Friday, August 31, 2007

Poetry Friday

Inspired by Chasing Ray's review of Kipling's Choice, I give you:

Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Go here for notes.

Roundup is at Mentor Texts & More

Ellen Emerson White: Vietnam

Ellen Emerson White has written a number of books about Vietnam; the Echo Company series, written under the name Zack Emerson; a book written under EEW, about a nurse in Vietnam who has a tough time adjusting to life back home; and two Dear America books.

The Echo Company Series (as Zack Emerson)

Welcome to Vietnam (1991)
Hill 568 (1991)
'Tis The Season (1991)
Stand Down (1992)

The Plot:

These books introduce Michael Jennings. Michael is a pretty normal 18 year old; college wasn't for him, so he decided to hang out, work at the ski lift. Problem is, it's 1968 -- so he's drafted. And now he's in Vietnam. He doesn't really know why or care why he's fighting. He just wants to do his time and go home. And he knows he should have gone to college, but he didn't see himself as college material, and now he's paying the price, isn't he?

The Good:

God, I love Michael. As with most of EEW's characters, he's funny and a smart aleck. And smarter than he realizes.

Welcome to Vietnam starts almost as bad Vietnam war movie. Micheal goes to Vietnam! It's hot! He lugs a lot of stuff around, people fire at him, he fires back. Some race issues crop up. He bonds with the other guys in Echo Company. And you think, yes, EEW did her research and did it well, but it seems, kind of, I don't know? Clean, despite the dirt and the leeches and the jungle rot. And then, towards the end of the book, BAM.

"The sound of the explosion sent everyone diving to the ground, looking for cover. And at first, when -- stuff -- rained down, Michael wasn't sure what it was. Then, he realized who it was. Who it had been."

Finnegan had been standing next to JD, the dead soldier: "Finnegan, who had been closest to him -- yeah, more ways than one -- didn't seem to be hurt, but he was covered with -- stuff. With what was left of this best friend." Michael takes his canteen, and starts washing off the remains. He fills a body bag, with EEW using very few words but packing quite the punch, especially as Mike and another soldier pretend the bag is heavier than it is. So that no one realizes just how little is left of JD.

It's real. It's death and dying and blood. And EEW doesn't shy away from any of it. And what she has done is take you into the experience; just as Michael (and the reader) has the lull of "ok, this isn't so bad after all, I can make it" BAM.

No. It's not OK. It is that bad.

This is one of the few war novels I have read that respects the soldiers and their experiences; that doesn't play politics about the issue of war. And is brutally honest about the soldier's experiences.

And, yes, they are soldiers. They curse and say f*ck and tell dirty jokes. (Actually, while I was reading this, and seeing it was a Scholastic imprint, I was thinking, damn. Much respect on my part that they didn't remove the f*cks.)

The other three books continue the story of Micheal's first months in Vietnam; his first battle, meeting nurse Lt. Rebecca. Phillips. It ends -- if not happy, then optimistic, because he's met Rebecca and most of his friends are alive. His tour is far from over. But it's right before Tet, and everyone knows that nothing is going to happen during a major holiday, so Michael and Echo Company are on "stand down," enjoying a vacation. And the series ends. Most readers realize what happens after the series... the Tet Offensive. It's like ending the story of a happily married couple as they set sail on the Titanic.

The story gets continued in The Road Home, which is Rebecca's story. Rebecca, the army nurse that Michael met. It starts up after the series ends ... which means hello, Tet Offensive, plays a major role. And you find out what happens to Michael and his buddies. I'll tell you this: Michael doesn't die. But be careful about getting to attached to the others.

The Road Home (1995)

I read The Road Home first, even tho it was written after the first four books and is set after the first four books. That's because the first four books were published under a different name -- Zack Emerson.

So, I read The Road Home without reading the first four books; and The Road Home made perfect sense. It worked wonderfully as a stand alone. While I tracked down the other titles because I'm a bit obsessive compulsive that way, I didn't have to read them to understand the story.

I've said it before, and I'm saying it again: EEW's newest book, Long May She Reign, stands alone. Just like The Road Home stands alone. Another similarity between the two: both are "crossover titles," with appeal for both adult and teen readers.

Since I have proven my obsession with EEW's writing, why, you may ask, did I not read the first four books? Because they were published under the name Zack Emerson and I didn't know about them.

The Road Home
The Plot:

Rebecca Phillips is wrapping up her tour in Vietnam as an army nurse. She's been thru a lot; she's seen a lot. Friends have died; she's seen things ... she's done things ... the scars are physical and mental.

And home... home isn't just getting into an airplane and going back to the house you grew up in. It's going to take a lot to finally be "home."

The Good:

One of my three favorite books by Ellen Emerson White. It also features one of my book boyfriends, Michael Jennings (so many book boyfriends, I'm like the blog equivalent of Bill Henrickson, except with multiple book boyfriends instead of multiple wives). Michael was a soldier Rebecca met in Vietnam. She's trying to make sense of her life (and of Vietnam), and so she decides to visit him. Thing is, he's as scarred and messed up by Vietnam as Rebecca, maybe more so.

Plus, Michael and Rebecca... it had been an odd mix, he's younger, she was an officer. It was a wartime thing, right? Or was it something more....

Why is this a favorite? For some of the same reasons that China Beach is one of my favorite series, ever. By exploring the Vietnam War thru the POV of a female, and of a nurse, there is the horrors of war combined with the healing of medicine; the mixed emotions of saving the lives of soldiers, only to have the soldiers go out, risk their lives again, or to kill. And the details, of triage, of deciding who lives and dies, who gets morphine and who doesn't, who dies alone or dies with lies of "it's going to be OK."

Rebecca goes from naive and hopeful to scared, afraid, bitter.

EEW does a masterful job of showing both that war is hell AND respecting the soldier. Based on when her books were published, EEW is in my age group; yet, when my mother read this book, she was convinced that EEW had to have grown up during the Vietnam era, because EEW captured the times and the conflict so clearly. And then she continues it thru past the "happy ending" of going home... and shows just how hard that adjustment was.

And, of course, there are Rebecca and Michael. A bit of an odd couple; she's older, she was a nurse, he's a few years younger, he never went to college. Yet, they share not just the experience of Vietnam, but also a sense of humor and way of looking at the world. A sense of humor almost lost, but waiting to be rediscovered. The only problem with this book? It ends.

EEW revisited not just the Vietnam War, but the year that Michael is in Vietnam, in her two Dear America books, The Journal of Patrick Seamus Flaherty: United States Marine Corps Khe Sanh, Vietnam, 1968 (2002) and Where Have All the Flowers Gone?: The Diary of Molly Mackenzie Flaherty, 1968 (2002).

For the record: how, you may ask, can the Dear America story tell of the Vietnam war without those things present in the Echo Company / The Road Home books? The f*cks and drugs and prostitutes and violence other things? Because the gimmick is Patrick isn't just writing a diary; he's been told to write it with the knowledge that his youngest sister will read it. So Patrick leaves stuff out.

