Saturday, December 27, 2008

What could be better than a late breakfast of pecan pie and Earl Grey tea? Well, sitting on the floor going through books to send to the grandkids, of course! Thought I'd share a few of my favorites before they get sent on. These the ones I set aside because I wasn't sure I could part with them, even to the grandkids. But, better Mary read them to kids than they sit on my shelf with me wishing I could read to them.

Potato Joe by Keith Baker. You all know the nursery song - one potato, two potato, three potato, four! Well these potatoes are having great fun at the rodeo with Watermelon Moe! Baker created the illustrations with Adobe Photoshop and they are so so cute - such expressive potato faces using simple facial features. Now I have the rhyme going through my head!

Five Little Firefighters by Tom Graham. Nope - not a counting book at all. Not sure why Little has to be in the title, other than to entice someone to open the book up thinking it might be the counting rhyme. Instead, 5 mult-ethnic firefighters, one a woman, set out to put out a house fire and have to go in to find Cleo - the family cat. A great book for community helpers units in school, but my grandsons will love the firetruck illustrations in this small sized book.

Tadpole REX by Kurt Cyrus. I can just hear my grandsons reading along and shouting out the "Bloop. Bloop. Bloop." of the prehistoric muddle bubbles as a tadpole is coming to life. He might be the smallest thing around and when he gets big enough he lets out a roar - Ribbet!! All the dinosaurs craned their necks to see who "roared" but frog has slunk down under the mud so all that is showing is his eyes - watching the dinosaurs come and go. Remember, frog is still around long after the dinosaurs are gone. If you look really close into a frog's eye you might just see his inner tyrannosaur. :-) I love the over sized illustrations in this book and the author's note that frog were around for millions of year before even the dinosaurs he added to the illustrations.

1 2 Buckle My Shoe by Anna Grossnickle Hines. This is the perfect book for my daughter to share with McKinley as Mary is into quilting again. Maybe this classic nursery rhyme illustrated with pictures of quick appliques will entice her to make a counting quilt.

Close to You: How Animals Bond by Kimiko Kajikawa. If the cover photo of a mother polar bear and two cubs doesn't have you saying, "AHHHH!!" the mama giraffe giving her youngster a puckered up kiss will. Add to this mother/child animal pairs of manatees, snow monkeys, elephants, prairie dogs, and even alligators. Don't forget the human animals - they make up the last page. Great end matter in this book too. Animal web sites and a table of animal weights at birth vs. maturity. Polar bears - 1 1/2 lbs at birth, but up to 1,500 pounds at maturity!!

Okay - now to get these boxed up along with the clothes we bought at the after Christmas sale. Steve got a bit carried away, but it was fun to watch Grampa pick out clothes for the boys and girls both. I think he had the most fun picking out clothes for our oldest granddaughter Allyson and 5 year old Michael. They are going to be "stylin" when they back to school in January!

Couldn't sleep so Sophie and I have been up since a bit after 6:00. No matter how quietly I come out to get my first Diet Coke of the day, she hears me. Thank goodness she normally wants out so her morning conversation, more with herself than me, doesn't wake Steve.

This is one of the Mayan buildings in Chichen Itza. It was once an observatory but I think it looks like the ruins from a lighthouse. I forgot to get Steve his annual lighthouse calendar for Christmas so when we were in the mall yesterday he picked out one. There are very cool lighthouses from all over the world but my favorite is from back home - it is way out at the end of a pier in McClain State Park outside of Hancock, MI in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The pier both fascinated and frightened me as a child. A fun summer road trip would to visit all the places I remember as a kid in the UP. I have always been fascinated with the idea of living in a lighthouse. Don't remember what the book was I read as a child, but I think it was The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift and illustrated by Lynn Ward. This was published in 1942, but a new edition was reissued by Harcourt in 2002. This little lighthouse in near the Washington Bridge on the Hudson River. You might recognize Lynn Ward's name as he won the Caldecott in the mid 50s for The Biggest Bear which might not be very PC today, but a boy raising a bear rather than shooting one is not such a bad story to share, even today.

Books in which animals talk and interact much like humans are very popular with children and Kathi Appelt's first novel for children (she normally does NF and others types of picture books) The Underneath will be loved by children and adults alike. It was one of the books nominated for the Young People's Literature category of 2008 National Book Award. It did not win the award, but what an honor to be a nominee. Take a look at the the list of winner in the past:

Appelt describes what it feels like to be loved and than abandoned by your human family as she begins her story with a pregnant cat being left beside the road near a bayou in NE Texas. She brought me to tears - and that was only the first couple of pages! Appelt's writing is sparse but lyrical as she tells the story of an abused Houston boy who makes his way into the swamps and become Gar-Face (due to his deformed jaw after being hit in the face by his father) - a mean and hateful man who enjoys killing as much as he does drinking the rotgut liquor he barters for with animal pelts. He's after the enormous alligator who has eluded him in the bayou for decades. Underneath the porch of his rundown house lives the hound he wounded in the leg during a hunting trip and considers worthless. And beside him, loving him are the abandoned mother cat and her two kittens. No family could be more bonded than this one hidden away in the Underneath. Tragedy strikes when one of the kittens ventures from the Underneath and is seen by Gar-Face. Cats make good bait for alligators. There are multiple stories flowing together in this book, merging as smoothly and languidly as the murky waters of the bayou, one being of Mother Moccasin who has been imprisoned in a earthen jar for centuries. Her story will weave itself into the tale of a lost kitten and his need to find his way back home to the Underneath. David Small's drawings supplement what is one of the most beautifully written children's novels I have read in quite some time. I believe it will become a classic, sitting beside my beloved Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls as a favorite and often reread "big box of Kleenex" books. Check out Kathi's web site at She also writes for teens, along with great picture books. My favorite is Bats Around the Clock How can you not love a picture book that teaches time at the American Batstand with Click Dark as the host and the young bats bogeying around the clock?

Another award winning author, the well known John Green, also has a cool web site which one can spend way too much time on if you click through the links and wander far and wide. Who knew that Britney Spears is an anagram for Presbyterians? Talk about a guy who just radiates energy. I have heard him speak a couple of times (he's good), but when he sat next to me at the table during the YALSA Coffee Klatch I could see that he was jittering with nervous energy. He made me feel twitchy! But, a very likable dude! I was reading all the hype about Paper Towns so I on the YA lit listservs finally read it and felt like I was reading another version of his debut YA novel that won the Printz Award - Looking for Alaska We have another immature HS age boy obsessed with a girl who is both selfish and smart and has the boy wrapped around her little finger. Quentin doesn't have to go off to private school to find his obsession, as Miles does in Looking for Alaska. Margo Roth Spiegelman lives right next door. He's secretly been in love with her since they were kids but it has been years since they played together. They certainly don't run in the same crowd at school and that isn't likely to ever change as graduation is fast approaching. However, when Margo is out to seek revenge for a broken heart (more like wounded pride), she shows up at Q's window dressed like a ninja and demands he be her companion for a night of breaking and entering the homes of the teens who wronged her. The antics are as mean as Margo - she isn't a nice girl, but Quentin doesn't care - he's obsessed. When she disappears, leaving behind angry and distraught parents (she's run away before), it is Quentin who finds her clues and sets off on his own adventure, visiting paper towns (plotted subdivisions where houses never "grew") in search of Margo. His best friends tag along for the final road trip in which he finds what he seeks, but was is it worth it? Felt too much like Green telling the same story with different characters and settings, but basically the same coming of age tale of the geeky boy obsessed with the wild girl. Will it be popular with teens? I think so, especially those who like his other books.

