Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Did you know that coconut oil, milk, and even the coconut "water" are big on the health food scene? We found So Delicious Cultured Conconut Milk in the health food area of Kroger and I had to try it as it has all the live cultures of regular yoghurt. It takes like sour coconut milk - no surprise there. Guess I shouldn't have tried the plain - I thought I was getting chocolate flavored but the brown "thing" pictured on the front was a coconut, not a cocoa bean. With a price over $2.50 for 6 ounces it won't be something I try again.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I am having email withdrawal but it has been good. I have stayed off of my work email for the last couple of days. I spent yesterday wallowing in my books! :-) So now I have the debut YA novels I want to read all in alpha order by author and the other "gotta reads" by favorites authors and ones that pique my fancy in order as well. In the process I boxed up three boxes of books to go to Mary and the kids and two more for a friend of Steve's little girl. :-) You can even see some of the floor in my office. If I took the empty boxes out you could even see more!

The debut YA authors are an educated group -most of them with Masters in Fine Arts and veterans of numerous well known writing retreats/workshops. Plan to do more research into this area as I find it quite fascinating. I haven't gone through the picture books to see what the trend is here but I am seeing professionals in areas such as graphic art joining the world of children's illustrator/authors. I am looking forward to going through those books in more detail.

Also have a pile about as high as my desk of picture books and NF that I want to go through as the illustrations/storyline/format piqued my interest. For example, I picked up Stormy Weather by Debi Gliori. What a lovely bedtime story. It honestly hadn't dawned on me that Gliori is also a very talented illustrator as well as author of children's books. Just scanning the 100 entries that come up on B&N make me realized I've been a bit dense as I know her books, it just wasn't clicking that this is the same author whose humorous spooky stories have me laughing aloud. But this delightful tale of a mother fox and her kit reading a book in bed under a multicolored quilt begin and end this rhyming story of mothers and little ones snuggling down to watch the storm go by. The kit has the bunny and owlet in his arms that are part of the mother/child pairs that watch the storm. The illustrations are bold yet soothing. A perfect book to read on a night the rain is coming down or even the snow (hopefully not anymore this spring!). Gliori lives in Scotland and writes/illustrates from a studio in her garden. No wonder she can let her imagination run as wild as she does. I'd see dragons too if I had that kind of place to write from. :-) I also have a copy of Trouble With Dragon as it is so delightful. I've always had a thing for dragons. These self centered dragons are not aware of what they are doing to the ecological balance of the earth as they scorch trees and anything else they feel like - even the North Pole. Santa standing in a pool of water holding presents sure is a wake-up call little ones will respond to. Hmmm - maybe Al Gore should show this picture at the UN to get across how critical global warming really is - might work better!

I know Gliori more as an author of the hilarious Pure Dead series for 4th-7th grade. I think older readers would enjoy this series too as Gliori has created a family, the Strega-Borgias - that is a delight to read about, from the mother who is no where near as gifted in the magical arts as her children are. Add the maternal spider and the dragon who is in love with Loch Ness Monster as the "household pets" and you can't help but at least chuckle aloud at their antics. This series would also be fun to listen to on a family car trip. For those had the least bit of problem with the Harry Potter books stay clear of these as Gliori add demons and other not so nice creatures to get the best of the Strega-Borgias but in their owns bumbling/fumbling way they always come out on top. Gliori uses such humor in her description of the demons, imps and other creatures that you can't help but laugh rather than be scared of them.

