Saturday, April 28, 2007

Just looked at the pictures of the Lipizzaner Stallions from last night. None of them came out good enough to keep. They had the stadium lights down and used flood lights, making pictures from where we say just blurs of bright light. It was a great show, with amazingly well trained horses. To basically go from a stand to all four feet off the ground, with a rider on his back, is pretty darn impressive. It was so cute to see all the little girls down on the floor pretending to be horses during the intermission. Lots of them left with a stuffed Lipizzaner. I remembered the Marguerite Henry novel about a young boy Hans and he desire to work with the stallions. Sadly, The White Stallion of Lipizza is out of print, but there are lots of used copies available on B&N and Amazon.

Steve headed out to his first day volunteering at Habitat for Humanity. Too bad it is such a chilly day. I was grateful he turned the heat on this morning when he got up. So Sophie and I have a quiet Saturday to ourselves. Just watching the birds out the window has tired her out - she's fast asleep in her bed. I was going to go down to Educator's Saturday at Barnes and Noble near us but we didn't get Steve's car picked up yesterday. Will do that after he gets home today. Wow! Just got a phone call from the sales woman - had to give her a credit card number to hold the car as someone tried to buy it out from under us.

I have a copy of Titanic: The Ship of Dreams in front of me - Scholastic's paper engineered title that is a mix of fictional narrative by a young boy on the ship, information/data about the ship and other events of the time period, as well as flaps to lift and a handful of elaborate pop-ups. The one of the Titanic itself that folds out and up won't make it through but a couple circulations in a library, but it is a great title to have for in-library use. The fictional narrative is based on an actual young survivor of the disaster. Elementary and MS age readers will enjoy exploring the flaps and reading the information, but from a librarian's perspective these books don't hold up under use. At $18.99 I'd buy it for a young reader who is interested in the Titanic, but would not put it in the circulating collection of a library.

Okay - now to work on summer school syllabi!

Friday, April 27, 2007

It's Friday and I am almost caught up with grading paperwork! We are going see the Lipizzaner Stallions tonight. This is their 37th year of touring. I was browsing the web site and saw they even have a place to buy horses. It is a good thing we don't have room for a horse! I had an Appaloosa in Wisconsin and though I am an awful rider, I loved her - she was more of a big pet, which isn't a good reason to have a horse - they need to be ridden, at least she did. I sold her to a barrel racer and last I heard Velvet was doing great.

Other good news is I should be getting my car back to myself this weekend. :-) I can jump in the car and head off to Half-Price Books and B&N any time I want. And, I may even go explore the big mall across town. Steve has finally decided on a car after driving lots of them. It is my favorite of the bunch too - a very pretty dark blue Saab convertible. I still like my Santa Fe better though - I can see everything from up high. And, we can fit even 3 sets of bookcases in my car with the back seats down - you can barely get into the backseat of his car. We are supposed to pick it up today or tomorrow. Looking forward to weekend drives with the top down as we explore Kentucky.

Was looking through some of the picture books I brought with me from my office at ECU and had to stop and read Delilah D. at the Library by Jeanne Willis. The illustrations by Rosie Reeve are an absolute delight. Her facial expressions for this little, very opinionated girl, with an even more vivid imagination, will bring a smile to any reader's face, but especially to a librarian's. I remember little girls like Delilah D., who loved to tell stories and get the other kids involved. They would get so involved they forgot it is imaginary, as is Delilah D.'s homeland - "a tiny little island between Jafrica and Smindia." The librarian had never heard of it and, heaven forbid, they forgot to put it on the world maps! I like Delilah D's idea of what should occur in a library - trapezes to swing on to reach high books, and a man walks around the library delivering cupcakes. Library Anne is dealing with Delilah D. well but this is when she remembers that there were days she wished she were an astronaut. :-) An absolute gotta have book for primary level libraries and a wonderful book to use to introduce rules in the library with kindergarten. The other reason I love this book is Delilah D. reminds me very much of our granddaughter Allyson, who has as vivid of an imagination! :-)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Decided I could take the time out to blog since I am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel in relation to grading. It is hard to believe this semester is basically over. I drive to Greenville next week for graduation and that's it. I'm teaching summer school which starts in May so I won't have much of a break, but the grading frenzy will be over for a bit.