My picture book choice for today is Oscar and the Mooncats by Lynda Gene Rymond, illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli. This is a 2007 Houghton Mifflin book but it is one that I go back to again and again because of the beautiful illustrations. Using shades of gray, Ceccoli makes the craters of the moon and the Mooncats so inviting that even I want to visit, but just for a bit. No wonder Oscar jumps all the way to the moon to play with them. They beg him to stay and play and drink the milk the cow who jumps over the moon leaves behind in a crater. But it will eventually make Oscar forget about the boy who waits for him back home. Needing to get back to his boy, Oscar jumps onto the cow, but she warns him she does not go to Earth so he lets go and luckly lands right back home where his last jump is onto his boy's bed. But Oscar is already dreaming of his next adventure. I love this book!! A wonderful bedtime story for young and old cat lovers like myself. However, my Sophie is not so adventurous. She is even afraid of bunnies, real and stuffed. She comes flying into the house if a real one is in her yard. Steve gave her a little stuffed bunny with a squeaker in it for Christmas and she is not a happy camper if you squeak it or put it near her. Actually, the squeaker sounds more like NCIS Abbey's Bert the farting hippo! You can see and hear Bert at:

That's it for me today. The sun has come out!

Friday, December 26, 2008

I am not the best photographer as you all have discovered! But, no matter how poor it comes out, I always take a picture of each year's Christmas tree. This was taken this morning after I cleared up most of the stuff in the middle of the living room. A chair with our big Scrabble board was there too but I moved it. Steve has been beating me time after time at Scrabble. I love to play it but I am bad at it! I've only beat him a few times since we have met. I was playing Alphabugs online to increase my "weird word" vocabulary, but that didn't even help much.

The big box is the small aquarium I gave Steve for Christmas. He used to have a huge one that took up most of one wall in the house in Texas but we don't have as large of a house here so there isn't as much space. Thought a little one might help - we'll see. It supposedly is self contained once set up - only change out the filters every so often. I'll believe that when I see it.

As always, I received books from Steve. :-) Christmas morning I curled up in bed with a Diet Coke, the mattress pad heater on and Greg Kincaid's A Dog Named Christmas. Todd McCray's father is a Vietnam vet who hasn't allowed a dog on the family's Kansas farm since his beloved childhood dog died while he was in the service and his life was saved when a dog he befriended in Vietnam stepped on a landmine before he could. But, it is Christmas and the pound is asking folks to take a dog home for the Holidays so they aren't left in the kennels alone while the staff spends Christmas at home. Todd is 20, but has the mind of a child and he wants more than anything else to take a dog home for the Holidays. Todd gets his way and a big black mutt he names Christmas rides between a reluctant father and jubilant son as the old truck rattles its way back to the farm. Christmas quickly becomes part of the family but Todd's father is adamant about taking him back to the pound on December 26th. This poignant story of a man dealing with his past is told from the viewpoint of Mr. McCray as he watches Christmas become part of his family. It is the advice of the elderly farmer nearby who helps McCray see what is right in front of him all along. It is a short book - started out as a short story that the author fleshed out. For me it was the perfect quick Christmas morning read. Make sure the Kleenex are around if you read this one.

It is raining here again today. It rained so hard Christmas Eve we had a river running through the grass between ours and the neighbor's house. Realizing we'd have a blizzard on our hands if it had been snow I had to pick up A Very Special Snowflake by Don Hoffman and illustrated by Todd Dakins. Christmas may be over but it is still the season for winter/snow books. Brother and sister go out in the snow with their white puppy Snowflake who promptly disappears into a snowbank. They walk the streets of their small town asking the florist, mailman, policewoman, etc. if they have seen Snowflake, but they all respond with weather comments, including the baker who says the snowflakes have inspired him to decorate his cakes with fluffy white icing. This repetitive tale will delight little ones, as of course, Snowflake bounds out of the snowbank and the community helpers see exactly what kind of snowflake the siblings are looking for. An inexpensive Scholastic paperback at $3.99 that makes for a fun after Christmas surprise.

Since McKinley won't be a year old until February I am always on the look out for fun board books for her. A new Little Scholastic title, Welcome Winter by Jill Ackerman and illustrated by Nancy Davis fits the bill nicely since Mary's family is inundated with snow in Green Bay. The flocked snowflakes, crinkly paper to sound like footsteps in the snow, a fluffy hat, etc. are the perfect things for little fingers to touch. What is cool about the series for infants is the web site with tips and downloads: for parents. Back when Mary and Mic were babies Dr. Spock's classic book on child rearing was dog-eared. Believe it or not it is still available in the 15th edition Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care Benjamin Spock, a doc at Mayo Clinic, died in 1998, but Dr. Robert Needlman has revised it. I still think it is one of the best print resources out there for parents of little ones even though there are a myriad of parenting resources available today.

Time for me to get my act together and head out to find after Christmas sales on kids' clothes. Now to find the lists of what sizes they all are - from bitty to big!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Well, I finally have a few minutes to look through my pictures from our Cancun trip. I didn't take very many but I did like the cenote, pronounced: seh-NO-tay, that we visited outside of Cancun on our way to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza

These pics were taken from the top, looking down in. A very long set of steps went down to the swimming area. There was a high dive spot that folks were crazy enough to drive/jump from. I'd like to tell you that the pic is of me jumping off, but I didn't go swimming. But, when I was teenager I would have been one of the first, as we jumped off of cliffs and other dumb things at the lake - even after I broke my big toe one summer when I hit a rock on the bottom. My inner child could see myself swinging out over the water on one of the vines but there were warning signs everywhere not to touch them.

The weather is hardly Mexican hot and dry here today. It had been raining all morning but finally stopped - no sun, just dark gray clouds suggesting more rain later. Monday we get a snowstorm and arctic temps and today it is in the 50s. So it won't be Christmasy weather tonight when we go to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I have been a fan for many years and have been known to bake Christmas cookies while conducting with a wooden spoon! This will be our second year to see them at the Rupp Arena. Downtown Lexington is quite gorgeous right now with all the lights - many of them in UK blue. We were in Mexico for the annual Christmas Parade downtown but we froze our bippies last year and I was too cold to even wait for the big tree lighting.

For those of you looking for the perfect book to make any middle age girl smile add a copy of Maria Padian's Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress. under the tree. Actually, I'd have given a copy of this to my mom if she were still alive. Mom loved words and so does Brett - many of her favorites are chapter titles, such as irrational, insolence, bazooka, unprecedented, etc. This is one of those books for all generations as Brett's grandmother, Nonna, is a most quirky, delightful character - a grandmother we would all love to have in our family. As I read I pictured Nonna and my mom in Nonna's garage working on putting "junk" to good use. My mom hated to see anything go to waste just like Nonna, but Mom made killer apple bars, not Super-Sized Raspberry Chunk Brownies like Nonna. Oh what I wouldn't do for a piece of Mom's apple bar right now. I've tried to make them but they just don't taste the same not baked in Mom's wood stove. I think this book will entice those wonderful early adolescent memories from any adult reader's mind, so don't shy away from giving it as a gift to your favorite aunt or older sister. Oh, and that favorite poetry lover in your family - Brett's dad is an English Professor and is quoting line of poetry at the oddest moments, but what a cool dad!

Would be a great read aloud in a MS classroom as it addresses so many of the issues younger teens deal with - bullying, peer-relationships, family situations, geeky vs. cool friends, etc. And, teachers can think of it as a sneaky way to teach some really cool new vocabulary words and poetry!

