Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Umpteen millions things to do today but I had to write this short blog entry as I was so in the “reading flow” as Kelly Gallagher calls what I call "unconscious delight" in his intriguing book called Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do about It http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Readicide/Kelly-Gallagher/e/9781571107800/?itm=1&USRI=readicide+how+schools+are+killing+reading+and,

I was so in the flow, the world disappeared around me and I was in Russia. I wanted to spend the rest of the morning curled up with Sarwat Ghadda's Dark Goddess http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Goddess-Devils-Kiss-Novel/dp/1423127595/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1288098714&sr=8-1 What an incredible sequel. Check out the cover art for this book. I shivered just looking at the background of snow falling around a Russian palace. At the forefront stands Billi (Bilquis), a Templar squire and the only woman member of the Knights of the Templar, with sword in hand.

Quite different from the cover on the debut title which makes Bill look more like a romance character in a flowing dress while the shadow of man stands in the background. Billi proves to be no shrinking violet in when we first meet her in Devil's Kiss http://www.amazon.com/Devils-Kiss-Sarwat-Chadda/dp/1423120221/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_1 She is rebelling against her father, the master of the Knights of the Templar, who forced her to begin training at age twelve. She did her her best to hide the training bruises and wounds while trying to look like any other high school girl. She wants a normal life but that is never going to happen, especially when a new love interest, Mike, turns out to be the Michael, the Angel of Death. I won't tell you how that battle ends.

In Dark Goddess Billi's foe is no other than Baba Yaga of Russian folklore and she wants young Vasilisa, the Spring Child, the Oracle, whom the Templars are trying to protect. If the witch of Russian lore, Baba Yaga, devours Vasilisa she will gain the strength to cause a natural disaster. The disaster will in turn cause the Fimbulwinterm, ridding the Earth of the horrible humans who have ravaged it and Baba Yaga as she is the Earth. She is the Dark Goddess and revered by the werewolves, the Plenitsy - Man-Killers. The Templar Knights join forces with the Russian Bogatyrs to find the Spring Child only to discover the Bogatyrs are seeking the Oracle for reasons of their own. Intent on taking imperial power in Russia, their leader is furnishing humans for the vampires to feed on. This man has sworn to protect Prince Ivan but he wants him dead, but not by his own hands.

I remember reading the tales about Baba Yaga when I was a child and her house that stood on chicken legs - she was by far more frightening to me than the witch in Hansel and Gretel. Chadda has brought my memories to life with his description of Baba Yaga - "She shuffled into the faint candlelight, and the shadows deepened around her. She walked hunchbacked, but even so was thirteen feet tall. Rags covered her skeletal frame - animals skins and ancient furs. Insects scuttled in her floor-length white hair, which formed a veil over her face. Only the eyes peered out. Black, shiny, ancient. Her nails - long, curved daggers - clicked against her bone staff." The hair raised on my arms just reading this description. A horrific, "virtually strenuous" read that has me internally shrieking in fear as Billi battles one fiend after another. It is is a mix of folklore, myth, and horror and downright deliciously terrifying. Not for the faint of heart! My fingers and arms are sore from vicariously swinging a sword alongside Billi. And I think I'm scared of the dark again!

I just went to Chadda's web site http://www.sarwatchadda.com/ and you can read the first chapter of Dark Goddess.

Curiosity was just killing this cat over the name Bilqis so I had to look it up. It is a derivation of the the Islamic name for the Queen of Sheba, Bilquis. I love how myths, legends, and lore find their way across cultural and geographic barriers, giving us all stories and tales that resonate with us no matter where and when we lived and listened to them. The retelling of these tales, orally or in written format, reminds us all that we are no so different after all.

Chadda's website also talks about The Chainsaw Gang
http://www.sarwatchadda.com/the-chainsaw-gang/ - a group of YA authors who write horror. Check out the covers on these horror titles for YAs. Just the covers should creep-out even the most avid teen horror fan. Sam Enthoven's Crawlers cover art has my skin crawling! Check out Enthoven's other titles at:
http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?WRD=sam+enthoven&box=sam%20enthoven&pos=-1 You may recognize his name from The Black Tattoo
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Black-Tattoo/Sam-Enthoven/e/9781595141330/?itm=3&USRI=sam+enthoven about a demon possessed teen.

As much as I want to finish the book, I have to defer the pleasure for later. I was one of those kids/teens who hid my "recreational reading," as Gallagher calls it, behind the textbook as the other kids in class laboriously stumbled over passages aloud in class. As if reading the chapter in the World History text was going to make this stuff any more interesting or real! Bring in Dark Goddess and tell them about Prince Ivan, the son of the Anastasia, the Russian Princess who legend says escaped the family massacre. And Rasputin, the Oracle who lost the fight with Baba Yaga. Make history interesting.

Bring in a picture book version of Baba Yaga like Marianna Mayer's Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Baba-Yaga-and-Vasilisa-the-Brave/Marianna-Mayer/e/9780688085001/?itm=2&USRI=baba+yaga with detailed illustrations by Kinuko Y. Craft. All picture books are not for very young children and this Russian tale is one of them. The illustrations in picture books can bring to life history so much better than the dry textbook can. I did find it interesting that no recently published retellings of this tale came up when I changed the search parameters to recent titles first. Mostly from back in the 90's. Time to pull out those copies and display them with the other Halloween/horror books.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Another beautiful day in South Florida. We are loving this weather! We drove down to the Upper Keys to watch the Texans win :-) on Sunday afternoon. We sat outside and looked out on the ocean and checked out the small boats as couples and families came in to have a late lunch and watch the various games. No worries about having to cover up your kids' Halloween costumes with winter coats or add snow boots like in Michigan's UP like we often did as kids.

My morning reading has been a beautifully written YA novel about a very disturbing community and a teen who lives there. Keep Sweet. Sounds like an enduring tidbit to say to someone you love as you depart, doesn't it? This assumption may be what causes a reader to pick up Michele Dominguez Greene's Keep Sweet. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Keep-Sweet/Michele-Dominguez-Greene/e/9781439157466/?itm=1&USRI=keep+sweet+greene#TABS Keep true. Keep silent. - Also on the cover, in smaller print but as intriguing as the innocent sounding title, beckoning the reader to open the book to read the blurb on the jacket flap where "KEEP SWEET ALVA JANE, ABOVE ALL. jumps out at you. Very disconcerting - a kind of disconcerting that made me keep reading when I realized just how awful this "term of endearment" really is. It is a warning to the females of the walled in polygamist community of Pineridge, Utah to remain passive and willing. Willing to be married off to a much older man, to become sister wives as soon as the young teens have their first period - the sign they are old enough to marry and bear children - the more the better. Only a man's first wife is his legal wife, with the remaining sister wives collecting welfare for their children. Alva Jane's mother, the 4th wife, has had 12 children since her marriage at age 14. The sister wives may appear to get along at first glance, but there is animosity and jealous as they vie for their husband's nightly visits, smug when it occurs more often than their "allotted" nights. Fourteen-year-old Alva Jean's relatively calm life changes forever when she does the most forbidden thing a young woman in this fundamentalist polygamist community can do - she fell in love with a young man. In her excitement about their future together when her young man happily tells Alva Jane that he has his father's approval to talk to her father about marrying her, this innocent teen impulsively kisses him but her head is viciously snapped back by her father's legal wife who has been spying on her. The young man is hauled into the desert by the "fathers" of the community and viciously beaten. The reader doesn't learn what happens to him until the very end of the book, but my hopes were confirmed. Alva Jane is also severely beaten and married off to an abusive 55 year old man who has recently beaten one wife so severely that she is permanently crippled - she will never attempt escape again. He takes great pleasure in sexually, physically and mentally abusing Alva Jane but she has become a strong young woman who will defy all odds. Keep True. Keep Silent. Keep Sweet. Six simple words that now raise the hair on my arms. Now to find a copy of Greene's debut novel, Chasing the Jaguar.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It is amazing how much the kids have grown and I am missing it all! I remember Mary and her brother Mic playing in the leaves much as McKinley and Kegan are doing in this pic. McKinley has the same blonde hair as her mom, my Mary, and I did at this age. Wish I could go up there during this Indian summer period in the Midwest but that isn't going to happen for a bit.