It is a dreary day after a night of thunder and rain. Even Sophie is curled up on her bed - she knows what you are supposed to do on days like today. Too bad our fireplace doesn't work yet. It looks very pretty, but the gas line is not in so we need to do that before next winter for sure. Yesterday was so hot and muggy we turned on the air conditioning and today feels like fireplace weather. Steve did get the garbage disposal in while I was in Greenville last week. I am very glad I was not here as it took several trips to Lowe's and he basically re-plumbed the entire area under the sink. Little quirky things the builder did, or didn't do, like put in the wiring for the garbage disposal and not the disposal, have us bemused. Put in a fireplace, but not the gas lines. We have screens, and extras in the garage, for every window in the house except for the master bedroom window. But I absolutely love this house and the area we live in so I can't complain too loudly.

After reading Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes I needed a softer read! Picoult's novel is not written for teens so the multiple narrators in the book include the parents of the boy who did the shooting. My heart bled for them as I read their disbelief and pain. And the distant mother, a judge, whose daughter was one of the survivors, and the childhood friend, of the shooter. So many perspectives - none of them easy to read. However, I believe this book should be in high school libraries and discussed with teens. I shook my head as I read about how it was expected and accepted in the popular group for them to harass the geeky kids. They saw it as "part of their job" to stay cool. This is a book I will not forget, especially since I finished it the day of the Virginia Tech shootings.

The kinder/softer book I chose to read is Babyface by Norma Fox Mazer. It was written back in the mid 90s and Harcourt has brought it back in an attractive paperback format. If the original hardback isn't in MS/JH libraries, the paperback should be added. Babyface is a very immature 14-year-old who is just now coming to the realization that her parents are not perfect. Most of us remember when that occurred to us in relation to our own parents, but for me it was much younger than fourteen. But, Toni, called Babyface by her parents, was sheltered from the reality of her dysfunctional family. Her parents had been ready to divorce when they found out about the pregnancy, 15 years after their first daughter. The oldest daughter, Martine, bears the emotional scars of living in a household fraught with anger, fighting, and discontent. She vividly remembers her father hitting her mother. It only happened once, but that one time left emotional scars that impact every relationship she has had with a man. While staying with Martine after their overweight father has a heart attack, Toni's naive view on life is burst by Martine and Toni begins to leave childhood behind and see the world around her, including her domineering best friend Julie, as they really are. One of the best coming of age novels I have read. Yes, there is angst and turmoil, but no one is raped or murdered and the language is mild. Just want I needed! :-) My favorite Norma Fox Mazer book is Out of Control which addresses the aftermath of a sexual harrassment incident in the school hallway, from the perspective of the girl and the boys involved as well as other teens at the school. A real eyeopener, but then again, that is why I love Mazer. All of her books make you think!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sorry it has been a week since I wrote. What a busy week it has been. I left for Greenville on Wednesday and had 9 hours in the car to listen to a book and settle my emotions down. It worked. I listened to Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries - the first 3 books - and found myself laughing out loud. I loved the movies and was surprised that Mia is a tall skinny blonde and that her father is very much a part of her life. The grandmother figure is also very different - no way would Julie Andrews play her as brassy as she is, with her eyeliner tattooed on, a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other. The scenery between Lexington and Greenville is stunning - such beautiful countryside. I am glad I was able to drive both ways in the daylight this time. The mountains are much less stressful when you can see the road farther ahead than where your headlights shine.

Had a great time on Saturday morning at the NCLA Intellectual Freedom Committee and the NC School Librarian Assn. Intellectual Freedom Workshop. I had the pleasure of being on a panel with Pat Scales, who received the SIRS/AASL Intellectual Freedom Award back in the 1980s for a wonderful proactive program at her school where she discussed the edgy books with both parents and students. She had wonderful advice for the participants. I loved how she reminded them that free choice also includes the student's right to reject. We also discussed AR and Lexiles a bit and how inappropriate books show up in elementary school collections because the reading level is 4.0 but the subject matter is certainly for teens. Her example was Perks of Being a Wall Flower by Steven Chbosky. A wonderful book, but certainly YA due to the content and the teen language. The concept of sitting back and watching events and relationships unfold around you is one teens know well. A must have book for older YAs, grades 10-12. It isn't censorship to remove that book from an elementary school collection and send it on to the HS librarian, it is good professional judgement. It is not uncommon to take over a position and discover a few titles that were bought for the reading level, not the content - especially now with the collection being determined by AR in many schools. Not only was the content of the panel presentation great, I was able to meet ECU students I had, have, or will have in courses.

