Tuesday, February 28, 2006

How cute - Sophie was patiently waiting in front of the sliding doors this a.m. Once the doors opened she wasn't so cute though - I think she was telling me all about her evening with the other cats in the neighborhood - at the top of her lungs. Not a great thing at 6 a.m., especially when you are not a morning person. Yesterday I spent part of the afternoon brushing burrs out of her fur. She was both indignant and thankful.

We watched Batman Begins last night. At first I was a bit bored with it - just seemed like another violent film and then I got interested in it when the good cop got involved. And, how can you not like Morgan Freeman as the guy who makes all the cool stuff Batman uses, including a "car" that looks nothing like the Batmobile as we know it. Michael Cain as the faithful Wayne butler was wonderful and added some comic relief to the darkness of this movie. Katie Holmes just seemed to "cutesy" and young to pull off the role as a lawyer in the DA's office.

I am looking at the cover of The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer. Nothing fancy - a black cover with the title, with a green frog looking up at it. But, it caught my fancy. Then when I saw that it is an Arthur Levine Imprint from Scholastic I knew it was my next read. When I get a box of Scholastic books, these are the imprint I look at first. Levine has a tendency to go for the international titles that will knock your socks off. This one didn't do that - it just stunned me into silence. I read it a couple of days ago and had to let it sit on my desk so I could think about it. The first thought I had is the old saying about the best gifts coming in small packages. At 101 pages, this is indeed a small package, but oh what a gift. Set in the Netherlands in 1951, the Dutch are still dealing with the effects of WWII. Thomas is the son of an abusive father and a devoted mother. Due to the strict and abusive atmosphere in his Jewish home Thomas often flees to his own little world. He sees things that no one else can and writes it all down his The Book of Everything. Jesus appears to him on occasion, with comments such as "I'll never let myself be nailed to the Cross again, I just won't. I've had enough of it." He knows their next door neighbor Mrs. van Amersfoort is a witch - he has floated around the room with her when they listen to Beethoven. Thomas is sure that someday he will marry beautiful Eliza with her artificial leather leg that creaks when she walks. But Thomas' power climaxes after his mother receives a horrible beating for standing up for him against his father. Thomas unintentionally brings down the plagues of Egypt upon their home. John Nieuwenhuizen's translation has kept the beauty of the story - it is flowing, poignant, and unforgettable. There is so much in these 101 pages I cannot even begin to express, but the bottom line is - Thomas has learned that the first step to happiness (what he wants to be when he grows up) is to stop being afraid. I honestly don't know how this book will be received by older children and teens, but this adult loved it intensely.

That's it for today. Another long day at Montessori inputting MARC records. Cataloging the local Caribbean titles is not much fun.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The sailors have to love this breezy weather but I am not seeing too many boats out there. I noticed we have a severe weather watch - something to do with flooding - but we haven't gotten any rain. It is a bit hazy out there but the sun is shining through.

High season is upon us for sure. We had a hard time finding a place to sit in Shipwreck yesterday for our Saturday 1/2 burger. We watched an entire Stevie Ray Vaughn music video while we waited for our food, but it was worth it. The luxury yachts are lined up along the wharf and Crown Bay Marina is full. I have gotten to the point that I don't even like going out anymore as I hate the long wait. I like summers better - hardly any tourists.

I have a lunchmeat pizza in the oven for lunch. Mary thought that was the funniest thing when I told her. Poor Steve - he went to the grocery store on Friday to get the makings for pizza. No pepperoni, so he bought ham lunchmeat instead. Oh well, it isn't like pepperoni, but it works! No worse than the hotdog pizzas I used to make years ago in Alaska.

Read Julie Anne Peters' Between Mom and Jo last night. Nick is the fourteen year old son of two moms, Mom and Jo. Mom is Nick's biological mother, but Jo is the mom he turns to in times of need, and he is darn needy when his moms' relationship breaks up. Nick wants to live with Jo, but Mom is adamant about that not happening. Nick's spiral into depression is heartbreaking, right down to him unplugging his fish tank and letting the fish die. At first I was a bit put off by the almost stereotypical depiction of Jo as the butch type lesbian. Jo is certainly not the typical mother type. She is a beer swigging loud mouth with a wicked sense of humor who can't hold down a job. Mom is in law school and very dependable, with loving parents. Adding Mom's new love interest to the mix and this is one of those books you can't put down. I really wasn't happy with the ending, but it did fit the tone of this book.