I told Mailene, my new Worker's Comp. Case worker, that she'd recognize me as I'd be the blonde with no tan! She laughed and said that will change after living in Florida for any length of time. Some of the women who are avid golfers and play tennis are as brown as George Hamilton. I'd prefer not to be!

I met Mailene and saw my new orthopedic surgeon yesterday. He does not agree with either of the two orthopedic surgeons from Lexington as far as the surgeries they wanted to do, but he wouldn't do surgery either not knowing what the "episodes" are that I'm still having. He wants me to use Lidocaine patches on the sorest parts of my knee and quit using the knee brace for awhile as the metal stays in it are pushing on the sorest parts. Oh boy - no support when the knee gives out and we have hardwood and tiles in most of this house too. He wants a new MRI to go with the x-rays his office did yesterday. My new worker's comp. case worker is an MD so she really knows her stuff.

Headache is banging away so I'm glad I see a neurologist on Monday. Mailene is getting things going quickly and I am glad of that as I'd like some answers to all of this so I can get on with my life without hurting 24/7, not knowing what is causing the episodes. I still have small ones every week, but had a wicked one Friday afternoon and spent most of the weekend in bed with a heating pad. Steve wanted to take me to the ER but the nightmarish overnight visit to UK's ER was enough to make me stay home and deal with it. My right arm is still partially numb and the headache is a banger and then some. I see a neurologist next Monday and it sounds like she'll be doing a batter of tests.

I finally found my iPod and am listening to the first book in John Marsden's Ellie Chronicle Series - http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=book&SID=405453. Who knows how many there will be in this Marsden series about Ellie and her friends, but there are three titles so far and I'm listening to the first one - While I Live. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/While-I-Live/John-Marsden/e/9780439783231/?itm=3&USRI=john+marsden For those who have not read any of Marsden's 7-book Tomorrow Series, http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=book&SID=283971, the first book in the Ellie Chronicles, may be a bit confusing as there are so many references to the war and the relationships that developed among the Ellie and her friends. Having read Tomorrow, When the War Began http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Tomorrow-When-the-War-Began/John-Marsden/e/9780439829106/?itm=1 when it was initially published in the mid '90s, I had some knowledge of what Ellie and her friends went through when they returned from a camping trip in the Australian bush country to discover Australia had been invaded. Their homes were either burned to the ground or deserted. These teenagers, who grew up in the bush, were soon an effective group of guerrilla fighters intent on rescuing their families imprisoned by the invading army. The war is over in While I Live and Ellie's family is trying to readjust with their farm acreage split up into 4 sections with three other families living there as well. I had a sense of deja vu as I listened to Ellie discuss Gavin's deafness and the changes in her relationship with Homer after a treaty was signed and Australia was split into two countries. The three are out hiking when they hear the shots ring out from Ellie's farm. By the time Ellie dashes back into the farm house, it is too late. Her mother and the family friend living with them are dead - their bodies barely recognizable from being shot up close with high power semi-automatic rifles. She races toward the barn to find her father and sees two of the soldiers lying dead. She knew her father didn't go down without a fight, but he, and a third soldier, are both dead on a barn floor. The war may be "officially" over but raiding parties from across the border brought it gruesomely back to life for Ellie. She wants revenge, especially when she wakes up one morning and realizes Homer and Lee are gone, knowing they have joined the resistance group trying to rescue prisoners kept in camps across the border. It becomes even more personal when Homer becomes one of them.

Marsden is one of the most famous young adult authors in Australia. There is even a John Marsden Prize for Young Australian writers. The movie version of Tomorrow When the War Began has recently been released in Australia. Not suprising as this series has been reprinted 17 times. I've seen at least three different cover art for the paperback reprints. Wikipedia (no - I don't want to go into the authenticity of this source) has a good write up on the series for those who are interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomorrow_series.

I thought of Marsden's books when I first read Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now http://search.barnesandnoble.com/How-I-Live-Now/Meg-Rosoff/e/9780553376050/?itm=1&USRI=how+i+live+now, with England being the invaded country. Daisy is not as strong of a protagonist right from the start as Marsden's Ellie is, but she grows into her role as the protector of her younger cousins. Due to the media hype about Mockingjay http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Mockingjay/Suzanne-Collins/e/9780545317801/?itm=1 - the final title in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Series
http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=book&SID=574901 (not as big as Twilight) librarians need books to recommend when tweens and teens come in asking for more books like Collins' series. Marsden's Ellie is a strong female protagonist like Katniss, but with a contemporary war torn setting. Daisy isn't as strong of a protagonist, but the invasion focused plot is similar.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tons to do today but just had to post about the burrowing owl that somehow decided the miniature golf course on a Caribbean cruise ship was a good place to call home. Poor little guy - no way to burrow a home into Astroturf! The endangered 9 " tall owl was captured with a net and set free. What a great current events story to tie in with a discussion about Carl Hiassen's Hoot http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Hoot/Carl-Hiaasen/e/9780440419396/?itm=1&USRI=hoot - a hilarious MS novel about a group of Florida kids trying to save a group of these burrowing owls whose home is scheduled to be the site of a new pancake house. The movie is really cute as well. Even the most reluctant boy reader will enjoy Hoot.

Hiassen has a new adult mystery out called Star Island http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Star-Island/Carl-Hiaasen/e/9780307594389/?itm=1 that reads like Lindsay Lohan's life but is set in South Beach. I've not read it but I am sure there are mature teens who are reading it as the character is a 22 year old pop star with a really "dorky" name - Cherry Pye!

My Children's Lit students are reading Jean Craighead George's The Missing Gator of Gumbo Limbo http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Missing-Gator-of-Gumbo-Limbo/Jean-Craighead-George/e/9780064404341/?itm=1&USRI=missing+gator+gumbo+limbo which is also set in the Florida Everglades. How appropriate since we had a 4 to 5 foot alligator sunning itself on the golf course side of the canal behind our house. Since we are not that far from the Everglades and "all canals eventually feed into it" or so we've been told, this guy must have come through an area that had more water due the rains. There was also a heron so tall that his head almost hit the low branches of cypress tree he was standing under. Bird and gator kept their eye on each other! Then a feisty little duck decided to get in on the "watch the gator game" and even had the audacity to shake his little tail feathers at the gator. All he got was a gator yawn. Lots of new critters to entertain us down here.

I decided this semester to re-introduce some of my older favorites, including the above George title. The numerous titles in her Ecological Mystery series on endangered animals have stayed in print for a long time. Always the sign of a good book and they are great titles to introduce to another generation of young readers.

George has an incredible background in ecological issues and it is very evident in her novels. Most everyone knows about her Julie of the Wolves http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Julie-of-the-Wolves/Jean-Craighead-George/e/9780060540951/?itm=1&USRI=julie+of+the+wolves. The updated cover on the newer paperback is very appealing. Many young readers don't know that there are two follow up titles, based on requests from young readers asking George what happened to Julie and her wolves. Julie http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Julie/Jean-Craighead-George/e/9780064405737/?pt=BK&stage=bookproduct&pwb=1 addresses her return home to discover her father has a pregnant white wife and she fears he has forsaken their culture and Julie helping the wolf pack to relocate. In the final book, Julie's Wolf Pack http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Julies-Wolf-Pack/Jean-Craighead-George/e/9780064407212/?pt=BK&stage=bookproduct&pwb=1 Julie is not the main character - it is told from the wolves point of view. Readers who like Ann M. Martin's A Dog's Life: The Autobiography of a Stray
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/A-Dogs-Life/Ann-M-Martin/e/9780439717007/?itm=4&USRI=autobiography+of+a+dog will also like this older anthropomorphic upper elementary novel. Books with animal narrators are either really good or really hard to stay with if you can't suspend your sense of disbelief. Some kids love them and others won't touch them. I find that interesting as so many of the picture books adored by young and old have "talking animals" like Curious George, Winnie the Pooh, Lyle the Crocodile, etc.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The sun is out today - thank goodness! We had a day of down pours yesterday. The canal behind the house had risen up into the neighbor's yard and onto the golf course. Water got into our garage, but not from the canal. The water has pretty much receded and the pond on the golf course green is gone. I should be out doing some stretches in the pool but the rain water really cools it off so I'll wait until the sun has warmed it up a bit.

I have a week to figure out how to play bunko/bunco without making a fool of myself! I was all prepared to go in blind last night so I'm glad I had the week wrong. I need to find 3 dice in one of our board games to play with Steve to figure it out. I'm not great with numbers. Use to love to play Yahtzee as kid so I think I'll enjoy this. Will also get me out of the house and meet a few people who live in the neighborhood.

