Friday, September 30, 2005

Looks like only one ship in today. That means the traffic shouldn't be so bad when I pick Steve up from work today. Had to dig out my ugly Dr. Scholls sandals for today - still hobbling around with this broken toe. It didn't care for being put in dress shoes for 4 days. I think my feet were in shock both from the shoes and from hose. I haven't worn socks, let alone anything but beach sandals for months. But, I look at this way - that means I need to buy new shoes that fit better. Good excuse to go shoe shopping! :-)

I read Graham Marks' Zoo while on the flight to Greenville, NC. What a cool book! Pair it up with Werlin's Double Helix, one of my favorite YA novels about genetic engineering. In Zoo, the 17 year old son of a cell phone mogul is kidnapped and the parents don't seem too thrilled about getting the police involved. That is because the kidnapper knows more about their behind the scenes genetics company: Doctor Corporation/Birth Sciences Inc. They have been producing generations of "perfect" babies and Cam is one of them. Only he doesn't find this out until he gets shot in the arm and the soon-to-be vet of Tee's (the girl who shelters him after he escapes from his kidnappers) finds a chip implanted in his arm. It is time to confront Daddy and Mommy Dearest and the confrontation is more than expected. Lots of twists and turn in Zoo - a down right fun read. Perfect for high school guys.

With Halloween coming up next month, take a look at The Warthog's Tail by Debby Atwell. It is a witchy version of an old folktale: "Dog, dog bite warthog so I can get home in time for Trick or Treat." The dog won't accommodate her, nor will the stick or match until a mysterious old man suggests the use of persuasion: "Speak politely, put a little heart in your smile, and then... just trust." The little witch eventually does get home to dress up in her bunny costume for trick or treating. The illustration where the dog bites the warthog's tail is a hoot. The look of shock on the wacky looking warthog's face is enough to have any child, or adult for that matter, laughing. This is the perfect example to use when explaining to someone that a picture book requires both the pictures and the text to tell the tale. The parting comment from mother witch is" Wait there, dear. I'm just putting an old costume away. I'll be right with you." When the reader sees the costume on the bed all questions are answered. Cute book! :-)

Time to get my dad's birthday card together so I can mail it at lunch time today.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Good afternoon from the hazy islands. It is a hot one today. It was so good to crawl into my own bed last night, with the feather bed topper. It was like snuggling into a cloud after sleeping on a hard hotel bed for the last 3 nights. At least the hotel bed wasn't like in China - I made the mistake of jumping onto the bed once and I went "thunk" - OUCH!! I don't think the hotels over there knew about mattresses. We seemed to be sleeping on the box spring part of the bed.

And this morning I wallowed in reading in bed with Sophie for a little bit. She was in second heaven. It was so cute - she had her paws wrapped around my hand so I would continue to scratch her neck. She sprawled across my lap so I had to hold the book to the side to read. There is no doubt my baby missed me. :-) That is after she gave me a good talking to when I walked in the door last night! Her tail was going and so was her mouth - I heard all about what she thought of me being gone for over three days.

Harry Potter move over! I just started reading a translated Dutch fantasy novel called The Dream Merchant by Isabel Hoving. It is 630 pages long so I think I will be at it for a bit. Josh loves gadgets of any kind and he also has the gift for falling asleep most any where. That is why he is recruited by Gippart to dream travel. People have become bored with buying their gadgets in this world so they are going to train Josh and his friend Baz to dream travel to other worlds so they can sell their gadgets there. But, this kind of travel is very dangerous. Just ask the girl with the huge scar on her chest - her heart almost burst in an attempt to do what Gippards is sure Josh can. So far, and I am only 36 pages into it, I am fascinated. Looks like another great fantasy read for MS.

I just received the shrink wrapped copy of the Twentieth Anniversary Edition of Van Allsburg's The Polar Express, with the Caldecott blazing in gold on the slipcover front. What a wonderful Christmas gift for any child, or adult, who doesn't have a copy of this book. Such magic inside these pages. I have not seen the movie and I am not sure I want to. I am not a big Tom Hanks fan so I think he may ruin the experience for me, but I am sure we will see it come out on at least the cable stations this Holiday Season. I had a friend say her little one got scared by it - something about the animated eyes, kind of creepy.

