Thursday, December 30, 2004

Did you ever wonder why the meetings you want to attend at a conference are all at the same time? I just finished putting together my Itinerary Planner for ALA Midwinter in Boston and just about every meeting I picked has a time conflict with another one I want to attend. I like to attend at least 2 BBYA sessions, the one with the teens for sure, and as many of the other YA selection committees as I can. And, as many ALSC ones as I can get in. This is the first time in years I haven't been on a committee that meets multiple times during ALA conferences so I can wallow in being an audience member for a change. And spend time on the exhibits floor. That's the fun part.

I like to visit the less mainstream publishers, like Llewellyn. I finished White is for Magic by Laurie Faria Stolarz this morning. I missed Stacey Brown's first set of escapes into magic in Blue is for Nightmares, but there are plenty of references to the murder of her childhood playmate Maura in White is for Magic to entice me to read the first installment as well. The third Stacey Brown book, Silver is for Secrets, should be out next month. Stacey has a new love interest, Jacob, and I am sure more magic will occur at their private boarding school, "haunted" by the murder of a student in one of the classrooms. Maybe I will be able to snag a copy of it at the Llewellyn booth at ALA. Stolarz's Stacey Brown books should have a strong following with teenage girls. This is the kind of book I would have loved as a teenager and still enjoy as an adult.

I am having NyQuil and cough medicine withdrawal so that's the extent of my less than lucid thoughts for today!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Good afternoon from very breezy and cool St. Thomas. Lots of sail boats out today due to the sunny and breezy weather. It isn't great beach weather but I am sure the tourists from snow country are not complaining about our 80 degree weather.

A while back Maureen White and I did a couple of articles together on International Children's Literature. Maureen is really the authority in this area, but working with her on the two articles certainly piqued my interest in doing a similar study with YA literature. I suspect the availability of translated international literature for teens in the U.S. is even less than the limited number of titles for children. Doing more research in this area came to mind because I just finished reading Daniel Half Human and the Good Nazi by David Chotjewitz. No wonder this book received acclaim in Germany. Doris Orgel did a wonderful job of translating it. Sometimes translations can be quite choppy, but this one isn't. I am sure that is in part due to the quality of Chotjewitz' writing to begin with.

We often read about how horrible the Nazi were, but we rarely read about a young adult who wants to join Hitler's Youth and is not allowed to do so by his father. Initially Daniel has no idea why his father will not let him join, his best friend Armin's father has let him join. But, the truth about his mother comes out and Daniel's realization that no matter how much he feels German, the Nazis don't consider him German, they consider him half human because his mother is Jewish. At first he is angry with his mother for being a Jew, but his loyalty to the German Reich slow disintegrates as he watches his Aryan father lose everything rather than divorcing his mother. The novel alternates between Daniel as a young adult before the war and Daniel, as a translator for the U.S. Army after the war. It will take me awhile to settle this one in my mind. In some ways I found it more difficult to read then the horrific tales of the concentration camps. Such a loss of innocence.

That's it for today.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Cough medication and lucid thought do not go hand in hand! Yesterday was a weird day - about the time the fog cleared up in my head I started coughing again. I think I will just stay with the coughing today so I can get some work done.

I have been working on the discussion board questions for my classes and responding to a couple of YALSA-BK emails. The students discuss the educational value and use of historical fiction and other materials that have non-PC terminology in them. Someone on YALSA-BK mentioned The Land by Mildred Taylor as being a book that was pretty tame and shouldn't cause controversy. However, while doing a librarian in-service I had a librarian get upset with me - told me I was unprofessional and offended her - after I voiced the term white nigger while doing a booktalk for Mildred Taylor's The Land. This is a wonderful book, the prequel to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. But, it is about a bi-racial man - the son of a plantation owner and a slave, and he is referred as a white nigger by some of the slaves. There are lots of racial slurs and other terms that are not appropriate for regular conversation, but I was trying to make the point that this is a book that should be read before being used with students, as should any book. No one wants to get blindsided by a controversial passage you weren't expecting. An individual's leisure reading and books being used in a classroom are two different things.

My parting thought/question for the day: What I find interesting is that this term is often written as n***** and everyone knows what it means. Or they say "the N word" rather than voicing it. My question is - does refusing to say nigger or write it give it more power?

Monday, December 27, 2004

I can't breathe through my nose! I have not had a flu/cold like this since I lived up North. One visit to the Midwest in almost 10 years and I come home sick. Oh well, just one more reminder of why when I moved to Texas in the early 90s I decided that I never wanted to go back up North to live.

There was a pretty ratty looking sailboat docked at the wharf in Charlotte Amalie and it made me think of Jack Gantos' autobiography Hole in My Life. That and the smell of pot floating through the window the other day. There is still a lot of hashish and other drugs on this island and a fair amount of smuggling going on. Steve was talking to a couple of Coast Guard officers the other day who were waiting for a drug runner to reach the right latitude so they could pick him up. I can imagine how easy it must have seemed to a 17 year-old kid to sail to NY from the VI with a cargo of drugs and make big money doing it.