Back to my early reading time with Sophie. I get glimpses of the canal from the double patio-type doors in the bedroom so it is a delightful way to start the day for someone who is not a morning person.

Just finished Laini Taylor's Lips Touch Three Times http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Lips-Touch/Laini-Taylor/e/9780545055857/?itm=1&USRI=lips+touch+three+times which also has incredibly detailed drawings by her husband Jim Di Bartolo. The three fantasy tales can stand on their own but the illustrations help bring them to life. The intriguing cover art of a dark haired female with light blue eyes and lush red lips gets the reader to pick up the book and a quick flip through the pages and you're hooked by the illustrations of forbidden goblin fruit, a woman in a long dress descending the steps into Hell, and a red-headed girl trapped in a cage swinging above an abyss. The visual introductions to the stories pique one's attention before a word is read. Taylor then weaves tales of such supernatural allure, revolving around the consequences of a kiss, that there is no way to pull free from the web she's woven without reading all three tales.

In the first story "Goblin Fruit" Kizzy has been brought up on her grandmother's old country tales of goblins, keeping her razor sharp knife at her side right into the coffin. So Kizzy knows the out of season fruit the luscious Jack Husk is offering her is indeed forbidden. The nectar of the peach beckons to her and she lost when he takes the peach from her hand and bites into it, nectar sweet on his lips - lips she cannot resist. Kizzy knows "a goblin had her soul on the end of his fishing line, ready to real it in. She knew.... but "the knowing was as insubstantial as words written on water" and she let herself get lost in the need to "taste and be tasted". Sensual and downright scary!

"Spicy Little Curse Such as These" is set in Imperial India when British girls were riding elephants and playing the piano for appreciative audiences in their parents' parlors. But Estella is not a pampered British girl - she descends into Hell each day to barter with a demon to save the souls of children. It has been 40 long years since Yama, the Lord of Hell, appointed her the Ambassador to Hell. To entertain himself, Vasudev, the demon would offer more children's lives in earthquakes and other disasters, but he liked to add curses to the deal. Estella cannot refuse to allow all the children of a recent earthquake live and she has plenty of evil souls to trade for their innocent ones. But to curse the newborn daughter of the Political Agent's with "the most beautiful voice to slip from human lips" to seal the deal? Doesn't sound much like a curse does it? With a kiss Estella on the infant's mouth, she sealed the little one's fate to keep silent or her voice will kill anyone who hears it. Will her desire to speak be too much for both the beautiful Anamique and the soldier who has fallen in love with her? Taylor weaves this tale so beautifully you can smell the sulphur of Hell and the incense of the India.

In the "Hatchling" 14-year-old Esme has no clue what horrors will come when her left eye turns from its natural brown to blue. She woke up to the howling of wolves and sees her blue eye in the mirror, but that is not all she sees. There was a glimpse of a ghost and peering at her altered reflection in the mirror, she knew it was familiar but the memories that crept into her mind were not her own. Mab, Esme's mother, knows the Druj hunters, the wolves, had found them and they try to escape. No wonder they try so desperately - the Druj are demons of a sort who can take human form and steal your soul through your eyes, or climb into you through your eyes, taking over your soul. For me this was the creepiest of the three tales. The Druj queen's room of stolen eyeballs was enough to give me nightmares!

Although there are three tales in Lips Touch Three Times they are distinctly different in nature. "Goblin Fruit" is not very long but the other two stories are close to being novellas and keep you reading on with a morbid fascination.

Oh my goodness! A knock on the door. We have the welcoming committee visiting us next Tuesday. That means we have to at least get the dining room area picked up a bit. This place looks like 10 tornadoes went through it but no one but us to put all this stuff away. I have a feeling Steve will be carrying a lot of boxes into the extra bedrooms this weekend!

That's it for today. I feel like I blogged about 3 books instead of one, but what a great set of supernatural tales.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

It has been a wild few weeks. We had the house in Lex on the market for many months, gave up, took it off, and put it back on and it sold! So I am writing this from our new home in Plantation, FL. My docs are all delighted with the move to a tropical climate. The speed of the change over to a Worker's Comp. Case Worker here in Florida has been wonderful. I'll be seeing an orthopedic surgeon soon to get ready for the 2nd knee surgery. :-)

Once I find my camera I'll share a few pics of our new digs. We have cathedral ceilings in the main living area so the house feels much larger than it is and Steve loves his loft office accessed via a spiral staircase. He thought it was going to be a "female-free" area but Sophie has discovered she can get up and down the stairs. I love the fact that our yard backs on a creek - oops, they call it a canal down here! Since we are about 15 miles inland of Ft. Lauderdale and Alligator Alley is just west of us, we keep our eye out for alligators and snakes. Haven't seen any yet but have already been stung twice by wasps in the backyard - the house was empty for awhile so Steve has a lot of power washing to do to clean the fence, etc. We also have all kinds of little geckos and lizards. They love to sit on the cars. One got a ride to the grocery store, hanging on to the windshield wiper blades.

Not much time to read but I did get a review written today for You by Charles Benoit. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/You/Charles-Benoit/e/9780062008015/?itm=5&USRI=you This is a link to the digital book as it has the cover art that is so arresting. A very unusual book as it is written in 2nd person and the use of you makes the experiences of 15-year-old Kyle even more intense. Don't know when the review will appear in VOYA. I do a lot of research on the author when I write reviews, especially when I see the term "debut YA title/novel/book". It is does not typically mean debut title. For me, the "debut YA..." is a clue to search for what else the author has written. Sure enough, Benoit's debut novel for adults was an Edgar Award nominee. He is a world travelers and his adult mysteries are set in exotic locals.

I find it interesting how many established authors who write for adults are writing for teens. YA lit is selling as adults have also begun to realize just how well these books are written. Suzanne Collins' dystopian series about Katniss has kept YA lit in the limelight. Bookstores and libraries were having parties to welcome the 3rd book, Mockingjay http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Mockingjay/Suzanne-Collins/e/9780439023511/?itm=1&USRI=mockingjay+(hunger+games+series+%233. Pretty cool that B&N is selling it at a 40% discount. All three of Collins' Hunger Games series titles http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=book&SID=574901 are in the U.S.A Today's top 10 Best-Selling Books in the 9/2/10 issue. The 4th YA title in the top 10 is Stephenie Meyer's 4th book in the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Breaking-Dawn/Stephenie-Meyer/e/9780316067935/?itm=1&USRI=breaking+dawn. No surprise that Eclipse http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Eclipse/Stephenie-Meyer/e/9780316160209/?pt=BK&stage=bookproduct&pwb=2 is in the top 50 as is The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=BOOK&WRD=short+second+life+of+bree+tanner%3a+an+eclipse+novella&box=short%20second%20&pos=0 about a "new vampire" who died in Eclipse.

A closer look at the top 50 made me smile as Dav Pilkey's graphic novel The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung Fu Cavemen from the Future http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Adventures-of-Ook-and-Gluk-Kung-Fu-Cavemen-from-the-Future/Dav-Pilkey/e/9780545175302/?itm=1&USRI=pilkey+ook+gluk stands out as the one graphic novel and it's a children's title. :-) There isn't a Pilkey title that I don't adore. Of course we all know about his Captain Underpants series http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=book&SID=220063 that has delighted many a child and offended more than a few adults. Pilkey was writing fun picture books, like Dogzilla http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Dogzilla/Dav-Pilkey/e/9780152049485/?pt=BK&stage=bookproduct&pwb=2 long before Mo Willems hit the scene with Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Dont-Let-the-Pigeon-Drive-the-Bus/Mo-Willems/e/9780786819881/?itm=1&USRI=mo+willems. Not that I don't love Willems' books, I do, and he is a fun author to listen to talk about his books.

It does bother me that we get so wrapped up in the newest "hyped" authors and books that we tend to forget about the treasures that are already on the shelves just waiting for the next group of young kids/teens coming through the library. I tell my students that there is no reason to booktalk the "hyped" titles as the kids/teens know about them. Booktalk the great books that don't get the attention.

