Saturday, February 28, 2009

What a busy day! Wasn't even quite awake yet when I started working on pulling things together for the dreaded annual review. I know, I know - if I had done this a little bit at a time all year it wouldn't be such a pain. Well, I did some of it during the year but it still needs to be structured, etc. This time of the year academics are busy killing lots of trees as they make copies of publications and every other shred of evidence to prove what a gloriously busy researcher, writer, teacher, advisor, service oriented professional you've been in the last 12 months.

Since we had so much fun at the opening night of Mama Mia! at the Lexington Opera House last night I haven't grumped as much as I normally do when I begin the ritual killing of trees as I use reams of paper and way too many ink cartridges. I was humming show tunes as I sorted. I have the play bill in front of me and can't help but smile. Since we are season ticket holders for Broadway Live at the Opera House this year, we were invited to the Cast Party afterward. I have a bunch of autographs, from Liana Hunt (Sophie) to Adam Jacobs (Sky). Who I really enjoyed was Adam Michael Kaokept who played Pepper - he was hilarious both on and off stage. He has the most infectious smile - you can't help but smile back. Steve and I had the delightful opportunity to chat with Martin Kildare, who played the Aussie, Bill Austin. Although he said he'd rather be back home in Southern California with regular TV roles, he certainly came across as a man who loves his job, no matter where the stage happens to be. What a nice group of people and clearly they had enjoyed their opening night as much as the audience. All and all what a fun night in a gorgeous facility that has been remodeled and there isn't a bad seat in the house. Now to see if I can find my CD of the movie soundtrack. I bought it even before I saw the movie as I am a big Abba fan. And yes, I did have a pair of platform boots back in the 70s! I will put the playbill and our tickets in the memory box I am keeping for McKinley, who turned one on Tuesday and I wasn't there to give her a kiss. Hopefully long after I am gone she'll enjoy going through the box and seeing all the cool (at least I think so) things her Gramma did.

Since I'm in a bit of a chick flick mood, I'll talk about Girls by Tucker Shaw, an Abrams YA novel that will hit bookstores in April. Love the cover of - two girls gossiping over a take out coffee - title and author on band around the cup. Very bottom of cup - CAUTION - HOT GOSSIP! Oh yes - both the coffee and the gossip are hot. And, even though Tucker Shaw is a guy - there isn't one guy in the book - well, not as a character with dialogue. The back cover states: "A modern retelling of the classic play The Women by Clare Booth Luce (which featured not one male in the cast)." You may recognize the author's name as I am a big fan of Flavor of the Week - my mouth was watering as chubby good-guy Cyril bakes and cooks, with his heart right out on the baking sheet for all to see, but the girl he loves is seeing his best friend. Girls also has a foodie - Peggy - a college student who lives, eats and breaths food. When she is stressed she makes up wacky food combinations - some of which might actually be quite good! The recipes at the end of the book are so delicious, even on paper, that they may have even non-foodies rolling up their sleeves and pulling out the pots and pans gathering dust in the cupboards. Tucker is the food editor for the Denver Post so he know what he writes about. Oh dear - got carried away - back to the book. Peggy's best friend Mary is dating a rich guy who is sleeping with the manipulative poor girl Crystal, who works in the store where the rich snow bunnies buy their jeans. But when Amber, who dishes more gossip than biscotti at the coffee shop, and vicious Sylvia, find out about what Mary's beau has been up to, well - the gossip is honed to a nasty edge and Peggy is too sweet to tell Mary about what she's heard. Of course she is going to find out and of course, Peggy SHOULD have told her! Tucker has again created a fun, quick read, with great recipes, that will get passed from girl to girl once it hits your library. They'll be talking about Mary's revenge, everyone's clothes, and maybe even digging out that old George Foreman sandwich press that their mom got for Christmas once upon a time. How can you not want to try Peggy's special grilled cheese sandwich recipe?

I have been a Don and Audry Wood fan for many years. King Bidgood's in the Bathtub is my all time favorite of theirs. What Don Wood can do with the use of shading and color is amazing in this book. So, when Into the Volcano came across my desk I had to dive into it. Add great graphic novel author/artist to Woods' many accolades. This over-sized color graphic novel will have even the most resistant male reader involved in a matter of a page flip. Duffy and Sumo are brothers who don't seem to agree on much of anything, with Sumo voicing his opinion loud and clear while Duffy quietly sorts things out. But, neither are thrilled about the idea of spending 10 days on the volcanic island of Kocalaha, but if they knew they'd be risking their lives in lava tubes underground, they surely would have even less inclined to spend time with an auntie they didn't know they had. They think their archaeologist mother is completing a research project in Borneo but she has been in the tunnels beneath the island for two months, trying to protect beautiful green "jewels" that can, when combined with other elements such as copper or calcium, do everything from sweeten a drink to become a super conductor. As an adult I found this part of the tale fascinating, but most younger readers will hold their breath along with Duffy and Sumo as they navigate their way through the lava tube tunnels. For anyone who has been to the Big Island of Hawaii, the culture will feel familiar, but even for those who have never visited Volcano National Park, this is a visually fast paced survival story that elementary and middle school age boys will revisit and share with friends. Soon the book will open by itself to Chapter 15 "Death Drops By" - even I am fascinated by the creepy skeleton with a red rubber nose. Can you imagine climbing up a wall of skulls, using eye sockets as finger holds and run into this boney dude? Very gross, but oh so enticing - you just have to keep going back to look at this skeleton - "PEEK.... AHHHHHH BOO! SQUEEZE MY NOSE"... Creepy. This is an absolutely, positively gotta have book in every library that serves boys, and girls, from ages 8-12. Oh heck - all ages! You will be happily buying mutiple copies of this Scholastic hardback - even at full retail price of $18.99 - this book is a steal.

