Friday, December 30, 2005

Woke up to what sounds like ping pong balls dropping onto the floor above our bedroom ceiling. Been hearing this off and on since we moved here but have yet been able to figure it out. The owner is out of town and we still hear it. Reminds me of Captain Kangaroo, bunny, and moose and ping pong balls that would fall from the ceiling. Boy am I old!

No yachts out in the bay today. Jimmy Buffett was here on one of his boats a couple of weeks ago. A friend of Steve's who works at a marina told him, but we never saw Buffett or his boat/yacht. We stopped at Sop Choppies about the same time and the bartender said Kenny Chesney and Kid Rock had been in for drinks that past weekend. We old folks are long in bed before the celebrities hit the bars. Lots of celebrities visit the VI but I have yet to see one. Even John Travolta has come through with his private jet. Now he is a celebrity I wouldn't mind meeting. :-)

Was going through my book shelves and found a copy of Connie May Fowler's Before Women Had Wings, that I bought several years ago, but never got around to reading. Fowler is a gifted writer and her use of innocent 8-year-old Bird as the narrator of this tale of family suicide and abuse makes this novel so raw and painful that a couple of times I closed it and walked away for a bit before I went back to it. Bird tries so hard to be as perfect and quiet as she can, but as a bright young child that isn't always possible and she bears the physical and emotional scars from the lashings she receives from both the belts and tongues of her alcoholic parents. Bird begs the Jesus in the dime store picture her Catholic mother put on the wall to help her family but to no avail. After her father has her mother beaten up to "keep her at home" and then shoots himself, Bird and her older sister find themselves living in a travel trailer with their bitter and angry mother. Bird's savior comes in the form of Miss Zora, an eccentric black woman. My heart still hurts for Bird, even though my head knows she is a fictional character. However, her life is all too real for many children.

Before Women Had Wings is the perfect example of the adult novel with a child protagonist, that certainly is not meant for a child reader. The themes are adult and the language is strong. It reminds me a bit of This is Graceanne's Book by P.L. Whitney in which the narrator is young Charlie, who adores his 12 year old sister GraceAnne. She is the target of abuse by her alcoholic mother, but Graceanne is one strong willed girl and her love for life is stronger than the belt. Whitney's descriptive writing is so beautiful that the Mississippi river stands out as a character itself. I would recommend both of these books to older teens, but they are certainly not YA novels.

On a brighter note - I also read Michael Dooling's delightful picture book biography, Young Thomas Edison. After hard-of-hearing Edison was called addled by his teacher, his mother - once a teacher herself- homeschooled Edison, where he read widely and experimented in his home lab for hours. Always looking for money for his lab equipment, Edison began selling newspapers on a train - that is until he set fire to the baggage car, where he had a mobile lab set up. Biographies can often be quite boring to children, but this one is interesting and funny. Dooling visited the locations he writes about and this is clear in the detail and authenticity of the high quality illustrations. A top notch addition to any children's biography section.

Back to working on Spring course syllabi.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

What a gorgeous day out there. Two dive boats out by the rocks, a yacht, 2 catamarans, and a mono-hull sailboat passing by. There were several jet skiers earlier. Makes me nervous to see them in the same area as the ferries going to St. John and Tortola.

I should have never made the comment about wishing for another day with both of us home. Poor Steve - he ended up having a relapse of the flu and came home Tuesday early afternoon and spent most of the last two days sleeping or looking miserable on the couch. I haven't caught it yet, but he had the air so cold last night I now have an aching upper back from the cold air blowing on it. I feel like I have an invisible neck brace on to keep my head still or my back twinges. Whine! Whine! Whine!

But, I did finish Melissa De La Cruz's second Au Pairs title, Skinny-Dipping while I lay on the heating pad for a bit this a.m.. Talk about a vicarious look into the rich and bratty in the Hamptons during a summer of smoozing with the celebrities, drinking, and hooking up. The reader gets swept up into the club and rich family scene that Eliza, Mara, and Jacqui are involved in. Eliza decides to work in the hottest club in the Hamptons and discovers that babysitting the celebrities is a lot harder than babysitting the filthy rich Perry kids, which she had done the summer before with Mara and Jacqui. Eliza is replaced by Philippe, a lazy, but delicious to look at piece of French eye candy. After a summer of misunderstandings, reality checks, and a hurricane - Eliza, Mara, and Jacqui rekindle their shaky friendship with plans for a third summer in the Hamptons. I just hope the teens who read about the Au Pairs can see beyond the Versace dresses and BMWs to how shallow this life can be. Mara's 15-minutes of fame as the It-Girl and her painful tumble back to reality is the best part of the story. My heart also went out to little Madison Perry - 11 years old and already weighing a chicken breast and worrying about her weight. Guess she is trying to be like her big sisters, Sugar and Poppy.

The reception Mara got after she fell from fame is as cold as the Arctic setting for Cold Paws, Warm Heart by Madeleine Floyd. What a delightful winter storytime option, with a "cool" message. Floyd states the the book came about after she painted a picture of a polar bear being offered a cup of hot chocolate - a random act of kindness that is just right for a polar bear! After reading about the nasty things the rich brats do to each other I was happy to spend some time savoring this picture book about an unlikely friendship between a very lonely and cold polar bear and a little girl who was enchanted by the lonely bear's flute music and decides to follow it. The village stories say that no one lived across the ice except for Cold Paws, a polar bear so big and so cold that if you touched him you would turn to ice. But Hannah couldn't resist the music and found Cold Paws, with a gentle smile on his face, playing his flute. But then Cold Paws let out a terrible shiver. Hannah knew what it felt like to be terribly cold and stepped forward and offered the polar bear her scarf. It warmed his heart and body a little bit, but Cold Paws was still COLD!! Hannah had a better idea for warming him up - she returned to teach him jumping jacks. He was pretty clumsy at it but he tried and it did make Hannah laugh and Cold Paws smile, but he was still COLD!! Hannah's third attempt to warm up Cold Paws did the trick - a cup of hot chocolate and a hug. Friendship can be the warmest comforter in the Arctic. :-) Love this book!

That's it for now.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Sophie and I have the apartment back to ourselves - not so sure I am happy about that. I really enjoyed Steve and I being home together on a mini at home vacation. We watched movies and ate! Oh boy did we eat! We pigged out on turkey, ham, and pumpkin/pecan pie. OINK!! I won't even mention the all but the kitchen sink oatmeal cookies I made that didn't last 3 days. We convinced ourselves since there was oatmeal and sugar free applesauce in them they had to be calorie free!

Yesterday was our last day to be lazy so we hit Blockbuster again. I picked Must Love Dogs with Diane Lane and John Cusak (my favorite guy actor). What a fun chick flick. I think Steve even liked it. I fell in love with the Newfoundland called Mother Theresa. Now that is a dog to share a bed with when no guy is around! :-) Then we watched one of Steve's picks. Oh boy! He has this thing for picking really weird and/or pointless movies. The Fortunes fits both - weird and pointless. Let's add boring to it as well! But, when a movie is that bad you hang with it hoping it will have a redeeming scene or two. Well, it had one - the arrogant jerk of the three friends gets hit over the head with a bottle by a midget, for calling him Little Guy. A midget, by the way, who has been in prison four times. They didn't say if it was for attacking other jerks who called him Little Guy or not. It is called Fortunes because the three guys stop at a fortune tellers who tells the married guy that something dreadful is going to happen to his son and he freaks out by being over protective to the extreme. The other guys goes into depression and starts hanging out at topless bars. Anyway - don't bother watching it.

But, I did read a great beach book during the break - The Botox Diaries by Janice Kaplan and Lynn Schnumberger. Chic lit for the middle aged! :-) Two 41 year old best friends - one a high power producer and the other just a regular suburban mom. Midlife crisis hits the happily married producer and she has an affair with a shallow game show type host while level headed best friend is helping produce a child production of My Fair Lady. All around fun beach read for those of us who are past the midriff tops and mini skirt stage in our lives. :-)

Not exactly in the Holiday vein, I also read Todd Strasser's Can't Get There From Here. It is not a pretty happy read by any means of the word, but a must read for any teen who thinks living on the streets is easy or glamorous. Just ask Strasser's street wise but doomed teens who are living on the streets of New York City, dealing with frigid temperatures and dying from alcohol poisoning, strangulation and AIDS. Maybe is the main character - a girl who ran away from an abusive home. It is 12 year-old Tears who makes Maybe look for help. She accepts the help of a public librarian, who in reality should not have opened his office or his home to these girls without calling in the authorities, but I have to remind myself this is a novel. And, he is the one who makes sure Tears is safe with her grandparents and helps Maybe realize that the group home may not be such a bad place after all. Strasser has a way of going for the gut reaction and he does it again in Can't Get There From Here. Is right up there with his Give a Boy a Gun as to books for the reluctant teen reader.

