts on why the kidlitosphere is such a happening place along with a list of must-read blogs.

For those who have only read it online, what you're missing: a photo of me blogging with Cheetah and Peter Parker. Getting the photo taken was pretty exciting, and I'll be blogging about that later this week. Also in the print version: some of the graphics and photos from the highlighted blogs.

If you're looking for more must-read book blogs, check out the blogroll on the left. And I'm also highlighting a blog a day, under the handy title and label Blog of the Day.

Cross posted at Pop Goes the Library.

Blog of the Day: Spicy Reads

Blog of the Day: Spicy Reads: Ed Spicer's Teen Book Reviews

About the Blogger: Ed Spicer is a "first grade teacher by day; teen book lover by night" and was a member of the 2007-2008 Best Books for Young Adults (BBYA). He's also very active on adbooks and will be on the upcoming Caldecott ballot.

About the Blog: Ed has a Galley Group that acts as a publisher's focus group (publisher's galleys aka ARCs aka review copies. Not a ship.) At his website, which includes a blog, you can read the teen reviews.

Note: Some of the links on my blogroll are more websites than blogs; or, like Ed's, a mix of both. But, not wanting to change my catchy, original, unique, Blog of the Day heading along with the witty About the Blogger and "how does she come up with these?" About the Blog, I am using the terminology even when it's not entirely accurate.

Stormwitch


Stormwitch by Susan Vaught. Library copy. 2004.

The Plot: Ruba has been raised by her maternal grandmother, Ba, in Haiti; but Ba has died so Ruba now moves to Pass Christian, Mississippi, to live with her paternal grandmother, Grandmother Jones. It's August 1969, and Ba raised Ruba to be proud of her African heritage, to be strong, to be a fighter. Ruba has a hard time adjusting to the segregation and prejudice in Mississippi, and a harder time adjusting to life with her grandmother. She sees none of the pride found in Ba; and Grandmother Jones, a devout Christian, frowns on the spells, potions and magic taught to Ruba by Ba.

The Good: Holy Hannah, it's not just tradition -- Ba and Ruba really are witches! Or war women or storm chanters or whatever you want to call them. Basically, the spells and chants and potions work; they are part of the wisdom and tradition of the Dahomey Amazon women. And they are real.

Which means that this changes from a book about a teen adjusting to life in a racist world to a book about a teen who can kick some racist ass.

Ruba's particular blend of magic is tied to weather -- and her enemy is the stormwitch who controls the hurricanes. The stormwitch is coming, turning regular hurricanes into killing monsters, and it's up to Ruba to stop this from happening. But first she has to battle racism and her disapproving grandmother. And then she is left to wonder: is she strong enough? Old enough? Before she always had Ba; now she does not.

Grandmother Jones is a remarkable character; at the beginning, we see her as Ruba sees her, but as Ruba's knowledge of the older woman grows, so, too, does our understanding, so we see someone who is strong and proud, just in different ways than Ba and Ruba. In the moment when Ruba understands that, she actually sees Grandmother in a different way: "Grandmother Jones's rockface makes sense to me now. It's not hatred or lack of feeling, anger, or even distress. My Grandmother wears the stern expression of a warrior, simple as that." The women in this book celebrate tradition, strength, and wisdom.

The book is set in 1969; which works not only because of the civil rights struggle, but also because the real Hurricane Camille is the storm witch that Ruba battles. It's hard to read this book and not think about Hurricane Katrina.

Finally, it is great to read a fantasy that has an African American protagonist. Ruba's struggles are real, her power is awesome, and you root for her every step of the way.

Links: Stormwitch Has African Roots from Sci Fi Wire.
Info at the author's website.
Winner of the Carl Brandon Kindred Award.
Wands and Worlds Review.
Nose Stuck In A Book review (seventh one down).
The Endicott Studio for Mythic Arts review.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Myth Of the Quilt

Excellent must-read post over at Farm School on history, historical fiction, and how wanting to believe something is true because it's a good story ... well, wanting to believe doesn't make it true. And, actually, disinformation is insulting to those you are trying to honor. The amount of misinformation on quilts and the role they played in the Underground Railroad is staggering.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

But What About the Old Books?

The Children's Literature Association selects a Phoenix Award each year:

"The Children's Literature Association, an organization of teachers, scholars, librarians, editors, writers, illustrators, and parents interested in encouraging the serious study of children's literature, created the Phoenix Award as an outgrowth of the Association's Touchstones Committee. The award, given to a book originally published in the English language, is intended to recognize books of high literary merit. The Phoenix Award is named after the fabled bird who rose from its ashes with renewed life and beauty. Phoenix books also rise from the ashes of neglect and obscurity and once again touch the imaginations and enrich the lives of those who read them." The ChLA website had full information.