All for now - the pizza is cooling in the kitchen. :-)

Friday, February 24, 2006

Friday is upon us and I am still trying to catch up on grading, but I am seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe I will be caught up just in time for the next assignment to be due for grading. Thank goodness for light laptops so I don't feel chained to my desk and the desktop computer.

I finished Philippa Gregory's spectacular historical novel, The Queen's Fool this a.m.. Another NY Times bestseller that I picked up at the airport. Although the cover is very attractive, with the raised gold on the dress, it isn't very appropriate for this book as Hannah, the main character, spends most of her life in England in livery, dressed as an hermaphrodite holy fool for first King Edwards, then Queen Mary, and a friend/spy to Princess Elizabeth as the red headed vixen manipulates and flirts her way to the crown. Hannah is obsessed with Robert Dudley and her innocent infatuation with him is both her savior and her downfall as these are desperate times in England, especially for a Spanish Jew who has escaped to London with her printer father, only to find they are in as much danger here as in Spain, where her mother was burned at the stake. Hannah is called a holy fool as she has the Sight - she has "fainting" episodes in which she can see the future. She predicts King Edward's death, Mary's rise to the thrown and her doomed love for the Prince of Spain. It is a fascinating read, with a British history lesson deftly weaved into the tale so that one doesn't even realize how much you have learned. Although certainly not a quick read at 500 pages, it is a novel that should be in high school level fiction collections. The romantic twists and turns to Hannah's life in themselves will, in themselves, keep a female teenreader engrossed in the story.

Okay - time to switch computers, My legs are going numb from sitting cross legged with this laptop on my legs. On to grading!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

It is a beautiful breezy cool day with small white caps on the ocean. I should be outside working on the laptop in the sun, but instead I am inside. Need to ask Steve to spray for the darn wasps again. The flowering bushes in front of the apt. are in full bloom, which brings them in. Even Sophie has decided to be inside today - she is fast asleep on one of the boxes under my desk.

Was reading through the email update from Publishers Weekly and saw: (cut and pasted directly from the site)
Harry Potter Sweepstakes
Scholastic has announced a six-week sweepstakes in conjunction with the paperback release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Starting on March 1, fans can log on to www.scholastic.com/harrypotter and take part in an online poll every Wednesday until April 5, collecting six different printable HP book covers to be pasted onto a downloadable entry form. Once all the covers have been collected, the entry form can be mailed in, and must be received by April 24. Three grand-prize winners will receive an iPod with the crest of Hogwarts School etched into it, as well as all six downloadable audiobooks and a copy of the deluxe U.S. edition of Half-Blood Prince with a bookplate signed by J.K.Rowling. Six first-prize winners will get two Harry Potter hardcover boxed sets apiece, and everyone who enters the contest will receive a Harry Potter bookmark.

I am not a big Harry Potter fan. I am not crazy about the books, but I do appreciate what they have done for fantasy reading in this country and world wide. If the popularity of Harry Potter books can entice older children and teens to explore excellent fantasy authors such as L'Engle (her new collection of poetry The Ordering of Love is a delight) and Le Guin (Tahanu is my favorite Le Guin book at the moment, taking me back to Earthsea, which I had visited years before). I am all for it. I am sure there are lots of readers out there would would love to have that Hogwarts School Ipod. I have to admit I do like the movies though. :-)

I just watched a webcast interview with Mo Willems, the author of two delightful picture books, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and Knuffle Bunny. Quite interesting. You can access this and the other interviews that School Library Journal will web cast at http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6304809.html
You have to register, but it doesn't cost anything to do so. I am going to send this on to my students. I love how technology is helping us book people get kids and their parents involved in books.

