Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Rules of Survival

The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin. Library copy. Cybils shortlist.

The Plot: Matthew tells his story to his younger sister, Emmy; the story of their lives when Emmy was still small. When Matthew, Emmy, and their sister Callie lived with their mother and dreamed of escape. Nikki, their mother, is hugs and kisses one day; curses and slaps the next. It's an uncertain way to live; and Matthew begins to hope that something will change when he sees a man in a store stand up to a man shouting at a small child. By a twist of fate, this man, Murdoch, starts dating Nikki. Maybe, things will change. But Matthew has forgotten the rules of survival; including the rule of not hoping for escape.

The Good: This is not an easy read; it is unsettling and upsetting, a look at physical, psychological and emotional abuse.

Nikki has to be mentally ill; the way she treats these children is chilling. Nikki is not like the mother in Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown; in that book, the mother, while ill, is not abusive; that mother never wanted to be a mother; and that mother, perhaps, does what is best for her child by becoming an absent parent.

Matthew, Callie, and Emmy could only hope to be so lucky; it would be a dream come true for their mother to drive away and never come back. The problem isn't just that Nikki is a bad parent; the problem is that Nikki believes herself a good mother. Nikki believes that she loves her children. She sees herself as teaching her children how to have "fun" while she dances on the edge of danger.

Nikki doesn't see her children as individuals; she sees them as extensions of herself, feeling and believing and acting as she does. I was reminded of Diane Downs; I was reminded of fiction about immature teen mothers, who talk about the child only in terms of what the child will bring the mother, or only in terms of a child no different from a doll, who will do as the mother needs, who will act and believe and think as the mother wants.

Nikki expects her children to read her mind; to be happy when she is, sad when she is, to know when to be spirited and when to disappear. These become the "rules of survival" for Matthew and his siblings.

Another fascinating and disturbing part of this book is Nikki's ability to appear "normal" to others and her ability to manipulate men. Nikki pretends that all is well with Murdoch; at other times, she meets men who she gets to do almost anything. Matthew, her son, wonders at this; his father tries to explain, but the explanation rings hollow -- these men are weak. Nikki is pretty and flirtatious. It leaves Matthew to wonder, is he strong? Or weak? Would he allow someone like Nikki to twist and turn him?

Matthew and Callie try their best to protect their young sister, Emmy. It turns out they do too good a job. Emmy feels safe enough to speak out; safe enough to provoke Nikki into anger and violence. It becomes a scary moment for the reader, as well as for Matthew and Callie. You cheer that Emmy feels safe, that her self has been protected enough that she is spirited and not scarred. You are as confused as Matthew and Callie as you wonder what is best for Emmy; should she, too, learn the rules of survival, learn to not speak up? Or has Emmy learned a different set of rules; is she finding excitement, "fun," as the mother would say, in provoking Nikki?

It is Emmy, more than himself, more than Callie, that drives Matthew to take action. What he does and tries to do; what he fails to do; is fascinating and thought provoking.

I can't help but mention Nikki again; because she is the scariest mother I have met in fiction in a long time. She is scary because of how she treats her children; and she is scary because she fails to see anything wrong with her behavior; her belief that she is a fun mom; her unpredictability; the abuse she dishes out.... I want her to disappear or die as much as her children do. She is beyond redemption; the only thing that can be redeemed, that can be saved, is her children. And with every page, you hope that Michael can save himself and his sisters.

Links:
The Cynsations (Cynthia Leitich Smith) Interview.
Sara's Holds Shelf review.
Propernoun review.
Reading YA: Readers' Rant review.
bookshelves of doom review.
Goddess of YA review.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Poetry Friday: Interview With Alma Fullerton: What If's Are A Writer's Best Friend

Welcome to Pop Goes The Library's interview with Alma Fullerton. Fullerton writes for teens; In the Garage was published in 2006, and Walking On Glass in 2007. Fullerton lives in Canada, blogs, has a MySpace, and agreed to an interview. Fullerton knows what it's like to sit in the interviewer chair, and has several great author interviews at her website.

Liz B: Your books, In The Garage and Walking On Glass, were "born" close together -- practically twins, with one being published late 2006 and one 2007. Which was written first? Could you share a bit of the time frame involved with both of these books, from writing to an agent to publication?

Alma: I started writing Walking on Glass in about 2002. It went through several sets of revisions before I sent it out. I queried one publisher in June 2003, but then heard my acquiring editor at HarperCollins was looking for that type of book at the end of Nov. Not yet hearing back from the other publisher, I e-queried him. He responded within seconds for me to send it.

It was sent snail mail and only 1/2 of it got there so I had to resend it. By this time it was mid - Dec. 2003 . Soon after I heard back from the other editor that she also wanted the full. By the end Jan.2004 I had both houses take it to acquisitions.

At this time I approached an agent, who I was already acquainted with. She loved the book and took me on. My editor at HarperCollins called in Feb. 2004 with an offer. We pulled it from the other publisher.

In June my acquiring editor left and I got an new one. (I really liked her too so all was well). I didn't get a contract until late Sept. 2004.

By this time I was writing In the Garage. That book went to the publisher at RedDeer in October 2005. Within three day he got back to my agent saying he wanted it. I signed a contract in March 2006. The book went through one set of revisions in May and copy edits in July and came out in Nov. 2006.

Walking on Glass didn't come out until Jan. 2007 - almost three years after the contract was signed, so my publishing time line went from extremely slow to extremely fast. Someday I'd like to be able to get a book published in the average time of around 18 months.

Liz B: Both books are about teens facing traumatic events. In The Garage is about BJ and Alex's friendship and betrayals; and Walking On Glass, a act of despair by the narrator's mother. The teenagers in both are dealing with some pretty dark things. What inspired these stories? What attracted you to them?

Alma: Both books were inspired by real life events. I had a friend who committed suicide because he knew his family would never accept the fact that he was gay. Alex is loosely based on him, although I added a few 'what ifs' and changed what happens in the end. In the Garage started out as Alex's story but BJ just wouldn't shut up so I added her in. It became both of their stories and a much richer book because of it.

Walking on Glass was also inspired by real life. My husband had a friend whose husband committed suicide and I always wondered about their son and where it left him. I added a few what ifs to that story. What if the mother didn't die. What if the family knew she never wanted to end up on life support. Things like that.

'What ifs' are a writer's best friend.

Liz B: Poetry is important in both books. In In The Garage, Alex's part is told in verse; and Walking On Glass is told entirely in poetry. Was it always your intent to use verse to tell these stories, or did that happen further on in the creative process?

Alma: I don't think it was my intention, no. Walking on Glass just came out that way. I couldn't get a voice when I tried writing it in prose, it was just flat. I went for a long walk with my dog and the first poem popped into my head and then the second and so on. That's when I knew it had to be verse.

In the Garage started out all in verse but BJ's and Alex's voices came out too similar and the book didn't have any dips of happy and sad that it needed. It wasn't until I changed BJ's voice to prose that I got those little bits of sarcastic humor and a new voice.

Liz B: What are you working on now?

Alma: Right now I'm working on a young adult novel which I won an Ontario grant for titled Canary in a Coalmine, and a couple of chapter book series aimed towards boys and girls age 7-11.

Liz B: Since this will also be posted over at Pop Goes the Library, I'm going to include my standard Pop question: What is your Pop Culture area of expertise?

Alma: My area of expertise would probably have to be music or literature. I love both, and combine them constantly using different musicians - or types of music to write different books to.

Liz B: Thank you!

Cross Posted at Pop Goes The Library (a Poetry Friday post)

Poetry Friday Round Up is at Chicken Spaghetti -- go there and leave a comment so she'll know you posted something poetry related.

