Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Why is it when you can sleep in, you can't? GRRR!! I was awake at 6 a.m. when I didn't have to get up today and yesterday I dragged myself out of bed. Psychological I guess. Very overcast today - no sight of St. Croix in the distance this a.m. After living in Hawaii and knowing what the Big Island means over there I have to smile when someone down here refers to St. Croix as the Big Island. It actually is much larger than St. Thomas or St. John, but somehow all I see is Hilo, Kona and Volcano National Park when the Big Island comes to mind. :-) Last time we visited the Park it was so cold that Mary and I were standing as close to the steam vents as we could to warm up. Back on the beach in Kona it was hard to believe we were that cold.

Rita Williams-Garcia is one of my favorite YA authors. I absolutely loved Like Sisters on the Homefront and was stunned by the harshness but beauty of Everytime a Rainbow Dies. Having covered the issue of teen pregnancy and rape in the above two books, Williams-Garcia continues the trend of writing about controversial subjects with No Laughter Here, which is about female circumcision. The two friends are typical playful 10 year olds when they part for the summer. Akilah spends the summer with her mother, who is on sabbatical from her job as a social worker, while Victoria returns to Nigeria with her parents for a coming-of-age ceremony. When Victoria returns she is the ghost of her former self and Akilah wants to know why. When Victoria tell her about the operation and what was done to her Akilah wants to know more and begins to do some research online. That's how Akilah's mother discovers Victoria's secret. The varied reactions of the adults to the situation is what makes this book so real - from the mother's calm acceptance that this is the right thing for her daughter, to the teacher's realization that this is common practice in some parts of the world, to Akilah's mother's out right rage and confrontation of the Victoria's mother. The Author's Note at the end is quite poignant and heartfelt.

Have to lighten things up a bit with my children's picture book read - While Mama Had a Quick Little Chat by Amy Reichert. Alexandra Boiger illustrates it with a 1920s flavor. I chuckled out loud as I read this delightful rhyming story of a mother and little girl right before bedtime. Rose is supposed to get ready for bed with Mama has a "quick little chat" with Uncle Fred. While Mama is on the phone a party, complete with magician and jazz band (Rose on drums), occurs in the livingroom. "It's hard to believe, but Rose did ALL that before Mama had finished her quick little chat!" A wonderful bedtime or storytime read aloud. Little ones will delight in the facial expressions of the mortified cat!

On to reading the YA lit students discussion on what a YA novel is and the first one they read.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

My body sure doesn't like this 6 a.m. stuff! Two days in a row no less. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day and today is so gloomy I can't even see Buck Island. Oh well, maybe that means it won't be so hot in the library today. We do have 4 floor fans to help the ceiling fans but I leave at the end of the day drenched in sweat. Kids started yesterday so I hope some of the "missing" books have turned up during the summer.

Been trying to read some "guy" books lately and really liked Kevin Waltman's Learning the Game. My knowledge of basketball is limited to watching three older brothers play when I was a kid, but even with that limited knowledge I enjoyed the court scenes. The setting is small town Indiana where Nate is learning about life both on and off the court. During the summer the team plays on one of the frat house's courts as they are gone for the summer. It is during one of these court sessions that Branson, the bad boy of the team, decides to break into the frat house. He knows the back door is less than secure and a few jerks on it and it is open. Before long Branson has them convinced to steal the electronics and other goodies in the house. Jackson is the only player with enough smarts to walk away from the scene. Nate knows he should but goes along with the gang when Saveen does. School starts and the pressure is on as the team is suspected of the robbery and Nate's older brother Marvin saw it go down. Marvin moved out after he couldn't deal with accidentally shooting a friend and now he is actually giving Nate the advice he needs. Nate needs to take responsibility for his own actions, but will he? His girlfriend Lorrie is adamant he keep his mouth shut. An excellent book about taking responsibility for your own actions and trusting your own instincts. Great addition to HS collections.

