Friday, September 29, 2006

Men in Trees - what a quirky show! I can't help but watch it. Having lived for over 15 years in Alaska I am picking at the show in relation to what is unrealistic. However, this show does have it right about life revolving around the local bar. Where else but in an Indian village on the banks of the Yukon do you have the HeadStart raffle in the local bar, with donations of smoked salmon, moose meat, etc.? That isn't on the show - that was part of my life in Alaska! As the HeadStart director I had to be at every raffle and hand out the prizes. A couple of local guys were trying to get me to raffle off a kiss (I was barely over 20 at time) but looking around at all the rotten and/or missing teeth I wasn't about to take that chance!

I have decided that living alone makes for very weird dinners! I started out with mixed nuts, picking out the good ones, and then moved on to Tofutti with dark chocolate chips mixed in. But, I did eat a healthy desert - a delicious ripe plum - so it wasn't a total disaster. All I can say is that right now I am really missing Steve's delicious stuffed baked potatoes!

Lots of hype about Rachel Cohn and David Levithan's Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. Both are well known YA authors in their own right. Cohn wrote the popular Gingerbread and Shrimp. My favorite of Cohn's is her MS level Steps. She nails the feelings of a young teen who isn't ready to give up her daddy to a new family and accept weird Australian step-siblings. Levithan, best known for Boy Meets Boy, joins Cohn in this co-written Nick and Norah's night together, which begins with Nick asking Norah to be his girlfriend for 5 minutes so he won't look so needy when his ex-girlfriend Tris walks in with a new guy. I will honestly admit that the reason I would have picked this book up, without having heard about it to begin with, is the names - I love The Thin Man movies so Nick and Norah bring up visions of a humorous loving couple who tip way too many martinis. :-) Perhaps because these names had prior "lives" for me is part of why I did not connect with this book. Granted - I did immediately realize that this is one of those titles that has high appeal to older teens as Nick and Norah are at the point in their lives when they are leaving high school and entering the "real world". But, I got bored with the constant vulgar language and the club scene. I loved the way their relationship grew during the short period of time and how both of them moved toward becoming more confident as they got to know themselves through each other, but there was so much "junk" that distracted from the interpersonal dynamics that I kept saying to myself, get on with it! Will I recommend this book to teens? Oh yes! This is another one of those books that I don't love, but will booktalk and "advertise".

I am watching 20/20 about the difference between men and women. Interesting! And then I had better call it a night as I am attending the Literary Homecoming tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Just read Ann Symons' email about how to apply for International School librarian positions and I had a touch of the wanderlust again. But, I squelched that quickly by reminding myself how much I missed living on the Mainland while on St. Thomas. Ann is in Moscow, after many years in Juneau, Alaska. The stereotype of the bun-wearing gum shoed librarian is no where to be seen in the ranks of the librarians who have held leadership positions in ALA. I know a librarian who wears three earrings in one ear and two in the other and favors cowboy boats over orthopedic shoes - that would be me! :-)

I haven't read the first title in the Ghosthunters series by Cornelia Funke, but I did read the second one, Ghosthunters and the Gruesome Invincible Lightening Ghost! The GILIG, as Hetty Hyssop and Tom call it, has taken over a seaside resort hotel and is turning the residents into mini lightening ghosts and blackening the walls of the hotel. Although Hetty is a delightfully feisty older woman and Tom her young sidekick is one brave kid, my favorite character is Hugo the Averagely Spooky Ghost (ASG). Hugo has a tendency to pull pranks and leaves his oozy slime everywhere, unless he wears shoes. His slime will come in very handy in defeating the GILIG. We think of Funke as a gifted author, but one has to see her funky :-) illustrations to realize she has a great visual comic sense of humor. Hugo is the coolest ASG around. I had such fun with this book, including the "Indispensable Alphabetical Appendix of Assorted Ghosts". My favorite is the IRG - Incredibly Revolting Ghost. Wonder how Funke illustrates that one. Elementary age boys will love these books and have a great time making up their own ghost appendix.

