Friday, June 30, 2006

Went from one hot and humid place to another, but I know I am home. I didn't have to do laundry and wash dishes while in New Orleans, nor did I have a very whiny cat let me know how she feels about my being gone most of the the last two weeks. I spent yesterday just catching up on mail, email and chores around the house. Planned on grading, but never got that far - was in bed early. My mornings of lolling in bed with the cat are over as I have to get as much done at Montessori as I can before I leave at the end of the month.

On the flight home I read Alex Flinn's Diva. Chick lit with a bite! Flinn's sense of humor comes through in Cait's e-journals, as does a wonderful education in opera titles and plots. And yes, this is the very same Caitlyn from Breathing Underwater. And yes, she does encounter Nick a number of times in the progression of this book. Cait's realization that her relationship with him is truly over was much needed by the fans of Breathing Underwater. Diva truly is Cait's book - Nick isn't central in her life, her singing is - a desire so strong that she blackmails her mother with the threat that she will go live with her father so she can go to the Performing Arts school in Miami. Cait now has a sidekick, Gigi, with an eyebrow ring and electric colored hair. Hardly the cheerleader group she hung out with at her old school. But, even at the Performing Arts school Cait is a bit different - there aren't many teenage girls who lose themselves in opera. Sean is also an important person in her life and as she learns more about his rough home life she loves him even more, but in a different way. And we see the person behind Cait's make-up and appearance focused mother, a woman much stronger than her daughter, or the reader, initially gives her credit for. The mix of "straight novel" and e-journal entries allows Flinn to delve deeply into Cait's life as she comes to terms with who she is, both in a physical and an emotional sense. A totally satisfying read, and I didn't even mind learning about opera :-) I actually found myself laughing at Cait's e-journal descriptions of the various operas and the murderous outcome of most of them. Flinn has smoothly made the transition from her edgy male perspective novels to this well written, thought provoking, and down right entertaining novel from a female perspective. And, has given her readers what they have been begging for - Caitlyn's story.

The wind is blowing like crazy and the rain is coming down in sheets. Although we need it to fill the cisterns, I want it to stop before we leave for work. I hate driving in the rain. One of the best things about the almost two weeks off the island was being able to take a leisurely shower. Oh how I can't wait to be able to enjoy the jacuzzi tub in my new condo in Greenville! We close on it the end of the month and I am already decorating it in my head. Light oak furniture and pastels! It is going to be a "girlie" condo. :-)

It is now 4 p.m. and I need to publish this as it is thundering like crazy outside. We lost power this a.m. so I couldn't publish it. Here we go!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Wow! What a great ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans. The city welcomed us with open arms and we had a great time. I am headed back to the island today. I did some shopping yesterday afternoon after I did the wonderful exhibits and the store clerks were so nice. Although my poor stomach had trouble with the spicy Cajun food, it has been a great conference and visit to this beautiful, but still hurting city.

Superb children's and young adult literature related programming this year. I was in awe of Aidan Chambers. He had me laughing and crying. The man is an incredible speaker and author. Can't wait to read his 800 and some page newest novel coming out with Abrams/Amulet. He spoke at the Abrams luncheon and had us in stitches. In his mid twenties he was so sheltered that he didn't know about girls' monthly issues. It was a hoot to hear him talk about his confusion as to why they had to go to the bathroom during class, and in pairs no less! He talked about the 30 year path he has taken in his writing, to arrive at the end of the story, with the aptly titled This is All, which is the sixth book in a connected sequence of novels that began with Breaktime in 1978. His award winning Postcards from No Man's Land is part of the sequence.

Chambers also spoke at the YALSA President's Program on How Adult is Young Adult. Michael Cart gave us a lot to think about, as he always does. Wish I had my notes in front of me. I had to write down a few of his statements to use in my YA literature courses. But, my favorite program was the Friday night Booklist Forum. I laughed so hard my stomach hurt! Mo Willems, David Lubar, Lisa Yee, and Jack Gantos out did themselves in making us laugh. After the all day workshop on audiobooks, which was fantastic, it was perfect!

Anyway, I can't say enough of how wonderful the conference was as well as how welcoming New Orleans has been as a city. Even though there are terrible incidents going on in the outer areas of the city, the French Quarter and the Conference Center area are well patrolled by police cars and safe. In other words - tourists, come back and have fun! We certainly did.