Staying in the sports mode, but moving to baseball, I read a really neat children's book - The Legend of the Curse of the Bambino by Dan Shaughnessy, illustrated by C.F. Payne. It is the illustrations I love about this book - Babe Ruth bigger than life with a big old grin on his face as he watches the Red Sox both loss, for many years after they sold him to the Yankees, and then finally win the World Series. Integrated into the beautiful illustrations are actual excerpts from newspaper articles about the plays that lost the game for the Sox. Did the Bambino have anything to do with it? The delightful illustrations suggest that he might have - blowing the ball out of the stadium, letting a ball bounce off his shoe so the first base man misses it. A wonderful bit of baseball legend to share with grades 2-6. Anyone, of any age, who loves baseball will enjoy this one.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Got up early to take Steve in to work so I have the car to take Chet to the airport later this morning. He is the last of our summer visitors. It will be nice to get back on a normal schedule. They went to the annual Chili Cook Off at Bolongo Bay yesterday. I am not into big crowds so I opted out. When we went out to dinner the cars were still lined up near Iggy's. We ended up eating at Molly Malone's even though we had our taste buds set on pizza. Lots of the restaurants were closed as they were involved in the Chili Cook Off.

We have been having some Internet connection problems so I have had more time to read than usual and curled up with a Simon Pulse title - Niki Burnham's Sticky Fingers. I like the cover - a girl's arm around a guy in a white t-shirt and blue jeans. All you see is from the knees to the neck. Piques the reader's interest. I related to the main character Jenna as she was an A student but one who had to work hard at it. Her boyfriend Scott was the good looking jock who aced the tests without studying. Life should have gotten easier for Jenna when she earned early admittance to Harvard. Now Scott wants her to relax, I mean really relax. It is time for her to go beyond steaming up the windows in his Jetta. Jenna is feeling pressured and unsure and cannot even talk to her best friend Courtney is acting weird, especially because Jenna saw her "accidentally" knock a bottle of fingernail polish into her purse and deny she had stolen it. Let's just say things get more than a bit sticky in relation to both Jenna's relationship with Scott and with Courtney. Time will prove who cares about her more.

Also spent time browsing through Wizardology: The Book of Secrets of Merlin. What fun. There is even a set of tarot cards included. Lots of little flaps to turn and check out what is beneath. I must have spent a couple of hours flipping through it - from front to back and then from back to front. The owl even has his own tiny book hidden inside the back cover. This is a great book to give to the middle schooler who loves Harry Potter and other wizard books. Even more fun than Dragonology, which had me spell bound as well. I cannot attest for Egyptology as I haven't seen this one of the interactive Candlewick titles.

All for now.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I can see a bank of rain going by like a mist or fog - really strange. I hope the weather clears up before Steve's sailing buddy Chet flies in via Puerto Rico tonight. It is always a flip of the coin whether that last plane of the night gets in or not, especially this time of the year.

Just sent in my VOYA review of David Clement-Davies' The Telling Pool. The Welsh lad in this Arthurian tale is the descendent of Guinevere and Lancelot's son. Rhodri is destined to be the one to find Excalibur and save the world from the ancient curse that resulted from their love affair. It is quite an intriguing tale, and includes a wonderful piece where him travels for a time with a Jewish man and his daughter who are ostracized by the other travelers on the road. He saves them from robbers and Rebecca, in turn, helps Rhodri save himself from the Enchantress who has imprisoned his father's heart and many of the knights who had returned from the Crusades. There are many variations of the Arthurian tale and this one of those that should be added to MS/JH collections.