That is it for this beautiful Tuesday morning in Greenville. It is 88 degrees in STT and 61 degrees here. Quite a difference. Autumn has arrived in NC, but not to the VI.

Friday, September 22, 2006

An absolutely gorgeous autumn day in NC. These 70s temps are my kind of weather. Not too hot and not too cold. I am enjoying wearing a sweater. I have one of my son's soft and snuggly old flannel shirts on as I type this. Living in shorts, tank tops, and flip flips for 2 1/2 years on St. Thomas got old. It is fun to put on a nice pant suit for work. My days of short skirts and high heels are over, but I still like to dress up now and then. Wish I were out in old Washington walking along the waterfront checking out the boats. I like Greenville, but I miss the ocean.

With autumn in the air I thought reading a Halloween title would be appropriate to get me in the jack-o-lantern mood. I am still pondering my reaction to JT Petty's The Squampkin Patch: A Nasselrogt Adventure. I read the reviews for it and they love it, including his quirky sense of humor. Okay, I have to agree with the reviewers that Petty's sense of humor is more than a bit quirky. I think it is just plain weird and many of his one-liners will go over kids' heads. Such as - "Main Street was like Alan Ladd, short but handsome." How many 9-12 year olds, the intended audience, will know who Alan Ladd is? Heck, I love old movies and I had to look Ladd up online to see what the short and handsome reference is all about. Aside from the one-liners, it is a funny and sometimes creepy story of two kids, assuming their parents are dead, escape from a nasty orphanage/child labor zipper factory, and settle into the home of a pumpkin cookie fanatic candy make who hated kids. The disarray in the home attests to his unexpected and not so welcomed departure. Unknowingly they nourish the squampkin (pumpkin shaped nasty little creatures that live underground and are connected by their stems) patch in the yard. Chloe has watered the patch with her tears and the squampkins are intent on taking her to their underground home and "protecting" her, whether she likes it or not. One has to just go with the story and enjoy it for what it is - a weird romp in the pumpkin, oh - excuse me - squampkin patch as two quite unique children try to solve the mystery of the candy maker's disappearance. Offer this one to the readers who like Lemony Snicket. The humor may go over many younger reader's heads, but they will have fun with the story anyway. The 5th - 7th graders will get his one-liners, or at least most of them. Some may even try the pumpkin chocolate-chip cookie recipe that concludes the novel. I'm shaking my head, with a bemused smile on my face, as I write about this one. One weird book!

That's it for today. The weekend is almost upon us!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I have yet to figure out how my body knows the days I don't have to get up and chooses those as the days it wants to get up early. Of course it can't have this up-and-at-'em early morning approach on the days I have to be up and out of here at an early hour. Oh well, I have already gotten quite a bit done this a.m. Could be worse.

Just read a fascinating review of Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George on the Alaska Native Knowledge Network
The review was addressed on Child_Lit and how we feel about using the book with children, considering the many errors, in relation to culture, language, geograpy, etc.. The review is available at:
I remember the 5th grade class at the elementary school in Big Lake, Alaska using this book as required reading. At the time (1980s) I was the librarian there and supported the book and the kids loved the parts about Julie eating the wolves' cuds - reguritated food. Years later I spoke with George about this book and how we used it with our 5th graders. She spoke with great love, compassion, and respect for the Inupiaq culture. I honestly had no idea that there were errors in the book. Having only been as far north as Nome, I had never visited the area she wrote about. Even though I lived for 2 years in the Athabascan (sometimes spelled Athapascan) village of Galena, on the banks of the Yukon, I know little about the culture. Lots to think about in relation to the ongoing discussion of whether or not it is "appropriate" for someone to write about a culture they are not part of. I would have little problem choosing between two books, as well written, if one is by a person of the culture and one is not. But, sometimes we do not have the choice of selecting a book by someone who is part of the culture/religion/ethnicity. The same is true about international titles. I go for the transcultural ones- the books that are written by a person who grew up in that country and written for the children/teens of that country. Sometimes the translations are not as smooth as they could be, but I know I am getting a more accurate depiction of the country and the people. My all time favorite transcultural title is Boys from St. Petri by Bjarne B. Reuter and translated from the Dutch. A fantastic WWII novel about a group of teens who get involved in the Dutch Resistance. It was written back in the mid 90s and B&N notes it as out of print so I hope it is already on your shelves. A more recent WWII novel transcultural novel that I also like is Daniel Half-Human by David Chotjewitz, about a young German who wants to be part of the Hitler Youth, but discovers his mother is Jewish.