I can hear my email binging with messages coming in so I had better get to them before I call it a day. I have been on this computer all day.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I hit brain dead with grading. Between the trip to Greenville and Upper Michigan I feel like I will never catch up with anything around here. Just found the coffee table that I loaded with "stuff" that I brought back with me from North Carolina. Sorting through the paperwork wasn't an option yet, but at least it is in a pile. Nor is figuring out how to use my new cell phone.

I finally got the dishes washed. Every time I take a break to do them the water isn't working. We went out to eat last night because the water was off again. We ate at the outside tables at Duffy's Love Shack and were actually cold! Even a few of the tourists had sweaters on so I knew it wasn't just us. On the way home Steve turned the heat on for me in the car. You would have thought we would have no problem with island winter weather after being in single digit temps. in Upper Michigan.

I did find one of the other books I read during the Greenville trip. While at the airport, killing time in the gift shop "bookstore" I found a copy of Koren Zailckas' Smashed - a New York Times bestseller. Wow! The subtite is appropriately Story of a Drunken Girlhood. I wish every teenage girl tempted by alcohol as a form of self medication would read this book. Zailckas doesn't pull any punches - she just tells it like it was - the stomach pumping, the frat parties at college, her sorority sister drinking binges, etc. I thought about this book when we drove through the Michigan Technological University campus in Houghton, Michigan. The Winter Carnival had been the week before and ice sculptures lined the road. Lots of alcohol was consuming by the students while they were constructing them. What I find interesting about the book is that Zailckas does not consider herself an alcoholic, but rather an alcohol abuser. When she graduated from college and found a man she cared about, it was time to quit and he quit with her. I read the book with fascination, especially her use of alcohol as a young teenage girl to get the other girls to accept her. So very sad, but true. This is a great addition for any high school level YA collection as it focuses more about her college experiences with alcohol. The whole idea of rich college girls hanging out in bars buying high cost drinks with daddy's gold charge card blows my mind. Maybe if Zailckas didn't have friends like that she may have come out of the alcohol haze a bit earlier.

All for now. Steve should be home shortly with all the makings for pizza. It is always an experience to go to Pueblo with a meal in mind. Who knows what alternate ingredients he will have to choose for the ones I requested. I was in second heaven when I walked into a big Kroger in Greenville. Just the different varieties of pretzels had me hyperventilating in glee! We don't even want to go into my delight over the produce section. It took everything in me not to buy fruit I knew I couldn't eat before I left. Living down here reminds me so much of living in Alaska years ago, but here at least I don't have to call the grocery store in Anchorage to have the groceries shipped out via Alaska Airlines, that seemed to always freeze my canned goods and not the frozen foods. Here you have to check the containers. We bought Pringles for sailing and got on the boat, opened them up and there were about 3 chips left on the bottom. Even a bottle of whole cloves had been opened. We don't even want to go into the # of loaves of bread we have brought home that have been moldy. Maybe I am not hungry after all!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Another morning in the islands - no water! Steve has the patience that I don't. He just sat on the porch watching the cruise ships piloted in as he waited for the owner to get up and not get his shower either. The cistern system requires large pumps and the "new and improved" version the owner put in does not seem to work as well as the old one. And service on anything down here is spotty at best. They work on their own hours and then some. We had no water when we got home on Saturday afternoon either. Sophie is wandering around the apartment "talking" to whoever will listen - at the moment, no one. We are both grumpy and tired from the trip, 2 hour time change, and having to get up so early. We slept in the last couple of days.

We did get out to lunch at Jack's in Tutu yesterday. The most people we have ever seen sitting around the bar. Everyone was watching the bobsled racing on TV. The USVI actually has an older woman who qualified for the Olympics in the luge, but she broke her wrist before her race. They call her Granny Luge down here. I love to watch the couples skating. Lots of falls this year - we were watching during dinner when we got back to Chicago to fly home.