Speaking of variants of well known stories, I have a copy of Harvey Fierstein's The Sissy Duckling in front of me. Talk about a fun variation of the Ugly Duckling story. How can you not love this duckling who just wants to be himself, even if that means creating puppet shows instead of playing football? Even his father is upset with his sissy son, that is until Elmer rescues him after he is shot out of the sky by hunters. This is one picture book that stays in my own collection so I can read it to my grandchildren, especially my grandson! :-)

Monday, August 22, 2005

The beginning of another week. I thought for sure I would wake up to Steve home sick but he went to work. We both have the creepy crud that Allyson caught while she was down here. I finally fell asleep at 3 a.m. - the Tylenol PM wasn't working for me. I think Steve's head cold amplified snoring may have been a factor too! :-) Washing sheets and picking up after the last set of guests so the extra bedroom will be ready for our next guest who comes in tomorrow night. Hope the weather is nicer for Chet than it was for Monica and family. We had to sit out a torrential downpour in Coconuts after we finished lunch. The power went out too but no one seemed to be too upset about it. Women were just taking off their shoes to walk through the ankle deep water than was running down the alley that Coconuts fronts on. I was a little grossed out by that idea as I have seen some of the rats and other things that live on this island so we waited until it was more of a trickle than a raging river.

If you haven't see Scholastic's book version of the Bone saga by Jeff Smith you need to. What fun! I chuckled my way through Bone: The Great Cow Race. Fone Bone has a crush on Thorn and Phoney Bone tries one last get rich scheme in the town's annual Great Cow Race. I am not a big graphic novel fan but I do love the Bone series. MS and up will love it and so will the librarians - a graphic novel in a hardback edition that won't fall apart after a few circulations.

Speaking of Scholastic - I had a chance to sit down with the Scholastic First Picture Dictionary, part of the Scholastic Reference. This is one of the few titles in their reference selection that I am not crazy about. It has a strong European flavor as it was first published in France. Many of the household items are not ones found in most American homes, such as a shaving brush in the bathroom. And the electronics that one would find in the living room appear to be very dated. I do like the riddles that are found on many of the pages though. The illustrations of people are cartoon style, which makes it difficult to tell exactly what the body part is that is being referred to. As much as I have reservations about it I still spent a great deal of time going through it so I guess it can't be too bad. I am sure children will do the same.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Internet connection is slow today and so am I. It seems both Steve and I caught whatever it was that little Allyson had. He has the head cold part and I have the sore throat. So if I make too many mistakes in this posting I am going to blame it on the Tylenol throat and cough syrup I just took. YUCK!!

We had a good time with Allyson. A 4-year-old's response to the ocean is quite different from a 2-year-olds. She is a little porpoise! Her mother was able to get her to go to sleep at night by promising they would go swimming in the morning. She also had a good time in the petting pool at Coral World. She was afraid of the starfish until Grandma Ruth touched one - I guess if this wimp can do it so can she! :-) She left here with a set of toy pirates and a ship and was calling herself a pirate princess - I got her the t-shirt to affirm her new name.

Today is the last day of summer for me as Fall semester begins this week. So much for my idea of going to the beach and being lazy. I went to the beach once by myself all summer.

Don't know if any of you saw the horrible NBC report on YA literature. The reporter talked about how racy and smutty YA novels are. Too bad she hadn't done her research. One of her comments was that the girl had sex with her father in Claiming Georgia Tate. This MS and up novel by Gigi Amateau is about a girl being sexually abused by her father - rape and incest in other words, not a 12 year old girl willingly having sex with her father. This is a beautifully written novel about a young life-innocent southern teen who is protected by her minister grandfather and grandmother. When her grandmother dies she is sent to live with her predatory father. It is not graphic in what happens - the rape scene is handled beautifully as are the other scenes of his abusive fondling. One of my favorite characters in the book is the upstairs neighbor, a drag queen, who cares for Georgia until her grandfather can send money for her to return home.

Think I am going to enjoy the rest of my last day off and go read on the porch - I am about finished with Vande Velde's novel about Mordred.

Monday, August 15, 2005

A cloudy day - guess that is good so Ally won't get so burned at the beach. Steve picked them up yesterday around noon. They missed their plane twice and had to stay over in Puerto Rico, but all Ally wanted to do is be on the beach when they stopped for lunch at Iggy's on the way from the airport. Hopefully the weather will clear up for the two days Steve took off to do touristy stuff with them. Right now the rain is really coming down.