These two books, written for younger readers, are significant in EEW's work for a couple of reasons.

First, they are one of the few companion Dear America series; Patrick and Molly are siblings, and these books tell about the same year from their two different POVs. Hm, you see; just as EEW did with Life Without Friends and Friends for Life, reviewed earlier this week.

Second, they contain references to the earlier books. I know! Because it turns out that Patrick is friends with a soldier in Echo Company. And this other soldier isn't a big part of either Patrick or Molly's stories, but it does give the reader some information on another one of Michael's friends who made it home.

The friend? Finnegan.

Oh, and Patrick, Molly, and Finnegan are all from Boston.

And remember, in Friends for Life, (which is set in Boston) Susan's boyfriend? Patrick? Patrick's last name is Finnegan.

I don't care what Ellen says in the comments about coincidences, I'm convinced the Finnegans are connected. Also? Just because I love Rebecca & Michael, and because EEW does the Madeleine L'Engle/ Sarah Dessen thing of mentioning people from other books, I know wonder if these two will pop up somewhere.

Links to other Under the Radar Recs will be added after work.

Big A, little a: The Deep by Helen Dunmore

Bildungsroman: The May Bird Trilogy by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Finding Wonderland: The Avion My Uncle Flew by Cyrus Fisher

Not Your Mother's Bookclub: A look at some recently revised classics

Fusenumber 8: Stoneflight by George McHarque

lectitans: Gentle's Holler and Louisiana Song both by Kerry Madden

Chasing Ray: Kipling's Choice by Geert Spillebeen

Interactive Reader: A Plague of Sorcerers by Mary Frances Zambreno

The YA YA YAs: Resurrection Men by TK Welsh

7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast: Such a Pretty Face: Short Stories About Beauty edited by Ann Angel

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ellen Emerson White: The Friends Books

Ellen Emerson White: The Friends Books

Friends for Life (1983)
Life Without Friends (1987)

As I mentioned in my intro for the week, EEW's first book, and the first book of hers I read, was Friends for Life. (And, at press time, not only could I not find an image online, but I could not find my digital camera to take my own photo.)

Friends For Life

The Plot:

Susan, a senior in high school, has just returned to Boston after living in NYC for several years. She thinks this is made of awesome, because finally she'll be back together with her two best friends, Colleen and Patrick. But then Colleen turns up dead of an overdose. And everyone believes it to be true, saying Colleen had changed, you've been in NYC, you don't know.

Susan knows her best friend. She knows it wasn't an overdose. So what's a girl to do? Years before Veronica Mars avenged Lily Kane, Susan went undercover to prove not only that Colleen was murdered -- but also who did it.

The Good:

I had forgotten that EEW's first book was a mystery; so that her later All Emergencies, Ring Super (an adult mystery) wasn't a new genre. (Yes, it's a good book, set in Manhattan, and per the author's website, a sequel is being written.)

Even if mystery isn't your cup of tea, you'll enjoy the pop culture references, one liners, the humor. The real characters. Plus, a good plot as Susan risks everything for her best friend. As you can see from what I'm focusing on here, what I like about EEW is what I like about Meg Cabot and Sarah Dessen.

So, Susan goes about trying to solve the murder of her best friend. And, since no one believes her, it means she goes "undercover," acting as if she got in with the drug crowd in NYC so is looking for that at her new school (which was Colleen's school.) Susan discovers who the local drug dealer is, gets in with that crowd (bad & wild on the inside, preppy looking on the out), and almost gets murdered. Beverly is one of the bad crowd; and the one who tells the teenage drug dealer psycho murderer that Susan isn't the new girl in town, but Colleen's old BFF (because, surprise, Beverly went to the same middle school as Susan & Colleen.)

So it was with great surprise that I picked up Life Without Friends and discovered Beverly's story. Yeah, the girl you hated in the first book!

Life Without Friends

The Plot:

It's still high school, and it's set following the events in Friends for Life. Beverly ended up doing the right thing in the previous book (see, she was actually trying to stop psycho boyfriend, but didn't know how) but that doesn't excuse or erase her dating psycho boy, being involved with the drugs and the wildness. Psycho boy killed people... and Beverly did nothing. When Beverly acted, the result was Susan almost getting killed. The reader is primed to hate Beverly.

Yet.... you don't. Told from Beverly's point of view, Beverly is regretful, sympathetic, and lonely. She is at the same school, and everyone thinks that she's no better than her murdering ex boyfriend, so needless to say she has no friends.

LWF is about Beverly trying to figure out how it all went wrong; why she was seduced by psycho boy and his lifestyle, why she is so alienated from her family, why she made the choices she did. She is "without friends" not just because the entire school hates her, but also because she feels she cannot trust herself to make friends.

It turns out that Beverly is a nice kid. Acts a bit tough, but really isn't. With the same sense of humor as Susan and Colleen; these three should have been friends. But they're not. What with Colleen being dead and Susan almost being killed, and if Beverly had just spoken up about her psycho boyfriend hitting her before any of that, Colleen would be alive.

Beverly figures she doesn't deserve friends. Doesn't deserve happiness.

Her father, realizing that "hey, maybe I wasn't paying enough attention, what with my new wife and new kid and all" is trying hard to fix things. So, he's become very strict (tho, as Beverly notes, it's easy for her to live with his strictness what with the "no friends.") And, she's going to a shrink.

And then, one boring afternoon as she sits reading in Boston Commons, she meets Derek. He's working there, taking care of the grounds; he is not part of Beverly's world of rich kids, private education, Ivy League colleges. Very blue collar. Not her type at all; since her type is psychos who beat her up and the kill people, while Derek is, well, nice. (Derek is, btw, an awesome book boyfriend.)

The Good:

You do not have to read one book to read the other. They are companion books, not a series. Why is this important? Because, technically, EEW's latest book (Long May She Reign) is the 4th in a series. But, as is proven here, EEW writes companion books, meaning, no, you don't have to read the other books to read the new one. And this, her first time doing so, works brilliantly.

I like EEW's nuanced families; again, in books it is almost easy to have the eevill parent (who is evil because they are poor parents, have remarried, have jobs, like make up, etc.) (I originally wrote "YA books" and then realized I've read plenty of adult fiction that has one-note evil parents, with the eevillness based on some pretty shallow foundations.)

What I like here is that Beverly's father is both to blame for things and yet, it is also clear that Beverly is responsible for her own actions. Yes, her father is emotionally distant; he is more invested emotionally in his "new" family. (As an aside, don't you just love people who, rather than working to make things right with their first set of children, instead have a second set and view that as a second chance? Yeah, me neither.) Beverly's mother died (in what may have been a suicide), and her father didn't handle that well, either.

