Saturday, December 27, 2008

Morris Shortlist

The Morris Award is a Brand! New! Award from ALA. It honors the first book published by an unpublished author.

Part of the process includes releasing a shortlist; the winner will be announced at the Youth Media Awards on January 26.

Those finalists are:

A Curse Dark as Goldby Elizabeth C. Bunce, published by Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic;

Graceling by Kristin Cashore, published by Harcourt/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt;

Absolute Brightness by James Lecesne, published by HarperTeen/Laura Geringer Books;

Madapple by Christina Meldrum, published by Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books;

Me, the Missing, and the Dead by Jenny Valentine, published by HarperTeen.

Melissa at Librarian by Day* is reading the books and discussing them. She's not doing the liked it/didn't like type of post; rather, she's considering each book in terms of why it was selected as a finalist and how it meets the criteria of the Morris Award. Since some of the Newbery controversy revolves around what is (and isn't) the criteria of the Award, it's nice to see someone review with the actual procedures and standards of the Award in mind.

This is one of the good things about the shortlist; it's not just the buzz for these five books, but it's the opportunity to read these titles with a different perspective and to discuss these books and the award.

Other Morris Discussion:

Why, look at that! Carlie has a strong opinion about it. Who'd have thunk?

Jackie at Interactive Reader

Read Roger ponders the value of releasing the shortlist



*And a contributor to this blog

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Difference Between A Diary And An Essay

Over at Jezebel, Sadie says "A good personal essay should illuminate a larger truth through a specific story. A poor one is just a narcissist assuming her experience applies to the whole world."

Or, as I like to say, the second is no different than a Dear Diary entry, and like hearing about someone's dreams or family history, can be kind of boring.

The first kind makes you sit up and go "yes."

Edited: because I am a bad self-editor when in a rush. Sigh. Sorry.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

See Carlie Rant!

Carlie has a righteous rant going on over at Librarilly Blonde.

What about?

A piece in the Washington Post that contains this: "There comes a time in every reader's life when he or she graduates from kids books and young-adult titles to nonfiction with no holds barred and fiction that draws on the full resources of the language in portraying complex human relationships."

Oh, yeah. The writer goes there.

The he asks, "what book made you an adult reader?"

Oh, let me answer! Let me answer!

Harry Potter.

Because that was when I realized: a good book is a good book is a good book. I didn't have to hide reading kids books or YA books. These books weren't "less" than adult books; there is no "graduation", rather, there are simply books.

Books you like, books you don't; books that touch your heart; books that bore you; books that push your thinking, books that reinforce your thinking. And sometimes they are in the adult section, sometimes the teens, sometimes the children's.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Pop Goes the Library Book On Sale!



The book I co-wrote, Pop Goes the Library, is available from the publisher, Information Today, at a special sale rate!

As you can see on the advertisement to the left, the book usually costs $39.50.

The special sale rate is ...

drumroll, please!

$23.70!

That is a 40 percent savings. See Information Today to find out more titles that are part of this "Holiday Blowout Sale."

Follow the Pop The Book tag on this blog to see some of the reviews that have come in about this must-own item!

Lexicon Update

Via Lisnews, I find out the Lexicon is all set to go and be published this January!

Why, pray tell?

"On Thursday, RDR Books officially withdrew its appeal of U.S. District Judge Robert P. Patterson's decision, and Rowling's public relations agency issued a statement favorable to the release of the rewritten lexicon." The news source is none other than Roger Rapaport of RDR publishing and Lexicon editor/author Steve Vander Ark, in Rapaport's local paper, the Muskegon Chronicle.

What does this mean? Have I reconsidered what I said earlier about the appeal not being about the book?

It means the parties to a litigation still have a say in what goes forward in their name, even when lawyers and law centers get involved. I really wish I'd been a fly on the wall for the discussions between Stanford Law Center and RDR about the appeal. I also wonder if SVA had anything to do with this. No, he's not a party. But he's taken a huge beating in fandom over the lawsuit, and the combo of withdrawing the lawsuit and rewriting the Lexicon will, I believe, help his standing in HP fandom.

Note to self: set Google alert for the Stanford Law Center to see what copyright issue and case they get involved with next. For them, it's not about the book; it's about the principles of copyright. So yes, we will be seeing them again!

Second note: Weirdly, the newspaper reporting this buried the money quote, above, deep in the article itself. Like they didn't realize it was the most important part of the story!

Edited to add: the Leaky Cauldron's news release on this from yesterday.

Edited to add again: Will I buy the new book? I'm not sure; I'm on a pretty tight budget at the moment. But I do want to read it!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

What Would An Archaeologist Say?

You ever have that moment of "fail" when you read a book?

As a former lawyer, I have that moment when books use the law, both criminal and civil. Carlie experienced it recently with soda. I mean pop.

Charlotte's Library just had that moment with archaeology; and henceforth, makes this offer: So I am offering, FREE OF CHARGE, my services. As a professional archaeologist, I will read any bits of your book that deal with archaeology, and critique them as to their portrayal of the discipline. This will ensure that, when I have the finished book in my hands, I am not thrown out of your fictional world in a fit of annoyance. Sadly, I can't actually be helpful regarding descriptions of past people, places, and civilizations (real archaeologists specialize--I'm pretty good with 17th-century northeastern America, and a few other times and places, but know almost nothing about, say, the Incas).

What is your "area of expertise" that results in a "fail" moment when you read?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Kane Miller

Confession: The reason I "discovered" Kane Miller books is because they were one of the first publishers to contact this blog and offer review copies.

The reason I love them: as it says on the home page, they offer "children's books from around the world." Which means, actually, just that -- children's books originally published in another country, translated, and then published here. The books are great on their own; but are also great because they reflect the cultures were they where originally published.

Fuse #8/SLJ shares what to expect from the Kane Miller Spring 09 books.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Holiday Gift Giving Ideas

Now is the time when thoughts turn to giving books as holiday gifts. Last year, I posted at ForeWord Magazine's Shelf Space blog Liz's Tips for Giving (and Receiving) Books. (Shelf Space changes its guest blogger each month; this month it is Jen Robinson.)

While reading Mitali Perkins' post, I've Got The Royalty Statement Blues, one thing jumped out: Mitali wondering about the impact of the release date on sales, and then in comments the discussion turned to one about marketing.

One of the pluses about blogging about books? We aren't confined to release dates of books. Oh, yes, we do blog new releases, and we do get advance copies. And we like it. And it's great to review those books.

But, I believe that one of the strongest things about book blogging is because we are blogging for readers, we blog about books published anytime. So we can bring attention to books at any time. (Gail Gauthier has blogged about this in great detail.)

So, Dear Readers, here is my idea for book giving this year.

Give something not published in 2008.

Give something that you loved, loved, loved, yet, somehow, was overlooked; something that did not get on any of the awards lists, but, in your humble opinion, should have been on those lists.

Any suggestions for titles?

Of course, you all know my love for Ellen Emerson White's books. But technically, one of her books was released this year, so I won't include her. (Notice how I'm including her, anyway? It's my blog. I can do that.)

If you don't mind hunting down used books, my recommendation is to give Norma Johnston books, particularly the Tish Sterling books.

What do you suggest?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Poetry Friday: Hip Hop Speaks to Children

Hip Hop Speaks to Children with CD: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat (A Poetry Speaks Experience) edited by Nikki Giovanni. Sourcebooks. 2008. Copy supplied by publisher. Sample pages and audio are at the publisher's website.

Poetry Friday roundup is at Holly Cupala's Blog.

Hip Hop Speaks to Children is from the same publisher as 2005's Poetry Speaks to Children (Book & CD) (Read & Hear).