Anyway, back to Brett - she is a 14-year-old soccer player in a small Maine town who has never gotten into trouble, but that all ends when she is kicked out of school, loses her female best friend over The Phone Thing, and finds out her beloved Nonna has cancer. Like all 14-year-olds, Brett fumbles her way into adolescence, but also gets an occasional glimpse into the exceptional young woman she will become. At her side is her geeky male best friend Michael who loves Nonna as much as Brett, so much so that he risks them both in a late night drive to the marina to steal a boat. Brett knows Nonna is on Spruce Island for one last visit.

Brett tells it all in her blunt Maine manner, making the reader cringe at times, but you can't help but love this girl. If I had this book when Mary was in MS and we were snowed in, as often happened in Alaska during the Holiday Break, we'd be reading this one aloud together. We'd also be having fun creating sentences with Brett's favorite words with the very cool PR set of "Kickin' Word Magnets". This a book for both giving and receiving no matter what time of the year it is. Sounds weird, but it is a really great "feel good" book that you also need a box of Kleenex nearby when you read.

And let's not forget a fun picture book for the Holidays - Bunny Wishes: A Winter's Tale by Michaela Morgan and delightfully illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church. Valenteeny (Teeny) and Valentino (Tino) are two of the happiest bunnies around, friends with all the other creatures, including the new baby mice who are scampering everywhere. Winter has arrived and the two bunnies are snug in the burrow but venture out long enough to pin their wish lists onto the hollow log as it is "a Very Special Time of the Year" when your wishes can come true. But, as it is winter after all, a gust of wind "whooshed those lists right off the hollow log and into the air..." Well, the baby mice are still out there playing and when these two big new playthings fall out of the sky they use them to make sleds, telescopes and little hats. Eventually Mr. and Mrs. Mouse discover what their little ones have done to the bunnies' wish lists. But, it is a Very Special Time of the Year when wishes do come true and the mice have their own way of making Bunny Wishes come true. What a fun book for the Holidays. You might recognize these two note writing bunnies from their Valentine Day romance - Dear Bunny: A Bunny Love Story - Perfect for toddler and preschool storytime or to read to your own honey bunny.

Can you believe less than a week until Christmas? I need to get Steve's presents wrapped and under the tree so Sophie can hide behind them.

Friday, December 05, 2008

All I can say is BRRRRR!!! Only 17 degrees this morning - that is chilly for Kentucky. But, I shouldn't fuss too much as I talked to Mary yesterday and they have a foot and a half of snow in Green Bay. They have a long driveway so poor Scott is shoveling snow each morning so they can get their vehicles out. I called her on Wednesday and she was behind a snow plow on the highway and couldn't pass him as the other lane had not been plowed. There is no way I want to live in snow country again!

I felt kind of bad as she told me about the snow and cold as we got back from Cancun late Tuesday and the weather down there was incredible. Even down right hot the day we toured the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. First time I have ever been on a guided tour and it was well worth it. We had soda and beer on the bus and a restroom - good thing as it was an all day trip. However, using a bathroom on a moving bus is much more difficult than on a plane! The tour guide was superb and used a little mirror (from my purse!) to show us unique features of the carvings on the ruins. One carving looks like Jesus and another looks like a cross-legged Buddha. Makes one wonder about the ability of our famous philosophers/religious leaders to travel through time via meditation, etc. I felt sorry for the many Mayan children selling trinkets and "junk" at the ruins. We were there on a Saturday so I am sure there were more than usual. What beautiful children, with the most expressive eyes.

Our Thanksgiving dinner at the GRSolaris resort, which Steve booked through Travelocity.;jsessionid=383553E4F0F06ED8628846FC0224E63C.p0751?propertyId=60171&tab=features&fromPage=&SEQ=12284824942361152008&hotelQKey=8287598903317697659 It was a bit strange as the food was traditional turkey and mashed potatoes, etc. but the show was a Mayan festival. They showed how the Mayan played a form of ancient soccer but used their hips to hit the ball. The players were incredible as was the dancing. I loved it! We then went and sang along with Karaoke in the bar and danced with everyone in the place - including the kids. It was great fun. I would recommend this resort to anyone with kids as there are so many activities and things to do, but for a "older" couple like us who wanted quiet, this is not it. From noon to 5 p.m. there are activities at the main pool - our room was right above it. We spent our time at the adults only smaller pool which was much quieter or on the beach itself. I did get too much sun one day - of course, our last full day there - but it was because it was cloudy and we sat on the beach and read for too long - not realizing how much sun we actually got. This is an all inclusive resort so I put on 3 pounds! The food is excellent and lots of choices including fresh fruit at every meal. I "pigged out" on my favorites - papaya and melon. No problems with water here as they have their own filtration system. Only issue we had was our room location - we were next to the pipes for the water and at night they rattled so hard it sounded like a jackhammer in the room. A quieter room and this would have been an almost perfect vacation - as it was, it was pretty close. Only time we left the resort was to go to the ruins. Otherwise, we chilled on the premises. Of course, it is a time share so we went through the hard sell to get the $80 certificate to use for the tour, but it wasn't bad. We talked to some folks who had been members for over 10 years as there are 3 Solaris resorts in Cancun, but we like to try different places, so we were a "lost cause" as far as selling us anything.

We celebrated my birthday while in Cancun and Steve spoiled me with a beautiful necklace, music DVDs (Patsy Cline and Alison Krause), and a book, of course. I am a huge John Lennon fan and he gave me the new 851 page biography John Lennon: The Life by Philip Norman. It has a wonderful picture of Lennon on the front - not a handsome man, but what arresting eyes. One of my favorite pictures is of me sitting on Lennon's lap - actually, a bronze statute of him in a park in Havana, Cuba. Need to get that scanned into the computer one of these days. The book is superb so far and I think teens who wish they could be rock stars might change their minds when reading of the squalid conditions the Beatles endured in the early years. Well, on the other hand, the sexual openness in Hamburg, Germany might appeal to some teens. Makes Bourbon Street in New Orleans seem very tame!

Since we spent time at the beach and I was wishing for the relaxing days of the catamaran sailing trips we went on back in 2001 and 2002 I had to read a sailing book - A Thousand Shades of Blue by Robin Stevenson. Told from the viewpoint of 16-year-old Rachel, the reader can feel the tension in a family vibrating off the pages as Rachel shares her thoughts. They are a family running away from potential demise. Rachel's parents are fighting and both she and her younger brother, Tim, who is in a perpetual state of anxiety, fear their parents will divorce. The father decides they will to sail from Ontario to the Caribbean via the inter coastal waterways - a way to bring the family together. Rachel is more than a little upset - she does not want to leave her friends or social scene of school behind for a year of being trapped on a small sailboat with her family. It is not an easy trip either in terms of the weather or the storm clouds of surpressed anger and anxiety that hover over the tiny sailboat. A stop in the Bahamas for repairs as well as interaction with other sailing "families", both young and old, help and hinder the eye of the hurricane of feelings to strike - forcing a decision on the mother's part. Rachel falls victim to the charms of a rich 20-something sailing his own boat and almost loses her virginity, but it is what she and Tim see occurring in another boat moored near them in the bay that will force family decisions. This isn't a sailing adventure so much as Rachel's emotional coming-of age journey through the shades of blue of both hope and despair. An honest look into how impending divorce affects tweens and teens.

That's it for today. Need to finish up grading and start putting this semester "to bed" - thank heavens - it is has been a long and hard one.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I guess I am on a vampire/horror kick at the moment as we are going see Sweeney Todd tonight at our little opera house here in Lexington. We have seats close up so I am hoping none of the blood lands in the audience. I won't go see the movie as I "don't do blood and gore" but it can't be that bad as a play - right?!