That's it for me today. We are watching an old B/W horror movie about zombies. I don't mind these old ones as they aren't the least bit gory. They had to use scare tactics with a bit more "finesse" than bloodbaths and chopped off heads like modern day horror movies. So I am going to sign off and spend some time with Hollywood's leading men. We watch the Turner Classic Movies (TMC) channel more than any other and when I saw Leading Men: The Most Unforgettable 50 Leading Actors of the Studio Era at Half Price Books I couldn't resist it. So now let's see how many of their movies I have seen. Well, first of all, if I have to browse through the book to see if I agree that they are 50 most unforgettable! I noticed there is one for Leading Ladies as well so I'll have to keep my eye out for it at Half Price. I spend too much money in that store! And yes, I know Cary Grant is in it - his picture is right in the center of the cover, book-ended by Bogart and Gable. I wasn't a big Jimmy Stewart fan but the more of his movies I see, the more I do. He's on the cover too. What a classy guy - we watched a documentary with him in it a while back and he was delightful. We also watched one on the Warner Brothers - they were not delightful! What a wicked web they wove for each other . With brothers like that who needs enemies! If Edison hadn't monopolized the early film industry on the East Coast the Warner Brothers may never have gone to California and we wouldn't have the Hollywood lore we do today.

Okay - now to see if I've seen all the Grant and Stewart "essential" films listed. Robert Osborne wrote the introduction - love his voice!

Friday, March 12, 2010

I decided to take some time off from grading - it is Spring break after all - and start going through my books and get them in order. Right now I am focusing on getting the debut titles in alphabetical order as well as the books that are intriguing me and the ones by favorite authors. There are a few I've read everything they ever wrote. :-) Alex Flinn is one and right now I am re-reading Beastly as it is required reading in my YA literature course. I am still cracking up over the chatroom messages from Froggie - he is not at all happy about having to live in a pond - his stuff keeps floating away! The chatroom is the brain child of a psychologist who wants to help the ones who have been transformed. There is mermaid who decides to become human and lose her voice for the guy she saves from drowning, a frog prince, a bear, and Kyle, who goes by NYCBeast. This is a delightful modern version of Beauty and the Beast and I'm enjoying revisiting his transformation into a young man who actually cares about others.

As I was doing my stretches this morning while watching the Today Show I was delighted to see Mike Lupica as one of the guests. He was promoting his latest sports novel The Batboy about a 14 year old who gets to hang out with his idols who play for the home town major league team. This is more than just a boy and his favorite sport type of book - it is also about a man redeeming himself with his son for having used steroids in his baseball career. Lupica said he was at a Broadway show and a woman politely tapped him on the shoulder and told him she was a school librarian and said she couldn't keep his books on the shelves. She went on to say boys who were resistant readers were the ones reading his books. I had to smile as I hear him say that. We are the authors' biggest fans and supporters! :-) So, there I was this morning, going through my books and finally found the copy of Lupica's Miracle on 49th Street about a 12-year-old girl who confronts a Celtics MVP that he is her father. His college sweetheart, her mother, never told him and she has recently died from cancer. Caring for no one but himself, the thought of a daughter doesn't set well with him, but Molly doesn't give up easy. The hardback copy, which is is what is in front of me, has Molly sitting on a bench in what appears to be Central Park, with a basketball by her side. Looks like a book for girls who like sports. Don't know too many middle school boys who would pick it up. No surprise that the paperback edition has the same kind of miracle snowy look background, but it is of a basketball being spun on a finger. I imagine the girl on the cover turned away too many of Lupica's MS male readers. Often the paperback covers are much more "generic" than the hardback one. Sales is the bottom line and tweens/teens are visual. If the cover doesn't get their attention they are not going to pick up the book.

I am also having a great time going through the Nonfiction books I've not had time to enjoy - I had to chuckle as I picked up a title in the Capstone series - Killers Animals. Hippos in the Wild by Jody Sullivan Rake. I had not thought of hippos as deadly but the picture of a huge hippo - mouth open (can be as wide as 4 feet) with one tusk looking deadly sharp I have changed my mind before I've even opened the book! The book is full of hippo facts, including some that will have elementary age boys laughing aloud - male hippo will turn they butts to each other and poop on each other! That's taking it a bit father than the pi-- on you type comments of posturing males! Like most all of Capstone's books - a wealth of bold color photographs and high interest short bits of text on each page.

