Sunday, January 31, 2010

Somehow I forgot to send this one:

I'm sitting here watching the Grammys and Pink was absolutely incredible!! I would have been tossing my cookies rather than belting out a ballad like she did. Lady Gaga and Sir Elton John was pretty cool too. Have a bit of a headache from trying to watch Michael Jackson's 3D video but what a beautiful song. Lots of music I don't care for at all but seeing Taylor Swift's delight and awe to be singing with Stevie Nix was very touching.

Before I forget about it - YA lit is now making its way into our TV series! On Bones last week Booth distracted a "bad guy" on a plane by talking about Twilight and said he is in Team Edward. I'm not a big fan of the vampire series but I am delighted to see references to youth literature in venues that adults watch and the reference may pique their interest in checking out the other cool YA titles.

Read an interesting cover story in The New York Times Magazine last Sunday about James Patterson. He markets himself better than his publisher does! He told Little Brown he wanted to advertise on TV. They balked so he wrote and paid for the ad himself for Along Came A Spider. Of course, he had to add young adult author to his list and immediately Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, published in 2005. There are at least 4 books in the series. Fun reading that should interest resistant readers - bird kids being chased by other DNA adapted youth and hiding from the scientist who wants to keep experimenting on them. The young teens and children have bird DNA and can fly away from most of the danger. His newest tween series, Witch and Wizard is Patterson's newest serries that will help the tweens who are having Harry Potter withdrawal

Reading about how he writes the outlines and gives it to other authors to flesh out reminds me of the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Edward Stratemeyer would be considered the first book series packager. I was devastated as a child to realize my beloved Laura Lee Hope - author of the Bobbysey Twins series - did not exist. Don't go to the wikipedia site if you are worried about having childhood delight in Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series. At least Patterson is giving his co-authors credit, even putting their names on the books. That was/is not the way many packagers do things. There are ghost writers who don't get the credit they should such as the authors who fleshed out Ann Martin's Babysitter Club titles.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Great White Hunter out front with his leaf blower! There was too much snow for this technique - he had to actually go buy a snow shovel. :-) My Santa Fe did fine in the snow and he's back home, drive shoveled.

I haven't seen but one car go by today - not too many crazies out there like Steve. We were only supposed to get an inch of snow. Clearly that isn't what happened. We got a lot more than that.

And, our fireplace still isn't working! GRRRR!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Well, I didn’t get the below posted yesterday. Steve came home and hurried me out the door so we could get to the fireplace store before they closed. No such luck! But, we did have a wonderful Italian dinner at Bella Notte – our new favorite restaurant. Great prices and food and the Chianti comes in a tumbler! We were all ready to be seated next to the fireplace by the manager when the waitress said she had just promised the table to another couple. We ended up with a free chocolate soufflĂ© for dessert so no complaints from me. I could see the flickering fireplace so I was happy. It is so nice to get out of the house once in awhile!

We received more snow today so I hope Steve stops at the fireplace store on his way home as ours is not working. The plumber I called didn’t find any leaks in the gas line and said he thinks we need a new set of logs but it was not exactly his specialty.

Written Monday 1/25:

What a day it has been weather wise. While I have sat here at my desk looking out the window I have seen sleet, hail, big fluffy snowflakes, a few minutes of sunshine, and now dusk with snow in the grass but not on the streets. The UPS guy, who stops here almost on a daily basis to drop of review books, etc., said we may get ½ inch of snow tonight. If it freezes the roads are going to be skating rinks in the morning. Most of the school districts in KY were out the week after the Holidays due to the cold and snow so here we go again. The poor kids will be in school until July at this rate with all the make-up days. In days gone by, when I was a kid, we didn’t have to make up the days as they were considered “an act of God” so no required extra days. That has long since changed in Michigan but I remember burrowing down under the heavy quilt Gramma made while listening to the Finnish accented WMPL radio announcer’s voice float up the steps as he listed all the schools that were closed and when he would say Dollar Bay I’d smile and go back to sleep. Just watching the school district closings across the bottom of the TV screen when we watch the evening local news makes me smile. I loved snow days. Mom would have the wood stove cranked up high and the kitchen would be toasty warm and soon the deck of cards for Rummy or the Scrabble board would come out. Or, I’d curl up in the scratchy old maroon chair transplanted from Gramma’s house and read all day. No computers, no email, no online games, no iPods, - just books and family. Not sure much of that happens today as I learn the statistics of tweens and teens spending up to 7 hours a day on some type of device. It does my heart good, however, to know that 46% of teens still consider themselves book readers. That is wonderful, but I wish it were 96%. There is nothing like knowing the plows haven’t come through yet and it is below freezing outside but you are toasty warm and far away in a fantasy realm, where you can feel the soft flutter of wings and the whispers on the wind – imagination in full throttle. Now the thumbs are in overdrive while text messaging, hands clicking on mice (or is that mouses) and the fantasy world is already created for you in the games. I don’t want someone to show me what the fantasy realm looks like – I want to create it myself. I still want to create the book worlds and characters in my mind.

Sure, I use technology – after all, I’m typing this on a computer with two screens so I can have a web site open while responding to a student’s email. However, technology is a tool for me, not an end in itself. The technology doesn’t control what I do (yeah – right!) – I use it to do what I have always done, write about books and communicate with others, but in a different format. Even my office voice messages are sent to my email as wav files so I can listen to them on my computer. Would I like to go back to the days of snail mail and phone calls? In a minute, or at least on most days! I love talking to Mary on the phone, but note I am so multi-task oriented now that I am also clearing off my desk, sorting through review book, unloading the dishwasher, etc. So, I am not truly absorbing the delight of hearing my daughter talk about my wonderful grandchildren and her life. I’m not like my mom who I knew was sitting with a cup of coffee, (and sadly, a cigarette) as we talked on the phone. She gave me her undivided attention. Why can’t we seem to do that anymore? We aren’t even upset by the sound of the keyboard or mouse clicks as we talk to colleagues and friends on the phone. We know they are multitasking just like we are but in reality we don’t seem to be giving any one thing/person our undivided attention any more. It is well past the time of making New Year’s resolutions, and perhaps I am saying this because I can no longer multi-task with the finesse I used to, but to Hades with multi-tasking!! It fries the brain and in many cases it is just downright rude. For Pete’s sake - I don’t want to hear about someone else’s life as she talks on her cell phone while using a public restroom! Yup – I’ve turned into a curmudgeon!!

I am sure many of you watched the movies – The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (loved the scenes in Greece), You’ve Got Mail (loved the kids’ section of the bookstore), and Michael (I see Travolta dancing every time I smell gingerbread – that’s what I smelled when I watched that scene). Anyway, Delia Ephron wrote the screenplays for these movies so I was intrigued when I received the ARC for The Girl with the Mermaid Hair. I picked it up and started reading the back and for some reason my brain changed “Sukie Jamieson takes a ‘selfie’” to Sukie was a Selkie and I thought I’d be reading about a girl who changes from a seal into a girl. I was very wrong – I should have been thinking more in the lines of The Picture of Dorian Gray as Sukie is so obsessed with her looks she takes pictures of herself with her cell phone (selfies) to check out how good she looks. It is no darn wonder as her mother is worse than she is – she has just returned from having a number of plastic surgeries. I felt bad (not really) for laughing that she almost pulled her earlobe off while putting on her sunglasses to hide the surgery induced black eyes, but it is so pathetic you have to laugh. Sukie think the sun rises and falls on her ever-smiling father until he gets punched out at the tennis club and she starts seeing another, sleazier side, to her father. Sukie’s world is falling apart around her while at the same time her Grandmother’s antique full-length mirror (which her mother doesn’t want hung where she can see it) is developing cracks. Cracks so that Sukie doesn’t appear “whole” when she looks in that mirror – perhaps it is accurately reflecting just how fractured Sukie's life really is. Although Sukie’s shallowness can be a bit irritating, as Ephron takes her own sweet time in helping Sukie see past herself, develop friendships, and realize just how dysfunctional her family is, it is fulfilling to see Sukie accepting herself as she is, flaws (cracks) and all. The satisfying conclusion is worth the wait. A to pique a potential reader's interest - her family takes advice from the dog, but rarely each other! A true chic lit book by a screenwriter who knows this genre well.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I am so excited I can't stand it! The American Association of School Librairans has finally adopted "School Librarian" as the official term for the profession. If I could I would be doing cartwheels in the street! Here is the link to the short article in SLJ:

I am sure there are many school librarians who would prefer to, and do, call themselves by other titles. Teacher Librarian was popular in Canada and moved south of border, but it is truly one of my least favorite titles as to me a librarian, whether in a school, public or academic library, teaches. We all help people locate and use information and select leisure reading materials. In other words - we are all about teaching patrons every time we interact with one. Academic librarians are certainly involved in teaching information access skills as much as school librarians are. And, librarians in public libraries are often the ones children and teens turn to for homework help. School librarians got mixed up with educational media folks back in the 70s and, in my humble opinion, we have continued to lose professional credibility every since.

Below is my response to a colleague (who is not a school librarian) who thought the adoption of School Librarian was a step backward. It will become abundantly clear as you read this that Media Specialist is even further down my list of favorite titles than Teacher Librarian. And, for those of you who read this blog - you know I don't hold my punches when it comes to stating my opinion about things I am passionate about.

I am ecstatic that AASL has finally adopted a title that reflects our involvement/role in the library profession. The Association is, after all, the American Association of School Librarians. If we want to be on an equal footing with the other Divisions in ALA we School Librarians (I will always consider myself one) need to be as proud of being called Librarians as our Academic and Public Library colleagues. There will always be "sub-titles" for those who are specialized librarians, but the general title, Librarian, is timeless.

My students, while comparing school and public library services to youth, have frequently commented on the lack of accessible media in the so-called school media center in comparison to the public and academic libraries where non-print circulating materials have long been available to patrons. Students have limited or no access to the DVDs, CDs, and other non-print materials in a school library - they are for teachers only. So the term media specialist and media center never worked for me. And, it certainly didn't for the general public. Media specialist - someone who works for a TV station; someone who fixes media (filmstrips!) - but rarely thought of as a professional. The general public has great respect for librarians and it really doesn't matter what format materials are in for which we are the gatekeepers to or what we call the facility. Librarians can, and do, adapt to the changes in formats and modes of delivery of information. So, yes - as Evelyn says in this memorable quote from The Mummy (1999)

Evelyn: Look, I... I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O'Connell, but I am proud of what I am.
Rick: And what is that?
Evelyn: I... am a librarian.

Yup - I agree with this feisty film version of us - I AM A LIBRARIAN - said with head high and a big smile on my face!

Way to go AASL!!!!! And, I just added the above quote below my signature line on my email account. Will do so on my Yahoo one too but I don't have much time to check that one these days.

No book discussion in this posting as I need to get started on writing a quiz but I just had to share this with y'all! :-)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

One of the profs. I work with emailed to ask me about the Babysitter Club being reissued. He certainly got me thinking and got my "dander" up again about how important it is that there be a wide range of materials available for self selection. Including the less than literary series! I agree with the Publishers Weekly review that states the new graphic novel format based on the original series "will likely hook reluctant readers on this affable group of girls and may well spur a new generation of youngsters to move on to the original series. Ann Martin sure had/has a money maker with this series about MS age girls. The first title in the graphic novel series literally starts at the beginning with Kristy's Great Big Idea . This truly is the first book in the series - when the girls decided to form the babysitters' club.