Links:
Jen Robinson's Book Page reviews In the Garage
Bildungsroman (Little Willow) reviews In the Garage

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Blog of the Day: 2nd Storye Window

Blog of the Day: 2nd Storye Window

About the Blogger: Elaine is a "wife, mother, teacher, writer." And like me she has left her 30s behind. 2nd Storye is not only a new blog on my sidebar; Elaine's blog is just a month old.

About the Blog: While just a month old, 2nd Storye already has an array of posts and touches on both the personal and the professional -- both teaching and writing. Elaine has a fresh voice and I'm interested in reading more about her classes and what books her students enjoy. Remember your first month of blogging? Why not go over and say "hi" to 2nd Storye!

Pop Goes the Library in School Library Journal

Remember that February issue of School Library Journal with the article I wrote?

That same issue also highlighted Pop Goes the Library; Pop is the brain child of Sophie Brookover, and I contribute library-focused posts.

Also on my to-do list: post some photos from that issue.

This Never Happens At The Newberys

Wow.

Thanks to Bookshelves of Doom for the link.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Buffy Quote of the Week

Giles: "I can't believe you served Buffy that beer."
Xander: "I didn't know it was evil!"
Giles: "You knew it was beer."
Xander: "Well, excuse me, Mr. I-spent-the-60s-in-an-electric-Kool-Aid-funky-Satan-groove."
Giles: "It was the early seventies and you should know better."
Ep: Beer Bad

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Little House on Audio

I'm in the midst of listening to all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and what did I see? But an author interview with Laura over at the Kiddosphere!

Very amusing, with a lot of great links.

Other kidlit bloggers taking a look see at LIW: Chicken Spaghetti; Blog From the Windowsill.

I've listened to the first three books (Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, By the Banks of Plum Creek) and my general reactions as an adult reading these books:

-- the Ingalls were a lot poorer than I remembered.

-- there seems to be a lot of emphasis on things being clean; Ma keeping a clean house, the girls dusting & sweeping daily. Also, it's said so many times that the attic the girls slept in was nice, clean, big, bright -- it's like LIW is anticipating criticisms and counters them with her glowing descriptions.

-- LIW emphasizes the times when everyone ate their fill; as a grown up, I realize that must mean there were times when they did not. Seriously, I don't think a green vegetable is eaten in either of the later two books.

-- Knowing the "real" story from various books, I'm impressed at how LIW created true works of fiction. (As a matter of fact, while I do plan to read the other "Little House" books, I'm right now most interested in the "real" story.)

-- What a warm and loving family! Hugs, kisses, a lot of affection.

-- Laura isn't a perfect kid. Oh, yeah, there's a lot about the girls having to learn to obey their parents and stuff like that; but Laura's revenge on Nellie Olsen? Not only is it priceless and well plotted -- Laura doesn't get into any trouble at all. And when Laura disobeys the father based on a technicality that would make the girl in 17 Things I'm Not Allowed To Do Anymore proud (we weren't sliding down the haystack, we were rolling down), all Pa can do is laugh (again, as a grown up I understand the parent turned away, the shaking shoulders; I'm not sure I got this as a kid.) And Laura's anger at Mary for being the "good one" is often internal -- so not punished.

-- I guess the TV show does affect my memory; but there was a lot less Nellie Olsen in the last book than I remembered.

-- Ma was one strong woman. Yes, Pa kept wanting to move; but she supported him, and wow, when she needed to get things done they got done.

I'll post more when I've finished with the entire sequence.

Links:
Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder (First chapter of the book by John E Miller).
This Little House of Mine (Essay by Rachel F. Seidman about fiction, fact and story)

Maybe it's because I remember when she was just "Thora"

As a kid (and using the name Thora) Thora Birch was in one of the best comedies ever, Day by Day. Why was Day by Day so awesome? It had the best Brady Bunch dream skit ever, using the actual Brady actors; in many ways, it was the half hour version of the Brady Bunch Movie. Sadly, I cannot find an online video link to this gem. You just have to believe me; it was full of snark, with the Brady actors mocking themselves, and it was good.

So I've watched her grow up, the kid movies, the transition into grown up roles. And then I saw this over at Defamer and felt... OK, I know what her parents did or didn't do shouldn't matter at all. But it is kind of icky.

Bullying In the Blogosphere

What cyberbullying looks like.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Welcome, Margo Rabb!


Step right up to the latest stop in the Margo Rabb blog tour. Margo is the author of Cures for Heartbreak; you can find out more about Margo and her writing at her website, and at her MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/margorabb

The drawbacks of a blog tour: I cannot offer you a chair, or tea, or cookies.

On the positive, you can pick your own comfy chair, have the tea and cookies of your own choice (or not,) and read this in your PJs and smile happily as you think about the traffic you avoided by going to the blog tour.

And now, with drumroll, I give you: Margo Rabb!

Liz B: "Don't judge a book by it's cover" is one of those lies people tell. Covers do matter; and "Cures for Heartbreak" has a fabulous cover. How excited were you when you saw it? Did you have any input into the creative process or the selection? I know I've spent way too much time looking at all the images to figure out how they fit into the story.

Margo: Actually, the current cover isn’t the original one—neither my agent nor I felt the first cover design was right for the book. My editor came up with the idea for the current cover, and when I saw it I absolutely loved it. I’ve heard that lot of authors don’t get any say in their covers—I was lucky.

Liz B: Parts of Cures for Heartbreak appeared as short stories in various magazines. And your Afterword to the book said that this book was several years in the making. I'm curious; did the short stories come first, and then the book? What was the writing process that led to both the book and the stories?

Margo: The stories came first, though I revised them all heavily over many years so that they’d fit together as a novel. Five chapters were written within the space of a few years, from 1996-1999. I revised them and then I put the draft of the book aside for a number of years (I talk about why on my website here: http://www.margorabb.com/about_cures.html ) I also wrote a number of other stories featuring Mia, Alex and their father, which I decided weren’t very good and so I threw them out. I wrote The Healthy Heart and the Cures for Heartbreak chapters last.

Liz B: Cures for Heartbreak is based on your own personal story; but it's a work of fiction, not a memoir. What led you to tell your story as a work of fiction?

Margo: There’s a Tuscan proverb I have pinned above my desk: “A tale is not beautiful if nothing is added to it.” Writing nonfiction doesn’t usually give me anywhere near as much pleasure as writing fiction, because it’s the creative process of writing fiction that’s magical for me--imagining people, places, and conversations, letting the story take over with its revelations and surprises--which makes writing really enjoyable. Also, I feel like I can be more truthful in fiction—to get at the real heart and meaning of an experience is easier when I don’t have to stick to the facts.

Liz B: I totally didn't know you were also M.E. Rabb, author of YA mysteries (the "missing persons" series.) I love that series! What led you to decide to publish under different names?

Margo: I wrote the Missing Persons series during the break that I took from Cures for Heartbreak, in 2001-2004. Those books sold on proposal—just a sample chapter and synopsis of the series. Since they were sold unwritten, and since they were going to be more commercial books, I wanted to separate them from Cures, which is more literary (and which, at the time, I hoped I would soon finish.) I’d planned to use a pseudonym, but my editor wanted me to use my own name so that my previous story publications could be used in the publicity materials. So using the initials was a compromise. I had to write the Missing Persons series under really tight deadlines—I was only given three months to write the first draft of each book—which was extremely difficult for me, since Cures for Heartbreak went through about a thousand drafts. (And I honestly think that’s an accurate estimate!)

Liz B: And since this is also going to be posted at Pop Goes the Library (the library blog where I contribute posts) I have to ask: what is your pop culture area of expertise? (Mine, for the record, is Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Margo: Gilmore Girls! I’ve been a huge fan of Gilmore Girls since its first season—in fact I have a secret fantasy (well, not so secret anymore) of living in Stars Hollow and hanging out at Luke’s diner every day. My husband of course reminds me that Stars Hollow is located in a lot at the CW network in Burbank, California. Still…I keep dreaming.

