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!