Poetry and lyrics are presented with brightly colored, vibrant, and sometimes haunting illustrations. Many of the selections are also on the enclosed CD; some with music. Most are read by the person who wrote them.

The Good:

Giovanni's introduction reads like poetry: "When humans were beginning to develop our own language, separate from the growls and howls, separate from the buzz and the bird songs, we used rhythm: A sound and a silence. With no silence, the sound is cacophonous. With no sound, the silence is a lonely owl flapping her wings against the midnight sun seeking a careless mouse."

The poets in this book, I knew. But the musicians, not so much. I'm just not a music person. My brother-in-law, on the other hand loves music, especially Hip Hop and Rap. When he saw this on my table, he hounded me until I had finished reading it, listening to the CD, and writing this review.

Why?

He wanted it. He wanted to use it to help explain Hip Hop to his daughter and son. And just as I went "ooh ahh" over the index of authors who are poets, he nodded with familiarity at Mos Def (who I knew only as an actor) and Common.

In showing the historical and literary origins of Hip Hop, Giovanni has created a sure fire hit for both music lovers and poetry lovers.

So what is Hip Hop? I came away with more knowledge than I had from a brief listen on the radio or seeing musicians at award shows. It is "bold, boastful and brave." I loved the poems; the illustrations; but most of all, I loved the combination with the audio CD, as the words came alive. I have to confess -- the brother-in-law had to wait an extra couple of weeks for the book, because I was listening to the CD over and over during my commute. I opened my iTunes to download some songs, and will be borrowing some of my brother-in-law's CDs.

I liked the inclusion of both well-known poems (Gwendolyn Brooks' We Real Cool) and ones that are less familiar (Langston Hughes' Harlem Night Song: Come/Let us roam the night together/Singing/I love you).

Giovanni's own work is included, with my current favorite:



Ego Tripping.
I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built the sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad.
This is a must-own, both in libraries and for personal collections of poetry lovers and music lovers. The holidays are coming up; this would make a perfect gift.

Fun bonus feature:

Video clip, by publisher. Nikki Giovanni speaks about the book:

Links:
This book is a gem, but hardly a hidden gem. There have been a ton of great reviews. so I'll just list a few:
Omnivoracious (using this book to teach poetry to children)
Poetry for Children
A Wrung Sponge
A Fuse #8 Production at SLJ
A Year of Reading

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Welcome, Christine!

Christine Marciniak and I have been friends since 4th grade at Cambridge Park School in Matawan. We had open classrooms. Ah, the joys of experimenting on school children with educational fads. Oops, topic.

Christine has been writing for as long as I can remember. And as long as I can remember, I've been reading those drafts and waiting eagerly for her first book to be published.

Good news -- Christine's first book was recently acquired! She agreed to sit down and answer some questions about her path to publication; look forward to more interviews as more publication milestones occur.

Liz B: Can you tell us a bit about the book?

Christine: When Mike Kissed Emma is about, well... about when Mike kissed Emma. Emma has the 'perfect' boyfriend and hopes to play opposite him in supporting roles, in the school musical. She wants to sing a romantic song with him and dance with him. But Emma gets the lead and the leading man is the school loner "Biker Mike". As they get to know each other she realizes that maybe the rumors about him and his past are jut that - rumors - and then...well, you guessed it - Mike kisses her. And suddenly Emma has to figure out if her 'perfect' boyfriend is really so perfect and if maybe there's more to Mike than she ever suspected.

Liz B: How did you find your publisher?

Christine: I had tried this story with several agents - and one seemed interested, but thought the plot needed to be punched up a bit. I did that and the agent turned it down, saying she thought the story was a bit too old fashioned. A member of my critique group mentioned Wild Rose Press and their new Climbing Rose Line for teens and I decided to submit. Oddly enough my punched up story line was too risque for them and once I toned it down, they accepted it.

Liz B: How did you find out they wanted to publish the book?

Christine: It was Columbus Day and the kids were home from school and I was checking my e-mail. I saw one from Wild Rose Press and I thought - oh, here it is, the rejection and I steeled myself to open the e-mail. It took about three readings for me to process that they were saying yes!

Liz B: What's your next step?

Christine: Well, I just got the cover design today - they designed that based on answers to a questionnaire I filled out and on November 21st I expect to get a revision letter. Then I'll have 30 days to make the changes. The book should come out in the spring of 2009.

Liz B: It's a great cover; and wow, you'll have a busy holiday season. I look forward to hearing more about your path to publication.

Christine blogs at The Simple and the Ordinary and Simply Put.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

YALSA Podcasts

The YALSA blog has a number of podcasts up from the YA Lit Symposium.

I'll highlight a few.

Part I by the kidlitosphere's own Lindsey Dunn (whose Libba Bray Tea Party was highlighted in the Fandom program Carlie and I did), where you can hear me speak. Lindsey does a great job! Stay on for the whole podcast, and you'll hear Tea Cozy's Melissa Rabey speak about the Fandom program.

Part II: Beth Saxton talks to Carlie about the presentation we did.

Part III: Tea Cozy's latest contributor, Melissa Rabey, speaks with a number of people about the Symposium.

Do you see a common theme? Yes, at Tea Cozy, it's all about Tea Cozy.

Library Journal

Library Journal's review of Pop Goes the Library: the Book is in the November 15 issue of the magazine; and it is also available online.

I'm pleased as punch with it: "This entertaining book by the creators of the "Pop Goes the Library" blog is a breath of fresh air for those progressive librarians wanting to secure their library's future by making patron interests the focus of library services" and "an exciting and essential book."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Online Mentions About the Book

Some online mentions of the Book.

Brad Ward at the Blah Blah Blah Blog from NEFLIN (Northeast Florida Library Information Network:) "Really, really good stuff. . . . The authors were nice enough to also put up a wiki that provides links to the resources listed in their book."

Andrew at Librarian Idol says, "it's got some brilliant ideas in it - I highly recommend!" (Librarian Idol also goes on to say some very great stuff about being cool and books and libraries.)

Crossposted at the Pop Goes the Library Book Blog.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

RDR Appeals Lexicon Verdict

The Notice of Appeal has been filed. (Thanks to Carlie for letting me know.)


I haven't read much of the online comments about this, because there really is nothing to comment on, yet.

I will say a few things, though.

RDR has every right to appeal. That's part of the legal system. You believe that the trial judge made a mistake, you have the right to get that mistake fixed.

Now, what one says -- that can be limited. You just cannot yell "do over." Most appeals are based on errors of law -- in other words, saying, "sorry, Judge, but you got the law wrong or interpreted the law wrong." Sometimes, it is based on an error of fact: "sorry, Judge, but your findings of fact were wrong." The latter is rarer, because appeal courts do not want to substitute their own judgment about facts for the trial judge's judgment, under the belief that the person who actually heard the testimony has a better understanding of what was said than the person(s) who read the transcript of the testimony.

So, I really don't want to hear about sore losers, or who is right or wrong, or wastes of money, etc. etc.

Also, the appellate court doesn't give a different decision; rather, they usually send it back to the original judge saying "sorry, you used the wrong law, here is the right one, do it again."

This still doesn't affect you. This is still between the parties. Now, what the appellate court ends up deciding may be controlling -- but only controlling over those courts over which it has jurisdiction. Let's worry about that later.

This is no longer about the Lexicon. It stopped being about the Lexicon once the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society got involved. Hell, it's no longer about JKRowling anymore, for that matter. This is CIS and copyright; the Lexicon case happens to be the vehicle that CIS is using. CIS really doesn't care, one way or the other, about the Lexicon itself; what they care about is copyright. So as long as they have a chance to clarify, refine, or even change copyright law, they will argue this case forward.