Liz B: Thank you so much! And I would move to Stars Hollow in a New York Minute (Sunnydale...not so much. I'd live longer hanging out at Luke's diner than I would at the Bronze.)

The other stops in Margo Rabb's blog tour:

3/20: Lizzie Skurnick at theoldhag
3/21: Jen Robinson at Jen’s book page
3/22: Betsy Bird at Fuse #8
3/23: Kelly Herold at Big A Little A
3/26: Liz Burns at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy (yes, that's me!)
3/27: Jackie Parker at Interactive Reader
3/28: Little Willow at bildungsroman
3/29: Leila Roy at Bookshelves of Doom
3/30: Mindy at propernoun

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Blog of the Day: The YA Novel And Me

Blog of the Day: The YA Novel And Me

About the Blogger: Gail Giles. She writes YA books; a mix of suspense and mystery; they make you think; and her endings... oh my her endings!

About the Blog: Gail Giles blogs about everything: the books she reads, her pets, writing... just about everything.

Friday, March 23, 2007

5 Non Library Blogs I Read. Plus Books.

I'm very excited to see Janie Hermann from Library Garden tag me with the latest library-blog meme. First, because hey, we Jersey Girls have to stick together! And second, because I'd noticed the meme going around and had been thinking about doing it anyway, but wanted to do it with a twist. And Janie also did it with a twist! Yay, Garden State.

So technically, the meme is "5 non-library blogs that we read," in part a reaction to that American Libraries story. So it's like cool, Liz, put your money where your mouth is!

So, here's the thing. I'm going to give you 10 blogs, 5 non-library AND non-book, and 5 book blogs. Because between the AL story, and the meme responses not containing many lit blogs, I feel like pimping books. Because libraries may be about outreach, and Web 2.0, and customer service...but the books are still important!

My 5 non-library blogs:

TV Squad. Excellent TV news, including recaps. (Not as snarky or as long as Television Without Pity, which isn't technically a blog, so I'm sneaking it in this way.)

Gawker. Gossip. (It was a tough call between this and Defamer...oops, I snuck in an extra blog? My bad.)

Whedonesque. A Blog about Joss Whedon; and anyone ever connected to the Whedonverse. A minor character starring in a new TV series? Find it out here!

Go Fug Yourself. It is possible to be too thin, and too rich.

Here And There Japan. The author lives and blogs from Japan; it's full of photos and facts about everyday life, geared towards children. Ever since I stumbled across this, I've been fascinated. I cannot wait to be able to travel to Japan.


My 5 book blogs:

GalleyCat. A blog about books and publishing.

Blog of a Bookslut. Jessa Crispin's blog, dedicated to those who love to read; news, reviews, commentary, insight.

Snark Spot. Jennifer Weiner's blog. I enjoy both her "slice of life" episodes and her spirited defense of "chick lit".

A Fuse #8 Production. I wanted to include one and only one kidlit blog; and I'm going with Fuse. She covers so many areas of the kidlitosphere, that if you just go there you'll find the rest of the 'verse quick enough. Plus, librarian! Woo hoo!

Brotherhood 2.0. The world must watch this engaging videoblog by John Green and his brother. Yes, it's that good.

Cross posted at Pop Goes the Library.

Edited to add:


I tag: on my library side, the Rock & Roll Librarian, Dog Ear, Purled Pouches and 2nd Gen Librarian.

On the kidlitosphere side, let's change the Non to "5 Non KidLit Blogs I Read" and tag MotherReader, Big A little a, Chicken Spaghetti, Book Buds and Scholar's Blog. And anyone else who wants to play!

Poetry Friday -- The Secret of Me

For Poetry Friday: a review of a book in verse

The Secret of Me by Meg Kearney

The Plot: An adopted child, Lizzie, tells her story thru poetry; her experiences and her thoughts. This is a work of fiction, but is based on the author's life and feelings (but, still, fiction).

The Good: This book in verse is told from the point of view of teenaged Lizzie, looking back at her own adoption as well as her siblings, imagining or remembering events, and also telling of current things in her life, from boys to friends to trying to raise the issue of her adoption with her parents. While her parents have never hidden that from her, it's also something that they are oddly reluctant to discuss. Or, at least, they are reluctant to discuss the details.

It's like this: yes, Lizzie and her siblings are adopted. But her parents say "my daughter, my son," believing that there is no difference between children born to a family or adopted into a family. Yet, when Lizzie raises a question about her birth mother, her upset mother leaves the room. It's a tightrope of emotions.

Why this works: because teenaged girls write poetry. So it makes sense for Lizzie to tell her story in poems. What is also cool is since the author is a poet, the afterword includes a guide to the poetics used in the book. Also at the end are a handful of the poems that Lizzie has mentioned in the book; I really like that, because it makes sense that Lizzie would refer to a poet or poem, and instead of having the reader search for them, wow, here it is at the end.

A sample of the poetry:

How I Arrived

...
I was like The New Thing my parents had ordered
from a catalog after lots of shopping around. But
they were puzzled. None fo the dresses they'd bought
were my size. No shoes fit...

Links:
My Journey Through The Land of Poetry review
Wordswimmer review

Round Up is at The Blue Rose Girls. If you posted anything poetry related today (a poem, a review, a write up of a poet, your own original work) go over to the Blue Rose Girls, and in the comments leave your name and blog URL. The blogosphere is big, without your comment there's no way to know to include you!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Biblioblogosphere

No seats at the grown ups table?

The April issue of American Libraries has an article about the blogosphere and includes a bunch of sites; Fuse #8 has the specific sites. A big congrats to the librarians listed; I read most of those blogs, and have added the others to my blogroll.

When I read the article in the copy I get at work, I noticed what Fuse noticed; not a kidlit blog among them.

But not only that; there's not a lit blog among them. Yes, I know that libraries are about more than books; but they are also about the books. Not just kids books, but also adult books. Now, in all honesty, I'm not as well versed on adult book blogs by librarians. But there are plenty of blogs by librarians and library staff that are about kid and teen books. And I just wonder, is it that we weren't invited to the table? Or do they not know we exist?

You Know What I Hate?

When you think you've added something to your sidebar, because it's at your bloglines account.

But, you haven't.

Sorry, The Brookeshelf

Not on my sidebar? It's probably because I'm an idjit. Leave a comment with URL in the comments. Thanks!!

Buffy Quote of the Week

"You brought a date? Buffy, when I said you could slay vampires and have a social life I didn't mean at the same time!"
-- Giles, "Never Kill A Boy On The First Date"

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Tragic Hero In Children's Literature

This question came up at work: "Is there a tragic hero in Children's Literature? Please focus on the books written for those in the 3rd - 7th grade. Any thoughts on why a character is a tragic hero, or why there are none."

My initial, off the cuff responses:

any King Arthur or Greek Myth retold would probably work

Peter Pan by Barrie, tragic hero is Pan

Blubber by Judy Blume; the main character’s flaw wanting to be part of the popular crowd which backfires on her (under this, I think any other of the current mean girls / wanting to be popular books, such as Koss’s The Girls, would also work.)

DiCamillo’s Despereaux (the supporting character of the rat, I forget his name) and, while I haven’t read it, I think her Edward Tulane would also work

Harriet the Spy, tragic hero Harriet? Perhaps a stretch, but her “flaw” in reporting/ investigating leads to her being excluded by her peers

The Dustfinger character in Funke’s Inkheart / Inkspell books

The Tree in The Giving Tree

The Fish in the Rainbow Fish – his flaw is wanting to fit in with his peers so he conforms and loses what is unique about him (I guess you can tell I’m not a fan of this book!)

Plus these titles were added by a colleague at work:

Luke from Among the Hidden (Shadow Children Series).
Matteo from The House of the Scorpion
Spiderman

So: do you agree or disagree? What titles would you add?

Newbery/Caldecott Criteria

A Fuse #8 Production has posted about some potential changes to the Newbery/ Caldecott Criteria, as reported in the School Library Journal.