Back to the top 50 - no surprise, Rick Roirdan's first title in his new series about the ancient gods of Egypt, The Kane Chronicles, Book 1: The Red Pyramid http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Red-Pyramid/Rick-Riordan/e/9781423113386/?itm=1&USRI=kane+chronicles+series is # 37 on the list. The first book in the tween series, Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=book&SID=365467 is # 42. No surprise as there is a new ABC series based on it. http://abcfamily.go.com/shows/pretty-little-liars?cid=afm_psy_comsearch_PLL&kmed=ppc.

Delighted to see the old classic children's book Beezus and Ramona http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Beezus-and-Ramona/Beverly-Cleary/e/9780061914614/?itm=3&USRI=beezus+and+ramona is popular again due to the movie. This link is to the movie tie-in paperback. Librarians should replace old editions with ones that have covers that catch the attention of today's youth. For example, S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders appeals to generation after generation of teens and the variety of paperback editions reflect what appeals to teens through time. I love this one: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Outsiders/S-E-Hinton/e/9780143039853/?pt=BK&stage=bookproduct&pwb=2 It is time to replace the movie tie-in paperback with Patrick Swayze on the cover! Kids and teens don't pay any attention to publication dates, they pay attention to topics and characters they can relate to no matter what time period it is set in. An example of generation after generation relating to a book character - To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is # 20 on the list. Take a look at the variety of covers on this 1961 Pulitzer Prize winner: http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=BOOK&WRD=to+kill+a+mockingbird+harper+lee&box=to%20kill%20a%20mockingbird%20harper%20lee&pos=-1.

The newest top 150 USA Today list can be viewed at: http://content.usatoday.com/life/books/booksdatabase/default.aspx I just printed out the 9/5/2010 Best-Selling Books Top 150 and a quick glance shows 23 children's and YA titles. Of course, Jeff Smith's delightful Wimpy Kid series titles http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=book&SID=390443 shows up 4 times on the list, including the movie-tie in edition.

Five of Roirdan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=book&SID=390443 titles are on the list along with two of the 39 Clues series http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=book&SID=408338 titles. What is unique about this series is that the titles are written by a variety of well known children's and YA authors including Margaret Haddix, Linda Sue Parks, Rick Riordan, Gordan Korman, and Jude Watson, who also writes many of the Star Wars series titles.

It would be very interesting to track the numbers of youth titles on the best selling lists for the last 20 years. I am sure the youth title sales peaked when the Harry Potter craze was at the frenzy level. Just think of how children's and YA books become part of our cultural literacy. There won't be a generation of young people who won't know what a Muggle is even if they never read a Harry Potter book.

Many generations of movie watchers forget they've never actually read the classic The Wizard of Oz by Baum, or even any of derivatives found when doing a search of the title: http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=BOOK&WRD=wizard+of+oz&box=wizard%20of%20&pos=0 But, we all know what "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore" type comments mean.

That's it for me tonight. I am rooting against Brett Favre and my once beloved Vikings and for Drew Brees and the Saints while writing this. I don't multi-task as well these days as I once did so I need to close this out. I am a sucker for nice guy quarterbacks like Brees. :-) And I dislike the ones like Favre who don't give back to the communities in which they play. All those years as a Packer and he did little for Green Bay. Yeah - I know, I'm a broken record about this but it really irks me!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Steve is in second heaven as the football preseason has begun. He's watching the Kansas City-Atlanta game that he taped. There may be late night football but neither or us are night owls so we watch a lot of our favorite shows, including football games, the next weekend. My knee is going nuts from too much standing on it so I'm "kinda" watching football as I blog. I always watch a Texans' game closely, but I listen more than watch the others games. Will have to learn the Miami Dolphins' players this year. :-) No longer a Vikings fan as I thoroughly dislike Brett Favre as he would not get involved in community or philathopic activities when he was in Green Bay. The other players give back to the communities in which they play. Maybe he'll finally retire for real, but I doubt it.

Speaking of football, I just got a box of Holiday House books and the first one I reah for is Gunner, Football Hero by James E. Ransome http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Gunner-Football-Hero/James-Ransome/e/9780823420537/?itm=1&USRI=gunner+football+hero Sadly the reason I grabbed it immediately because my initial glimpse at the cover art, I thought it looked like Pinocchico in a football helmit. Closer examination shows that what looks like a long narrow nose is actually part of the face protector on the helmet as the picture is a profile of Gunner about to make a pass. "Mistaken identity" aside, this is a very cool book as Gunner is the round, short son of parents who are not into sports, but they are into their son and support him as he becomes the 3rd string quarterback on the Tigers PeeWee team. It's the PeeWee County Championship - the Mighty Bowl - and the first and second string quarterbacks are injured and in goes Gunner. No one is shouting their support but his parents - that is until he throws two touchdown passes. The final pass is knocked down and the Tigers lost the game but Gunner is still a hero, delightfully holding his rookie of the year trophy. Ransome adds frosting to this delightful underdog tale by concluding with an excerpt from the newspaper article noting that the player who intercepted Gunner's pass with a girl who finally got a chance to play. :-) There aren't a lot of picture books about football so this one is a gotta have for primary level libraries.

I am sorting through older books again and came across a copy of David Macaulay's Motel of the Mysteries. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Motel-of-the-Mysteries/David-Macaulay/e/9780395284254/?itm=1&USRI=motel+of+the+mysteries. Hard to believe it was published in 1979. I had forgotten the setting as November 29, 1985 when an unexpected reduction in the postal rates causes an inundation of junk mail that pulled the impurities down from the air and buried North America - "In less than a day, the most advanced civilization in the ancient world had perished." Fast forward to 4022 and the discovery of a motel room. The interpretations of what the TV was is cute but the toilet being the sacred urn is hilarious as is the line drawing of the explorer with the "sacred collar around his neck" - the toilet seat, held on by the sacred headband (the paper sanitized strip found on motel toilets) - as he "worships the sacred urn". He does look a lot like he is "worshiping the porcelain goddess" - maybe he drank some of the alcohol left in the sacred chamber! The treasures are even more delightful - the sacred pendant is the bathtub stopper! Give this to the tweens and teens who are enjoying the popular futuristic/dystopian series such as Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games series http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=BOOK&WRD=suzanne+collins+hungar+games+series&box=suzanne%20collins%20hungar%20games%20series&pos=-1 and Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It series http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=BOOK&WRD=life+as+we+knew+it+series&box=life%20as%20we%20knew%20it%20series&pos=-1 Or, to the ones who love graphic novels as Macaulay's illustrations are incredibly detailed. Sometimes we forget about the wonderful books that were published decades ago.

Speaking of old stuff - I am always delighted to see picture books that are based on the classic nursery songs. Jane Caberera adds another title to her set of tune based picture books with Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Here-We-Go-Round-the-Mulberry-Bush/Jane-Cabrera/e/9780823422883/?itm=1&USRI=here+we+go+round+the+mulberry+bush It is either late autumn or early winter (no snow) and two puppies' day begins with "This is the way we all wake up. All wake up, all wake up. This is the way we all wake up, on a cold and frosty morning." Their activities can all be sung to the well known tune. If the sparkling text of Mulberry Bush on the cover does not catch preschoolers' attention, just start singing/reading the book and they will be hooked. A great title for a toddler/preschool storytime at a public library or in a Kindergarten classroom. Share it with the music teacher too.

Now I am treating myself to a Low Carb ice cream bar. I have no idea why but I appear to be no longer lactose intolerant. I am enjoying all the things I missed out on for years, especially ice cream and yogurt. I am pretty pleased with myself as I've lost 12 pounds so far on this limited carb diet. I am not starving and not even missing bagels or fatty foods. I've been tracking my calories and carbs on www.sparkspeople.com. What a great site for anyone trying to lose weight in healthy manner. You can even check on calorie count and add foods via your cell phone. I am hoping to lose as much as I can before the next knee surgery as I know I will be pretty much immoble for awhile after the surgery and the pain pills give me the munchies and I crave chocolate!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Grading in is! Yahoo!! I am taking the weekend off before I start preparing Fall semester course materials. I am sure I will hear from the students who want reading lists so I know I can't let it go too long.