I had started reading Kevin Brooks' The Road of the Dead before I left for NC and finished it this weekend. I loved Lucas, liked Candy, and absolutely love The Road of the Dead. Ruben, at 14, is the youngest in his family. His father is a gypsy, often called Travelers, and is in prison for killing a guy during a fight. His older brother Cole has the same quiet "deadliness" that his father has. When something has to be done Cole can turn off his heart and do it. And now is the time Cole must do that as their older sister Rachel has been raped, beaten, and murdered in the in the moors as she is walking back to her friend's house in the rain. The only way the police will release her body is for the murderer to be found and in the small village where Rachel was visiting her friend, no one is talking. That is until Cole and Ruben arrive and start asking questions. Ruben has the sight and was there with Rachel on the moors when she died. He can still hear her talking to him, as he can the Dead Man - the man who killed her. This is not a pretty story, but it is a story of love - the deep and undying love of two brothers for their older sister and the need to put things right so her body can be released and taken home for burial. As with Lucas, Ruben is a character who is not going to let me go for a very long time. Brooks is one stunning author and has given us yet again a true gritty YA novel, filled with characters you love, hate, and sometimes even understand. I can close my eyes and see both Ruben and Cole.

All for now. Need to find a pair of sandals for my feet. I had been in boots the whole time we were up north. Found a comfy Tommy Bahamas polo type dress at Ross in Greenville for $7 - now that is my kind of sale! :-) I made the mistake of wearing jeans and a short sleeved turtleneck to Montessori the last time I was there. I was fine in the morning but by afternoon I was miserably hot. My legs may be chilly now, but I will appreciate this dress later this afternoon.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Please excuse my lack of postings in the last week or so. Life does have a way of throwing us curve balls when we least expect it.

The trip to Greenville, NC was wonderful. I had a great time with the other LSIT faculty members. Even the faculty meetings were enjoyable. :-) Wandering around town was fun, even in the rain. A cold front hit just as I got there. I seem to bring bad weather with me. Driving on the right side of the road seemed natural, after the first day. The drive in the dark from the airport to the hotel the first night was a bit unnerving though.

The booktalking presentation at the MLS Conference was fun. I had a great audience of secondary teachers and librarians. I was told later that some of them headed directly to Barnes & Nobles to do some shopping with the bibliography of 2005 and 2006 YA titles I handed out. A couple of them said they might take my YA Literature course at ECU in the fall, for recertification credit. So I am feeling really good about having presented as mine was one of only a few secondary level sessions.

I would have come home bubbling over with professional excitement and enthusiasm for YA literature, but I learned, as I was leaving for the Greenville airport early Sunday a.m. that my Dad had died the night before. I did not have a good relationship with my father in later years, as I am not a typical Upper Michigan born and raised Finnish woman by any means of the word. I dreaded going to the funeral, but my gentle loving oldest brother Dan and my wonderful husband Steve convinced me that I needed to put closure on this. So off we flew the next day from St Thomas to Chicago. We rented a car, drove to Green Bay and picked up my daughter Mary and then make the snowy cold drive up to the Hancock/Houghton area in Upper Michigan. I grew up in Point Mills, what was once a small village, outside of Dollar Bay, a tiny town in the Copper Country. I was able to put closure on the rocky relationship with my Dad by remembering the wonderful Daddy he had been to me as a little girl. That is the man I spoke about at the funeral, a man that many of the people at the funeral never knew as I was the baby of the family and the only girl. My three older brothers remember a much different father than I do. I realized we basically grew up in different families when Mom died 8 years ago in February and heard them talk of different memories of her as well. Don't know if it is because I am the only girl, now the matriarch of the family, or because I am younger than them and did not grow up in the large extended family of cousins that they did. I will miss the Daddy I knew and loved and thought the world revolved around, and the wonderful Mom I got to know in later years - the kind and caring woman who was there for me. I still reach for the phone to call her when I need advise or just want to talk. Now I am filling that role for my own daughter, Mary. Life, and death, go on, whether we want them to or not.