Gantos is one of those authors who writes for all ages, which can make it difficult for book selectors. Woe is me to the librarian or parent who purchases Hole in My Life for their middle schooler who loved the Joey Pigza books. Gantos' autobiography about his time in prison is not a pretty read, but it is one that teens who think they are invincible should read. Gantos didn't think he was going to get caught until he did. Reminds me a bit of Walter Dean Myers' Monster with a highly intelligent young adult who gets involved in something he shouldn't have because he just didn't think. Thank goodness Gantos got it together and became the writer he knew he could be or we wouldn't have delightful Rotten Ralph to read to our young kids or his great middle school age titles. But, Hole in My Life stands as my favorite Gantos book.

The cough medicine is kicking in and I am getting sleepy so I think I will go curl up with a book and read for a bit.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas Day. Steve and I had a relaxing lazy day of watching music DVDs we had given each other. I gave him Simon & Garfunkle and he gave me Paul McCartney. We saw McCartney's concert last year in Houston and it was fantastic - the best concert I have ever seen. We tried to watch the KC Chiefs football game but our cable station had the screen locked on a picture of Belle from Disney's Beauty and the Beast! And, anyone who knows me, knows I am NOT a big Disney fan! I wasn't too upset as I got to watch a Christmas movie! :-) But, we did get the last few minutes of the game and KC won, much to Steve's delight.

In the morning I wallowed in a NY Times newspaper. It was a wonderful Christmas present. It is $12.00 a piece down here so Steve bringing a copy home from one of the private planes that came in was a delight. I hope he finds another one today. The daily online NYT version just isn't the same as sitting with the paper and a cup of tea - mango green tea is my favorite at the moment.

But, I did look at the top books for 2004 included in today's online version and was glad to see that Stroud's The Golem's Eye is on the list of the top ten children's books. I am listening to The Amulet of Samarkand and have The Golem's Eye downloaded, ready to burn onto CD. Bartimaeus's sarcastic sense of humor is a delight - even Steve is enjoying this one. The narration is excellent and the use of different voices for the characters makes it even better. Steve didn't like the narrator's voice for Secret Life of Bees, but I found the young female voice a hoot, especially when she would say "shit bucket". I find it interesting how much the narrator's voice influences whether or not a listener likes the book. A badly narrated book can kill the experience for the listener whereas they may have loved the book if they had read it instead of listening to it. For example, I have not been able to finish listening to Cold Mountain. Charles Frazier, the author, narrates it and I find my mind wandering as his voice just doesn't hold my attention.

That's it for me today - need to write thank you letters and a few late Christmas cards before I start working on the Spring 2005 YA Literature course materials.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas Eve to everyone. A beautiful day in the islands. Lots of people out and about today. I was surprised at how quiet the airport was last night when I picked Steve up since there isn't a hotel room available on the island between now and New Years. I guess the tourists want to get as much out of their first day on island as they can and come in on the earlier planes. The airport was nutso when I came in mid afternoon on Wednesday with tourists galore.

I hadn't done it intentionally, but I seem to be in "witch mode" in my reading. One of the other books I read while in flight between the Mainland and St. Thomas is Lauren Myacle's new one - Rhymes with Witches. She talked about it at an Abram's luncheon at ALA Annual in Orlando and I was anxious to read it so when the ARC came in I knew what my plane reading was going to be. And, I wasn't disappointed. Sarcastic, witty, and right on target.

Every high school I have ever been associated with has had that clique of girls that everyone wants to be like - the Bitches. Did you ever wonder how they got to be the center of attention? What is so special about them? Jane wonders the same thing and while her best friend Alicia wants desperately to be a cheerleader, Jane dreams of popularity. What she doesn't know is that popularity is offered to the least popular girl in the 9th grade, but to keep it she has to steal a little popularity away from another student every week to keep it. Would Jane have jumped at the possibility of becoming a Bitch and gone through the initiation rites if she knew? Or was she so enamored by popularity that she ignored the obvious - it comes at a cost? After taking the easy way out and stealing a lip balm from already unpopular Alicia, she learned to choose wisely who she steals from - some of the girls can afford to lose a little popularity, some of them can't, like Alicia. Each item, a barrette, a lip balm, or a necklace that the Bitches steal from their classmates becomes a sacrificial offering so they can retain their artificial popularity.

Things go awry when Jane balks at stealing from her classmates and at Bitsy's vicious attacks on Camille, the girl in a neighboring house who saw Bitsy, one of the other Bitches, beg her father not to leave them. Jane tries to protect Camille, but it back fires. How far will you go to be popular? Myracle takes it right to the edge. Rhymes with Witches will be very popular with the girls who love the Gossip Girls series and the movie Mean Girls.

That's it for today.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

It is so good to be back home! The idea of a palm tree green Christmas is delightful after a week in cold country. But, it is a cool rainy overcast day here in St. Thomas. I feel sorry for all the tourists who came in yesterday. Not a good beach day today.

I arrived in Wisconsin last Weds. night to very cold and windy weather. Of course I had to go shopping as soon as possible. I wallowed in the big Barnes and Noble in Green Bay! The warm crowded stores were nice after the long walk in the cold and wind from the distant spaces we found in the full parking lots. Mary wasn't too keen on going to the Mall the weekend before Christmas but I had a good time. Loved all the Christmas decorations.

Woke up to a light snow coming down on Friday at my daughter's in De Pere (outside of Green Bay). A dusting of snow was all we got until I got back from my short overnight jaunt to Detroit, where it was -13 degrees with the wind chill factor. BRRR!! It wasn't snowing much in Detroit, but what was coming down was whirling around in the wind making it seem much worse. Downtown Detroit has certainly changed since the last time I saw it over 10 years ago. Lots of renovations and new buildings. Gorgeous Christmas lights everywhere. There is even a skating rink.