Who do you want to create laws -- judges or legislators? Personally, I have always been of the opinion that ideally the legislative branch creates the laws and the judges interpret. At what point does "interpretation" become "creation"? Discuss amongst yourself. Discuss further how your attitude changes depending on whether or not you agree with what the judges are doing. My personal belief (and I'm not unique in this) is that CIS is going to use the Lexicon case to change the law of copyright and, accordingly, this case will end up being appealed to the Supreme Court. Part of the reason I'm not behind CIS is I think it is for Congress, not the Supreme Court, to change those laws.

Disclaimer: yes, I used to be a lawyer but I don't practice anymore. All the above are short and sweet versions and explanations and interpretations of things it takes a long time to cover in law school.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Reference & Research Book News

Reference & Research Book News is a quarterly publication that "focuses on reference and scholarly works in the social sciences and the humanities." The November 2008 issue includes my book, Pop Goes the Library. You can check out entry about PGTL at the online version; or, go to the PDF of the full publication. I'm a big nerd -- I love seeing the book's Library of Congress subject classification code!

Separated Sisters: Frankie Landau-Banks and Kiki Strike

One is a short, skinny girl with white hair. The other is a newly-minted willowy beauty. Yet these two girls have much in common. Both offer us a look at just what girls can achieve--results that greatly exceed society's expectations. Both Kiki Strike and Frankie Landau-Banks, from the eponymous books by Kirsten Miller and E. Lockhart, are much more than meets the eye.

Kiki Strike is described as an elf or a leprechaun. Her small stature packs quite a punch, as several evil-doers find out the hard way. Yet it is Kiki's mind that is the greatest weapon. Calculating, insightful, and cunning, Kiki forms the group of girl adventurers known as the Irregulars, leading them on an exploration of a shadow city beneath Manhattan. But when an accident injures one of the Irregulars, Kiki disappears in the aftermath. Two years later, she returns, leading the Irregulars on another mission that will reveal Kiki's secret past.

Frankie Landau-Banks was unnoticeable; known as Bunny Rabbit to her family, she didn't attract attention. Then she became pretty over the course of one summer and saw how beauty can draw the eye. Either way, however, she discovered that a girl doesn't have much power. And for a smart, observant, thoughtful girl like Frankie, this was a hard realization to make. When she finds out that her boyfriend is the member of a secret male-only society at their boarding school, she decides to infiltrate it. Frankie manages to direct the actions of the group, keeping her true identity a secret. Yet when a prank backfires, Frankie finds out what it's like to have everyone know who you are.

Each of these books explore girls as they enter their teen years and start discovering the power they hold. Part of this power is due to their looks, as they begin to become women. But such power is fleeting, and is too easily confused with popularity. True power is that which comes from the strength of your intelligence. Both Kiki and Frankie have minds that let them strategize and plan, solve problems and direct others. Yet the truly amazing thing is that they choose to hide their abilities, preserving the belief in sweet quiet girls. After all, no one expects a girl to be up to any trouble. Both Frankie and Kiki realize this and exploit this fact fully.

Why do these two young women do this, when they could be capable of so much more? It's not just the dangers each character faces in the course of her story that causes her to work in secret. In fact, it's the very fact that the deck is stacked against them that makes them appear to live up to the stereotype. Society's view of young females becomes rather like the chicken-or-the-egg problem: Kiki and Frankie rebel against being consigned to silent, invisible girlhood, yet that ability to be unnoticed leads them to be even more successful. And neither of these girls are about to forgo such an advantage.

For Frankie, she begins to use her brain, knowing that she's outsmarting a group of boys who are expected to become the male elite in this country. Kiki goes even further: to achieve her goal, she finds other girls who have great but untapped strength, and teaches them how to wield this power while appearing to be ordinary young women.

As the news tells us, being taken advantage of is a common problem for females of any age. Women seem to be held to different standards, whether they're managing companies, performing research, or running for political office. It's hard for any female to figure out what is the right course for her. Yet through books, girls and women can discover different ways to use their power. And while we might not be a martial arts master like Kiki or be a brainy beauty like Frankie, these two characters offer a powerful repudiation of the expectation that girls shouldn't cause trouble, act too smart, or contradict those who know better. Because who knows better how to make your way through life than you?

Crossposted to Librarian by Day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reviews comma Young Adult

Admittedly, one of these books is adult, and one is more middle grade, but they're all worth reading.


As usual, reviews are posted at Librarilly Blonde.

Watch Me! See Me! Hear Me!

Do you want to not only hear me talk about the Fandom, Fan Life and Participatory Culture presentation that Carlie & I did at the YALSA YA Literature Symposium -- but also see me? Then check out this video at the YALSA Blog.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Another Pop the Book Review!

Book Review: Pop Goes the Library at OPL Plus by Judith A. Siess, editor and publisher of The One-Person Library: A Newsletter for Librarians and Management.

My favorite part? That Sophie and I "have created a wonderful guide to creating a library that will please and inspire your younger users."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Thoughts on the National Book Awards

I'm a bit late to the party in talking about the nominees for the National Book Award, but here's some thoughts I had in looking over the 2008 nominees for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature.

Does buzz work against a book?

There's been a lot of discussion around The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks when awards are talked about, and I think few people were surprised when it was one of the five nominees. But will that work against it? I can remember several cases where there was pre-award buzz around a book that ended up not winning the big prize. Just when it comes to the Printz Award, for example, I had heard mention of Saving Francesca, Octavian Nothing Vol. 1 The Pox Party, The Book Thief, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian as a winner. None of these books won the Printz; two were shut out entirely, not even meriting an honor award. Yet in the same breath, it's not that these books went completely unrecognized. Both The Book Thief and Octavian Nothing merited Printz Honor Awards; Octavian Nothing and Absolutely True Diary were the National Book Award winners in their respective years. It's perhaps too soon to tell if buzz will hurt Frankie Landau-Banks, but I think just getting recognized as a nominee is a validation of the importance of this book.

The esteemed members of the panel

I didn't realize this, but the National Book Award is determined by a panel of authors from the same field. Not just any authors, either--these are major players in the field. The 2008 panel is headed by Daniel Handler, with Holly Black, Angela Johnson, Carolyn Mackler, and Cynthia Voigt. That's some panel! In the past few years, the National Book Award panels have included such authors as Elizabeth Partridge, Pete Hautman, Scott Westerfeld, Linda Sue Park and Patricia McKissack. It's very gratifying to know that not only is this award granted by an author's peers, but that authors are giving back by serving on panels such as these.

Interesting facts

--Apparently, publishers have to submit books for consideration for the National Book Award. While my friends and I have jokingly called the ALA Youth Awards press conference "the Oscars", it could be that the National Book Award's announcement deserves that nickname more.
--In 2008, submissions for Young's People Literature just edged out Fiction as the second-most submitted work. Nonfiction is the big winner in this category.
--I'm very envious of those who live close to New York City and can attend the National Book Award Teen Press Conference. What a wonderful way to publicize and celebrate the National Book Award--not to mention the fact that this event is just for teens!

I Voted.

Walked there (beautiful weather), only one person in front of me.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Vote!

Blog the Vote is the brainchild of Colleen at Chasing Ray first mentioned Blog the Vote, Gregory K at Gotta Book, and Lee at I'm Here, I'm Queer, What the Hell Do I Read.

Looking to see who else is Blogging the Vote? Go to Chasing Ray. Edited to add this second Chasing Ray link.

When I first read about it, I knew I had to be a part of it. So here goes.

VOTE.

Please, please, please vote tomorrow.

Voting is our opportunity to be heard; to make a difference. Maybe your candidate will win; maybe your candidate will lose. Your vote can make the difference; but even if your candidate loses, your vote counts. Because the winner also needs to know just how many people didn't agree with him or her.