Can't leave this entry on a downer. For a wonderful musical smile check out Niki Daly's Ruby Sings the Blues. I chuckled all the way through this book as I remember my brothers telling me I was too loud. It was the only way I could get attention in a house with three older brothers! Ruby is having problems with her volume control both in the neighborhood and at home. When the kids at school tell her to turn her volume off she does. Ruby has the blues. But, the jazz players miss her booming voice and invite to her to learn how to sing the blues and she is AWESOME!! A wonderful feel good book to give to any little girl who is quite boisterous. Just the thing for our granddaughter Allyson. :-)

By the way - ignore the times it says I post these. For some reason I can't change that anymore and it always wrong! I can assure you I don't post anything at 4 a.m. as one of them listed the time.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The day after Christmas and we are both sitting here with our laptops watching old TV shows. Matlock is on right now. We wallowed in food and movies yesterday. I made both a turkey breast and a ham. We had turkey sandwiches for lunch and ham and the fixings for dinner. We were so full we didn't even get into the pecan pies I made. The law clerk and her boyfriend decided not to come over after all so we will be eating ham and turkey sandwiches and casseroles for days!

We watched The Polar Express in the morning. Other than the somewhat creepy elves I really liked it. Steve gave me the DVD and little Polar Express train for my birthday. I was saving it for Christmas. Then we watched part of Carnivale, the creepy series set in the Depression, about a carnival group with powers beyond what one would expect of carnies. Took a drive downtown to Blockbuster to pick up a couple more movies. We were suprised by the amount of traffic. Thought we were the only crazies out and about. I picked the movie version of of John Grisham's Skipping Christmas. I read it last Christmas and wanted to go see Christmas with the Kranks, but we just didn't get around to it. So when I saw it at Blockbuster I had to see it. I laughed my way through it and loved all the neighborhood lights. Then we watched Kate Hudson in The Skeleton Key, a creepy hoo-doo (Louisiana version of voodoo) movie set outside of New Orleans. The ending gave me the willies.

My last Christmas book for the season - The Golden Ring by John Snyder. What a lovely novel based on the true story the author's grandmother told him about the ring she wore on her little finger. In coal country Pennsylvania in the early 1900s, lived young Anna and her 4 brothers and sisters. Her father worked on the railroad and was caught in a snowstorm on Christmas Eve. While waiting for the snow to stop he finds a golden ring and talks to the woman who is selling it. It is her dead daughter's ring and she must sell it to pay bills. Anna's father buys it and then tells the carollers outside about the woman's plight and they begin to collect money for her. Anna loves her replacement ring - she had given her's away to a family who were down on their luck. A very touching book about the spirit of giving.

I am not a big Seinfeld fan so I didn't have my hopes up as to liking it when I saw a book by Jason Alexander - who plays my least favorite character on that show. But, I like him better as a caring father who comes up with a believable answer to his son's questions about the reality of the tooth fairy in Dad, Are You the Tooth Fairy? The illustrations by Ron Spears are an absolute delight and require several viewings to catch all of the humor that resides in the action and fantasy character packed pages. This is a fun one, and I am glad to see a Dad explaining about fairies.

All for now. I am going make a turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich. Yum!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas Eve! I spent a relaxing morning reading in bed with Sophie purring in my lap. We are headed into town to check the mail one more time - Steve wasn't quite as timely in his online shopping as I was. We'll go to Tickles for lunch as he wants a piece of they key lime pie! I found a great pumpkin and pecan pie recipe I am going to make this afternoon.

Yesterday as I was headed into the kitchen for my second cup of tea the power went out. It was out for 4 hours. I sat outside and read Shelley Hrdlitschka's Sun Signs. As someone who checks out her astrological prediction on the Yahoo web site each day I jumped right in. A very easy read as it is written as emails amongst a group of online students and their teacher, as well as the main character, Kaleigh's "letters"/journal entries to her immortal Gemini twin. Kaleigh is taking Science online because she has cancer and has been going through treatments. She decides to do her science experiment on the validity of astrological daily charts. She enlists three of her fellow online students to read and evaluate their daily charts as to whether they are valid or not. What she does find is that not everyone is who they say they are online. A short and sweet book about a girl coping with her illness and discovering a bit about herself and the other teens she interacts with. A fun read to offer to the girls who love TTYL.

All for now - I hear Steve up and about. He is still suffering from the nasty head cold type flu that is going around.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Lots of activity in the neighborhood this a.m. You can tell it is the Holiday Season - kids outside playing and laughing. Jet skis zipping around the bay, sailboats with happy tourists laughing and singing as they go by. Oh how I love this time of year. My cousin Karen called last night and we talked about our Gramma and when we were kids. She mentioned our very Finnish Gramma's insistence on her lace doilies being just so on the arms of the chairs. Now I know why Steve has nicknamed me Nils (from the Fraizer TV show) - I am persnickety. I think I got it from Gramma!

I am listening to Reba McEntire's Christmas CD as I type. I have many of the country singers' Christmas CDs as they remind me of the Patsy Cline and Lynn Anderson albums my mom used to play when I was a kid. Reba may have written two autobiographical books, but she hasn't delved into the picture book and novel writing as some of the other country musicians have. Have always enjoyed Kenny Rogers' music so I thought his book can't be too bad as it is co- written with Donald Davenport, a screen and television writer. I was right - I really did enjoy Christmas in Canaan. Middle school age DJ needs an attitude adjustment when he can't handle Rodney, a very smart black kid, telling him the right answer on the Social Studies homework assignment he is trying to finish on the bus. They get into a fight at school and as punishment DJ's East Texas farmer Dad decides the two boys need to spend a couple of days in each other's homes. The 24 hour togetherness and DJ and Rodney nursing a shot puppy back to health seals the bonds of a lifelong friendship between the two boys, but that bond is severed for a time when Rodney's mother appears and takes him with her to California where he becomes a writer. He writes and produces plays about his and DJ's life in Canaan, Texas. Having spent time in East Texas I loved this book. For the kids who enjoyed Armstrong's Sounder, or any other boy and his dog books, offer them Christmas in Canaan.

Yesterday I wrote about a book in which the cat had become a guardian angel. Today I am sharing an old favorite from the 1970s, The Christmas Cat by Elfer Tudor Holmes, illustrated by her mother, Tasha Tudor. An abandoned cat is found by the woodsman who feeds the animals on Christmas Eve. He delivers the cat to the farm of young Nate and Jason, who are delighted to wake up and find their new Christmas pet curled up sleeping in a chair by the fireplace. Included is the Gingerbread Animal Cookie recipe for the cookies Jake and Nate had been decorating in the story.

A fun Christmas gift would be both The Christmas Cat and The Tasha Tudor Cookbook: Recipes and Reminiscences from Corgi Cottage for the mom who loves to cook and bake with her kids. I can close my eyes and see my kids with red and green stained fingers and mouths from "helping" me color the frosting for the sugar cookies. One year Mary was on a blue kick and we had more blue Christmas trees and reindeer than we did green or brown ones. :-) They tasted great anyway - the love is the needed ingredient in all Christmas cookies. And, for the rum ball - only Captain Morgan's spiced rum. :-)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Okay - so I should have kept my big mouth shut about the gorgeous Holiday Season weather we were having! Woke up to cloudy skies and now it is raining. Poor tourists! Happy cisterns!

I've always known I have weird dreams, but to wake up with tongue twisters going through my head! How weird is that? Let's hope the rest of this day is not as strange. Here's what was going through my head: Absentminded Amos ate an astounding amount of apples before admitting to an awful abdominal ache. Hmmm - wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that we went to dinner at Bonnie's by the Sea and I had chicken marinara and the garlic in the sauce was playing havoc with me later last night. Even eating Paul Newman's chocolate chip cookies while watching the b/w version of Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire (not the colorized version - not the real thing) didn't distract me from the "abdominal ache"! So I added to the weirdness by having applesauce with my bagel this a.m.!

The atmosphere at Bonnie's was so relaxing. It wasn't very busy so we sat right next to the beach and watched the kids playing in the hammocks set up in the palm trees. Some of the condos had Christmas lights up and so did the nearby Arthur's restaurant. We watched a family come in from their sailboat by dinghy to have dinner. Oh the island life!

While going through my Christmas books I came across my first edition of Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies, published in 1947 by Harcourt Brace. The dust jacket is in bad shape but I couldn't resist it for my Christmas book collection when I saw it in a used bookstore. Trying not to damage it any further, I curled up with it and enjoyed the print version of the story we all know and love as little Susan (Natalie Woods in the original b/w version of the movie) learns the truth about Kris Kringle and how important it is to believe in miracles. The novel was written based on the movie screenplay so there aren't any surprises, but I wasn't expecting any - just a visit with an old friend in a different format. The kids and I used to watch the original version every year and often the newer one with Sebastian Cabot as Kris Kringle. The kids liked it, but I love the old black and white "first editions". Harcourt published a facsimile edition of the 1947 edition in 2001 so it is available to share with your children. There is also an edition with illustrations by Tomie De Paola, but it just isn't the same.

Wish Allyson and MJ were sitting here with me while I just read Karma Wilson's Bear Stays Up - a delightful Christmas eve story about Bear and his friends decorating his cave for Christmas while he fights sleep, but when his friends fall asleep bear cooks and wraps presents while Santa sneaks in and fills the stockings. Bear wakes his friends on Christmas morning to open presents and feast and then they give him a bear sized quilt to bundle up in as he finishes his winter's nap. I fell in love with Bear and his friends in Bear Snores On, which was a bestseller and an ALA Notable book. Wilson also wrote Bear Wants More. These are wonder storytime books as they have such rhythm and rhyme and the illustrations are large enough for the kids to see.