The 2006 winner: Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. The full list of past winners and honor books is here.

Awards that aren't awards

Colleen at Chasing Ray has been doing some musing about awards and their usefulness, including how they are limited to a certain year, how it's only one book, and some such stuff.

Anyhow, she's decided to start a sort of anti-award; she's picking a subject and asking for nominations. Colleen has guidelines posted about this year's topic, Coming of Age. Head over there to make nominations.

If you're a list lover, particularly of lists that aren't limited to a specific year, don't forget the ALA Popular Paperback lists; each year, the committee picks 4 topics, and then the members read books for that topic. Books can be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, anything -- as long as they are related to that particular topic. Only other rule is that the book must be available in paperback.

Little Willow has created an amazing number of lists. The books span a wide range of interests and topics.

BACA

MotherReader is championing Bloggers Against Celebrity Authors (BACA). Not, an author who has become a celebrity because of being an awesome writer; no, rather, those celebrities who write books; and 9 out of 10 times,* it's a book for children. Actually, it's usually a picture book for children.

Of course, there is some quibbling over how those celebrity authors are identified. I love Mandy by Julie Andrews so would not include her; others champion Jamie Lee Curtis (who I personally adore as an actress, but feel her books are way too message driven for my taste; still, she has respect for children's literature, so I won't argue Curtis's omission from BACA.)

Interestingly enough, as I was wondering the criteria for a "celebrity author," I saw a post at Miss Snark that emphasized the point that in order to be a good writer, you need to be a reader: "Read. Read. And when you're done, read some more. Read what you're interested in writing for now, but also read other things too. Then read some more of what you're interested in. Don't even write. Just read." This advise is found on almost every author website, in almost every book about writing and getting published. It's part of the "prep" work needed as a writer, to make an effort to know what is out there, to read a variety, to become aware of things such as the ALSC notables lists. To just rely on the rememberings of books read in childhood; nope, not good enough. To just rely on the books you find at Target; nope, not good enough.

I would think that what the celebrity does for a living** requires preparation, whether it's singing, sports, acting. And that the good ones do what is necessary to be "best" at that particular art. So why, when it comes to books, do they act as if nothing is required except to sit down at the laptop and start typing? Or is acting and singing and baseball really that easy, that they think other things are, also?

Reading, in my humble opinion, is at the heart of why celebrities are not, for the most part, good writers. Now, I'm not saying that they are illiterate; I'm not saying that they don't read at all; but I doubt that many of them read, read, and then read some more. I doubt they treat writing a children's book the same way they treat their "real" profession.

If a celebrity author does do those things -- read, read, and read some more -- then it'll be obvious. Because the book will be good. And I'll read it and review it; not because it's a celebrity author, but because it's a book by an author who happens to be a celebrity.

Some additional notes to celebrity authors who want to be judged as authors, rather than championed as celebrities:

--Books aren't about teaching lessons. They are about good stories. In that way books are just like the movies and TV shows you make and the songs that you sing.

--It is a universal truth that you could read the phone book to your own children and they will love it; it's the attention, the being read to, the belief that they are in the story that the kids love. It's not a thumbs up to the actual story. Testing out your book on your own children doesn't count.

-- Books need to be universal. Yes, the story just for your child is sweet; a wonderful family memory; leave it at that. Why the need to share this tender moment between parent and child by publishing it? Especially because other readers will know it's not for them.

--Write about what you know.

-- Study. Find out what it is that makes good writing work.

--Take the same risks you take in your "real life" job. If you're willing to be naked (either emotionally or for real) on film, why not be willing to be naked on the page by being honest in your writing?

--Join a writing group or take a class where you can get real feedback. No, your hired assistants telling you the book is perfect don't count.

--Get an awesome editor. Trust the editor. Listen to the editor. Revise.

--Publish under a different name. Writing is one area where people can remain anonymous, at least for a short time period. Let your work live or die on it's own.

Any one else have any guidelines on how to turn a celebrity into an author?

* I am perhaps being overly generous; perhaps 99 out of a 100 is more accurate. Especially when we exclude memoirs; books written with a ghostwriter; and books that are related to the reasons why they are a celebrity.

** Paris Hilton is the exception.
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