I really haven't had much time to read in the last few days, but on the way to Greenville I read the second title in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness prehistoric fantasy series by Michelle Paver, Spirit Walker, the second book about Torak, the prehistoric youth who kills the demon possessed bear that killed his father in Wolf Brother, the first book in the series. A deadly sickness has ravaged the tribes and Torak journeys to the coast, followed by tokoroths, hosts for demons, to find a cure for the sickness that Torah thinks the Soul Eaters have sent. Unfamiliar with the taboos of the coastal peoples, he desecrates the ocean with his hide clothes and is then kidnapped by two young men from the Seal clan and is taken to their island. It is here that Torak meets Tenris, the mage who created the demon bear that destroyed his father. Torak, with the help of Wolf and Renn, destroys Tenris and returns to Renn's Raven clan to seek answers about who he is and who his father was. The answers do not soothe his soul. The third book in the series, The Soul Eaters, will be published by HarperCollins in 2007.

That's it for now. My energy reserves are quite low these days.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Okay - so I'm anal! I want to say hurry up - but I am keeping my mouth shut! Steve is just now getting in the shower and my plane leaves at 9:30 and it is 7:00. I like to be at the airport early as one never knows what to expect here in St. Thomas. The last time I tried to leave on this AA flight through Miami I ended up going through San Juan instead.

Sophie has been attacking my suitcases and yowling - she is not happy about Mama leaving her again. She doesn't understand that Sunday isn't that far away. She and I finished reading Shannon Hale's Princess Academy last night. Had to have Mama/kitty time in the evening instead so she wouldn't feel quite so left out. What a beautifully written coming of age story, set in an isolated mountain village where the residents have been mining linder for so many generations it has become part of their being. So much so that they can mind communicate through it. This is a skill that comes in very handy when the village girls between 12 and 17 are escorted, under guard, to the Princess Academy to be trained as ladies so that the Prince can choose one of them for his wife. Miri is one of the tiniest girls at the Academy even though she is fourteen. Tiny in stature, but large in intellect and wit, which sometimes gets her in trouble and even sent to the the scary dark closet as punishment. When she is forgotten in the closet she sends a mind plea for help and is rescued just as a rat is about to nest in her hair. Miri befriends Britta, the lowlander who has moved to the mountains and Britta helps Miri learn as much as she can about how the lowlanders live and conduct business. This knowledge brings more wealth to the poor village as the traders have not been trading fairly for the sought after linder blocks. When the Prince arrives but does not choose a bride from the girls in attendance at the ball the girls are told they must stay and study more until spring. That is when the robbers/kidnappers arrive and insist the girls tell them who the intended bride is. Now it is time for Miri to use her ability to send mind messages. Will the villagers get there in time to save their daughters? A beautifully written novel with depth of character development, including thought provoking passages about prejudice between the lowlanders and highlanders. It rightfully deserves the Newbery Honor Award.

Time to get the suitcases into the car. Maybe that will prod him a bit!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I absolutely detest mornings! I really have no problem getting up relatively early in the morning, but this 6 a.m., when it is still pitch black outside is for the birds! Can't you tell I have been teaching afternoon and evening graduate level courses for many years? My internal clock has changed and though 7 a.m. is do-able, but 6 a.m. ARGH!!! And why can't they cut a precut bagel truly in half? Why do we have to get one side thin that toasts too much and the other too thick and doesn't toast enough? Okay - I will quit whining now. Just had to get that out of my system before I go to Montessori.

Picked up the information on the new Scholastic online ordering product for librarians while at Midwinter. URL: www.scholastic.com/librarypublishing. One of the reasons I was interested in this is because Scholastic has Grolier, Children's Press, and Franklin Watts - some of the major publishers of NF for schools. You can view covers as well as tables of content and indexes. Now that is a neat option when looking for specific subject areas within a larger subject. I have just spent a few minutes with this so far, but it looks like an online product that will be useful to librarians. You can order directly online - free shipping. Printing out a list of titles from here to check against Titlewave or B&T would be a good way to check to see if this is a viable ordering option. My one big reservation about this product is that librarians might order exclusively from here, limiting themselves tremendously by publisher. I had my students at UHCL evaluate the titles in a specific Dewey area and they found that many of the librarians had a strong preference for one NF publisher and their books dominated the collection. Schools that have Scholastic book fairs often have a collection very heavy in Scholastic books, due the free book options.