On to working on syllabi for the Spring semester!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Another breezy and beautiful day in the islands. The sailors are having a great time with the breezes - there have been sailboats going to and from Buck Island all day. The day sails go out there snorkeling. I don't remember last December being this beautiful weather wise, but I am not complaining.

Still on my Christmas book reading kick - I grabbed the copy of Avi's The Christmas Rat that had been sitting on my shelf because the idea of a 11 year old boy dealing with a creepy exterminator intent on killing the rat that Eric found in the box of Christmas decorations in the basement of their apartment building didn't sound very cheerful. Well, it isn't! Granted, booktalking this one with boys will get them interested, but I was just creeped out by the militant white haired exterminator whose desire was to kill. He had a bow that shot bolts! Eric does save the Christmas Rat, but who the exterminator turns out to be was just too much for me. Couldn't bend my sense of disbelief around this one, but I do know middle school boys who will delight in this book, just not me. Had to turn on the joyful Christmas music full blast to get the rat poison taste out of my mouth from this one!

On the other hand I snort laughed my way through Roald Dahl's delightful The Vicar of Nibbleswicke, which he wrote for the Dyslexia Institute. Poor young Reverend Lee! He had conquered his unique version of dyslexia until he takes on his first church assignment. His nervousness gets the best of his tongue and he keeps getting words quite backwards. His congregation just thought him a bit eccentric and enjoyed the changes that occurred to words during his doG-fearing sermons. But I don't think the maiden lady Miss Prewt appreciated being called Miss Twerp when he visited her. She slammed the door in his face when he asserted, "I am Eel, Ms. Twerp! I am the new rotsap, the new ravic of Nibbleswicke! Dog help me!" This is only page 23 and I have already woken Steve twice with my snort laughs (problem with reading late at night)! But I had to leave the bedroom when I began to read about the parking problem in front of the church. "It is not only unsightly but it is also dangerous. If you all krap at the same time all along the side of the road you could be hit by a passing car at any time. There is plenty of room for you to do this alongside the church on the south side if you feel you must." Reverend Lee's congregation may have been dumbfounded into silence by their pastor's remarks but this reader was laughing so hard she had tears rolling down here face. I just hope I never come down with a bout of Back-to-Front Dyslexia while I am in front of a class lecturing or presenting at a conference! ;-) This book is 40 pages of Dahl's wit and Quentin Blake's hilarious illustrations.

And on that potty humor note I will conclude!

Monday, December 19, 2005

What a terrible blogger I have been of late. Too much going on at the end of the semester and online Christmas shopping, etc. Here it is the Monday before Christmas and I think I have caught up. I got both snail mail and e-card Christmas greetings sent out and only have a few more packages for Steve to wrap.

Been reading Christmas books, of course. While barcoding and entering MARC records into Destiny at Montessori last week I came across the 1952 edition of Frances Frost's novel version of Gian-Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors. What a lovely look at the Three Kings on their way to greet the Christ Child. They stop for a rest at Amahl's home and the shepherds joined them to entertain the Kings. Amahl's crippled leg is healed and he joins the Kings as they journey on, following the star. One has to love this characterization of Kasper - almost deaf and a bit childlike. Brings a smile to the reader's face, if not a chuckle. Would make a lovely family read aloud for the Holidays. Not sure if it is still in print, but if so, it would be a fine addition to any library, personal or otherwise.

This is the time of the year we also think of angels. A number of years ago, not long after my Mom and son Mic died within months of each other, I visited a psychic at a Renaissance Festival and she told me I had two guardian angels on my shoulder. I just smiled as I already knew that - Mom and Mic! Steve and I went to Tortola for Thanksgiving and we were driving back to the Resort from town and got caught behind a truck with two very large pallets of shrink wrapped "towers" of boxes and bags. As we started up a hill I knew one of them was going to fall off of the truck and quietly told Steve not to get too close to him. Don't ask me why I knew - I just did. There was such a certainly that it would happen I didn't even question it. Sure enough, after Steve slowed down and let the truck pull ahead one of the pallets came off the back - it would have landed on the front of the Jeep we were driving if we had been right behind him as we had been. I said a quiet thank you to my guardian angels and we proceeded to have a wonderful rest of our short holiday.

Guardian angels aren't always human. It isn't easy for children to deal with death and Angel Cat by Michael Garland is a touching story of a family's guardian angel cat that wakes the youngest child when an ember from the fireplace catches the rug on fire. Even though Garland's illustrations were done electronically, they are beautiful - especially the one of the other cat playing with his angelic counterpart. You might recognize Garland's name from his The Mouse before Christmas.

If you are a TV watcher, catch The Three Wise Guys if it is shown again this season. A funny modern "baby born in a stable story" with a pregnant Vegas dancer running from three hit men. Of course, there is a bit of a love story here too. Was a nice diversion as I wrote Christmas cards yesterday.

All for now - need to find the top of my desk and wrap a couple more presents!

Monday, December 12, 2005

What a Christmas Concert we went to last night at the Reichhold Center for the Arts outdoor theater on the University of the Virgin Islands campus. It was the Rising Stars - a 150+ member steel pan group that is sponsored by the Virgin Islands Superior Court, where Steve works. These young people were incredible! They played everything from classical, to hymns, to delightful Christmas music. During the intermission Santa and Mrs. Claus appeared and handed out gifts to the little ones in the audience. The Rising Stars and their young conductor were a joy to watch. The only disappointment is that the theater was not full - these young musicians need support all year, not just during Carnival.

Celebrating the Holidays in the islands is certainly different from where I grew up - Upper Michigan. I miss seeing all the Christmas lights and the Santa's sleighs on the roof, actually in snow. So it isn't surprising that I thoroughly enjoyed reading Will Weaver's Full Service. It may take place during the summer of 1965, but it is set in rural Minnesota, very much like Upper Michigan with the lakes and summer tourists who come from Lower Michigan and Chicago. Paul is the only son in a farm family who are part of a fundamentalist religious group similar to the Quakers or Amish. They gather for services in each other homes and join together to harvest their crops. So it is no surprise that the other young men are more than put out when Paul's mother insists he learn about the outside world and takes him into town (Hawk Bend, popular 1,750) to get a summer job. While pumping gas at the Shell station Paul learns many of the residents' secrets and finds reasons for a few of his own, especially in relation to Janet, the daughter of the hippie couple living on their farm until they can get their van fixed. They are on the farm because Paul saw one of the other station workers tamper with the van, causing the oil to drain out. Paul is questioning his family's way of life after being exposed to retired gangsters, pretty school band leaders who aren't who they seem to be, and to a family of pot smoking hippies. A well written, poignantly funny coming-of-age story. A must have for all YA collections. I enjoyed this book so much I am tempted to find my copies of Weaver's Billy Baggs' baseball books, Hard Ball, Striking Out, and Farm Team, and read them again.

Winter time, even while living in the tropics, has me in the needlework mood. I am working on Christmas stocking at the moment, but am looking through the projects in Shannon Okey's knitgrrl. This Watson-Guptill title has color photographs of the finished projects and easy to ready directions. One of them is a bag for an Ipod, with a spot for speakers too! Remember Olivia Newton John bouncing around getting physical in her legwarmers? Well, you can knit your own set of legwarmers too. :-) My favorite is the fuzzy yarn soda cozy. With all the knitting groups for teens being formed this is a great addition to a YA collection.

That's it for day. Only 12 days until Christmas! Those online orders had better get here in time.

Friday, December 09, 2005

What a dark and dreary day here in the islands. Oh well, I can't complain - the last few days have been gloriously sunny and bright. This time of the year the sun beats on the porch in the afternoon and the boards get so hot you don't want to stand on them. If I wanted to be baked I sure could do it out there, but not today. I am sitting here with mango flavored tea in my snowman and snowflake cup so I am happy, especially since it does not taste like Starbucks coffee! I made the mistake of craving coffee and making two small pots of it. Not only did I remember why I don't drink coffee - it makes me really hyper and leaves a nasty taste in my mouth for hours after - the flavor stayed in my tea pot until I ran two sets of vinegar and water through it. I am definitely over my coffee craving!

Found out from the owner last night that we are the only ones in Little Taj by the Sea who are staying on island for Christmas. So poor Steve gets to deal with the darn cistern water pump when it acts up. Seems to do that whenever we have a power outage or surge. Oh well, at least I can play my Christmas music as loud as I want to! Right now I am listening to the songs from Michael McLean's The Forgotten Carols. It is both a book and a musical stage show. I read the book this a.m. and it is wonderful. A no nonsense nurse takes on the care of crazy "Uncle John" who says he was there when Jesus was born and talked to the Inn Keeper, the shepherds, etc. He sings the forgotten carols from the perspective of these secondary Nativity characters. Her hard heart melts and she forgives her parents who showed her no love. The music is as beautiful as the story. A perfect Christmas gift for anyone who loves the Nativity story. Very accessible for teens. McLean also created the movies Mr Kruger's Christmas and Nora's Christmas Gift, neither of which I have seen. Now I am intrigued and will check to see if I can get them through Blockbuster online.