Go and read the whole thing. What I find interesting: opening up the Newbery & Caldecott beyond American citizens or residents. Which the Printz already does. So, while Fuse mentions a potential "too many books, too little time" problem if the N / Cs are open beyond US authors, it's something that the Printz authors have not had a problem with. So I say, make the change!

I almost agree with a second point that Fuse champions: in light of the Printz, why keep the Newbery at 0 to 14? Why not change to 0 to 12? It seems those books published for kids between the ages of 12 and 14 get two bites at the apple (as long as they are US citizens or residents.) These middle school books are tricky.... are they really Newbery? Or Printz? Without the higher age in the Newbery, would a gem like Hattie Big Sky be overlooked? I look at the age range of the past Printz winners and Honor Books and wonder.

My last point is graphic novels. If Newbery is just about text, and Caldecott just about pictures, then the graphic novel as a format will continue to be shut out from both of these awards. So if they are considering changes, I hope that is one change they ponder!

What do you think? Head over to Fuse's post and share your thoughts.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

And You Came Here For That?

I had this blog for MONTHS before I realized there was such a thing as a statistics counter you could add to your blog to find out things like how many people visited, why they came here, how long they stayed.

I tell this story to say, I blogged without realizing just how big (or small) my audience was; I blogged then, like I do now, because I love to write. And to talk about what I love.

Anyhow, the main reason I added a stats counter is that some blogs would mention the funny searches that brought people to their site; and that, to know the searches, was what I wanted. Because it was funny.

So here it goes:

map of the 12 labors of hercules Nope, I don't have a map, but I'm sure you found the graphic novel I reviewed which did have a map.

i am the messenger by marcus zusak-read first chapter Are you looking for an ebook? Or for someone to do your homework?

attolia Since Gen is my book boyfriend, I respect the Attolia obsession. Want traffic? Post about the books The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia. I swear, every day I get these searches.

jaclyn moriarty interview I love her, too! Wow, an interview would be great!

annie between the states movie Loved the book, yes it would work as a movie. Let me note here, that while I review sometimes from ARCS I also review older titles. Rarely have I seen a search for a new book; the searches are all for books already in print.

slayers night snake adult galleries clueless on this one.

paper tiger emily dickinson quote Again with the no clues.

jimmy liao rabbit separate ways For some reason, this one is very unsettling.

the book thief See what I mean by books in print? Tho I'm sure that this was a Printz Honor adds to why people are looking for info on it.

free download mary downing hahn witch catcher Good luck with that, but here's the thing: Mary Downing Hahn has to make a living. Pay the bills. Why should her book be available as a free download? Want it for free? Borrow it from the library.

fireplace As you can imagine, I get this a lot.

reaction paper of my girl movie by macaulay culkin Ah, the old "i want someone to do my homework for me" search. Let me say -- if this is how you're searching, you deserve the D.

octavian's mother The HBO series rocks, doesn't it?

about kiki strike inside the shadow city Love this book! And let me point out to those who may be wondering about the books they review -- again, a book already in print. Not an ARC.

george crum's potato chips Yep, I reviewed this book, but interestingly enough I just did a program at the library about this -- it was fab. Put out 7 different types of potato chips (jalapeno, classic, sour cream & onion) and have people vote. As they come in for the chips, tell them about George Crum.

veronica mars We love her, don't we?

the king of attolia See above.

octavian's mother's death You know the Rome show is heavily fictionalized, right?

julie larios poet probably a Poetry Friday poet

chair fireplace I also get this a lot.

abridged childrens classic books I support adult classics that are told in various formats in order to introduce kids to classics; but I have a bit of a harder time understanding why a book for children needs to be abridged.

rat snake You want one? Or to get rid of one?

who are the main characters in lowry's the giver Again, you deserve the D just for poor search skills. This is how I know that however many times teachers, parents and librarians say that kids and teens have great computer search skills, I say -- nope. Not really.

rob thomas, nyc policeman Good luck with that! Is he cute?

tea cozy, english, cat Very specific. Want to know a secret? I don't own a tea cozy. I wish I did!

boarding scholls for teenagers with autism Some searches break your heart. Good luck with that!

For what it's worth, I like statcounter.com and mybloglog.com. If you're not sure how to put it into your template...and that's a bit harder, and depends on your blogging software. I can tell you how to do it for Blogger.

Edited to add:

The Shady Glade shares her searches. Looks like we could put together a list of "review this and people will find your blog" books -- let's add Shabanu & Dramacon to the list. I also get hits for my Dramacon review; and while it's not in this list, a few times a week I get people looking for info on I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You.

Edited to add:

You Attolia fans are the best!

Blame it on my love of Everwood, but for some reason I always picture Gregory Smith as Gen.

My reviews of:
The Thief; in which I first state that Gen is my book boyfriend
The Queen of Attolia; where I doodle my name & Gen's proving he is still by boyfriend
The King of Attolia; which is brilliant.

I lurk over at Sounis (my LJ name is lizzb) and you're right: I was too quick to diss the Giver search for searching skills, but I still think the best and fastest way to do homework is read the book (or at least the bookjacket.) Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa for going for the cheap snark.

Blog of the Day: Words, Words, Words

Blog of the Day: Words, Words, Words

About the Blogger: Suzi reads and reviews YA lit.

About the Blog: Blogs* like Suzi's are why I am an advocate of reading blogs via aggregators such as bloglines or Google Reader. Suzi has a strong voice and does great reviews on a wide assortment of books. But, she doesn't post that frequently. If you're a reader who is only going to the actual blog site to read, that lack of frequency can be frustrating. But, move over to an aggregator** where you get notified when there is something new, and bingo! It doesn't matter. Frequency is no longer important; only quality; and Suzi has a ton of quality.

*I know some people make a distinction between LiveJournal and blogs, but to me, they are the same. Just different vendors. Also, I have to say that Suzi is the wonderful person who put up my LiveJournal feed.

**Let me know in the comments if you all want more info or "how to" on reading blogs via aggregators. In the "real world" I teach workshops on blogging and aggregators. As with anything, it takes time to figure all this stuff out.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Veronica Mars

Shaken & Stirred has this report about Veronica Mars, which is hanging on by a thread; I quote the pertinent part: And according to CW insiders, the CW has not officially canceled Veronica Mars. However, here's the catch: They are currently considering a different format for the fourth season. From what I hear, that format would leap four years into the future and focus on Veronica Mars as an FBI agent.

What's freaky is I have been saying this is the way to save the show. Seriously, ask anyone who I've bored to death about it. (I posted it as a comment to some one's livejournal...damn.. Cannot remember who.)

See, what was so cool about Season One? Flashback Theatre, as we watched Veronica investigate a murder that was a year old. What has been missing from VM? That sense of Flashback, the real uncovering of a story, that not knowing ourselves what had, and had not, gone on.

I think this could be really, really good.

Hey, there are a couple of interesting conversations going on in the kidlitosphere!

Your input is needed! Over at YA Authors Cafe, there is an open (and that means anyone can comment) discussion about what topic or subject matter is missing in today's YA lit.

What did you think I was talking about?

One reason to go add your two cents worth: because it's fun to talk about something we all love.

A second reason: some of the peeps involved with YA Authors Cafe are real, live authors. So what you have to say will be heard.

This is what I posted:

Well written real genre books.

It seems that the kids who read both adult & YA go looking for specific areas in the adult, and I think it's because they cannot find it in YA. (Not that it isn't there...but there isn't enough.)

What I mean: mystery. A straightforward, there's a crime, solve it mystery. No ghosts, just a real honest to goodness mystery.

Romance. In adult romance, there is happy ever after; in teen, your heart is broken. Part of that is, I think, the whole coming of age thing; but I do wish for more straightforward happy ending romance. And it's why I see teen girls constantly going to the adult romance section. They want the happy ending.