Sorry this wasn't a specific book discussion this a.m. - I am still trying to wake up.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Talk about brain dead, but I have been having a great time printing out driving directions so I can get around Greenville - to important places such as the Michael's store for my craft stuff. I was so excited when I realized it was right by the hotel I am staying in. Now if I can figure out how to convince myself that driving on the right hand side of the road feels normal again I will be fine. Been looking at apartments online too, but there is no flashing red light to let me know which ones the students are living in. Those are the ones I don't want! I have my itinerary all laid out of the meetings and errands I want to run as well as just wandering around the area by car on Saturday.

I already have my books packed for the booktalking session. Took up most of a small suitcase. I believe in having a book in your hand so the audience will focus on you and not a darn book cover shot up on a big screen. Power point slides - the new glorified version of overheads!

Was reading through the January 2006 copy of Kliatt that I picked up at Midwinter and saw that Lara Zeises has a short article on YA author blogging. I love to read Lara's blog - she has such a cool sense of humor. :-) I shame facedly admit I have not subscribed in Kliatt in some time. I am very partial to VOYA, not only because I review for it, but because of the wonderful articles and columns. I have enjoyed reading through the reviews for books, computer software and audiobooks in Kliatt, especially the audiobooks as reviews for these are as important as the book reviews. I have hated listening to wonderful books because of the narrator. When I read "The three narrators perfectly match the persons they portray" in the review for A Long Way Down by Nicky Hornby - an adult title with YA appeal, I was pleased. Perhaps I should be looking a bit closer at Kliatt and start subscribing again.

Speaking of adult books - I read a quite funny one that probably won't have YA appeal, but librarians will love it. Elizabeth Peters, author of my favorite Amelia Peabody mysteries set in Egypt, wrote Die for Love so I couldn't resist it, especially when I realized it was about an academic librarian attending a Romance Writer's Conference in NYC so she could write off her vacation! I laughed out loud at her observations of what women are like in many of the romances. I was reading excerpts aloud to my roommate at Midwinter. The obnoxious reporter trying to find out the truth behind who one of the romance writers really is and is poisoned and Jacqueline Kirby, amateur detective too, is on the case. Oh what fun!

On a recommendation from one of my YA Literature students at UHCL, I dug out my copy of Ellen Schreiber's Vampire Kisses. Apparently her teenage female students can't get enough of this book and want a sequel. I have to admit, I read it in one gulp. Goth girl Raven, daughter of former hippies who have bought into the corporate world, dresses in black and wishes she could be a vampire. That was, after all, her career goal in Kindergarten. At 16 she hasn't changed her mind and when the mysterious family who only go out at night move into the mansion on the hill, Raven just has to know if they really are vampires. She goes so far as to break into their home and that is when she meets Alexander Sterling, the home schooled teenage son who also dresses in Goth garb. They quickly become a couple and Raven brings him to the Prom, where Travis, her tormenter since they were children, goes after both of them. When Alexander finds out that Raven was initially interested in him only because he might be a vampire, he refuses to speak to her. It takes Raven's true friends to throw a dress in black party on the Sterling front lawn to get Raven and Alexander back together, but the house is empty the next day with no sign of Alexander, the boxes of dirt, or his parents. So was Alexander a vampire or not? A delightful quick read about a girl who far from conventional, but totally likeable anyway. Love her little brother Nerd Boy too. :-)

Now to go do some clothes packing as I will be at Montessori all day tomorrow and leave on Weds.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Another breezy beautiful day in the islands. Super Bowl weekend is upon us. Steve started watching the NFL station last night already! We were out of Diet Coke and I was running on fumes so we went back into town to get some from Pueblo. The traffic was awful to get there and when we did they were out of 12 packs. But, bottles will work in a pinch! We got in the Express lane, which was less than express and the young West Indian woman behind us was going to push her way in front of us. Steve just quietly put our stuff down on the moving belt so she didn't have the chance. We ignored her complaining about how long it was taking. Patience is a required commodity to live down here. I felt sorry for the young mom in front of us trying to get through the line in a timely fashion with her little one and two cases of water, etc.

