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 http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Before-I-Fall/Lauren-Oliver/e/9780061726804/?itm=1&USRI=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 http://www.rcowen.com/AuthorAtWork.htm#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 http://www.rcowen.com/AuthorAtWork.htm#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.