Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A very overcast and gloomy day today. Could barely see the cruise ship coming in through the fog. Steve says they are working on the road between the cruise ship dock and downtown so they have traffic diverted, changing some of the roads to one way. This could be interesting going to get the mail today. We have a private mail box on the other side of town (was convenient when I worked at UVI but sure isn't anymore) and the guy who owns it decided he didn't like the location so he moved, kinda across the street. If I hadn't gone to get the mail on Thursday and he hadn't told me about the move we would have been shocked on Saturday. We went to the new place and no one was there so we went to the old place and the store was empty. No signs saying where the new Mail Boxes location is. So hopefully when I check the new place today they will actually be open. Everything down here is on island time. I got a credit card statement last week dated September 05. Good thing I pay those online!

I read a delight of a book called The Boy Who Ate Stars by Kochka (yes, just one name). She is Lebanese but lives in France. And she is one heck of a writer and this is her first book. I can't wait to read more of her novels. Lucy, a precocious tween, decides she is going to meet eveyone in her new apartment building, but when she meets Matthew she decides he and his mom and nanny are quite enough. Her first encounter with Matthew was quite interesting. "Matthew bolted out of nowhere like a mad dog and jumped on top of me, nearly knocking me over, before ending up on tiptoes with both hands in my hair. He skillfully ran his fingers all over my head, squealing and making occasional fsstt! noises. Matthew was on cloud nine, sending my hair flying in every direction and choking with laughter." Lucy has met an autistic young boy who she grows to love as she spends time with him and his eccentric mother and Russian nanny who basically doesn't speak, but shadows Matthew everywhere, even sleeping outside his bedroom door. The beauty of the writing and the poignancy of the relationship that grows between Lucy and Matthew had a lump in my throat as I read this book. There are wonderful touches of humor too as Lucy teaches the prissy little pampered pup of her mother's friend to be come a DOG - sniffing butts and rolling in the grass. This is one I will keep on my bookcase near me and will read again and again. Kochka - give us more!!

Almost time to head to Montessori for the day. Hopefully I don't have a group of grumpy high schoolers in there burned out from standardized testing like last week.

Monday, March 27, 2006

It has been a Monday all morning! Hope the afternoon is better. Maybe it is the crummy overcast weather outside. Not a hint of blue in the sky yet. That could change quickly though. The weather changes here as fast as it did in Texas. Did you ever wonder why you are always the one that reaches for the last couple of ice cubes when the Diet Coke in the fridge is warm? I fill the ice cube trays (4 of them) every day. And you can't just stick the trays under the tap - this has to be bottled water. Oh how I miss the fridge with the ice maker in the door! The ice cubes must know I am grumpy today as they are clumping together and whapping me in the teeth and getting ice tea on my face. Okay - enough whining. See what happens when the DSL connection is acting wonky and my passwords don't work to get into websites! And, I think I learned that all those sweepstakes entries I have been doing at Uproar.com don't count because I am in the VI! No where does it say that the VI doesn't count as a US resident. GRRR!! We'll see what answer I get back from the Uproar people. I may be in an uproar.

I did finish Adrienne Maria Vrettos Skin this a.m. before I got frustrated online. There are more than a few books about teenage anorexics, but this one intrigued me as it is told from the view point of Donnie, the nerdy 14-year-old brother of 16-year-old Karen, the anorexic in the family. But this book is so much more than about anorexia - it is about the family dynamics that result in Donnie being an outcast and Karen starving herself. Karen keeps a lunchbox under the front porch as this is where she has been taking Donnie since they were little kids - every time their parents start to scream at each other. The screaming lessens when their father moves out, but Donnie's stress levels haven't. During the summer his two friends have decided that he is no longer their friend, even though he feebly keeps trying to get back into the triangle friendship they had the year before. So not only is he invisible at home, he is invisible at school as well. At first Mom is just frustrated with Karen for getting upset when the gym teacher uses her as an example of a curvy girl who can go up one size in their gym uniforms. Karen starts dieting and then the dieting gets out of hand when Amanda, Karen's best friend, moves. Karen no longer has an escape from the fighting at home and no alibi that she has eaten when she hasn't. The only time Donnie expresses his anger and frustration is when he gets another one of his recurrent ear infections and he runs a fever. They he lets his mouth run and tells them all what he thinks of them. Too bad for Donnie this fever doesn't happen often enough to keep him from feeling like he could blow up. Maybe then somebody would notice him. It isn't just teens with sick siblings that will relate to this book. It is any young teen who feels like they are invisible due to a sibling or friend who is the center of the limelight for whatever reason. A gotta have book in every YA collection. The language makes it one that may not work in a MS collection, but certainly a HS one.