Had to go find my copy of Out of Boneville, the first in a series of 9 Bone books by Jeff Smith. I was surprised he has been writing about Fone Bone and his cousins since 1991. Smith presented at the Graphic Novels YALSA Preconference I went to a few years ago, but at that point I still wasn't paying much attention to graphic novels. Honestly, they are not my favorite form of reading, but this morning I was laughing out loud rereading Out of Boneville. These little creatures have a wonderfully sarcastic sense of humor and are lovable as well. So now I want to see if I can find the comic book Bone I was given at the conference. Okay, so I am a little late in falling in love with this bulb nosed white creature that Steve thinks looks a bit like Casper the Ghost. And how can you not love a red dragon who smokes cigarettes! :-)

On the other hand, I have been a lover of Hilari Bell's books since I read the first one. Her latest is The Prophecy, a new MS appropriate fantasy novel about young Prince Perryndon, an intelligent bookworm, who does not please his battle worn father. The king is still grieving the death of the Queen and spends much of his time in the bottle or on the battlefield. Perryndon spends his time, glasses sliding down his nose, reading the scrolls in the library tower. This is where he finds the Prophecy of how they can save the kingdom from the dragon. Believing it to be true and knowing he is danger from the King's master of arms, Cedric. The mirror has shown him that Cedric is a spy for the Norsemen. Perryndon sneaks out of the castle, intent on finding a bard and a unicorn - both needed to save the Kingdom. The bard is the one who is supposed to battle the dragon - that is what the prophecy states - but that is not what will occur. If Perryndon knew the role he would play in saving the Kingdom he may have opted to ignore the prophecy and hide in the tower library, but he doesn't. A wonderful fantasy coming of age novel. I agree with Orson Scott Card's comment about Bell - "A remarkable writer." My favorite Bell novel is still A Matter of Profit, a SF novel that addresses prejudices and the role a son must play to please his father.

Now to find the top of my desk before we go to lunch at Shipwreck. I finished up my presentation notes yesterday - yahoo!! :-)

Friday, February 03, 2006

A cloudy breezy day. A dive boat is going by and the spray is coming up over the bow and almost hiding the whole boat in white as it hits the choppy waves. My stomach does the cha-cha just watching it - I get sea sick really easily. That is why we sail on catamarans - much smoother and less rocking/rolling ride than a mono hull sailboat.

The darn apartment still smells like a swamp! The owner didn't switch the cisterns and let one of them run dry. So now the water out of the other cistern smells like dinosaur pee - swampy! While taking a shower last night I made darn sure I kept my mouth closed. Just the thought of the stuff that slides off the roof into the cistern with the rain water is enough to made me shudder - lizard poop, dead critters, dead bugs, etc. Supposedly it settles to the bottom and we get the water that is above the debris but still! Steve calls me Nils for a reason! We may use cistern water for bathing and washing dishes and clothes but we buy at least 15 gallons of bottled water a week for drinking and cooking. Some of the travel guide books say the tap water in the USVI is safe to drink, but in reality it is only in the major hotels. Most everywhere else it is cistern water coming out of the taps.

I wonder if Cleopatra ever drank water? The mind takes funny detours doesn't it? Actually - the thought makes sense as I just finished reading The Hour of the Cobra by Maiya Williams, the sequel to her debut Intermediate/MS novel, The Golden Hour, which won the IRA 2005 Intermediate Fiction Award. I loved Williams' first novel as it includes a set of African American twins, Xanthe and Xavier, who become friends with an Anglo brother and sister, Nina and Rowan, while visiting elderly relatives in an isolated Maine village that has an old hotel that is the center for time travel. In the second book the 14-year-old twins and Rowan (the same age) with his younger sister Nina are given a chance to join the Twilight Tourist Frequent Flier Club, an elite time travel organization. Currie, Edison, Einstein, and H.G. Wells are on the Board! Determined to do something that doesn't include her pushy twin, Xanthe gets involved in Cleopatra's life after the young Cleopatra mistakes her for Isis when Xanthe steps out of the time travel alleviator in a temple to Isis in 58 B.C. Alexandria. Having meddled too much Xanthe changes the course of history and the foursome find themselves in an alternate universe and have to use their heads and every other skill they can muster (including Nina luring away a lion with music) to survive and change the course of history back to normal. An absolutely wonder time travel romp with lots of historical information included - a history lesson that few tween will complain about. My only complaint about this wonderful book is that Williams keeps calling the travelers children, even when it is just the teens. I find that a bit disconcerting as children to me are younger than 14 and I can't think of any 14 year old who would like to be call a child. That is just a picky point because I absolutely love this book and I can't wait for another. Williams clearly does a great deal of historical research and she seamlessly blends this into a rip roaring fun read.