All the hype about Twilight since it hit the theaters today. You Twilight lovers will also get a kick out of the Urban Dictionary’s word for the day!

November 21: Vegetarian Vampire
A vampire that drinks animal blood, and resists human blood.
The Cullens from Stephenie Meyer's Twilight are vegetarian vampires.

This is the sure sign that this YA series has become a part of our culture just as Harry Potter has. We all know we are Muggles, even if we don’t like to admit we aren’t a darn bit magical. Hmm - maybe I don't want to admit that at all, but I can honestly say I am not a Vegan Vamp! I hope Annette Curtis Klause’s Silver Kiss is selling well – it is the “best” vampire YA novel out there and it was published back in the 90s. Simon is much more of a tortured soul than Edward is and the story doesn't go on and on! This is a quick vampire read, but one you will not forget once you have read it. I am suprised this one wasn't made into a movie, or may it was and I missed it. I prefer the book to any movie, any day.

Steve had a "business social" last night and we went to a "screening" of the new Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. I wasn't impressed with the neverending violence. I loved Brosnan as Bond - those movies had some humor and some heart, but this was just down right cold and vicious. Granted, Daniel Craig has to the most stunning blue eyes since Paul Newman, but try smiling once in awhile.

Okay - gotta go - I hear Steve pulling up and I am still in sweats - not appropriate for a play.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Good morning from beautiful sunny Hollywood, FL. We finally had a chance to go for a walk on the beach last night after dinner and when we went out there all the access points to the beach were locked and security guards were patrolling. Guess that was good, but I wanted to walk on the beach. Maybe this afternoon, after your final sessions.

The SLJ Summit has been incredible. So much new information about technology and how children's and teens are digital natives. They grew up with multitasking with technology. Marc Aronson was talking about a young college student who had her e-textbook in one year and music in the other. How different is that from my reading the print text with music playing behind me? I did that all the time when studying.

The cell phone is such a bit part of their lives - they want to stay connected at all times. They IM and text more then actually talk to their friends. I need to get a new phone so I can check my email as well as start my "cell phone" book on QuillPill. Lots of cool phones being pulled out by people at this conference.

Another comment Marc made was a very telling description of how teens interact with each other. A high school principal told him - Adults have relationships, teens are their relationships. That is so true.

National Geographic now has a personalized Atlas for kids. There were some questions from the audience about privacy issues, but schools wouldn't be buying them - family would be. How cool to start with a child's home location, out to the street, town, state, region, country, hemisphere, etc. That interconnectively with the world. I may buy one of them for my granddaughter and son. Ally is in Kindergarten and her teacher has asked the students to have friends and family to send postcards from where they live/visit. I have one in my purse for her from here and sent her one from Nashville a week ago. You enter the child's information online with National Geographic and in a week or so you'll get the personalized Atlas. Cool Christmas present.

Eliza Dresang moderated an great session on how Print has changed. But, all agreed that books are not going anywhere - they will always be a part of life. I agree - some recreational reading content does not work well in non print format. But, all the cool sites that go along with the books - author sites, fanfiction sites, sites specific to the book or series - that extend the reading experience. The session made me think about the book and author sites I love. The one that immediately came to mind is the site for Angie Sage's Septimus Heap series from Scholastic. First books Magyk sets the scene for a young boy - the 7th son of a 7th son to learn he is a gifted magician. I love the swamp area they spend time in. Very different from HP as this is a loving family. I love to go back and check it out periodically. There are four books in the series and will help quell some of the HP withdrawal with the tween fantasy readers. I want to take the rest of the on vacation with me and just wallow in them.

Anastasia GoodsteinYpulse Founder and Editor was our first session speaker - what a bundle of energy. I shame-facedly admit I have little knowledge of all the social networking sites and options that teens are using. She rattled them off so fast I felt like I was listening to a foreign language. She refers to herself as being in a "constant state of arrested development"! I can relate to that - I keep my inner teen alive and well with YA lit, but I realize I also need to become more informed as to their e-world. We received a copy of her book - Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens are Really Doing Online It is going on my professional gotta read book stack. All of this is a bit overwhelming, but I am brain storming ways of integrating what I have learned into my children's and YA literature/materials courses. They cover more than print resources and I need to expand a bit more.

We received an audiobook version of The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick I have heard great things about the audiobook and I am anxious to listen to it as I can't imagine an audiobook version of this highly illustrated book that feels like a movie if you flip through the illustrations. This piece is missed in the audiobook.

Today is National Video Games Day. Not sure I can expend my concept yet of families playing games to the video game environment. I had too much fun playing Rummy and Scrabble with my brothers and mom growing up. I guess it could be done online, but I loved sitting with them at a table and all of us being together and teasing/talking to each other. But, my paradigm is slowly shifting and conferences like this help a great deal. We can't very well stick our heads in the sand and avoid what is happening around us, much as we'd, especially me, like to at times. I am a book-arian style librarian so this is a stretch for me, but a much needed one.

All for now. I'm multitasking and need to check email too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I forgot to post the below as I had to save it to my computer as I lost the Internet connection - guess they got wise to those of us who were opening our Internet in the Internet room or our hotel room and walking into the presentation rooms with it still logged in. But, I did get lots posted before I got knocked out. As you can see the presenters had a lot to say and so did I! I leave the literature based workshops fired up to read. But, bear with my rambling!

There may be more as I leave for the SLJ Summit in Hollywood, FL tomorrow. It was fastistic last time so I am looking forward to it and hope I have time o blg.

Can’t get online this morning (Sunday, November 9) so I am doing this posting as a Word doc and will post it when I get home later today. Rosemary Chance and Teri Lesesne are presenting on challenged books, with Julie Ann Peters, Coe Booth and Barry Lyga.

Teri addressed the problems with reading levels:
Reading level for Barry Lyga’s Boy Toy is 4.5! This is why I detest AR – someone may purchase this book for an elementary school and it is about a MS age boy who is sexually abused by a teacher! Every high school library should have this book and another copy in the counselor’s office, but an elementary school – no way!! Reading level has nothing to do with theme/topic etc.

Lyga’s newest is Hero Type and it has a bluish cover. Lyga signed copies yesterday with a pen to match! Raises the question of what it means to be a hero and patriotic.

Rosemary says these books have “yikes!” moments.
Luna has a RL of 3.5 RL. Julie Anne Peters does not write for children! She writes for teens and a book on transgender is not an issue I want to discuss with a third grader! Another Peters’ book grl2grl: Short fictions– a set of short stories about lesbian and transgendered teens.

Tyrell by Coe Booth has a 4.4 RL – a 15 year old boy whose family lives in a roach infested motel and he is responsible for his 7 year old brother and his mother.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins has an RL of 5.3. A horrific futuristic world – not a book I’d hand to a 4th grader reading above grade level!

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan.
has RL of 6.1. but it is a “brutal” read. I have not read this one and now I want to!

Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Myers has a RL of 4.8. There is no way I am giving this to even a middle schooler with the rough sex and obscene pregnancy. I agree with Rosemary that this book is for HS, not younger.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott–
Character sexually abused by a man who threatens to kill her family. I have not read this one yet, but sounds like I need to, though it is going to be disconcerting.