Now to finish packing and head for the airport. Although the bed here at the Hotel Monteleone has been comfortable and the service fantastic in the hotel, I am ready to sleep in my own bed and have my spoiled Sophie getting cat hair all over me. Steve said she tore a hole in the sliding screen door and jumped from the chair on his shoulders in an attempt to be a cat stole, so it is clear she misses her Mamma and I sure do miss her. Steve too, of course! :-)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What a week it has been. We left last Wednesday afternoon for DC and drove down to Greenville on Thursday. There really wasn't much sight seeing to do as we took the freeway so other than rest areas and fast food joints, it was woods and fields. Once we hit Greenville on Thursday the apartment and condo hunting began big time. I discovered quickly that the apartment complexes with decent rental prices were either in neighborhoods I wouldn't want to live in or full of students. The ECU students make up almost half of Greenville's population so they are everywhere! By the time we figured out the complexes I would be happy in we realized we would be better off buying a condo. So then out again with the realtor. And we found the perfect condo for me! It even has a Jacuzzi in the bathroom. Can't wait to soak in the tub and not worry about how much water I am using! :-) We close on it the end of July. I am going to have fun picking out furniture. :-)

Not much time for reading, but I did finish Carol Plum-Ucci's The Night My Sister Went Missing. I loved The Body of Christopher Creed and booktalk it all the time so I was pretty sure I would like her newest thriller as well. What mind games these teens play with each other. It is summer and the group of teens who grew up together on this small East Coast island have found their latest victim - Stacy, the newest member of the group and the granddaughter of a wealthy family on the island. Stacy has a foul mouth and an attitude, but the reader learns more about Stacy than maybe even Stacy knows about herself as Kurt listens to his "friends" tell their version of what happen on the pier that night. They all know that Kurt's younger sister Casey went off over the edge and into the turbulent water below. But, the question is - Did she turn and dive or did she fall off the pier when she got shot? Second question - did they really see blood and is Casey dead or is this one of her practical jokes? All the ugly things people think but don't say come out as the teens are being questioned about the shooting Due to an electronic malfunction, Kurt and his best friend, the police chief's son, can hear what is being said in the interrogation room. They learn some of the dark and dirty secrets of their small town, such as why Stacy bought the small hand gun that was fired at Casey. What a fantastic teen thriller and one to booktalk with teens. Mysteries are coming up as the top genre choice in the interest surveys my students are doing with teens. This one fits right in.

Okay - gotta finish packing as I leave for the ALA Conference in New Orleans tomorrow. Looking forward to the YALSA preconference on audio books. I am listening to The Thin Man by Hammett right now - very different from the delightful b/w movies.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Looks like Steve and Sophie's rain dance yesterday on the deck worked! Sophie didn't look too happy about their antics but we did get a nice downpour yesterday afternoon and it is dark and breezy this a.m. and we are "sure" to get rain. I know we will as I dressed in a light dress for work so I will get soaked at some point today. But oh - glorious rain! :-)

My poor hands are so sore. I switched out all my CDs and the "paperwork" into the gorgeous CD carriers Steve gave me, but what a killer on the fingers. I have paper cuts on three of my fingers and my thumb is sore from forcing open the cases to get the back sheets out. I spent the rest of the weekend packing for the move. I packed two golf club bags and a suitcase full of my stuff, but this trip's load isn't much of my clothes. Those will have to go in the next trip. Figured we may as well take advantage of the two bags each and get as much moved for free as we can. Had Steve standing on the scale with the bags to check for weight. I filled those babies as full as I could since I have him there to help carry them! We will rent a small storage unit in Greenville. We leave here on Weds. and fly up to DC since Steve has training for the Court there the following week. We will drive down to NC on Thursday. I have never driven through that part of the country so this should be fun. About a 6 hour drive I think. Then we will explore the Greenville area and hopefully look at some apartments. Then I fly home for a day and 1/2 before heading off to New Orleans for ALA.

Speaking of ALA - we were out to dinner at Bonnie's by the Sea on Friday night and sat next to a young couple from New Orleans. When Steve said I was headed there for a conference in a week or so she said knew it was the ALA conference. We thought that was pretty funny as they both work in the medical field. The city is anxious for us to arrive and for things to go well. We are the first large conference to hit the city since the flooding. They were very upbeat about the renovations so I hope things go well as we are such a big group.