Speaking of messed up families - we watched The Squid and the Whale the other night. I detested watching that movie. It seems that whenever a movie gets a lot of attention, as this one did, even on NPR (that's why Steve picked it up at Blockbuster) it tends to be one I don't like. The parents in this movie were awful, as they were intended to be - to the point that I didn't even want to admit they were parents, especially ones with Ph.Ds! And the behavior of the youngest boy was more than I could handle at times. I told Steve that if the young actor had been my son I would have told him no way was any child of mine using that kind of language - even while acting in a movie. The reason I am talking about this is that I would have cringed a bit if reading the vulgar language and nasty scenes in a book, but when I read I can "tone" it down. You certainly can't when it is right there in front of your face on the screen. For this reason, and many more, I am always floored when a parent that will let their teenagers watch anything on TV and R rated movies, objects to to an edgy YA novel because of the theme or language.

Okay - that is it for me today. Time to find something for lunch and get on with grading.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

I just won $2.00 playing free Bingo online! :-) I play at Uproar.com because I like to enter the sweepstakes and Bingo is a quick way to earn points. And every once in awhile you win a couple of bucks too. I think I inherited my Mom's "cheapstake" gambling gene. :-) I have won a whole $6.00 on that site, but I have won two B&N gift certificates and those were cool. I bought books with them - of course! I just ordered two Christine Feehan titles. I had picked up her Oceans Of Fire when Hemingway Bookstore went out of business in Red Hook. I bought it because of the cover - a woman diving next to the dolphin. It proved to be a supernatural romance, part of the Drake Sisters series. Abby has the power to cause people to tell the truth, even when they don't want to. People tend to avoid her because she isn't in control of this power. Just ask her long time enemy Silvia, who blurted out who she was having an affair with because of Abby's power. Abby is running from the Russian agent she fell in love with and who betrayed her. The bond between the sisters, and their high profile careers (model, pop singer, author etc.) makes this a book with teen appeal, but the steamy sex scenes make it one I would not recommend to teens. But it certainly is a great beach read for anyone who loves a combination of a little magic and romance.

Also use mypoints.com to order books through Barnes and Noble online because I earn points with them that I can get gift certificates with. Just ordered the DVD concerts of UB40 in Holland and Taj Mahal in St. Lucia. We had our usual 1/2 a burger and fries lunch at Shipwreck yesterday and we caught the end of the UB40 one and the beginning of the Taj Mahal DVD. I was in a grumpy mood and when I hear UB40's Red, Red Wine I had to sing along and felt better. Music is such a great mood enhancer. We have several concert DVDs that we like to watch. Steve and I have quite different taste in music and I want to find somewhere else to be when he watches Peter Gabriel ones, but since he loves his music I grin and bear it.

I know there is a movie out there with Vin Diesel as a male nanny, but I haven't seen it. I have read Christian Burch's The Manny Files. It is hilarious. The best humorous upper elementary/middle school level novel I have read in ages. The narrator is Keats Dalinger, the 8-9 year old younger brother of Lulu, who is the tween writing the Manny Files, which Keats fears will be the reason his parents fire the manny. The Dalinger family is more than a bit eccentric. Mirabelle, called Belly, is a preschooler who loves to be naked and get into everything she can. Indian is in between Keats and Lulu and seems to be the mediator in the family and has great fashion sense. Her choice of "costumes" are delightful, right down to the sari and turbans. All of the characters in this book are well rounded and delightful. I would have loved to have these parents growing up - much more interesting than the "normal" parents. Poor Lulu - what tween wouldn't be embarrassed by a male nanny who meets you at the bus stop dressed in a sombrerro? The manny is the delight of everyone in the family except Lulu who has quite a thick file on him, that Keats keeps trying to get rid of - even by knocking it out of the boat during their summer vacation, but no such luck. Lulu finally compiles what she thinks is enough evidence to get rid of the manny and calls a family meeting. Keats surprises himself by standing up for the Manny and the compromise makes everyone happy, including Uncle Max who is always with the manny these days. This one would make a great read aloud in class. The older students will pick up on the relationship growing between the manny and Uncle Max, but many, like Keats won't realize that they are gay as it is done so delicately.