I arrived back home Saturday evening and have been on the go ever since. ECU must have been doing some work on the network on Sunday as I couldn't get into either my email or Blackboard to grade so I spent the day unpacking the rest of the boxes that came in or ones I couldn't reach in the pile in my office. We went to Sam's and bought double bookcases for my office. That was an experience in itself as they couldn't find them so I sat inside and waited and Steve sat outside in the car, near the pick-up lane, and waited. I just happened to look up and realize they had brought them to the front but no offer to help us load them. That was fun - my shoulders still know it. There was a lady behind up picking up a heavy yard ornament and no one was around to help her either so Steve helped her load it into the back of her truck. Clearly service is not a big deal at Sam's! Not like Lowe's here in town - they were wonderful with helping us load Steve's grill.

On to grading!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I write this blog with a heavy heart this morning after reading more about the Virginia Tech shootings. Mary told me about it yesterday afternoon when she called as I normally don't turn the TV on until the evening news during the weekdays so I didn't know what had happened. I decided I didn't want to know more until Steve got home and I wasn't here alone. I remember how scared I was when Mary called the morning of 9/11 to ask me where Steve was, knowing I was going to say in his office, which was in the World Trade Center. The abject fear set in when she told me to turn the TV on and I saw the second plane hit. I thought I had lost yet another loved one and wasn't sure I could handle it. I don't think I breathed again until I found out Steve had missed his plane and was still in Houston - they turned his plane around on the tarmac.

As I watched the news last night I relived the hours I waited to find out if Mic was alive or not, knowing that the chances were slim. I know how the Virginia Tech students' parents felt as they tried to find out if their child was one of the dead or wounded. First it is raw fear, then we go into some type of auto pilot, at least I did. I found out a 2 a.m. that Mic was missing while hiking in New Zealand and I went in and taught my classes that day. It wasn't until I called New Zealand at 2 a.m. the next morning to ask if they had found Mic that I learned he had died in a fall and they had found his body. That was when I wished my body and mind could go on auto pilot like it had the day before. It did not. The parents of the students who died are in my prayers as are the students' siblings and everyone else who loves them. No parent should have to experience the pain of a child dying. The pain doesn't go away, the scar tissue on the heart just deadens the pain a bit and you learn to live again, but questioning why you are still alive and your child is not. And incidents like this tear off the scar tissue and the wound is raw and for me it is April 1998 again.

I am sorry I cannot write about the book I just finished reading yesterday morning, before Mary called. It is Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes, about a HS shooting where 10 are left dead and many more wounded. Too real to write about at the moment. Hold your kids close, no matter what their age.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

This is my foreign exchange daughter Annika and her husband Nicke outside the pyramids in Egypt. Annie came to live with us in Alaska when she was 17. I was hoping she would teach the kids and I Finnish, but she speaks Swedish! She quickly became another daughter to me, and we have been close ever since. Anne and Nicke were married in the islands, with Steve and I as witnesses, last summer. Anyway, Egypt is a favorite vacation spot for Finns as it is only a 5 hour flight for them. I had to laugh when Annika wrote that the guys who basically "threw them up on the camels" and took the picture kept Nicke up on the camel until he paid them an exorbitant amount of money. He threw such a fit when they let him down they gave some of it back. Never try to trick a Finnish man!
Now I know I need to start taking more pictures of Sophie and writing down her antics in more than this blog. I just read in the ALA Direct electronic newsletter that Vicki Myron, Director of the Spencer Iowa PL just received a $1.5 million book deal for the story of Dewey Readmore, the library cat. See his life story, which made me smile on this gray and dreary morning: However, my Sophie is cuter than he was and she can match all of his antics and she was a stray kitten left in an abandoned building. Hmmm - a retirement writing project - give her a few more years to entertain me. :)

I woke up this morning to a car accident - crashing sounds and horns beeping, etc. - but it came from my kitchen! I came staggering out of bed at 6:30 not sure I dreamt it or what the heck had happened. Apparently Steve has his sound quite loud on his laptop, which is on the bar in the kitchen and he opened something up this morning that sounded like a car wreck! I think he was worried I was going to be more than cranky about being woke up but I just grabbed a diet coke and curled up in bed and read for a bit before I took him to work so I could have my car. No, he has not made up his mind about a car yet. Wish he would! Not sure my sending him URLs to cars at local dealerships yesterday helped or just irritated him. The good news is I had breakfast in bed - guess he figured that would ease some of my grumpiness about being so rudely awakened.