All for now, need a bit of a break before my class chats with Lara Zeises. Lara is such a cool person and a fantastic YA author.

Friday, September 23, 2005

I have Kenny Chesney's latest CD in front of me - Be as You Are. The songs are all about living in the islands. He isn't Jimmy Buffet, but they are fun songs. Had to chuckle at the one called Island Boy. At one point he sings "he's a stone throw from St. Croix". It may be more than a stone throw away, but it can be seen on a clear day. I think Steve is becoming the Island Boy he sings about! The locals on St. John say Chesney is pretty much a fixture on the island now and no one pays much attention to him. I have only been over on St. John a few times and I haven't seen him, but not sure I would recognize him. Anyway, the CD is fun to listen to. Was a birthday present for Steve from his daughter Monica, but I am the one who listens to it. Monica likes country music too - unlike her father. :-)

As I watch Hurricane Rita approach the Texas coast I have been trying to remember the name of the MS level novel I read about a 12 year old girl and a 14 year old Mexican orphan surviving the 1900 storm. It is Stolen by the Sea by Anna Myers. It is a solid addition to a collection as is Sherry Garland's The Secret Storm about a young teen who has already lost her parents to a hurricane and is trying to ride out the Galveston hurricane with her grandfather. I have a feeling both titles will be very popular in Texas and surrounding areas.

Taking us far away from the storm - to Iceland to be exact - I have to say I am not sure what I think of Gunnella's illustrations in Bruce McMillan's The Trouble with Chickens. She is an Icelandic artist who creates very stylized women, with very large bodies with legs like tree trunks. Since this book is intended for young readers I wonder if they would believe Icelandic women look like this or that Icelandic horses are as huge as the one depicted. The story is quite cute - the women can't reach the wild bird eggs so they bring chickens to the village. The chickens do everything with the woman and soon forget they are chickens, including laying eggs. The women start exercising - so do the chickens and soon they are strong enough to fly down and lay eyes in the nests on the cliffs. And the women are now strong enough to rappel down the cliffs to get the eggs. I think I would offer it to the art teach to use as an example of a unique illustrative style.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

There are nine sail or powerboats within my view. It is a beautiful sunny and breezy day. The sails are moving the boats along at a good pace. We are fortunate so far this hurricane season. We have not had but a couple of bad storms with some flooding, but nothing major. I have the Weather Station on again today and am looking at the gridlock on the highways out of Houston. 45 is the only highway out of Galveston and it converges downtown with the other highways that head north or west. What a mess. Tried to get into the UHCL website just to see if I could check my email or do some grading, but figured they would be shut down. They are. They were still up yesterday so I was able to assure my students not to worry about the scheduled chat for tonight.

I was going to walk down to the beach later today but my toe is blue and I am limping. How something so tiny can hurt and throb so bad is beyond me! I stubbed it on the tub last night and heard the cracking/popping noise before the pain set in so I knew I had done some damage. OUCH!! This better settle down before Sunday when I cram my feet into my cowboy boots. I always wear them when I fly to keep my ankles and feet warm in the plane. I am headed to Greenville North Carolina so I don't think I have to worry about the storm.

Was reading the chapter in the text I am reviewing on humor and was very surprised that Rennison's books were not included in the discussion. How could the five books about wacky Brit Georgia Nicholson not be included? The latest is entitled Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers. How could that title not get a teenage girl's attention? I snort laughed at the first book about Georgia - Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging. Gotta love her cat. And Joan Bauer's Thwonk about a girl who has her own Cupid who gives her what she thought she wanted - the guy of her dreams to fall madly in love with her. Mad is the operative word here - he is acting like a mad man - quite funny reading. It should have been on the list.

Speaking of funny - you gotta love Willa the Wonderful by Susan Milord. Willa is a delightful little pig who decides that she is going to be a fairy princess for career day. Her teacher and the other adults in her life aren't too sure about how good of a career choice this is, at least until she saves her classmate's little brother. Her determination reminds me a bit of Falconer's Olivia. Two fun little pigs to introduce to young readers. Willa the Wonderful is a great book to use when introducing a career unit with little ones.