Enough rambling for tonight.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Okay - I need a break from my email! There are days I yearn for years gone by (seems like eons ago, and yes, I feel that old some days!) when snail mail was the norm for communication with a phone call for emergencies. When I lived in Alaska and my kids were little I can remember writing long letters to both my mom and my sister-in-law who has kids only a couple months apart in age from Mary and Mic. Life was so much slower back then! No longer do I wait to hear the mailman go by, but I am sorely tempted to check every time I hear the "bing" that a new message has popped into my work email inbox. And, I don't even want to think of the thousands of emails in my yahoo account inbox. I haven't had time to check it in weeks. What wonderful discussions am I missing on adbooks and YALSA-bk? Too many electronic means of communication and not enough hours in the day!!

With that little tirade out of my system I now need a "book fix". More than a few of my YA literature students have read Anna Godbersen's Luxe so I had to find out what they were so intrigued with and I gobbled it up in two sitting. Would have been one, but sleep won the battle during sitting one. A group of New York society girls fighting over the same guys - sounds like Gossip Girls, but so much better!! Well, better for those of us who love historical fiction and the glorious dresses and fancy surroundings described in detail. Oh, for the days of the floor length "bad girl" dresses Penelope Hayes wears and to be scandalized by a man's hand on a woman's ankle! Well, she, and other females in the book, did a whole lot more than let the "bad boy" Henry fondle their ankles, but the details are left for the reader's imagination to fill in whatever steamy detail desired. As the story ends with the "good girl's" funeral (no body to bury) and a smile on the younger sister's face as she enters the church, readers will go searching for Rumors to find out what antics spicy little sister Dianna has up the sleeve of her ruffled gown. And, then reach for Evny to read to find out who really gets the "bad boy". I now have to go searching through my shelves to find the next two in the series as although I have read the reviews and I know who gets him, I want to know all the details of how she did and what she did to the other socialites to get him. Oh what a juicy read this series is!

Now, with a shake of my head - to clear the brain from scenes of 1899 New York City - I have to share Good Night Baby Ruby by Rohan Henry. The very simplicity of Henry's drawings of Ruby with her spiral twists of hair standing on end and kitty, who may have caused some of the mess it appears Ruby created, will have parents and their little ones revisiting this book many times before baby eyes will close at night. The line drawings, with various pieces of clothing and other elements in the room in solid shades of pink, blue, red, and yellow, beg to be explored over and over - with little fingers pointing out details such as the yellow bee in the cloth book on the nursery floor, the floppy stuffed bunny's red nose, or kitty's pink tongue when she yawns. I absolutely adore this book! This is the first picture book by this author of Jamaican roots - but I say - More! More!

Okay - now back to my email!

Friday, February 06, 2009

I really feel awful that I haven't blogged more often. I made a New Year's resolution that I would blog at least once a week - well, I certainly failed miserably. I got behind almost as soon as the semester started. Then I fell down the steps while in Denver for ALA Midwinter and the fact that I landed as much on my left hand as my knee and head hasn't helped with my ability to type or write. My sprained left thumb has really made me realize how much we use our thumbs! And, that I can't do squat with my right hand - including buttoning my jeans! I still have the remnants of a very colorful swollen black eye - thank goodness my glasses covered some of it, but I sure did get a few looks.

Then I flew home just as the ice storm hit - the airport in Lexington was closed so I flew into Cincinnati. Poor Steve had to drive up and get me. I couldn't even tell what color my Santa Fe is when he pulled up -it had a good 2 inches of ice on it. The drive home was a white knuckle one with semis flying past us and covering us with slush and snow. Then we couldn't get up the drive way, either with the car or on foot! Steve helped me into the grass and I clomped my way through the ice covering the grass around to the back door and then realized these steps were glare ice too. After falling in Denver I was scared spitless of falling again. That wasn't bad enough - I had a doctor's appointment the next day and we actually went! There were tree limbs on top of cars and blocking streets and then it started to snow like crazy when we went to leave the clinic. I am so sick of winter!!!

I just finished reading Gentlemen by Michael Northrup. - a Scholastic title that will come out in April. We have some great YA novels that partner with classics and this is a doozy. When an English teacher decides to pique resistent 10th grade students' interest with a barrel that the students whack with a fish club to guess what is in it, I was hooked. What a way to introduce a unit on Crime and Punishment! Three of 4 buddies are in this remedial English class together and take a whack at the barrel. It isn't until Mr. Haberman uses the example of a student being killed between classes in their school that their imaginations goes wild and they think Haberman killed their missing buddy Tommy and stuffed his body into the barrel. This isn't a pretty book by any means of the word, but you certainly can't help but keep reading to find out what exactly was in that barrel and what happened to Tommy. Definitely a HS level YA novel.

Now I feel a whole lot better that I have done a posting! I am in a good mood as I am actually caught up on my grading - that will last less than 24 hours, but I can celebrate for a little bit! :-)