Last comment for the day - we watched the sailboats in the Rolex regatta go by yesterday. They were beautiful! Only the captain of the winning team gets a Rolex though! :-( Teams come from all over the world to compete in this race.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Another 6 a.m. morning. I am trying to put in two days a week at Montessori so I can get this darn library online. Tuesday was a difficult day with lots of students in the library so it was hard to concentrate with interruptions so often. One of the classroom bathrooms wasn't working so I had bunches of 6-9 year olds coming in to use the library bathroom and then hanging around. They have a substitute teacher for the next two weeks so today could be as bad. Kids who know the check out process seem to forget on the days I am there so I have to stop what I am doing to help them. Oh the joys!

I finally found the top of my desk yesterday and found the pamphlet I picked up at St. Maarten Park - the island's small zoo. I felt like I was back at the Royale Turtle Inn with the 200 birds, most squawking at the same time. The peacock was incredible though - he was just wandering around the zoo and I steered clear of him. There is a restaurant in Houston that has peacocks in the parking lot and they are known to chase people! Wild boars, an ocelot, a caiman, several types of tropical region monkeys, a reptile house (Steve left the door open for a quick escape - he does not like snakes), a bat house (I wanted to leave the door open for a quick escape - I detest bats), and lots of different types of tropical birds. The parrots and macaws were of every color you could imagine and I have never seen an ibis the intense orangish pink that we saw. I was talking to all of the animals as we walked through, while Steve smiled at my enjoyment. Although a small zoo and in need of painting, etc. it was clean and clearly the animals were well cared for. Last stop was the restrooms and Steve calls over the partition that he has a cat sitting on the commode in his. I wondered what the heck he was talking about until I was washing my hands and saw that I too had an animal on the commode - mine was a baby elephant. The pictures behind the commodes certainly caused us to chuckle. The people in the gift shop were a delight and we had great fun talking to them about how it is so essential that you are able to speak Dutch, the national language, or you will be working as a maid in one of the hotels. We did hear Dutch spoken but overall it was English on the Dutch side of the island.

So many of the teen novels have partial face shots. The cover of Forbidden by Judy Waite has the right side of a teenage girl's face, with her looking down. In the book Elinor, the main character, has very light blonde hair but the photograph of the girl on the cover does not. Little things like that bug me. I know - I am anal! But, what a great book! I couldn't put it down - it creeped me out that all these people could follow Howard, the psychologically unbalanced leader of the True Cause cult. Elinor was initiated into the cult when she was a young child and both she and her mother were snatched from the street while they were selling the True Cause Word by the man and son who loved them, but they were found again and brought back to the cult. Elinor is still there several years later, destined to be one of Howard's Brides. When it is time for her to go through the ceremony to join the other Brides she finally opens her eyes a bit to what is going on around her. This is due to her meetings with Jamie, a young man who seems familiar to her. She realizes that Howard is a very old man and that lying with him is not what she wants, but she has no choice. Elinor's awakening from the mindlessness of this cult is heartbreaking. I wanted to hug her and tell her it was going to be okay. Nothing horrible was going to happen to her for asking questions or thinking for herself. The ending had me gasping.

Dang it - Steve just scared the pee-willies out of me! He startled me as I was typing and I shrieked like one of the birds on Sint Maarten! He told me it was a sign of senility to be talking to inanimate objects. I had just told his Roomba to back off while it was bumping against the legs of my chair. The cat hates that thing and I am not too far behind her. It gets stuck under the couch and I have to move it to get it out. It also tries to eat Sophie's food and she gets really bent out of shape about that! Off to Montessori.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A scattered clouds Tuesday a.m. in the islands. This is the first a.m. I have been out of bed at 6:00 in a couple of weeks - all I can say is YUCK!!!