Never enough community helpers and career books in elementary schools - we start the career units early these days! I am sure there are lots of kids who wonder what the toilet looks like in a jail's holding cell. Well, they can find out in Beyond the Bars: Exploring the Secrets of a Police Station by Tammy Enz. This is one of the Hidden Worlds series. Others covers hospitals, shopping malls, and sports stadiums. As always, Capstone goes for the high interest topics. That's why boys gravitate toward their books and why we hand them to the kid who sits in the library and refuses to look at anything!

Lots and lots of new bios on President Obama but Jennifer L. Marks' Presidente/President Barack Obama is the first early picture book style bio I've seen that is bilingual. Wonderful full page photographs but the best part of this book is the Spanish/English time line that runs along the bottom of the pages that only goes up to the point in his life the information on the double page spread covers. It's one of the Pebble Plus Bilingual series.

Another title in this series is El Ejercito De EE.UU./The U.S. Army by Matt Doeden I picked this one up because so many of my students are either married to men in the military or someone in their family is in the military. I wanted to see where the author got his information from. When I am asked about evaluating nonfiction titles I tell students the first thing to look for is the author's credentials and if it doesn't appear he/she has the credentials needed in the subject area, check to see who did he/she consult with. The consultant on this book is John Grady, the Director of Communications with the Association of the United States Army. This reassures me that someone who knows the facts and has the background to catch errors in either text or illustrations has gone over both before the book went to press. Pass up the books where there is no evidence that that author doesn't have a background in the subject area nor are they any acknowledgements to anyone who does.

Okay - now this is just plain cool! I found a craft book with a project in it that I used to do with the left over fabric from when I used to make the kids' clothes when they were little but I had never thought of doing it with old t-shirts, but it makes sense as this fabric is so stretchy! Anyway, you cut the old t-shirts into 2" strips and then braid three strips together, sewing on new pieces as you go until you have enough to roll into what you want - a glass coaster, a place mat, a rug, etc. You sew the braids together and its a durable, throw in the washing machine rug. This and other projects in Cool Crafts with Old T-shirts: Green Projects for Resourceful Kids by Carol Sirrine. This is a gotta have title for public libraries with craft programming as well as middle and high schools with crafty girls. :-)

Back to my piles of books!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

It is supposed to be Spring Break. Gee - and I spent the entire day grading! My students do a field based assignment where they evaluate the YA collection, services, and programming in their local public libraries. It is always a bit depressing to read their evaluations as they start out comparing the floor space to the children's area and it is always a shocker to them when they actually realize just how little space and attention is given to the YA area. And, when I ask them to then focus on materials, services, and programming for high school age teens things get even worse. Many of the YA collections quickly become tween collections and the programming is basically for MS. Collaboration between the YA librarian (if there is one) and the HS librarian - well, that's about non-existent. I keep hoping that with each semester we do this project my students will realize how important collaboration is and take the first step themselves, as school librarians, to develop a close relationship with their counterpart at the public library. They have the same patrons and their goals are the same - so why not work together?

