Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sundays are such lovely days, even though this one was rainy and gray. Spent the morning in bed with the newspaper and the afternoon catching up on grading and emails along with the wash. Sure is a lot less of it when it is just me. It warmed up enough to go out on the balcony with Sophie for a bit. I made the mistake of leaving her out there alone and she almost fell off because she jumped up between the railings. It's a good thing she caught herself as I was too far away to grab her. She is not happy being an inside cat.

There have been a number of teenage authors published lately. One of the latest is Thu-Houng Ha, the 16-year-old female author of Hail Caesar, a first person novel from a 17-year-old male's perspective. Not sure what I think of this novel. Like The Outsiders, the male characters don't always ring true. Ha knows 17-year-old guys think with the wrong head and sex is their focus, especially for this main character. John, called Caesar since he was a kid, has has had sex with most of the girls in the HS, but has yet to be in a true relationship. He is quite happy with his shallow life of parties, drinking, and sex until the new girl in school piques his interest. Too bad she isn't willing to jump into bed with him, nor is she impressed by his popularity or false impression that he is the center of the universe. They do become friends and spend time at a secluded spot by the lake, where she plays mind games with him. She is none too stable herself! Perhaps because his mother died when he was young and his father is a workaholic are part of why he has no respect for girls. He doesn't think about how girls reacts to guys' hunt for sexual conquests until his little sister shows up at a party and gets drunk with one of his friends. No guy like him better get near her! If more teenage girls read books like this, they might think twice before drinking with the guys at the local parties. Ha knows teen dialogue, which dominates this book. An interesting look into the teen preppy crowd.

Now back to savoring my Diet Vernor's Ginger Ale and a Lifetime movie! It is so nice to be back on the Mainland where I can buy Vernors. I grew up with this spicier ginger ale than Canadian Dry, which is a "watered down" version of the real thing. They have Ginger Beer in the islands but it is way too sweet - no diet version of it either. So now I always have Vernors in the fridge. I'm a happy girl!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Not the greatest picture of our latest grandbaby as you cannot see her adorable face, but I certainly loved sitting with Kady in my arms. Have babies on the mind since Kegan should be entering the world any time now. I'm still hoping for the blue eyed grandbaby - no luck yet, and Kegan will be # 5!
A relaxing Saturday afternoon. I pampered myself with a pedicure and a set of nails. I have Valentine's Day red finger and toe nails. :-) Now to get used to having fingernails again - my own break off so using the keyboard with longer nails is interesting. But, the cool part is you can't even tell the tip of my index finger was cut off and my natural nail curls. I hated my ugly nail as a kid and it embarrassed me as a school librarian when kids would ask me what happened to my finger. I wasn't about to tell them that my dad drilled the tip off because I had my finger in the doorknob hole of the door he was making for the kitchen and was afraid to tell him my finger was stuck.

While I type this I am watching Timeline on the SciFi channel. I like watching movies on this channel as they take all the gory stuff out! I didn't read Timeline, but I have a copy of Crichton's The 13th Warrior, which is out of print. I have my own copy the movie of the same name with Antonio Banderas and a group of Scandinavians as the Vikings who are very realistic in their garb and speech pattern. Most are Swedes or Norwegians. A very cool movie, but do be careful when viewing with little ones around - the scene where they find the butchered family is pretty gory. It is supposed to be based on Beowulf. I think it stands on its own, with no prior knowledge of Beowulf.

Read Cameron Dokey's Before Midnight: A Retelling of "Cinderella". I have never been a big Cinderella fan because I dislike the Disney version of it with the dumb singing birds and the mice. Basically, I dislike all of Disney's remakes of the folk/fairy tales of the past. It is so sad to think that many children know no other versions of the stories. Anyway, Dokey's YA novelization, a part of Simon & Schuster's Once Upon a Time series, is wonderful. I love this retelling because it is the father who is wicked, not the stepmother. She is just an unhappy woman who is married off to Cendrillon's father by the King and sent into exile at his country estate by her new husband. She does not know that the young woman who meets her at the door is her new stepdaughter as no one at court knows about Cendrillon. When her mother died in childbirth he abandoned his daughter and swore to have nothing to do with her. Cendrillon isn't alone in her exile prior to the arrival of her new stepmother and sister. Raised at her side is the infant boy her father delivered the same night Cendrillon was born, Raoul. Old Mathilde raises them both. They will play a role in the future of the kingdom. Such a fun retelling, set on an isolated ocean side estate with magic all of its own and wishes that sometimes come true in the strangest ways, including Cendrillon's wish for two stepsisters, so one will like her. I might just have to read the rest of the series now.