All for now. I am going limp into the kitchen for my third diet coke of the day! :-)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I am having a terrible time focusing on anything right now other than Hurricane Rita and the possibility it will to do to the coastal region of Texas what Katrina did to New Orleans and surrounding areas. Friends who live in the Brownsville area have already loaded up their travel trailer and headed inland. Thank goodness. UHCL has closed down until Monday and my online chats are cancelled for this week. I feel so helpless and guilty as the weather is beautiful down here in the VI. Sunny, breezy and in the 80s. After living in the Houston area for years I feel like my "home" is in danger and I can't even be there to help. My thoughts and prayers are with all my friends, students, and everyone else in the Texas coastal areas.

Haven't read a YA book in the last couple of days as I am reviewing a new YA Literature university level text for VOYA. As I read through the lists of suggested novels I get more and more frustrated with the range of novels listed, with no suggested interest levels. Children's books are in the same list with adult titles with older teen appeal. This has been my biggest frustration with any textbook I use for teaching YA Literature - the flow of children's and adult novels into the realm of YA fiction. I know the general definition of YA literature as anything teens will read. But, that doesn't help the instructor who is trying to get her students to focus on the novels that are intended for teens and exposure to the authors who write for teens - Crutcher, Giles, Lynch, Flinn, Zeises, etc.

It also what frustrates the heck out of my students as they want to focus on the novels for "tweens" - those books for 10-12 year olds as they end up on BBYA and other recommended booklists for young adults. Those are the ones I DON'T want them to focus on. The tween who loves Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn Dixie is at a very different emotional and maturity level than the 17 year old who is reading Lara Zeises' Bringing Up the Bones. How does one course effectively cover all of the literature for ages 12 through 18? If I had my druthers I would only focus on the books for 15-21. Enough of my whining for now, but I am sure my frustration level will stay high as I finish evaluating this textbook.

Anyone who reads my blog knows I am a Christmas fanatic and love anything to do with the Holiday Season. So I was excited to read The Finest Christmas Tree by John and Ann Hassett. The cover art with the tree being pulled behind a tractor brought a smile to my face. I closed my eyes and saw my dad and brothers hauling in the spruce tree still covered with bits of ice and snow, arguing over which was the best side to face out while I couldn't wait to start decorating it. We could cover up any hole, no matter the size, with enough tinsel. :-) Anyway, the book addresses what happens when artificial trees become the rage and Mr. Tuttle doesn't make enough money from his cut Christmas trees to buy Mrs. Tuttle her annual Christmas hat. It might be time for him to sell his tree lot for toothpicks. But a mysterious letter stating that his helpers would be arriving to pick out his finest tree brings Mr. Tuttle back into the Christmas spirit. The ending is a bit anti-climactic, but I still like the book and look forward to reading it to MJ and Allyson.

I really do need to do some grading in WebCT before UHCL closes it down.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

It is a beautiful breezy Sunday morning with the sun shining, but there are clouds on the horizon. This time of year there is no telling what the weather will be like. It is nice to have Steve home and back to our "normal" schedule, which includes sharing a Shipwreck burger for lunch on Saturdays. They are so large I can't imagine eating a whole one. There is good reason Shipwreck gets the local vote for best burger on the island every year. While we were eating lunch they had a Bob Marley music video playing. It was really good - brought back lots of great memories since my son loved Marley's music and I would often hear it in the background when we had our late night chats on the phone. Will have to see if I can find it on B&N. Most people seems to prefer Amazon, but I love B&N because of the membership discount and the free shipping, even down here to the islands. I order and I have the books, CDs, or DVDs within a week.

Speaking of B&N, I had to read the professional reviews for Henry Garfield's My Father the Werewolf because I was expecting an exciting read and it wasn't. It felt like I was reading an outline for what could have been a really great horror novel. The reviewers weren't any more thrilled with it than I was. A 2Q from VOYA. The third person narrative focused on the middle-age hippie father in the first part of the book and then switched to Danny, the 14-year-old son who had the responsibility of making sure his father got to the island off the coast of the small Maine town they moved to after his father is attacked by a werewolf on Pismo Beach in California. The tale is told so matter of factly, with almost no emotion. The characters are not rounded out so that the reader does not feel any real connection to them. The strait between the island and the mainland freezes over and Danny tries to scare his werewolf father back onto the island by shooting off fireworks, one of which burns down the building of the insurance company his dad works for. A disappointing read, but just the title alone will attract readers.