So, I'm going to enjoy the rest of the day by going through new books. I love Kitten's Autumn by Eugenie Fernandes. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Kittens-Autumn/Eugenie-Fernandes/e/9781554533411/?itm=3. The illustrations have a 3D feel as the critters and other elements in the illustrations are made out of clay. Laying them on top of collages made from paper, yarn and other materials results in illustrations kids and parents will pour over time and time again as little ones listen to, and soon join along with, the simple rhyming text. "Leaves tumble, Kitten mews. Porcupine snacks, Chipmunk chews." What a delightful way to introduce forest animals and what they eat. I love the "Skunk slurps" illustration - he is eating a wiggly worm. Make sure you also get Kitten's Spring
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Kittens-Spring/Eugenie-Fernandes/e/9781554533404/?itm=1&USRI=kittens%27+spring to help little ones learn farm animals. These two Kids Can Press are a fun way to introduce animals.

The latest in Frank Serafini's Looking Closely nonfiction series, Looking Closely in the Rain Forest
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Looking-Closely-in-the-Rain-Forest/Frank-Serafini/e/9781553375432/?itm=1 draws you in with both the stunning color up-close photographs as well as the text - "Look very closely. What do you see? A spaceship? A sea slug? What could it be?" The "spyglass illustrations" certainly looks like a green slug but when you turn the page and see the full photograph, it is the toe of a web-toed red-eyed tree frog. The text accompanying the full-page photographs offers basic details about the rain forest animals and plants. A stunning book for any children's collection.

You know how sometimes you fall in love with a book, but there is one "little" discrepancy that bugs the heck out of you? That is my problem with Pirate's Guide to the First Grade by James Preller and illustrated by Greg Ruth. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/A-Pirates-Guide-to-First-Grade/James-Preller/e/9780312369286/?itm=1&USRI=james+preller+pirate B&N has the title just as First Grade so it didn't immediately come up when I searched for it. What pirate fan wouldn't be intrigued with a first page that states - "Arrr! Shiver me timbers, what a slobberin' moist mornin'!" The illustration shows just the top of a red-haired boy's head with his eyes squeezed closed. Of course, the "slobberin' moist" comes from his bulldog licking his face. In the background are the ghostly figures of "real pirates" who accompany the boy to school. When he gets to school, this is where my problem begins. The boy looks too old for first grade and is putting his backpack in a HS looking locker and the books piled on desks in the classroom room are much thicker than we would see in a first grade classroom - they look the size of a NYC phonebook! The teacher gives him what appears to be a hall pass (treasure map) and the last picture shows him with "me treasure!" The boy, who truly looks at the youngest upper elementary, is sitting reading a copy of Treasure Island with stacks of very large books around him. Had this been a guide to third grade even I would have been a little less jarred out of the story but the illustrations, as gorgeous as they are, just don't work for me. It has to be difficult for picture book authors who are not also illustrators as their text is interpreted by an illustrator the publisher has chosen to visually bring the story to life.

Steve Jenkins has done it again - a nonfiction title children won't be able to put down. This time his subject matter is the skeleton of humans and animals - Bones http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Bones/Steve-Jenkins/e/9780545046510/?itm=1&USRI=bones+jenkins As always, concise text accompanies the intricate cut paper collage illustrations that beg the reader to start at the beginning. I love the fold out spread of a smiling skeleton with text that reads: "Congratulations! You are the proud owner of a complete human skeleton!" Additional bone facts will appeal to the older reader, including a discussion of how the Cyclops, the one-eyed giant of Greek mythology, may have come about from the skull of the now extinct dwarf elephant as the hole where the trunk had passed through looked like a single eye socket of a giant.

Speaking of bones, well not plural, but singular - Bone, the wonderful fantasy graphic novel series by Jeff Smith has a new title Tall Tales http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Tall-Tales/Tom-Sniegoski/e/9780545140966/?itm=1&USRI=bone+tall+tales This one of the few graphic series that appeal to all ages. Ten books in the series, but the fun isn't over. A new graphic novel series set in the world of Bone will arrive in 2011 - Quest for the Spark: Book One. So don't despair, more fun and fear is coming your way Bone fans.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Well, now I know it was a Thursday night that I did the vampire entry as I'm watching The Vampire Diaries as I type this. I am finally feeling a bit better. Steve thought it was something he ate at Bella Notte that made him so sick. I think it was the sliced ham we bought as I've spent the last couple of days dealing with the same symptoms. Yuck!! All that sounds good right now is Fresca. Stomach cramps woke me at 5 a.m. so I slept for quite awhile this afternoon. I was running a fever and exhausted - talk about weird dreams!!

Summer semester is just about over and I couldn't be happier. I am waiting for the books I added to children's lit for the Fall semester to come in so I can start working on updating course content. The one thing I love about teaching youth literature/materials courses is also what makes teaching them so time consuming - reading new titles as well as revisiting older titles so that I am up to date.

I don't know how many of you ever heard of Mutual of Omaha's AHA Moment website but I certainly had not before I was contacted by them. The rep. emailed me that she had read my blog and that she was sure I had an AHA moment to share. So, I agreed to be interviewed and filmed talking about an important point in my career. http://www.ahamoment.com/pg/moments/view/15737

I talked about how the challenge to Judy Blume's Forever http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Forever/Judy-Blume/e/9781416934004/?itm=1&USRI=judy+blume+forever resulted in the completion of my PhD in Library Science and focusing on young adult literature. Sometimes I still chuckle when I remember how the principal,who attempted to remove the book from a HS library, couldn't figure out why he was getting so many letters and phone calls about how wrong he was in trying to remove this well known and beloved young adult novel that had been in the library since it was initially published in hardback format in the mid 1970s. This was the early 90s and I had replaced the falling apart hardback with a bound paperback edition - the one that has a locket on the front.

What he didn't know is that I knew who to contact for support. Being able to handle a challenge to a book effectively is being prepared. It is all about being active in your professional associations. I had been a member of the American Library Association and the youth divisions - American Association of School Librarians http://www.ala.org/ , Association of Library Services to Children www.ala.org/alsc and the Young Adult Library Association www.ala.org/yalsa since the 1980s so I knew to contact the Office of Intellectual Freedom http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/index.cfm Since Forever had been on the list of challenged books many times and Judy Blume is one of the most challenged authors of the 21st Century http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/challengedauthors/index.cfm
they sent me a packet of articles and other materials addressing the book. Too bad the folks supportive of removing the book wouldn't read them. Many never read the book - they just knew about the selective excerpts the principal shared with them. That is a technique of censors - focusing on excerpts out of context.

I was also active in the Wisconsin Library Association and librarians from around the state were contacting the principal with their concerns. I was not alone in standing up against this censorship attempt. It wasn't just my colleagues around the state, it was also many of the teens themselves. Attempting to censor a book often has the opposite impact the censor intends - the very people who the censor doesn't want to read the book hear about it and wonder what the big deal is and read it. Almost every teen in the small high school had read the book by the time the school board decided to put it on a newly created reserve shelf for it - requiring a signature for teens younger than 18. The censors make a whole lot of money for the authors of books they want removed from libraries!

I don't wish a challenge on any librarian but it is important to remember that most people who challenge a particular title are concerned parents. And, when the librarian explains the selection policy and the reconsideration process, the potential challenge stops right there. Most parents just want confirmation that they do indeed have the right to control what their children/teens read. The true censors falsely believe that is also their right to control what other parents' children read.

Someday I'll write about that experience and how it impacted my life as I have all the letters to the editor, the newspaper articles and my journal from that very difficult time, but not yet. Off my soap box for today. :-)

Monday, July 26, 2010

I wrote this on June 3rd and it never got posted. I just found it on the desktop of my laptop. I was certainly "on a roll" that night! I haven't watched any of the vampire shows since then. Just hasn't been time. I rarely ever watch a show when it is actually airing as we TiVo it and we can delete the commercials. I watch NCIS in real time once in while but we often catch up on favorite shows when on the weekend. Steve doesn't like the way Gibbs slaps the agents on the back of the head in NCIS so he isn't as keen on the show as I am. I think he is just "jealous" as I like "old gray haired guys" and he is now beginning to resemble that description! :-)

June 3rd
Guess it is my night for vampires. I'm on my second vampire TV show for the night. Was sitting on the bed going through cards and play bills from the Broadway shows we've seen since we moved to Lexington. Mama Mia is my favorite. Time to do some cleaning and sorting again so I don't look as much like a pack rat as I am. All women walk into the walk in closet to see how big it is and when it is stuffed with "stuff" and clothes it doesn't look as big as it is. Boy did I do a weeding of clothes. If I actually do lose the weight I've gained I am going to be so excited I will want new clothes anyway. But, it was sad to set aside all of the beautiful dress suits I bought for conferences and realize it may be a long time, if ever, that I can do the kind of conference traveling I did for so long. Most of me misses it, but there is part of me that does not. I've become a major home body unless I am traveling with Steve to watch out for me.

