Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Story of the Dictionary: Or, why it's good to do inventory.

Due to a new cataloging system, I had to do a complete inventory of my library. There are 200 books marked "lost", so I'll have to spend some time tracking them down. Many are here but weren't scanned. Many have been deaccessioned and not recorded. (That 1957 book entitled Techniques in Tumbling? Not here.)

I swear I have never seen Robert Kraske's The Story of the Dictionary (1975). The last time it was checked out was 1982. Still, something about the wonderfully dated cover made me want to take it home and read it, and I was very glad I did. Although dated (I'm thinking that makers of dictionaries no longer keep citation files on index cards, and I wouldn't know where to find the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature anymore, although it was a huge part of my middle school library education.), it is filled with lots of interesting facts about words and language. Did you know that "contact" is used improperly as a verb? That the first dictionary for children was published in 1935? That Noah Webster tried to standardize what he perceived as irregular spelling in his dictionary, but people wouldn't stand for it? I imagine that there are very few copies of this to be found anywhere, but I'm keeping it. I also wish I had a copy of this author's Silent Sentinels: The Story of Locks, Vaults and Burglar Alarms and Crystals of Life: The Story of Salt. This book will be my first recommendation of the school year!

However, I'm not as wild about the 1962 copy of A Book of Giants that I found in the folktale section. Again, don't remember ever seeing it. I know it's impossible to have memorized 13,000 books, but you'd think everything would look slightly familiar!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Some biographies

While doing inventory, I found Sean Piccoli's 1997 biography of the Grateful Dead, which had never been checked out. Since I knew nothing about that band, it was interesting reading, but the book is out of print. Also never checked out but tremendously informative was Beverly Gherman's 2000 Norman Rockwell: Storyteller with a Brush. Quick and well-illustrated, it would make a great basis for a biography report. I'll have to push it next year.

Picky Reader is a huge fan of Jacqueline Wilson, so whenever we find a book of hers we'll pick it up. How a British edition of Diamond Girls came to be at Half Price Books I'll never know, but I'm glad it was. Sad, sad, sad in the way that Wilson's books (like Cathy Cassidy's) tend to be, it was the story of a single mother of four girls, all of whom had different fathers. When the mother gets an opportunity to move from a council flat to a council house, she takes it, since she is due to have her fifth child, a boy, very soon. Moving into the decrepit house is a comedy of errors, and the family is helped greatly by Bruce, a friend of the youngest's father. There is a subplot of a neighbor girl in a privately owned house with a "perfect" mother (who is actually mentally unstable and abusive) that is a bit over the top, but the book is a riveting read. Great for girls who can't get enough problem novels, if you can locate a copy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More Harrison; Colman

While Lisi Harrison's It's Not Easy Being Mean was easy to read, it wasn't very good. Claire has unrealistically become a sought after Hollywood starlet, and Massie is given a chance to find a key to a "secret" room at OCD where she and her friends will be able to hang out. I'm getting tired of these because they are mean and take odd liberties with reality. Picky Reader likes them.

Also picked up Hila Colman's 1977 Sometimes I Don't Love My Mother, which was not too bad, although the mother is portrayed in a way that I can't see an author using today. Basically, Dallas' father dies, her mother doesn't cope well and wants to hang out with Dallas and her 17 year old friends when she is not busy getting drunk and being dysfunctional. Dallas thinks it might be a good idea to marry her boyfriend in a year so she doesn't have to deal with her mother. I can see girls who like problem novels enjoying this one, and aside from a couple of pantsuits that sneak in, and a lengthy description of getting ears pierced (a big deal at this time-- that's exactly the year I got my ears pierced!), it's not that dated. I do love the rebound cover-- it's dark peach with turquoise and green designs. It will last forever, unlike the new books which fall apart when students look at them!

The September Sisters

We will not hold it against Jillian Kantor that she has an MFA, because The September Sisters was a good, if vaguely harrowing, read. Abby has never been overly fond of her younger sister, Becky, but she is devastated when her sister disappears. The effect on her family goes on for years-- her father becomes more brusque and detached, her mother finds comfort in unacceptable places, and Abby struggles through every day with a gnawing sense of absence. She is helped somewhat by her neighbor and her neighbor's grandson, Thomas, but not knowing what happened to her sister makes finally finding out a relief. This is a fairly long book, but it reads quickly, and yes, the prose is "lyrical". This works for this book, which will appeal to girls who want a sad read and aren't so much interested that "nothing happens". Will probably buy this one.