I'd also say humor; and while we all know humor is tough to write, teens come in and want escape but want it to be good escape. Especially humor for boys.


Thanks to Original Content for reminding me of the open discussion.

Oh! And another thing.

No, not that.

My friend Miss Pea has some dueling picture books over at her site: Who Is Melvin Bubble v 17 Things I'm Not Allowed To Do Anymore. What's most interesting is the one that the kids like better isn't necessarily the one that Miss Pea likes best... so you cannot say she's playing favorites in how she reads the books out loud. (Tho I guess if you REALLY wanted a book to fail you'd read it in a mumbly voice.)

Printz Committee

If you're a member of YALSA, you have your ballot by now; please vote for me for the Printz Committee! My answers to questions to the candidate (basically, so, why should I vote for YOU?) are over to the YALSA Blog.

Poetry Friday

NOTE: I AM CHANGING THE DATE TO SATURDAY BECAUSE OF SOME LATE ADDITIONS; IF YOU'VE READ THIS ALREADY, THEY ARE AT THE END.

Well, I've been trying to determine if this translation of Liadin and Curither by Kuno Meyer is out of copyright or not. I believe I'm safe to post it in its entirety. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Online sources (because I like to cite my sources, whether it's book, newspaper or blog) include: Liadain and Curithir: an Irish love-story of the ninth century (CELT Corpus of Electronic Texts) and a Google Book of the same text. Scroll down to about page 25 to find this particular section. A slightly different version appears at the Celtic Literature Collective.

Joyless
The bargain I have made!
The heart of him I loved I wrung.

'Twas madness
Not to do his pleasure,
Were there not the fear of the King of Heaven.

'Twas a trifle
That wrung Curither's heart against me:
To him great was my gentleness.

I am Liadin
That loved Curither:
It is true as they say.

A short while I was
In the company of Curither:
Sweet was my intimacy with him.

The music of the forest
Would sing to me when with Curither,
Together with the voice of the purple sea.

Would that
Nothing of all I have done
Had wrung his heart against me!

Conceal it not!
He was my heart's love.
Whatever else I might love.

A roaring flame
He dissolved this heart of mine,
Without him for certain it cannot live.

Now, onto Poetry Friday.

First, a little background: Kelly of Big A little a started Poetry Friday last year about this time. It's no big secret; Friday? Poetry. Blog? Post. Share. Susan at Chicken Spaghetti has a more detailed explanation. Also check out Passionately Curious, who talks about blogs and copyright.

The only thing I'll add is regarding the round-up, which started, as most things with kidlit blogs do, entirely randomly and without order as those posting liked to list those participating because -- and this may be hard to believe -- it isn't easy keeping up with blogs and blog post, and new blogs, and what is happening, and the like. So, sometimes? It's nice for a link or two or three to see what's going on; and I think we all know that as helpful as the various search engines are, they aren't perfect to find what we want. A few of us informally rotate who posts the round up so that we aren't duplicating efforts. How do we decide this? By who is going to be around, who volunteers, who starts. For example, this morning I said, hey, I can do it after work!

And those of you in New Jersey know just how delightful that ride how was.

Anyhow. Here is the round up. If I missed you, post in the comments; and "you" means the person reading this. I also make an effort to search with technorati and bloglines.

Big A little a counts on Languages by Carl Sandburg. Excellent choice, as always.

Bildungsroman/ Little Willow shares The Plumpuppets by Christopher Morley (Fairies and literacy and pillows, oh my!)

Blue Rose Girls reach for the stars with a plethora of poetry about comets, the stars, the Moon, and other stuff up in the sky. (Stuff. It's a technical term. Astrologists and astronomists use it all the time.)

A warm welcome to Bri Meets Books, who debuts with Break by Dorianne Laux

Charlotte's Library (we really must talk about how Charlotte has my dream profession) has Naming the Parts by Reed

HipWriterMama inspires with A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (and at this point I have to say thank you for using the i-word in your blog because I'm starting to run out of new words to use to say who has what on their blog.)

kiddielit makes me laugh with The Library as an Erotic Oasis (and oh, how I needed a good laugh today!)

lectitans posts A Valediction Forbidding Mourning by John Donne (...OK, I'm back, but wow, I'm sure I read this in college, but I don't remember it, and just got lost in reading it and thinking... but you all are waiting eagerly, so I'll stop indulging.)

The Miss Rumphius Effect blows us away with poems about wind and kites (Reading poems about wind as the wind howls outside is very cool.)

St. Patrick's Breastplate is at Mitali's Fire Escape (no, silly, it's a poem! Tho imagining armor on a fire escape is going to inspire someone to write an interesting bit of urban fantasy.)

Passionately Curious puts me in a much better mood (it's been a horrid few days) and lifts my spirits with Prayer by Sheree Fitch

Readathon reviews two books in verse (ooh, Ludie's Life looks really good, and the joy of a book in verse is it's a quick read with a lot of meat.)

Scholar's Blog celebrates St. Patrick's Day with Yeats and Seamus Heaney (Have I mentioned yet on the blog that Yeats is my favorite poet? No?)

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast profiles Bob Barner's Penguins, Penguins Everywhere (look out, there's one behind you!)

What [Does] Adrienne Think About That? The answer is Seasonal Affective Disorder

Spring has sprung (or at least spring poems have!) at whimsy, who either is eternally optimistic or doesn't live in New Jersey

Wordy Girls illustrate how you can have more than one favorite with Janet Wong's Night Garden (bonus is the photo of the lovely illustrations by Julie Paschkis)

writing and ruminating wanders by with Yeats (is it possible to have a poetry boyfriend? cause he's mine.)

a wrung sponge recalls college days and Yeats (I adore him, adore him, adore him.)

A Year of Reading indulges in caffeine in my favorite forms: tea, coffee, chocolate. (and welcome back; if I wasn't tired before reading your post, I would be now. Hhmmm...is it possible to blog and eat a brownie?)

OK, that's it for those on the comments. I'll post and look for more, and revise this post as needed. Stay warm and safe.

Edited to add:

A Fuse # 8 Production raises a glass to weddings and St. Patrick's Day with Our Third Wedding Reception This Year Hits Its Stride

and Gotta Book with some Seuss

and Jane Yolen's original poem begins "Grammar Rules / defeat me." I know the feeling.

and Chicken Spaghetti must have thought, "what can I do to make Liz smile? Snow already shared the erotic library poem... I know! Let's highlight a poet who used to be a lawyer."

And still more!!

Here In the Bonny Glen joins in with Letters From a Father

Farm School has not one, but two, posts: a unicorn poem (don't tell Justine) and a new resource

Poetry for Children brings us into modern times with contemporary Irish poetry for children

And this just in from Journey Woman, who first had to drive thru the horrible weather and then had to contend with blogger deciding to act up: a mini round up of Irish poets, including my man Yeats

And there's always room for one more:

Biblio File shares an original haiku (another DC area blogger! Keep your eyes open for when we figure out how the heck we are going to co-ordinate an ALA real life get together... which is open to all)

The rumors are true -- Poetry Friday is here today! But I am at work until 5, so leave your name & link in the comments, and when I get home I'll revise this to include you all, as well as my own contributions.

Safe driving!

Friday, March 16, 2007

This Amused Me

This post from GalleyCat amused me. The combination of saying "blogs suck; I know because I don't read them" AND the bit about the speaker delighting in pissing people off equals Awesome!!! It's so silly I cannot get upset.

The Next Carnival Deadline is Tomorrow!!!

The next Children's Literature Carnival is at Midwestern Lodestar and the deadline is TOMORROW. Either hop over to Midwestern Lodestar or use this submission form.

Past posts of mine explaining carnivals: here, here, here, here, and here. In a nutshell, it's open to all, is a cool way to share your favorite posts, and is a fun place to discover new and new-to-you blogs.