As much as I want to continue my thinking aloud on the keyboard as to the role of accuracy in multicultural and international literature I need to get some grading done! All for now.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Another weekend has come to an end. After reading the Sunday newspaper I "tried" to put together the no-tools-needed small computer desk from Office Depot. Well, after much use of a hammer and several bruises on my legs later from trying to use my knees as tools too, I have part of it put together. I gave up when my hands quit working as "tools" - all you are supposed to need. Yeah - right! I'm the one who has a bottle of Club Soda in the fridge I can't get the cap off, so my hands are not great tools! Let's just say that when I am through with it, if I do finish it, not much besides my laptop will be safe on it! I'm not even going to try the bookcase. I'll wait until Steve gets here next month. Then I can drink that Club Soda too.

It has been a good weekend. Friday evening Kevin, one of the really cool people from the LSIT Dept. at ECU, had a picnic gathering of friends out at his even cooler house in old Washington. The house dates back from the 1800s and it filled with antiques and Kevin has a story to tell for each one. Love the Christmas chair that his grandmother sat in only to open her Christmas gifts. :-) After much great food and conversation small groups of us walked down to Music on the Street - a monthly event during the summer. Local musicians and groups line the streets and people stop and listen as well as browse through the neat shops. There were also classic cars parked along the streets to look at - from Model Ts to 50s Vettes. I was drooling! I fell in love with all the old houses in Washington - such chararacter.

Reading this weekend was Street Pharm by Allison van Diepen. The author taught in a Brooklyn area high school for three years so she has the street language and attitude down. Or, at least I think she does, as I have not lived in that environment. But, it feels all too real at times. Ty Johnson is street wise - he's gotta be since he took over for his father who is in prison. Teenage Ty is one of the biggest dealers in the area and he gets respect because everyone knows his father. Ty is enjoying every minute of it - the money and the perks. But then he is sent to an alternative high school and he falls for Alyse, an ambitious teenage mom who has brains and plans for college. Ty knows it isn't a good idea to get involved and at first they are just friends and partners in school assignments. Ty even gets good grades to impress Alyse. But, things get dangerous on the streets when a new dealer comes to town and wants to take over Ty's region. Rather than taking the competition out like his father insists, Ty tries to handle it on his own and gets shot. A painful wake up call as to the life expectancy of a drug dealer. Street Pharm is a solid addition to any high school collection. Should be in all alternative school libraries, but sadly many of these schools do not even have libraries.

All for tonight.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A dreary rainy day today. These are the days I want to stay in bed with the laptop and the heating pad, where I am right now! But, I have another meeting on campus this afternoon so I will need to get my act together before too long.