Also finished off Gregor and the Code of Claw. The appeal to students who want blood-and-gore fighting is indisputable-- Gregor has so many scars on him by the end of this that someone back in the Overland is sure to call Children's Services! In a final battle against the Bane and his forces, Gregor's sisters are both drawn in, trying to break the code. Gregor is more worried that usual-- one of the prophecies indicates that the warrior will die; isn't he the warrior? The romance with Luxa is a bit overplayed, and the ending is somehow very sad. Gregor hasn't had a good time in the Underland, but he's made a lot of good friends, and when the family moves to Virginia, he won't be able to go back. Sigh. Did like these much more than I thought I would, and will heartily recommend them to both fantasy and action fans.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of Pablo's Nose (#20)

After Carolyn Haywood's B is for Betsy books, the first books I remember reading are Encyclopedia Brown. My mother and I would sit in a rocking chair, take turns reading, and try to solve the mysteries. Of course, when I was reading these, there were only a handful published, and the illustrations were beautifully 1960s. Encyclopedia had a tendency to wear striped shirts. These are still popular with my students, which is why I was able to send a circulation card to Mr. Sobol. Imagine my excitement when I got a letter back from him, as well as a copy of book #20! What a nice man.

I was surprised that the mysteries were rather difficult to solve. It was necessary to read the stories very carefully and hang on to every clue. This is something students don't frequently need to do, so these are great books for them to read. They are not generally too long, and the reading level is low, but this does not mean that the mysteries are challenging. Definitely worth it to keep some of these in a middle school library!

In other news, there is a brand new blog that you might want to check out-- Picky Reader. After reading all the posts I made about her reading, my youngest daughter has decided to blog on her own. We'll see how she does!

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Princess, a queen

Meg Cabot's tenth and FINAL Princess Diaries book is Forever Princess. Mia's world is in turmoil because her father has to run for Prime Minister of Genovia against a cousin who is promising the country more tourism and Applebee's. SHe is still on the outs with her former friend, Lilly, and not overly fond of her new friend Lana. Her grandmother is driving her crazy with plans for her 18th birthday party. She's trying to get her senior project, a really bad romance novel (which is excerpted) published. She's gotten in to all the colleges to which she supplied, but fears that this was because she is a princess, not because of any scholastic merit. She's still compulsively keeping a diary (really? She writes in restroom stalls? And this is healthy?) and stressing over her relationship with her boyfriend J.P., especially when former love Michael reappears on the scene.

All more of the same, but girls who have followed this series will be glad to see what happens. Warning: There is a lot of discussion about Mia losing her virginity on prom night, as well as the revelations that some of her friends have already done this. I'm not too worried, since the matter is presented so dryly. No details. Cabot can be such a clever writer; I'm glad she is done with this series so she can move on.

Richard Lewis' The Demon Queen is okay, but for such a scary cover, gets off to a slow, slow start. Jesse is now in foster care in the midwest, after being declared somewhat illegal by Homeland Security-- he was apparently found on a boat as an infant, and his ethnic background is in question. He meets Honor, whose father has been killed in Bali, and gets drawn into her weird world of worshipping Rangda, the demon queen. It's neat that something other than celtic mythology is presented, but there is so much about Jesse's existence in the midwest that I didn't care much for the book. I much prefer Lewis' other book, The Killing Sea, about the aftermath of a tsunami.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A little of everything.

Choyce, Lesley. Skate Freak. Quinn's life is hard enough-- his mother is off learning a trade because his father has lost his job, school is unpleasant, and now that he and his father have moved away from their hometown, he doesn't even like where he has to skate. He does make a friend, and tries to better his circumstances, and things improve marginally. This is from Orca, which specializes in high interest, low level fiction. This is the kind of book I was looking for when I said I wanted books about skateboarders. I just wish it were longer.