Edited to add: the people who volunteer to do this are investing a lot of time! It's not simple and it's not quick to do a Carnival. I know from Poetry Friday round ups that it can take several hours even when people supply the direct URL (and PF can take even longer, because the rounder-up usually makes the extra effort of searching via technorati, bloglines, or their search engine of choice to find all participants. Do we always? Well, I guess it depends on whether or not it's our night to cook dinner or if take out is OK.) So be sure to say thanks to Midwestern Lodestar for agreeing to do this!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Another New Blog In Town. Or Two.

I know, moments after I post, "comment about your blog so I can add it,", here I am blogging about blogs and the bloggers didn't even comment.

Sorry.

But I find it interesting that Publishers Weekly just announced a whole new slate of blogs; as did School Library Journal. Suddenly, The Horn Book's Read Roger looks awful lonely by itself (himself? Do we refer to the blog or the blogger?)

Anyway, welcome to PW's kidlit blog, Shelf Talker.

And, welcome to a more traditional blogger: Purled pouches and things unstrung by Miss Pea, one of my first library mentors and a great friend in the "real world."

Note to self: add them to the blogroll this weekend.

Speak Now!

The clever among you realize that when I do my Blog of the Day, I'm going straight down my blogroll, which is divided into categories and then in alphabetical order.

Let's play Pop Culture trivia -- why do I think of this method as the Dr. Sean strategy?

As I've said before (but it's worth repeating for new readers) I blog outside of work & other commitments; translation, I'm not as good with keeping up with this blogroll as I could be. Updates depend on time, whether I'm tired or not, and if it's a repeat of Supernatural. (Such pretty, pretty boys....)

In other words, no, it's not you; it's me. I haven't deliberately left you off, despite your wonderful comments and your being kind enough to link to me. So, please, comment here; when I update this weekend, I'll add you to the blogroll.

Blog of the Day: Walter the Giant Storyteller

Blog of the Day: Walter the Giant Storyteller

About the Blogger: He's Walter! The GIANT Storyteller! Seriously, folks, when Walter M. Mayes says he is a "performer, writer, children's literacy advocate, educator" he's not being modest. You can read his book, Valerie & Walter's Best Books For Children: A Lively, Opinionated Guide, and don't you love someone who says right up front, yes, I'm opinionated? Should you ever have the chance to attend one of his workshops, do so.

About the Blog: Actually, a website with info about Walter, his book, workshops, etc. His blog is here.

Another TV Show Set in the Publishing World

Jenna Elfman will star in Literary Superstar, about a loyal book publicist. (Insert joke about last night's episode of Bones.)

Thanks to GalleyCat for the info.

Between this and Jezebel James, I think the publishing world is covered. What we need is a TV show based on a librarian who blogs. I'm willing to sell my story!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Diversity in the Kidlitosphere

Hey, all.

I am putting together a workshop about Diversity in the Kidlitosphere. The major point of my workshop is that blogs are an avenue for librarians to find out about and be exposed to multicultural titles. Another point is the valuable discussions from various perspectives that goes on at many blogs and websites. An example of what I'm including in my talk: Mitali's Fire Escape, and her invitation to "let's chat about life between cultures."

Please, either in comments or emails to me (lizzy.burns @ gmail.com, ignore the spaces) share with me your favorite blogs and websites that focus on these points. My workshop isn't scheduled until June, but after I give it, I'll share my resources.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Edge of the Forest, B List Bloggers, and Ramblings

So the latest issue of The Edge of the Forest is up and ready for your reading pleasure! And as a reminder, go to the Archive to get all past issues, including the February one, which I forgot to mention earlier. Oh! And if you're reading this a few months from now, just go to the archives for March 2007.

Kelly of Big A little a has a great list of what's happening at TEOTF. I was lucky enough to interview Kirby Larson, who wrote Hattie Big Sky, Newbery Honor winner. True side story: all during ALA Midwinter, before the announcements, I was pushing Hattie Big Sky as if I were working on commission.

Anyway.

MotherReader has an article, Be A B-List Blogger, and of course my first reaction was damnit to hell, because I'm a C-List Blogger. But then I tried again, and Yay, I'm a B-List!!! Here's the proof:
B-List Blogger
So anyway, check out MR's recommendations. Most of the things she mentions I learned the hard way; or just stumbled upon doing them, not realizing what I was doing.

In all honesty, it's not about how many hits you get or how many people subscribe via Bloglines or your technorati status .... Oh, I cannot lie to you all. Yes, that stuff does matter; because in the blogosphere, it's one of the few ways that a blogger can get a real sense that someone out there is reading the blog.

But the real, underlying point of MotherReader's article is this: the kidlitosphere, as with any blogosphere, is a community. And when you blog, you're a member; and to be part of that community, you need to communicate, not only with your blog, but with what and when you write; linking to people, in articles and sidebars and blogrolls, is another way to participate; as is commenting and keeping a conversation rolling from blog to blog. Because without each other, it's a little lonely.

We have many voices, many viewpoints; chances are, there is only one thing that we all agree on: We love children's and/or teen literature.

OK, two things. And we love to share that love.

Monday, March 12, 2007

I Love You, Buffy The Vampire Slayer (and you too Joss!)

Over at Pop Goes the Library, Sophie posts about the best tv show ever, aka Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Sophie invites people to share their BtVS memories. I posted the following:

BTVS was meaningful to me because:

-- as pointed out in the article, kick ass storytelling that spanned a season. I fell in love with the stories, the characters, the writing, the plotting.

-- I first began posting online at Buffy message boards so in many ways it was my intro to life online, and thanks to that experience (good & bad) it taught me a lot about trolls, flaming, the lack of sarcasm font, and never post your first reaction to something that pisses you off.

-- It taught me that the Internet can create community. I was alone in my fandom until the Internet; and it wasn't until season 5 that I first met other BtVS fans.

-- It made me proud to watch tv. Before this, watching TV was something to downplay; after this, it was something to say, proudly, I watch TV. So what?

I'd like to add:

In my BtVS posting days, every now and then I posted at the Bronze and more frequently at the Cross & Stake and (both boards) and An Angel's Soul under the name "coma girl". It's kind of funny; I totally knew of Little Willow from the general online BtVS community, but it wasn't until I began posting about kidlit & YA lit that I "met" her.

I cannot underestimate the change in both me & society in general that watching TV is no longer something to be ashamed about or apologized for; that the complexity of TV shows & the writing is recognized & cheered.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Blog of the Day: Something Different Every Day

Blog of the Day: Something Different Every Day

About the Blogger: Susan Dove Lempke; a public librarian who reviews for the Horn Book Magazine.

About the Blog: Blogs about childrens books, libraries, reviews. Some recent posts range from the difference between selection and censorship to what makes a great library trustee.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Blog of the Day: See Me 4 Books

Blog of the Day: See Me 4 Books

About the Blogger: Run by a librarian who is active in YALSA.

About the Blog: A round up of book lists (mainly YALSA's Best Books lists), links (reviews, blogs, publishers); and teen reviews; including Canadian books and awards. Are you a teen who wants their voice heard? Use this form to share a review.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Jackie and the Shadow Snatcher


Jackie and the Shadow Snatcher by Larry DiFiori. Copy supplied by Knopf Books for Young Readers.

The Plot: Jackie is the type of kid who would lose his head if it wasn't attached. So it' s no surprise when he loses his shadow. But it turns out it's not only lost; it's been taken by the Shadow Snatcher, who takes shadows, sews them together, and uses them to hide his criminal activity. Can Jackie get his shadow back?

The Good: Adventure and mystery and a little bit spooky.

Jackie's clothes place him in the 1920s or 1930s; and this has the look and feel of a movie from back then. There's even a spooky old house, boats, and a chase scene.

I like that Jackie is a regular kid; he loses things, he messes up, he tries to fix things.