I have been browsing through Kelly Ault's Let's Sign: Every Baby's Guide to Communicating with Grownups. The theory is that teaching sign language to babies prior to being able to use verbal language to express their needs allows them to communicate their needs. Not just the typical sign language we tend to use with babies, but actual American Sign Language. Not sure how I feel about this but it is a cool book to add to any early childhood based collection.

I think I smell Steve's famous Sunday French toast. :-)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Woke up to the sounds of large machinery and digging this a.m. Since this island is mostly rock, digging is more like pounding, and very loud! One of the houses below us, right on the water, is being remodeled into two apartments and they always start work on it early. Due to the heat many islanders get up at dawn and do their yard type work early. I picked up Steve from the airport last night and we stopped to have a late dinner at Tickles, which is in Crown Bay marina. There was only a handful of people in the place and it wasn't quite 10 p.m. yet. If it had been Friday night in Houston we would have been on a waiting list to get in. The town was dead when we drove through. For all the talk of this being a party island, Charlotte Amalie closes up pretty early at night.

Read about one of the pirates who sailed the waters of the Caribbean. Matter of fact Sir Frances Drake died of dysentery somewhere in the West Indies. Nothing like the Queen of England knighting a pirate who raided Spanish ships to build up her coffers. Laurie Lawlor's Dead Reckoning is about Drake's three year voyage to plunder Spanish ships. It is told from the point of view of his nephew, renamed Emmet for this fictional retelling of the adventure. Lawlor didn't have as many historical documents to work from as some authors as many of these were destroyed due to the nature of Drake's "business". He never was accepted into high society as he was a very crude man. Very well written novel that leaves little to the imagination as to how cruel and difficult a pirate's life was.

How about a Christmas version of the three bears in which the visitor is Santa instead of Goldilocks. That is just what happens in The Three Bears' Christmas by Kathy Duval. The story is quite cute, with Santa nibbling on their gingerbread cookies instead of porridge. He leaves behind a mitten, his hat, boots and jacket. The last page shows Santa flying away in his sleigh, minus those items. It's going to be a cold flight back to the North Pole for this Santa. :-) Little ones will love comparing it with the "real" tale of the Three Bears.

All for now. Just glad the Internet is back up. The stormy weather has had it down quite a bit the last few days.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Can just barely make out the two peaks on St. Croix through the haze, but at least it hasn't started raining yet. I am going to take a chance and head off for Tutu and the mall to do some shopping. We call it the mall but it pretty much is all shoe stores and beauty supplies. Shoes are very big deal with the women down here as are hair extensions of every color and style you can think of. I would kill myself walking on the rocks and uneven sidewalks (where there are any) in the spike heels that are so popular. Give me my Dr. Scholls sandals! Man am I becoming an old woman!

How many times have we picked up a book because the cover art was appealing and then found out the story wasn't? Well, that isn't the case with Vivian Vande Velde's The Book of Mordred. The book is as dark and intriguing as the cover art. For those of us who can't resist a bad boy, this is the perfect book for us. Mordred is multidimensional in this novel. His involvement in three women's lives is narratated from their point of view and you see him as a loving but often arrogant and bullheaded man. How many of us remember King Arthur had made him a Knight of the Round Table. This book suggests there was more than a personal grudge that caused the battle between father and son. Alayna, the young widow of a magician, and her daughter Kiera become an integral part of Mordred's life. He is their champion. Enter Nimue, the sorceress who imprisoned Merlin in a tree. By his request in this version of the story. I was spellbound as deeply as if Nimue or Merlin had cast the spell themselves. I have always loved Vande Velde's writing style and her latest book is no exception. A wonderful addition to any HS library collection.