All for today.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Hi y'all! Just now working my way to the top of the pile of e- and snail mail that was waiting for me after several days in Seattle for Midwinter. What a beautiful city, but I am glad to be back home in sunny Greenville. It is a gorgeous day with bright blue skies. Sophie was laying right in the middle of a sunbeam coming in through the sliding doors and when I petted her, her fur was hot. Guess she misses the heat of the islands. Speaking of heat - I am typing this on one of my cool Christmas presents from Steve - a heated keyboard. I am not kidding - the keys stay warm to the touch. Wonderful for those of us who always have cold hands. Now, what to do about my always cold feet - oh yeah, my yeti looking mid calf slippers from Macy's are taking care of that problem.

Just gotta tell you about the creepy but cool book I read on the way home from Seattle. I was going to go for a light read, but the cover and Holiday House's Terry Borzumato's quick booktalk of Nicky Singer's The Innocent's Story hooked me and I set aside the romance for later. I am so glad I did. This is one of those read in one gulp books because you have to know what is going to happen. Imagine you have a parasite in your brain - doing so gives me the major creeps! He/she knows your inner most thoughts, experiences your dreams, and can see the world through your eyes. Cassina can do just that. She is a para-spirit, a parasitic spirit that needs the moisture of the brain to stay "alive". Composed of a mist like substance she enters and exists through your nose. Makes my nostrils tickle just thinking about it! But, Cassina isn't just any para-spirit, she is the para-spirit of a young teen whose was blown up in a London subway bombing, along with her little sister. Cassina enters the minds of a number of human hosts, including the mortician who prepares her little sister's body for viewing, her father's, the family dog's, that witnesses the suicide bomber's brutal beating. As he didn't die from the bombing, Akim also does not die from the beating - he is an aeternal, one who cannot die by "normal" methods such as bombs, bullets, or beatings. Cassina enters his mind and must come to terms with the manner in which people of his religion are treated and how they view the world. The most unsettling scene for me was when she enters the mind of the religious zealot who masterminded the bombing and sees what he sees when he walks down the streets of London - only the other T'lannis have form and facial features. The "non-believers" are just blurs of color. This is one of those books that teens of all ages, from MS through HS will eat up and be talking about and sharing with friends, insisting they read it too so they can talk about it! Singer has written one heck of a page-turner, a view of another culture/religion that has you wanting to go back and read it again, immediately after you read the last word on page 217.

Okay - on to catching up on grading and other "stuff".

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Good morning from Seattle. This city is very hilly and none of the hotels I have meetings at are very close together. But, walking uphill to the IBBY session last night was well worth it. Terry Trueman was hilarious. Terry had done a number of online chats with my students when I taught at UHCL and they loved him, and his books. His Stuck in Neutral is a Printz Honor book and opened the eyes of many teens in relation to cerebral palsy. The sequel to it Cruise Control is from Paul's perspective. Shawn, the disabled 14-year-old's older brother, Paul, is angry about his father leaving. Paul feels like the weight of caring for Shawn is on his shoulders and he cannot accept a basketball scholarship to go away to college. In his latest YA novel, No Right Turn, Trueman takes on the topic of parental suicide and how 16-year-old Jordan has been not dealing with it well for the last three years. Will the 1976 Corvette and a girl bring him out of his depression? Trueman told us last night that the Vette on the cover is his. He also told a hilarious story about being out on the road with it and having a car of girls pull up next to him. They were all interested in him until he rolled down the tinted windows and they saw he was an old bald guy! He had us snort laughing!

I was supposed to go to a breakfast this a.m. but my knee had a different idea when I got up. It decided Tylenol and some elevated time is what it wanted. Lots of walking yesterday, and sitting for hours in one spot, aggravated it big time. I won't be climbing stepladders while talking on the phone any time in the future. Or, I should say falling off of stepladders while talking on the phone! It has been over two weeks and the knee is getting worse, not better.

Was listening to the trash truck outside the hotel this a.m. and had to chuckle as I thought of the scare I had while on island. We stopped to drop off trash and all of a sudden a guy came hopping out of the dumpster, with a curtain rod in his hand. We didn't realize anyone was there so he really startled me. Dumpster diving is a common event on St. Thomas, but that is the first time I have actually seen someone come over the top of the huge dumpsters. These dumpsters are the size of a semi trailer and deep so how he came hopping out of there is beyond me. I was proud of myself. I was able to keep myself from screaming when he hopped down next to my side of the car. But, I did lose a cat life for sure.