The darn new headache medication is playing havoc with my body and isn't helping with the headaches but I promised I'd give it a chance. I haven't even gotten up to the full dose yet and I'm having weird side effects. The worst is the insomnia but I wasn't too upset about zero hours of sleep Sunday night as I was able to immerse myself in Lauren Oliver's debut delight - Before I Fall I picked it up because of the arresting green eyes in the sideways close up of a girl's face - she appears to be laying in the grass pondering "heady" things. And indeed she is. What would my teenage self do if I had the chance to relive the day I was to die and change some of the not so nice things I had done in my life? Seven chances to get it right, but no chance that I'm not going to die so why would I care? Would I have been as humane and mature as Sam as a teen? I'm glad I never had to find out. This is a stunning, heartbreaking, beautifully written tale of redemption. Sometimes our knight in shining armor is the geek we left behind when we got cool. It is a love story that never had a chance to form and grow, but how it glowed for the short time Sam and Kent had. Sam really is a good girl but she has done some things she isn't very proud of to become popular, including turning her back on Kent for many years. She has been attached at the hip to Lindsay, Elody, and Ally. She even laughs when Lindsay heckles and harasses Juliet, the girl Lindsay had been best friends with until 5th grade but has since gone after with a vengeance. Each time Sam wakes up, still alive, her rose colored lenses become clearer and she changes the outcome of the day just a bit more and in doing so changes the outcomes of other people's lives, including that of Juliet. The sun came up as I read of Sam's last day on earth. I read the last page, tears streaming down my face. Then I read it again, aloud, still crying but with a smile on my face seeing Sam's bliss in my mind as she just let go. Those who know me well, know I am usually a woman of many words - I love to chatter on about books, my kids, my grandkids, about anything and everything. But, when I am profoundly moved I say little. And, all my heart and mind could softly say when I closed this book was, "Oh my." And that coming from me is very high praise indeed. I predict that Oliver is going to be a YA author to keep our eye on and she may indeed be a contender for the Morris award. Before I Fall may be her first novel but it certainly does not read like one written by a novice author. I cannot imagine a reader meeting Sam by opening the pages of Oliver's novel and not experiencing every emotion possible before closing it - yes, with tears, but also with a sign of satisfaction. Yes, Ms. Oliver - Oh my!

I remember the days of students writing letters to authors and sending them off the publishers and waiting months to get an answer and often the answer was a form letter from the publisher. There was not the personal connection with authors that children and teens have today due to email and author websites, Facebook, MySpace, etc. But, we also have print resources with a more informal, personal approach such as Richard C. Owen Publishers Author at Work titles. These are unique little paperbacks in that the authors introduce themselves to young readers through text and photographs. I love the photograph on the cover of Nikki Grimes Out of the Dark And, the other photographs of her in her home and of her family. Ms. Grimes becomes more than a poet to the reader - she becomes a daughter, a sister, and yes, a magic maker. Check out the last picture in the book - you'll under stand the "magic maker" comment. :-)

I also have a copy of Jane Yolen's On the Slant in front of me - another new title in Owen's Authors at Work series. I love the photo of her re-reading her manuscripts. Of course I do - you should see my messy office. It is a maze for poor Sophie to find her way through! So the picture of Yolen's desk is a delight to me. There are post-it notes all around her monitor and piles of papers stacked on her desk. Her reading glasses are perched on her nose. :-) These books bring the young readers into the author's writing space and into their family and lives so the authors become more than names on books, they become real.

That's it for today.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

I know I am prejudiced but I think McKinley is the the most gorgeous princess around. :-) It helps that I am the Queen Gramma who bought her the dress and that her Queen Mamma has the ECU pirate sweatshirt on. Hmm - a Princess Bride theme going with the Dread Pirate Roberts as a girl! McKinley turned two on the 24th and her princess outfit was part of her gift from us.

Speaking of birthdays and pirates. Steve's birthday was yesterday and I found a card game for him Princess Bride: Storming the Castle Game He knows I truly love him as I said I'd even play with him and I do not like The Princess Bride at all. I spent a very, very long ride over to Louisville with Steve and his friend Chet reciting lines from the movie awhile ago - I still haven't gotten over it!