It is stellar of EEW's writing that the distant dad, the pretty young second wife, and the beloved new "I'm doing it right this time" baby brother are all, well, nice. And multi dimensional. In other words, EEW creates flawed characters. Who try. Who fail. Who succeed.

LWF is one of my three favorite EEW books because of Beverly. She has been wounded; she has a lot she has to change about herself and how she interacts with the world; and it would be so very easy for her not to change. Not to keep on going. But she does; and not in some Pollyanna way. Rather, in a smoking her cigarettes, sharing a beer with her stepmom, and saying the F word way. (I have to say, in rereading this book, I was surprised at how frequently Beverly used the F world. And EEW is less squeamish than I in print; yes, Beverly says it. But, frankly, if my exboyfriend beat the crap out of me and then murdered my classmates, I'd be saying f*ck, also. Plus, the hows and whens of Beverly's language changes during the book; she's careful what she says in front of her brother. It's like she's trying to be tough but secretly? She's as nice as the rest of the family. You so want to be her friend. )

One last point: You know how one of the great things about Sarah Dessen is sometimes she refers to characters from one book in another? EEW does it, and just as well. I'm not saying it because of these two books being related... but because some of the characters in these two books get mentioned in other books she wrote. I'm afraid to say more here, because I loved discovering it on my own. But if you twist my arm, I'll reveal all in the comments.

Edited to add: All books are my copies; except, the last three books of the Echo Company series are library copies, and Long May She Reign is an ARC from BEA.


Other Under the Radar Recommendations will be posted this evening.

Shaken & Stirred: The Changeover and Catalogue of the Universe, both by Margaret Mahy

Big A, little a: A interview with Helen Dunmore

Jen Robinson's Book Page: The Treasures of Weatherby by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Bildungsroman: Swollen by Melissa Lion

Finding Wonderland: Lucy the Giant by Sherry L. Smith

Miss Erin: A discussion of Erec Rex: The Dragon's Eye and an interview with author Kaza Kingsley

7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast: Billie Standish Was Here by Nancy Crocker

Fuse Number 8: The Noisy Counting Book by Susan Schade

Chasing Ray: Juniper, Genetian and Rosemary by Pamela Dean

lectitans: Who Pppplugged Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf

Writing and Ruminating: Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown

Semicolon: Christian Fiction

MotherReader: It's Kind of a Funny Story

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sad News

Via Elaine at Wild Rose Reader:

I am sorry to tell you that Grace Lin's husband Robert Mercer passed away early
this week. One way to send your condolences to Grace and to Grace's and Robert's
families would be by donating to cancer research in Robert's memory via the Jimmy Fund. I also encourage our blogging friends to help spread word about Robert's
Snow for Cancer's Cure
and the 2007 auctions that will raise money for the
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. know many of you will keep Grace in
your thoughts during this very difficult and sad time.

Grace Lin blogs at Blue Rose Girls.

Ellen Emerson White: The President's Daughter series

Recommendations From Under the Radar: Ellen Emerson White's The President's Daughter series

It wasn't easy picking what books to include this week; there wasn't enough time to do them all, and in all honesty I prefer EEW's books for older readers (the teen and adult stuff.) So I focused on three "sets", as it were; the President's Daughter series, since the most recent volume is being published this year; the Road Home and related books, because it is one of my three favorite EEW books; and Friends for Life / Life Without Friends, because LWF is another one of my three favorite EEW books and because, well, you'll see when you read the post.

The President's Daughter series is made up of four books:

The President’s Daughter (1984)
White House Autumn (1985)
Long Live the Queen (1989)
Long May She Reign (2007)*

Before I go book by book, let me say: Meg Powers (the President's daughter) is funny. In typical, trademark Ellen Emerson White style most of the humor is sarcastic or an observation. It's a connection that is made that the reader gets and laughs in recognition. It's not that the books are funny; it's Meg who is funny. And not in a "I'm a comedian" way; it's very much in the manner of Melinda from Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Tho, actually, I seem to remember Meg's brothers and parents commenting on her being a comedian...

Anyway, as you read the below plot descriptions (presidents, shootings, and kidnappings, oh my!) remember: it's all told thru the point of view of someone who is smart and who uses humor as a coping mechanism. So you'll find yourself laughing out loud.

The President's Daughter

The Plot:

Meg Powers is 16. And she's pretty happy with her life in Massachusetts. Great best friend, good friends, gets along with her family. She's pretty average, fairly typical. OK, so Mom is a Senator, but really? Who cares about that in the real world?

The press may not care about a Senator's daughter. They do care about the daughter of a woman running for President ... especially when she is a serious contender. Meg's mom has not only announced she is running for President... it looks like she's going to win.

The Good:

Meg is a great character; very real, and with a wicked sense of humor. The relationship with her mother is extremely complex; Meg loves her mother. Meg admires her mother. But it is not an easy relationship. Meg's mother has made choices; choices to go into politics, to be a Senator, to run for President. To have children. Her mother's juggling act is not easy, especially when it comes down to what is best for the country versus what is best for her children.

What is also great about Meg's mother is that she is full of shades of gray and insecurities. She is an accomplished woman (hello, President of the United States.) She isn't perfect; and EEW never "fixes" this. A lesser author would have turned the mother into a monster because she doesn't fit the "traditional" role of what a mother "should" be (gasp, Meg's mom doesn't make cookies! Meg's mom isn't Carol Brady perfect! Meg's mom values her career and her children!). A lesser author would have created Quick Fixes with everyone happy in the end.

The issues between Meg and her mother continue to be explored in each book of the series. Rarely have I read such a nuanced, realistic, understanding and forgiving mother/daughter relationship. Don't get me wrong; it's far from perfect and sometimes I want to take Meg's mother and throw her out the window (especially in book 3.) But more on that below.

I'm not giving anything away by saying, Meg's mom wins the election. (The series is called "the President's daughter", not "the -person-who-ran-and-lost-and-is-still-a-Senator's daughter.") (If you think that is funny, then, you will find Meg funny. That was my attempt at Meg humor.)

Another good thing about this book is the look at politics; and, as a quick look at the author's website and blog will show, the author herself enjoys politics and knows what she is talking about. (One of my pet peeves is authors who believe that since they write fiction, the "make it up" rule applies to everything: medicine, law, politics, etc.)

White House Autumn

The Plot:

Meg seems to have finally made a new life for herself in DC; new school, new friends, adjusting to the Press. Then Mom, aka the President, gets shot.

The Good:

Those resentments that were bubbling away in The President's Daughter boil over. Meg and her younger brothers are worried about their mother; but they also have to suffer, because with an assassination attempt, security increases as does the attentions of the press.

These are situations under which Meg has no control; it's a harsh reality of her life, and of anyone's life, that sometimes our choices are narrower than we'd like.

Also good: the bits about the press part, because EEW really gets the pitfalls and problems of the press; the image that is presented by politicians and celebrities, the relationship between the press and those they report on. It's especially interesting to see the impact on those who have not chosen to be in the spotlight -- the "children of".