Still in my Christmas mood, I read a Carolyn Hart Christmas setting Death on Demand Mystery - Sugarplum Dead. It was not one of my favorite books but then again I am into this type of mystery. I bought it because of the Christmas time setting. I kept saying to myself - get on with it and the solve the dang thing already! Annie and Max Darling work together to figure out who murdered a movie star's sister and then her. Who in their greedy family was willing to kill before the aging movie star gave her fortune to a charlatan who has convinced her he has helped her communicate with her dead husband? After 405 pages I was more than ready for the murders to be solved. I think I had quit caring who did it but I had to finish the book to find out! But, with one of the murder suspects being a 14 year old girl teens who love mysteries may enjoy this book.

That's it for me today. Gotta get the scissors and cut the plastic off the the three CD set of Christmas songs Steve brought home last night. Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong - be still my jingle belling heart. :-)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Good morning all. It seems so weird to have the Christmas tree up while the hedges are in full bloom! Not exactly like the Upper Michigan cold and snowy Holiday Season I grew up with. Talked to Mary the other day and she said it was 10 degrees in Green Bay. BRRR!! It is so hot outside in the sun right now that my eyelids were sweating when I was out on the deck. Not exactly the weather to get into a "chestnuts roasting by an open fire" type of mood!

Steve took me to St. John for my birthday. We took the car ferry over and stayed at Westin Resort. We hadn't been on that part of St. John before and it is quiet and lovely. The Westin is a gorgeous resort that does not allow cars beyond the registration area and the parking lot. They have carts to take you up to the rooms, the pool, the restaurant, etc. if you don't want to walk. We had time to sit in the hot tub (they have 2), swim in the huge pool and the ocean before we sat and watched the sun set. The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are slow so locals can get a decent rate - otherwise this is pricey resort. We drove into Cruz Bay to have dinner but there wasn't a parking place to be had. We drove the loop several times, but I didn't mind as I was busy people and Christmas light watching. We ended up back at the Westin open air restaurant, which was fine with me as it was gorgeous and the steel pan music was a kick. Ever heard Sinatra's My Way in steel pan? It is interesting to say the least! :-) By then I was happy to crawl into the downy Westin bed. This is my favorite hotel because of the comfy beds with all the down pills, blanket and duvet. I keep telling Steve I want to buy a King size Westin bed - and you can, for about $3200.

But, before our wonderful trip to St. John I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Jason Wells from Abrams. He was on island for a friend's wedding so I showed him the local St. Thomas that the rest of us see and he had his first West Indian roti at Fungi's. It was great fun and I was delighted that he brought me the ARC for Lauren Myracle's ttfn. Oh, what fun! I love ttyl and so do the MS/HS girls at Montessori. One brings it back so another can check it out! Teenage girls will be delighted to hear Zoe (zoegirl), Angela (SnowAngel), and Maddie (mad maddie) are back in another e-mail message formatted novel! Jason says there will be a third and I can't wait. I also love Rhymes with Witches. What a wickedly cool twist on the witchy girl cliches in a High School. Myracle has the teenage girl psyche down pat. Clearly her inner teen is alive and well!

It is their junior year and they are of driving age so what could go wrong? From Angela's point of view - everthing. Her father loses his job and takes a new job in El Cerrito, CA - more than a bit different from the Atlanta she loves and daily interaction with her best friends. Add the weird clingy Glendy - daughter of her father's boss - and Angela is miserable. Zoe on the other hand is falling in love - with the guy who Angela had decided she didn't like, but doesn't want anyone else to have either. Zoe is discovering that bodies aren't so gross after all! Maddie has fallen for the stoner Clive, who she called Chive, and he introduces her to smoking pot. It is definitely a fun read and beautifully sends a message about sex and drugs, but not in a didactic way. A gotta have for any YA collection.

As much fun as this is, I really need to get some grading done. I cannot believe the end of Fall semester is already upon us. I need to finish grading so I can start working on Spring. Hmmm - so much for the idea of lazy island days for me!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

It has been over a week since I wrote. Not like me at all, but our trip to the British Virgin Islands for the Thanksgiving break has me off my regular schedule. Steve surprised me with a last minute trip to Tortola, the busiest of the BVIs. We took the ferry over from Charlotte Amalie and had a great time sitting on top and checking out all the construction on the coastline of St. Thomas. We could even see Little Taj by the Sea - the villa our apartment is in. I didn't realize how big it is until I saw it from an ocean view.

Tortola was so much fun. We rented a Jeep and drove all over the island, up and down the winding narrow roads. We stayed at the Lambert Resort, which is on the North East coast. I loved the beach - not great for swimming with the big boomer waves breaking in relatively shallow water, but what a great morning walk beach. I played in the waves once and then cleaned sand out of my ears so decided maybe I would be better off just walking along the edge of the water. :-)

Didn't take my laptop with me so I was computer and Internet less for longer than I can remember in ages. I had withdrawal, but my sore mouse hand quit aching. I did some reading while I was there but not much. Read an Agatha Christie type murder mystery by Marian Babson called The Twelve Deaths of Christmas. I am not a big fan of this type of mystery, but since it had Christmas in the title I was okay with it. The murderer lived in the boarding house where most of the story was set and was killing people in the neighborhood or along the bus or subway line. The one that had me shuddering was when a sharpened pop top from a can was used to slit the neck of a loud holiday drinker in the park. Yes, the book is old - it was written 1979. No pop-tops today littering the local parks in London.

I also read Erik E. Esckilsen's The Last Mall Rat. Perhaps the title drew my attention because I am having shopping withdrawal. No rush to the malls here in the islands the day after Thanksgiving. I was drawn right into this book about a 15 year old teen bored with just hanging out in the mall because he is too young to work. So, he offers his services to an unscrupulous shoe salesman, called The Chair, who was left without a sale by a very rude woman who had tried on 30+ pairs of shoes. Mitch offers The Chair revenge - he will follow the woman out to the parking lot and say anything rude to her that The Chair wants. So off Mitch goes, money in his pocket, to shout, Caveat emptor!" at her and scare her silly. It works and before too long Mitch has more work as the rude parking lot harrasser than he can handle so he brings his friends into the scam and they become the Mall Mafia. Teens who work in the stores love to get revenge against the adults who treat them so rudely because they feel they can because, after all, they are just teenagers. As to be expected, it gets out of hand and Mitch has to figure out a way to get them out of the mess they are in or they may find themselves in juvie. Great book to read at this time of the year when you think of all the people pushing through and crowding the malls. Maybe I am glad to be down here where we just have KMart!

I found the perfect book to read to the finicky little eaters - Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Little Pea loved to roll down hills and play on the swings with his pea pals and screamed with delight when Papa Pea would fling Little Pea off the end of a spoon. But, what Little Pea hated was candy. That's what peas eat for dinner and Little Pea forces his way through all five pieces so he can have dessert - yummy green spinach! How the illustrator Jen Corace was able to make green peas so expressive in this Chronicle Books title is beyond me, but she does. :-)

All for now.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I haven't totally recuperated from my "mouse-itis" yet but the right hand and arm are doing better after staying off of the computer as much as possible the last few days. It was horrible - I am addicted!

I was just outside listening to the waves striking against the reef, realizing how much quieter it is when we don't have jet skis running around in circles below us in the bay. Oh the joys of having the Marriott within easy distance and the bay being a safe place for them to play, out of the ferry traffic. I can't see the thrill of running around in circles like they do, but each to their own.

Off to the movies tonight with some of the Montessori women - chic flick. Can't remember the name of it, only that Meryl Streep is in it. I plan on dressing warm and taking a hooded sweatshirt! The last time Steve and I went to a movie here on island I could barely hear it my teeth were chattering so hard.

I picked up Valerie Hobbs' Letting Go of Bobby James, or How I Found My Self of Steam because of the title and because I loved How Far Would You Have Gotten If I Hadn't Called You Back? I read so many YA novels, for me to remember scenes from a book like I do this one from the mid 90s is saying something. So I was hoping for a good read and Hobbs didn't let me down. I found myself hearing Jody talking in a rural Texas twang and smiling at the way she said words her own way - like my self of steam instead of self esteem. Her comment about the boodwar lamp had me snort laughing. Jody is one of the most likeable female characters I have read about in quite awhile. She knows what is expected of her - to be Bobby James' little woman and put up with all of his abuse, just like her mama does with her daddy. But, when Bobby James takes off from a Florida gas station cause she is taking too long trying to figure out how to cover up the black eye he gave her, she is glad. Jody decides it is time to start her own life and before you know it she is washing dishes at Thelma's Open 24-Hour Cafe and has found a friend in slow-witted Dooley, who let her sleep in the theater, and pregnant Effaline, who helps her get her very first apartment. Jody's got a full head of steam toward her own life when Bobby James comes back from Texas and expects to move in with her, his dogs and all. But Jody isn't about to go that route again. I smile just thinking about feisty Jody and her self of steam.

Speaking of favorite authors - I love Colin McNaughton's books for little ones, especially his Preston Pig stories, such as Suddenly! and my all time favorite (based on Little Red Riding Hood) Oops! So when I saw the little dinosaur with what looks like a dog dish on his head on the cover of Potty Poo-Poo Wee-Wee I had a sneaking suspicion that isn't a dog dish on his head! It is Littlesaurus's potty chair and when Daddysaurus introduces his son to the chair and tells him what he is supposed to do in it Littlesaurus thinks that is the funniest thing he ever heard and shouts, "Potty Poo-Poo Wee-Wee!" Father responds with, "Shush. It's rude to say it so loud." Well that sets Littlesaurus off and when family members and neighbors tell Littlesaurus how rude his piles of poo are he responds with his potty chair chant and builds sandcastles with it, uses it to carry rocks, or wears it as a hat. It isn't until Grannysaurus tells him that Daddysaurus was the same way and Daddysaurus gets really upset and says he doesn't care if his son ever uses the potty that Littlesaurus decides to try it out. The last illustration of the little dinosaur sitting on the potty with his pants around his ankles, tennies on his feet and a baseball cap on backwards is a hoot! I need to get this one in the mail to my daughter who is trying to potty train my grandson.