A charter catamaran ran aground on the reef out in the bay a couple of days ago. Same kind of sailboat we rent when we sail out of Tortolla. Guess they weren't watching their depth charts as that reef is so close to the surface you can walk out to the little island when the tide is low. We knew something was wrong when one of the ferries started blowing its horn like crazy. Guess he was trying to warn the sailboat but it was too late. The ferry had to stick around until the Coast Guard came. I am sure those ferry passengers were not happy. It was at least a couple of hours - nothing happens quickly down here!

Read Don Trembath's Rooster - an Orca title. You might recognize Trembath from his Lefty Carmichael has a Fit. I had to pick the book up when it came in as the cover caught my eye. It is the backside of a guy's jeans with his hand holding a green bowling ball. The ball is the color of a Granny Smith green apple and I can't get that out of my head. Guess that means I won't forget the cover. Nor the novel for that matter! Rooster is one of those teens just sliding along through school - smart, but putting no effort into anything because nothing intrigues him. He is a good writer, but his subject matter is not always of interest to the teachers. Doing a book report on a collection of Penthouse letters was not going to garner him any points with the English teacher! So, the principal decided that for Rooster to graduate he has to coach an adult special needs bowling team - a group of varied personalities and then some. To keep him focused, the principal's out spoken daughter Elma is going to help. The characters are a delight and Rooster's outlook on life is certainly altered - he is doing something that matters. He actually takes on the responsibility of working with this group of special needs adults and begins to realize that he has to find something in his life to focus on. I found myself shaking my head and smiling as I read this one and a few times had tears in my eyes. Give Rooster to the guy who is slouched in the back of the classroom - the one you know who is quite intelligent, just not focused.

Now I am going to go to the very opposite end of the spectrum - to early readers. I had to laugh over this Scholastic title - If You're Angry and You Know It! by Cecily Kaiser. I absolutely love it! You can basically sing the text to the song If You're Happy and You Know It and it covers the various ways a little one can express anger without hurting anyone else, from stomping his/her feet to eventually the more healthy way of telling a friend. What a cool little paperback. Certainly worth the $3.99 and should be in every primary level classroom. I plan on sharing it with the primary age students at Montessori. :-)

Gotta get some work done before I go pick up our landlord at the airport. I get to drive his Land Rover. :-)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

There is one of those multi-million dollar luxury cruisers going by - you know the ones where the rich guy's crew have on the same polo shirts and khaki shorts. DROOL!! Thought they were supposed to out of this area during hurricane season. Guess he must not have a problem paying the high insurance premiums to be down here during the storms! During the winter they are docked side by side on the wharf and the crews are out washing and cleaning etc. Some of them I would be happy to just have the power boat they use as a dinghy!

Have been working on the bibliography for the AASL presentation. I know for sure I am putting Joyce Maynard's The Cloud Chamber on it for the MS level. Nate and his little sister get home on the bus just in time to see their father, blood covered and stumbling, being led to a police car. No one wants to tell Nate the truth about his father's depression and attempted suicide. His mother wants Nate to forget about it and go on with life, but it isn't that easy. The parents of the other kids in school have told them they can't hang around with Nate and Junie anymore. But Nate figures if he he can build a cloud chamber, just like his dad told him about, that wins the science fair he can take Junie with him to the State Science Fair and they can slip away and visit their dad in the hospital. What a beautifully written book with characters you can see and almost hear when you close your eyes. Naomi, the fundamentalist minister's daughter, who is Nate's science fair project partner, is worthy of a book of her own.