Barry Lyga – initially no “problems” with Boy Toy and he was prepared for the challenges. Instead it received wonderful awards. After all, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has a masturbation scene. So Boy Toy is going to really get hit – abuse of a boy by a female teacher is “worse” than that, isn’t it? What Lyga discovered is a “gate-keeper” problem. Librarians and book store buyers are not carrying Boy Toy. “Love the book but somebody might complain” – this is the kind of pre-censorship comments we hear about books like this. “Such a great book, but I can’t recommend it to anyone” is another comment Lyga heard. This technique causes readers to never know about this book - how sad. Also happened to him with The Amazing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl – actually condemns school shootings, but the idea is enough for librarians to de-select it.

Julie Ann Peters – wants her books to be banned! That means they got into the library! She gets many reader letters that show why teen readers read – they need to see themselves portrayed in books. “People listen to books the way they listen to nothing else” – a female teen reader comment of Luna. I love how she says “listen”. Another teenage girl who writes beautifully herself - “I don’t pick out books – my fingers do it for me. My fingers dance across the spines. “ – written as beautifully as a poem. She read every one of Peters’ books. “I live in suburban Texas – most homophobic environment is within her own family. Never ashamed of it except for when I told my sister.” She is asking for advice. Another girl wrote of how she was repeatedly beat up and even raped by the boys a restraining order was files against.

Some funny letters too. What do you say when you call someone and don’t know what to talk about? “My question is this – What the heck’s the world’s problem?... I don’t know why I wrote this letter. ” “One thing I like about your books is you’re a writer. Seems like you are a teen like us, not one of those old boring authors.”

She asked teens what they would like her to tell librarians:
“My school librarian refuses to order what she calls controversial books.”
“I have very low expectations…”
“My school librarian is like awesome Dude! Other books like JAP (Julie Ann Peters). “

From adults
Wish they’d had these books when they were teens.
And letters from mothers …. “my 13-year-old daughter now thinks she is a lesbian when she read this crap.”

“What if I feel like I am not any orientation?” – from a teen.

Coe Booth –
Doesn’t know of Tyrell being challenged – she thinks it is being kept away from the teens. In the adult section of PL and not in school libraries, on a restricted shelf, etc. She wrote it for reluctant reader boys. 15 and 16 year old tell her it is the first book they have read all the way through. Some wanted a “happy ending” – even the tough kids, they want everything to work out for the character.

Goal is to write “real stories” – she was a social worker in the Bronx. They are living the experiences tougher than Tyrell. To say they can’t read about it in a book doesn’t make any sense at all to her.

Many teens use the term niggah and may not know the history of this word in their own culture.

Parents in Switzerland had her uninvited to speak at a school after they read the book even though the students were reading Tyrell in class!

Adults must be incompetent so the teens can solve their own problems. Teens don’t think adults know what adults are talking about anyway.

Lyga, as a child, told her grandmother he wanted to be a writer and she said, “Oh, so you want to starve!”

Peters always wanted to be a teacher and she “was the world’s worst teacher”. She has a masters in computer science and didn’t like what she was doing. She told her partner she had quit her job and wants to be a writer! She taught herself how to be a writer.

We had to have a bit o fun. outside of the confence scene and had so much fun - can't go Nashville and go do something fun,

Amber and I had a great time at the Ryman Theater, the previous home of the Opry, last night. It is very much like a church with stained glass windows and pews for seating. The “local flavor” restaurants had long waits so we ate in Joe’s Crab Shack! I did not order seafood, just didn’t seem to be the right thing to eat in Nashville. The line to get in to Ryman was a couple of blocks long but we were seated just in time to hear Randy Travis. He is as good live as on CD – wish he had sung a few more. After Travis’ wonderful voice, Kevin Costner’s “singing” was less than wonderful! He might be okay in a club environment, but not on the same stage as Randy Travis and Vince Gill. Lots of Costner’s fans in the audience though. I had to wait until the very end of the night to hear Josh Turner. His deep voice is…. well, let’s just say it can make me go weak in the knees. Yes, I know – I’m probably old enough to be his mother, but I can “drool” over that voice!

The reception last night was wonderful – the networking is one of my favorite parts of any conference, especially the folks I was on Best Books in Young Adults back in the mid 90s. We also walked out of the room with books again. Hauled all of those out to the car this morning. Can’t wait to dive into reading.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Genre Luncheon was wonderful! I had a chance to catch up with one of my favorite people - Catherine Balkin. If you haven't checked out her web site Balkin Buddies: you are missing a great resource. Catherine used to work with Bill Morris at HarperCollins and most certainly knows publishing and authors. Not only will Catherine help you set up an author visit at your school or library, she has compiled a great set of resources on authors. You can find out how much the author charges for visits, etc. She also has a link to children's and YA authors by state, grade level as well as one to authors who are visiting your area. Wish I had this resource when I was a school librarian.

A myriad of authors sat at tables and we had a chance to get autographed copies of ARC as well as bound books. Stephen Chbosky was signing copies of Perks of Being a Wallflower - one of my all time favorite upper level YA novels. He took time to chat a bit and write in the copy he autographed for me. Very cool! It was so neat to watch the smiles on the attendees faces as they interacted with the authors. I have a pile of autographed books that I can't wait to read, or to revisit, such as Luna by Julie Anne Peters I was telling her about the two copies I lent out and never got back. Now I have an autographed copy and said I hoped if I lent it out again it would be returned because of the autograph. Her comment was I might see it on sale on EBay! What fun to chat and interact with the authors. Also was delighted to talk with Susan Kuklin and now have a signed copy of No Choirboy: Murder, Violence and Teenagers on Death Row I am not a big NF reader, but this book is incredible! If these interviews with teen inmates doesn't get even the most resistant teenage reader, nothing will. She is also a very cool lady!

I am sitting in Rollie Welch's session on street lit. Should prove to be interesting. He works with inner city teens in Cleveland. I was able to get a copy of Kendra signed by Coe Booth and it would most certainly fit into YA urban lit. Rollie frequently works with incarcerated teens. Rollie also has a street lit column in School Library Journal. He is also on the Best Books for Young Adults committee. He is referring to the lack of new titles he is gettting for review that have African American protagonists. Sad, but very true.

Gotta look for the Denim Diaries series. Very interesting! He is not pulling any punches about the types of books and his patrons. Very try sense of humor as he shares titles and a bit of history of street lit.
I'm in the Mitali Perkins' session. She asked about parents. grandparents born outside of the US. Lots of us!! All four of my grandparents were born in Finland.

All of what she talks about will be available to you at her site with a /YALSA. She has a great web site: She blogs too. :-) I was doing a quick look in B&N and found a new title that comes out in January: Secret Keeper about a Indian teen whose father leaves for work in America and her writes about her feelings in a diary. Some will recognize her book Monsoon Summer about a California born Indian teen who spends the summer in India. I now have a signed copy. :-)

She is hilarious! If you ever get a chance to hear her speak - do so! Great family pictures of herself and her family. Very close to her family - her Dad Googles where she is and she calls them every night. But, the topics she addresses are hardly funny. She showed us
A Girl Like Me - movie by a 17 year old girl addressing how dark skinned girls feel about their appearance. The comments about skin bleaching cream make you cringe. A real eyeopener in the frankness of the children's and teen's responses.
Cover art - some of it is so awful! Question came from the audience about not buying the ones with the awful cover. I think Patrick Jones' books have awful covers. With better covers they would even have a higher readership. Haddix just said to complain to B&N as their rep has input on cover art. Weird!!
Take a look at Haddix's web site: Very cool, but I dislike web sites with black backgrounds. She has links to other author web sites as well. Great way to get the teens who are reading all of Haddix's series to move on to other authors.
I am sitting in a totally packed room of YA literature folks balancing breakfast goodies, juice bottles, and/or cups of coffee in their lap, hip to hip with the person next to us. YALSA's first annual Young Adult Literature Symposium is clearly a hit!