Long Live the Queen

The Plot:

It's the end of Meg's senior year, and as she walks out of school bullets start flying, her secret service agents are shouting, she's getting pulled into a van. She's been kidnapped. The kidnapper is brutal and sadistic. It's going to take every bit of strength and determination that Meg has to survive.

The Good:

This is the book where things get -- serious. Books 1 and 2 are much more about Meg "reacting" to situations; this, tho, is all about Meg. And Meg proves herself, to the reader, to the kidnappers, to the world, over and over again. (You can even tell from the titles the shift of focus from the books being about a "daughter of" to the books being about Meg; the first two titles are really about Meg's mother, while the last two titles are about Meg herself.) I mentioned yesterday two of my three favorite EEW books; this used to be a top three (until I read Book 4!)
The kidnapping -- it's tough. And Meg's escape from the kidnappers is made of awesome. The book also includes Meg's immediate post-kidnapping healing and attempts to re-connect with family and friends.

Even though Meg does not choose the spotlight, now, for the first time, it's something she has done that gets her into the media. But, of course, all she did was get kidnapped and survive. Survival includes having had teeth ripped out (because it turns out they had tracking chips in them -- look at the date of the book to see how ahead of the curve EEW was with that!); and taking a rock to her hand in an attempt to free herself from handcuffs. (See, she needs to get her hand small enough to slip thru the handcuffs, so she figures if she breaks the bones she can do it.)

EEW does two things that are rather unexpected. First, the President refuses to negotiate. So Meg's life really is at risk. And the thing is; Meg gets why her mother does that. Meg can even respect that. But, it doesn't help; it doesn't help Meg, it doesn't help their relationship. Second, the kidnapper isn't caught; neither is it discovered just who, or what, is beyond the kidnapping. (Aside from making this scary-real, it also stops the book from being dated.)

Despite the drama of this -- and the action -- LLTQ is also very internal, as Meg struggles to survive first her kidnapping, then her escape, and, finally, a return to "normal life."

While LLTQ ends on an upbeat note, what has happened to Meg is just too drastic to be summed up neatly in one book. Hence, the latest book, years in the making: Long May She Reign, which is about Meg's attempts to live a "normal" life by going to college.


Since book 4 is so new that it's not out until October, it hardly qualifies as "under the radar," which is why I'll be reviewing it next week. (And one of the reasons I'm reviewing the earlier books, and EEW in general, is because I do not want LMSR to be "under the Radar.")

One thing to note: LMSR stands on its own. You don't have to read these other three books (and, I proved it by giving it to my mother without letting her know about the other books in the series; and she had no problems following the action.) It is, also, a book that is a crossover title; with as much appeal for those over 18 as for those under 18. (And I keep wanting to say more about LMSR and then cutting it because otherwise this would be the longest post ever and I'd have nothing to say next week!)

As I was wrapping this up, I realized all the things I had not mentioned: like, for example, Preston, who is one of the coolest people in a book. He starts as Mom's press secretary and becomes very close to the family. While there are many crying moments in book 3, one of the best is when Preston tells Meg he taped her favorite TV show for her while she was missing. (I know I have fans reading -- who remembers the show?)

And Meg's brothers! She has two brothers, Stephen and Neal, who are spot on; one moment pests, one moment adorable. (Another eye-filling-up moment is when Meg is thankful that it was she, not one of her brothers, who was kidnapped.)

And, how EEW has her main character age and mature so that the books age; instead of shifting from J to YA, as some series do, this series shifts from YA to adult.

Final note: according to the author's website, the first three books will be reprinted Fall 2008! Yes! So if you cannot get your hands on the books now, make a reminder to yourself to get them next Fall. And in the meanwhile: NO, you don't have to read the first 3 books to read the last. But, having read the last, you'll want to read the first 3.

Other Under the Radar Recommendations:

Big A, little a: The Tide Knot by Helen Dunmore

Jen Robinson's Book Page: The Zilpha Keatley Snyder Green Sky trilogy

Bildungsroman: Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn: A Discussion Part 1

Chasing Ray: Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn: A Discussion Part 2

lectitans: Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn: A Discussion Part 3

Finding Wonderland: The House on Hound Hill by Maggie Prince

Miss Erin: The Reb & Redcoats and Enemy Brothers, both by Constance Savery

Bookshelves of Doom: Harry Sue by Sue Stauffacher

Interactive Reader: Shake Down the Stars by Frances Donnelly

Chicken Spaghetti: Pooja Makhijani guest blogs with Romina's Rangoli by Malathi Michelle Iyengar

Writing & Ruminating: Dear Mr. Rosenwald by Carole Weatherford

Shaken & Stirred: Elizabeth Knox and the Dreamhunter Duet

and Semicolon has been visiting some "under the RADAR" titles.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Carnival of Children's Literature

Hurry!

The Carnival of Children's Literature will be hosted at Po Moyemu. Please use the blogcarnival site (yes, just click here) to submit your post. The deadline is August 30th!

Hurry!

Thanks to Here In the Bonny Glen for the information.

Under the Radar: Ellen Emerson White

I've posted before about my love for Ellen Emerson White's writing. So, when Colleen at Chasing Ray came up with the idea for Recommendations From Under The Radar, the first and only author I considered was EEW. EEW began publishing in the mid 1980s, and most of her YA work is (sadly) out of print, and, accordingly, is overlooked. Over the past decade, most of what she has published has been picture books and children's books; but, she returns to books for older readers with a new book coming out in October. So I thought, what better time to explain why I love EEW's books? And, over the next week, I'll be reviewing several of her books, including some of the YA titles I mention below.

EEW's first book, Friends for Life*, was published in 1983. I was 17; and found out about her book from an essay she wrote that appeared in Seventeen. EEW wrote about writing, and why she wrote, and about being published while in college. I was impressed enough by the essay that I tore the article out of the magazine and kept it for years. (I went looking for it in connection with this post, but couldn't find it; even Ebsco doesn't go back to the early 1980s, so I cannot get a copy that way.)

I also paid a visit to the local bookstore. This was the early 1980s. Most teen sections were slim pickings; back then, there was a certain "I hope nobody notices me looking here at books that are much too young for me"ness about teen sections. Especially when one was 17 (or was it before my birthday? Was I still 16?)

So I bought the paperback of Friends for Life. And fell hard for Ellen Emerson White.

Why? The dialogue and the humor. Her characters think and talk like I do; sometimes, they think and talk the way I wish I did. I'm not always that quick or that funny.

Her characters are sometimes sarcastic; they are also honest and vulnerable. Over and over, I believe her characters to be real; fully formed; I would recognize them on the street. They are flawed, they are funny, they are a mix of good and bad. They are complex.

Of course, dialogue and characters alone aren't enough to make a book, and a writer, great.