Your vote is your own. No one -- parent, child, spouse, famous person - can tell you how to vote or stop you from voting. No, I mean it. I recently read a "humor" piece at an online site where the husband and wife intend to vote for different candidates. As the child of a mixed marriage myself (stepfather Republican, mother Democrat) I can attest that yes, these marriages happen and last. Anyway, the "humor" was directed at all the ways the husband would help the wife to not vote (not set the alarm clock, schedule a spa day, etc.). Needless to say, I didn't find it amusing.

But think about it -- a vote, a single vote, is so powerful that someone would want to stop you from voting? Someone doesn't want you to vote? Someone is that afraid of one person voting?

Wow. That is telling you just how powerful your one vote is. And why you should take the time to vote.

For some people, this is going to be an easy vote. They are in love with with one candidate or another, one party or another. Yet for others of us, it is not an easy vote. No candidate represents all we want; and, even worse, one candidate may be a mix of what we want -- and don't want. Which is the deciding issue or factor? I know, some people don't "get it" -- that this is a hard decision. I get it. I've had people look at me as if I've lost IQ posts for saying I'm undecided.

Now is the time for you, and me, to make that final decision. DO IT. DECIDE. VOTE.

Pick that issue that is the most important to you. Voting isn't just for those who are true believers; voting is also for those of us who have not found the perfect candidate. Because it is time ... the researching of positions, the reading interviews over and over, the hashing out issues part of the election is now over.

It's time.

Decide.

Vote.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Madam President

Madam President by Lane Smith. Hyperion Books, 2008. Copy supplied by publisher. Picture Book.

The Plot:
A young girl imagines her life as President of the United States.

The Good:
Some of my favorite (fictional) Presidents are women. President Powers. President Roslin (OK, not President of the US. But still.) And now Katy, who not only wants to be President -- she lives her life as if she were President. She's confident.

Katy explains, "A president must tackle press conferences gracefully."

A blackboard says, "oral reports today," while Katy brings her own presidential podium to the front of the room as her teacher and classmates look on. Then she begins, "That's top secret. No comment. I'll get back to you on that. I won't digntify that question with a response. C'mon, Tiffany, get real! No comment. Let me think about that. I know you are, but what am I? Next question. No comment!" The font varies in size, so you can sense Katy's response. And I love the working into it of "I know you are, but what am I?"

Smith's illustrations are engaging. Katy is a mix of girl and President, with her teeth brushing and cat, yet wearing a presidential outfit. (Katy's name is not mentioned -- she is The President, after all -- but you can read it on a note her mother leaves her.)

I have the most fun looking at the background details in pictures like the bedroom. It's not just about Presidents -- it's all US History. Our President is a non-fiction fan. Posters of Susan B. Anthony and Revolutionary War flags, plus a Mr. Potato Head (she sitll is a kid!) and books on Frederick Douglas, Theodore Roosevelt, and Harriet Tubman.

This isn't a wordy book; but it is a picture book for older readers, who will get the references and chuckle at Madam President's press conference.

Links:
Madam President Event Kit (PDF, from publisher)
Jen Robinson's Book Page review (with links to other reviews)

Another Review

Another review of Pop Goes the Library: Using Pop Culture to Connect with Your Whole Community,* this time from Ch-Ch-Changing Librarian. In her post Using Pop Culture to Connect With Your Audience, Amy mentions how the book, while of primary interest to public and school libraries, has information of use for academic libraries and librarians.

Are you waiting for a copy from Sophie and me? Check out this post at the Book Blog where all is explained, and yes, they are on their way.

*This links to Amazon, where it is currently out of stock, and fifty cents higher than buying it directly from the publisher. See sidebar for publisher info.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bookends

There's a new blog in town: Bookends.

It's written by Lynn Rutan and Cindy Dobrez: "The DNA testing has not been run, but we are certain we must be twins separated at birth. And like genetic twins, we know what each other is thinking at all times, but we don't always agree. Our passion for teen lit is almost older than the genre itself! We are middle school librarians who have chaired both ALA's Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature." You probably also recognize Lynn and Cindy's names from their smart, witty and observant contributions to various professional listservs.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Welcome, GalleyCat Readers!

It's been a whirlwind of activity the last two days, topped by coming home, checking my bloglines, and finding out I've been quoted in GalleyCat!

So welcome, GalleyCat Readers!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

We Don't Need No Stinking Book Reviews

GalleyCat tackles, once again, the subject of book reviews in main stream media: Should we mourn the dying book review? As they say, "We've long considered (argued, really) the possibility that the so-called "crisis in book reviewing" is really only a crisis for a handful of staff editors and freelance writers who are occasionally helpful in steering people towards interesting new books but not, ultimately, indispensable." GalleyCat goes on to say it's more important to get prepub buzz; and trusted opinions. It points out (for genres, at least) that online people gained the trust of readers because the mainstream media let those readers down.

I'm looking at this, of course, thru the lens of children's/YA and a librarian to boot. And, of course, reviews can mean so many things.

Professional reviews to get other professionals to buy stuff -- these won't be going away anytime soon.

When it comes to blogs and the like, yes, we help bring books to the attention of teachers and librarians. But those teachers and librarians will still need reviews from SLJ and Hornbook and Booklist and Kirkus, to support their buying decisions, place the book in the right area of the library, and to defend against challenges.

Blogs are also not arranged for someone who is going looking for what to buy, not the way these journals are. In addition, blogs come and go. Great ones disappear. Or, like me, other things happen -- my number of reviews of books has been cut back drastically because of being on the Printz committee. Journals have stability that at this point, independent blogs lack.

Blogs don't always write for the buying audience. Some do; some do sometimes. I've read of authors being frustrated at reviews that "give away the ending," but that is exactly the type of thing that a librarian who is never going to read every book in his or her library needs to know. They don't need a synopsis, which they can get from the publisher's catalog; they need to know whether its the type of book "their" kids and teens will read, so yes, that often includes "giving" away plot points. Because the purpose of these reviews isn't to get someone to read the book; it's to get them to buy the book so someone else will read it.

Reviews to get me to read a book.

My personal 'what to read next' pile is influenced by a variety of things; bloggers, newspapers, authors I like, covers that look attractive, friends, articles in magazines, etc. As I've said before, children's/YA books get little mainstream media coverage; blogs have filled a gap. And, at least it seems to me, I've seen more mainstream media coverage of children's/YA in the past few years. Which is good. I don't want to see mainstream coverage of books disappear; it would be a loss. And, frankly, I don't think the blogosphere can "take over" for that disappearing coverage. What we can do is complement each other.

Reviews that make me think about what I've read

Some reviews are really nothing more than mini ads to get me to read a book. Nothing wrong with that; if its a reviewer I trust, and they mention reasons for me to read something that reflect my own reading tastes, perfect.

But a review can also push beyond that; and become a discussion of the book. And while some people may be intrigued by that discussion to read the book, it is as much for the people who have already read it. And this, I think, is where online blogging has helped people tremendously; they have given people a place to talk about books. And, as I said above, it is too bad that mainstream media didn't realize sooner that while yes, I do like to read the experts opinion in The New York Times, I also like to be able to respond and to talk and to discuss and to have my own opinion valued. The "listen to me I know better than you" model has disappeared. It's become the "let's discuss it" model.

That said, frankly, I do think some people do in fact "know better" than others. Reviewers and bloggers who have no sense of literary history (ie a "this idea has never been done" type of review) turn me off; I like writers who can link a book and connect it to other works, or historical perspective, etc. Frankly, some people do know more about certain things and their writing is richer for it. And some people have no idea what they are talking about. Here's the thing: the people who know stuff can just as easily be bloggers; and the people who have no idea can just as easily be writing for traditional print media. The assumption that the newspaper writer always knows better is gone. And newspapers, instead of clinging to that presumption, should have gone looking for fresh blood and reexamined whether or not their experts were, in fact, knowledgeable.