As my plane landed in Green Bay Monday night I felt like we were landing in the North Pole with all the snow. I got the white Christmas I was asking for and then some - about a foot of snow came down before I left De Pere Tuesday afternoon. Milwaukee didn't get the snow but it was so cold that we sat on the runway Weds. a.m. as they thawed out the steering!

So stepping off the plane yesterday to a humid 87 degrees, I had a smile on my face and breathed in as much of the moist air as I could to help my dried out sinuses. I was so glad to be home I didn't even get upset when I realized my luggage hadn't made it. I wasn't surprised as I had to run from Concourse E to B in Charlotte and was the last one on the plane. I'll get my suitcases up this evening when I pick Steve up. He's been visiting family in Kansas City.

I did do some reading while I was on the plane. I read Witch Season: Fall by Jeff Mariotte. It is the second in a series and that was very evident. References were made to the previous title, Summer, so many times that I felt like I needed to have read it to really grasp the seriousness of Daniel's death. Fall is about Kerry's desire for revenge against the witch that killed Daniel. She learns her craft from Daniel's mother, a witch who lives in a spell created home in the swamp. The five characters are all in their first year out of high school and still feeling the affects of seeing Daniel's murder the previous summer. Fall ends with Kerry not knowing who the good witch really is. Now I need to read the third one, Winter. This was a good airplane book - fun reading but didn't require a lot of concentration on my part. The covers on this series are very appealing with young women's faces. They all have a head wreath of flora from the season. These are part of the Simon Pulse line and I am sure they will be popular with the teens who watch Charmed and are intrigued by witchcraft. I think most teenage girls are at some point. I remember my brother bringing home witchraft books from his college library for me when I was about 12 or 13. I don't remember anything about what I read, just that I was fascinated by witches at the time.

Also did a lot of lap reading with my 15 month old grandson but I doubt you want to hear about the number of times I read the same truck book over and over again! :-)

All for today - need to get some Christmas wrapping done before Steve gets home.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Good morning! Sorry I didn't "blog" yesterday. Was too busy working on a presentation I am giving in the Midwest tomorrow. It highlights the four semesters of data my students at UHCL have gathered from teens about their responses to booktalking. Pretty interesting that over 90% of the teens indicated they enjoyed hearing booktalks but only 37 % of them had ever heard one before. Favorite style of booktalk was the first person. The discussion style, which is the style most often done by booktalkers, was the least favorite.

I am off to the airport here shortly. Talked to my daughter last night and it is in the teens and windy. Oh fun! I haven't seen snow since the mid 90s - this should be interesting. I am in the Holiday spirit though with Christmas music playing and my video fireplace flickering away. :-) Can't wait to see Christmas lights.

It will be a few days before I post anything again. Hopefully I will get some reading done while I am gone.

Monday, December 13, 2004

What a gorgeous morning it is down here in the islands. Only two more of these to go before I fly up to the Midwest. I am curious to see how my body will react to the cold after all this time. I haven't been in below 30s temperatures in years. Houston gets fairly cold at night, but rarely below freezing.

It seems I am on a bit of a fantasy kick. I was looking at the books I have read lately and most of them are fantasy. It wasn't intentional - I was picking the ones that looked intriguing and authors I knew, as well as those that had been sent to me to review.

When I saw the ARC for The Wizard Test by Hilari Bell I couldn't help but pick it up. The cover has a great illustration of an intricately carved wooden door with a large circular knocker in the middle. Imagine being a fourteen year old boy who has promised his mother on her death bed that he would have nothing to do with the wizards or magic because of the shame his grandmother had brought to their family. It is time for him to endure the wizard test to determine if he has powers, which, of course, he does. Sent to live with the wizards as a spy for the Lordowner Dayven discovers the joy his healing powers give him out weighs the shame he feels for betraying his promise. Dayven's internal torment and questioning is exacerbated by time spent in a city of the enemy, the Cenzar, and his budding friendship with one of them. Add the very eccentric Reddick, his mentor wizard, to the mix and it is a great read.

I haven't read a Hilari Bell book I didn't like. The alien creatures in a Matter of Profit certainly made one pause in thought as to their methods of "conquering" the inhabitants of a planet. Talk about passive aggressive. :-) The concept of a young man who does not want to be warrior certainly is appropriate in this time of war.

I am looking forward to reading the second book in the The Book of Sorahb after reading Flame. Soraya's growth as a person is artfully done from the moment the reader meets her as she flings expensive vases, plates, and anything else she can get her hands on at her father's peasant son Jian, to her time with the Suud desert tribe, and her final acceptance that her father is no longer there to take care of her. Jian is the obvious warrior in this tale with a fever for revenge and battle.

But, my favorite of Bell's is The Goblin Wood. There are delightfully humorous parts when Makenna initially flees into the woods and the goblins keep stealing her stuff. But, it is the story of a group of beings, the goblins, being exterminated along with any other magical creatures that keeps you reading. The Goblins are being pushed out of their Wood because the humans want it now that they are being forced out of the area they have lived in for years. Survival of the fittest with a magical twist.