For the first time in the almost 20 years I have been attending ALA I went to the exhibit opening. I even stood in line to get a Chaucer bobble head doll. Not sure why, but the two fellow NC librarians I was with wanted one. It will look cute on my desk. Had a chance to stop and chat with publishing people. Many fun freebies and lots of food too. Tried to win something by throwing a stuffed fish through a hole at the Amazon booth, but no suck luck. I blamed it on my new bifocals! :-) There were so many bags of free books, posters and other goodies on people's shoulders that I am surprised we weren't knocking each other over. But, what fun. Not sure I want to do this every time, but it was certainly interesting.

Had the absolute pleasure of talking to Arthur Dorros and met his very sweet son, Alex, who co-authored Numero Uno with his father. This new Abrams title is a very entertaining tale of two villagers, Hercules and Socrates, who are continuously arguing about who is number one - numero uno. Hercules insists he is because of his strength. Socrates is as confidant he is numero uno because of his intellect. It isn't until the villagers send them away for three days so they try to figure out how to build the bridge without Hercules' strength or Socrates' intellect that the villagers decide what they didn't miss was the arguing! And, the bridge is built without them, well sort of! The illustrations make it clear that the huge boulder that the arguers dislodged from the hillside cave entrance (it took both brawn and intellect) rolled into the river and became the center support beam for the village bridge. This is a must have book in elementary collections and will be a wonderful read aloud title, which will result in very interesting conversations, I am sure. Can't wait to read this autographed copy to Michael on my next visit to Green Bay. Which, should be soon as Kegan is getting himself ready to enter this world. Can't wait to hold my newest grandbaby.

Okay, time to check for student emails and get myself going for the another long day.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I finally got my pictures transferred from the camera. Took this pic from the balcony of the apartment in St. Thomas, above Frenchman's Bay. That is the Queen Mary. She is so large she has to anchor at the entrance to the Charlotte Amalie harbor. The tourists take these pod things in to the wharf and then wait forever to get back out to the ship. Not my cup of tea, but the ship is pretty from a distance. The cruise ships look like huge sideways Christmas trees when they leave at night.
As I type this I am watching The Golden Globes and realize how few of the movies I have seen that they are highlighting. Haven't seen Dream Girls or Babel, but I have seen Cars! Can't you tell I teach children's and YA literature and am a gramma - I know kids' movies. And because of reading children's books I know who Georges Melies is - his name and his first first animated movie of a rocket hitting the moon were mentioned as the animated movie nominations were to be introduced. I knew this from reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selsnick, a very intriguing combination of narrative and line drawings, which really do tell their own part of the story, not just as a supplement to the text. Because the full page drawings tell so much of the story the book appears huge, Harry Potter size, but it really is a quick read and is quite fascinating. The concept of a young boy living in the walls of the train station and keeping all of the clocks going is quirky, but add the fact that he is working on an automaton and it becomes a true guy book. My brother the engineer would have loved this book - as a kid he took everything apart to see how it worked, but rarely put it back together again!

I was lazy this a.m. and finished Cameron Dokey's Before Midnight: A Retelling of "Cinderella". What an interesting retelling, with a father who is the wicked one for a change. The stepmother who arrives is his arranged bride, sent into "exile" with her two daughters to his home on the coast. A castle that he has not returned to since the night his wife died in childbirth, leaving after cursing the very spot his wife is buried and denying the child he leaves behind to be raised by the servants. Cendrillon is thought a servant by her new stepmother as she was not told her new husband has a daughter and Cendrillon does not change that misperception until much later in the tale. Cendrillon grows up with the baby boy Raoul who her father left with Old Mathilde, the healer who raises both children. Every year on their birthday they each wish for the same thing. Cendrillon wishes that what she plants on her mother's grave will not wither and die. Raoul wishes to know where he comes from and who his parents are. As we know, in fairy tales wishes do have a tendency to come true in the end, but not the way one expects. For those girls who love fairy tale retellings, this one will be swallowed in one gulp. :-) They will also love all the other titles in the Simon Pulse Once Upon a Time series.

Feels weird to sit here and not have Santas all about and Christmas lights sparking on the balcony. I took it all down today. The livingroom looks empty. Maybe I need to buy some heart lights to put out on the balcony for Valentines Day. Perhaps I will do just that when I get back from ALA Midwinter in Seattle.