There is probably another Niki Burnham book in this series, after Royally Jacked and Spin Control. Valerie's father works for the president of the US, in charge of protocol-- that is, until Valerie's mother comes out as gay and moves in with her girlfriend. Since the president is very conservative, the father takes a job with the king of Swerinborg, and he and Valerie move into the palace. Valerie goes to an American school, where the girls are somewhat snotty to her, especially since she has captured the attention of Prince Georg, who is her age. These are fun, princess fantasies-- who doesn't want to live in a castle and have a handsome prince attracted to her? Light, romantic romps like all of the Simon Pulse comedies.

Ann Dee Ellis' Everything is Fine is depressing. Mazzy's mother won't get out of bed even to wash herself, for reasons that are slowly revealed through the story. Mazzy's father is too busy with his sportscasting career to stay and take care of the two. Neighbors and social workers try to help, but Mazzy is very dysfunctional as well. At first I was intrigued, and even the sort-of-poetry-but-not-really format didn't bother me too much (much of the book is done in dialogue, giving the lines a poetry look, but there are no other poetic elements), but Mazzy just got annoying. I think I will pass on this one.

Catherine Jink's The Reformed Vampire Support Group is one that will not be immediately appealing the fans of Twilight, but was interesting all the same. Horrible, horrible cover however. Nina has been a vampire since 1973, and as a result can't go out during the day, feels nauseated all the time, and has to feed on guinea pigs. She has a support group, headed by a priest, that helps her survive. When one of the members is killed, the group rallies and goes on a rather misguided adventure to find the killer. They end up in the country (the book is set in Australia) where they find a man who has werewolf fights. They try to free the werewolf, and so get chased by this unsavory character. This is a complicated plot, but it all works together. If they can get past the fact that Nina's a girl, fans of Cirque du Freak might like this one. All of the other active members of the support group are male. Like many of the new vampire books, there are some interesting twists on all things vampire.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Series Catch Up

The third Melissa De La Cruz Blue Bloods book, Revelations, was not a disappointment-- there's still danger, intrigue, and surprises with the upper crust vampire world of New York City. I did get slightly weary of Schuyler's infatuation with Jack, despite the fact that if he left his "vampire twin" for her, he would suffer the same fate as Schuyler's mother, but other than that, it was a good read. I am looking forward to The Van Alen Legacy, which should be coming out very soon.

The fifth Joseph Delaney Last Apprentice book, however, was awesome! I don't know why I like these so much, but I really do. While I am not usually big on the quasi-medieval setting, there is something about the Spook, Tom Ward, and Alice that keeps me reading. In The Wrath of the Bloodeye, the Spook is so concerned that the Fiend is going to attack Tom that he sends him off to Bill Awkwright to be trained. Bill has some problems, notably with drink and rage, but teaches Tom about evil water creatures and gets him in shape with more rigorous physical training. When Bill is attacked by the Bloodeye, aka Morwena, the daughter of the Fiend, Tom must save him and do away with the evil creature. Alice comes to his aid, but uses black magic to do it, and Grimalkin the Assassin is instrumental in helping Tom and saving everyone. The instances of evil creatures being good and good creatures being tempted by evil is something that I really enjoy in these, and there is more yet to come in the next book. Tom's mother should reappear, and we learn things about Alice that will make things even more interesting in the next installment (which also should be out soon).

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More Suzanne Collins

Enjoyed the third and fourth book so much that I am half tempted to go in to work to retrieve the final book in the series. Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods was very good. Gregor is called to the Underland for a "meeting" about a plague that is hitting all the humans, rats, and bats, but of course gets involved in the quest for the cure. It was especially interesting that his mother came along. Of course, she gets the plague and is not allowed on the adventure. Gregor learns some more about the dynamics of the royal family, and more about how evil some creatures should be.

Gregor and the Marks of Secret was a bit unusual-- by this time, Gregor's mother is staying in the Underland while she recovers from the plague, and he and Boots come to visit her. While there, they realize that "nibblers" are dying, and the Bane, whom Gregor did not kill in book 2, has grown and is trying to rally support among the rats in order to take over from the humans. I'm really curious to see how things turn out now.