Okay, that's it for me today.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Good Sunday morning. Just found the top of my desk to the rhythm of Transiberian Orchestra. I love their music, especially their Christmas CD. My daughter saw them live in Green Bay and said they were fantastic. Their music is so varied in nature she had an elderly man next to her and a teenager in front of her. A cross of Pink Floyd and the Pops is how she referred to it. They perform in Green Bay every year and donate part of the proceeds to a local charity as well as invite several local musicians to play with their orchestra. Thought that was pretty cool.

I have the apt. shaking with music this a.m. but yesterday afternoon we were shook by a 5.2 earthquake. Steve and I were sitting in the living room watching a movie when we heard and felt a rumbling. At first I thought it was a big truck coming up our "goat trail" but Steve lived in LA for years and he knew what it was right away. Lasted a good 20 seconds or more and gave us all a good shake. Not as bad as a couple of them I experienced in Alaska, but enough to make us take notice. It was centered just off of Tortolla in the British Virgin Islands and we are two islands away.

We went for a walk on Sapphire Beach yesterday. It is a gorgeous bay with a large condo complex, but fairly quiet right now. That won't be the case in a week or so. The big catamaran that had run aground on the reef some time ago broke lose and now it is up on the shore after our last storm. I am glad it is down the beach from where the condo tourists hang out as there are parts washed up on the shore as well. Gotta watch where you are walking down there. Gave me the creeps to peek into the port hole - kept thinking something was going to pop up from the murky water in the hull. Sure didn't look much like the interior of the cats we have sailed on. They are more stable than a regular sailboat, which is good for me since I get motion sickness easily.

During one of our sailing trips I was re-reading the Printz books for a presentation I was doing and before I knew it one of the other women had my copy of Skellig by Almond. She curled up with it and didn't give it back until she finished it. She was surprised that a "kid's book could be so well written" as she put it. I had to smile about that comment - I hear it often from my students! Skellig is my favorite of Almond's books. I love the mystical angel like quality to Skellig and his connection to the baby.

The Eathsea series starts tomorrow night. I read that it was filmed in Vancouver. Not surprising due to the islands in that area. Looking forward to watching it. Also heard on the news that the Great Lakes area is getting snow right before I arrive there. So between thinking about fantasy and the cold and snow, my mind went to Kate Constable's The Singer of All Songs. I was intrigued by this book and Calwyn, the novice ice priestess. Living in a world surrounded by a towering wall of ice is a bit reminiscent of living in an isolated Finnish enclave in Upper Michigan as a child where the snowbanks were taller than me. During bad storms it could a couple of days before the plows came through. In this novel the chanters are hated for a power they are born with and cannot deny - like being born of a race or ethnic background you cannot change, no matter how much you would like to so you could blend in with others when you left the security of home. If only our uniqueness could be viewed as a gift rather than a curse. Calywn escaping Antaris with Darrow, a man she barely knows, is so like a young woman leaving the security of her neighborhood where everyone knows and looks after her, even when she would prefer they didn't. Calwyn is off to help save the world and at the same time she just might find herself.

Okay, that's it for me for today - it was a rambling message for sure - all those connections we make in our heads. That's why I tell my students they each have their own conversation with a book based on their own life experiences and foundation knowledge. No two people read the same story.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

A beautiful breezy Saturday a.m. in the islands. The tourists swim in this weather, but it is a bit too cool for the locals, me included. In the doldrums of the summer we would go down and just stand in the water up to our necks to cool off. One day I had what would be an aquarium of colorful fish swimming around my legs, occasionally nibbling on me. It was so cool - the way I could see right down to my toes. Depending upon the direction of the wind, the water can be very cloudy with sand or very clear like it was that day.

We went downtown for dinner last night and I was surprised at how few Christmas lights there were up along the wharf. The Havensight Mall, which is where the cruise ships dock, have a multitude of lights up, but the little businesses in downtown Charlotte Amalie do not. I don't think Christmas is as big of a deal down here as it is on the Mainland. No Christmas music wafting in the breeze or any Santas ringing bells. We had the dates wrong for the Christmas Boat Parade - it is next Friday. I will miss it as I leave for Wisconsin next Weds.

Speaking of music - we have Aaron Neville's wonderful voice floating about our apartment. We saw him in an outdoor concert a couple of years ago and he was wonderful. He and his brothers played at an ALA function a few years back too, but that wasn't as much fun. Every time we go to New Orleans we talk about finding their club, but have yet to do so.

Just finished Alice Mead's Swimming to America. There seems to be a proliferation of immigrant stories from countries other than Mexico being published as of late. Linda knows she is not American, she's Albanian, but her mother will not talk about how they got to the U.S. or how she got the scar on her face. A family tree project for her 8th grade English class causes Linda to push the subject until her mother tells her about their terrible trip to freedom via Greece and Mexico. Linda's best friend is Ramon, a Cuban immigrant whose older brother is involved in dealing drugs. No one wants to get the police involved so it gets a bit out of control there for a bit. A solid addition to a MS collection, but I am not a big Alice Mead fan. Her books have a dydacticism to them that gets in the way of plot and character development. I felt the same way about Year of No Rain, set in the Sudan. An interesting book, with lots of information imparted, but the depth of character development is just not there. Nevertheless, these are books that should be in a library, because there is so little written about either region.

I have the ARC of rhymes with witches by Lauren Myracle in front of me. Can't wait to dive into it. I do enjoy her books very much. :-) Myracle is also a cool lady - had the pleasure of sitting next to her at a luncheon. She has a great sense of humor.