That's it for today.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Woke up to three ships lined up waiting for a pilot to bring them in. There are two more out there waiting. Looks like they are about to duel for the next spot - facing away from each other and waiting to turn. The OK Corral on the high seas! Don't I have a vivid imagination? :-)

There has been discussion online as to the value of Orca publishing the Orca Sounding titles in hardback. I think it would be great for libraries as long as they keep them the same small paperback size. Beth Goobie is one of my favorite Orca authors and her latest Soundings title is Something Girl. My heart hurt when I read this one. Sophie is being viciously abused by her father, both physically and emotionally. All she wants if for him to love her, but he keeps slamming her again walls and telling her she is nothing. Teachers at school suspect the abuse but Sophie denies it, covering up the bruises. She is friends with a young neighbor who knows what goes on at Sophie's house and tries to give Sophie safe haven in her own home. It isn't until Sophie is beaten so badly that she is hospitalized that her mother, who is also abused, is willing to press charges. This story is all too real - the upstanding man who is part of the small town community who no one suspects is a child and wife abuser. A heart wrenching 105 pages.

On a much more upbeat note, I snort laughed over Susanna Gretz's Riley and Rose in the Picture. What a great read aloud. Riley and Rose have nothing to do on a rainy day but draw and argue. Riley draws circles and square and triangles, but Rose uses her imagination and her crayon to turn the shapes into a story. Riley is not too keen on this until Rose tells him his rectangle on triangles is a boat in the waves. Now Riley loves boats and gave it a triangle sail and before you know it they are in the picture on one wild sailing adventure. What fun! Gretz's use of facial expression on Riley the dog and Rose the cat are a hoot!

Off to Montessori for the day. Oh man is the traffic going to be a bear tonight when I pick up Steve. Oh well, at least the people watching is fun as you sit in traffic.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Monday is upon us again. I started working two days a week at Montessori last week and boy did I feel it in my right arm and shoulder. I am inputting MARC records into the Destiny database and I "moused" myself into an aching shoulder and right arm. So I took some time off from my online addition during the three day weekend. Steve and I had lunch at Tavern on the Waterfront on Friday with our two for one coupon. Yummy! They have excellent food and the view from the second floor restaurant is superb. Only one BAB ( big a-- boat) right now, but in high season, which is just about upon us, there is a line of 80 to 150 foot yachts moored along the wharf. Walked around downtown for a bit, trying to find an eyeglass place that had glasses on sale (one pair of reading glasses is not enough!), but it was closed when we found it. It is in the International Plaza, where the Hard Rock Cafe used to be, which is now a Wendy's. Seems weird to see that Wendy's sign up there.

Since Dockside books was closed too on Friday we had to go back into town on Saturday. First time since we have been on the island we actually had a woman flag us down and basically get in the car for a ride into town. Seemed a bit strange and I think she was put out that we weren't going any farther than Havensight! Dockside was packed with people - so packed Steve sat outside and waited for me. I belong to their "club" and had a $5 coupon so I used it to buy the first book in Jan Karon's Mitford series. I had bought Shepherds Abiding from Hemingways when they went out of business and loved it. How could you not love a guy, and his buddies, working in a back room of the antique shop to repair an old, but damaged, nativity scene for his wife as a Christmas present. The story reminded me of O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi" as his wife had found the shattered angel he had accidentally knocked to the floor and had been thrown out with the trash. She was reassembled the angel as his present.

To keep me off of the computer I worked on some Christmas ornaments. I started working on a set of sequin and beaded ornaments where you cover a Styrofoam ball, using little gold nails with a sequin and bead on each and push them into the Styrofoam. So, along with a sore shoulder and arm, I now have a very tender thumbs from pushing those darn little nails in - but the ornaments are really pretty! I finally finished the advent calendars for the grandkids and all I need now is for Steve to cut the dowels the right length to I can add the hangers. We went to Office Max and bought tubes so I can send them. It will have to be Priority Mail by the time I get these ready to go.

On the YA front I finally got a copy of Gary Paulsen's How Angel Peterson Got His Name: And Other Outrageous Tales About Extreme Sports. Middle school age boys who love extreme sports will love this book. An old board with roller skate wheels nailed onto it for the 1950s version of the skateboard and big heavy Schwinn bikes with every bit of extra metal removed to make them faster for stunts so dangerous you cringe just reading about them. It was like reading about back home as Paulsen grew up on Northern Minnesota, about as "exciting" as where I grew up - Northern Michigan. From the stories I heard told about my three older brothers and some of the stunts they pulled as kids I think they and Paulsen would have gotten along fine.

When I teach Children's Literature I always talk about view point and use Yolen's Encounter to discuss how the Taino Indians felt about "being discovered." Another book I am going to add to this discussion topic is Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve's Bad River Boys: A Meeting of the Lakota Sioux with Lewis and Clark, which is told from the point of view of three young Lakota boys who swim out to meet the boats and were not given the welcome they expected. The Historical Notes at the end are quite interesting and I was glad to see a glossary of the Lakota terms used throughout the book, along with how to pronounce them.

All for now.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Shock of all shocks - I was up, on my own, by 7:30 this morning! I have cut out Diet Coke as my main source of liquid and I am sleeping better. Like that is any surprise as I was consuming large amount of caffeine. The headache for the first few days wasn't much fun, but it was worth it to sleep more than a few hours at a time. So I was actually awake to give Steve a kiss goodbye as he headed out for work. Of course, Sophie and I had to have our Mommy/Kitty time as I did some reading. I'm reading through the age appropriate sections of Joan Borysenko's A Woman's Book of Life: The Biology, Psychology, and Spirituality of the Feminine Life Cycle. It was published back in the mid 90s, but is still very appropriate today. Very interesting reading, takes the cycle from birth to death.

Spent the day at Montessori yesterday. Got there and couldn't park in my normal spot as the torrential rain we have had basically destroyed the parking lot that the parents drive through to drop their kids off. I normally park on Vessup Lane - not the not normal drop off point, but got caught up in the line. Ended up parking on the side of the road under a tree. Wondered how much iguana poop I was going to have on the car by the end of the day. I was lucky - no big offerings! It isn't just dropping coconuts you have to worry about landing on your head down here!

It is amazing to think that someone so young, born in 1977, can write something so creepy and fascinating and wonderful and thought provoking as The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray. Chris Wooding has created a London that no one wants to live in. After the Prussians bombed the city the wych-kin have begun to take over the city. Thaniel is the 17-year-old son of a legendary wych-hunter and is living up to his father's name, working beside Cathaline, the female wych-hunter who moved into his home to care for him after his father was killed. During a hunt they discover a young woman who appears to be crazed, but after they find the tattoo on her lower back they know she is possessed. Thatch, the 200 year old wych, was supposed to have taken over Alaizabel's body when the poison took effect, but it didn't work that way, and both the two women are fighting inside of her. Because Thatch is the one who is to open the doors to the presence that will destroy the world as we know it, the Fraternity is after Alaizabel. Thaniel and Alzaizabel fall in love, but it isn't a pleasant love story as the Fraternity abducts her again and after the spirit of the wych is removed, she is put in the insane asylum, run by the head of the Fraternity. With the help of the King of the Beggars and an honest police officer, they are able to stop Thatch, but as the Kirkus starred review states, "readers will get finger cramps from rapidly turning the pages." Don't read this one while you are home alone at night! Initially published in 2001, the Scholastic Point paperback edition came out this year. Now to see if I can find a copy of Poison - another Wooding title, with a young woman seeking her stolen baby in a world where humans are the lowest form of life. Oh, I love these creepy books!

Speaking of books I love, I have a copy of Nicola Davies' Ice Bear: In the Steps of the Polar Bear in front of me. The art by Gary Blythe is incredible! I lived in Alaska for 15 years so when I saw the book was about the Inuit and the nanuk, the Inuit word for polar bear I had to explore it. The text is sparse, but with the illustrations the combination is stunning. For example, the close up illustration of the bear's satiated eyes and nose, with splotches of blood on it, accompanies "Polar Bear is a white shape in a white world, invisible until it's too late. A lightning paw strike, a crushing bite, and the seal is gone." No more words are needed - the illustration says the rest. My favorite twosome is the next shadowy illustration of a mother bear with her little ones cuddled under her chin along with the text "But Polar Bear is gentle too. Mother Polar Bear, in her winter snow den, tends her newborn cubs. She lifts their tiny bodies in her great paws and suckles them." Accompanying each double page spread is a bit of factual information at the bottom of the page. I now know that a newborn is just over a lb. - about the size of a guinea pig. Beautiful illustrations accompanying sparse but well written text, enhanced by factual information. What more could a teacher or librarian want - an index? It's got that too! Way cool book!!

