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. :-)