Friday, December 10, 2004

I just lost one of my cat lives! I came into my little home office and my computer screen was black! I have been told not to turn my computer off by my IT geek husband, but it was OFF - something to do with the wireless network he is having no luck getting to work effectively in this apt. So I power it back up and it comes up just long enough for me to get online and down it goes again. So I try it again and all this beeping starts. Scares the pee-willies out of me until I realize it is just the power supply we have everything plugged into. We had a power outage yesterday and the back-up battery had not been reset. Okay, my heart rate is going back to normal. Isn't it strange how we have become so dependent upon our computers? For me it is the link to outside world. I rarely pick u a phone anymore - I email most everyone.

Tonight is the Christmas Boat Parade. Can't wait to see it - everything from little dinghies to big yachts get decked out in Christmas lights and sail along the wharf in Charlotte Amalie. Parking is a nightmare in town so we are going to go down early and browse around the tourist shops for a bit before it gets dark. Jingle bells, jingle bells, ....... :-)

I was reading on YALSA-BK about Gail Giles' Shattering Glass being removed from a New York school and the ACLU getting involved. It amazes me how adults can get so upset about the very same book being used with parent and student reading groups in another area. Actually, it saddens, not amazes me, as nothing in the world of censorship amazes me anymore. I have seen too much of it. Back in the early 90s it was Judy Blume's Forever that caused the stir in the WI school district I worked in. If the HS principal had foresight as to the number of copies of the book that would be bought and read because of his removing the book from the library I am sure he would have been less likely to have done so! By the time the case concluded, with the book being put on a restricted shelf requiring a signature, I suspect every teen in the NorthCentral Wisconsin area had read the book. And, they learned a great deal about how emotional and nasty a censorship case can get, pitting community members against each other.

Forever is still being devoured by teenage girls, but I would also like to see them reading Laura Zeises Contents Under Pressure. It is more contemporary in voice as it was written this year vs 1975 for Forever. We are looking at close to a 30 year gap in time between the publication of these two books. The readership for Forever seems to be the younger teen who is still discovering her sexuality. Lucy Doyle, in Contents Under Pressure, is doing just that. She's a freshman dating a junior with sexual experience, but Lucy is smart enough to know she isn't ready for a sexual relationship, though she sure likes necking! She knows darn well her body is responding to Tobin, and it feels good, but emotionally she isn't ready for the "real deal" and is able to talk with Tobin about boundaries. I'd like to think all teenage boys would be as understanding as he is, but many are not. Let's hope this book helps girls understand that if the guy they are dating doesn't accept the boundaries she sets, he isn't worth dating anyway. The other cool part of this book is that, like in Forever, Lucy has parents that involved in their kids' lives. No missing parents in these books. :-)

That's it for me today.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Usually I "blog" in the morning, but it is early afternoon today. I just finished eating a quick lunch on the balcony while watching all the safari cabs go by filled to capacity with tourists. Steve calls them cattle cars because the people are so jam packed in them. But, for a buck you can go around the island. Lots of the locals depend upon the safari cabs to get to work. These are trucks that have open air seats in the back with a roof over the top. People stand along side the road and flag them down. Steve has ridden in one, but I don't have the patience for it. They are the main reason the traffic is so bad downtown in Charlotte Amalie. They are parked everywhere waiting for the tourists from the cruise ships to need a ride.

Been preparing for the Spring 05 YA Lit class by re-reading the books that are required reading. I read Sonya Sones What My Mother Doesn't Know last night. I found myself laughing out loud at the angst of first love/lust! Her admission that she kisses her knee and thinks about her boyfriend caused a snort laugh. I had a friend in junior high that practiced giving herself hickeys on her arm! Even back then I thought that was gross. Sophie going shopping by herself and buying panties her mother wouldn't approve of brought back memories of sneaking my first pair of red bikinis past my mother! I didn't think about the fact that the first time she washed them they would be hung out on the line in the front yard with all the other undies! Everyone would know about them - quite an embarrassing for a young teen! It didn't help any that they were out there for the whole world to see when the bus pulled up to drop me off from school.

Not only is this book a delightful read, it is a tribute to the verse novel and then some. Sones did a fantastic job with this narrative format with her debut novel Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy. The novel in verse is a great format for teens who just aren't into reading a long novel. Hesse is another author who has this format down pat - my favorite of hers is Aleutian Sparrow. I lived in Alaska for 15 years so this novel about the horrible treatment the Aleuts received when they were removed from their islands during WWII really hit home. There are so few Aleuts left after this decimation of their already small population.

I just started re- reading Whale Talk . I have read this Crutcher novel at least twice before but like other Crutcher novels, I connect with something new every time I read them. The scene with T.J. trying to save the fawn was so painful. Hunting has always been a big part of my family's winter "sport". My son thought it was great to be out in the deer stand behind our property with his father until he actually shot his first deer and had to drag it home. That was the last time he ever picked up a gun or bow again.

All for now - need to get some work done on my booktalking research project.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Good morning from breezy drizzly St. Thomas. It is funny how differently I have begun to view the weather since I moved down here. It is probably in the high 70s outside and I am in sox, long pants and a warm shirt. Your body adjusts to hot and cold no matter what the range of temperature happens to be. I am headed up to Wisconsin next week and my daughter is teasing me about making sure I bring real shoes and not sandals. I have to find my winter coat and see if the moths have eaten holes in it, or if it has "molded". Everything down here is so damp. The paper sticks in the printer and half the page prints on one sheet and the other half on the second sheet stuck to it half way down.