Along with all my packing I did read Linda Sue Park's Archer's Quest, a delightful fantasy romp with a Korean character, as are most of Park's books. Kevin is home alone on an early release day from school and who should materialize in his bedroom but Chu-mong, the prince who founded the Koguryo kingdom in 37 B.C., in what is now known as Korea. Chu-mong is a gifted archer and tries to put an arrow through Kevin's closed window to prove it. So, now not only does Kevin have to deal with his parents' anger over the broken window, he has to help get Archer back to his time before the year of the Tiger ends, in just a matter of hours. The Prince fell through a time warp off the back of the tiger he was riding, so they must find a tiger for him to return home on. The live tiger at the zoo won't work. Archer discovers that when he deftly maneuvers himself into the cage and "talks" to the tiger. Wrong kind of fur - not a Siberian tiger - won't take him home. They discover Chu-mong, who Kevin calls Archer or Archie, was born in the year of the Tiger, and it is a Metal Tiger year in his time. So off they go to try the bronze statue, the mascot at the university where Kevin's parents work. At first nothing happens, but then Kevin remembers the important difference between this year of the Tiger and Chu-mong's and able to help this lengendary figure return to his time. Wonderful humorous fantasy adventure for the upper elementary and MS crowd. There is also a lot of math woven into the story as Kevin figured out the Chinese Zodiac. The boys will enjoy this one. Certainly give this to the math teacher to read! :-)

Darn it - the rain stopped already and I see hints of blue. Oh well, at least a little bit of rain went into the cisterns. It is hurricane season so I am sure we will get more. The West Indians are predicting a back storm season as it got intensely hot earlier than usual. Off to Montessori for the day to swelter in the heat.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I would like to blame my early rising on the baby birds, but I plain just woke up a little before 7 a.m. What a bite! I could have slept in as long as I wanted to, but no such luck.

So I finished the last couple of short stories in Alden R Carter's Love, Football, and Other Contact Sports. I certainly see why Booklist starred this one - what a delightful group of high school characters. These guys (and their girlfriends) are not your stereotypical football players by any means of the word. Carter is at his Midwest humorous best, starting out with a section called "A Girl's Guide to Football Players by the female editorial staff of the Purple Cow Literary Magazine, Milking Creativity in Psychedelic Color". I knew that I could wallow in Wisconsinism while I read about shopping in Pranges, Menards, and Fleet Farm! I also know that Carter lives in Marshfield, the major town south of where I lived, Medford. Marshfield is home of the famous (at least in the Midwest) Marshfield Clinic. Since Medford only had a KMart, a trip to the small mall in Marshfield was a bit deal for us. And when Mary and I were feeling adventurous we would drive to Wausau to the "big mall"! :-) Many of Carter's books feel like home to me. My favorite is still Up Country, about the street smart city kid who is sent to live with relatives in Northern Wisconsin. His streets smarts aren't doing him much good as the country kids teach him a few new things. :-) Carter's Between and Rock and a Hard Place should be in every HS and MS collection as it addresses the issue of diabetes and how two cousins deal with it while stranded in a remote area. Besides, this is one heck of an exciting survival story.

Anyway, reading about the interaction between this group of teammates and their friends in Love, Football, and Other Contact Sports brings to light the variety of personalities that make up a football team. You do have the plain jerks, like Catman, who ignores the coach's order not to run plays on the side of the field that Steve, who plays for the opposing team, is playing on. Everyone in town knows and loves Steve, who has Down syndrome. This is Steve's Senior year and his first time out on the field and he is jumping up and down with excitement. Thinking everyone else has the same killer/winning attitude he does, Catman throws the ball to Kenny who "misses" it instead of steamrolling over Steve. Steve catches the ball and is the hero. Was it worth losing the game to see his joy? Everyone but Catman seems to think so.

And then we have Rollin Acres, the fullback who falls in love with Sandy Dunes (yes, those really are their names), and wants to make sure she wins her next cross country race. Then maybe she will start paying some attention to him for a change! She talks about nothing but the cross country meet and how she wants nothing more than to beat Kendra, who she acts like she despises. So Rollin gets the dumb idea to haul a deer carcass onto the track as Sandy told him that Kendra was so prissy she wouldn't run through a mud puddle. The time it would take for her to figure out how to get around a huge bloated deer in the middle of the track would give Sandy the seconds she needed to win the race. Well, a group of elderly bird watchers interfere with Rollin and Kenny's attempt to get the deer through the woods to the track. Of course, Kendra wins the race, but Rollin can't figure out why Sandy and Kendra are hugging each other and happy as can be. You see, now they are a team and with them pushing each other, they both improved their time. We all know a girl is allowed to change her mind, but Rollin is still shaking his head over this one!