Yesterday we had the opportunity to listen to Gene Luen Yang, author of Printz winner American Born Chinese Everything he had to say was interesting but the most interesting piece was about readers who thought cousin Chin-Kee was cute and wanted a T-shirt with him on it. Gene meant Chin-Kee to be disturbingly stereotypically. He said he'd be even more stereotypical the next time around! I did not realize Gene was a Catholic and has written a middle grades graphic novel about this faith - Rosary Comic Book He has also done some math related comics. Check out his web site: Lots of cool stuff.

Patrick Jones just said he thinks R.L. Stine should win the Margaret A. Edwards award. I almost swallowed my tongue with that one! My first thought was - "Not a chance!" but that is just me. I know Stine's books are very popular but I see him as an author of horror "fluff" for children.

Margaret Peters Haddix is now speaking - one of her favorites reads by another YA author is Susan Collins' Hunger Games. I love this book and can't wait for the sequel. My favorite of Haddix is not her Hidden series, starting with Among the Hidden - It is one of her older ones - Don't You Dare Read this Mrs. Dunfrey - This book cam out in the mid 90s and addresses an older sibling taking care of her little brother after their mother disappears. She writes her fears in her English journal and marks all the entries - Don't You Daire Read this Mrs. Dunfrey. This one transcends the decades as more teens today are the primary care taker of their younger siblings than the 90s.

Patrick is talking about teens asking him how he read their journal - in other words, it is so real. The theme of this session is books that are thrilling. The beginning has to catch teen. He quotes Will Weaver, another YA author, who said the beginning sentence of a book is as important to a reader as a kiss is to a new relationship. I might have that worded wrong - but you get the idea.

My favorite book of Patrick Jones is Chasing Tail Lights about a teenage girl who is being abused by a stepbrother and remembers her truck driver father telling her that following the tail lights may well get you where you need to be. His newest one is Stolen Car Need to find a copy! He just admitted he had never read an HP book and only the first 60 pages of Twilight. Now I know why I love this guy!! He has a vampire book coming out in the Fall - "the teen character just happens to be a girl who is vampire like". Character is most important to him.

Pace of books is important in YA books. Two words - James Patterson - out of PJ's mouth. He is making fun of the speed of Patterson's output of books! He's says Stine knows pace - move quicker as they don't bother with description as kids know what everything looks like. So they focus on dialog. For example, Ellen Hopkinss' Crank 500 pages but reads quickly because of the format - free verse poetry. All of her books are a quick read and on subjects that get you involved - drug abuse, rape. etc.

Haddix says you can't equate quick paced and short go hand in hand. That is certainly true - look at the free verse novels as well as graphic novels.

Trends - fantasy trend came from adult first so teens went to adult collections first. For example, Hamilton books on vampires - very much adult in content. Hit before the YA books on vampires did. Adults are now reading the teen vampire titles, like Twilight.

All teens are shape shifters - what a great comment by Deborah Noyes Wayshak, author of The Ghost of Kefol. Haven't read this one yet - a set of 5 short stories.

Patrick loves Coe Booth - Tyrell If girls want to know how guys react to them sexually, this is a bit disconcerting, but very real. Her new book is Kendra Haven't read it yet but it looks good. Kendra's mother is back in her life and both mother and daughter are adjusting to the change.

Everything big thing you experience in life will happen in these 4 years - PJ's words. First time you fall in love, experience sexual awakening, etc. Part of why he writes for teens. He has the whole audience laughing. He only reads teen fiction and about wrestling - no wonder his inner teen is alive and well. :) Like him - for me booktalking is a way to introduce books that aren't in the "news" - like HP and Twilight. I could have stood up and cheered! Booktalk what they don't find on their own.

PJ mentioned the value of author visits. He noted a teenage girl in a detention center who was telling everyone how cool it was to have met Jaqueline Woodson in school. I love Woodson's writing! My favorite of hers is If You Come Softly so beautifully poignant - a Jewish girl and a black guy so much in love, but their relationship ends violently. My favorite MS/JH book about a poor white girl who is being abused and confides this to her wealthy black friend - I Hadn't Meant to Tell You That She has also written a beautiful picture book - The Other Side two little girls, white & black, who aren't allowed over the fence, but develop a wonderful friendship while sitting on the fence. Jackie writes beautifully about inter-racial friendships and relationships.

PJ is talking about how he has actual teen comments/writing in his books because of Face Book and MySpace pages. He asks them permission to use their work.

Awards - as important as YA input?
Deb - from publishing standpoint (at Candlewick) awards are important. A way to market lesser know literary writers. She looks for manuscripts where popularity and literary merit overlap.

PJ - his award is getting emails from kids who loved his book. He doesn't think his books will ever win an award. He said he used to care but doesn't anymore. Perhaps he doth protest too much, after all, he is human. :-) He said the awards stickers turns teens off - "EWWW - Johnny Tremain had one of those!" I think he is dead on the money from the teen perspective. They could care less about what books win an award. That is an adult thing - besides, we are the ones who are on the committees who choose the award. One of the reasons I strongly disagree with putting any kind of labels on spines, even genres. We also de-select reading options due to the categories someone else put them on. As a teen I would have ignored any books that had SF stickers on them. - Patrick Jones link to his other sites. Vere cool playlist to go along with Nailed on the main page. Can link to his other resources from there.

I need to post this in fear I am going to lose it. Please excuse my typos. It is so darn hot in this room I am about to melt! I am going find a Diet Coke during the break. It is cold outside - maybe I need to go stand out there for a bit.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election day is finally here - thank goodness! The local ads in KY have been pretty nasty and are on TV constantly - I will not miss them. However, I have a sneaking suspicion they will be replaced by Holiday style ads. One of the GPS brands already has theirs out. Even I, the Christmas music aficionado, can get too much of a good thing! Our voting location is less than 5 minutes away so I will head out mid morning and hope I miss the large early morning crowds.

The NC School Library Media Association Conference in Winston-Salem was wonderful. I had more energy than I have had in months so doing my booktalking presentation was so much fun. I booktalked Titles that Make you Tremble from the themes of Historical Scares, Futuristic Frights, and the Monsters Among Us. I am always fired up to do lots of reading and booktalking every time I do a presentation, but time hasn't allowed me to do much reading.

However, I have to share a tear-jerker. I was getting a pedicure and was quietly hiccup sobbing as I finished a Sept. 2008 Farrar, Straus & Giroux YA novel - Forever Changes by Brendan Halpin. If I had known how much it was going to affect me I would have waited until I got home to read the last couple of chapters. What a sometimes blunt, but beautiful, insider's view of how a feisty teen deals with cystic fibrosis. Brianna wants to live her life to the fullest, but she doesn't shy away from sharing that she is scared silly by the thought of dying - of dying before she does the things she wants to. Brilliant in math, Brianna views the world, and herself, from a mathematical perspective. She develops a relationship with her math teacher, who also understands the fear of death, and tells her - "So, though I, or you for that matter, or any of us, may be, as collection of atoms, practically indistinguishable from zero, this does not necessarily mean we are insignificant. Indeed, it may be that, like the infinitesimals in our discipline here, we are crucially important." Further adding the mathematical reality we may well be - "Though I am but one, I contain the infinite. While you couldn't, of course, do this in practice, in theory it is possible to divide me into the infinite number of points I occupy, rather than by the finite, but ever-increasing number of atoms that make up my body. Thus my hope is, in death, I shall not cease to be, I shall just become more fully what I already am; one, and infinite." Even typing this I get a lump in my throat, but smile as I think of how my son Mic would have loved to converse with the very self deprecating Mr. Eccles about math and the never ending possibilities of us. He also would have loved to sit for hours and talk with Brianna - they would have been great friends. However, Brianna does acquire a really cool, but nerdy, guy friend who becomes a part of her, prior to Adam only-girls, inner circle of friends. I wish every teenage girl could see the incredible men many of those nerdy guys in school will become. I am looking at a copy of Halpin's How Do Ya Like Me Now which tackles the realities of being one of two white teens in a multiracial urban school in Boston. It is on my book shelf, but is going to be moved to my "gotta read" pile. Halprin has just moved to my YA authors to watch list.