EEW has great plots, all starting with a wonderful "what if ... " premise.

What if.... your best friend was murdered? But no one believed it?

What if.... your mother ran for President? And won?

What if.... your boyfriend killed someone?

What if... you were a nurse in Vietnam, and when you returned home no-one understood what you had gone thru?

EEW takes these situations, adds action, and believable characters doing believable things.

Dialogue. Real to life characters. Humor. Interesting plots.

EEW is up there with Meg Cabot and Sarah Dessen.

Why, you may be asking yourself, have I not heard of her before?

Let's go back to when she was first published: the early 1980s. The YA/teen book world was not what it is now; both in terms of respect for the authors and the book, and in advertising and marketing. As I recall, most of EEW's early books came out in paperback first, which means that they get pretty beat up which means they are weeded which means it can be hard to find them in the library. And, as I mentioned above, back in the early 1980s teen sections were practically non-existent and were viewed as strictly an under 14 area. These were also the days before the Internet. Before big book tours for teen authors. In addition, EEW was, and is, a private person.

Another reason EEW is still under the radar is she has used different names for different books. Her fabulous Echo Company books,** about a teenager drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam in the late 1960s, were published under the name Zack Emerson. Her picture books are published under Nicholas Edwards.

Plus, EEW suffered from bad timing. Just as the YA/teen book world exploded, EEW's YA titles had gone out of print and she wasn't writing YA anymore. Instead, there were picture books (Santa Paws) and Dear America books (Voyage on the Great Titanic: The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady; Kaiulani: The People’s Princess, Hawaii, 1889; The Journal of Patrick Seamus Flaherty: United States Marine Corps Khe Sanh, Vietnam, 1968;** and Where Have All the Flowers Gone?: The Diary of Molly Mackenzie Flaherty, 1968**).

Some of the books I'll be talking about over the next several days are out of print. It is worth it to track them down via Interlibrary Loan or used book stores. Plus, since here latest book, Long May She Reign, is due out in October and involves characters from other series, I am hoping that if her new book does well, we will see these titles being reissued; I am hoping that we will see more EEW books. And I am hoping that finally Ellen Emerson White gets the same type of recognition as Meg Cabot and Sarah Dessen.

* Will be reviewed Thursday.

** Will be reviewed Friday.

Today's Under the Radar Books:

Big A, little a: Ingo by Helen Dunmore

Jen Robinson's Book Page: The Changeling and The Velvet Room both by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Bildungsroman: Girl in the Box by Ouida Sebestyen

Finding Wonderland: A Door Near Here by Heather Quarles

Miss Erin: Girl With a Pen and Princess of Orange, both by Elisabeth Kyle

Fuse Number 8: The Winged Girl of Knossos by Erick Berry

Bookshelves of Doom: The Olivia Kidney series by Ellen Potter

Chicken Spaghetti:The Natural History of Uncas Metcalfe by Betsey Osborne

Writing and Ruminating: Jazz ABC by Wynton Marsalis

The YA YA YAs: Massive by Julia Bell
*******
Image supplied by Little Willow.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Recommendations from Under The Radar: Monday

Under the Radar starts today. What is exciting (for me, and long time readers know it's all about me!) is the mix of "oh, I know that book, that is a great book" and "hey, that sounds new, let me look & see" titles. I'll be wanting to comment on the titles I've read and look up the other titles. Man, just as I got my pile from the library to under 20 titles.

Oh well.

Here are today's posts:

Finding Wonderland: The Curved Saber: The Adventure of Khlit the Cossack by Harold Lamb

Chasing Ray: Dorothy of Oz from Illusive Arts Entertainment (the Dorothy comic you should all be reading!)

Bildungsroman: Christopher Golden's Body of Evidence series

Interactive Reader: Christopher Golden's Body of Evidence series as well

Not Your Mother's Bookclub: An interview with Robert Sharenow, author of My Mother the Cheerleader

lectitans: The Angel of the Opera: Sherlock Meets the Phantom of the Opera by Sam Siciliano

Bookshelves of Doom: The God Beneathe the Sea, Black Jack & Jack Holburn all by Leon Garfield

Writing and Ruminating: An interview with Tony Mitton and a review of his book, Plum

The YA YA YAs: I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Lee Wilson

Chicken Spaghetti: The Illustrator's Notebook by Mohieddin Ellabad

Image supplied by Little Willow.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Recommendations From Under The Radar: Next Week's Schedule


MONDAY

Finding Wonderland: The Curved Saber: The Adventure of Khlit the Cossack by Harold Lamb

Chasing Ray: Dorothy of Oz from Illusive Arts Entertainment (the Dorothy comic you should all be reading!)

Bildungsroman: Christopher Golden's Body of Evidence series (and Little Willow is the creator of the image used during this week)

Interactive Reader: Christopher Golden's Body of Evidence series as well

Not Your Mother's Bookclub: An interview with Robert Sharenow, author of My Mother the Cheerleader

lectitans: The Angel of the Opera: Sherlock Meets the Phantom of the Opera by Sam Siciliano

Bookshelves of Doom: The God Beneathe the Sea, Black Jack & Jack Holburn all by Leon Garfield

Writing and Ruminating: An interview with Tony Mitton and a review of his book, Plum

The YA YA YAs: I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Lee Wilson

Chicken Spaghetti: The Illustrator's Notebook by Mohieddin Ellabad


TUESDAY

A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy: A discussion of author Ellen Emerson White and why she is "under the radar"

Big A, little a: Ingo by Helen Dunmore

Jen Robinson's Book Page: The Changeling and The Velvet Room both by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Bildungsroman: Girl in a Box by Ouida Sebestyen

Finding Wonderland: A Door Near Here by Heather Quarles

Miss Erin: Girl With a Pen and Princess of Orange, both by Elisabeth Kyle

Fuse Number 8: The Winged Girl of Knossos by Erick Berry

Bookshelves of Doom: The Olivia Kidney series by Ellen Potter

Chicken Spaghetti: Natural History of Uncas Metcalf by Betsy Osborne

Writing and Ruminating: Jazz ABC by Wynton Marsalis

The YA YA YAs: Massive by Julia Bell


WEDNESDAY

A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy: The President's Daughter series by Ellen Emerson White

Big A, little a: The Tide Knot by Helen Dunmore

Jen Robinson's Book Page: The Zilpha Keatley Snyder Green Sky trilogy

Bildungsroman: Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn: A Discussion Part 1

Chasing Ray: Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn: A Discussion Part 2

lectitans: Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn: A Discussion Part 3

Finding Wonderland: The House on Hound Hill by Maggie Prince

Miss Erin: The Reb & Redcoats and Enemy Brothers, both by Constance Savery

Bookshelves of Doom: Harry Sue by Sue Stauffacher

Interactive Reader: Shake Down the Stars by Frances Donnelly

Chicken Spaghetti: Pooja Makhijani guest blogs with Romina's Rangoli by Malathi Michelle Iyengar

