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 - 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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. 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 Pretty cool that B&N is selling it at a 40% discount. All three of Collins' Hunger Games series titles 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 No surprise that Eclipse is in the top 50 as is The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella 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 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 that has delighted many a child and offended more than a few adults. Pilkey was writing fun picture books, like Dogzilla long before Mo Willems hit the scene with Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! 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 is # 37 on the list. The first book in the tween series, Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard is # 42. No surprise as there is a new ABC series based on it.

Delighted to see the old classic children's book 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: 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:

The newest top 150 USA Today list can be viewed at: 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 shows up 4 times on the list, including the movie-tie in edition.

Five of Roirdan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series titles are on the list along with two of the 39 Clues series 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: 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!