Not being a fan of modern dance I didn't even know who Jose Limon was. I had read Russell Freedman's Martha Graham: A Dancer's Life and that was about my extent of knowledge of the early founders of modern dance. Susanna Reich brings Limon to life in a simple but lyrical text and he dances off the pages in the illustrations by Raul Colon in Jose!: Born to Dance. What a delightful picture book style biography that can be used with all ages. The Historical Note at the end gives a bit more information along with a short bibliography and the website for the Limon Dance Company,, which is a wealth of information.

I've noticed that LC is now cataloging biographies under the subject #. Perhaps the days of a separate biography section are gone, but I notice I have students who only want to read about "real" people and head for the biographies. But, with a good catalog it really doesn't matter, if the reader knows what he/she wants to read about. But, I found most of my favorite books by browsing the shelves. I am still that way in any bookstore or library - I want to wander and see what catches my attention.

Wow! It is almost 6 p.m. It's been a productive afternoon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

It is a lot more fun to teach to a group of students than to a video camera! I just finished video-taping a session on how to do booktalks for my graduate YA Literature class at UHCL. I usually fly to Houston and present it face-to-face but the class is totally online now so I thought an informal video of me doing booktalks would help. Talk about informal - the cat walked past me during part of it and there's her tail in the video. :-) Oh well - I said it was informal and I did it in shorts and a t-shirt. At one point you can hear birds twittering outside on the porch. I will actually show them the view from our porch in my introduction video. :-)

Have been putting books away since Steve got another bookshelf put up for me in the livingroom and while I was unboxing books I found my copy of A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson. I was aware of the lynching and of Chris Crowe's two books about Emmitt Till, Mississippi Trial, 1955 and Getting Away With Murder: The True Story of the Emmitt Till Case, but the power of Nelson's sonnet brought me to tears. I read it out loud and felt the hair raise on my arms and the tears come to my eyes. I plan on sharing this with the HS English teacher both for the beauty and power of the poetry and for the subject matter. What an intense book.

We had a wonderful time at Dockside bookstore yesterday buying books for the Montessori Library. As we were picking out books the discussion came up about why there aren't more children's and YA novels with black characters that are not issue driven, that are just stories about kids with no discussion of their color or ethnicity. We were only able to find a couple of these types of stories for the 8-12 age group, but I immediately thought of Freeman's Corduroy, with the little black girl and The Snowy Day and other books by Ezra Jack Keats. I think the stories have been available for quite some time, but more so in the picture book format. We had a great time picking out the books - much more fun than I'll have getting them ready for the shelves! There is nothing like putting four women who love books in a bookstore having a 25% off sale and telling them to buy books for the library! I love our PTA!! :-)

I'm going put some more books out and see what else I find.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I am so NOT a morning person! These are the days I wish we had two cars as I have to get up early to take Steve in to work if I want the car for the day. Six a.m. is too early for any human being to be up - the sun is barely waking up, how do we assume people want to! Grumble, grumble, grumble!!

Have been working on the list of books for my booktalking presentation at AASL in October. For sure Pete Hautman's Invisible will be on it. What a wonderfully creepy book. Seventeen-year-old Doug Hanson has never gotten over what happened to him and his best friend Andy in the Tuttle place three years ago. He still talks to Andy every day even though they don't do much else together - they each have their own hobbies now. Doug's is building a model train city in the basement. It now takes up three ping pong tables and is still growing. Doug uses matches with the heads scraped off (can't take a chance of a fire) to build. He is finishing up a detailed suspension bridge when his world starts crashing down on him. Doug is the geekiest kid in all of his classes and no girl has ever shown any interest in him, especially Melissa. Andy keeps warning him that if he kept watching Melissa through her bedroom window at night he is going to get caught. It is time for Doug to send his train across the suspension bridge and when he does it "sets his world on fire". Real head trip of a book, but then again, Hautman is good at that. My favorite of his earlier books is Mr. Was - a time travel book in which a teen travels back in time to try and stop his father from killing his mother, but ends up meeting his grandfather.

Time to finish getting ready to drive into town and then to buy books. Maybe it was worth getting up to do that, even if the books aren't for me.