The humor is also good; once Jackie learns that his shadow has been snatched, he wonders, "Shadow Snatcher! Why don't they tell us about this sort of stuff in school?" Why not, indeed.

The graphic novels I'd been reading recently for the under 12 crowd have been targeted at girls; Jackie has boy appeal. (Tho let me say Babymouse also has boy appeal -- my godson, who is Mr Rough and Tumble and loves sports, also loves Babymouse. Yeah, we shouldn't label books, but we do.) It'll be nice to be able to give this to the younger crowd who come in looking for graphic novels.

Links:
A Fuse #8 Production review.
Big A little a review.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Scattered Thoughts On Family

I've just watched the first 4 episodes of Family. More info on the show at TV.com. All the following observations are based solely on those 4 episodes.

My thoughts:

It stands up; still worthwhile to view. Some good writing, good acting, and still applicable themes and storylines. A cancer scare; falling for the perfect girl, except, oops, she's pregnant; trying to make a marriage work; an unwanted pregnancy.

I was surprised at how physical Kate & Doug's relationship was, much more than I remembered (tho less than anything shown on TV today.) I was also surprised, considering this was only a few years after Roe V. Wade, that Kate talked so bluntly about not wanting to be pregnant and thinking about getting an abortion. While she did not do it, a question remains about Nancy's second pregnancy. It's mentioned in the pilot, but not in any of the subsequent shows.

I also like how none of the characters are perfect; from episode one, we see that Nancy is both spoiled and yearning for more out of life, that Kate has made personal sacrifices to stay in her marriage, that Doug lets himself be manipulated by Nancy. Buddy can be cute and annoying, insightful and child like.

But damn, it's pretty obvious it's the mid to late 1970s!

Kate, the mother, is brilliant; not just because of the nuanced performance by Sada Thompson, but also because she so represents her time period. On the one hand, she talks about wanting to get an abortion when she was pregnant; on the other hand, she has always been, without apologies, a housewife. Oh, a music lesson is mentioned... but what Kate does is clean (we are introduced to her as she washes out metal garbage cans, wearing, of course, a skirt) and bake (wonderful pies and cakes) and cook (in one episode, she makes breakfast for herself and Doug, and as soon as Willie comes downstairs, she jumps up, giving up both her seat and her breakfast to her 17 year old son who accepts both without a second thought.) She also has lived with her husband's infidelity from 20 years before. In these first episodes, there is no hint that she wants anything more out of her life than exactly what she has. While there is nothing wrong with Kate's life, can you think of any modern drama where a woman is so unapologetically a housewife? Where there isn't even a mention of the career or life she used to have?*

Kate always wears a skirt or dress; has a cleaning women (who we haven't met yet, but we know doesn't wash out garbage cans or do toilets). She is 46; she's no Desperate Housewife. She dresses "like a mother", is even called "Mother," and (how to put it nicely?) is no size 6 and doesn't do pilates.

Kate -- and this is the most telling thing of the time being shown -- councils her daughter, who has walked in on husband & best friend, to examine herself to see what she did that contributed to her husband cheating. What did Nancy do that drove Jeff to cheat?**

Doug is a lawyer; and despite living in a gorgeous house where each child has his own full bathroom (I know!!!), and a stay at home wife, says that he cannot afford to help pay for home health care for Kate's ill mother. Kate agrees; and all I can think is the hell? This from a family who isn't going to have to pay college tuition for another six years, since Nancy is married and Willie has dropped out of school. It's an odd mix of a privileged family that cries "no money" every now and then.

On to Nancy; Kate is angry at Nancy for "being spoiled," yet when I hear what makes Nancy "spoiled" I cry for both women. Kate, who thinks that wanting many things -- marriage AND children AND education AND career makes one "spoiled"; Nancy, who knows she does indeed want "more" but has no role model on how to be both a woman and have the life and career her father enjoyed.***

That said, I can see where Kate is coming from -- Nancy is shown not committing to any of the things she wants, dropping out of school to get married, having a baby then starting college again before the baby is even a year, then skipping classes while she is in college. (By the way, in four episodes the baby is never shown!!!) (And, this is Original Nancy; Nancy 2.0 doesn't show up until season 2.)

So far, not enough about Willie or Buddy; Willie, we know, dropped out of high school and we hear he writes, takes photos, and likes Science Fiction films and old films but we don't know yet why he's a drop out. Buddy is a pre teen and is very realistic; already we see her struggle to figure out who she is, to understand her relationship with family members, to define her independence.

Perhaps what most reveals the age of the show is not the mindset of Kate, the clothes or the hair; it's the music. No songs! Also, so far, each ep is SO stand alone; Nancy's pregnancy is mentioned once. Cancer scare is one ep; pregnant girlfriend is one ep; each is so standalone that it's almost as if the other episodes never happened. (And yes, I remember all about Timmy... yet another indication of stand alones, OtherTimmy is not mentioned once in the first 4 episodes and I'd bet money he's never mentioned in any future seasons.)

*I also think that this changes as the show goes on and addresses the changes in society in the 1970s, but I'm not sure.

**While Kate is quite insistent in her conversations with both Doug and Nancy that Nancy examine her actions to see what she did to drive Jeff to cheat, and that part of what a woman has to do to remain in a marriage is accept that she is responsible for her husband's actions, she never says what it is she did, or didn't do, in her own marriage that led Doug to cheat.

***OK, this reflects my knowledge of what Nancy 2.0 does in future episodes, rather than Original Nancy who, after the Pilot, has no significant story line.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

More On Jezebel

More news on The Return of Jezebel James, the upcoming TV show set in the kid lit world.

The cast continues to look very cool; and my dearest dream is for the to stunt cast with actual guest spots by real authors and illustrators, but that would be way demanding.

Anyway, the real cast is quite good: first Parker Posey, now Lauren Ambrose. As a recap to you all : "The pilot focuses on juvenile lit publisher Parker Posey and her relationship with her estranged sister. (Jezebel James is the name of the publishing house's popular franchise for pre-adolescent girls.)"

While the show continues to get good buzz for writing and cast, I haven't found anything that says who is advising them on the world of "juvenile lit." Juv Lit. Juvie Lit? J Lit.

Other reports say that the main character is a single book editor (I guess that means she doesn't work on trilogies? Ha ha ha ha. Well, I thought it was funny.)

Queen Bee


Queen Bee by Chynna Clugston. Graphix, Imprint of Scholastic. Library copy. Graphic Novel.

The Plot: Haley is the new girl in 7th grade. She's glad she's in a new school; it's a chance to start over and be popular! The only problem . . . she's got this little thing called psychokinesis. Which can cause a wee bit of trouble.

The Good: It's classic middle school story line. Girl wants to be popular so doesn't hang out with the friendly girl. Popular group has a Queen Bee. There's a nice shy boy; but he's not cool enough.

The new twists: it's in graphic novel format. Haley manages to rise to the top of the social structure... but it's tricky staying on top. When new girl Alexa shows up, she not only becomes the new Queen Bee; Haley finds herself struggling to keep any of her popularity. It's not easy, because Alexa doesn't fight fair. Middle School politics are front and center, with a healthy dose of manipulation. All assisted by psychokinesis. Haley can move things with her mind! (But she has some control issues.)

The wrap up is interesting: a little American Idol, a little High School Musical, as the school's drama show determines who will be the Queen Bee. For this volume, at least.

Links:
Author's LiveJournal.
Review by TangognaT at Chicken Spaghetti.
The Goddess of YA Literature - GNs for gurlz

Monday, March 05, 2007

Congratulations to Lisa Yee

Congratulations to Lisa Yee, for being named 2007 Thurber House Children's Writer-in-Residence. Her blog post gives all the details, including the photos of the house.

Very, very cool.

Say Please


Say Please by Tony Ross. Copy supplied by publisher, Kane/Miller. Originally published in England.

The Plot: The Little Princess not only learns to say "please," she also teaches others to say "please."