I did take time out early this a.m. for some fun reading. I spent quite a bit of time perusing and chuckling over G is for One Gzonk!: An Alpha-Number-Bet Book by Tiny DiTerlooney a.k.a. Tony DiTerlizza. Most people recognize DiTerlizza from The Spiderwick Chronicles, but my favorite of his books is The Spider and the Fly, due to the 1920s like illustrations that make this book one all ages can enjoy. I'd use it in a HS English class. Anyway, back to the book in hand - Tiny, who is on each page, with paint brush in hand, keeps reminding the reader that this is not meant to be an alphabet book. No boring bouncing balls here. DiTerlizza "honors" Seuss with his use of the recognizable bluish shades that frequent the creatures in Seuss classics. Only Tiny and the bodiless Woos (Onesie, Twosie, etc. ) -who frequent the pages andbring up numerical observations, much to Tiny's dismay - are in the full range of colors. A couple of the creachlings in this twenty-six letter menagerie are a bit scary, such as the Evil Eeog with his stinky breath and the Xirzle, with his anvil head and mean looking eyes. Not sure I would introduce all these critters to a toddler, but slightly older kids will delight in these weirdly familiar creachlings. I receive it from the publisher with a sticker that states, "Do not Open until..." Release date for this was September 12th. Since I received it yesterday I didn't have to wait and I am glad. What a fun book.

I also received a box of new titles from Scholastic and couldn't resist diving into the beautiful Tales of Deltora by Emily Rodda. It is the illustrations for each story by Marc McBride that got my attention. They are bold, detailed and down right scary! Absolutely perfect for that tween readership. :-) Even if they haven't read the other Rodda books about Deltora they will love these short stories. Display the Deltora books near the computers and bookmark the online site for the series, which has games based on the books, at That will get those reluctant readers involved. The site is fun to explore and kid friendly.

I didn' get this posted in the a.m. as the Internet connection bogged down so bad I gave up on it and figured I would do it when I got home. Had to browse through some new magazines and watch some TV after a day of meetings before coming back to the computer today. Why is sitting on your butt and trying to concentrate so much more tiring than physical work?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

It is actually a bit chilly here this a.m. I love it! High of 88 degrees with scatter rain in the islands today. My weather watch is set to see what kind of weather I am missing, or not missing on St. Thomas. Bermuda sure got blasted with winds and rain by the last storm to come through. But, since they have such stringent building codes (8 " walls required) not too many were worried. Lots of the tourists just hung out and enjoyed the storm from indoors.

I have spent the a.m. reading NC school library media/technology guidelines. Not my usual fun novel reading. I need to learn the jargon used in NC - different from TX. With all of the hype about information literacy I find myself getting onto my "pulpit" regularly to remind everyone that we have to encourage leisure reading by our students, which in turn enhancing their reading comprehension skills. And I don't mean by using AR tests! Don't even get me going on how much I dislike Accelerated Reader! Students can access information in multiple formats, but it is useless if they cannot understand what they have accessed. The more they read, the better they get at it, and if that means graphic novels, series, "brain candy" - so what? ALL reading enhances reading skills, not just reading of award winning and classic titles. Okay - off the pulpit I jump!

No particular book to discuss today as my mind is on movies at the moment, based on "The 50 Best High School Movies Ever" in the Sept. 15, 2006 Entertainment Weekly. I decided to subscribe so I can stay up to day on the latest movies, TV shows, books etc. No surprise, the 1985 The Breakfast Club is the # 1 HS movie. I have to admit that I have not seen all of the 50 listed, but I have seen a good portion of them. Typical me - I am wondering how many of them are based on books and could a display be set up in the HS library, highlighting this list and the books! :-) Even if you don't have the books that accompany the movies, a display of books about high school life would still work, like Joyce Carol Oates' Big Mouth and Ugly Girl, The Chocolate War by Cormier (classic, with a movie), Nancy Garden's Endgame, Gail Giles' Shattering Glass and Playing in Traffic, Alex Flinn's Breaking Point and Fade to Black, Mel Glenn's Who Killed Mr Chippendale, etc. In other words - lots of good ideas for a book display and a booktalking session to go along with this article on HS movies, many of which the teens have seen and love. We need to use what is out there to get teen involved.

Now to get my act together for the day and head to campus to attend yet another training session.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Bummer - my new deck chairs are actually beach chairs! I didn't realize how short the legs are until I put them out on the deck. Not sure I am going to be able to get out of it once I get settled. Better make sure I have my Diet Coke in the cup holder and my pretzels on the low table next to me before I get comfy out there with a book.