While I was selecting books for Montessori the other day I saw a picture book by Michael Bolton! What celebrity isn't going to take a stab at writing a children's book? The ones I have liked so far are John Lithgow's and Jaime Lee Curtis' books. Garrison Keillor attempt at a children's book is called Daddy's Girl. The illustrations by Robin Preiss Glasser are a delight, but the four separate poems by Keillor are not. His rhythm and rhyme is very choppy. Let's just say he shouldn't give up his radio show to become a children's author! There is also a CD of songs he written for his little daughter Maia Grace. If you are a Keillor fan (my husband is and listens to his show every Sunday afternoon) you might like this book and CD, but I will admit right up front I find his voice very irritating so I have a hard time listening to him sing or speak. But, to each their own - which is fine since we have thousands of children's books to choose from. :-)

Off to the mall to drop off three rolls of film from when the kids were down and then back home to grading before a chat with my online class tonight.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

So maybe staying up until almost 4 a.m. wasn't a good idea! My night owl tendencies were in high gear last night and since it is just Sophie and me this week I took advantage of it and watched the premier of Bones and the season premier of House on Fox. Was busy working on the 2nd advent calendar so time just flew by. But now I am regretting my late night viewing and then reading in bed. I was really hyper when I got home last night as I made two shopping excursions to Hemingway's bookstore to buy books for Montessori at 1/2 off. Ended up spending $800, but got lots of great titles, including some really cool art books. It was like Christmas or shopping at Foleys on someone else's money. :-) But, I did buy myself a few Christmas related titles. Think that is why I was up so late even though I had gotten up early to go to work. Oh well, a nap will fix it!

Did a booktalking session with the Middle School at Montessori yesterday. They were a lot of fun. We were talking about Gary Paulsen's Rifle, one of my favorite of his books though it didn't get much attention. We talked about how an antique Civil War era rifle could fire because of one spark from the fireplace. That is my favorite passage in the book. It is written in such detail that you are stunned when it comes to a conclusion and you know what happened to the bullet. Every book I talked about was checked out - that is what makes booktalking so satisfying. The students want the books!

Then I had little ones in who don't even know how to put the books back with spines out! We use shelf markers but they haven't gotten that process down yet either but the joy in their faces when they find the book they want and carefully write their names on the card is a delight to watch. The boys trashed the dinosaur section, but it was worth it to see them so animated about the different type of dinosaurs.

Oh dear - I hear a YA novel and maybe a nap calling me! :-) After I figure out what Sophie is fussing about. She is the most vocal cat I have ever had, but then again I encourage it as we have conversations all day long while I am home alone!

Monday, September 12, 2005

It is raining so hard that I can't even see the ferry I can clearly hear going by. Good thing Steve's flight when out before this rain hit. Not that I was glad to be up at 5:45 this morning though. He is in Seattle all week at a conference. He said he was looking forward to a few days of cooler weather. It has been sweltering down here with heat, humidity, and a grittiness in the air that is causing sinus problems.

Spent yesterday watching football and working on a Christmas advent calendar for Ally. Not much choice in TV viewing as we have the NFL channel and Steve has the TV on that pretty much all weekend. Watched a great Chiefs game - Steve is from KC so we try to watch those games. The Texans game wasn't televised, but since they got beat I guess it didn't matter. Also saw the end of the emotional Saints game. We watched the Texans beat the Saints in a preseason game in New Orleans the first year the Texans played. I can't imagine that the Saints won't ever play in that stadium again.

On the not intended for teens reading front I am just about finished with Swan Adamson's Confessions of a Pregnant Princess, the sequel to My Three Husbands. These are fun beach reads, but I would not give them to a teenager. Venus is only 25 and has gone through three loser husbands and is now in Rome at the insistence of the rich Italian prince who has fallen for her. Old enough to be her father, Marcello may not be the man of her dreams, but the men she thought were right were certainly wrong! Venus is a basket case, but a lovable basket case as are her "two dads" and her space case mom.

On the quality side - I finally bought a copy of John Green's Looking for Alaska because it was such a popular topic of discussion on YALSA-BK. It is stunning! I couldn't put it down until I found out if Miles made any progress in his search for the Great Perhaps as he enters the Alabama private school his father had attended. My heart went out to him and his love for Alaska, but then again, all the guys were in love with her. She drew them to her like bees to honey, even the Alaska who could be quite bitchy and mean tempered at times. The relationship between Miles and his roommate Chip is a co-dependency to a degree, but they help each other grow and mature as they deal with life with and without Alaska. I also learned a lot of great last words from famous people. What a well written debut novel. I am hoping we will see more from this young author. This guy can write! Gritty, true upper level YA - we need more novels like this.