Monday, August 08, 2005

It is a grumpy Monday for me. I have been trying to update my WebCT files and when I change one thing it messes up another. GRRRR!! WebCT is actually not as easy to use as Blackboard is. And, I want this all done before Monica and family get here on Saturday. I still have to do my informal booktalking video for my graduate level YA lit class. Would be good if I figured out how to use the video camera - think I am going to need Steve's help with that one. The fun thing I am doing this week is going spend money at Dockside Bookstore tomorrow morning, at their annual sale. The PTA gave the Montessori Library money for Caribbean books for the library so that should be fun shopping.

Did some reading this weekend. Don't know how I missed reading it when it came out years ago, but I did - The Second Mrs. Gioconda by E. L. Konigsburg. I checked B&N and the first hardback came out in 1975 and was out of print for some time. That may be why I haven't read it before. Also, the cover on the first edition was not very appealing. You can't help but pick the new Simon & Schuster paperback because it has the Mona Lisa on the front - she IS the Second Mrs. Gioconda, the young wife of a merchant that showed up at da Vinci's door asking da Vinci's assistant, Salai, if the master would pain her portrait. This is the da Vinci who had promised portraits to more noble men and women than he could have painted in a lifetime. But, this young humble woman had a genuineness about her that appealed to both Salai and da Vinci. She was comfortable in her own skin, so to speak, and she reminded them of their beloved Beatrice, the Duchess of Milan who died in childbirth. This book is a delight from start to finish - told from the point of view of Salai, the young street urchin that da Vinci takes in when he is caught trying to steal a purse from da Vinci's companion. Salai's thievery just became more sophisticated as he grew older, but he and da Vinci were together for years. Because Salai is such an imp of a character young readers will not even realize how much they are learning about Milan and da Vinci - including that he couldn't stand Michelangelo!

Okay, back to work!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

I think I might be able to find the top of my desk before Monica, Louis, and Ally get here on the 13th! Finally got the syllabi and course calendars finished for my YA Lit classes. I still need to get into WebCT and update all of that, but I am taking a break to Blog! It is such an overcast and gloomy day that I really don't mind being at this desk all day. The sooner I get this all done, the sooner I can relax for a few days before Fall semester beings.

I am always willing to read a novel that appears to have a twist to it. I am now on my second novel in the Watson-Guptill Publications Art Encounters Series. I read the first one, The Spirit Catcher: An Encounter with Georgia O'Keeffe by Kathleen Kudlinksi about a year ago. I liked the concept - introducing young teens to famous artists through a novel with the artist as a main character interacting with a teen who enters the artist's life. A young teenage boy finds himself homeless and hallucinating in the desert and becomes O'Keeffe's assistant. But, the writing was a bit choppy and as much as I love O'Keeffe I just didn't get into the story. But, when I saw that Laban Carrick Hill, the author of Harlem Stomp!, had written Casa Azul: An Encounter with Frida Kahlo, I figured the series was worth a second try. And was I right! His writing is deliciously crisp, yet delicately weaves Kahlo's eccentric lifestyle into a story that can be read by young teens and even shared with younger children. The section at the end of the novel, "Frida Kahlo's Life and Art" goes into more detail about her exotic personal life and her relationship with Diego Rivera, but it is the delightful story of a 14-year-old Mexican girl and her little brother traveling to Mexico City to find their mother that will have middle school reader appeal. The naive brother and sister are immediately taken advantage of by a thief, but Kahlo's talking monkey (all things in Kahlo's house talk, even the candy skeleton head) helps them find their way to Casa Azul, where they help bring back to life the depressed and suicidal artist. Maria's wonderful storytelling about the Mexican wrestlers will delight the reader as much as it does her little brother Victor. But, it was the interaction, often bickering, between the cat, the monkey, and the skeleton that had me laughing out loud.