Back to vampires. I caught an episode of Vampire Diaries based on the series by L. J. Smith. Very interesting. I think I am hooked as I was a major Buffy and Angel fan. Went onto B&N and saw that the books have been reissued in paperback format with the actors on the cover. Smart marketing move for those teens who watch the show first. Or, for collectors. The Awakening http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Awakening/L-J-Smith/e/9780061963865/?itm=5 is the first in the series. Will have to see if I can find some of them at Half Price Books.

Right afterward came Moonlight. http://video.barnesandnoble.com/DVD/Moonlight-The-Complete-Series/Alex-OLoughlin/e/883929047598/?itm=4&USRI=moonlight I think I have seen an episode of this before as I recognize the blonde reporter. The TV listing shows this as the very first episode "There's No Such Thing as Vampires". Maybe I can catch the whole set of episodes if CW is running reruns of it. Sixteen episodes during 2007-8. Guess that may be why I remember it - I probably saw an episode back then. Oh man - the reporter is the little girl he saved 20 years ago. Okay, I'm more hooked on this one!! No book, though initially it was conceived as a book http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moonlight_(TV_series) Isn't it amazing what you can find on Wikipedia. And no - I am not going to debate the accuracy of Wikipedia entries!

I have more than my share of problems with insomnia so I relate to little Sylvie in The Sleep Sheep by Anna McQuinn and Hannah Shaw. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Sleep-Sheep/Anna-McQuinn/e/9780545231459/?itm=2&USRI=sleep+sheep Sylvia had gone through all of the usual rituals - even three bedtime stories and she still can't sleep. Mom tells her to count sheep but they just aren't following her "orders" - they are all over! How is she supposed to count them at that. She needs them in a line - oh now, now they are dancing - no way to count "rumbaaa-ing" sheep. Cute! Then they hit the sleep sheet equipment rental and headed out on bikes, skateboards, scooters, etc. Sylvia is having trouble keeping up with them, let alone count them. They end up at the beach and engage in all kinds of activities - playing cards and game called Sheep and Adders! You have to look closely at the illustrations to catch some of the really humorous stuff. I love illustrators that add these wonderful details that the kids might not catch but the parent who has read the book a hundred times does. The sheep eventually fall asleep and that really frustrates poor Sylvia as she's the one who is supposed to fall asleep, which she eventually does so the oldest ewe covers her up and comments on how exhausted she is as she thought Sylvia would never nod off. A very cute book. There are book covers showing in Sylvie's room like Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Goodnight-Moon/Margaret-Wise-Brown/e/9780694003617/?itm=1&USRI=goodnight+moon which makes sense as it is a classic bedtime story, but not Tom's Midnight Garden. It's a middle grade mystery by Philippa Pierce http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Toms-Midnight-Garden/Philippa-Pearce/e/9780064404457/?itm=1&USRI=tom%27s+midnight+garden about a young boy who is sent off to stay at his aunt's when he gets the measles and discovers a playmate when the clock strikes thirteen. Mattie ensures Tom's summer away from home is adventurous but he isn't sure he wants to be her "forever" friend. I wonder how many other librarians will notice this title on the last page of The Sleep Sheep and it jars him/her out of the story as it did me. Would this stop me from sharing this delightful book with little ones - nope! I wouldn't say a word about it.

I received a box of ARCs from Disney/Hyperion and found myself with tears in my eyes as I read Jack's Path of Courage: The Life of John F. Kennedy by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Matt Tavares. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Jacks-Path-of-Courage/Doreen-Rappaport/e/9781423122722/?itm=1&USRI=jack%27s+path+of+courage It won't hit bookstores until October and there isn't even a picture yet on B&N and what a wonderful headshot of a smiling Kennedy. Rappaport covers his life from birth to his death and inserts Kennedy's own words to compliment her text. What a beautifully done picture book biography. Tavares' Illustrator Notes share his visit to John F. Kennedy Presidential Library to find photographs he would work from for the illustrations. Although he did not use them, other than one with the note, he was touched by the informal photographs that were clearly taken by the Kennedy family. They helped remind him that the Kennedy family was "normal" - like any other family and not the bigger-than-life "royalty" of the Boston area. An absolutely beautifully done biography, but this is no surprise as Rappaport is known for her well researched, picture book biographies including Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Martins-Big-Words/Doreen-Rappaport/e/9781423106357/?itm=1 and Abe's Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Abes-Honest-Words/Doreen-Rappaport/e/9781423104087/?itm=2. See a pattern here? Although a unique biography, Rappaport and Tavares have teamed up before with the excellent Lady Liberty http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Lady-Liberty/Doreen-Rappaport/e/9780763625306/?itm=3 which I would assume can be found in every children's collection. Basically, there isn't anything Rappaport has written that I wouldn't consider a "gotta have" in every elementary school library. I would also consider them for middle and high school collections as excellent ways to introduce these historical figures and their important words.

Speaking of authors who write nonfiction for children whose name you should recognize is Ken Robbins. He has written over 25 books for children and you should find a good many of them in your nonfiction children's section. I have his newest title - For Good Measure: The Ways We Say How Much, How Far, How Heavy, How Big, How Old http://search.barnesandnoble.com/For-Good-Measure/Ken-Robbins/e/9781596433441/?itm=1&USRI=robbins+how+we+measure in front of me. I don't like math or working with measurement but this is a very visually attractive book and even I enjoyed paging through it and seeing what he used from "real life" to help define the terms. His superb photographs visually define the measurement terms along with the concise defining text. Did you know that the gem measurement of a carat comes from the term carob? A carob seed was supposedly so uniform that they were considered a good standard of weight. The diamond ring laying on top of pile of carob seeds sure makes it clear to this jewelry lover which one I'd choose! :-) The kids who grow up in the northern states will know what a cord of wood is but I wonder how many kids who live in warmer climates even know what how much a cord of wood is. Just ask my older brothers - they would all know after splitting more than their share of wood for our wood stove and furnace growing up.

Even though the fact that the beret in Bridget's Beret by Tom Lichtenheld http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Bridgets-Beret/Tom-Lichtenheld/e/9780805087758/?itm=1&USRI=bridget%27s+beret is not black as the text says it is, it is a very cute book and one to share with the art teacher. I really dislike when a color is stated and the item supposedly that color is a muted tone and could, as I did with the beret, be considered a grayish purple instead of black. Bridget loves to draw but when she loses her beret, she has artist's block. It isn't until she unwittingly begins to draw again a she helps with a lemonade stand sign she is back in the flow and soon the neighborhood is covered with her art. While the neighbors enjoy the art show Bridget is where you'd expect her to be - back drawing on her own. There is a really cool concluding double page spread with advice on how to start your own art. I love that he used O'Keefe for the short section on Looking at Things Differently. She certainly did!
Well, I made it through 2 1/2 days without Steve and I haven't fallen on my face! The knee brace is on when I'm not in bed and the cane is in my left hand. He's calling to check on me in the a.m. and p.m. and via email so I think I am going to be okay. I don't know who is more disconcerted by being alone, Sophie or me! It is going to be an early night as I am exhausted. Who knew a person sleeps better when someone is snoring next to you? :-)

Since we will most likely be moving to Plantation, Florida soon (near Ft. Lauderdale) I couldn't resist the debut novel, Candor, by Pam Bachorz which is set in a fictitious Florida town. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Candor/Pam-Bachorz/e/9781606840122/?itm=1&USRI=candor#TABS The plot came from the author's time in a "model" small town in Florida. I've always found Florida towns to be very unique, but it may be the ones we love to spend our time in as Steve and I are both quite unique if I do say so myself! :-)

Candor is a dystopian tale set in current day Florida. The town has been created for families who want to control their wayward children. Oscar's father created the town and controls/micro-manages everything - including how much orange juice Oscar drinks for breakfast by marking the level of fluid with a pencil. For some reason that one really made the hair on my arms stand up. But, it is a little thing compared to the Messages - the subliminal messages that flow from every nook and crannie of Candor, especially the schools. Residents who must leave Candor take subliminal tapes with them. If they don't - suicide. What Oscar's father doesn't know is that his son is blocking the Messages with his own subliminal messages and if he catches a new teen resident before the programming is set, he can give them his tapes and stop the process long enough to secret them out of town. Oscar is making a lot of money with his scheme and then Nia shows up. He knows he should get her out of Candor before she loses her uniqueness and her artistic ability but, selfishly, he wants her near him. I am about 1/3 of the way through and I am intrigued and then some. The Publishers Weekly review hints at a chilling ending - I can't wait!! Egmont has really cool books!! Offer this one to the teens who liked M.T. Anderson's Feed http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Feed/M-T-Anderson/e/9780763622596/?itm=2&USRI=feed+anderson.

