Monday, April 28, 2008

A very dreary and chilly day - down into the 40s last night. We closed up the windows and put the down comforter back on the bed! BRRR!! I just ground one of the new flavored coffees Steve came home with for me. I'll get warm from the inside out.

Steve was up before 5:30 this a.m. and I woke up too so it is going to be a long day. I'd go take a nap but the cable guy is supposed to come some time today to switch out our cable box. I don't even know how to use it other than to turn it on and watch the channels I want - NBC news in the evening and my occasional favorite show - but Steve is a big TV watcher in the evening. He found the cutest Christmas movie that we watched last night - We're No Angels with Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, and Aldo Ray.
A 1955 classic about three convicts who escape from Devil's Island and decide to rob the local island shopper keeper, but instead they end up being their guardian angels. The three use their "criminal talents" to add money to the cash register (Bogart can, and does, sell a silver brush set and hair tonic to a bald man), steal a turkey and even cook a Christmas meal for the family. They play match-makers for the daughter and Adolph, Aldo Ray's pet asp, takes care of the problem of Uncle Andre. What a great feel good movie. Steve is such a delight - he finds these little Christmas tidbits to share with me, even though he pretends he is a Scrooge and hates Christmas.

Speaking of tidbits, I often need to read graphic novel collections in small bits as I am not a big fan of the superhero comics. But, I did laugh out loud a couple of times over the play on words in Captain Carrot and the Final Ark. The title is but one of the zany episodes in this alternate Earth environment where Captain Carrot is the animal version of Superman. In one of the episodes the two superheroes meet and Captain Carrot refers to Superman as a big pink monster. I guess from a 3 foot tall rabbit perspective he would be. The play on words is constant - Gnu York City, Broodway, Boa's Ark, Sandy Eggo, San Anteatas Fault, etc. One of my favorite lines - "By the flea collar of S'Kuubi-Duu" spoken by Ally-Kat-Abra who is into mysticism. Lots of references to pop culture. Not sure all teen readers will catch the tongue-in-cheek and sometimes biting jabs at our human world by the writers, but most will.

Oh, cats with powers reminds me - I am listening to Stray by Rachel Vincent. What fun! Faith is a smart-mouthed were-cat and shapeshifter. Her human friends know her as a grad student majoring in English, but the appearance of a stray (a were-cat not part of a Pride) and the disappearance of her sister causes her father, the head of the Pride, to force her to return to their East Texas ranch. No animals but cats there - other animals are terrified of the were-cats, even in human form. They know a predator when they smell one, no matter what they look like! Faith is sparring words and claws with her older brothers and a couple of other Toms who'd like to be Faith's mate, but she isn't about to have any of that. She wants to escape from the ranch. Older teenage girls will love this book, even though it does get a bit "spicy" at times.

Paul Fleischman is one of my favorite authors who spans the writing spectrum from picture books to YA novels. His Whirligig is one of the best coming-0f-age novels I have read.
It takes maturity to accept your responsibility for the death of a young woman - maturity gained from traveling on your own, creating and placing whirligigs around the country in her honor, as Brent does in this heartfelt novel.

But Fleischman can also make me smile in how he is able to take a classic story and make it his own as he did with Dateline:Troy.
I remember the discussions about whether or not the copies of newspaper articles, spanning time periods from WWI to the Gulf War, that parallel the events of the Trojan War in the Iliad, are to be considered text or illustration. I think it was in reference to how this book was addressed by the Newbery committee, which looks at text, not illustrations.

Perhaps not quite so dramatic, but quite unique in how Fleischman brings together the cultures with their own Cinderella story into one book, is Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella.
Julie Paschkis' illustrations beautifully compliment the text based on different cultural (Poland, France, China, Russia, Mexico, the West Indies, etc.) versions of the tale with her culture specific illustrations. The endpapers are a world map, indicating the countries addressed in the retelling of this well known fairy tale. Give this one to the Geography and History teachers as well as the English teachers. What a great way to teach how interrelated we all are. An absolutely gorgeous book that belongs in every 398.2 section from elementary through high school.

When I remember, I will add the Barnes and Noble online link to the titles, but I can't promise I will each time. :-)

Now to warm up with some coffee and get back to grading. Writing in this blog is my "fun" time on the computer lately.