Most of the stories are humorous, but all of them make you think as these are characters with heart and their own unique personalities, aside from the position they play on the football field. Give this to anyone who has the mind set that all football players are like Catman, jerks. And, to the guys, football lovers or not, who don't read by choice. They won't be able to resist reading just one more story. These are like Lay's potato chips - you can't read just one! :-)

All for today.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

We have a family of birds nesting in the rafters of our carport, which is right outside of our bedroom window. The babies start twittering at 4:30 a.m. Feels like having a newborn in the house again, but at least I don't have to get up and warm a bottle for these babies. I can roll over and go back to sleep. :-) Add the first time out for the morning happy barking of the puppy in the house down below us and our quiet neighborhood has changed. It used to be completely quiet in the a.m. until the workers on the house being remodeled showed up and started their day's worth of bickering and singing. Sound really carries up the hillside. Reminder to self - make sure I find a quiet neighborhood in Greenville full of non-morning people like me!

Please excuse me if I already talked about this book, but I have my piles of books - blogged and not blogged - mixed up on my desk. Having loved both The Midwife's Apprentice and Catherine, Called Birdy I was looking forward to reading The Loud Silence of Francine Green. I enjoyed this book, but I wasn't as taken with it as the other Cushman books I have read. The main character wasn't as well defined as I would have expected. Francine is a 13-year-old Catholic school student living in the LA area during the time of McCarthy accusations and bomb shelters in the backyard. Francine's little brother is so scared that the Chinese will come up through the hole his father is digging in the backyard for their bomb shelter that he goes out and pushes dirt back in every morning. Francine is smart enough to wonder why the government recommends bomb shelters when the nuns assure the students that crawling under their desks and covering their heads with their arms will be enough to protect them from radiation. Francine becomes friends with Sophie Bowman, who is the strong feisty female character one expects in a Cushman book. Sophie is the daughter of a father who wants his daughter to think and question the ways things happen in our world - something the nuns highly frown upon. Sophie spends a lot of her time standing in front of the room in the trash can as punishment. Whereas Francine is afraid to open her mouth, let alone voice an opinion, Sophie is not. She voices her opinions, of which she has many, most of which do not agree with the general conservative, anti-communist atmosphere of the time. When Sophie's father's actor friend is arrested for his beliefs Sophie and her father move away. Francine is left to decide how she is going to deal with the silence that is left behind, now that Sophie has opened her eyes to what is happening in the world, beyond her home and her Catholic school. Was I thrilled with it? No. Do I think it is a must for every MS collection? A resounding yes! There are very few novels for children or teens set during the Cold War Era after WWII and this one helps fill that void.

Off to Montessori again. What a day it was yesterday. With the intense heat and the kids in and out and the slamming screen door and the problems with the computer I was ready to get out of there. Came home and took a quick shower before I went to pick up Steve. My clothes were stuck to me and even though I don't use bug spray there was so much of it sprayed in the library yesterday that I felt like I was covered with it too. I hate the smell of Off! Today is the Upper Elementary School and MS Graduation. At least it is at 9 a.m. so it won't be quite as hot in the outside music room where it is held.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A very hazy morning here. The volcano on Montserrat, south of us in the British West Indies chain, has been very active and the volcanic dust is blowing right at us. American Airlines cancelled about 18 flights in and out of St. Thomas in the last couple of days. The air doesn't smell as bad for sulfur as it did a few days ago but I have been sneezing and my eyes are sore. Didn't stop 3 cruise ships from coming in yesterday.