On a much lighter tone is Elizabeth Eulberg's debut The Lonely Hearts Club http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Lonely-Hearts-Club/Elizabeth-Eulberg/e/9780545140317/?itm=1&USRI=lonely+hearts+club+eulberg Offer this one to every Beatles' fan you know as well as the females who are dealing with a broken heart and swearing to give up guys forever. It doesn't matter if you are a teen, like 16-year-old Penny, or an adult woman, the feelings Penny is dealing with are all too real. But, Eulberg knows how to add just the right amount of humor so this is not a teen angst fest. I found myself laughing out loud at her parents - rabid Beatles fans who name their children after Beatles' songs - hence Penny Lane. Their doorbell is even a Beatles song! Don't know when it will be published but I wrote a review for this book for VOYA. Check out the cover art - if you are a Beatles fan you will recognize the album cover that is supposed to come to mind! :-) Adults will recognize it but I am not sure how many teens will. Albums? What are those?

Certainly not a debut author, but one I always pay attention to when a new book comes out is Leslea Newman. Can you believe there is a 20th anniversary edition of Heather Has Two Mommies rch.barnesandnoble.com/Heather-Has-Two-Mommies/Leslea-Newman/e/9781593501365/?itm=1&USRI=heather%27s+two+mommies now available? You would think this wonderful book about a loving family would not still be causing controversy but it is.

When the Abrams' review books arrived I immediately opened up Newman's Miss Tutu's Star http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Miss-Tutus-Star/Lesle-Newman/e/9780810983960/?itm=1&USRI=miss+tutu%27s+star and found my laughing out loud at Carey Armstrong Ellis' illustrations that tell their own sub-story about the moms and dads who attend their children's ballet lessons. In rhyming text, Newman shares the story of Selena who doesn't walk, she prances, so Mom puts her in ballet classes. Selena ends up on her tush more than a few times but she keeps at it and finally she has her debut stage performance. The parents are in the audience including the mom who was busy knitting a scarf at lessons that now went around the neck of more than a few parents in the audience. :-) As a cat lover I delighted in Miss Tutu's cat who was an active participant in the ballet lessons but hooted over the final illustration - it shows Selena taking a bow - from behind. This is a must have for all primary level collections and for any mom/daughter pair who just have to dance. I say to Selena - Dance like no one is watching!!

Did you have an imaginary friend as a child? I don't remember having one as I had all my "book friends" as I read so much. But lots of kids do and their sidekicks become a bit of a problem in school. Erica S. Perl's Dotty http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Dotty/Erica-S-Perl/e/9780810989627/?itm=1&USRI=dotty+perl is the perfect first day at school book for story time in Preschool or Kindergarten. Julia Denos' illustrations bring the imaginary friends of the kids to life. Oh yeah - and even the teacher's sidekick! Ida starts her first day at school with confidence, a new lunch box and her blue string that connects to Dotty, her imaginary (perhaps more real than we realize) friend. The other kids come back after the holiday break and there are less buddies along with them, but not Ida - Dotty is still there. The next year of school starts and Ida arrives with a new lunchbox and the blue string. No one else has a buddy anymore and they are teasing Ida about hers. But, not the teacher who walks out with Gert, on a red string. I wish I had Ms. Raymond had been my teacher!

That's it for today.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Oh my - over a month since I blogged last. I was doing really well for awhile with the occipital headache going from feeling like I had been hit in the back of the head with a 2x4 to being hit with a small branch due to the occipital nerve injections. It wasn't touching the headache around my eye but I was in good spirits as any relief was a blessing. Steve even noted I had more energy and was more upbeat. Then I landed flat on my face and left knee on the hardwood floor. The short bookcase I normally use for balance coming out of my office and into the living room had been removed to make the living room look bigger and there was nothing to grab onto when my left knee gave out. I didn't even get my hands out. I hit so hard I flattened my glasses and when my head bounced they flew off. I thought I had broke my nose but I "just" made a hole in my upper lip with my front teeth. I had the Goldie Hawn Death Becomes Her plump upper lip without having to pay a penny for it! Since Steve was home I didn't have my cell phone on my hip but he was out mowing the lawn. So I lay there and cried until he came in and helped me up and to bed with frozen veggie bags on my face and knee. What a mess! So, I took two steps forward and then four back as the doc said I had re-injured the occipital nerves and the whiplash damage from the fall in Denver. So now I'm wearing my knee brace more and using a cane and waiting for the Worker's Comp. approval to buy a walker to use on the really bad days and when Steve isn't home. Thank goodness he works from home! Boy is this all making me feel old but I now admit how helpful the cane actually is for balance.

And, teaching three sections of Children's Lit this summer has "eaten my cookies" and then some. Grading assignments for that many students is more than a bit time consuming as I spend a lot of time offering input as I want my students to leave my youth materials courses with a strong skills set for how to locate both award winning and "just fun" reading for youth. And, they read - a lot!!

I treated myself to a day off - today - as I actually caught up with the assignments turned in as of last night. It is so different to sit at a computer and grade papers via the Word track changes option so I can "talk" to them as I grade. No more carrying around a briefcase full of papers but I feel like I am attached to the computer or cell phone that checks email 24/7.

I made good use of my day off - I wallowed in the NY Times and chuckled over an old b/w Cary Grant movie and sat down to go through the 14 paperbacks in Christine Feehan's Dark series from Half Price Books. Of course, I am missing the first book - Dark Prince http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Dark-Prince/Christine-Feehan/e/9780505523723/?itm=5 which is no longer available from Barnes and Noble and back ordered on Amazon and Borders. I found it on http://www.deepdiscounts.com/. Boy could I spend a lot of money on that site as shipping is free even if you are buying one paperback. :-) I did end up buying the 6th in the series too but I don't think I will get these Carpathian vampire books read anytime soon. Mary has read them all and is working her way through my favorite Drake Sisters series http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=BOOK&WRD=drake+sisters+series by Feehan. Feehan is a wonderful beach read author but I wouldn't give these to a teen as they are quite racy!

Speaking of vampire series, I read the first 6 titles in the YA level House of the Night series http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=BOOK&WRD=house+of+the+night+series&box=house%20of%20the%20night%20series&pos=-1 They are written by a mother/daughter team, P.C. and Kristen Cast. I ordered the 7th title, Burned http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Burned/P-C-Cast/e/9780312606169/?pwb=2 today and it will be my treat when I get the final grades in for the summer session. I read all of the Twilight series but I didn't think they were very well written as they dragged, really draaaaggggged, for me. I just wanted Edward to bite whiny Bella and be done with it! I am devouring the Cast titles as they focus on a strong female protagonist - Zoey Redbird, a Native American from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who is in the process of becoming a vampire. She is progressing faster than the other fledglings but she has a great group of friends who are there for her. Stevie Rae is her roommate, best friend and the first red fledgling. Then there is Aphrodite who started out as Zoey's archenemy and is now one of her strongest supporters. And the other "insiders" are a kick - a gay guy and his guy pal and "twins" (one white and one black who grew up no where near each other) who finish each other sentences. Lots of teen angst, romance, and a really great storyline that I am happy to follow for as many more books the mother/daughter team want to write about the inhabitants of the House of Night.