Heard on the radio news on the way back home this morning that Kurt Vonnegut died last night at 84 years old. I haven't attempted to read one of his 14 alternate universe novels since I was in high school. Perhaps at this point in my life I might appreciate them more. Guess I will have to get one of them as an audiobook so I can listen to it on the drive back and forth to Greenville.

Not sure I would call it an alternate universe, but I certainly was intrigued by Gracehope, the under ice colony in Greenland, in Rebecca Stead's debut novel First Light. This is a great MS/JH novel - not only because it is a wonderful coming-of-age story but because it has a focus on global warming. There are a number of good nonfiction books for teens on global warming, including Al Gore's YA edition of An Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis of Global Warming, but basically no novels. I did a search on B&N and could find nothing - a few adult SF novels but nothing like this. Twelve-year-old Peter is excited about his trip to Greenland with his glaciologist father and scientist mother until he realizes how boring it really is. So he starts exploring the area with one of the sled-dogs, dogs that later pull him out into a blizzard. While lost he finds a red circle in the glacial ice that looks very much like the mitochondrial DNA his mother has drawn on a piece of paper. Curiosity is killing the cat and Peter heads back out onto the ice to find the red circle again. At the very same time Thea and Mattias arrive on the surface, having found the tunnel out of Gracehope, a colony hidden under the ice whose residents have special gifts and intelligence much beyond the normal human. Mattias' fall into a crevasse results in Peter meeting the cousins and helping them back down the steep tunnel into Gracehope where he is fascinated by the lights in the ice and how self-sufficient they are. Of course, there is a link between Peter and the colonists, which is why his parents have been searching for Gracehope for many years. They know that global warming is destroying the icecap and eventually, Gracehope with it. An entertaining novel with science and fantasy woven into a grand, though very chilly, adventure.

All for today.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I may have gotten up at 6:00 with Steve yesterday but I sure didn't today. I still don't feel like I woke up all the way and it is 2:30. I think the rain and wind makes me "creakier" than usual. And, moving is doing a number on my joints. I have climbed, squatted, reached, bent, and turned my body in more ways in the last couple of weeks than I have in the last couple of years. And, I haven't lost a pound in the process. I am sure that has nothing to do with our eating out more than we should because either I can't find the right pot, not that I tried that hard, or am too tired to even think about it. Thank goodness I made more than one meal's worth of my yummy spaghetti. No cooking tonight either! :-)

Noticed in Monday's Lexington paper that cartoonist Johnny Hart, the creator of B.C., died last Saturday. I had no idea that cartoon had been around since 1958. I wonder if someone else will pick it up or we have seen the last of the delightful stone age characters. He has always brought a smile to my face, sometimes bemused and sometime a grin, but always made me think. I just went to B&N online to check to see if I could order a compilation and they are all out of print. They were published in the the late 1980s and early 1990s. But, I did find a couple of in print collections of For Better or For Worse strip by Lynn Johnston, which is also one of my "always reads". So You're Going to be a Grandma! is one I should have, but with 5 grandkids latter I am not quite at the point Elly, the grandmother in the strip, is with her first. I love this strip because the family changes and ages just as a real life family does. Teaching: Is a Learning Experience would be a great gift for new teachers as it covers Elizabeth's first year of teaching in a northern village in Canada. This strip has been around since the late 1970s and won tons of awards. When I was getting my MLS at the University of Hawaii my Mom used to write me long letters so I felt less lonesome and she always sent me cow related cartoons from The Far Side by Gary Larson. I still smile and think of Mom when I see those crazy cartoons - granted, they aren't favorites of mine, but those cows have sentimental value! Mic collected the Garfield collections. Comic strips have been a part of my life since I was a little kid as my parents always got the newspaper and we all read the comics.