Since the YA novel I address has a mathematical theme, I thought I'd talk about a Holiday House NF book that came out in the summer - David A. Adler's Fun with Roman Numerals. Most of you know Adler is a prolific writer of elementary level NF about a variety of subjects, including his myriad primary level biographies. What delighted me the most about this math book are the bold illustrations by Edward Miller III. Of course - he has a Roman numeral in his name, but Edward Miller, the 3rd looks kinda funny! No wonder we use the Roman numerals for the generational carrying down of a paternal name. I love the examples of how a Roman numeral is created - I need this when trying to figure out the copyright date of older books! He even teaches kids how to add with Roman numerals. Not something they will be doing often in real life, but what fun! My favorite pages - the last double page spread shows real life use of Roman numerals - clocks, chapter heads, and of course the Super Bowl! Go Texans! (Definitely a pipedream about my favorite team going to the Super Bowl any time soon!) This is a gotta have book for any elementary level collection, and for personal collections like mine where I just might need it to look up a date. :-)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What a beautiful sunny day after the rain. Slept in this a.m. after our late night out at the Sugarland concert. We decided to have dinner downtown so parking would be easy. Guess we weren't the only ones as there was an hour wait at D'Shea's and a long line at Sawyer's, where we did eat. I am not crazy about the place as it is cafeteria style, but that isn't the reason we won't be returning soon. The first time we ate there the food was not too bad - last night - YUCK! They have won awards for their burgers but mine was more like dry overcooked beef scraped off the grill in chunks. I ordered the homemade chips and they were literally soft and extremely greasy. Perhaps it was because of the concert that the food was so bad - they couldn't keep up with the crowd. But, what a waste of calories.

We got to our seats early and I was really disappointed with my poor choice - I didn't realize we were so far to the side even though I do remember looking at the seating chart. It was a sold out show so the arena was crowded by the time Sugarland hit the stage - after a opening act where the sound system made the young solo singer sound like she was screeching. Kelly Pickler was next and not too bad - very energetic and cute. There was a very long intermission as they got ready to film the rest of the concert. Even though we only got an hour and 1/2 of Sugarland they were at their best due to the videotaping. Everyone, except Steve who was there only because of me, were on their feet for the entire concert, singing along. The couple next to us were so cute - arms around each other and singing along. Steve saw just what he could between the folks in front of us as I only got him to stand up once to check out the backdrop scenery. I guess he had to get the "bad taste" of country music out of his ears as he turned on a Dave Matthews concert as soon as we got home. I was happy but exhausted from being on my feet, dancing and singing along with most every song and left him to his music to read for a bit. I wasn't letting "sit-down- Steve" dampen my fun! :-)

As many of you know who read my blog - I am a big fantasy reader. I have to make sure I read a fair amount of other genres - otherwise I'd read all the fantasy on my shelves first. I treated myself to a Judith Tarr feast of a read - Bring Down the Sun It certainly was not the cover art that drew me into the book as I find the gaunt looking woman with a snake wrapped around her body quite unappealing. However, the main character in this fictional biography of Alexander the Great's mother is lush and sensual. It begins with young Polyxena chafing at the bonds that hold her as an accolade to the temple of the Mother. Her dreams are of a magical and sensual nature and she wishes her bed warmed by the man/animal gods that frequent them. She finds her match, both in bed, and in a battle of wills and intellect, in King Philip of Macedon. She accepts his new name for her, Mrytale, after they mate, he in the form of the Bull of Minos, as they celebrate the Mystery. Lusting for each other, Myrtale soon is wed to Philip and keeps him in her bed (he has other wives) with her assertive manner. Although this book does not pull any punches as to the lusty nature of Polyxena/Myrtale, it is not graphic and the language used is not offensive. As fascinating as their relationship is to read about, there is also the drama of the young witch who wishes to lure Myrtale and her extensive magical powers to the dark side. Myrtale, renamed yet again by Philip as Olympias when she gives birth to Alexander, is able to vanquish the witch and her coven, with the help of her aunt, a priestess of the Mother. Tarr's writing is crisp, yet as lush in style as the ancient setting, and graciously carried me through this ancient world of love and intrigue as I rooted for Alexander's strong-willed mother, knowing full well she is as wicked in her own way as the venomous snake who was born and raised against the warmth of her body. A deliciously spicy and flavorful read. Tarr does not write for teens, but older teens who read fantasy, historical fiction, or mythology will savor this author's writing. They may also find it very cool that she breeds Lipizzan horses. Great horse pics on her web site: How she finds the time to be such a prolific author of thoroughly researched historical/fantasy fiction as well as raise horses is beyond me, but sure impresses me!

May seem like an usual book to partner with the above, but as determined as Polyxena/Myrtale/Olmpias was to live life to its fullest, Emily Dickinson was determined to be a recluse and certainly would not have savored political intrigue as does Tarr's fictional creation of this women of power. In her own way, Dickinson is as powerful as lines from her poems are a part of our lives, often without us even knowing it. I picked up the Kids Can Press copy of Emily Dickinson: My letter to the World and other Poems with illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault because of the haunting, lonely quality of the cover illustration of Dickinson. Arsenault captures the melancholy of this gifted poet. As I was reading the 7 poems, starkly, but accurately, illustrated I thought of how to get even the boys reading this poetry with this line - "I felt a funeral, in my Brain," Very mysterious and spooky and Halloween is a perfect time to introduce Dickinson's "death" poems. There are other titles in the Visions in Poetry series besides this one - from Casey at the Bat to Jabberwocky. Perfect for upper elementary and up poetry collections, but add this one to your Halloween books display!

All for today.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The reds and yellows don't look as intense in the picture as they did in "real life". This picture was taken overlooking the golf course at the Oak Brook Hills Marriott Resort in Illinois (outside of Chicago).

The AASL Fall Forum was wonderful. Not only did I learn a great deal, including some cool stuff about TRAILS (information literacy assessment tool for HS) I had a chance to catch up with colleagues and friends. The best of all was time spent with Carol Truett, who had been my advisor and mentor when I completed my MLIS at the U of Hawaii-Manoa back in the mid 1980s. She is now teaching at Appalachian State and I am at East Carolina U. We both ended up in North Carolina. It is a small world.

As much as I enjoyed the Forum I am glad to be home. Didn't really recuperate well from the trip to Savannah and the late nights and long hours of sitting added to the pain levels. I am off to see an acupuncturist here in Lexington this afternoon who works with fibromyalgia sufferers. I have every digit crossed those little needles will help as I am sitting with a heating pad on my back and just dealing with the pain as I didn't want to take anything before my first appointment with him. All I can say is OUCH!!