There was no way I could not dive into Lisa Desrocher's debut Personal Demons http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Personal-Demons/Lisa-DesRochers/e/9781441882356/?itm=1&USRI=personal+demons+descrochers It is a page turner and then some! Imagine an angel and a demon fighting over your soul, but somehow both have fallen for you. That is exactly what happens to 17-year-old Frannie, a "good" Catholic girl who have never forgiven herself for her twin brother's death when he fell out a tree when they were seven. She blames herself for his death and doesn't believe she deserves to go to heaven. So in steps Luc, a sexy looking demon, who Frannie falls for. The feelings are reciprocated. Frannie has the ability to "sway" people's (demons and angels too) minds and emotions and Luc has no defenses against what she doesn't even know she possesses but both God and the devil do. Who should arrive next in Frannie's high school and work his way into her heart as well? Gabe, the angel who is to tag her for heaven. One would never believe an angel and demon would work together to save Frannie from herself, but they do. And, in the process Luc is becoming human and that isn't going over well with his boss. What a wild ride! I laughed, I cried, and I gasped - all of the emotions an author wants to elicit in a reader and Descrochers sure accomplished that as far as I am concerned. She may be a physical therapist in her "real life" but she is one hell of an author and I think Luc would agree! If this is what she can do in a debut novel, I can't wait to read her next book.

I'm not a big nonfiction reader but I could not resist the chilling photograph of the KKK hood on the front of Susan Campbell Bartoletti's They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of An American Terrorist Group http://search.barnesandnoble.com/They-Called-Themselves-the-KKK/Susan-Campbell-Bartoletti/e/9780618440337/?itm=10 The subtitle took my breath away as I realized we are so intent on foreign terrorists that we often forget that our own South is the birthplace of a vicious group of men who terrorized and murdered African Americans. The realization that these men would ride through garden parties in the South and the attendees would chuckle over their costumes made me shiver. I'd like to think they didn't know what occurred in the dark of the night but I am sure many did. The time period illustrations and Bartoletti's impeccable research make this a must have title in any level library, but more importantly, she doesn't shy away from making the dark side of U.S. and world history accessible to young people. She is also the author of Hitler Youth http://search.barnesandnoble.com/HitlerYouth/Bartoletti/e/9780439353793/?itm=1&USRI=hitler+youth+bartoletti and Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845 -1850 http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Black-Potatoes/Susan-Campbell-Bartoletti/e/9780618548835/?itm=1&USRI=bartoletti+black+potatoes which won the Sibert Award for nonfiction. Like Russell Freedman, Bartoletti is a nonfiction author who not only is an excellent writer, but a superb researcher.

That's it for me today. I still have the local Sunday paper to enjoy. Please excuse my typos - I seem to be making a lot of those these days.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Trying to clean out some of the emails in my inbox this a.m. and came across the info. on the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. The exciting news is that this is the first year they have included a prize for "best young adult novel" with the author receiving a $15,000 publishing contract from Penguin. This annual award opens doors to debut writers. I can't wait to read Amy Ackland's Sign Language which will be published by Viking Children's Books. The book addresses a 12 year old girl dealing with her father's cancer so this is more of tween book than true YA but keep your eyes open for it when it hits bookstores.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What a gorgeous morning with the sun shining and birds twittering. Won't be long and the birds will be finding cool places to hide out as it will be in the 90s today with a heat index of over 100. I hope it has cooled down before we head out for an Alzheimer's benefit this evening. We haven't missed one of them since we moved to Lexington. Steve stepped down from the Board when we thought we were moving to Florida quickly but we keep attending events and benefits. The auction was dangerous - I "donated" a lot of money that way! We will be driving up in high style in a gorgeous Saab SUV. Steve's little convertible is in the shop again within a week of picking it up. Something wrong with the electronics and it won't accelerate. Last time he didn't get a car to use and we regretted it as it was over two weeks before the part came from Sweden. Same thing this time. I haven't ridden in it yet but Steve says it rides like a car. Guess my Hyundai Santa Fe doesn't compare! Duh!!

I finished up Donald Spoto's biography Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn.
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Enchantment/Donald-Spoto/e/9780307352064/?itm=1&USRI=spoto+enchantment I have been a Hepburn fan since I was a little girl but didn't know much about her life. It wasn't an easy one as she was a young teen during the Nazi occupation of Holland and was malnourished and weak when the American soldiers arrived. A soldier gave her 5 chocolate bars and she scarfed them down only to throw them back up again as she had no real food for weeks - just weak broth made from a few potatoes. She noted it was UNICEF that had come in to assist and she spent the last years of her life as an Ambassador for UNICEF, traveling all over the world but mostly in Africa. She was a real draw at fund raisers. She always seemed so calm and serene in her movies and interviews but she was very nervous and scared of talking to groups of people. She also was a chain smoker but what killed her was abdominal cancer that started in her appendix. Raised by a domineering mother who could not show affection and an absent father who showed little warmth toward her even when she tried to resume a relationship with him in his later years. A lonely little girl seeking love and finding it in two very wrong men for her - Mel Ferrer and an Italian aristocrat several years younger than her. But, she had two sons by her two husbands and loved being a mother. She quit acting to raise her boys. A fascinating woman and now that I know a bit more I'd like to read the biography her oldest son, Sean, wrote: Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit: A Son Remembers http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Audrey-Hepburn-An-Elegant-Spirit/Sean-Hepburn-Ferrer/e/9780671024796/?itm=1&USRI=sean+ferrer+audrey+hepburn it was reissued in 2005 and since her son is donating a portion of the royalties to UNICEF is a doubly good buy for me.

I am not a big coffee drinker but found the cover art for The Espressologist by Kristina Springer http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Espressologist/Kristina-Springer/e/9780374322281/?itm=1&USRI=espressologist+springer quite delightful. A closeup of a teenage girl about to take a sip of coffee that has a heart swirled into the foam. Then I flipped to the back flap to check on the author and this is a debut novel. Another reason I wanted to read it. I've been doing some research on the educational backgrounds and web presence of new YA authors and it is no surprise that Springer hold a master's degree in writing. The new talent care great credentials! She also has a very attractive web site: http://www.kristinaspringer.com/. I love when YA authors put the books they are reading now on their web sites or in their blogs as this will encourage teens who read the author's book(s) to explore the other authors and titles listed as well. I also see she has a second book coming out, My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours in September and a third, Pumpkin Princess, in Fall 2011. Clearly she enjoys writing YA novels. Anyway, her first person debut novel shares the life of 17-year-old barista, Jane Turner, who has theorized that you can tell a lot about a person by the coffee they drink. She is so into this she writes the types of coffee and the personality type down in a notebook. Medium Iced Vanilla Latte Smart, sweet, and gentle. Sometimes soft-spoken but not a doormat. Loyal and trustworthy. A good friend. Decent looks and body. And before you know it Jane is hooking up her friends based on the coffees they and the other patrons of the coffee shop drink. When her boss finds out about it he decides to use Jane's "gift" as a marketing campaign. The lines are often around the corner on the night the "Espressologist" is in and Jane is feeling real pressure to match people. It isn't fun anymore, especially since she matches up her best friend with the guy she should really be with. A delightfully funny and sometimes poignant view of the world from the eyes of a very likable older teen who seems to know a lot about everyone else and little about herself. Reminds me a bit of Tucker Shaw's The Girls http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Girls/Tucker-Shaw/e/9780810989917/?itm=7&USRI=tucker+shaw which is also set in a coffee shop and deals with two best friends not telling each other the truth and dealing with the fallout.

Last book for today is a nonfiction title with incredible color photographs that bring to life a part of the world few of us have ever traveled to - Afghan Dreams: Young Voices of Afghanistan by Tony O'Brien and Mike Sullivan, with photographs by Tony O'Brien. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Afghan-Dreams/Tony-OBrien/e/9781599902876/?itm=1&USRI=afghan+dreams+young+voices+from+afghanistan The duo, a photojournalist and a filmmaker, interviewed and photographed youth from varied backgrounds in their often very different daily lives. Interviewees are between 8 and 15 so this is a book for elementary through high school level libraries. When asked what they would wish for if they had a magic lamp like Aladdin, education was most often wished for. The lives these children and teens live is heartbreaking. A 15 year old boy dressed in a filthy Christmas sweatshirt with "ho-ho-ho" on the front tells of how he incenses cars or shops for good luck, but he has no luck. His stepmother would be angry if he went back to school. A 10 year old calmly states that he is a thief, stealing from people's pockets in the market. What he wants - his real father to come back. Many of the teens work as carpet makers in the morning and attend school in the afternoon when they can. In the rural area a 14-year-old girl walks 2 hours to school. She wants to become a midwife. The voices of children who will be the leaders of this country in the future and most of them address the need for education.

Can't procrastinate from grading any longer!