One literary device that Collins uses to excellent advantage is ending many of the chapters with cliffhangers. "He did not need Howard's answer to know this was his first earthquake." "At least a hundred mice lay twisted and motionless at the bottom of the tunnel." "Waiting on the floor with their tails poised in the air were a pair of giant scorpions." This really helped me when my concentration was flagging, and this will also be helful for students who try to read a chapter a day, since they have something to look forward to when the next pick up the book.

Guess I'll have to content myself with the fifth Last Apprentice book, the second Ranger's Apprentice book, or the third Blue Bloods book, since there's no other reason to go to work (the new Destiny circulation system rolls out next Wednesday) aside from getting the last book!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gregor and the Prophecy of the Bane

Suzanne Collins has gotten a lot of buzz for her The Hunger Games, but her Gregor series is one that I finally bought after multiple student requests. I wasn't looking forward to a multivolume fantasy series, but the first one wasn't too painful, and since I need to make sure I have actually read every book in the library, the other ones were on my list to read. Happy to report that I am taking the 3rd and 4th home today with an air of anticipation.

Gregor's father has returned from the Underland but is still sickly. Family finances remain difficult. As a treat, Gregor takes his small sister boots to Central Park for sledding-- and she is kidnapped by gnawers because of the prophecy. The problem with prophecies? You may think you know what they mean, but they are open to interpretation. In this action packed sequel, Gregor heads out to kill the Bane, accompanied by a host of talented companions. He gets attacked by giant poisonous squid, has to save his sister multiple times, and finds that he has an alarming talent for killing. While students will love the running about and fighting, what kept me reading was Character Development. Gregor is a nice kid who tries hard, and it was interesting to see how he handled himself in the various situations. As I said, I'm looking forward to the rest of the books, which is a change from fantasy series like, oh, Brian Jacques, that make me what to stop reading anything.

Anthony McGowan's Jack Tumor sounded interestingly bizarre, but didn't work for me. Hector has a brain tumor that talks to him and gets him into trouble. Unfortunately, the tumor is British and has been too influenced by the Page 3 culture of that country, making this book more appropriate for older students, not that younger ones will be unhappy sniggering up their sleeves.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The American Muslim Teenager's Handbook

This nonfiction title by Dilara Hafiz was rather interesting. Short, easy to read, but very informative, it covered a wide range of topics geared toward varying levels of religious adherence. While it would probably be helpful to Muslim students who have questions about how to practice their faith in a culture not quite geared to it, this is also helpful to aid non-Muslims in understanding some of the practices and history. It draws a lot of parallels between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and is very similar to books of instruction for Christian teens.

Harry Potter Giveaway!

Harry Potter and
the Deathly Hallows
PAPERBACK PRIZE
PACK GIVEAWAY
Because Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is being released in paperbacks, Scholastic is giving away sets of books 5, 6 and 7 in paperbacks! From today until midnight on JULY 5th, you can e mail me (msyingling@yahoo.com) and enter to win! You will need to include the following:

1. E Mail me (MsYingling@yahoo.com) a very short message about what YOU think happens to Harry when he grows up. Rowling had one idea, but you may have your own!

2. Deadline is 3:00 p.m. on Friday, June 5th. Winners will be chosen by a very small student group based primarily on effort.

3. Be prepared to give me your actual mailing address if you win. Kids, check with a parental unit to make sure this is okay. I will need to give your address to Scholastic.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a breathtaking finish to a remarkable series. The final chapter to Harry Potter’s adventures will be releases in paperback July 7th! It all comes down to this - a final face off between good and evil.

http://www.scholastic.com/harrypotter/

Friday, June 12, 2009

Brand-new Emily

Ginger Rue's first books is much deeper than it looks. Emily is picked on at her new school because of unfortunate experiences in her first few days there. When she gets a chance to meet a teen heartthrob at a movie shoot new her town and learns information about him, she uses this to secure the services of his PR manager. There is a lot of information about public relations and how celebrities and products are advertised and hyped, but the story is so breezy and fun that students won't realize how much they are learning. The cover will date itself very quickly, although the contents won't, since the fads and celebrities mentioned are predominantly pretend. There are a lot of subplots going on-- Emily's mother has passed away, her uncle and father are struggling to care for her, school life evolves around her. Very enjoyable, a bit unrealistic, but a good companion to Laurie Gwen Shapiro's Brand X: The Boyfriend Account.

