Monday, May 18, 2009

I am thoroughly disgusted with myself that I have not blogged in a month! I talk to my students about time management, but I let myself get caught up in spending way too much time dealing with emails and that is just my ECU email. I rarely check my yahoo one anymore as I just don't have the time. I was just reading through the ALA newsletter and feeling overwhelmed with only browsing through the connections to myriad social networking options, YouTube library/youth literature related videos, etc. I could spend all day online. My goal is to limit my time daily on email - we'll see if it works.

Today is my last day of "vacation" between Spring semester and the Summer session. And, basically I haven't taken a day off during the break. Somehow it is much more time consuming to bring a new Blackboard site up than it used to be to update lecture notes, etc. when I taught face to face classes. It is amazing how many URLs I list in the course documents that have to be updated each semester. I feel like the Internet has taken over control of me!

This morning I was going through the last of the Sunday paper while watching NBC and there was a short piece on a group of teens who went without their cell phones and other electronic "toys" for 10 days. Wow - they actually did their homework and communicated with their families! I can't imagine bringing up kids in this technology glutted world where they'd rather text message than spend time with real people. I have been wavering over whether or not I am going to "treat" myself to an iPhone. Do I really want to be able to check my email from my phone? The more I think about it the less I like the idea. Perhaps we all need to have a "technology free" time during our day.

I type this in my home office with six 5-shelf bookcases filled to the brim - some of them double-shelved with children's, YA, and youth services professional print materials. Looking around at the books helps me feel grounded in a world where I feel like the lone wolf who has yet to explore Second Life or other virtual worlds. I know me - I could get lost in those worlds like I do in my books. And honestly - I rather the comfort of my books, whether I read them or listen to them.

Speaking of listening to books. I listened to Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and savored all 14 hours of it. I remember reading it when I was a tween, but I missed out on so much reading it as such an "innocent". I found myself smiling at the irony of young Francie Nolan's Aunt Cissy calling all of her "husbands" John no matter what their name actually was. I even chuckled aloud when I caught the old b/w movie version of it the other day and noted that they had changed the generic husband name to Bill instead of John. I guess the "hooker" connotation was too much for the time period. Heck - it went right over my head when I first read it! The author grew up in the same part of Brooklyn her protagonist did, in a time when families like the Nolans were the poor who lived in buildings where families shared a bathroom and knew everyone else's business. Francie adored her alcoholic father and disliked her mother, who was the strength and backbone of the family. It wasn't until her mother is in labor, with a child born after the father dies, that Francie realizes her mother does need her more than her beloved younger brother. So often we give children and teens books, especially classics, with young protagonists, assuming because the characters are children or teens that the book is appropriate. Somehow "maturity level" of the reader does not come into play when we recommend classics as they are so much "tamer" than the modern day young adult novels. I beg to differ! As I listened to Francie's tale I pondered why a teacher had recommended to me, but then again, she was the same teacher who had us reading Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter in 9th grade English- I didn't "get" that one until I read it again in college!

As far as a true YA novel goes - one of my favorites of late is Alex Flinn's A Kiss in Time which came out in April. When you have had enough of the gritty, edgy YA realistic fiction (I often feel this way) and want something fun to read - grab this one. If you have kept up with my blog you'll know Alexandra is one of my all time favorite YA authors. She can "blow you away" with her edgy contemporary realistic novels such as Breathing Underwater that addresses abuse from the 16-year-0ld teenage abuser's point of view and Breaking Point where we hold our breath as we vicariously live through Charlie being tormented by his fellow private school classmates. And then she can merge the contemporary setting with the fantastical fairy tale in Beastly - a contemporary Beauty and the Beast. One cannot help but chuckle over the online chat room for "creatures" such as the Beast. I love her sense of humor! So after enjoying her first foray into the fantastical, I knew I'd enjoy A Kiss in Time. Growing up on fairy tales, I knew Princess Talia would indeed prick her finger on a spindle and be awoken by a kiss, but this is where the story takes a contemporary detour. The kiss is laid on her by a less than charming contemporary teenage Jack who gets lost while sneaking away to look for adventure on his European tour. He certainly isn't seeking true love. Alternating between Talia's and Jack's perspective, the reader is allowed to vicariously watch this unlikely couple learn to care about each other. For girls who love chick lit and fantasy this will be a delight. Suggest it as a fun read for the beach or at the pool.

I do love fantasy and would read nothing but if I were totally selfish. So, I (who despises what Disney has done to the great traditional tales of the past) admit I watched Enchanted while "wallowing" in the New York Times yesterday morning. I constantly have to remind myself that if I am going to stay current with children's and teens' reading/viewing/listening materials I need to go beyond my own "comfort level". However, the only character I was enchanted with in this movie was the chipmunk! What a dorky movie, but little girls/tweens/teens/adult women (!) who still want to be princesses will enjoy it. I'd prefer they watch Ella Enchanted with Anne Hathaway as the self reliant princess who can take on wicked stepmothers and sisters as she fights to overcome her curse of being obedience. Then hand them Ellen Carson Levine's wonderful tween novel of the same name, which this movie is based on

Okay - that's it for today. :-)