Writing & Ruminating: Dear Mr. Rosenwald by Carole Weatherford

Shaken & Stirred: Elizabeth Knox and the Dreamhunter Duet


THURSDAY

A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy: Friends for Life and Life Without Friends both by Ellen Emerson White

Shaken & Stirred: The Changeover and Catalogue of the Universe, both by Margaret Mahy

Big A, little a: A interview with Helen Dunmore

Jen Robinson's Book Page: The Treasures of Weatherby by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Bildungsroman: Swollen by Melissa Lion

Finding Wonderland: Lucy the Giant by Sherry L. Smith

Miss Erin: A discussion of Erec Rex: The Dragon's Eye and an interview with author Kaza Kingsley

7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast: Billie Standish Was Here by Nancy Crocker

Fuse Number 8: The Noisy Counting Book by Susan Schade

Chasing Ray: Juniper, Genetian and Rosemary by Pamela Dean

lectitans: Who Pppplugged Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf

Writing and Ruminating: Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown


FRIDAY

A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy: The Vietnam books by Ellen Emerson White

Big A, little a: The Deep by Helen Dunmore

Bildungsroman: The May Bird Trilogy by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Finding Wonderland: The Avion My Uncle Flew by Cyrus Fisher

Not Your Mother's Bookclub: A look at some recently revised classics

Fuse Number 8: Stoneflight by George McHarque

lectitans: Gentle's Holler and Louisiana Song both by Kerry Madden

Chasing Ray: Kipling's Choice by Geert Spillebeen

Interactive Reader: A Plague of Sorcerers by Mary Frances Zambreno

The YA YA YAs: Resurrection Men by TK Welsh

7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast: Such a Pretty Face: Short Stories About Beauty edited by Ann Angel

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Vacation

I'm leaving tomorrow for a week in North Carolina. Limited Internet. So I'll see you in a week!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Welcome, School Library Journal Readers!

Librarians Who Love Pop Culture appeared in today's School Library Journal Extra Helping.

While I was unavailable to be interviewed (a little thing called work, particularly a not so little event called the End of Summer Ice Cream Party), Sophie Brookover did an awesome job. And my name was spelled right, with a link here; so what more can a girl want?

Now I'm off to read InStyle, watch Roar on DVD, and eat ice cream while wearing my Uggs. Yes, the life of a pop culture librarian IS all you think it is. Except, sadly, Rufus Sewell still won't return my phone calls.

One Shot World Tour: Best Read with Vegemite!


Thanks for stopping by for One Shot World Tour: Best Read with Vegemite!

The Australian author featured here at Tea Cozy is Catherine Jinks; and, in particular, her books about Pagan Kidrouk, 16.

Why? Because I think these books are brilliant. So, let's start at the beginning.

Pagan's Crusade

The Plot:

Pagan lives in Jerusalem in the 12th century; he's an odd mix. A penniless orphan who can read and write; a boy raised in a monastery who for the last few years has lived a rough and dangerous life on the streets of Jerusalem; a squire to a Templar Knight; and he's a Christian Arab, born in Bethlehem, looking "like a Bedouin boy".

Pagan may be a squire, but don't get the wrong idea; he's not some perfect, holy person (that would be the knight he's assigned to, Lord Roland de Bram). No, Pagan at 16 is . . . how shall I put this? Pagan owes people money. The people he owes are as ruthless and brutal as the times. And the job in the protected Templar headquarters will provide Pagan money to pay back the people he owes. Problem is, that won't be for six months; so in the meanwhile, it's a safe and secure place to, well, hide. Cause that's the kind of guy Pagan is.

The Good:

I love Pagan; he's funny, he's a bit of a coward, he says he wants to avoid work and danger yet somehow, he finds himself being a good squire to Lord Roland.

Lord Roland is described as "the noblest of souls and a godly man and a great fighter. He is a gift from our Lord." Pagan's response? To dub Roland "Saint George" ("he looks like something out off a stained-glass window") and decide that "if he's as good as he looks, I'm in big trouble." Roland is the perfect Templar Knight; or, at least, he tries to be. Roland is a true believer; and at first Pagan thinks that means Roland is humorless and perhaps naive.

Lord Roland has never met someone quite like Pagan: blunt. common. and a free thinker. An orphan raised in a monastery who can read and write; who ran away and has been living in the streets of Jerusalem.

The relationship and friendship between Roland and Pagan is one of the strengths of this book; Pagan, unknowingly, grounds Roland; Roland pushes Pagan to be better than he is. Roland thinks he knows what is right and what is true; follow the rules, particularly the rules of the Templar Knights, and all will be well. But, as Saladin's forces get closer and closer, Roland is realizing that following the rules isn't always the right thing to do. Not when people's lives are at stake. Pagan grows; but so, too, does Roland.

The history! This is set during the months right before and after Saladin attacks Jerusalem. We watch the Templar Knights go from "top of the world" to bargaining for the lives of the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

The details. On the one hand, this is full of historical detail; Jinks is a medieval scholar, after all. But, on the other, Pagan talks like a modern teen; there is no fake-old language or linguistic styles. Descriptions of the pilgrims who come to Jerusalem are hilarious and sad; Pagan himself will keep you laughing, even as the situation in Jerusalem gets worse and worse.

I love how the past is presented in her books. The past isn't glorified and prettied up; there is vomit and blood and streets smell of piss and dung. It's honest and blunt; yet at the same time, it's funny. Pagan is sarcastic and realistic; he's full of one liners.

Historical fiction can be a hard sell; but Pagan's Crusade is an easy sell. While this isn't as over the top as Monty Python, the POV is Pythonesque. For, example, the pilgrims start playing "name that saint." (Here's my turn at playing the game: "I was a thief; I was crucified; my name starts with D; who am I?") Unfortunately the game doesn't last long, because the "my name starts with" falls apart when the vast number of pilgrims cannot read or write. But, for that matter, neither can Roland. He was trained to fight; not to read.

Pagan talks the language of a modern kid, yes, but he is of his times; and it's a great way to introduce readers to this fascinating, complex, bloody time period.

Another way to describe it? It's the same setting and similar events as the 2005 film, Kingdom of Heaven. But the book is way better (and much more accurate) than the film.

Pagan's story is continued in other books; as he follows Roland to France:

Pagan In Exile

Roland decides to join a monastery; and the loyal Pagan joins him:

Pagan's Vows

Fast forward several years, and the story is now told from the point of view of Pagan's scribe:

Pagan's Scribe

And in putting this together I discovered: another Pagan book! And, while I use the US covers in this post, I think the Australian covers are more exciting.

Edited to add: all copies are library copies.