Houghton Mifflin has republished the 1912 edition of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas with illustrations by Jessie Willcox Smith. These are the style of illustrations I remember from my own copy of this book as a child. Wish I had kept it since I now collect copies of this book. I am waiting for the first book version to come out that states that Clement C. Moore did not actually write the poem even though that was what the guests assumed when it was read aloud to his children. I did research on the issue of the poem's authorship back in the early 90s and that's when I began to collect copies. I do have number of them now!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Why is it the nights you actually make a dinner and have it in the oven when your husband/wife calls and says they are going to be late from work? Oh well, it will heat up when Steve gets home. So I have a few hours to veg by myself before he gets home. I have VH1 Country blaring on the TV. I love country music but Steve does not, and that is saying it mildly! :-) We do not have a country station in the islands so I have to listen to CDs or VH1 Country. Didn't have that problem in Texas! :-)

I snort laughed my way through Ron Koertge's Where the Kissing Never Stops. What a wonderful book with a delightful main character, Walker. His sense of humor is wonderful as is his ability to accept his weight and his use of food to deal with stress. But, as soon as he and Rachel become a couple his weight starts to come off. Being out working on the property that his father left him when he died helps too. Walker would have a pretty normal life with a girlfriend and a best friend who acts like a psychologist, but his mother works as a stripper at the Ye Olde Burlesque Club. Having a 40 year old mother with that profession would be difficult enough for a teenage boy who lived in a big city, but Walker lives in a small town outside of Kansas City. Walker had me at hello! :-)

On the visual delight side - take a look at Katya Arnold's Elephants Can Paint Too!. What a fun photo essay comparison of her young students learning to paint at school with the elephants she works with in Asia. The narrative comparison is delightful too - "A young elephant sucks its trunk the way babies suck their thumbs." The left side of the page shows a child painting and the right side shows an elephant painting. The author and her husband established painting schools where they train about 30 elephants to paint. The proceeds from selling the elephants' paintings are used to help saving the diminishing number of Asian elephants. Cool book for any age, but little ones will certainly relate, and think it cute, how much they are like elephants.

Now I am going curl up and reading Looking for Alaska!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Getting up at 6 a.m. means I get to watch the boat come out to drop off the pilot who brings in the cruise ships. The pilot boat looks like a toy next to the huge cruise ships. I hadn't thought about how they also need pilots to enter the Mississippi in New Orleans - so many that they had a group of homes called Pilot Town. I heard that Carnival is sending three of its cruise ships to house some of the people who lost their homes in New Orleans.

Took yesterday off totally from any work related activities. Didn't have much choice as the Internet connection was so sluggish I didn't have the patience for it to load screens. Seems to be fine this a.m. So, I wallowed in a Fern Michaels' novel - Weekend Warriors. Not one I would recommend to teens. Just an adult beach read about a group of women out to seek their own kind of justice when the legal system failed them. Got my attention enough that I want the sequel. I am sure I will have to order it from B&N as I found the first one in the bookcase at Bottom's Up when we went for the prime rib special Sunday night. Most of the marina bars/restaurants have at one bookcase of paperbacks since the only public library on island is in downtown Charlotte Amalie and it is sorely in need of collection development in all areas.

My latest YA read is Paul Fleischman's ZAP. I loved so many of his other books - Joyful Noise, Bull Run, Mind's Eye, and Seek - but this disjointed play did not appeal to my reader's taste. Who knows - maybe it would like it if I saw it in on the stage. I am sure many high schools will follow behind Pacific Grove High School and perform it. It is a must have in a HS collection as we have so few modern plays that have YA appeal. Teens may like the idea of a play that changes scenarios with the sound of a click/zap. Maybe it is because I get so frustrated with Steve's channel surfing that I didn't like it! I was half way through the campy and stupidly fun to watch horror movie Snakehead Fish when he decided watching some documentary on Area 51 would be more entertaining.

I snort laughed my way through Simon James' picture book Baby Brains Superstar. What a hoot. I kept thinking about all the bright eyed parents I have met who assured me their babies/children were gifted (I taught preschool years ago). My favorite illustration is of Mrs. Brains laying on the floor with headphones around her pregnant tummy playing classical music. And like so many parents with "gifted" children Mr. and Mrs. Brain forgot that their music composing, guitar playing infant son was still a baby mentally and began to wail "Where's my mommy?" when he saw all the people in the crowd at his very own rock concert. This Candlewick title will bring a smile to any parent's face and will delight young children.