Okay - this is getting long. Time for me to do some grading and check my own class. I am taking an online two week class on Blackboard - an online teaching software program.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I know it is Sunday when I wake up to the sound of football commentary. Steve starts early! He had to go into the office for a bit yesterday so I went into town with him to do some browsing in the tourist shops for Christmas presents for the grandkids. Did find a female pirate for Ally. She loved the pirate set we got her when they were down visiting in July. A trip to Charlotte Amalie is always an experience. We stopped to throw out trash and a big new Dodge truck pulled up to the huge dumpster at the same time. The back was full and two guys jumped up into the back and started throwing out - a car! Well, pieces of one anyway! First out went the hood, then one of the doors. We didn't hang around to watch the rest, but had to laugh at how they were going about it. Supposedly there is a $1000 fine for abandoning a car on the island, but they are all over so I wonder if VIPD ever fines anyone. But, these two guys were disposing of an old car, piece by piece!

We curled up and watched an old b/w movie last night - The Thin Man, with Myrna Loy and William Powell , based on a Dashiell Hammett book. Hammett is the author of The Maltese Falcon, which is also the basis for another cool old b/w movie. We visited one of his old haunts in San Francisco, but I can't remember the name of it. Need to check B&N to see if The Thin Man is still in print. I absolutely love these old movies. Even my daughter knew the movies when I mentioned the dog. I could watch these movies over and over - they are hilarious. My earlier viewing was Lara Croft - Tomb Raider! I am trying to get the 2nd Advent calendar project done for MJ so I can get it in the mail so it will get there for the 1st and watch movies while I work on it. I had no desire to see this movie before, but it really wasn't too bad.

Received a Harcourt ARC of Ithaka by Adele Geras - the wonderful follow up to Troy. I was transported back to Ithaka and felt like I was walking the paths of this ancient island with young Klymene as she agonized over her love for Odysseus and Penelope's son Telemachus, who has fallen under the seductive spell of the selfish but beautiful Melantho. Teen readers will be wrapped up in the story of the young people in this enchanting novel. Klymene is able to see and speak to the gods and goddesses, including Hades and Poseidon, who frighten her with their warnings of death and revenge. At the adult level is the story of Penelope and her wait for Odysseus to return, as she weaves the story of his return on her loom. She waits, even though his husband's own father does not believe his son is alive and wishes her to remarry. A despicable band of suitors arrive on the island, knowing that the "laws" of hospitality of Ithaka will not allow Penelope to ask them to leave. But Leodes, a childhood friend of Odysseus, arrives on the island as a suitor and Penelope falls under the spell of love. Once the reader enters Geras's tale of love and deceit, with gods and goddess interfering in the lives of mortals, there is no release until the tale is finished. Ithaka will be as popular with the teenage girls as Troy has been.

On the picture book front I have to comment on the Houghton Mifflin title Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing by April Jones Prince and illustrated by Francois Roca. A great story to go along with Curlee's informational Brooklyn Bridge that came out in 2001. Always looking for a publicity for his circus, P.T. Barnum assured people of the bridge's safety by leading across 21 elephants - good judges of a safe surface, testing it with their huge feet before proceeding. A beautifully illustrated bit of history that can be shared as a read aloud.

Back to work on the Advent calendar. Gotta get this in the mail soon! December 1st will be upon me too quickly. Thank heavens for express mail.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

We are getting our afternoon squall come through. I was outside sitting in the sun reading earlier and there were boats headed out for day sails to Buck Island while the weather was still good. Last evening we stopped at the Oasis to have a glass of wine. I think I have found a new favorite place on St. Thomas. It is at the end of a road that meanders through Frenchtown. We sat on the patio that looks out on the inlet between St. Thomas and Hassel Island. No houses on that part of Hassel, just the remains of an old rock wall and chimney. Very peaceful and quiet with a wonderful ambiance. I could feel my heart rate go down while we sat there watching an evening squall come through. More than a little pricey, but well worth it for a bit of quiet at the end of the day.

I am not a fashion maven by any mean of the word, but I did get a kick out of browsing through Jeanne Beker's The Big Night Out, a NF title on fashion for teenage girls. Beker is host of the Fashion Television channel so I am sure she knows here stuff. Couldn't tell by this woman who lives in tank tops and shorts. I can't remember the last time I put foundation on my face or wore mascara. But, I am sure the MS age girls will love reading all the fashion hints in this new Tundra Books title. My favorite part is the question and answer boxes that are scattered throughout the book, along with the quotes on fashion from teenage girls.

The narrator in Kathleen Karr's Mama Went to Jail for the Vote is certainly at the cutting edge of fashion for her era - she is wearing Bloomers! This is a wonderful Hyperion picture book story about a young girl whose mother rides in the suffrage parade and is thrown in jail for picketing in front of the White House for women's voting rights. The story is based on actual events during the era of the Suffragists, discussed in the historical note at the end.

Ah, the sun is back out. These squalls are short but heavy!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween. This holiday just isn't as much fun when you don't have a little one around. Mary called to say MJ was going trick or treating as Tigger but he doesn't like how warm the costume is. But, I am sure once he figures out he is getting candy out of the deal he will decide it is okay. He certainly takes after Gramma and Mom with his sweet tooth. Buffy offered to lend up her Fiona before and after Midnight costumes but Steve wasn't too keen on going out as a female ogre in a tiara! We'll be party poopers and stay home tonight.

I had written a long posting on Friday and lost it when I tried to spell check it. GRRR!! It was about Shyam Selvadurai's Swimming in the Monsoon Sea. What a beautifully written coming of age novel set in 1980s Sri Lanka. Fourteen-year-old Amrith, the "adopted" son of his mother's best friend, is quite naive and doesn't realize that his jealousy over his newly met older cousin's attraction to his "sister" is because he, himself, is sexually attracted to and in love with him. Discovering he is different from the other boys is not a welcome revelation to Amrith, but with time he comes to accept himself and his mother's death. Selvadurai is a gifted writer and if Funny Boy, his first novel written in 1994, is as beautifully crafted as Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, one cannot question why he received both the Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Lambda Literary Award. Swimming in the Monsoon Sea is published by Tundra Books - one of the Canadian publishers I look at closely as their YA novels are always quite unique and wonderful for booktalking. Two of my favorite Tundra YA novels to booktalk are Mercy's Birds by Linda Holeman and More Than You Can Chew by Marnelle Tokio.

I'll end today's blog with a fun Halloween read for the little ones by Elizabeth Spurr - Halloween Sky Ride, a delightful rhyming Holiday House title. Witch Mildred is on her way to the Witches' Wobble, but along the way she picks up hitchhikers - a skeleton, a jack-o-lantern, a scared ghost, a cold mummy, a bat, and a lonely black cat - but the load is too much and the broom breaks. Not a problem - they are in the front yard of the Witches' Wobble. Big problem - all the food is gone - those greedy goblins ate all. Problem solved - the witch and her riders are welcomed with open arms to the neighbor's party where they eat candied apples and drink sweet lemonade. A delightful, not at all scary, look at some of our favorite Halloween characters.

Back to finding the top of my desk! The piles of books are teetering a bit to precariously for me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Thirteen papers later my brain is mush! Grading online is a bit different than having the paper in front of you on paper, but the mark changes option in Word allows me to make comments and corrections on the papers so I actually do better with it. I am just stuck in front of a computer while I grade. Was talking to Buffy on the phone a bit ago and she suggested I get my butt on the deck with the laptop while I write or grade so I can get some color in this white face of mine. I am probably the palest local on the island! But, I have less "laugh lines" on my face than most of the women down here my age! Not sure what is worse - lines or being fish belly white.

Steve and I are having withdrawal. Shipwreck is closed down for renovation and the whole staff is off on vacation together. The owner takes his staff on a cruise, or to Mexico, etc. every year. I think that is pretty cool, but I really want my 1/2 of a Shipwreck burger and fries fix on Saturdays! I had a club sandwich at Tickles last Sat. and it just wasn't the same.

Finished listening to Michael Gruber's Witch Boy yesterday. I was not thrilled with the narrator's voice, which had a negative impact on how much I could enjoy this book. It got a bit long in parts and the main character - a ugly foundling raised by a witch and called Lump - was not terribly likeable until the very end of the book where he redeemed himself. Woven into the tale are recognizable folktale characters, such as Hansel and Gretel, who have been lovingly raised by the witch in the forest. A bit different than the tale we all know. Lump's name is actually Rumplestiltskin so you can just imagine how that tale is interwoven into the story of Lump's mad obsession with the miller's daughter. Offer this one to the younger teens who are beyond Harry Potter - even if they don't get the references to the Grimm's tales they will enjoy the coming of age tale of an ugly foundling child who grows up to be a not so ugly man.

Before I read The Good Lion by Beryle Markham and adapted and illustrated by Don Brown I hadn't heard of Beryle Markham, who moved to East Africa when she was three. This picture book is one incident in her young life when a "tame" lion on a friend's property decided she was prey. She was not seriously hurt, but the lion was caged for the rest of his life. Markham was saddened by the lion being punished for his natural behavior. A picture book to share with older children or teens - a good discussion starter.