Graphic novels have become the rage as of late, but in realty we have been reading comic strips in graphic format for years. Sadly, many parents and educators have seen this long term involvement with characters as not reading, but just think about how much character development goes into the ongoing strips. They are no different than the series books we read, or those by a favorite author because we love his/her style of writing. High School librarians may want to take a look at The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006, edited by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Art Spiegelman and An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Comics, and True Stories by Ivan Brunetti. We need to read them first so we have some foundation knowledge as well. :-)

Now to go break down boxes - of yeah, have to unpack them first! The movers are coming to pick up the boxes Friday afternoon.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Thought I'd share this cute pic of my Sophie. Not sure what she was looking at outside, but it sure had her attention. Maybe it was that kamikazi bumblebee that dive bombed me last week! She has discovered how much fun a dime can be when knocked off the counter onto the tile floor in the middle of the night. She's been playing nightime dime hockey, much to our dismay, but you can't help laughing at how smart and sassy she can be.
Good morning from beautiful sunny Lexington. In the 30s still this a.m. but such a pretty view out of my home office window. We have an area designated for a walking path and park-like area so they can't build houses across the street so I look out at trees and grass rather than at the front of other houses. Right now the view is obstructed by the recyclable bin but I am waiting until it warms up a bit to haul that back into the garage. We drink so much Diet Coke that we easily fill up the bin in a week's time, but I like living in a city that requires you to recycle.

We are still car shopping for Steve. Nothing definite as of yet, but the test driving is fun. Well, test riding on my part - this is his car, after all. He got the idea that one car was not an option after I came right out and said so! :-) We had only one car on St. Thomas and unless I wanted to drive him to work in the a.m., which doesn't sound good to this non-morning person, I was stuck at home. I didn't mind that on the island as once you saw the touristy stuff there was nothing else to do. But in Lexington there are at least 3 different bookstores and all kinds of other things to explore!

We had a quiet Easter Sunday unpacking and making a ham dinner together. Then watched a bit of TV while I updated addresses. Mary called and I could hear Michael hopping around the house from all the Easter candy. I am still having dark chocolate bunny ear withdrawal as Steve didn't give me a chocolate Easter bunny and there were no kids or grandkids around to bite off bunny ears from! I know I can't be the only one who only likes the ears. I think I could make a fortune if I came up with a yummy coffee flavored foiled wrapped dark chocolate bunny ears Easter box of chocolates. :-)

Hardly a spring time book, but I just finished reading Vivian Vande Velde's All Hallow's Eve: 13 Stories. I love her horror short stories and YA novels. They are scary enough to be fun but not gruesome and bloody like the adult horror of Koontz and King, which I have read some of, but it is a bit intense for me. I pick and choose of theirs what I read. The creepiest story in this collection is the one about the adopted teen who hates her parents and insists on going to visit her biological parents on Halloween, dressed as a princess. You know, their little princess has found them at last! They are in costume as well when she arrives, dressed as Raggedy Ann and Andy and welcome her in but they are hardly innocent "dolls" - they are vampires. Mom bites her on the neck and then spits out her blood because she has their blood in her so they can't feed on her. Nor can they turn her into a vampire so she is worthless to them - just like the bunch of other babies they gave up for adoption. They shove her out the front door. She drives back home to her other parents, but rigor mortis has begin to set in. Creepy, creepy, creepy!! This collection is right up there with her earlier collection, Being Dead.

That's it for today. :-)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Not a great pic, but this shows our yesterday snow flurries from our deck, looking out the backyard. What I love about this house is that it looks like we have a huge green area behind us because we are the middle house at the end of the block so we look up between all the houses. Sophie has all kinds of places to explore, if she ever would get over being a wuss! She will only go outside if I am out there. It may have something to do with Mommy screaming and dodging a huge bumblebee which was most certainly chasing me the first day we got here! I know - I'm a wuss too! :-)
We have snow on the ground! I enjoyed the snow flurries yesterday but poor Steve, with his still thin island blood, was chilled to the bone. However, it was his idea to go stand in line for a collector's bottle of Kentucky bourbon at 8:30 in the morning. He already had his ticket and came home to get me out of a nice cozy bed where I was reading a new Vivian Vande Velde collection of deliciously scary horror stories. After we came home to warm up and have breakfast we decided to run some errands - more shelf liner for the kitchen and bathrooms - and then Steve decided we were going to be true Kentuckians and we headed to the Keeneland Race Track for the opening day of the horse races. I was bundled up in a long wool coat, gloves and a hat and still froze my bippy sitting up in the stands - except for when I was jumping up and down and screaming for my horses, which never won! Thank goodness we were only betting the minimum, $2 on a horse, as I picked mine by the name I liked the best. Not a good way to win money, but that's not the point for us. It is just fun to watch the horses and people watching is... interesting to say the least. It had to be in the low 30s and there was young woman in a tube top! We left after the 4th race and it had begun to snow as we walked back to the car and snowed the rest of the afternoon and evening, much to Sophie's dismay. She had never seen snow before and wasn't about to go out on the deck with white stuff covering it!