Last night I was talking bout Klause's Freaks. I went to bed thinking about this book last night as I so wanted to love it as I did her vampire love story, The Silver Kiss, and the deliciously sensual female werewolf story, Blood and Chocolate. I think part of the reason I didn't connect with this book is that the main character is a male who is having sexual urges. Now with Zoe in The Silver Kiss her attraction to Simon was more on a emotional basis as she was dealing with her mother's impending death. In Blood and Chocolate a female werewolf falls in love with a human teen and shows him how she transforms into a wolf and is devastated when he is terrified of her rather than loving her more for who she is. In other words - these were "love stories" a female reader can relate to. Now Abel Dandy is a 17 year old horny guy who is not above kissing the dog faced girl for a thrill. But as a "normal human" with no physical abnormalities he doesn't fit in with the freak show he has lived with all of his life and runs away to a "regular" circus and discovers that his knife throwing skills aren't a big deal there either. When he starts having sexy dreams about an Egyptian woman he can't concentrate on much of anything else. Discovering that the scarab ring he was given as a gift can actually bring her mummy to life adds further spice, in a gross out way at times, to his physical desire for this woman. Abel is not a character I could connect to even though he is really a nice guy and goes out of his way to help everyone he comes in contact with, even the little dog boy who follows him to the circus. All I can say is that Klause has written another book that is unforgettable. I wasn't crazy about it, but I won't forget it and I certainly will booktalk it. A few excerpts or a first person booktalk will have the guys sitting up and paying attention. Having the hots for a mummy who comes to life under your hands will interest any teenage guy. I don't think they will be quite as grossed out by her as I was. :-) Klause has a way of making you sit up and pay attention to her books and she certainly did this again with Freaks.

All for today.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Gave up on grading for the day. It gets so darn dark here - I can see the pink of the sunset toward Puerto Rico. So pretty, but soon the sky will be pitch black. Another day in the islands has come to an end. It was an overcast one but there were still sailboats and cruise ships galore. Steve just came home from getting gas and groceries. He knows how much I hate getting gas on this island. And don't even talk about how much I dislike the grocery stores - especially the tellers. The rudeness just gets to me. I think he is afraid I am going to actually pull out a nose ring as I have threatened in the past! I think knowing my time on the island is coming to an end is making me less tolerant of the rudeness of the West Indians. We experienced the rudeness on the French side, St. Martin, but the people on the Dutch side, Sint Maarten, were a breath of fresh air after dealing with the poor service and attitude here. The waiters at Cheri's Cafe in the Maho area were my favorites. They were always friendly and had a smile on their face and brought me silk flowers in my drinks! :-) The food was also very good there. Best hamburger I had on the island. The dancers from the Royale Casino dance out front at 9 p.m. on Weds. We walked right past them into the casino since we went to the show at 9:30. It was fun, but certainly not Vegas.

Speaking of shows - I read Annette Curtis Klauses' long waited for Freaks. I am still deciding how I feel about this book. I didn't fall in love with it like I did The Silver Kiss or Bloood and Chocolate. Perhaps it is because the main character is a 17 year old boy who is the son of two entertainers in a freak show. I'll talk more about it tomorrow. Need to go deal with dinner since it is after 7 p.m.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

What an interesting vacation week we had on Sint Maarten. We stayed at the Royal Turtle, a small 8 room inn that was next to a small marina and restaurant, the Turtle Pier. It would have been a perfect little inn if the location and lack of sound proofing weren't so poor. The room was cute, with a four poster bed, but the noise level was awful. You could hear the people in the next room burp! And the people upstairs sounded like elephants clog dancing when they walked across the room or their balcony. We should have known better when the website said the Inn was within walking distance from the airport. It sure was and the sound of planes landing and taking off was loud, but could not drown out the sound of the animal residents of the Inn. There were cages full of parrots and macaws that made sure they woke us up very early and went crazy whenever the nasty next door neighbor boys taunted the birds, and the two monkeys in yet another cage, into a frenzy! There were also lots of rabbits, baby bunnies, a guinea pig, and a turtle, of course. And at least 6 cats that made sure they caterwauled their loudest at dawn. Oh yeah, and the fish we fed toast to in the a.m. at the restaurant. One of the waiters said the big ones were piranhas, but looking at their mouth and eyes it was clear they weren't. But it was weird to have them swim underneath your table and then back out since the restaurant was on the water. The best part of the Inn was the restaurant. Breakfast came with the room and we ate eggs, toast, and bacon every a.m. The prices were very good for lunch and dinner too. We were surprised they didn't have more business then they did.