Spent the day freezing my bippy in my ECU office. Just couldn't bring myself to stay home to work as I would have had too much time to think about 5 years ago when I woke up to Mary's phone call to turn on the TV and her asking me where Steve was. He was supposed to be in the World Trade Center and I turned on the TV in time to see the second plane hit. Until I found my cell phone and heard his shaky voiced message that he was okay I was running around the house screaming I couldn't find the phone, with Mary trying to calm me down and telling me I was on the phone. We hadn't been dating for long when that happened, but just that glimpse at the possibility we might never had seen each other again caused us to get closer very quickly. He proposed that Thanksgiving on Mustique and we married the following May barefoot on the beach on Anguilla. Sure wish we were together today.

My latest reading is on the dark side - Julius Lester's Time's Memory. Lester's writing is so intense and so heart wrenching that I had to set it aside a couple of times so I could finish it. The thought of a slave's soul, the nyama, wandering about the South, without the expected wooden statue to settle into as a protector of his/her loved ones is very disconcerting. As I read of the unhappy confused souls haunting the slave quarters of the Chelsea plantation and Nathaniel/Ekundayo being able to see them the hair on my arms raised and I got the creeps. The novel begins in an African village when the slave traders murder the hogon, the religious chief, and his nyama seeks refuge in the body of his daughter where it resides until she arrives in the South and Ekundayo is brought to life by Amma, the creator god. Lester's personal interest in, and research of, the religion of the Dogon people of Mali adds such emotional depth to this novel set during the pre-Civil War years. There is so much more to this novel than a timeless love story between the white daughter of the plantation owner and the black cook's grandson. This is one I am going to have to set aside and read again as it is so beautifully written and so thought provoking that one reading is just not enough.

Okay - now I can open that clearly-a-book box that was waiting for me when I got home. Hope it is my Cary Grant book. I was born in the wrong generation!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Another weekend is at an end. It has been a busy one, since I didn't have to deal with rain. The wet vac arrived (HSN is very quick) so I got the storm debris cleaned off of the deck on Saturday. Not sure I am keen on this indoor/outdoor carpeting that is on the deck. It is regular wood decking underneath. If I had the strength to roll up the carpet and pitch it over the side of the edge I just might. It was a real pain to clean. Then I went shopping to find a couple of chairs I could both afford and carry up the stairs and out to the deck. Found some today, at of all places CVS Drugstore, at 90% off. They aren't quite the chairs I would have picked, but for $7 a piece for good quality folding chairs I can't complain. Even found a round plastic table I could haul up the stairs.

Steve said St. Thomas has had a lot of rain from Florence. Sounds like it is going to hit Bermuda. I finally gave up on trying to talk to him as I was getting a headache from the background noise. The landlord, who lives above our apartment, was jack hammering something - must have been replacing tile. He called at 7 a.m., on a Saturday, to tell Steve about the noise. How considerate of him! My teeth hurt just listening to it - no wonder Steve said poor Sophie was going bonkers from the noise. I hope he went to RJ's wake at Bottom's Up today. Is going to be so strange to go back in October and not see RJ's smile when we walk in where he is playing.

Read Janet McDonald's Twists and Turns - a quick evening read and an interesting addition to the occupation/career fiction titles. Two sisters from the projects decide that they will open their own business after high school doing what they are good at - braiding hair. A friend who has made money doing commercials gives them $10,000 to get their business going. After the grand opening things slow down but they have more to worry about than customers. At a party in their apartment while their mother was away at a church gathering, Keeba and Teesha inadvertently offended a girl from another neighborhood. She has not forgotten the slight. While the sisters join a march on city hall with other project residents concerned about rumors that their homes are to be turned into condos for the yuppies, revenge is in full swing. While they are holding signs and swinging their braids in front of the TV camera, TeeKee's Tresses is being trashed. Shaniqua and her pal Red use a brick to shatter the shop windows and destroy what they can, but they can't destroy Keeba and Teesha's desire to succeed. Offer this one to the those girls who are too busy listening to rap music to read. :-)