Well since I am in a horsey mood this morning I have been thinking about my favorite horse books. When Mic was in upper elementary school he went through a Walter Farley phase and read every single title in the Black Stallion series. I didn't have the heart to tell him that the book was written in 1941 and that Walter Farley was no longer alive when he wrote to him. I guess Random House felt the same way as they had a "form letter" that they responded with. Mic was delighted to get a letter from his favorite author so I just let it be. What I really like about these books is that it is a boy and his horse. Many of the horse books are "girly" books. Wish I had remembered Island Stallion as it is set on a Caribbean island. I had students in the Virgin Islands who were into horses. There was a small horse track on St. Thomas, which was in very sad shape and the same horse always won, but the West Indians loved the races there too. There was a group of women on the island who rescued the race horses when they were past their prime for racing. A very sad situation. Keeping a horse on a Caribbean island is not exactly cheap. And land is at a premium.

Sadly, Rodman Philbrick's Fire Pony is out of print, but it is also a great horse book for guys. Reminds me a bit of Tex by S.E. Hinton with a younger brother idolizing an older brother who has more than a few problems. Eleven-year-old Roy's older brother Joe "rescues" him from a foster home and they end up on the Bar None ranch, where Roy hopes they can settle in. But Joe has a fascination with fire which is going to put an end to their idyllic days of working horses. Philbrick is better know for Freak the Mighty and The Last Book in the Universe, which are also great MS level books, but we all have a favorite by an author and Fire Pony is my favorite Philbrick book, but I admit I haven't read all of his novels.

Steve is making yummy breakfast burritos and the aroma of coffee is wafting by my nose from the kitchen so I'm headed for my next caffeine fix. Already had my Diet Coke for the morning.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I have muscles that ache I didn't even know that I had! Moving literally hurts! Monday I was up at 7:00 cleaning, packing and waiting for the movers who didn't show up until after 10:00 when they were supposed to be there at 8:00. I went up and down the stairs more times than I want to think about hauling stuff down to the car. My final trip down was around 4 p.m. with Sophie in her kennel and we hit the road. Driving through the mountains of West Virginia at night was interesting to say the least. Sophie was wonderful until about an hour and 1/2 out of Lexington when she had enough. She started out quietly fussing but by the time we pulled into the driveway at 12:30 she was caterwauling. I think I was happier to see her out of her kennel than she was! Was back up early Tuesday unpacking the car and putting away what we had already brought over along with putting down shelf liner in the kitchen. Only break was to go out to eat - yummy bison burger at Ted's. We stopped for more shelf liner at Walmart and a quick trip into Lowe's where I drooled over red bud and Japanese pear trees. Can't wait to start working on the yard. Yesterday was spent totally on my feet with the movers arriving at 8:30 along with the very cold weather. I was numb by the time they left as the door was open the whole time. Didn't sit down until Steve got home from work and moved a couple of big boxes so I could get to my recliner and put my feet up. It was trying to get out of the recliner after I relaxed a bit that was difficult. But, nothing like how sore I was this a.m. I am staying off my feet and catching up on email and grading today. The unpacking is going to have to wait for a day or I won't be able to walk!

I finished listening to Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi. I am glad I stuck it out even though it was hardly one of my favorite books, but I learned a great deal about the Muslim culture and how women are treated. The analysis of novels by Henry James, Nabokov, Fitzgerald, Austin and others didn't do a thing for me other than when she related the characters to the young women who took her "class", which she held in her home after she quit teaching at the university. There were times I felt like I was back in my English literature classes in undergraduate school years ago and found myself losing interest, but it was worth mentally pinching myself to stay with it, waiting for the "good stuff" when she talked about her life and that of her students and others in her life.