Last weekend was an all Oscars day on the oldies channel so I wallowed in old movies while my poor body adjusted to yet another medication to deal with the knee pain and swelling as the orthopedic surgeon won't do the next surgery until we know what is causing the bone lesions are on my skull and why I keep having these weird episodes that feel like mini-strokes. Rather than feeling sorry for myself I decided laughter was a good antidote as the medication was making me too sick to do much of anything else but lay in bed. I had forgotten how wonderfully funny The Philadelphia Story is, especially the scene where Jimmy Stewart wakes Cary Grant while quite tipsy on champagne. We watched a documentary with Jimmy Stewart awhile ago and he mentioned he had added the hiccups without telling Grant and Grant had just gone right along with it so when I watched it last Sunday it was even funnier. I am a big Katherine Hepburn fan too so both she and Cary Grant in the same movie means double the viewing pleasure for me. I guess I was born in the wrong era. I found a first edition of Cary Grant: The Lonely Heart by Charles Higham which was published back in 1989. It had barely been cracked. I devoured every page of it but the rosy hue I had around the movie legend certainly ended up tarnished like copper does when it isn't polished regularly. And clearly back then his image was polished. He may have appeared to be a very genteel man in his movies and when he did his visits to small venues to answer questions from his fans later in life but he had a bit of a split personality from what his several ex wives had to say about him. He was not quite as eccentric as one of his best friends, Howard Hughes, but he wasn't a whole lot far behind. But, learning he was far from perfect did not kill my fascination with him or his movies so I'll keep my eye open in used book stores for there are many of book on him out there. I think it best I do this is small doses though! Learning one of your "idols" was a real cad takes some getting used to!

Those of you who follow this blog know I am huge Mary E. Pearson fan so I treated myself to The Miles Between once I finished up a couple of reviews for VOYA. And what a treat it was. What else is a girl named Destiny to do but follow her own destiny? Fate has taken much of the control out of her hands so Des has rebelled in the one way she knows how - by getting herself thrown out of one private school after another. And, as fate often does, it (or in this case perhaps Fate is a he) forces Des to travel the path she's been avoiding. Now is the time for Des to stop resisting - jump into the pink convertible just sitting there beckoning to her. Who cares if she doesn't know how to drive? That cute boy Aidan she keeps pretending she doesn't see does and she knows where he may be hiding. And then there's Mira, who insists on being Des's friend no matter how hard Des tries to push her away. Add geeky Seth to the mix and you have all the right ingredients for a road trip on the anniversary of the day Destiny was left behind, abandoned by her family. But, as all deftly woven stories do, this one has a heart-breaking undercurrent and when the tidal wave finally rises out of the depths of Destiny's repressed grief she needs all three of her friends to hang onto so the undertow doesn't wash her away. I closed the book with a satisfied sigh, with tears in my eyes. Pearson does it again - she has written a tale so unique unto itself I won't try to "pigeon hole it" into a genre or sub-genre. All I can is - it is a Pearson. For YA folks who have read all of her books, you'll know what I mean.

On to my second love- debut titles. I am loyal to my favorite authors, such as Pearson, but I am always looking for debut authors to fall in love with as well and I have found a few one. Betsy Howie has me laughing aloud. I think she helped me raise Mary! I also think she may be watching my Mary try to raise McKinley. And perhaps she told C.B. Decker, the illustrator about the attitude both my daughter and granddaughter can pull, along with those facial expressions. Oh my! Oh yeah - name of the book would be good! That is a delight too - it is called The Block Mess Monster Calpurnia's room has been taken over by the block mess monster and he isn't about to allow her to pick up her room but Mom doesn't know that and she is getting quite frustrated with her daughter and tells her to use "POOF!" to make the monster go away. Calpurnia tries it - in a wizard costume. No go. Mom says to try a double POOF. So she tries a double in her karate outfit, a triple as a pirate, 4 poofs as a determined baseball batter, and a scary pooooof pooooooooof as a magician. No luck and Calpurnia lets out a wail - "Mommy!" "Goodness gracious, Calpurnia!" (Mom always says that.) "There is no monster...." Mom goes to pick up a piece of the pile of blocks and Calpurnia scream NO as loud as she can - she's had to save her mother more than a few times from the monster but her mother does not appreciate it much at all. Matter of fact - "Oh, great. Now there are two monsters." The look on Mom's face is one every mother can relate to - I am just glad I had set my cup of coffee down before I turned the page or I would have made a mess with my snort laugh. As in all good picture books, little girls and moms win over block monsters, at least for now. I cannot wait to read this one to my granddaughter but I'll have to buy her a copy as this one stays in my debut author collection. It is too cute to part with. Ms. Howie, glad you found your way to children's books. :)

That's it for today.