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!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Lexicon Ruling In

And JKR wins. (USA Today)

More from NYTimes.

I will write more when I get a chance to read the actual ruling.

Thanks to Carlie for emailing me the USA Today link.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Buffy Quote of the Week

Buffy: What did [Dawn] make you do?
Giles: Well, we listened to some aggressively cheerful music sung by people chosen for their ability to dance, then we ate cookie dough and talked about boys.
Ep: I Was Made to Love You

Friday, September 05, 2008

A blonde with some books walks into a bar...

...or, some YA reviews!
All reviews are posted at Librarilly Blonde.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Interview with Nancy Werlin at Librarilly Blonde

One of my favorite YA books of the year is Nancy Werlin's Impossible. In fact, when I got done reading it I just had to email Nancy and tell her how much I enjoyed it, and bless her, she agreed to do an interview for Librarilly Blonde.

Read the interview
, and sit in awe. It's impossible not to.

Anatomy of a Boyfriend


Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky. 2007. Copy supplied by author. Available in paperback September 2008.
The Plot: Dominique is 17, finishing her senior year, waiting to hear back from colleges, ready for her life to begin with college and then medical school. Then she meets Wes.... and things change.

The Good:

There will be spoilers.

On the surface, this is a "my first boyfriend" book. As this, it is good -- Dom and Wes meet cute, there are semi dates, miscommunication, finally dating! And then the sex, and then college starts.

This book is deeper than "first boyfriend," and while it's told in first person by Dom, there is a lot that isn't told and is up to the reader to realize, figure out, or conclude. Some of it is stuff that Dom herself never quite realizes.

Let's start with the sex. This is a sexually explicit book, but in a technical sense, not in a steamy sense. When Dom and Wes sleep together, it's told in a very clinical, very responsible way. Both virgins, they even use condoms for oral sex. It's very true to Dom, as her favorite book is Grays Anatomy so of course she will speak in a matter of fact way. This answers questions that teens have about sex. And, while there is a friend who has a pregnancy scare, Dom herself suffers no bad consequences from having sex with her boyfriend. Her POV is she and Wes are in love, they have sex. They go to college, drift apart, break up, the end.

Me, as an adult reader of this, saw things a bit differently than Dom does. Dom tells this as a "first love" story; I see a "first lust" story. Dom is an overachiever who, having completed what needed to be done re getting into college, realized the next thing on her "to do" checklist was to have a boyfriend and have sex and so went after both. She's not as deliberate and knowing as I make it sound; but on a subconscious level, that is what she is doing. And the author lets the reader reach their own conclusions about whether this is a story of lust or love or a little of both.

Dom believes herself in love with Wes, but the relationship as she describes it is more lust and curiosity; more what she wants Wes to be than what he is. The use of a doll on the cover is perfect, because Dom doesn't tell us enough about Wes for us to see him as more than Her Boyfriend, that is, a doll. Whether Dom ever sees Wes as more than the boyfriend is up to the reader to decide.

I'm not saying Dom isn't emotionally invested in her relationship with Wes; she is. I'm just saying she is emotionally invested in having a relationship, and Wes happened to be the person who was available. He came along at the right time; he fit the Johnny Bravo suit. I respect what Dom is going thru; her emotions and actions, her trying to figure things out as, perhaps for the first time, she lets her feelings go and acts more than thinks. But, at the same time... had Dom met Les instead of Wes, it would have been the same book. She was ready for love; and Wes was who she found. It could have been Les, or Jack, or anyone else.

Dom and Wes do very little talking; a lot of IMs and emails, but very little real talking. To the point that Dom applies to Wes's college choice, even tho it is not hers, even tho it will be mega expensive, without ever saying to Wes, hey, I'm going to apply to your school so we can go to college together! This scene of miscommunication and assumptions and half spoken truths is pitch perfect.

A book about a first real relationship that is full of gray, of miscommunications and connections, of smart kids who cannot honestly say what they mean but who can connect physically -- I hesitate to call this a romance, because it is too real to be a romance.

What else?

When Dom's grandmother dies, Wes -- doesn't call. Doesn't visit. Doesn't go to the funeral. He's been dating her almost a year, sleeping with her half that time, should be her best friend by this point -- but because it's family turmoil and he's about to break up with her, does nothing. Had Wes really been in love with her -- and now, fallen out of love -- he would have still called. But, he didn't. Which reveals more about the truth of their relationship than any other scene in the book. (What's even better is that Dom thinks he is in the midst of finals in NYC, when really, he's been back home for days. So he truly is hiding from her.)

What else?

Dom has a grandmother; one of the most awesome grandmothers in a teen book. Why? Because the grandmother isn't awesome. Grandparents, in teen books, have a lot to live up to, usually. When they appear, they tend to quirky, supportive, artistic, with hidden depths for the teen to discover; or, being an unexpected ally against the world. Bonus points for being active and upbeat.

Dom's grandmother? Is a carping, negative, bitter woman, and this never changes. And when the grandmother dies, while Dom feels badly for her mother for losing her mother, she things, "oh well, she's not been happy or nice since grandpa died." Dom's breakup with Wes, that takes place during the same time, results in much more emotional turmoil than the death.

Which? Is awesome. Because it's true! Oh, it may not be nice to say, but not all grandparents are loving, kind, quirky, supportive, etc. etc. Some? Are not so nice. It's actually refreshing that there is no scene where the two connect, and that when she dies there isn't even a hint of Dom thinking "oh if only...."