Off to Montessori. Via email I heard our server software came in. We having been trying to get Follett's Destiny up and running since we got the software in February. Everything runs on island time down here.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Just made my reservations for AASL in Pittsburgh in October. Am flying through Philly on the way back and spending a few days with a friend. Can't wait. Janna and I became friends at Montessori as she used to teach English there but went back home to be near her family. I miss chatting with her so this should be fun.

I refused to get out of bed this a.m. until I finished Laura Whitcomb's A Certain Slant of Light. It is one of Houghton Mifflin's Graphia titles and what a wonder reading experience. I love ghost stories anyway, but this one has a delightful slant to it. Helen is Light (a ghost) and she has attached herself to a number of human hosts (Quicks) through the years, but none of them have been able to see her. Her latest host is Mr. Brown, a high school English teacher, and it is in his classroom that she realizes one of the students can actually see her - Billy Blake, who recently almost died from an overdose. But, Billy's spirit isn't inside his body anymore, it is James, a ghost who took over the body when Billy was slipping away. He convinces Helen to look for a body to inhabit so they can be together. She inhabits the spiritless Jenny, the daughter of a severely religious couple. The reactions to their inhabitation by family members is quite interesting as they do not know how either of the teens acted in the past. They revel in their physical feelings but all good things must come to an end and they know they must leave the bodies behind. It is time to make peace with what has not allowed them to go to heaven. I was enthralled with this book. Helen and James' use of quaint old English interspersed with modern teen slang brings a smile to the reader's face as stoner dude Billy is quite a handful for prim and proper James to acclimate to. Give this one to any teenage girl who loves ghost stories. Heck, to anyone to wants to read an intriguing story. A ten in my book! :-)

I was sitting in front of the fan as I read Helen Lester's Tacky and the Winter Games. What a fun book, especially when the weather is this hot. I went bobsledding, downhill skiing on frozen fish, and won a skating race with Tacky and his team. Tacky is not your typical penguin with his rotund form and his Hawaiian print shirt - he is a delightful penguin. There are several other Lester books about Tacky, all of which are great fun. Perfect story time fare.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Man it is hot out there today! Steve is working on trying to get one running lawnmower out of two rusted old things. We have been to Home Depot twice today for parts. Now he is trying to create a "patch" so he can put the wheel back on - most of the side is rusted out. I told him to let our landlord buy a new mower but this has now become a challenge! So what if the tools and parts cost more than a cheap lawnmower!

When I saw that Eddie De Oliveira wrote Johnny Hazzard I decided to give him another chance. I really did not care for his first book, Lucky. I really wanted to like Lucky because it is upper level YA - about a 19-year-old questioning his sexuality. Sam, the main character, finally decides that sexuality is like a Venn diagram since he, and the guy he likes, also like girls. It wasn't the subject matter that I didn't like and I did enjoy the gritty Brit humor and language. It was the main character Sam I didn't like - he was more than a bit too whiney for me. The same thing is true of 15-year-old Johnny Hazzard in De Oliveira's latest book, Johnny Hazzard. Johnny and his older sister are spending the summer in London with their father and his new wife, as they always do. Johnny is usually bored senseless, but this summer he goes out with his new skateboard and runs into a skater girl. She is older than him, but she doesn't seem to mind and before Johnny knows it he is in a relationship, both emotional and physical. Then the story comes to a grinding halt when Sam and family go on a family vacation and you get a history lesson on the war monuments and cemetaries in and around Brussells. This 15-year-old is even quoting Winston Churchill and crying as he walks through museums. De Oliveira also has a lot to say about U.S. politics and Michael Moore (really likes him I guess). If you take out the history and politics it might have been an interesting but short read as Sam gets dumped by the older girl, as is expected. But, again the main character Johnny is one of the most wimpy whiney teens I have read about. I guess it is obvious I am not a fan of this young British author's main characters.