I had found a CD audiobook of Mary Higgins Clark's Mount Vernon Love Story for next to nothing on the sale rack at Barnes and Noble and it kept me entertained through the mountains while I drove. Changing CDs was an experience though! As I listened to the introduction to the novel by Mary Higgins Clark, I realized I had stumbled onto the first book she wrote in 1968 then titled Aspire to the Heaven: A Portrait of George Washington. It had long been out of print but her fans brought it back into popularity and it is available again. Her research base for this novel is clearly evident as is her respect and love for the characters. She brought Martha, who her family and loved ones knew as Patsy, to life as well as Washington himself, who had been in love with his best friend's wife for years. A delightful non-threatening way to learn about the man who was our first president. The teenage girls who like her mysteries will be surprised by this one. It will be the historical romance readers who will enjoy it most.

Back to grading!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Woe is me - I think I may becoming a morning person! I was awake before 7 a.m. and I can't even blame it on Sophie or the sun as she was still asleep when I woke up and it is dreary and gray today. I tried to snuggle in my down pillows and force myself back into delicious sleep, no such luck. All kinds of things relating to books, my classes, and our new house were scampering about in my head. So I gave up and got up. Well, not completely - I am sitting in bed with the laptop, a Diet Coke and a Luna bar. And, I have a very perturbed cat sitting next to me giving the laptop the evil eye because it is in her place!

Went to dinner with a couple of friends last night at a really cute little Italian restaurant, Atavola, that I didn't even know existed. I am not much into Italian due to the cheeses but I had scrumptious mahi and rice that were lightly flavored with citrus and coconut milk. Great food and good company, what more could you want for a Saturday night? Came home and caught the last part of the Jodi Foster movie, Flightplan, where her little girl is kidnapped and hidden on a plane. Very interesting - would like to see the entire movie. Foster is one of my favorite actors and my favorite of her movies is Nell, about a woman who was raised in a remote cabin by a mother whose speech was affect by a stroke so Nell speaks the same way. Beautifully done movie and a stunning performance by Foster.

Now I want to talk about a not so stunning book, but one that has stayed with me - Night of the Bat by Paul Zindel. As I was trying to fall back to sleep this a.m. I started thinking about our personal connection to books and why what we abhor or delight in has so much to do with our life experiences. And, we are as likely to remember a book we detested as much as one we loved. Not that I detested Night of the Bat, it just hit too close to my "fear factor". I grew up in a house that had bats in the attic - literally. My parents tried everything they could think of, including pouring DDT down the insides of the walls, but nothing deterred these bats. And, in the heat of the summer they would find their way through cracks and crannies and end up flying around our house. I was terrified of them and the way they would swoop down at you. There were more than a few nights of my screaming my head off and one of my three older brothers chasing it around upstairs with a broom until he killed it and then it being slipped into the woodstove to be incinerated. I can close my eyes and hear the flittering of their wings and the chittering in the walls at night as they left for their nightly feeding on the mosquitoes that were in abundance. To this day I am terrified of bats and they are such small little things, but so darn ugly! So you can imagine how I was feeling as I read Zindel's gross-out book about a mutant bat in the Amazon jungle that is the size of a small car and intent on sucking out your brains. I thought it might be therapy for me to read this. So there I was, laying on my stomach reading, safe and sounds in our big king sized bed, when Steve came quietly in behind me and touched my foot to get my attention. Oh boy did he get my attention! I let out a scream that would have matched Drew Barrymore's little girl scream in ET in its volume and intensity. So, what are the chances of me ever forgetting this book? Zip!! The writing is mediocre and the characters are not well developed, but the fear 15-year-old Jake has as the huge bat is advancing toward him hits too close to home for me. Why books stay with us can be very personal!

From a librarians point of view, I would have all of Zindel's gross-out books in my MS and HS library because they are quick and easy reads and will meet the needs of the readers who like horror and an adrenalin rush. All you need to do is put one of them face out and you have teens' attention. The Night of the Bat has a closeup of a bat's face/mouth, with saliva dripping from its fangs. The paperback cover of Reef of Death is of the mutant sea monster - less scary to me than the hardback which shows the legs of a swimmer with the monster coming up from below. Now that is creepy!

I know - I'm weird. Who wakes up thinking about bat books. I am sure it had to do with the fact that one of my students had Zindel's book in a bibliography that I recently graded, but what is somewhat disconcerting is that I have read hundreds of much better written books since I read Zindel's bat book that I have forgotten. That personal connection to a book can make you remember even the ones you most certainly could have forgotten!