All for now. I am ready to chill and watch the news.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Getting a slow start this early Tuesday morning. I love being at Montessori once I get there, but it is the getting up and getting there that kills me. I am so NOT a morning person! But, I am such an anal person that I find great pleasure in locating the exact MARC record I need and adding the local holdings as I build the database for the online catalog and circulation.

During one of the power outages last week I curled up and read through the three ring binder full of snippets written by a very prolific writer who is also a parent at Montessori. Buffy and I chat about books, writing and just about everything else under the sun when she pops through the library in the morning. This collection should be called Sassy Snippets! She has a sassy tongue and wonderfully naughty sense of humor. I was laughing out loud at some of Jesse's antics (he told her he had a woody and when she looked down he indeed did - Woody was on his Toy Story undies!). This is the perfect example of how life experience defines how we react to a statement! And then my throat closed up and my eyes teared while reading about her unconditional love for her son. Buffy takes you through a myriad of feelings and responses - from disgust, to laughter, to tears, to meditation. Hopefully she will be able to publish some of these little gems in magazines or elsewhere as a collection.

Staying in the adult frame of mind this a.m. I am sending out a recommendation to all those other "hot" (as in flashes) women out there! If you want to feel like you are not alone in this read The Hot Flash Club Strikes Again by Nancy Thayer. It is hilarious. I related more to the younger group of women the Hot Flash club was mentoring, but at least I know what I have to look forward to in my 50s and 60s! What a hoot. This title is in the middle of three about this group of women. Now I need to order the other two from B&N. I picked this one up in the airport in Charlotte because the title on the cover made me laugh when I read it.

Straying back to the children's literature mode, I have to recommend Pamela Duncan Edwards' (author of the beloved Some Smug Slug) new book, The Bus Ride That Changed History: The Story of Rosa Parks from Houghton Mifflin. There are many books out there about Rosa Parks, but this one is unique in that it has a "The House that Jack Built" cumulative text that children will love to join in on as you read. Add to that the conversation balloons of children who are talking about what it was like to live during segregation - separate water fountains, etc. The children and their converation baloons are on the bottom of the page, below the large illustrations that go along with the text. A must have for school library collections.

Okay, time to load up the diet coke and head out.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Yahoo! The Internet is back up and working. We have so many problems with Innovative DSL Internet service down here. The drop rate is incredible. There are times we can't even stay online long enough to finish what we are doing on a web site. This morning was one of those times. I finally gave up and actually cleaned for awhile. How disgusting is that! But, it did force me to look through some of the children's books I have piled around the living room and find the 5 books for my latest Reader's Advisory column for Library Media Connection. Got that sent in a bit ago.

I also took some time out to sit in the sun and finish Tim Bowler's Apocalypse. Oh my - what an incredible book. I loved Firmament so I had a feeling I was going to like this one. And, when I read the blurb on the book jacket that refers to a family sailing into fog and wrecking on an island inhabited by a group of religious fanatics I was hooked into reading it. My hair still raises on my arms as I think of a 15 year old boy realizing that a naked man with a birth mark on his neck and face, who the islanders call the Devil, is his twin, just many years older than he is. And, that the tiny boat he bent over to pick up from the water that is handed to him through the waves by the very same man and caused him to lose focus and run their sailboat onto the rocks, is the prayer boat of the wild girl Ula. She was asking for help and some how the man thought Kit could be her savior. But, she is the one who keeps Kit alive on the island after his parents disappear. Add to that a shrieking sea serpent that causes waves of tidal wave proportion to cleanse the island, ghosts from long dead islanders who chill Kit to the bone, and blood thirsty fear-of-the-Devil crazed islanders, brandishing clubs. In other words, once you pick this book up to read it, it won't let you go, even after you have finished it. My brain is still roiling with questions and I know I am going to go back and read this one again. Adventure, mystery, intrigue, and horror all rolled up into one beautifully written novel. Oh my but Bowler is good!

Was working on a column discussing picture book biographies and really enjoyed the fictional account of Henry David Thoreau's time in his cabin and the fear that his woods would be used to make toothpicks! Check it out in The Trouble with Henry: The Tale of Walden Pond by Deborah O'Neal. You can't help but chuckle over his deaf aunt shouting out that he is nothing but "a crazy little rooster." :-)

All for now. The sun is setting and I do hope Steve is bringing home some diet coke. I am having withdrawal twitches as I type!

Friday, October 21, 2005

After reading what Wilma is doing to Cancun and could be doing to Florida in a few days I should not be fussing over our winds and rain squalls. But, I gotta admit I am getting tired of the rain. The white caps on the ocean are pretty though. I am just glad I am not on one of those ferries bound for St. John and Tortolla that are bouncing by.

We started watching The Chronicle of Riddick last night. What a strange movie! I am not a big SF movie person but this is one of those you just keep watching because it is so creepy. Guess we will finish it tonight - we have the director's un-cut version so it is looong. I never know what Steve is going to pick via our Blockbuster online. For awhile it was the old episode of The Prisoner. I could never figure out why the guy couldn't say anything in a normal tone of voice - he had to scream it. Gave me a headache.

But, Matthue Roth's Never Mind the Goldberg certainly didn't give me a headache. What a fun and educational reading experience. I now know a lot more about Orthodox Jews than I ever did before. That is one of the things I love about this book - a teen reader can relate to Hava as she is a typical teenager (has an attitude and love anything punk) in many ways, but her life is built around her religious views and mandates. Pretty hard to be in a heavy metal mosh pit and not touch a male in the crowd. Consume large amounts of alcohol, but only kosher varieties. Hava is one of the most delightful novel characters I have read about - the only true Orthodox Jew acting in a sitcom about an Orthodox Jewish family. The baby hollering "osser" all the time is hilarious. What I do wish was included is a glossary of the Yiddish terms that are used throughout the book. In most cases I could figure them out from the context, but an affirmative glossary would have helped. Although there are plenty of new 2005 YA novels to choose from, there isn't another one like this Scholastic Push offering - it is raw, gritty and very Jewish! :-) Booktalk it and it will find a wide readership. Also give Roth's website to the teens - Fun site to browse through - he is also a musician. As Hava says, "Oy vey, dude!"

Shoe Baby by Joyce Dunbar is sitting on my desk in front of me. I love the bright blue cover with the exuberant illustration of a smiling baby inside a giant shoe. What fun - the rhyming text has the baby visiting the ocean, the zoo, having tea with the King and Queen, while asking everyone, "How do you do?" Finally he falls asleep to wake up to a giant fussing over his lost shoe and a giant mother crying over her lost baby - who, of course, is the infant in the shoe. Great book to read aloud to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. The rhyme romps along with the baby and the illustrations are bright and colorful enough to enchant a little one. It certainly is a delight for my tired eyes - reading glasses and all. Candlewick is a premier publisher of books for little ones!

Bagel and soy cream cheese for lunch - here I come! :-) Oy vey, dude! I love it. :-)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

GRRR!! It is raining again! I woke up to a beautiful sunny day and even spent a few minutes outside reading in the sun - that is until my feet felt like they were frying. I also had a hummingbird buzzing my toes - it must have thought my pink toenails were some kind of flower! But now it has clouded over and is raining. And, I was bribing myself to write rubrics for my classes by promising myself a trip to the beach later on. I hope it clears up again. I am so sick of rain. I think I am getting webbed feet!

But at least it isn't snowing and freezing cold like in Kringle by Tony Abbott. For those of you who have been reading my blog, you know I am a Christmas freak. And when I saw this beautiful Scholastic book with the flying reindeer on the front I knew it was my next read. I finished it last night and what a fun read. Would make a wonderful family read aloud during the Holidays. A unique tale of how Kringle (Santa Claus) came into being. He was the son of parents who had helped the elves and they in return help Kringle save the world from the Goblins. The magical bell that his mother had found years before makes a sound that rings out his name. Kringle escapes from the Goblin attack and is taken in by the elves. Kringle is the child the Goblins seek, kidnapping all children in their path, both searching for him and feeding on their fear. Kringle knows he must rescue the children from the Goblins' underground den and does so with the help of the elves and the few humans that are left in the area after the Romans left. Quite a fascinating tale as the Nativity story is intertwined with Kringle's tale and that of the Longest Night of the Year.

Staying with the Christmas mode, Walter Wick has a new picture puzzle book - Can You See What I See? Night Before Christmas. I picked it up because I collect copies of the Night Before Christmas, but this is not an illustrated version of the poem. The poem is on the endpapers, but the pages are filled with Christmas ornaments, treats, decorations, etc. that children must find. I love the last blue-hued page with Santa's sleigh flying before the moon, with a small village below. This book will help fill those Christmas vacation hours for little ones. A gotta have under any child's Christmas tree.

It is still raining - harder than ever. Of well, guess that means I can't avoid writing those rubrics by escaping to the beach. Darn anyway!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Even the Diet Coke isn't helping wake me up this a.m. It is such a bummer to be jarred out of a dream by the alarm. And I think I had finally fallen back to sleep. I woke up at 2:22 - how weird is that - and then couldn't fall back to sleep. Kept thinking about all the things on my "to do" list, which seems to get longer every day. Living in the islands is not a vacation, vacationing in the islands is! The leak in the kitchen area finally stopped so I can now try to get this apt. back in order. I have books from one end of it to the other, from board books to upper level YA novels - what a mix!