Also read Tonya Bolden's photograph laden Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl - a 2005 Abrams title. The illustrations are mainly reproductions of the photographs and documents that were found in the family archives. The text is based on an Maritcha's unpublished memoir. An intriguing look at the North during the time just before and during the Civil War through the eyes of a young woman who had never dealt with slavery. Her family runs a boarding house for black sailors until the Draft Riots of 1863 destroy their home and the family eventually move to Rhode Island where Maritcha petitions the legislature to change the law so she can attend the public high school. The text is easy enough to be shared with elementary age students, but middle schoolers will find themselves focusing on the excellent reproductions of portraits and other art from the time period. The extent of the research that went into these 47 pages is very evident by the quality of book and from the lengthy end notes and illustration credits.

Okay - back to WebCT!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Just back from a lazy afternoon down town. Steve and I went to a late lunch at Gladys - a local restaurant tucked away in a little alley between tourist shops. I tried their chicken roti - a potatoes, chicken, chick peas and curry filling in pastry. Not quite as tasty as the ones as Fungis, a restaurant on the East End, and not even close to my first one ever - on Tortolla. Then I went to Havensight Mall and bought a bunch of postcards and local flavor regular cards to send to my Dad. He is in a nursing home and loves to get mail. Only one cruise ship in so there weren't as many tourists around. Stopped in a little outside bar and ended up talking to a local woman who runs a tour business with her husband. Had to chuckle at the T-shirt her son had on - it said Dinghy Captain. It was a nice afternoon away from my desk.

Also took a break from novel reading for a change and read Laura Hillman's I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree. I have to admit I picked it up because of the reference to lilacs. They are my favorite flower - grew up with a lilac tree right outside my bedroom window. The same robin came back each spring and built her nest in the tree. While in the concentration camp, Hannelore Wolff fell in love with Dick Hillman, who promised her they would survive the camps and he would plant her a lilac bush that would grow into a tree like the one her father used to stand under and sing songs to her mother. Hannelore left her boarding school to be deported with her mother and brothers so she could be with them. They were shortly after separated and she never saw her mother and one brother again. The other brother she saw, but he soon died. The terrible things that happened to Hannelore and the other women in the camp are addressed, but not in graphic fashion. Of all the concentation camp type memoirs I have read I enjoyed this one the most. Not sure why - perhaps it was because she does not sound like a victim - she sounds, and is, a survivor. One of the women on Schindler's list. An autobiography that should be in every MS and HS library.

As I mentioned in an early posting, I am teaching a children's lit class for San Jose State in the Fall and have been reading more children's novels and pictures books lately. I just finished reading Something Special by Terri Cohlene - illustrated by Dough Keith. The text is written as a riddle - "It's something special. What can it be?" Hints are as varied as, "It can say, Hello" to "It can be planted or blown." The graphics of a "noble" frog are a delight. My favorite illustration is the double page spead to go along with "Or thrown." The frogs are having a snowball fight and bunny is right in the line of fire. The last page shows a beautiful princess kissing the frog, with the text, "And it's something special because it says...'I love you.'" What a fun book to share with a group of little ones during story time, or your own little one, during bedtime. Kids will have a great time coming up with other lines for the riddle. This is an Illuminational Arts Publishing Company book - a small company that puts out beautifully illustrated children's books that are always "feel good" books. You can check them all out on their web site at It is a fun site to visit.

Both ends of the reading spectrum today. :-)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A catamaran loaded with tourists is bouncing along in the waves out in the bay as they head for Buck Island for an afternoon of snorkling. It is a quite breezy day and as full as that boat is it is still going up and down more than I would like. But, I did find the most wonderful natural remedy for upset stomachs - medication or motion sickness induced. It is a hot spicy chewy candy put out by the Ginger People, called Ginger Chews. I found a can in the Fruit Bowl, a really neat little store that carries the soy yoghurt I love. Wish I had bought every can on the shelf as when I went back they were gone. And so is my supply of chews! The supplier has a really neat website at Has recipes and lots of other neat info on ginger as well as ordering information. Ordered a bunch of chews and other goodies and had them sent to Steve's daughter so she can bring them down with her. So now I am stuck with ginger snaps and ginger tea until then.