We wandered all over Sint Maarten (the Dutch side) and Saint Martin (the French side) of the island. I like the Dutch side much better. It has nothing to do with all the casinos with both penny and nickel machines. :-) Some might say they like the French side more as that is where Oriental Bay is, which has a long strip of clothing optional beach. It certainly was an eye opener! There were a number of topless women, but what surprised me was the number of older men walking around sans bathing suits! We sat next to two couples from Detroit and one of the guys said he would never be able to see an old gray haired guy in the same light again! Actually, I think all of the beaches are topless, both sides of the island. I never did put on my suit the whole time we were there - water is too cold for me this time of the year.

I did a little bit of reading while we were on vacation. Since the Liat plane was more than a little late flying out of St. Thomas I had time to read. The agent collects all of our boarding passes, sends us back to sit down, counts the boarding passes, and then realizes that she has 27 passes and 28 of us in the boarding area. She then threatens that if the person who didn't turn their's in doesn't do so immediately the plane wouldn't be going anywhere. Well, no one stepped forward and it was too much trouble for her to call us each forward by boarding pass name so we sat in the boarding area for over an hour before they decided we had been "punished" enough and we boarded. The boarding area was not well air conditioned and it got more than a bit stuffy and odoriferous! And a group of local guys were calling 900 sex lines on their cell phones and putting them on speaker phone so they could all laugh themselves silly. No one said a word, even the agents in the area. So it was not only hot and stinky in their, it was obscenely loud.

Nevertheless, I did get a start on Mary Higgins Clark's Nighttime Is My Time. It is a fun read - a murder mystery set during a class reunion. The group of popular girls who taunted and teased the ugly geek in high school were being killed off one by one over the last 20 years. The main character is one of the last two women "the Owl" is after. The reader knows the Owl has to be one of the guys at the reunion, but there are at least 4 of them he could be. The best part of the book was the delightful addition of a teenage reporter/sleuth, Jake, who hangs out at the hotel the reunion was at and overhears much more than he should. He takes it upon himself to figure out who the serial killer is, much to the chagrin of the local authorities. As do all Higgins Clark book, it ends happily ever after. Older teens who like mysteries might enjoy this one because of Jake's involvement in solving the murders.

I hear the dryer buzzing. Been washing clothes all day. We woke up this a.m. to the power going off again and figured it would be off all day, but it was a short outage for a change.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Okay - this island living is getting really old about right now! We woke up without water again. Not that washing my face in bottled water is a big deal, but we were out of power all but an hour or so between 10:00 a.m. and 7 p.m. yesterday and during that one hour we didn't have water! No wonder the owner here says the only time he ever ran out of cistern water is during one of the major hurricanes when he had to drain them - the darn pumps for the cisterns don't work half the time! I have towels molding in the washer and dishes in the sink and am just getting down right grumpy about this. On the positive side - I did get pizza for dinner last night since the apartment was hot and sticky when Steve came home from his frigid court offices - they have a large backup generator so when the power on the island goes out the court is still up and running, air conditioning and all!

Since I couldn't work on the computer I did get through 5 bookcases of YA books and got them in order for the next two booktalking books and a bookcase full of the new ones I want to read. Speaking of new 2006 titles - I have found my first contender for the 2007 Printz Award - The Queen's Soprano by Carol Dines. This is upper level YA historical fiction at its best. I was so wrapped up in the story of 17-year-old Angelica Voglia's turbulent life as a gifted soprano in Rome during the the 1600s that I could smell the incense and her fear of being sent away to a convent by Pope Innocent XI, who had banned women from singing in public. He felt that their singing inflamed men to actions that were not in their control! So Queen Christina, once the Queen of Sweden who left her country to move to Rome to convert to Catholicism, defies him by having her own group of singers. When her biological father and benefactor, Father Zachary dies, Angelica's mother is about to sell her daughter to the highest bidder when Angelica runs away and joins Christina's group of singers. The tale is rich with intrigue and a wonderful love story that does not end happily due to Angelica's near rape by a Cardinal, which tears at the heart strings. Angelica is a strong female character who is forced to fight against the mores of the times and locale so that she can be true to her gift - her singing. It is the only time she feels alive. I was spellbound by Dines' deftly woven tale based on research about the real Angelica Voglia. Dine's has a way with descriptive narrative that causes you to stop and re-read passages and sigh. I would love to see a truly well crafted historical novel with an older "teen" protagonist be recognized for its literary merit.