It's not too late for print media

That said, I think too main mainstream outlets are "giving up". This is a time to be inventive; to think outside the box; to realize that bloggers and their readers are not "the enemy." I think SLJ has a great model that newspapers should pick up: having their traditional print reviews, but also having bloggers like Fuse who review on their blogs. Bottom line: instead of cutting back book reviews, newspapers and magazines should be increasing the book-talk that appears on their websites.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Beyond Leveled Books: Supporting Early and Transitional Readers in Grades k-5 by Karen Szymusiak, Franki Sibberson, and Lisa Koch; foreword by Sharon Taberski. Stenhouse Publishers. 2008. Copy provided by author.

A few months back, there was a conversation on Yalsa-Bk about reading levels. I had a couple of questions, so did what people usually do; turned to friends who are experts, Franki Sibberson and Mary Lee Hahn of A Year of Reading. In addition to answering my questions, I found out about Franki's new book, Beyond Leveled Books, and Franki kindly sent me a review copy.

In the foreword, Sharon Taberski says, "Leveling does have a place in our classrooms - a practical one. It can help match a child with a range of books he's likely to be able to read on his own and during guided reading, and it can play an important role in helping struggling readers become more proficient. . . . [T]here's a lot more to teaching children to read than finding their levels and moving them upward. Children need to plateau in their reading. They need to consolidate their skills and strategies, to read widely and deeply, to increase their vocabulary, and to experience life and gain humor so that they have more knowledge and insight to bring to texts and consequently understand them better."

Libraries have books. And librarians. And librarians are very good at matching a book to a reader. But what we don't learn in library school is how to teach reading or how reading is taught. Which means when a kid comes in looking for a book, it's great. But when a parent (or teacher) comes in asking for level this or that, it's a blank, because for us it's about the book, not the level.

Beyond Leveled Books is also about the book, not the level. Aimed at teachers, it is a must read for librarians. While showing teachers why it is good to go beyond leveled books, it also works as a great primer as to what is a leveled book and how reading is being taught in the classroom. Yes, as public librarians we focus on the book; but it's also good to know what is going on in the child's classroom.

I'd further suggest it to parents who are trying to understand what is going on in their child's classroom and what is happening with their child's reading skills and how those skills are much more than a "level." What about comprehension, understanding what is going on in the book, etc? The authors and other contributors, all classroom teachers, explain some of the "critical needs" of their students, using examples, including how and when an adult can help the student meet those needs. The parent who complains about a teacher using picture books or graphic novels, or who doesn't use books grades above the child's grade, needs to read this book to understand better how reading is much more involved than learning how to read words.

The book is full of articles, reading lists, lesson plans, and suggestions to address a child's reading as something much more than a vocabulary level. Over and over, I found examples and illustrations of reading being more than words. When a child reads "right" in a sentence, do they understand they are being directed to look at a photo to the right of the text? Or do they think the author is saying "right!" How does a child learn about the use of flashbacks in a text?

I especially liked the ideas of grouping books by authors, characters, genres, series -- a wide assortment of ways that kids can find the book they want, rather than obsessing about what level they (and their classmates) are at. These suggestions for classroom libraries can easily be used in public libraries, for displays and booklists. The chapter on series books is perhaps my favorite, because I read them as a kid and read the grown up versions now (Nora Roberts is my comfort read).

The authors address one of my pet peeves about levels and reading above levels. When books are viewed as simply the sum of their vocabulary words, kids are given books above their age level that are best left for a few years down the road. The example in the book is The Giver, with a well-meaning teacher using this book with third graders. (While the book uses all school examples of this "reading up", I also see it happen with parents and relatives selecting books for kids). The teacher writing about this notes, "I understand the importance of giving children books to read that support their growth and development as readers. They won't make progress as readers if they read only easy books. However, there are better options for young advanced readers than young-adult books. Teachers need to look at more than the readability level of the book when book selections." She then notes that the theme of the book is just as important, if not more so, than vocabulary. When children are pushed into books that are above their comprehension, the result is books they won't reread once they do have "the life experience, cognitive development, and emotional maturity to truly comprehend the book." They also miss out on the books they missed in the hurry to rush them into older books.

Stories about reading include the authors mentioning their own children and their students. I am very thankful that in doing this, the authors presented a variety of types of kids and readers; there is no "this is how I raised a reading genius and so can you." Instead, this is about teaching reading, and teaching a love of reading, with a huge emphasis on how reading is more than just vocabulary and grammar.

As Franki wisely reminded me in a comment to a post of mine last week, "I have worked with lots of kids over the years who really struggle with reading and it is hard to love something if it is never easy enough to enjoy--thus the teaching how to read being essential. It is the teacher's/librarian's job to know books and kids well so that a child can find books they love--and books they can read. They go through the motions, and say they love lots of books, but when you talk more, they never actually finish the books or they've not understood the book. So, for me, it is a combination of the two--always."

Looking for how that combination works? Read this book.

Cross-posted at Pop Goes the Library.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Teens: Show me the money

Sometimes it seems like so much I read about teens and Gen Y revolves around how much money they spend and on what.

Then I remind myself I'm reading marketing sites, trying to use that information to apply to libraries. So, of course, it's a bit skewed.

Still, I wonder, with economic times being hard, what will that mean to teens who have always expected to be able to buy certain things? For example, buying the cool bright orange winter coat? When I'd read that last year, it was teens take chances and buy things that stand out! Me, as older (but not necessarily wiser) thought, you only buy bright orange when you think you buy a new winter coat every year. When you realize that coat is going to last ten years, orange isn't so appealing.

Will teens turn to thrift stores and less expensive brands and labels? But even that is spending money.

Anyway, I'm not the only one wondering this: The Frugal Teenager, Ready or Not at The New York Times.

Friday, October 10, 2008

An Introduction

Hi, everyone! I was tempted to come up with some cheesy opening, like "Melissa's the name--reading's my game," but since I can't provide complimentary wine and crackers with the cheese, I thought I'd best just press on. My name's Melissa Rabey, and I'm delighted that Liz has invited me to contribute to A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy. I've been a big fan of the blog for a long time, so it's great to be here contributing!

I'm the teen librarian at the C. Burr Artz Public Library, part of Frederick County Public Libraries in Frederick, MD. For several years, I've been a proud member of YALSA. I've served on the Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults and Youth Participation committees. Currently I'm the chair of Organization and Bylaws, as well as serving as an ex officio member of the YALSA Board of Directors.

At my blog, Librarian by Day, I review books and discuss other thoughts about teens. I have a great love for historical fiction and realistic fiction--as well as a soft spot for anything with a pink cover. As today's bit of blatant self-promotion, I'm standing for election to the 2011 Printz Committee. I hope that you'll enjoy the posts I make here at Tea Cozy and that you'll take a look at my blog.

Thanks for having me here! [curls up in her own chair with a cup of hot chocolate]

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Pop Goes the Book: Review

The first review of Pop Goes the Library: the book comes from the brand new blog, In the Library with a Lead Pipe. (I know, don't you love that name!)

Here are some snippets:

If you’re not interested in pop culture, it may be tempting to dismiss the importance of this book’s message or to overlook its ambitiousness. That would be a mistake: Brookover and Burns cover most of the important lessons on librarianship that can be taught in a book: creating a niche; building a collection; using technology; and developing crowd-pleasing programming, among others. As an added bonus, their writing style is as much fun to read as Michael Buckland, S.R. Ranganathan, Jesse Shera, or Elaine Svenonius. (Speaking of pop culture: does anyone know if Elaine is related to Ian?)

and

I very much like this book’s execution and I strongly agree with its message: we’re going to remain relevant by acquiring and marketing materials, and by providing programs, that appeal to the people whose libraries we steward. You don’t have to like every popular item in the collection, you just have to make sure it’s available.