While moving books around from bookcase to bookcase I found my old copy of Strunk's Elements of Style, which I bought years ago in undergraduate school. It is one of those classics that most people recognize. So when I was reading Wendy Wasserstein's Elements of Style I was waiting for the reference to Strunk. It was there, but Wasserstein has a style all of her own. I don't know as the critics thought her last book as good as her other writings, but I loved it. Her insider look at the rich and disturbed in NYC is a hoot. This is the middle aged woman's version of The Gossip Girls by Von Ziegarsar, that the teenage girls are eating up. The main character is Francesca Weissman, Frankie, who is now the pediatrian to be seen taking your children to. That is, if you can stand the welfare types in her office, as Frankie actually has a conscience and a heart. The tantrums and dramatics of these middle aged drama queens makes my hot flash induced mini meltdowns look like a raised eyebrow! If you want a hilarious beach read for vacation, pick up Wasserstein's Elements of Style. Not only will you laugh, you just might recognize some of yourself, and your friends, in these characters, even if you don't live in the Upper East Side of Manhattan! :-)

I made it through the last shelf of Everybody books yesterday and on to the biographies. Friday is the last day of school so who knows how many overdue books are going to come in that aren't barcoded and in Destiny. This is the 4th school I have brought on board with a Follett automation system and I honestly hope it is the last one! Why did I ever think retrospective conversion was fun?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A nasty overcast and windy morning out there. Wish it would just rain and get it over with. Especially since we ran out of water again this past weekend. Luckily neither of us were in the shower when it happened. Of course, our landlord is on the Mainland and then off to Europe so the lack of water wasn't bothering him. Thank goodness we have a fellow apartment dweller who was on top of the situation and we had water when we got back from our usual Saturday lunch and run for the mail. We were pleasantly surprised by the lack of heavy traffic, but it is the beginning of hurricane season so fewer cruise ships in. I waited over 2 months for the last order and this latest one came in a little over a week. Go figure! And I actually got a June issue of a magazine. It doesn't take much to excite me these days! :-)

Went for a comfort title for my last read and finished up Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Saving Shiloh, the third in the series about a boy and his beagle in West Virginia. Judd Travers, the dog beating alcoholic that everyone likes to blame for whatever bad happens in the area is now a suspect in the death of a missing man. Of course, Marty and his friend David have let their imaginations go wild in relation to how Judd must have hid the body, but Marty actually wants to give Judd the benefit of the doubt. Especially after Judd agrees to let Marty and his dad put up a fence around Judd's yard rather than having his hunting dogs chained up. As she has in the last two Shiloh books, Naylor has created a loving rural family who haven't an easy life, but make the best of it. It is certainly a boy and his dog trilogy that will be read for decades to come. I have not seen any of the Shiloh movies so I can't attest to the quality of them, but I am sure they are kid friendly as are these books. The publisher information suggests ages 8-12 and I agree, but no matter what your age, these are are just enjoyable feel good books. This one is a bit of murder mystery too so it should keep even the reluctant reader going.

Off to Montessori for the day. I hope this breeze keeps it cool in the library. I walk out of there at the end of the day feeling like a limp rag. The talk keeps coming up about air conditioning. Who knows - I would rather see a new building with a bit more space, but like in any small private school, funds are tight.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sorry for the long time between postings. I stepped on a loose rock on the way back from the beach and fell hard on my elbows and knees. Wasn't feeling much like bending the elbows for a few days. They are scabbed over now so I am back at the keyboard. I had not realized how much we move our elbows to do everything - that is until it hurt like Hades when I moved mine even a tiny little bit.

But, I did read Nancy Werlin's upcoming novel, (Sept. with Dial) The Rules of Survival. I read it in one huge gasp and not sure I took a full breath before I reached the conclusion. I am a big Werlin fan anyway, with Double Helix required reading for my YA Literature courses, but this book absolutely sucked me into the world of teenage Matthew and his two younger sisters - a world controlled by their psychotic mother, Nikki. Werlin makes you accept, as much as you do not want to, that Nikki isn't just mentally ill, she truly is evil in her intent to hurt people, including her own children. And that their Aunt could be living right downstairs and know the torture this woman was putting her own children through. Of course she knew - Nikki had practiced on her when they were children. Matthew sees a knight in shining armor, actually I think it was leather, at the local convenience mart as he stepped in when a father was verbally abusing his child. Matthew had to find this guy, but Nikki is the one who finds and seduces him. But, when Murdoch sees what she is he tries to leave, but her revenge goes beyond stalking. In other words - you will sit at the edge of your seat as you read this heart wrenching ride straight into the headlights of an oncoming car, driven by pedal-to-the metal Nikki, knowing you can't get out until you know these kids are going to be okay, even though just surviving is more than enough for them on most days. Werlin has further staked her claim as an author for the older teen readership with The Rules of Survival. I see this one as a 2007 Printz contender.

Okay, now to try to find the top of my desk and work on my ALA agenda.