Nostalgia is a big deal in publishing right now. So many of the titles the parents of today's children and tween read themselves are being reissued for this next generation. Publishers aren't dumb - they know we'll buy books for our kids that we loved. Anyway, below is pretty much my response to him:

I have blogged the BSC Graphix versions and other older series, which are being published to kindle interest in the current generation of series readers. They are junk, just like many of the other series out there for kids, but we all read some junk, no matter our age. Series books fulfill the stage of literary appreciation often called unconscious delight – in other words, reading these books does not require a whole lot of effort as basically we are reading the same book with a slight plot change. I haven’t looked at any of the recent research on this but Nielsen and Donelson went so far as to say this type of reading is essential for a person to become a lifelong reader.

Basic Stages of Literary Appreciation:
1. Learning to read. 2. Losing oneself in a story (the unconscious delight stage). 3. Finding oneself in a story. 4. Venturing beyond themselves. 5. Reading widely. 6. Aesthetic Appreciation.

Based on my Children's Lit student responses to their first book and discussion of their childhood reading I would have to agree that series/genre/favorite author focused reading is important. Unconscious delight readers understand that this type of reading is pleasurable in itself. Adults do this type of reading with Daniel Steele, Steven King, James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, etc. It doesn’t mean that we can’t read at other levels, such as aesthetic appreciation, but we have gotten to that pinnacle because we were given the time and space to read our way out of the unconscious delight stage and on to books about kids like us – happens with the tweens - and when teens are ready, begin venturing into the world through books to find out about others who are not like them. Most teens can read critically and do so for their English classes, but reach for the Twilight series or other leisure reading titles when reading “on their own time”.

When I first started teaching children’s lit back in the early 90s I would say the unconscious delight stage occurs around 3rd to 4th grade. Now we are seeing it at all ages, often older than expected, as electronic reading programs such as AR and the push to cover the complete curriculum in preparation for testing allows for less time to introduce books and read aloud to students. Even when they go to the library they are rarely allowed time to serendipitously find a book while browsing or to read every book by their favorite author or in on a topic. My son did that with Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. Instead, they are told what their reading level is and to choose only from books with that color dot on it, or they are limited to those approved by the teacher.

The luxury of self selecting books has been destroyed in most elementary schools. We don’t often see the 2nd grade boy staggering up to the circulation desk with an armload of dinosaur books, with a Cheshire Cat smile on his face. We know he is “wallowing” in this stage – he isn’t reading about dinosaurs for an assignment – he is reading and re-reading the same information because he wants to - because each time he reads about his favorite dinosaur the book confirms how smart he is as he is reading what he already knows. No one is teaching him to compare accuracy in sources, but he certainly is learning it on his own. Just ask these boys how to pronounce those dinosaur names – they have it down pat and can spell most of them even though they may do poorly on the mandated spelling test. They are quite indignant about a book that has an incorrect pronunciation key or a fact not quite right.

Girls often do their unconscious delight reading with the babysitter’s club and other series like it. They are also more likely to go through this stage with a favorite author or genre. Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House series was really popular when I was in the USVI. The 43rd title in the series Leprechaun in Late Winter comes out this month. This is not a series we need to read aloud to kids or booktalk with them - they find this on their own or from watching the other kids checking them out and talking about them. I hate to see teachers reading aloud titles in these popular series. These books don't need the PR. Introduce them to the many wonderful "mid-list" authors whose books don't get the hype these series do, or the books with movie tie-ins everyone seems to know about.

That's it for today - I am watching football and can't concentrate enough to blog about what else I am reading - will do that next time but I have to tell you how excited I am to see Arnold of the Ducks by Mordicai Gerstein is being reissued by Roaring Brook Press next month. You may recognize Gerstein because of his Caldecott award winning The Man Who Walked Between the Towers itm=1&usri=man+who+walked+between+the+towers but he has other thought provoking picture book titles as well. I love the illustrations in his 1983 debut (self written and illustrated) about a boy who is raised by ducks. It is a beautifully touching story.