And I am the one who grew up in Upper Michigan with snow banks taller than I am and lived for 15 years in Alaska. I swore I would never go back to cold country after I moved to Texas, but as I get older I miss the familiarity of seasons and the fun of having a 4 season wardrobe. Never thought I would say I am sick of wearing tank tops and shorts, but I am!

So to get myself in the snow country spirit I read William Durbin's The Darkest Evening. (A Junior Literary Guild Selection). It has a very foreboding cover on it. The lower diagonal of the page shows three figures on cross country skis and the top is deep red with a black ink drawing of a man's face with frightening eyes. It sure brought back memories of learning how to ski on the wooden skis my grandfather had made. This cover is very appropriate for this novel about a Finnish American family who bought into the Russian propaganda during the Depression about the utopian Finnish Russia. Thousands of poor Finns moved their families to northern Russia expecting the life of plenty and discovered that they were just an unwanted cog in Stalin's machinery. Many of the men were taken from their homes and executed. This is the tale of the Maki's move to Russia and how different it turned out to be from the promises made to them. Jake misses his friends back in Minnesota, but mostly he misses listening to baseball games on the radio. Sadly, only part of this family is able to cross country ski across the Finnish border to safety.

This novel highlights a part of American History that we don't often hear about - the emigration out of America that occurred during the Depression. Since Finland had only gained its independence from Russia in 1918, after the Finnish Civil War, there were still many Finns with close ties to Russia. I remember the talk when I was growing up about the Red Finns as both sets of my grandparents had immigrated to the U.S. as adults. Many of the Red Finns left Finland, most emigrated to Russia, but others came to the U.S. These were the Finns who then readily left the U.S. for Russia when the recruiters came in to the logging and mining towns and promised them jobs and land and a shining future. But by the 1930s Stalin had begun to purge the Communist Party and of the 6,000 or so Finnish Americans in Karelia, Russia 1000 of them were executed. Including the Finns who had moved across the boarder from Finland, over 25% of the Finnish population of Karelia was executed.

Oh my, but I did start out my day on a downer didn't I? Actually, this book was a wonderful reading experience as it brought back childhood memories of the Finglish that was spoken in my home. Heck, I didn't know the English word "slipper" until I was in fourth grade! My speech is still spattered with Finnish words - it is just part of who you are when you grow up in a bilingual household. Too bad my parents didn't encourage my brothers and I to speak Finn. I only know a few words, many of which have been Finglish-ized. My "daughter" in Finland has taught me more Finn than my parents did and her mother tongue is Swedish!

All for today.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Having not been a big super hero comic book reader as a kid I wasn't too sure how I would respond to The Green Lantern graphic novel I received to review for Library Media Connection. I did enjoy the story line, but I was more fascinated with the creator - Judd Winick. I had just revised the required reading list for the Young Adult Literature course I teach and decided to add his graphic biography of Pedro Zamora, an AIDS educator. Until I received The Green Lantern to review I had not made the connection between Winick's Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss, and What I Learned and the fact that Winick was also an award winning creator of super hero comics/graphic novels. I was looking for a title in graphic format that has high teen appeal and Winick's book was it. I almost went with an ElfQuest title because these fantasy graphic novels have been around since I was a high school librarian in Wasilla, Alaska in the late 1980s, but I wanted a contemporary title relevant to what teens are facing today. Pedro and Me was my choice. After reading it again last night, I am even more convinced that this was the perfect choice.

Winick and Zamora had been roommates on MTV's The Real World. I have never seen the show so I can't attest for how accurate this graphic bio is in relation to the show, but it certainly had my attention from the moment I picked it up. What a testament to both a wonderful human being and an incredible friendship.

Speaking of friendship. I finished reading Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo yesterday afternoon and I was stunned by the ending. I am not going to give it away, but the bond between these two teenage brothers who were forced to enlist in the British Army during WWI is incredible. After I finished it I just sat and waited for the lump in my throat to go away and the tears to dry up. Then I got angry about how pointless it all was when I read the Author's Note. There are many YA historical titles out there on WWII but few on WWI. This is the best I have read.

Monday, December 06, 2004

I have "horror hang-over" from six hours straight of Stephen King's The Storm of the Century last night. I went to sleep at midnight with those nasty demon teeth in my mind. I had seen parts of it when it was shown episodically, but decided since I was compiling research statistics I may as well do the marathon thing. I'm even grumpier now that I realize I missed The Librarian movie last night on TNT. Will have to read the reviews on ALA for that one. There is a survey you can fill out on the ALA website. Hope TNT shows it again soon.

Speaking of Stephen King, I have the pop-up version of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon right here in front of me. This is my favorite Stephen King novel and I have read lots of them, not all - he is too prolific for me - but lots. This one has more appeal to me because the fear is more internally induced than gory external stuff. There is some gore in here, but it is the idea of what it out there watching you that is scarier. I like creating my own "level of horror" and this book allowed me to do that much more readily than his others. Anyway, for a Stephen King fan, how could I not be intrigued by a pop-up book version of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Well, it is not a masterpiece by any means, but it is a gift idea for that teenage guy or gal who doesn't like to read, or any King aficionado. The pop-ups are not very well done, but the short, short story version of the novel isn't too bad.

What will they make a pop-up of next? My favorite up until now was the one about all the different types of underwear through the centuries and you got to be a voyeur - not sure what that teaches kids :-/ - by flipping back the clothes to see the undies.