Other Australian authors I've written about:

Alyssa Brugman

Matt Dray


Mark David

Sonya Hartnett

Margo Lanagan

Justine Larbalestier

Jaclyn Moriarty

Garth Nix

Darrel & Sally Odgers

Judith Ridge

Markus Zusak

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

One Shot World Tour Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the first stop in the new One Shot World Tours, brainchild of Colleen Mondor of Chasing Ray.

The first stop is Australia (an a bit of New Zealand) with authors who are "best read with Vegemite!".

Here's the list with links to all the sites:

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast interviews Margo Lanagan

Kelly Fineman is all about Melina Marchetta

Big A, little A writes about Anna Feinberg and her "Tashi" series

Jenn at Not Your Mother's Bookclub interviews Simmone Howell

Chicken Spaghetti reviews Kathy Hoopmann's award winning All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome
Gwenda at Shaken and Stirred is all about How Sassy Changed My Life, The Red Shoes by Ursula Dubosarsky and a wee bit more with Margo Lanagan

Jen Robinson discusses John Marsden's "Tomorrow" series

Finding Wonderland has a look at Undine by Penni Russon and a look at some of Jaclyn Moriarty's titles

Little Willow discusses Finding Grace by Alyssa Brugman

Here at A Chair, a Fireplace & a Tea Cozy it is all about Catherine Jinks and her four Pagan books

Jackie at Interactive Reader posts about Randa Abdel-Fattah's Does My Head Look Big in This? and John Flanagan's The Icebound Land

Trisha at The Ya Ya Yas interviews Queenie Chan

Fuse Number 8 talks more about John Marsden and also highlights a new Hot Man of Literature, Andy Griffiths

Collen at Chasing Ray is writing about Nick Earls

Jenny Davidson interviews mystery author Peter Temple

And Mother Reader who will be posting on Am I Right or Am I Right? by Barry Jonsberg.

So, why Catherine Jinks? As different authors were being bandied about, I began to think about "what is an Australian author." And one thought led to the other, and I decided I wanted to focus on an author whose books weren't set in Australia. And, to be honest, I wanted to do an author I had already read (my To Be Read and To Be Reviewed piles are scary things.)

So, Catherine Jinks and her books about Pagan Kidrouk; an Australian whose books are are set in the 12th century, in Jerusalem (and, later, Europe.) Whose books are historical fiction and accurate and funny as hell. But... you'll have to tune in tomorrow for the reviews!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Angel's Eleven

I would love this movie.



Oh, well. I miss you, Angel & Buffy.

Hey, how many fans of BTVS will be at the Kidlitosphere Conference?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Apartment Therapy

One of my favorite blogs is Apartment Therapy. I love so many things about it... I like the minimalist approach to life* and living. I love what can be done with tiny spaces. And finally, living in less than 300 square feet with a baby? YOU RULE.

So as I'm browsing design information.... what do I see but Harry Potter! "While this isn't technically a "design" per se, we consider the structure of JK Rowling's books remarkably complex, layered and ultimately designed to communicate one overarching message: Love & Tolerance." Read the rest here.

For my readers who like small spaces: check out Chez Shoes and her living space. I adore it! And while I'm fascinated by the Tumbleweed Houses, I think I'd need one house for me, one for my books, one for my office, and one for Cheetah and Peter Parker.

* Tho I could NEVER get rid of my book collection. No, seriously. And I MUST keep my TV. Give up Buffy? Never. So I'm not sure I could do 300 square feet....

How Much Is Your Blog Worth


My blog is worth $99,923.58.
How much is your blog worth?

Considering I don't think anyone is willing to buy it, I believe the true worth is zero.

But hey, it's fun!

Poetry Friday: Kid Tea

Poetry Friday

Kid Tea by Elizabeth Ficocelli, illustrated by Glin Dibley. 2007. Copy provided by publisher, Marshall Cavendish Children.

The Plot:

What, you may ask, is "kid tea"? Place a dirty child in a bathtub; and that's your kid tea! Playing in the dirt: brown kid tea. Eating a purple Popsicle? Purple kid tea. The week ends with Sunday, a visit to church, and two kids saying "Dunk me in the tub, please." What color? "Look -- no kid tea! We can be clean for one day . . . "

The Good:

This works as both a cute book (kids do something, kids get dirty, kids clean up) and a concept book about colors.

"Wednesday, friends day,
markers-paints-and-pens day.
Blobs of yellow
shake like Jell-O,
dribble-dip-and-slop day,
should-have-worn-my-smock day.
Dunk me in the tub, please,
for yellow kid tea!"

I really like Dibley's illustrations. The kids are appealing, and each day incorporates many shades of that day's color. The art is "pencil, acrylic and Photoshop in a mixed-media technique." (And the font is Woozee. I just wanted to type in Woozee.)

When I get in picture books, I put them in a pile and wait for Cheetah and Peter Parker to come over. They sit, sort thru them, give me feedback. (Sometimes, it's amusing; Cheetah, an animal lover, wanted me to read Parrotfish to her based on the cover. But she was bitterly disappointed by the lack of illustrations.)

Peter Parker zoomed in on this one. Loved the colors, loved pointing out the colors. Loved that there is a brother and sister, doing things that they do. This is a good pre-reading book; it's easy for him to memorize, and to identify the colors and then for us to find the word for that color.

Links:
Just One More Book podcast review
Chicken Spaghetti review

The Poetry Friday round up is at Big A little a.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Buffy Quote of the Week

"Dawn, listen to me, listen. I love you. I will always love you. But this is the work that I have to do. Tell Giles… tell Giles I figured it out. And, and I'm okay. And give my love to my friends. You have to take care of them now. You have to take care of each other. Dawn, the hardest thing in this world… is to live in it. Be brave. Live… for me. "
- Buffy to Dawn, Ep: The Gift

"The hardest thing in this world is to live in it."
-- Dawn, to Buffy, Ep: Once More, With Feeling

Blog of the Day: AmoXcalli

Blog of the Day: AmoXcalli

About the Blogger: Gina MarySol Ruiz. Ruiz is active in the kidlitosphere; she was on the nominating panel for GNs for Cybils; and hosts the "Reviewing the Classics of Kidlit" series. She also contributes to La Bloga. I'm way jealous because she went to Comic Con. I know!

About the Blog: AmoXcalli is "library" in Nahuatl, the language of Ruiz's ancestors. Ruiz blogs about "Chicano/Latino lit, YA & Children's literature, poetry and great books in general."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Kat & Mouse: Teacher Torture


Kat and Mouse Vol 1: Teacher Torture. Storyby Alex de Campi; Art by Federica Manfredi. Copy supplied by publisher, Tokyo Pop, in support of Cybils. Cybils finalist.

The Plot:

Kat is the new kid at school and the teacher's daughter. Mouse is the "cool nerd" whose special power is "shield of apathy." (Hey, that's MY super power! No fair!) Together, they navigate 7th grade. And solve crimes.

The Good:

I like a good school story. And I also like that it's a solid detective story (someone is blackmailing Kat's father to make him give good grades.) Kat & Mouse's friendship is real, and their actions believable.