I am just finishing up the 3rd installment of Jeff Smith's Bone: Eyes of the Storm - a wonderful kid friendly graphic novel series put out by Scholastic Graphix. It is wonderful - funny, poignant, and delightfully drawn with bulb nosed Phone Bone capturing your heart and imagination. He has a crush on the beautiful Thorne and is still writing her corny love poems - none of which he has actually given her. He blushes at the thought! Add nasty rat creatures after them and a mysterious dragon that Granma Ben is angry with and you have a wonderful visual reading experience. Bone should be in every intermediate and higher library. Children and teens will love this comic character and the valley people who have befriended him. A wonderful place to start if you are building a graphic novel collection and don't know what to buy first. You will need multiple copies of these sturdy hardbound editions - Out From Boneville, The Great Cow Race, and Eyes of the Storm.

All for today.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

What a cloudy dreary day out there. Nevertheless there are 6 smaller sailboats headed for Buck Island, one large sleek navy blue one headed for Charlotte Amalie, 2 ferries, and a para-sailor all within easy visual. High season in the islands. I guess when you come from cold country this warm weather is wonderful even if it is cloudy. The worst sunburns I have gotten have been on cloudy days! Glad I don't have to go downtown today. We laugh about the traffic cops who stand in the intersections to direct traffic. It is always worse when one of them is out there! The traffic lights seem to do a better job of timing the traffic.

While at Midwinter in San Antonio I stopped at the Orca booth at the Exhibits to talk with Andrew Wooldridge. We were talking about Red Sea - a suspenseful book set on a sailboat in the Red Sea. He gave me a copy of Lisa Heggum's (Toronto Librarian) edited collection of short stories - All Sleek and Skimming. Wow! I was fussy because my Printz contender, A Room on Lorelei Street wasn't the Printz award winning book. I love the literature that is intended for the older teen readers. We have so much available for the MS/JH age but not near enough for the upper end of HS - 10-12. Well, Heggum's collection certainly fits that readership! Do not put this collection in your Middle or Junior High School! The protagonists in some of the stories may be that age, but the themes and content of the stories are not for the age group. Everything from James Heneghan's "The Legacy," about an Irish teen whose father has been murdered and who now reconsiders joining the Fianna, the I.R.A. youth auxiliary, to Ivan E. Coyote's "The Cat Came Back", about a tweenage girl babysitting - dressed up in her uncle's suit (right down to his underwear), hair slicked back, sock down the front of her pants, and dancing in front of the mirror when he returns to pick up the concert tickets he forgot. Let's just say these are not pretty little short stories. They are stories that hit you in the gut and leave you gasping from the pain, laughing from the irony, and crying from the grief.

On a sweeter note, I have a soft spot in my heart for the inspirational type picture books from Illumination Arts (www.ilumin.com). The illustrations are always stunning, as is the case with Your Father Forever by Travis Griffith, illustrated by Raquel Abreu. A father's vow to his young son and baby daughter that he will always be there for them - "I will be your daddy as long as you want me to. But I will be your father...forever." Give this one to the father expecting his second child. I adore the picture of the dad's and baby's feet as she takes her first steps between his big feet.

All for now - need to get some grading done and finish up my presentation notes for the booktalking session at the MLS Conference in Greenville next week.