Hey! I hear a lawnmower! Now I'm impressed! :-)

Friday, September 02, 2005

It is a hot one today. But, it is a three day weekend and we have lots of tourists on the island enjoying their last long weekend of the summer so hot weather is a good thing. Too bad the sun wasn't out a bit more. Not sure what we are up to with Steve off for three days, perhaps nothing more than relaxing after our summer company. I have been working on putting one of my Reader's Advisory column Q&As together and discovered that locating well illustrated editions of children's classics is not easy - that is if you don't want an adaptation or an abridgment. But, part of the fun is the search - just what a librarian would say! :-)

Finished Walter Dean Myers short but intense YA novel, The Beast. I just looked at the reviews for it and they are not outstanding, but good. I am not sure what to think of this novel. At times I was wondering where Myers was going with the story and others I had to stop and reread a paragraph as the imagery is so well done. Once we leave and then return home it is not the same - actually it might be, but we aren't. We see it with different, more experienced, eyes. That's what happens to Spoon when he leaves Harlem to attend a suburban prep school for his senior year. He returns home for Christmas to find his girlfriend doing drugs and his buddy dropped out of school. "And suddenly I knew there was a reason I hadn't been home since August. It wasn't clear to me, but I knew it had to do with the mix. Chanelle, Brand, even Julie had all taken the train or driven from New York up to Wallingford, but the distance had been different. They had taken their lives, their successes, with them, and I had left mine behind." He had also left behind Gabi, who couldn't cope with her mother's cancer, her younger brother's gang involvement, and her blind grandfather. She let the beast catch her and things would never be the same between her and Spoon. Their talks of a future together had become just that, talk. They had taken separate paths.

When I was a kid my brother Dan had a hamster that rode around in his pocket. My brother Larry was given a guinea pig to use in a maze for his science fair project and discovered he had a whole family of guinea pigs! My own children had hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, turtles, and hermit crabs. But, none of them are quite right when that child wants a dog, or in my kids' case, a dog and a cat! In Angela McAllister's Monster Pet! Jackson wants a pet that is big and wild and all his. But, dad brought his home a hamster. Jackson named him Monster, but he certainly didn't act like one. He couldn't fetch a stick and he couldn't climb a tree and he certainly could not roar. Jackson got bored with him and Monster was lonely. That night Monster found his way out of his cage and into his hamster food and into the garden. He was now a monster size hamster and had Jackson learning how to store food in his cheeks and exercise on the wheel. I wonder what would have happened if Jackson hadn't fallen out of bed and woke up? :-) Charlotte Middleton's illustrations make the monster size hamster so goofy looking he isn't the least bit scary so even little ones will love this book about how important it is to care for your pets, even the littlest, meekest ones.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Read through the articles online this a.m. about Louisiana and Mississippi. Last night I sat there in tears as I watched the news. Such devastation and so many people homeless. This is such a poor part of the country to begin with - so many of the residents do not have the financial means to leave even if they could. As a country we will be feeling the affects of Katrina for years to come. I feel guilty for sitting here in air conditioned comfort looking out over the beautiful blue Caribbean and realizing what impact the warm waters of the ocean can have on the strength of a storm.

Took a break from a YA novel and read the Mary Higgins Clark mystery I picked up at Dockside's book sale last month. The Second Time Around is a fun read about a Wall Street Weekly reporter who is writing a story about the fatal airplane crash of a Nick Spencer, the charismatic son of a microbiologist who has developed a vaccine to cure cancer. The patients Nick injected with the vaccine have gone into remission but someone doesn't want the company to get FDA approval for the vaccine so the later test results have been altered. Carley, the reporter, is the stepsister of the ice queen 2nd wife of the dead man who knows more about his death than her bereaved widow persona suggests. In other words - a fun beach read - too bad I didn't read it at the beach!

Read a cute nonfiction picture book - Saving the Liberty Bell by Megan McDonald - about how the liberty bell, then known as the Great Bell, was secreted out of Philadelphia so that the British could not melt it down for ammunition. The rumors were spread that the city's bells were sunk in the harbor when in reality they were moved out into various small town and hid. The story of how John Jacob Mickley and his father carried the Liberty Bell in their wagon, covered with dung and straw (and rumor says, a petticoat), is a fun way to introduce a discussion of the bell or the beginning of the Revolutionary War. The Historical Note at the end gives more information to share with students. I liked the story but am not as crazy about the illustrations - the petticoat is a bit much! I don't think petticoats were that gaudy back then. :-)