Okay, Steve gave up on the idea of a shower this a.m. so we are off and running for the day.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Here it is Tuesday already. Yesterday was Steve's birthday so he had the day off. Today is my normal day to be at Montessori, but it is their Spring Break. Next week is actually my Spring Break at ECU so we are going to fly on Liat airlines over to St. Marteen for a few days. That is if the pilots don't go on a "sick out" again like last week. Steve found a small 8 room Inn that we are staying at - quiet and quaint. Just what we both need right now.

Have been going through my books to decide what I want to keep down here and what I want to send up to Greenville and came across a copy of Where We Are What We See: Poems, Stories, Essays, and Art from the Best Young Writers and Artists of America. This paperback Push Anthology is a selection of the entries in the 2002, 2003, and 2004 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. The talent of these Middle through High School age teens is amazing. These are not pretty little stories and poems. Some are so raw your eyes hurt and some are just down right brilliant in their genre. The language is theirs and the pain is theirs - all right there on the page in black and white, sometimes so deftly done with a few words you forget these are teens. But then again, perhaps we should forget they are teens, and acknowledge them for what they are - talented writers and artists. A superb addition to upper level YA collections.

Sandra and Miles Pinkney have put together a visual treat to encourage reading - Read and Rise, that begins with a poem by Maja Angelou. I love the line:
"Reading is the river
To your liberty
For all your life to come"
This book is part of a campaign to encourage reading in our urban areas, by the National Urban League and Scholastic.

All for now.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A dreary Saturday morning here on St. Thomas. I have both computers going at the moment. Finally figured out how to set up the software and load books to my laptop and then burn them to CDs. I could just load them to my Ipod, but I like having the CDs. I can move them between the car and my CD player, etc. I am downloading Wicked by Gregory Maguire at the moment. I bought a copy of the book when it came out, but I have no idea where it went, but I am sure I lent it to someone and didn't get it back, which is fine. I loved Maguire's Lost, about a writer who ends up in a house supposedly haunted by the spirit of the man who inspired Dickens' to write about Scrooge. There is also the question if the remains still in the house are those of a Jack the Ripper victim. One of those can't put it down books.

Just read an article in the paper about the beloved huge ficus tree in the front yard of a home on the way to Charlotte Amalie. The tree was at least 5 feet around and gave such a tropical feel to the home and I am sure, much shade. The front yard now has a huge stump in it and looks barren. Steve has had to listen to me fuss about it every time we drive by so he brought home the newspaper article about the tree. I am not the only person upset by its demise. The neighbors are upset and people on the island are wondering why it could have been cut down without a permit for tree removal. Under Virgin Islands law the VI Agriculture Dept. is supposed to issue tree removal permits but no one has ever been designated to issue the permits! Nor are there any established procedures for how to go about getting the permit. This is so typical for the VI and so very sad in relation to what people are able to do to deface this once very beautiful island. Steve has now added another nickname to the many I already have with him: tree-hugger. This one I am quite proud of! :-)

Sophie and I read another one of Scholastic's Graphix novels this a.m. Queen Bee by Chynna Clugston (creator the comic series Blue Monday, Scooter Girl, and Strangetown) This B/W graphic novel is perfect for those middle school age girls who are worried about how to fit in. Haley Madison, former geek, is determined to be the most popular girl in her new NYC school. She learns how to be cool from her Mom's magazine, Teenz. But what Haley can't control is her power of psychokinesis - she throws things without trying and breaks more mirrors that even a cat has lives to deal with. Haley is on the top of her game until the new girl shows up, who just happens to have the same powers as Haley. Let the queen wars begin and they are not pretty! Clugston has the Nasty Girls down pat, and I can't help but love the guy who befriends Haley and helps her focus on the value of being "normal". The MS girls at Montessori are going to eat this one up.