Kat's nice; she doesn't like being picked on and bullied (who does?), but she isn't yearning to be friends with the cool, popular crowd.

True confession: I'm the type of person who even in school liked having a small group of good friends, got along with most people, and had no interest in being "popular." Couldn't understand it then, and so have a hard time now with books where that (being popular!) drives the character. I much prefer a book like this which is about having friends, having fun, but not sacrificing self.

Age: this is perfect for younger readers. I can see the Babymouse readers liking these a few years down the road. A must-get for school libraries and libraries adding graphic novels to their children's collection.

Links:

Chicken Spaghetti: Manga! A Guest Column by TangognaT (includes reviews)
The Edge of the Forest review
The Shady Glade review.
A Year of Reading review.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Danger UXB


Danger UXB . DVD; 13 Episodes. Copy from library.

The Plot:

It's World War II; setting, Great Britain.
The good news? Brian Ash, you are now an officer!
The bad news? Brian Ash, you've been assigned to the bomb disposal unit!

The Good:

I remember watching this on TV in the early 80s. Sigh... Anthony Andrews. I was totally in love with him in Brideshead Revisited. And yes, was inspired to read the book & loved it (yeah, I was that annoying girl in high school. No wonder I didn't date much.) And remember him in Ivanhoe? And when he dated Julie?

Brideshead has one of my favorite quotes, ever:

"But, my dear Sebastian, you can't seriously believe it all."
"Can't I?"
"I mean about Christmas and the star and the three kings and the ox and the ass."
"Oh yes, I believe that. It's a lovely idea."
"But you can't believe things because they're a lovely idea."
"But I do. That's how I believe."

Right, Danger UXB. Topic.

Danger UXB follows Ash's journey, from being scared of the bombs to realizing this is the thing he does best. OK, let me explain: WWII, Germans are dropping bombs, including bombs that don't go off on impact. So Ash & his crew go around finding and defusing the unexploded bombs (hence the "UXB"). Except, of course, defusing requires trial and error (BOOM) and sometimes there are booby traps (BOOM) and not much is left of a person after that. So Ash's job has a short life expectancy.

Danger UXB follows Ash, and the members of his squad; it also provides a glimpse of life in Britain during World War II.

This show was originally produced in Britain in 1979; and is a great example of why a true mini series is often the best way to tell a story. It's 13 episodes, set over a few years. I adore that it didn't go on needlessly, just to create more episodes. I love that it's tightly plotted, with months passing between episodes.

Also good: that a story must be told in more than two or four hours -- hence a series -- but without it being looked at as a cash cow (it must be 100 hours!) I truly believe that some stories are best told when the writers, and actors, know how and when it will end. I would LOVE to see more real mini series. And no, a four hour show broadcast over 2 nights doesn't count.

Anyway. Topic.

Danger UXB: watch it. You'll like it. We'll be arguing over Anthony Andrews as our TV boyfriend. And did I mention Judy Geeson is in it? Don't even get me started on the awesomeness that is Poldark!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Pop Goes The Book

You may have noticed not as much posting, or not as much substantial posting. Well, here's the thing. Sophie Brookover and I are in the midst of writing a book. It's called Pop Goes the Library: Using Pop Culture to Connect With Your Whole Community, and the good folks at ITI are going to publish it, sometime in 2008.

So while we're researching, writing, revising, etc., we have a request for those of you readers who work in libraries.

We have this survey, you see, and it would help us out tremendously if you'd be willing to answer our questions. It's one thing for us to write about what we think makes a great marriage between pop culture & libraries; it's quite another, more powerful thing to quote our experienced colleagues on this topic. So, if you're willing, our survey is right here.

We apologize in advance if you see e-mail survey-related e-mails on various list-servs. We're trying to gather as many responses as the library community is willing to provide. Thank you so much for taking the time to participate. We know our book will be that much better for your contributions!

Adapted from Sophie's post at Pop.

A Few Of The Books, None Of The Rules

This just in from my local paper, The Asbury Park Press: Recycling library a fresh idea in Mantoloking.

Mantoloking (NJ) has a "recycling library." Bring in an old book, take someone else's old book.

Some interesting quotage from the article:

"We put in two bookcases in June, and they were filled in a matter of days," she said. "I know people are using the library, because when I come to borrow a book that I saw on the shelves, it is often not there. And there are always new books."

"But most popular of all seems to be Readers Digest condensed books."

"There are no library cards and there are no rules."

What I find interesting about this article:

What do people want? Books.
What don't they want? Rules.

What is unsaid in the article is that Mantoloking is the wealthiest community in the state of New Jersey. And, it is in Ocean County, home of Ocean County Library. Which has a big collection and a number of branches. Also, Mantoloking has a number of summer residents; I'm not sure how that factors into this.

How does the wealth of the town factor in? If an individual REALLY wants a certain title, they will buy it and won't expect it to be at the recycling library. Plus, they know that other library services (wireless Internet, reference resources, programs, etc.) are just a short ride down Route 35.

But bottom line, what do they want? Books. And they want them with little fuss: no cards, no rules, no returns. And, of course, no real funding and, apparently, no real expectations about what will be there. As mentioned in the article, it's about recreational reading: "People have more time to read in the summer, especially if they are going to the beach. This is an easy way to get a book or two to read."

I think what a recycling library also does is provide people with a way to get rid of unwanted books and feel good about it. It's an interesting local option about what to do with books that libraries don't want as donations and that people don't want to hang onto. While library practice can vary from location to location, library to library, often people expect that donated books (whatever the book) will wind up on a library shelf; I've spoken to people who are upset that the library won't put those books on the shelf. This is an answer to those people who feel that their old books can be used by someone else.

It's also interesting that people are willing to give up a wide range of selection in favor of convenience. But, of course, this is a community that has other options (the Ocean County Library, bookstores) if what they really want isn't on the recycling library bookshelf.

Cross posted at Pop Goes the Library (actually, this was originally meant for Pop but I wasn't paying attention. And rather than remove it from here, I'll just cross post.)

Friday, August 03, 2007

Poetry Friday: Tommy Makem


Tommy Makem, who often sang with the Clancy Brothers, passed away this week.

Makem, in addition to performing folk songs, wrote original songs.

So, one of his original songs:



Four Green Fields

What did I have?" said the fine old woman
"What did I have?" this proud old woman did say
"I had four green fields, each one was a jewel
But strangers came and tried to take them from me
I had fine strong sons, they fought to save my jewels
They fought and died, and that was my grief" said she.

The rest of the song is here.

While I'm hard pressed to pick just one of the many traditional songs Makem sang, my favorite is The Whistling Gypsy:

The gypsy rover came over the hill
Down through the valley so shady
He whistled and he sang 'til the green woods rang
And he won the heart of a lady.

The rest of the lyrics here; also here.

Today's round up is at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

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