And thanks to Finn, who commented (about library redecoration) that smiley faces and owls (which is not a serious consideration; I'm just torturing my principal) may not be boy friendly decoration. Hmmm. The smiley faces are already there, and I thought of them as gender neutral, but Finn has a point. I'm working on a collection of bulldogs (our school's mascot), but that's an expensive proposition, and are stuffed bulldogs any less cute?

Peace, Love and Baby Ducks

There are some authors of whom I am not overly fond, but I do keep reading their work, just in case. Lauren Myracle is one of them. I did like this book more than her others.

Carly, who lives a privileged life in an Atlanta suburb, has spent the summer volunteering at a work camp. When she arrives home, she chafes at the cushy life she leads, and is surprised that her younger sister has blossomed and become attractive to boys, which leads to some trouble. Carly tries hard to embrace an alternative lifestyle (tie dyed t shirts instead of pink designer wear), but doesn't seem to move much beyond surface effects. This made me dislike Carly-- she embraces sixties music, but doesn't seem to internalize the message of it, because it would be inconvenient. This is really for high schoolers due to some of the content.

This reminded me of Rachel Vail's Lucky, which also didn't quite deliver the message it intended to deliver.

Also looked at Stephanie Tolan's Wishworks, which was much too young for middle school.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Potato Chip Puzzle by Eric Berlin

This is the sequel to The Puzzling World of Winston Breen, and although it didn't seem to make a huge difference starting the series in medias res, that might be part of why it didn't thrill me. Winston's school has the opportunity to win $50,000 if they can solve a series of puzzles, but someone is trying to stop them. A note at the beginning does state that the book can be read without the puzzles, but they are such an integral part of the book that they are hard to ignore. The writing is clever and amusing, and while I was willing to overlook unrealistic elements pertaining to school, I don't have readers who crave puzzles. If you do, this series is certainly worth looking into.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Atherton Winner! (and other news)

My student helpers weren't very scientific, but they read all 22 e mails and came up with a winner! Congratulations, Koko B. Ware! My judges agreed that you went above and beyond in your answer and deserve the series of Patrick Carman books. Happy Reading!

"My name is Koko B. Ware. The Hunger Games is my favorite series, though not quite a series yet. The book really captured my imagination and inspired me to really pick up on my reading, because the way a good book is written, it can really capture the brain and take it to a place far, far away. I really loved how the main character, Katniss, is very relatable, even though I'm a guy! She shows that she can love but be tough, and fight but be friendly. Kind of like every other teenager in America. The whole idea of a " Hunger Game " really struck me as an awesome yet horrible idea, so far-fetched that I really ate up the concept. After all I read the whole book in like four hours. I am really looking forward to the sequel, Catching Fire, and I plan on reading my school library's Advanced Reader edition."

Also, the winners of Mother Reader's 48 Hour Challenge were four people who did not sleep for 48 hours. Wow! Very impressive. I like sleep more than reading.

Picked up Dene Low's The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival : Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone at the library because the cover looked cool. I love period novels, and this looked fun. However, I had not seen the first part of this title, and the bugs were a really big part of this. (From publisher: Petronella, who is about to celebrate her sixteenth birthday, finds out that her guardian, Uncle Augustus T. Percival, has a compulsion to eat bugs; but during the celebration, the birthday girl notices that guests are disappearing and that insects are turning up as clues. ) I am at an utter loss as to which students would read this. Instead of finishing, I took a television break for a BBC fix.

Finish Line

When I emerged from Reading Trance yesterday, I felt woozy. That's when I realized that I was WAY overcaffeinated and underfed. Therefore, all statistics are to the best of my knowledge.

Finished up Tormod: A Templar's Apprentice (282) by Kat Black(which I liked), Kelsey's A Recipe for Robbery(282)(which was goofy and had way too many descriptions of a yucky cucumber stew), and started on Cooney's Camp Boy Meets Girl, so we'll call it even at

34 1/2 hours, 30 books, and 7,850 pages.

Phew.