Watched an old Cary Grant and Doris Day movie this evening. It was supposed to be partially set in Bermuda but the view was hardly "real". Made me wish I hadn't been sick most of the time we were there or was freezing because it wasn't very warm. I couldn't imagine the crazy tourists in the water when I was burrowed in sweaters. The worst part was not being able to rent a car and having to pay for taxis to go anywhere. And, all those old guy knobby knees in their Bermuda shorts and knee sox! Gross!!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I apologize for my lack of blogging the last several days. Was in a bit of a funk due to the weather and overwhelmed with paperwork. Ernesto caused flooding and just plain old rotten weather in Eastern NC. This kind of weather makes every bone in this old body ache! So I spent lots of time curled up on the heating pad reading and working.

My good news is that I now having living room furniture. Took advantage of the Labor Day sales and bought a couch and recliner. I woke up to a horrible thunderstorm on Tuesday, the day the furniture was delivered. I worried every time the sky opened up and rain poured down that I would hear the delivery truck drive up. Thank goodness when they did arrive later that afternoon the rain had stopped for a bit. So now I can work on the the laptop and on needlework from a comfy chair. Now all I need is a desk in the second bedroom, which will be my office.

One of the books I read during my funk was The Braid, a historical verse novel by Helen Frost. She weaves together this tale of two Scottish girls as flawlessly as the girls' interwoven braid of hair they each carry a piece of as their lives take separate paths. It is the late 1800s, during the Highland Clearances, when entire families were forced from their homes and onto ships. When it is time for the family to leave Sarah hides so she can stay behind with her grandmother. They go to her grandmother's village on a tiny remote island, while Jeanne joins the rest of her family on a ship bound for Canada. Only Jeanne, her mother, and the baby arrive in Cape Breton. Jeanne must find inner strength to keep her little family alive, while Sarah is falling in love and dealing with island taboos. Frost describes the inventive poetic style she employs in creating the alternating narratives and connecting short poems. So very different from Keesha's House, with its seven different teen voices brought to life in narrative poems, but no less as well written.

I am actually in my new office as I write this blog. BRRR!! Need to get an afghan or something to use in here as it is quite chilly. We aren't allowed to bring in electric heaters as they are a fire hazard. Drinking ice cold diet Pepsi isn't helping any either. This is a Pepsi university. Need to get a little fridge so I can have my own Diet Cokes. But, I am waiting to see if I will get more book cases and where they will go in here as I have boxes of books sitting on the floor with no where to put them. And, many more on the way! I miss my floor to ceiling shelves at SHSU!

I did open a couple of packages from the publishers when I got here and and had to immediately sit down and read the Little Simon board book version of Mary Serfozo's Plumply, Dumply Pumpkin. This is a tongue twister of a fun read about young Peter the tiger who is in search of the perfect pumpkin - "Not a lumpy, bumpy pumpkin. Not a stumpy, grumpy pumpkin, but a sunny, sumptuous pumpkin." Once he finds it, what is he going to do with it? No pumpkin pudding! No pumpkin pie! A perfect jack-o-lantern, of course! Books like this make me miss those days of being a primary librarian with a class full of little one sitting on the floor mesmerized by a story.

On the sunny sumptuous side I do have grandchildren to read to - one of them begging to be born. Poor Monica has been in the emergency room 5 times already. As she says, the doctor wants little Kaydence to "bake" for a couple more weeks. :-) Can't wait to go up to KC and visit them, especially Allyson, who loves books as much as Gramma Ruth! And I can't wait for Mary to be far enough along that the amnio will show whether the baby is a boy or a girl. I am praying for a girl, but will be more than happy with another grandson to adore. Also can't wait to see their new house. Mary must have inherited her decorating gene from her father's side of the family because she sure didn't get it from me! Can't wait to see what she had done with a house since her apartments were always gorgeous.