About a third of this book takes place during college. Maybe it's because it was so hard to find books set in college when I was in high school and college, but every time I read a legit college setting I go "squeee! yay!!!". Money and scholarships figure in, with Dom's parents scrimping (not buying a house, driving an old car) to be able to afford college (and even then, she needs scholarships.) College isn't perfect, but is realistically told. In truth, I wanted more of the college scenes! Roommate issues, mean professors, hard classes, the first OMYGOD a C for a A plus student. Also, Dom gains the freshman fifteen, and this is also handled very matter of factly, with Dom not realizing it until some clothes don't fit as well.

So, who are your readers? Teens who are thinking about sex and love and boyfriends and college; looking for stories that are about them, or who they will be in a year or two. Looking for something real, without being overly dramatic. As for "the sex" which concerns some (especially Dartmouth students, see below) if a teen reads books where sex is all easy bliss, with no complications and happy ever after, then what's the big deal with reading a book where sex is shown in a more realistic light? Or if a teen is reading adult romance, why not teen romance? I don't believe teens read something and then want to act on it; they read because they have questions and are curious. And books can be a safe way to explore, to get answers. This is one of those books that give answers.

Links:
Bookburger review and author interview
Bookshelves of Doom review
Cynsations author interview
Into the Wardrobe review

Dartmouth Review review
OK. I don't usually comment on links. And when, as with this book, there are a ton of links, I only include a handful. But I include this, from the Dartmouth Review, because it falls under the heading of "too smart for one's own good." Oh, Ivy League student, you may have parents who are richer than me, and may end up making more money than me, but I'll always be able to look at this and know you have no clue, with a side helping of pretension and a dessert of inability to research. Like the book, don't like the book. But criticizing Dom's putting Wes at the center of the world? Not really valid in terms of a book review.

Review the book you have; not the book you wish it would be. Does Dom or Wes act out of character? Criticize that. But a smart girl falling so hard for a guy and being in love and lust that her world now revolves around that guy? It happens. And the author relates that happening in a realistic manner. That you don't like it when girls do that is not the book's fault.

And Holy Hannah, why oh why do you think this is an elementary school book? Pre teen readers? Hardly! Who told you that? You cite Bobbsey Twins as a YA book to be read instead of this? Your ignorance of YA literature is neither cute nor a sign of intellect. It does nothing but show how you've fallen for the urban legend that all YA books are actually for ten year olds. And, accordingly, makes you look as foolish as the person who thinks someone in Nigeria is giving them a million dollars. It's a review that tells more about how smart the reviewer thinks she (or he) is, than the book itself.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Buffy Quote of the Week

Buffy: I'm just worried this whole session is going to turn into a training montage from an eighties movie.
Giles: Well, if we hear any inspirational power chords, we'll just lie down until they go away.
Ep: Once More, With Feeling

Monday, September 01, 2008

Um, Wow.

No, really.

Big A little a posted a BACA alert about an upcoming children's book by Jools Oliver, wife of Jamie Oliver.

But first, the article is ... just... wow. It's this flowery over the top article with photos of Jools walking in fields and is full of quotes that are, well, seriously? If you're tired of Twilight wank, read this. It is equally amusing, from the writer needing to explain that her name is actually a nickname to describing the toys in her home. Also? Her husband doesn't like it when she dresses "tartily" and she has very clear opinions on the future sex lives of her children, now five and six. Both comments, of course, fit perfectly in an article about a book for young children.

Now, on to the book! (oh, and it may be tough, but read the entire article, because at the end? book excerpt.)

The most disturbing bit comes not from Jools, but from the author of the article saying that "Detractors might regard Jools's book (and her lifestyle, perhaps) as too privileged, too middle-class and too, well, English for modern, politically correct, multicultural Britain, but the 33-year-old wife of celebrity chef and national treasure Jamie Oliver is adamant that Dotty and Bluebell (loosely based on her own girls) reflect reality for a great many children today".

I'm pretty much reading this as meaning that books that acknowledge that not every child in England is white, rich, and Christian have basically ruined children's books. That somehow the working class families, or the families that are immigrants or second, third, or more generation of immigrants, or families who don't send their kids to boarding school, or fill in the blank for the kiddies who are not being raised as the Famous Five were, are not "normal." Let me be clear: Jools is not quoted as saying this. But I'm disturbed that the author of the article says it, and that the people in the comments jump on it. (Let's not even get into the implication that Jools's lifestyle is middle class.)

It also amuses me as much as it disturbs me, because, as John Dougherty recently pointed out, the Famous Five came from a dysfunctional family, where the children rarely saw their parents and got shipped out to an uncle they had never met without a by your leave.

Back to Jools. Jools take is really nothing new: her quotes are all "oh noes there are no good books like Enid Blyton for my five and six year old to read so I had to write them myself." Jools mentions how books with bad grammar and books lacking plots about "normal" girls like hers have forced her to write her own books.

Just once, I want a celebrity author to say, "you know, as I was reading with my kids, I fell in love with children's books, and rediscovered just how awesome children's books are" or something like that, rather than "the books suck, so I was forced to write."

Sigh. It would be just too easy to start the booklist to give to Jools to show her all the great books that are out there. Because I do get what she means: she wants a book with a kid friendly adventure.

There is nothing wrong with what she wants to read to her kids. What is wrong is that it becomes "what I read as a kid was the best! what is out now sucks!" which is basically the mantra of so many people who complain about books.. Which is a whole other post - the viewing of the past in a rosey light, while viewing the present in a bleak light. There appears to be an outright refusal to see the value in The Penderwicks, the Casson family, Clementine, etc.

Optimistically speaking, I'd like to believe that Jools just doesn't know about the other books out there. Which is why I've decided to start a consulting service:

Librarian to Celebrities.
Having trouble finding good books for your kids?
Wondering if you will have to be driven to write a book?
Never fear!
Call me!
In no time at all, you'll have a huge pile of books that your son or daughter will love!

Note to self: Post on Craig's List. Charge $500 an hour.

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