Don't you just love the name Lola? I can hear Barry Manilow singing in my head! :-) Lola Douglas is the pen name under which Lara Zeises wrote True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet. The title suggests this might be just "fluff," but it isn't. Written in a combination of diary entries, letters to her party animal best friend back in Hollywood, and script like dialog, Morgan Carter relates the sometimes funny, often heartbreaking account of her losing battle with cocaine and alcohol and adjusting to living incognito as Claudia Miller, "typical" high school student in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Claudia/Morgan's interactions with the high school counselor and the people at AA are frank and poignant, leaving the reader little doubt about how painful it is for this self-centered rich brat to come to terms with who she was and what she must do to make sure she doesn't end up back in the same situation. But the joy of this book is Claudia becoming friends with Emily and Eli, a set of delightful twins who help this jaded teen realize normal teenage activities are actually fun. But Claudia is "outed" as Morgan by Debbie Ackerman, the girl Eli didn't choose instead of Claudia as the recipient of his affections. Claudia/Morgan's adventures aren't over as there is a book 2 coming in 2006. At first I was a bit overwhelmed by the name dropping, from Paris Hilton to Katie Holmes and every hot young actor in between. I felt like I was reading an In Touch magazine, but then realized that this would have been this young starlet's world. Although necessary, the name dropping with date this book quickly, but not before lots of teenage girls will vicariously live the life of a Hollywood Starlet.

Gotta head out to Montessori!

Monday, October 17, 2005

It is thundering again! Or maybe it is still the herd of buffalo thundering through my digestive system! ARGH!!! I won't want to eat another buffalo burger for a long time after spending two days sick from the one at Jack's. It isn't until I get really sick that Steve tells me he was a bit worried when I said the burger didn't taste like it normally does - really salty. Guess that is a ploy to cover the taste of old meat. YUCK!!!

But, I did get some reading done while I was laying in bed. Finished up the final chapters of the 630 pages of The Dream Merchant, a Candlewick title. Maureen White, an authority on translated children's books, got me interested in translated titles when we worked together at UHCL so now I tend to look for the YA titles that are translations. They are typically quite unique and Isabel Hoving's The Dream Merchant certainly is and then some. The Gippart Corporation is so greedy and corrupt that they are using young children to do experimental dream and time traveling. Josh is only 12 when he is "hired" by Gippart to dream travel to find the Tembe in hopes that they can figure out how to travel through time so they can sell more of their products. They have already glutted the markets in real time as well as dream time. Three young humans and the ghost of Josh's twin sister do find the Tembe and help to end a generations long feud between two brothers. An absolutely fascinating book, all 630 pages of it! If this book were marketed like Harry Potter they would be selling kid size versions of the snake bracelet that Jericho gave her brother Josh - the bracelet that falsely convinced the Gippart team that Josh could travel through time.

Yahoo - Houghton Mifflin just reissued a paperback edition of David Macaulay's Black and White. I remember when this book won the Caldecott and all the talk about the multiple stories within. In 1990 this was a very unique book and still holds its own today in the world of children's publishing where format and style can, and often is, as intriguing as the story itself. Oh what fun! I can't wait to share this with our grandkids. :-)

Saturday, October 15, 2005

An overcast Saturday - humid and buggy. Even though I can hear thunder it looks like sun to the West though so we might be able to see a sunset. I took an afternoon nap after we ran errands in town and woke up to no Steve and no broken air conditioner. I hope that means he and the landlord are off to Home Depot to buy a new one! It is so sticky in here from the rainy weather. Makes me want to go back to sleep. Stopped in the new Jack's location in town. Sure is a strange set up. A bar and a few tall tables, but mainly gaming machines all along the walls. Had a buffalo burger, which I normally love but it is clearly a different cook at the new location. I like the atmosphere at the Jack's in Tutu much better - besides you get to sit outside and watch the iguanas running around and then browse the craft shops after you eat.

I changed a few of the titles in my YA Lit class for next semester and added Nancy Werlin's Double Helix now that it is in paperback. One of the best SF YA novels I have read. Nancy clearly did her research on genetics for this novel - very realistic. I thought of Werlin's novel when I read Margaret Peterson Haddix's Escape from Memory, even though the setting for the two novels is quite different. Double Helix is in a "normal" contemporary setting with the medical experimentation taking place in an underground lab beneath a "legitimate business". On the other hand Escape from Memory is set for most of the story in a Eastern European recreated village populated by people who had been relocated after Chernobyl. I had a difficult time suspending my disbelief of the village's possible existence in this day and age. Also, the female villain was a bit much. Nevertheless, it was an interesting read about a girl who discovers she is the daughter of scientists who had discovered how to makes copies of a person's memories and transfer this data via computer input and output. Although not as cleanly written as Werlin's novel, I do think teens will enjoy Escape from Memory, especially those teens who have already read other Haddix books. My favorite of hers is Turnabout, where the old women are becoming young again. Before I read that book I had never thought about what would happen if you un-aged to your birth!

Steve is doing yard work outside so I shall do some work inside putting books away. I need to find my "inner librarian" and do some shelving and weeding!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Another cloudy and dreary day. Oh well, I will be so busy in the library today after being gone for over a week that I won't notice. Hopefully the rain will stop so I don't have to use my trash cans under the leaks. Was watching the pelicans having their breakfast as they dove into the ocean below us. That was the one thing I missed about living above Brewer's Bay - the pelicans. There were flocks of them in the shallow waters near the runway. Guess they didn't mind being deafened by the landing and departing planes.

Forgot to take another book out of my luggage at the airport on the way home from Philly so I had to buy a book. Found S.E. Hinton's Hawkes Harbor. I really did enjoy it. A mix of a coming of age and a vampire story. It was published for the adult market, but I do think older teens would enjoy it as for most of the story the main character, Jaime, is an irresponsible 20 something. Guys would like the smuggling and gun running adventures as Jaime follows the unscrupulous Kell around the world, from one scam to another. Until he finds himself in Hawkes Harbor and listens to the tales of ghosts and treasure in the caves. Thinking there must be treasure in a chained closed coffin, Jaime unleashes a vampire who claims him as his unwilling servant. Jaime is at the brink of insanity due to his transformation and Grenville's cruelty and is hospitalized when he is shot while saving a friend from the vampire. He begins to heal at mental hospital and Grenville is also "healing", becoming human again with the help of a doctor. A bit of a convoluted story, but certainly one that keeps you reading. I finished it before the plane landed in St. Thomas and thoroughly enjoyed it. Certainly a departure from her earlier YA novels, but a fun read nevertheless.

For those who have enjoyed Yolen and Teague's other dinosaur books, add How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? to your collection, library or home. Little ones will love both the rhyming text about how not to, and how to, behave while eating as well as the humorous illustrations of multi-ethnic parents dealing with their dinosaur children at meal time. The facial expressions of the parents, the dinosaurs, and the family pets are a delight. What fun! For the young dinosaur aficionado, the end pages have the names of each of the dinosaurs depicted in the story. There is also a mini version of the book included.

Off to Montessori for the day.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The weather isn't a whole lot better back here in the islands than it was in Pittsburgh and Philly, just a bit warmer. Actually, a lot warmer! I don't need a jacket down here to stay warm. I'm sitting in front of a fan in a tank top and shorts, but it is blowing moist warm air on me as our air conditioner hasn't been fixed yet. Everything is on island time down here. It hasn't worked for close to two weeks and our landlord came down today and said he is checking into ordering parts! Who knows when they will come in if he does that. Adding to the moist air is the leak in our dining room/kitchen area ceiling. The puddle of water on the floor is not quite as big as it was a few days ago from what Steve says. Oh the joys of living in the islands! :-) But, I am not complaining too loudly as I sat outside this morning while the sun was still trying to shine through the clouds and read for a bit. It was such a delicious feeling to have my feet actually warm, hot in fact, than cold like they were in PA.

I finished reading Donna Jo Napoli's The King of Mulberry Street that I picked up the ARC for at the Random House booth at AASL. It just came out this month and is a great title to add to upper elementary and MS collections. An interesting immigrant tale about Dom, who is put on a ship as a stowaway when he is only 9 years old and figures out how to live on the streets, with the helps of another boy from Napoli. Dom is unique in that he is a Jew, something he needs to hide from his fellow street kids. Such prejudice back then between the different ethnic groups, who live in their own part of the NYC. Italians don't get along with the Irish, etc. Dom becomes street wise quickly and starts his own sandwich selling business on Wall Street where the business men will pay as much for a piece of a good Italian sandwich as what is paid for a whole sandwich in the neighborhood. This novel is based on stories Napoli heard about her own ancestors who came to America at a very young age. Would work well as a read aloud for Social Studies.

The students in my SJSU Literature for ages Birth-6 have been discussing emergent literacy and how important it is to share books with infants, no matter the age, even in the womb. The subject of sign language with little ones came up - a way of communicating before they are able to articulate words. I recently received a Houghton Mifflin book Let's Sign!: Every Baby's Guide to Communicating with Grownups by Kelly Ault. A wonderful book to share with little ones as you teach them basic sign language for "eat" to "sleep". Wish I had had this book when my kids were little as Mic had a speech impediment and I often couldn't understand him. He would have learned and used sign language quickly. We made up our own, but this book would have been a wonderful way to introduce it to both him and his sister, Mary.

Back to grading. I have chats with both of my YA Literature classes tonight.