Read the full review here.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Buffy Quote of the Week

Buffy: There is no problem that cannot be solved by chocolate.
Willow: I think I'm going to barf.
Buffy: Except that.
Ep: Fear, Itself

Monday, October 06, 2008

Learning to Read, or Loving Reading?

Today's "but are the kids reading" article is from the New York Times, part of its The Future of Reading series. Using Video Games as Bait to Hook Readers examines how publishers, authors and libraries are using video games to get people reading. Easy example: PJ Haarsma designed a video game to tie in with his book. (Those of you who attended the 07 Kidlitosphere Conference may remember meeting PJ.) Jack Martin from NYPL is quoted: “I think we have to ask ourselves, ‘What exactly is reading?’ Reading is no longer just in the traditional sense of reading words in English or another language on a paper.”

A reading professor is quoted in the article; and I wonder at what he said that didn't get in the article. Because what he says seems incomplete: "So rather than say, ‘Oh, books are irrelevant in the modern era because there are all these other media available,’ I would ask shouldn’t we be doing a better job of teaching kids how to read?”

My knee-jerk response to this is that it's not about teaching kids HOW to read; it's teaching kids to love reading. Oh, some kids are born loving reading; but for other kids, it is all about the right book at the right time, which may occur at age 5, 15, or 30. Are people encouraging that reading is to be loved? Or is it viewed as another lesson, another chore? Of course, this professor may have gone on to say that. Or his definition of "how to read" may include reading because you want to, not because you can and you have to.

In viewing the literacy skills and interactions with text we see with games and books, I point once again to Cathy's Book. My prediction: game tie ins with books, or book tie ins with games, isn't the future. The future is authors raised with gaming as a part of their regular lives writing books like Cathy's Book, bringing that interactive, reader controls the story attitude towards traditional books, with electronic publishing providing a reading experience that is different from anything we've seen today.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Newbery Means What?

Oh what the hell, everyone else is posting about it.

The latest What is the Newbery discussion. Looking for an idea of the linkage out there? Check out Fairrosa's Reading.

My scattered thoughts:

To those who disagree with Anita Silvey's article: why do you assume she, or others who raise questions about Newbery winners, hasn't read the rules? Some comments seem to be along the lines "if you only read the rules, you wouldn't think that." It may not be about whether the rules are being read, it's how those rules are being interpreted.

To the "the Newbery doesn't mean what you think it means" argument. Goodness knows, I agree with this. But. If there are that many people out there, including professional librarians, who don't "get" what the Newbery is about, whose fault is it? I'm a bit reminded of a time in fifth grade where my entire class failed a test. My mother, a teacher, told me that while I still needed to do my best, etc., that when that many children in a class didn't "get" the material, the fault was as much on the teacher as the students. Where are those who don't "get" it getting their impressions from? I'm wondering if there is a bit of having ones cake and eating it, too, going on. On the one hand, literary award (and see what Carlie has to say about what that means.) But are we (global we, libraries, librarians, etc.) promoting it as something else, resulting in people thinking the Newbery is something it isn't?

Finally, yes this argument happens enough we could turn it into a drinking game. Still, I am disturbed by just how insulted people get over people raising questions about the Newbery winners. I love discussions of things and different viewpoints, and the idea that there can only be one viewpoint for the Newbery (either you agree totally with every selection, or you're someone who didn't read the rules, don't get the award, and is blinded by 'popularity') bothers me.

My introduction to the Newbery was the gift of a boxed set of Newbery winners. Do they still do that? They were books I wouldn't have picked up on my own, but because now they were there, I was bored, I read them and enjoyed them. (Come to think of it, being bored plus access to books at home led to many great discoveries of books I would never have picked up otherwise.)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shooting Fish In A Barrell

What am I doing for fun this fine Sunday Morning? Getting a chuckle out of Kid Lit Unlabelled from Ottawa Citizen.Com.

While the bulk of the article reports on age banding (written for an audience who hasn't already read about it months ago on blogs), unfortunately, it was framed with stuff made of fail.

My faves:

Children read largely to learn about the adult world, and adults sometimes still choose books for their "inner child."
.....
A generation ago, kids were meant to go unimpeded from the felicities of Charlotte's Web to those of Jane Austen. Now they may be steered into a ghetto of "issues" plots heavy on crackheads and dropouts, homelessness and shoplifting.
It's a niche for which many writers write. But as downbeat subject matter, this fare may create as much reading reluctance as it overcomes.
Sandy White, of Kids In Print, gets around that ghetto by instead recommending contemporary fantasy-historical-adventure stories -- a sub-genre that has taken off on the coattails of Harry Potter.

.....
It ends noting that the author of the article is a Victoria writer and former librarian. I at first misread it as Victorian writer.

And you know, in a way HP is historical fiction. Remember, Harry was born in 1980. So all those adventures ended ages ago.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman

Loved the man.

Picking one favorite film? Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid. No, no -- The Sting.

In reading one of the online tributes to him, I came across this at Zap2It:

Throughout the '60s, Newman took high-profile stands against the war in Vietnam. In 1968, he campaigned for antiwar candidate Sen. Eugene McCarthy and served as a Connecticut delegate to the Democratic National Convention. The following year, he and Woodward joined an antiwar demonstration in front of the American Embassy in London. Newman knew his actions were not always popular, and told the New York Times Magazine in 1966, "A person without character has no enemies." Friends said he was delighted in 1973 when he was listed as No. 19 on Nixon's enemies list, claiming it elevated him in the eyes of his children. Newman argued politics genially, friends said, and openly admired certain conservatives. In 1994, he helped his brother Arthur, a staunch Republican, wage a successful campaign for a City Council seat in Rancho Mirage.

What touches me, in this political season that is veering towards division and factions and us/them? He "argued politics genially." He "admired certain conservatives." Whatever the reasons behind that -- looking beyond labels for commonalities, or respecting conviction even when the conviction isn't shared -- he was willing to admire that which was different. And finally? He helped his brother. Blood is thicker than water.

I hope that as this campaigning season continues, we argue genially and admire those of a different political persuasion than ourselves.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I Should Have Gone to Portland

Family stuff prevented me from going to the kidlitosphere conference. Let's not talk about it, because I wish I were there. Especially when this greeted me this morning.





Monday, September 22, 2008

Cybils

The Cybils is the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards. It is now entering its third year!

In a nutshell: during the fall, various genre and age committees are formed. Books in various genres are nominated: poetry, science fiction, middle grade, etc. One panel reads all the nominations and selects five books. The second panel then reads those five books and picks one winner. Panelists are made up of people who blog about children's and young adult books. The specific rules are at the Cybils website.

I have been asked, why the Cybils? Why a need for yet more awards when there are so many other ones out there?

And here are my reasons for liking the Cybils, and seeing them as important. They are in no particular order. They represent my opinions, not the official opinions of the Cybils. And yes, I was involved with the Cybils for the first two years. Other commitments made it necessary for me to not be involved this year.

1. Not everyone who is interested in books is a librarian; there is a world outside the ALA awards. Yep, I love the ALA awards, obviously -- I'm on this year's Printz Committee. But ALA and librarians is not the start and end of children's and YA books. Book bloggers in this neck of the woods include many varied types of people, not all librarians, and not all want to join ALA. That said, I would hope that some people who get involved with the Cybils consider joining ALA and getting involved with them. It's like Cybils fun, but year round!