The Good: A cute book on manners.

This is part of the "Little Princess" series; this is the only one that I've read. The princess is cute, and the pictures show royal people (a princess, a queen) but in situations that would be familiar to a small child: the general rides a hobby horse, someone is putting up wallpaper, the Little Princess goes for a walk with her stuffed animal. The colors are bright, and their are cute touches, such as the crowns that appear on the napkins and wallpaper.

Sometimes books need to be kid-tested; or, rather, successful kid reading makes me appreciate a book even more, or see something I didn't realize. Between the princess and the pink, I thought girl book. But the last time Peter Parker visited, he latched onto this book and wanted it read over. and over. and over. By the umpteenth time, he was "reading" along with me in the way that four year olds do, saying what he had memorized, sometimes a beat or two behind me. So not only does this work as a cute introduction to manners; and a book for girls; boys like it too, and the simple words and constant refrains are a nice way for pre-readers to begin the memorization that leads to reading.

Links:
Curled Up With A Good Kids Book review.
Tony Ross info at Magic Pencil.
Jen Robinson's review.

Blog of the Day: Richie's Picks

Blog of the Day: Richie's Picks: Great Books for Children and Young Adults

About the Blogger: Richie Partington; he's worked in bookstores, classrooms, and is currently getting his MLIS. He's served on BBYA and is on the Spring 2007 American Library Association ballot as a candidate for the Newbery committee. (and cause it is still about me, let me remind you all that I'm on the ballot as a candidate for the Printz committee!)

About the Blog: Richie's reviews are very well known; if he reviews it, it should be added to your TBR pile. The books are a mix of works already published and those yet to be published. Richie's reviews usually include the following: lyrics that bring out some point about the book; long quotes from the book so that you can get a feel for the language and writing; and a mix of the personal (noting his own personal experiences as they relate to the subject of the book) and universal (why you, your students, and the kids coming to the library would enjoy and get something out of the book.)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Blog of the Day: I'm A Reading Fool

Blog of the Day: I'm A Reading Fool

About the Blogger: A public librarian writes about the books she is reading.

About the Blog: Reading Fool adopts the Voya system, rating both quality and popularity on a scale of 1 to 5, and noting age range. I especially like RF's original titles for each book review (To Sing or Not To Sing? That is the Question for Diva) and her musings.

Kali and the Rat Snake


Kali and the Rat Snake by Zai Whitaker; illustrated by Srividya Natarajan. Copy donated by publisher, Kane / Miller. Originally published in India.

The Plot: Kali is reluctant to go to school; he had been happy at the thought, but once the other children learned that his father was a snake catcher and he was an Irula, they stayed away. Things only got worse when the other kids saw that Kali's favorite snack is fried termites. All that changes when something happens at school and only Kali can save the day.

The Good: I don't know much discrimination within Irula; however, it's obvious from this book that Kali's tribe, the Irulas, is one that is looked down on, just as his father's occupation and his favorite food is scorned. I liked how Whitaker was able to convey it without ever flat out saying it.

Kids who don't know anything about the Irulas will still understand that Kali is being made fun of and bullied for reasons that aren't fair. What Kalie faces in the classroom, while set in India and is about snake catchers and fried termites, is universal; kids understand that. They may not know anyone who eats fried termites, but they know kids who are excluded for similar reasons.

Of course, Kali saves the day by using the skills taught to him by his father to catch the snake. So Whitaker shows not only that differences should be respected; but also that those things we look down on may be valuable. Shame on us for mocking instead. And it's a nice twist, with Kali being not only proud of who he is and where he comes from, but also having the whole school celebrate it.

Cheetah, my niece, liked this because it was about snakes. And didn't like it when the bullies were mean.

The illustrations are beautiful; I particularly liked the ones set in the forest. The colors are vibrant, and as you look closely at the trees and bushes you see birds, small animals -- hey is that a snake?

Links:
Jen Robinson's Book Page review.
Reviews gathered at Tulika Press (the original, Indian publisher)
Saffron Tree review.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Blog of the Day: Reading Rants!

Blog of the Day: Reading Rants! Out of the Ordinary Teen Booklists!*

About the Blogger: Jennifer Hubert is a middle school librarian; she is the author of Reading Rants! A Guide to Books That Rock

About the Blog: Hubert reads a lot; and takes what she's read to create fun booklists. According to her FAQ, the site is updated about every two months. She's been doing this awhile; the copyright notice starts in 1998. An example of what makes Hubert's booklists fabulous, and, as advertised, out of the ordinary: Virgin Run: Books About Falling in Love and First Times for Teens; "Home Fries": Country-fied Fiction for Teens; and The Coolest Classics You Never Even Heard Of!

*Note this is an updated link, so if you had the old one saved, use either the above link or www.readingrants.org

Bloodsong

Bloodsong by Melvin Burgess, sequel / companion to Bloodtide. Copy supplied by publisher. The first image is the UK version; the second is the US version. Review based on uncorrected book proof.

The Plot: Sigurd is born to be a hero; and Bloodsong begins with Sigurd facing the classic hero quest: slay the dragon.

The Good: Loved it. A Best Book for 2007.

Bloodtide and Bloodsong are set in a future that's barely recognizable. It's a post--apocalyptic world that is as bloody and brutal as anything out of the medieval past. It's a world of death and violence. Science has made magic real; with cloning and machines, and "magic rings" studied under microscopes.

Yet magic is not lost; gods such as Odin and Loki are real (or are they the result of some high tech machine?) For example, Sigurd says he is born to do great things: "You think I'm arrogant; I'm not. I was made for this -- literally. My father designed me for it. Every gene in my body was picked for this purpose. My mother brought me up for it; the gods shaped me as the keystone for this time and place. It's no credit to me. I have less choice than anyone." Magical swords coexist with people that are part pig and part dog because of DNA manipulation.

Bloodsong is about adventure; love; greatness; weakness. It is bloody and violent and heartless. And it's realistic, in the sense that things don't always work out they way you think they should or the way you want them to. Bloodsong takes some unexpected twists and turns, changing the story entirely. I never knew what was going to happen next, which is refreshing. And it's why I won't tell anything of the plot beyond Sigurd is off to slay a dragon.

Burgess often shifts POV; mixing it up, so sometimes it's first person, other times third person, and it's not consistent. It's a bit unsettling at first; but it works because it means that, despite the UK cover ("one hero. one kingdom. one chance to make it his own"), there is no one hero; we see Sigurd's view of himself, as well as how others view him; we get into the heads of all the characters, as well as seeing them more objectively. Which makes the violence, the betrayals, the hope and lost hope all the more real and all the more heart-shattering.

The US cover says "a legacy's final heir. a country's only hope." As mentioned above, Burgess provides a slick mix of Sigurd being the heir and the hope not just because the gods say so, but also because Sigurd himself has been genetically engineered to be heir and hope.

Do you have to read Bloodtide to read Bloodsong? No; I read Bloodtide when it first came out and had forgotten much of the details. While I want to reread it, I didn't have the time. No worries; while there are some connections I may have missed, for the most part Bloodsong stands alone. Actually, anyone reading Bloodtide expecting a true sequel may be disappointed; Bloodsong does not continue the story of Bloodtide, but rather tells the story of Sigurd, son of Sigmund, one of the characters in Bloodtide. It's like first reading the story of Henry II and then reading a book about Richard I.

While my copy of Bloodsong didn't mention it, these books are based on the Volsunga Saga. Many of the names are the same; others are close: Sigurd is a Volson, for example. Those of you familiar with the saga will be less surprised than I at the twists and turns of Sigurd's story, and instead will take greater enjoyment at how that story is reborn, retold and reimagined.

Links, all of which refer to the source material so all are highly spoilerific
The Story of the Volsungs (Volsunga Saga)
More on the Volsunga saga.
Interview with author. (video interview)
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