I received a copy of Sallie Lowenstein's Waiting for Eugene to review and was intrigued by the intricate line drawings in a fold out at the end. Reading through the promotional materials I discovered that a teen reader told the author that placing the illustrations through out the book would be distracting. I have to agree - this is a very intense book and the art at the end is a treat. Lowenstein has self published, via Lion Stone Books, a number of YA novels in the last several years. They have received good reviews and there are many positive reader comments about her books on Amazon. Intriguing fantasy and science fiction tales. I admit this is my first Lowenstein novel and I was quite fascinated. The writing can be a bit jarring at times but the compelling story line and fascinating characters make up for the awkward turn of a phrase. Twelve year old Sara is the beloved daughter of architect father Michel, who tells her wonderful, though becoming scary, stories of the people he met when he was in hiding during WWII. From his stories and descriptions, Sara draws detailed pictures of the people he talks about. As his mental illness, brought on by the memories of his childhood confinement, becomes more severe, Sara's mother tells her not to ask her father for any more stories, but Sara craves them. Michel is a loving caring father when himself and quite scary and bizarre when lost in his memories. To help ground Sara in the real world is her best friend and neighbor Willie, who slowly becomes more than just a friend as their relationship blooms. A delightful and spooky novel filled with tales of visitors, real and imaginary.

All for now.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The trade winds are at their best today - I can see at least 10 sailboats out there. Wish I were on one of them! Those of us who live down here don't spend our time at the beach or on the water as many people think we do. Steve and I were out to dinner at Molly Malone's in Red Hood Friday evening and one of the women sitting near us was excitedly talking about the card she can insert into her laptop so she can use the Internet while on the boat. The other woman sat quietly and listened to her, then said she didn't want to be able to access the Internet from their sailboat - that was part of the joy of living on the boat! I have to agree with her on that one. Just think of how much easier life was before email and 24/7 access to the Internet. I am trying to stay away from it during the weekend but it isn't easy! Addictive!

I did do some reading during the weekend, with my feet up on the porch railing, watching the boats go by. That was after Steve went out and sprayed for wasps - they are back! I picked up the Simon Pulse title, Killing Britney by Sean Olin, because of the cool cover. The only strong colors are the orangish red of the girl's lipstick and the bloody red finger prints along the bottom. Sure got my attention! And, when I realized it was set in Madison, WI, in the middle of the winter I was even more intrigued. Having grown up in Upper Michigan, land of 14 foot high snow banks, and lived in Wisconsin for a # of years, Madison is one of my favorite places - even in the winter. Killing Britney received a good review in SLJ, but what I enjoyed were the teens reviews on Amazon. They loved the book but some found the twists and turns, and the ending confusing. Considering this is a murder mystery with the people around Britney being killed in gruesome fashion - her best friend Melissa run over and chopped up by a Zamboni, - a little confusion is expected. Quickly the reader realizes that Britney's retelling of events is not always reliable. She has reinvented herself - the geek girl is now one of the most popular girls in school and one of the "hockey wives". Her mother drown in a white water rafting family trip and her body was never found. Mother and daughter hadn't had a close relationship and Britney is sure she is at fault. The next to die is her hockey player boyfriend Rickey, who is hit by a truck and dragged underneath it until what's left of his body falls to the road. In other words - this is a thriller with graphic and gruesome descriptions of the victim's murders. People around Britney continue to drop like flies and she fears for her own life, so does Bobby, who knew her before the killings began. Yes, the ending is a bit confusing, but what a wild fun read this is. A little too intense for M/JR, but perfect for HS. Give this one to the teens, guys and girls, who say they don't like to read! Then suggest to them - Acceleration by Graham McNamee - one of best murder mystery/thrillers for teens. Finding a serial killer's notebook would creep any teenager out!

All for now.