I think all this horror stuff has me in a weird mood!

Sunday, December 05, 2004

I woke up this a.m. to the sound of a "fart mobile" - at least that is what my son-in-law called them when I complained about the small Honda type cars with basically no muffler that the young guys drive down here. Lucky me, one of them moved above us on the "goat trail' we live on. And I don't think the guy ever sleeps. I go to bed to the sounds of him racing by the back of our apt - the one miniscule strip of straightness on the road - and I wake up to it. The speed limit on St. Thomas is 45 and it is difficult to get above it with the hairpin curves, hills, and very narrow lanes and the often stand-still traffic, so they make up for it in the amount of noise they can make.

If I had a magic wand like Harry I would zap all of the cars on this island so that they are mute! I admit I have not read beyond the 3rd Harry Potter nor have I seen the latest movie. I am not a big Harry fan, but I do love what his popularity has done for Children's/YA publishing and for the fantasy genre.

HarperCollins has a new fantasy series coming out March 05 called Septimus Heap. I read the ARC for Book One, Magyk, and I really enjoyed it, all 564 pages of it. Hopefully the books won't increase in length as they go along as did Harry. HarperCollins is targeting the 3rd through 7th grade readership. Book One sets the stage, with the money poor, but rich in love, Heap family of wizards discovering that their adoptive daughter is a long lost princess and that the son they thought had died at birth is actually very much alive. He has been right there with them during their escape into the swamps from the wicked DomDaniel who has returned to regain his place as the Extra-Ordinary Wizard. The son they thought had died is the lonely and confused Boy 412 of the children's army who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and forced to flee with them. But, it is the best thing that ever happened to him. On a solitary walk through the swamps he falls down a "rabbit hole" and finds a magical ring, which changes his life forever. Add the wonderful swamp Boggart, whose breath can extinguish pixies, and myriad other magykal beings and you have a delightful cadre of to envision. That's one of the cool things about reading - the visuals I make up in my head based on the character descriptions are so much better than what appears in the movie versions of the books! :-) Book One ends with Boy 412's identity as Septimus Heap, the seventh son of the seventh son, revealed and his acceptance of an apprenticeship with the Extra-Ordinary Wizard, Marcia. Can't wait for Book Two!

Because I have the ARC for Magyk I don't know what is on the Magykal CD that comes with the book but I did go to and browse around a bit. There is a a basic author bio of Angie Sage and a bit of chapter one available. My sound isn't working right now so I can't attest to any sound effects. Looks like it is going to be a fun website to supplement the book.

All for now. I am going make some tea and sit out on the balcony for a bit and read.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

I began my morning by reading a bit of Private Peaceful by Murpurgo, with a WWI setting, and have been contemplating the discussion my YA Literature students recently had online about the use of historical fiction in the classroom. When I asked them what five historical fiction titles they would use with high school students very few of them included recently published titles. No wonder teens aren't crazy about historical fiction when they equate it to Moby Dick, Uncle Tom's Cabin, David Copperfield and other classics that were contemporary literature when they were written.

But, give students Paulsen's Soldier's Heart or Matas' The Burning Time and you will have readers hooked on a great story, with a historical setting. Although a good historical fiction title is based on a great deal of research into the time period in which it is set, it is also is a reflection of the time period in which it is written. Not that this is always good as the prejudices of a time period can seep into the story, but I do think the historical fiction written today has much more teen appeal than the classics that are required reading in our schools. Novels such as Private Peaceful and Soldier's Heart have teenage male protagonists that the teen reader can relate to. The fears of war and the pangs of unrequited love are universal, transcending time periods and cultures.

Those are my "heavy thoughts" for the day.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Good morning all. I sat out on the balcony with my eggs and toast and watched a guy use a combination of oar and wind power to get his little dingy into shore. I have never seen a sail on a rowboat before, but hey, if it works - go for it. The sailors down here know how to make the best out of what they got. Either that or they are just down right crazy from the number of times they have hit their head on the top of the door frame coming out of the galley. A couple of them have gotten into the holiday spirit and have lights on their mast and even a few lighted snowmen decorate decks.

My trip to KMart yesterday was a frustrating one. After standing in line to get to the pick up window at the pharmacy, I stood in a closer line as she s..l..0..w..l..y searched through the buckets of prepared prescription baggies for mine - three times! My husband shows ups, wondering where I got lost to and innocently asked my why couldn't she look it up in the computer, which was right in front of her by the way. I guess my reply of, "That would be too easy!" must have been a bit more terse than I realized. He headed off the other way. Then she had to ask me how to spell my name. Down here Clark typically has an e on it so then the search began again. No such luck - I was then told it was my responsibility to call my doctor back and find out why KMart can't find it! This is the way things are done in the Caribbean. My type A personality and this laid back island life can be like oil and water! I think I will ask Steve to go pick the prescription up without me!

Speaking of sailing and the Caribbean, one of my favorite reads recently is Susanna Vance's Deep. No, it isn't a horror type book like Benchly's from years ago. It is a kidnapping murder mystery with two very distinctly different female voices. Chapters alternate between spoiled 13 year old Birdie who is sure she is the next Sylvia Plath and seventeen-year-old Morgan, who has lived her entire life on a sailboat. Their paths cross when they are both abducted by the same psychopath who puts them in a cage and lowers it into a well on a private island in the Caribbean.