Now I need to address a book that I find quite frustrating - Peter Rabbit's Happy Easter by Grace Maccarone, with illustrations by David McPhail. Granted McPhail did attempt to make his illustrations look a bit like the classic muted pastel illustration in the original Peter Rabbit books by Beatrix Potter, but they just aren't the same. And, Maccarone uses the names of the characters from Potter's books, but no where on the verso page or anywhere else do I see any indication that this is "based on," or "an adaptation of" the works of Beatrix Potter. On the other hand, the Frederick Warne book, Peter Rabbit's Easter clearly states "based on works by Beatrix Potter." I know I am being "anal," but I really think credit should be given where it is due and Potter deserve the credit for creating such a wonderful set of characters, especially Peter Rabbit. The plot bothers me a bit also, as Peter Rabbit proceeds to steal an armful of eggs from the neighbors and stacks them against the wall where several pots of open paint just happen to fall on them. Tah-dah! Colored eggs! But Mother Rabbit insists her naughty son return the eggs. So, Peter Rabbit becomes the Easter Bunny when the neighbors find their returned colorful eggs in their gardens and yards. The logical part of me says - these were not boiled eggs so why didn't any of them break during all of this activity, especially in the illustration of Peter Rabbit throwing the eggs behind him as he walks along. Okay - like I tell my students: "Chill, it is a story!" Yes, it is, just not a good one in my humble opinion.

All for now - this is our trip to Shipwreck for a burger Saturday! And, we haven't picked up the mail all week so I am anxious to see what new catalogs and magazines (several months late) have come in. I am getting the evil eye from the hungry husband so off we go!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

This dreary weather is making me sleepy and grouchy. Or, it may have something to do with the fact that I spent the last 3 hours writing a midterm exam. Yeah - I think that is where this brain dead feeling is coming from. Writing the right answer for multiple choice tests is easy, creating three "good" wrong answers isn't always quite as easy.

We celebrated Mardi Gras last night down at Tickles. We had no intention of doing so - Steve was just going to Cingular to cut off the phone service to my old phone, but I was having so much fun people watching while I was sitting in Tickles waiting for him that we stayed for dinner. The wait staff was all decked out in hats and beads. I came home with a cool set of beads with a surf board at the end, and they didn't cost me anything other than a headache from the wine I drank. That place was packed and I don't think there was a berth left in the marina. I just drool over the luxury yachts docked there. Heck - I couldn't afford to fill their fuel tank or pay for their dinghy! But looking doesn't cost anything and down here at this time of the year there is a cornucopia of yachts to drool over.

One of my favorite YA novels from the 1990s is Han Nolan's Dancing on the Edge. I can still close my eyes and see her bathrobe catch fire as she tries to get nearer to her father. She is dancing at the edge of the flames and gets too close. Nolan sets scenes so deftly you are left breathless. Nolan had my undivided attention again, with her upcoming title from Harcourt - A Summer of Kings. The cover itself is a visual feast - the side view of a young blonde blue eyed teenage girl, the face of a young black man with haunted eyes, and a sepia/reddish tone photograph of a group of marchers headed for Washington. Esther is the less than appreciated daughter of parents whose lives revolve around their other two talented children. Esther is told, flat to her face, that she has no talent and no one stops her younger sister or brother from calling her stupid. Since she got held back in 3rd grade Esther has lost every summer to some type of lessons so that she will catch up. But, Esther's talents will never lie in math and science. Her talent is in her innocent truthfulnes and her open acceptance of others that encourages them to tell her their story. And if they don't do so willingly, Esther will drag it out of them. That's what happens when 18-year-old King-Roy is sent to live with them. King-Roy has been accused of shooting a white man and if his mama, Esther's mother's best friend when they were little, says he is innocent, he is welcome to live with them. But King-Roy is angry and not content to live in the white devil's big mansion. He spends more and more time in Harlem, with the followers of Malcolm X. Esther is worried that King-Roy no longer cares about her and does he think of her as one of those white devils. Esther's family might think she is slow, but she is far from it. Her talks with King-Roy spark an interest in the civil rights movement and she becomes a regular at the library, reading everything she can about Martin Luther King Junior and Gandhi. She even convinces her family that they should join the March on Washington. This is a beautifully written book with characters so fleshed out, even the secondary characters, that I can close my eyes and see them - Aunt Pie with her hose rolled around her knees, Mother in her prim and proper dress and jacket, Father brushing his hair back in consternation, and Pip, the boy next door who has matured while Esther was busy convincing herself that she could be King-Roy's girlfriend. I had a whirlwind of emotions as I read this book - sadness, fear for the character's safety, laughter over Esther's delightful innocence, and the conviction that this is a book we must share with teens.

Now I am taking a break to play mah jong for a bit before my evening chat with my class and wonderful YA author Lara Zeises.