All for tonight. Now to find the next book I am reviewing for Library Media Connection!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

It's late Sunday afternoon and I am in the office. I came in to find my missing Midwinter file, but no such luck. Hopefully it is somewhere in my mess at home. I still don't feel settled in because each time I go to the islands I bring home two big suitcases full of stuff and have to reposition everything I had unpacked and put away the last time. And, I need more bookcases as I have more boxes of books coming and I haven't opened several that already came I need a bigger home office!

I started opening boxes of new books and got so excited about the cool board books that came in. I had to stop and "play" with Katie Davis' Who Hops?: Quien salta? The full page simple and bold illustrations of different animals are wonderful for little ones. The book is not a tiny board book so it is best explored sitting down. It first goes through the things that hop: frogs, rabbits, kangaroos, cows. Wait a minute! Cows? The page where it says no they don't is a hoot as it shows a bluish purple cow imagining what she would look like hopping - quite funny. Also goes through flying, slithering, and swimming. Since it is English/Spanish I am learning a few new words as I interact with this book. Can't wait to share this one with my grandkids. Harcourt is coming out with some really cool early childhood titles in board book format, including my beloved Mouse Count by Ellen Stoll Walsh. How can you not love a group of mice out witting a hungry snake? I have these little critters stuffed. Well, I should say had as I have lost a few to grandbabies who got a hold of them and wouldn't let go. Also have a board book copy of I Went Walking:Sali de paseo by Sue Williams. The "I went walking. What did you see?" text works beautifully for parents and little ones to read together. The use of "I saw a .... looking at me" each time makes this perfect for little ones to "read" alone as they can readily memorize it.

Can't you tell I am teaching a Materials for Early Childhood course this semester?

On the YA side, I am holding a copy of Psyche in a Dress by Francesca Lia Block, one of my all time favorite YA authors. The cover is absolutely gorgeous with a woman's form topped by a butterfly, with a skull where the feet should be. It is a short 116 pages, but I know it will be intense - all of Block's books are. My favorite, Baby Bebop is out of print. :-(

All for today. They just announced the library closes in 30 minutes so I want to get out of here before then. I was in here Friday night after it closed - kinda creepy.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

No, I didn't fall off of the edge of the earth, but I may as well have as deep as I was wrapped up in the final manuscript. Y'All should have heard my YAHOO across the world when I electronically submitted it last evening. I came home, read my mail, "window shopped" a few catalogs, watched my new favorite show, The Ghost Whisperer and then crashed. I was too brain dead to do anything else. I would have been a very happy camper to have gotten my first full night of sleep not worrying that I wasn't going to make my deadline. But no - darn Sophie got bored at 4:40 this morning and decided it was time to talk and play. She was up and down off the bed, playing with my pillow, and telling me she was bored with her loudest meows. Now I understand what Steve told me he like to do while he had her and she woke him up - she almost became a cat-apult!

Just submitted a review for Classic Teenplots: A Booktalk Guide to Use with Readers Ages 12-18 to VOYA. Gillespie is well knows for his professional titles, especially Juniorplots and Seniorplots that went out of print awhile back. This is an interesting group of 100 books because they are in print titles from his earlier professional titles. My only complaint is the subtitle - the book has only slightly over 4 pages on booktalking and no booktalks. So it is a bit deceptive in nature. As a summary of plots and suggested passages, it is superb. Am delighted to have my own copy. :-)

Also sent in my presenter information for a booktalking workshop I will be doing for school librarians in Kentucky in June. Can't wait to visit Lexington. I have been through that area many times on my trips between Texas and Michigan and Steve and I drove through on our way to Greenville from Missouri. The leaves were in their Autumn glory so it was a beautiful trip. Never had a chance to actually spend some time in the city though. Should be fun.

The students in my two literature classes at ECU have been wonderful with putting up with my quick emails to let them know the status of the manuscript and why I was not my talkative self on the first discussion board. They don't know what they are in for! :-) I am as talkative on the keyboard as in person, but you can't see my facial expressions, which is too bad. Steve says my face tells it all! So don't ask me for my opinion of something if you don't want my face to tell you the truth even if my mouth is trying very hard to be "delicate" about my impression. :-)

Now that my writing is caught up a bit, I am about to dive into Cameron Dokey's Before Midnight: A Retelling of "Cinderella". It will be out early in 2007 from Simon & Schuster. I'll let you know what I think - of course. But, now I really do need to get to those discussion boards and "meet" my new group of students.