2. It's as much about the process as it is about the award. It pushes participants to think about books beyond "what I liked" and "what I didn't like"; to do more than accept genres at their face value. It's about obtaining and circulating copies of books and making sure each book gets read. I'm a firm believer in that we learn as much from doing something as we do from the end result. Being involved in any aspect of the Cybils is a wonderful educational opportunity for anyone involved.

3. It provides a ton of opportunities for participation. While the Cybils cannot say "yes" to everyone, it can say "yes" to a lot of people. With coordinators, two sets of panels of five to seven individuals, and nine categories, well over 100 people are involved.

4. It pushes readers to read beyond what they 'want' to. We book bloggers are a "me me me" lot. We don't answer to anyone else when we blog, so we blog what we want to. We read what we want to. You don't have that luxury with the Cybils, and that is a great thing! When I am pushed to read outside of my own choices, I can discover some real gems.

5. We don't all think alike. While our blogs are like conversations, they aren't really. And this soon become apparent as the Cybils panelists and judges discuss books, when real conversation happens. And this means discovering the book you love is the book someone else hated, and now having the discussion to see hash out the book, and apply more objective rules than love/hate. Blogging is about talking; the Cybils is about listening.

6. It forces you to be more articulate. As you discuss the books, emotional reactions and whether you personally like or don't like a book just won't cut it. You have to dig deeper and encourage others to dig deeper as well.

What about you? What do you like best about the Cybils?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

No Politics Here!

Why there will be no political endorsements or political talk on this blog, outside of a general "vote"!

It is possible to have thoughtful and respectful political posts. And it is also possible to retain some control over comments so that they remain equally respectful. I have participated in such conversations on other people's blogs.

But, here's the thing. This is where I blog about stories found in books, movies, TV, even cartoons. I don't blog about other things; and believe it or not, I keep my personal information to a minimum. To a certain extent, I see this as an online party where we can meet and talk about story. And to have a group of people get together, sharing that common love, and then have something else introduced -- and something else that can be really divisive -- well.

That's not what I want out of my blog. It can be difficult enough in real life to bring differences of opinion over politics into relationships and to retain those relationships; how much harder in an online world.

Add to it that I do not believe we can make political assumptions about people based on the books they read and write, or the jobs they hold.

Finally, I intensely dislike political endorsements. Women were imprisoned in seeking the right to vote for women. As a woman, I feel very strongly that it is my responsibility to vote; to vote the way I want to vote; and to cast that vote after careful review, research, reading. No one candidate nor party will ever match me exactly, so it is up to me to balance factors. Me, not someone else. I will not be told who to vote for by anyone -- parent, boyfriend, sibling, friend, employer, colleagues, celebrity, newspaper, blogger, author. I vote for me.

Friday, September 19, 2008

For Better or For Worse

Have you been reading For Better or For Worse?

Yes, despite the train wreck of Liz/Anthony (worse story line since Renesme), I'm still reading.

Why?

The Howard Blunt blog. If you're a fan of FBoFW (the "OMG I cannot believe how bad this has gotten" type of fan) go read HB's blog. There is snark, analysis, pointing out of the bad retcon of the current strip, and behind the scenes info that explains, partly, the train wreck.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Coleen Salley

My Coleen Salley story: I went to a party she hosted at her home in New Orleans, during the ALA Annual that took place after Hurricane Katrina. Her house was out of a story, and she was lovely.

School Library Journal has information on her death. And here is some fun information about Queen Coleen.

In lieu of flowers, Coleen Salley's wish was for folks to make to either the Autism Society of Oregon, P.O. Box 396, Marylhurst, OR 97036 or the Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, 550 Lobdell Ave., Baton Rouge, LA 70806. I don't usually post this type of stuff, but these are two causes important to me. Thanks to Balkin Buddies for the information.

Monday, September 15, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different

Who doesn't like a good quiz?

Forget who is my Jane Austen boyfriend. Try military aircraft!

Thanks to the Old Coot for something new and different.

What military aircraft are you?

F/A-22 Raptor

You are an F/A-22. You are technologically inclined, and though you've never been tested in combat, your very name is feared. You like noise, but prefer not to pollute any more than you have to. And you can move with the best.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.

\\



I'm feared! And I don't pollute!

The Mark of the Horse Lord


The Mark of the Horse Lord
Author: Rosemary Sutcliff
Publisher: Front Street; 1 Reprint edition (February 2, 2006).
ISBN-10: 1932425624
ISBN-13: 978-1932425628

The Plot: Phaedrus is a gladiator in second century Britain; a bloody, violent fight to the death in the arena results in Phaedrus killing his best friend, winning his freedom, and having no idea what to do next. What does a slave know about living as a free man?

Phaedrus is approached with a scheme involving the tribes to the North, in Scotland; the king died seven years ago. His son, Midir, went missing; and Levin's half-sister, Liadhan, seized the opportunity to bring back goddess worship and set herself on the throne.

The thing is, Phaedrus looks exactly like the missing Midir. Why not put him on the throne instead, and remove Liadhan from power? So Phaedrus pretends to be Midir -- pretends to be King -- and gets more than he bargained for as he begins to realize what it means to be a King.

The Good: Non stop action. Chapter One, we get a mother's suicide, gladiator fights, freedom; Chapter Two, a drunk night on the town resulting in fights, stabbings, and fire; Chapter Three is prison and the Midir plan. There's barely a place for Phaedrus or the reader to breathe. Yet, within all that action, Sutcliff includes many details about the second century Britain.

Once Phaedrus agrees to the plan, there's a lot he has to learn. And he keeps finding out that that there is even more involved than he thought.

Since this was written in 1965, I was a bit concerned about how the goddess religion would be treated. To be simplistic, it seems like all books about it written before a certain time depict it as Evil; and all written after a certain time depict it as The Golden Age. Silly me; Sutcliff does almost the impossible by making no modern judgments. Yes, the faction that Phaedrus sides with wants the sun centered god religion, rather than the moon centered goddess; and the goddess religion shown involves human sacrifice. But it's done rather evenhandedly; and the religion dispute is more a side issue, with the real dispute being about power, and who has it.

What else? There's a map! I love maps; and a brief historical note intro, letting the reader know a bit of the historical context and clearly stating that this is fiction, but here's the true history part.

As for the true history part, I love that Sutcliff looks at a bit of history that does not get much written about it. Seriously, how many other books set in second century Scotland are there about the Dalriad?

The brutality of the time is genuinely shown; what really happened to Midir, for example. My clues; he's alive; and remember, that a maimed man could not be king. If you don't want to murder a child but do want to make sure he never becomes king, what do you do?

Age: I think today, this would be a YA book or an adult book. Phaedrus is about nineteen; there are wars, bloody battles, even a bit of a romance. Part of what Phaedrus has to face is the difference between the best choice for himself; and the best choice for his people. But are they his people -- isn't he just pretending to be King?

The cover: isn't that cover great? I read the original hardcover, boring black, but there is a mark on the cover that is supposed to be the mark of the horse lord that Phaedrus gets tattooed on his forehead.

Quotes: "[Essylt, Phaedrus's mother] had used the slim native hunting dagger that had served Ulixes as a papyrus knife; but there was not much blood because she had stabbed herself under the breast, not cut her wrists as a Roman woman would have done." In one sentence, Sutcliff tells us how Phaedrus's mother killed herself, also revealing how the native / Roman cultures mixed yet did not mix.

On fighting to the death as a gladiator: "Like the sudden opening of a cavern in his head, reality burnt upon Phaedrus, and in that ice-bright splinter of time he understood at last that this was a fight to the death, that he was fighting, not his comrade Vortimax, whom he had fought scores and hundreds of times before, but death -- red rending death such as the stag's had been, and the hooks of the mercuries in the dark alleyway." Again, awesome detail; and lovely how Sutcliff creates a world where you "know" what it is those mercuries do without her ever really saying.