How about starting to expand the focus from AR or RL and introducing and reading aloud the debut titles by favorite authors in your school that the students may not know about? Or bring out those delightful "sleepers" on the shelves that will circulate if you introduce them but now sit there gathering dust because they aren't popular or they don't have a quiz written for them.

Sorry - but I say - To heck with points! How about introducing children/tweens/teens to new friends in books so they can wallow in some extended unconscious delight reading. A whole lot better then seeing them basically unconscious with the title they were told they HAD to read. Not a way to help create lifelong readers. Let's all spend some time "wallowing in unconscious delight reading" - it helps relief stress and is just down right fun!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The sun has finally come out and it is warming up so, of course, I remembered to call the repair guys to come figure out why our gas fireplace isn't working. Now that we won't need it anymore! The driveway is bare of snow and the dried grass is already peeking through on the lawn. We could have rain by the end of the week so our snow will be totally gone soon.

I can't multitask worth a darn these days and with two repair guys in and out of the house as they try to figure out where the leak is in the gas line I may as well blog for a bit. Or, I may just be procrastinating from starting the grant report I have to write. I love writing about literature but when it comes to budgets and agency reports - blech!!

The spring 2010 publisher catalogs are arriving and I am in second heaven. It is like being a kid again when the Sears Christmas Wish Book arrived and we circled things we wanted. But, the cool thing is I will get copies of the books to share with y'all on this blog, in reviews, and with my students. I rarely ever got anything I circled in the old Wish Books! I was busy dog-earing pages in the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt catalog – it is like visiting with "old friends" - authors I have met personally, like Jackie Ogburn – as I read the book blurbs and author information. Jackie spoke at a workshop I set up last summer and the attendees and I have been waiting for her latest - A Dignity of Dragons: Collective Nouns for Magical Beasts. No cover art yet on B&N and Nicolett Ceccoli’s gorgeous art helps make the illustrations as intriguing as intriguing and mystical as the content. The book addresses different creatures and what a group of them is referred to as, such as flurry of yeti. Fantasy readers will love this book. B&N has ages 5-8 on this – no way! I know teens who will love this book. More like - all ages as far, at least as I’m concerned. It will be interesting to see what the reviewers suggest for age range. I also have debut novels and picture books marked in the catalog as I hope to do a follow up article on the multitalented new authors joining youth literature.

The Abrams/Amulet catalog arrived too and I am so excited to see a new title, Anxious Hearts by Tucker Shaw. The cover art on this retelling of Longfellow’s “Evangeline” will pique teenage girls’ attention for sure. Let’s see if Anxious Hearts knocks Flavor of the Week out of first place as my favorite Shaw YA novel.

Most elementary school librarians recognize Capstone Press as a leader in brightly illustrated (mostly beautiful color photographs) nonfiction titles. The controlled vocabulary of many of their series make these fly off the shelves with even the most resistant young reader. I have one of their A+ books in front of me – A is for Arrr!: A Pirate Alphabet by Laura Purdie Salas . Great cover art, bringing to life a wide range of multicultural pirates. A pirate ship crew was a mix of cultures and then some! If you don’t chuckle over “E is for eye patch. Did pirates really have eye patches? Well, they did lead dangerous lives. Remember those sharp daggers?” then you aren’t a vicarious pirate lover! And, I am delighted to read that “Many ships kept cats aboard to hunt the rats.” J Boys will love the Fun Facts about Pirates including that Blackbeard would place slow-burin matches in his beard during battles so it looked like smoke was coming out of his head while the matches glowed red. Now I have some trivia to share with my pirate loving husband who often wears the T-shirt I gave him that says “To err is human, but to ARRRR is pirate!”