I initially picked it up to read because I saw Vance had written it. Also, it has a really cool cover with just a girl's face, eyes closed, peeking out of the water, as if she is floating. I loved Vance's debut novel Sights about a young teen who does not fit in at school and her geeky boyfriend who turns into a hunk and now the other girls want him. Female taunting and bullying with a mystical slant to it.

That's it for today. Started Michael Morpurgo's Private Peaceful last night. Not far enough into it yet to discuss it.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Good morning from sunny St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Seems somewhat strange to have my snowmen and Santas on display with this weather, but since one of my Santas is in an Aloha shirt and shorts I guess it is okay. :-) Up a bit late this a.m. since I wallowed in Christmas movies on Lifetime until midnight last night. Double Holiday whammy - I worked on cross stitch Christmas tree ornaments while I watched. I never get too much of this Season.

Still in the Christmas mode with my reading. Well, at least in the Holiday Season mode. Ilene Cooper's I Am Sam begins during the Holiday Season with the family's Hanukkah Bush (AKA Christmas Tree) getting knocked over by the dog. Family heirloom ornaments shattered, Mom decides that the family won't put up another tree. Dad decides they will light the menorah instead, but they forget to light the candles the second night. A family that has avoided the issue of a two religion household is now immersed in it and God isn't answering Sam's insistent pleas for help. An assigned unit at his middle school on the Holocaust opens Sam's eyes to who his father is and who he may become.

On the adult front I am just about finished with Mary Higgins Clark's He Sees You When You're Sleeping. Fun mystery reading for the Holiday Season. The main character reminds me a bit of Clarence from It's a Wonderful Life. I read another one of her Christmas mysteries last year too but I can't think of the name of it right now. I am not much of a mystery reader, but hers are good for a quick break from YA books.

Although it is a bit "old," I finally read Pete Hautman's Sweetblood. Lots of talk about it on the YALSA-BK listserv a while back in relation to Lucy's blatant refusal to accept her diabetes. Fascinating theory she has about early diabetics with their pasty skin, receding and bleeding gums, and intense thirst being the basis for the vampire legends. Lucy dresses in black, but don't tell her she is goth, she is too goth to be goth. Match this one up with Gail Gile's newest Playing in Traffic. Skye is one messed up goth chick who manipulates Colby into doing just about anything. Her lies and manipulation, joined with her emotional instability, escalate to an ending that you fear may occur, but certainly don't want to happen. Lots of talk about this one on YALSA-BK too in relation to whether or not Gail is playing head games with narrator reliability again, like she did in Dead Girls Don't Write Letters. Gail assured my YA Literature students the other evening during an online chat that the ending is indeed what it appears.

Okay, that's it for me this a.m. An exciting trip to KMart is planned for today. It is the only "department store" on the island and is always packed - people in the aisles, not items on the shelves. You know to buy two of anything you need because next time the spot on the shelf will be empty. Restocking shelves seems to be an unknown concept down here.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Okay - so it has been a bit over a year since I have done anything with this Blog. So sorry! I still talk about books all the time, but just haven't kept this up. I have begun my New Year's Resolution on my birthday instead. I will post to this Blog daily and be the Mad Chatter that I promised y'all I would be. Chatting about books will be my gift to myself daily.

How many of you have seen The Kranks? The critics hate it (which means I will probably love it), but you can't help but love the book it is based on - John Grisham's Skipping Christmas. I picked it up last night and didn't put it down until I finished it, after a few snort laughs that I am surprised did not wake my snoring husband. This Holiday-aholic could not imagine ever trying to skip Christmas, but Luther and Nora sure tried. Well, at least Luther was into it. Only Luther Krank would ask his neighbor if he could "borrow" his Christmas tree for two days! The description of the tree's journey, via wagon (little red one) no less, across the street is a hoot. And to think I had this book sitting on my shelf since last year and shipped it across the ocean to be picked up here in the Islands for bedtime reading. It almost, get that almost, made me miss snow! :-)

Okay, the focus of this Blog is YA Literature since that's what I live, eat, breathe, and teach, so I gotta talk about a YA book! I just finished the ARC (advanced reading copy) for Alex Flinn's new one called Fade to Black. Oh my - she has hit the nail on the head again. Granted, I did not love it as much as Breathing Underwater, but there are few books I can say I like as well as, let alone better than, this almost too close look into an abusive teen's personality. But Flinn hasn't let her readership down with Fade to Black. I was hooked from the moment I opened it.

Imagine it is 6 a.m. and you are driving to the donut shop for your favorite (chocolate for me, please) morning rush of sugar and caffeine when someone steps out of the bushes and starts to bash in your windshielf with a baseball bat. Glass is flying everywhere, slicing into your skin, as you try to try to hide near the floor boards. You step on the gas and hope like heck no one is on the road as you floor it. Well, that's what happens to Alex Crusan in Flinn's newest look into the teenage male psyche. Then image you are the hospital candy stipper who thinks Alex is cute (she saw him at school prior to the bandages that cover his face), but can't stop thinking about all that blood everywhere from his glass cuts. Not a pleasant thought about anyone, but especially about Alex since he is HIV positive. Put this incident in a small redneck Florida town and you got trouble and then some.

Okay all, that's it for today. Need to think of some mischief to get into on my birthday. :-)

Please excuse typos and misspellings this time. Mozilla won't let me open the spellchecker. :-(