While I liked how Sutcliff had the opening note, I would have loved to have the titles of her actual source material. I wonder if the marriage ceremony shown is accurate, and the same for the Women's War Dance.

Finally? Amazing, amazing ending. Entirely true to the book and the characters, yet still unbelievable and almost shattering.

Now all I want to do is read all of Sutcliff's other books.

Links:
Wikipedia article on the Dál Riata
Interview with Rosemary Sutcliff
Rosemary Sutcliff: An Appreciation blog, with The Mark of the Horse Lord review
Teacher Resource File for Sutcliff
Rosemary Sutcliff: blog by godson (here, also)
I Speak of Dreams blog review
1985 Phoenix Award Winner

Originally published at AmoxCalli.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Top 8 Things To Know About the Lexicon Ruling

Top 8 Things to Know About the Lexicon Ruling

I've had the chance to read all 60something pages of the Ruling, twice. What I have not done is compare the ruling to the Proposed Findings of Fact of both parties, or to any of the other court documents, or the transcripts. As always, I remain Team Rowling; and think the ruling makes common sense. You can compare my thoughts from March to the actual ruling. All quotes below are from the ruling, linked to above. For those fascinated with copyright and fair use, Carlie has a great interview with a lawyer over at Librarilly Blonde. (Technically, yeah, I have the JD, passed the bar in 2 states, but am officially retired.)

So, with no further ado, the top 8 things you need to know. In no particular order.

1. JK Rowling Won.

No, really. Ignore the amount of the damages, and let me ask you this.

Can you go down to your local bookstore and buy a print version of the Lexicon?

Borrow a copy from your local library?

Order a copy from Powell's?

No.

Why not?

Because JKR won.

2. Steve Vander Ark's "vigorous" protection of his own copyright in the Lexicon worked against him.

"Additionally, because the Lexicon engages in considerable verbatim copying of the Harry Potter works, publication of the Lexicon would diminish Rowling’s copyright in her own language. Based on evidence of Vander Ark’s vigorous claim to his rights in the Lexicon website (Tr. (Rowling) at 100:18-101:7; id. (Vander Ark) at 312:6-313:13), publication of the Lexicon may result in conflicting assertions of copyright over the same material by Rowling on one hand and Vander Ark or RDR Books on the other." Common sense; do we really want to see lawsuits where the author of an unofficial guide to a body of work is suing the author of the body of work for copyright infringement?

3. This only affects JKR, WB, and RDR.

It was a lawsuit between those parties, so it only applies to those parties. I'm sure that people will use this ruling to apply to other areas. As such, the ruling may be persuasive or compelling; or, it may be ignored; but it cannot be used as an absolute. It is not controlling. Human nature is such that we want to have guidelines, to be able to predict things. So, people will end up looking at this ruling as unofficial guidance.

4. Fan Websites Like the Lexicon are Safe.

The Judge discussed the Lexicon website, but only as it applied to the Lexicon book. One, people using the website established there was a commercial market fir this type of reference guide. Two, the proposed book originally used a quote on its jacket by JRK about the website that misled over a third of the people who saw it into thinking JKR was talking about the Lexicon book.

As I said above, this ruling affects only the parties. But, we can use it for some type of guidance, to predict what may happen in other areas. The existence of a website being turned into a book didn't seem to matter at all. Nowhere does the ruling say that the website lessened JKR's ability to fight the publication of Lexicon book, or strengthened RDR's case. The total silence on the legality of fan websites is a great thing for fandom; a publisher or author will read this ruling and say, OK, I don't have to ask for fansites to be taken down.

5. The Low Damages Does Not Lessen JKR's Win.

The important thing was preventing publication of the book. This happened. JKR/WB also sought damages: "In addition to injunctive relief, Plaintiffs seek statutory damages in this case. Under the Copyright Act, a plaintiff may elect to recover an award of statutory damages for each infringed work "in a sum of not less than $750 or more than $30,000 as the court considers just."" (I saw a blog use a $100,000 figure, but I'll go with the figures stated in the Judge's ruling.) The reason for the low amount? "The Lexicon has not been published and thus Plaintiffs have suffered no harm beyond the fact of infringement."

While some are saying that this means JKR's win was not a win, what it shows is why sometimes there is relief that orders people to do or not do something (such as publishing a book), and sometimes there is relief measured in money. JKR/WB suffered no damages measurable in money; so she was awarded the minimum damages. I'll leave it to someone else to crawl through all the court documents and transcripts to discover whether JKR/WB argued for a higher monetary figure. And remember...you're not buying the Lexicon anytime soon. So who won again?

6. Those companion books mattered.

I was a bit surprised to see how the Judge looked at the HP books and the companion books in two different ways. HP1-7 are stories; while the companion books are official guides. "Unless [readers] sought to enjoy the companion books for their entertainment value alone, consumers who purchased the Lexicon would have scant incentive to purchase either of Rowling’s companion books, as the information contained in these short works has been incorporated into the Lexicon almost wholesale." In other words, people who read the Lexicon will still read HP1-7 for the story; but if they have the Lexicon, they wouldn't read the companion books.

Once you think about it, it makes total sense. You're using the entries in a guide book, almost word for word, to write another guide book. The hell?

Does that mean that no guide/ lexicon is ever possible? The next line states, "because the Lexicon’s use of the companion books is only marginally transformative, the Lexicon is likely to supplant the market for the companion books." So, in other words, SVA took too much of JKR's words and added little of his own. The Judge repeats this later on: "Publication of the Lexicon would cause irreparable harm to the sales of Rowling’s companion books, all the elements of which are replicated in the Lexicon for a similar purpose. Readers would have no reason to purchase the companion books since the Lexicon supersedes their value." While arguably one could say the companion books mean no lexicon/unofficial guide, ever, the Judge's statement about reference works (below) leads me to think that that a lexicon can exist, either quoting the companion books less, or not quoting them at all.

7. An Unofficial Guide is Still Possible.

As has been quoted elsewhere, "Issuing an injunction in this case both benefits and harms the public interest. While the Lexicon, in its current state, is not a fair use of the Harry Potter works, reference works that share the Lexicon’s purpose of aiding readers of literature generally should be encouraged rather than stifled." The problem isn't what SVA/RDR wanted to do; it is what they ended up doing.

The judge wasn't pleased with the volume of cut and paste done; and further didn't buy the argument that it was more than cut and paste. "Many portions of the Lexicon take more of the copyrighted works than is reasonably necessary in relation to the Lexicon’s purpose." Bottom line: for all of you who argued that an unofficial guide is permitted, you were right. But this guide is not permitted, because of the amount of cut and paste.

Theoretically, the Lexicon could be rewritten, using the ruling as a guide.

Will it be?

Personally speaking, I think not. The attraction for those involved was to quickly get something into print. The level of rewrites (including tracking down page numbers and clearly marking quotes) is something that will take time. Is it time that SVA and RDR are willing to invest?

8. RDR Did Not Give JKR a Chance to Work This Out Before Litigation.

Some have said that JKR should have worked this out with SVA. Really? Read the findings of fact. JKR wasn't the one ignoring lawyers letters and dragging feet. It was RDR. It was up to them to provide the copy to JKR. JKR's belief, based on the website, that it was too much cut and paste has proven correct. As a matter of fact, while JKR pushed to obtain a copy to see if it was infringing or not -- something she never recieved until after the lawsuit was filed -- RDR played hardball by sending WB a cease and desist letter over the Timeline. While the Judge says the actions never rose to the level of "bad faith," he means bad faith in a legal sense, which has a higher standard than how you and I would use the phrase.

Edited to add: a great review of the ruling, point by point, translating legalese into fantalk. Thanks, Negotiation Barbie!
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