Staying with the nonfiction focus, I love Scholastic’s annual almanacs. I have the Scholastic 2010 Almanac for Kids: Facts, Figures, & Stats in front of me. It is an almanac that should be in the regular circulating collection as kids, teens, and adults will love browsing the cool facts accompanied by graphics, charts and color photographs. A great source to keep in ready reference. It includes color illustrations of the maps of the world along with a list of the capital, population, area, language(s), money, and government as well as a short fact. Those who don’t know the Caribbean well often mix up Dominica and the Dominican Republic. But if you ever visit the beautiful mountainous island of Dominica with only 72,514 people on only 291 square miles you won’t forget it – the most unspoiled island we have visited. We stayed at an eco-lodge and Steve is still talking about the fresh fruit we had. YUM!! The almanac has lots of just silly facts too – did you know that September 19th is National Butterscotch Pudding Day, or that October 9th is Moldy Cheese Day? Buy two copies of all the Scholastic almanacs, especially Scholastic Year in Sports 2010 Not sure a kid bringing this one home from school will get it out of his older brother or Dad’s hands. J

Well, almost $200 later and still a non-working fireplace. Looks like we need to replace the gas logs. Well, at least it should be cheaper this time of year to buy those. Growl!!

Friday, January 08, 2010

I couldn't resist taking a picture of the angel on our front door step. There was also a wisp of snow on the little bird she is holding but you can't see it in the picture. No matter how frustrated I get after another doc's appointment that isn’t good news, one look at this contented angel and I feel better. The Christmas snow gently falling is making me homesick for childhood sledding and walks through the snow to Aunt Ruth’s. You can take the girl out of snow country but you can’t take the love of snowy landscapes out of the girl!

Perhaps my little angel would be more at home in the Italians settings brought to life in Susan Vreeland’s The Passion of Artemisia I love to listen to audiobooks set in other countries as I hear the proper way to pronounce names and I adored the way the name Artemisia flowed off the narrator’s tongue. Vreeland is a gifted author, bringing to life a young woman destined to be a painter in a time when women were meant to stay in the background or be the model for a painting, not the one creating it. Artemisia is raped by her father’s partner artist and he brings the rapist to court, not because of what he did to Artemisia, but because of a feud over a painting. Artemisia is married off to a man she soon realizes cannot stay with one woman for long, including his wife. So Artemisia and her daughter create a life of their own. She is even befriended by Galileo. Mature older teens may enjoy this book but I wouldn’t offer it to just any teen who reads historical fiction.

I also listened to James Patterson's Sundays at Tiffany's I enjoyed listening to this book as the concept of imaginary childhood friends has always intrigued me as I was often alone as a child but my friends were in books. They were “real” to me so I really had no need for imaginary ones. This is a sweet tale of a lonely rich girl whose mother is more interested in finding the next husband than in her daughter so Michael, Jane’s 30-something imaginary friend, keeps her company until he must disappear as do all imaginary friends when a child is “too old” to believe in them anymore. Much to their delight, Michael encounters the adult Jane and she can see him when no one else can. As you imagine with a Patterson “beach read” it has a happy ending. I like this kind of escapism once in awhile. Not a teen novel but I am sure there are teenage girls who would enjoy this love story.

The cover art on Anita Shreve’s Body Surfing may suggest this is a summer romance, but it is a very stark, troubling tale of a young woman who is tutoring the learning disabled sister of two brothers who are constantly in competition, even when it comes to Sidney’s heart. She is 29 and twice married – once a widow and once a divorcee. She isn’t looking for romance but she is not immune to being seduced by the brother who will win at all costs. One of my favorite audiobooks this year but not an “easy breezy” book by any means. There were more than a few times I sucked in my breath in dismay over the callousness of the brothers and manner in which their mother treats her.

Sorry the links to B&N aren't live. I'm having trouble with blogspot and my browser as of late. Need to figure out what is going on, but not right now.

Now, back to going through books. I really need one of those huge old houses that I could fill the rooms with different genres and types of books. Wanted to get these audiobooks blogged before I set them aside to give away.