Was reading People magazine (10/27/08 issue) and had to chuckle over the Books section. I'd like to say that is the reason I subscribe to this pop culture/media/entertainment magazine, but it isn't. I also love the music section and the pics of the celebrity dresses. I tend to live in jeans and T-shirts, but I do love to look at fashion. Anyway, in the Books section there is a 4 star review of Alice Shroeder's biography of the filthy rich investor - The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life , which I really want to read, and beneath it is a section called Halloween Treat - three children's books. I find it fascinating that both Entertainment Weekly and People both frequently review and address children's and YA titles. That was not the case, at least with any regularity, before the Harry Potter and Twilight series made children's and YA titles "suitable" reading for adults. I love it! And, I need to find a copy of Ghost Files: The Haunting Truth by Eugene Yelchin and Mary Kuryla-Yelchin, which was on of the higlighted books. This is a HarperCollins summer 2008 publication so it is readily available. It is all about the Ghost Society and how you can communicate with the other side.

I guess I am in the Halloween spirit (play on words!) since I just finished Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book yesterday. I liked it very much and I think younger teens/tweens who like ghost stories will enjoy this. It just didn't have the eerie quality I loved about Coraline that I so loved. Older teens who enjoy Gaiman's YA and adult novels may well enjoy Gaiman's latest as Bod's encounters with ghouls and a razor sharp knife welding man named Jack will keep their attention.

Staying in the ghost/Halloween mood, I am almost finished with Lois Ruby's The Secret of Laurel Oaks. The chapters written from the 1840's ghost Daphne's point of view are quite spooky and I am glad I am reading it during my early a.m. reading time. Daphne had been accused of the poisoning death of the two daughters of the plantation owner and she is trying to clear her name. Lily is the living human teen whose family is staying at the haunted Louisiana mansion, now a bed and breakfast, and who Daphne turns to for assistance in "saving the bebes". However, there is another ghost in the mansion who is determined to stop both Daphne and Lily. I have a feeling I am going to want to read the chapter about how Daphne died after the sun comes out in the morning! You may recognize Lois Ruby's name from another of he historical works Steal Away Home set in the 1850's about another house that hides the secrets of a long dead slave girl. Wonderful mysteries for younger teens.

That's it for today.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hello from Oak Brook, IL. I am at the Marriott for the AASL Fall Forum and have a gorgeous view of the golf course. The trees are in their Autumn glory - what a sight to see. I almost (note, almost) wish I knew how to golf as I watched the golfers out on the course. Had to call Steve to rub it in that he isn't up golfing on this beautiful course and he rubbed right back by telling me that there were more race watchers out at Keeneland than he had ever seen. He was betting on the last race and I got to bet over the phone. I hope Sweet Relish and Grizzly Lady win us money. I pick horses by their names and rarely ever win anything but my $2 bet back, but it is fun.

Don't know what the deal was at O'Hare but what a fiasco getting into the terminal. We deplaned onto the tarmac and had to share the narrow walkway and stairwell with passengers headed to another plane. Almost got knocked down the stairs once and was not happy to be hauling my rolling carry on and heavy bag with my computer and "stuff" up those stairs. My back is not happy so I am sitting on the bed with the heating pad. Obviously, they weren't doing too well with their scheduling of smaller planes this afternoon. The ride out from the airport wasn't too bad other than being a bit nervous because the driver couldn't find the address on her GPS. But, the view from this room made up for all that. :-)

I finally finished Breaking Dawn, the last of the Twilight series early this morning. It sure dragged for what seemed like over 100 pages as they prepared for the Voltari to show up for a potential battle to the "death". For those of you who have not read it yet, read on with caution. I know this is the last in the series, but Meyer left things wide open for a future series based on Jacob and Renesmee. I think I may be more interested in reading about the future of their "kind" than I was angsty Bella who sure got on my nerves. Jacob and the rest of the shape-shifters kept my interest enough to finish the series. And, for those of you who just can't let Bella and Edward's story go, Meyer has one more tidbit for you - The Twilight Saga: The Official Guide. It will hit stores in December, just in time to give it as a present to all of the Twlight fans on your gift list. And, if you go to this Barnes and Noble link, you can also watch a video of Meyer talking about her books.

Now on to a really cool book! I started Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. Gaiman has taken a character from one of his short stories, Nobody Owen, and expanded the story of a boy growing up in graveyard into a middle school novel with some really cool line drawings to enhance the reading experience. I have just begun the book but I was actually irritated that my doctor was on time yesterday morning as I was quite content sitting in the waiting room reading it. Of course, it was the one time I didn't have to sit in the examing room for "hours" waiting once the nurse says the doctor will be right in. Normally that is a "yeah right!" and a good junk of reading time, but this time she walked in before I could find my place in the book again. Bod (Nobody's nickname) had just been rescued from a very scary encounter with the ghouls (one of whom was a past president!) who planned to kill him and let his body decay enough for good eating. I really wanted to keep reading.

I also loved Coraline - Gaiman's first deliciously creepy MS/JH level horror novel. I can still close my eyes and see my version of the "other parents" with their button eyes. Gives me the shivers just thinking about them. I can already tell I will not be disappointed by his second MS/JS level novel. Now I am kicking myself that I forgot it on my nightstand when I packed for this trip. See what happens when you have a cat trying to get into your suitcase as you pack - you get distracted from the important stuff - books!

That's all for today. About time to go down to the opening reception and catch up with other school library media colleagues/friends who I only see at conferences.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I fell in love with Savannah - even in the rain! This pic is of one of a Spanish Moss covered tree in one of the many squares that make up historical Savannah. Not many of my pictures came out as it was such miserable weather, but this one does show the green of the square and the lovely grayish green of the moss. I had to chuckle at the sight of an older man holding a handful of moss as his wife was instructing him to put it in the trunk. I didn't check the license plate to see where they were from but if her sprig of moss is as prolific as the moss in Savannah she may wish she hadn't brought it home. I did not bring any to Kentucky!

We had a wonderful time and my favorite part was the carriage ride ghost tour on Friday night. We didn't see any ghosts but got to hear the stories and that was fun as was the ride in the carriage. I even got to ride up front with the guide. What fun - all but the part where I almost fell flat on my butt getting out. No step-down from that seat so I stepped onto the wheel and jumped down. My knees couldn't take the abrupt landing from that height and I almost lost it - Steve kept me from landing in the mushy wet horse poo that decorated the area! Now I want to go back and stay in a haunted B&B, but maybe not the one that is haunted by a lady ghost who doesn't appreciate women staying there and decorated the parlor Christmas tree with their undies. I bought a autographed copy of James Caskey's Haunted Savannah: The Official Guidebook to Savannah Haunted History Tour 2008 This is the link for the 2007 edition, but it is similar: We also ate lunch at the Moon River Brewing Company, which is one of the most haunted buildings in Savannah. We saw no ghosts even though Steve kept teasing me that he saw or heard one! The upstairs is not used because of the high level of ghost activity and the basement has its problems - one of the ghosts likes to open the beer vat taps even though they are locked closed.

Since I was in Greenville last week and then went to Savannah for Fall break I didn't do much reading, but I can say I am "slogging" my way through the 4th book in the Twilight series - Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer. Let's just say I have had my fill of Bella and her antics. Not too keen on the Rosemary's Baby type pregnancy either. I know these books are beloved by many a tween, teen, and adult alike, but I am not a huge fan. I am looking forward to seeing the movie though. My hair dresser asked me if I am an Edward or Jacob fan and I have to go with Jacob. While doing a booktalking session in Louisville the topic came up and I said as a mother I'd rather have my daughter involved with a werewolf than a vampire. What weird conversations YA novels elicit in a group of librarians!

That's it for today.