Thanks again to MotherReader for hosting this opportunity to "goof off" and do what I love to do best!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sunday Morning

Since I've felt behind in my reading because of all the library renovations, I've really pulled out all the stops on this challenge. Household chores? Neglected. Personal hygiene? Ha. And yes, I read really quickly. It's my JOB. Isn't that the best thing in the world? Plus, I've had 40 years of practice.

5-6 a.m.: Potter. Slob. Finally wrested this from Miss Reluctant Reader. Since Ms. Potter sent us a copy personally, I wanted to like it, but the description had me worried. Fat kid whose parents have died is being bullied at school AND is trying to reconfigure a radio so he can see the surveillance camera video from the night his parents were killed. Quirky, and you know how I hate that. But I did like the book. Yes, the characters were quirky, but I liked them. Owen's sister wants to be called Jeremy and dress like a boy, but she's spirited about it. Owen is really trying to come to terms with his past and move beyond the bad things that have happened to him. It all worked. Definitely buying a copy. (196)

6-7: DeLint. Dingo. Read The Blue Girl some time ago and didn't buy it; I'm guessing because of the language, since Dingo did have 1 and 1/2 f-bombs. (Had to love how he put "motherfu" on one line and continued the rest after two more sentences. Points for that, but really not necessary.) Still, I liked the book. Modern fantasy, with apprehensive characters dealing with odd happenings. Older male main character, a little romance, generally believable. Nice personal interaction, but not too introspective. Published by Firebird Books, which specializes in speculative fiction. Will have to take a look at other titles by this author. Oh, Miguel meets Australian Lainey and is sucked into her world, where her mythical father is trying to use her and her twin sister to break a spell that has him trapped. (206)

7-8:30: Triana. Riding the Universe. Chloe's life is complicated. She's adopted, and wants to find her birth parents, but she is also dealing with the death of a beloved uncle, who left her his motorcycle, her twin baby brothers, and the fact that she is failing chemistry. Gordon, her tutor, becomes romantically interested in her at the same time that she starts to feel that her long standing relationship with best friend Rock might be romantic as well. There's one f bomb, as well as a close call almost sex scene, so I'm debating whether to keep this or send it on to the high school. Fans of Sarah Dessen, who also writes richly complex romances, will like this one. (266)

8:30-10:00: Rollins. Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow. Wow. Rollins did his homework on this one, not only with all the historical/mythological stuff, but with the way that middle schoolers like their adventures written. This read sort of like the movie The Librarian-- stuff isn't explained overly much because we're on to the next explosion, chase scene or attack of pygmy dinosaurs. Which is okay. Somehow, the fast pace made me not worry about the fact that two sentences were spent explaining why everyone was speaking the same language, and made me just want to hang on for the ride. Looking forward to sequel. (397)

10-11:00: Anderson. Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter. As opposed to this. I somehow just could not get into the fairies. They flew around a lot, argued with each other... eh. I don't know why this didn't appeal to me. Sort of like SpellSpam last night. Maybe I was just tired, but something about the writing just didn't draw me in. (327)

11-12:30: Alegria.Sofi Mendoza's Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico. I thought this would be the same way, since it had tiny, tiny print and seemed so long. Also, I didn't like Sofi at first. She whined too much after she gets caught at the U.S. with problematic paperwork after sneaking off to Mexico with friends for the weekend. She has to spend time with relatives while everything is sorted out, and she does grow up. Character development, certainly, but it was interesting to see into another culture, and that's what ended up being really fun. It helps that the Spanish phrases at the end are explained. This author also wrote Estrella's Quinceanera, which I also liked because it explained in great detail about the custom of elaborate 15th birthday celebrations in Hispanic culture. (276)
30 1/2 hours, 28 books, and 7,259 pages.

12:30- 1:30: Blogging. Then short break to restore order to house.

That leaves 2-6 to read Kelsey's A Recipe for Robbery and Black's Tormod: A Templar's Apprentice. Since I do have some family obligations this evening, I will probably post my final blog tomorrow morning.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Challenge continues

2-2:45: Mancusi. Gamer Girl. Really enjoy Mancusi's sense of humor in Boys that Bite, and this one was good as well. Maddy moves from Boston after her parents' divorce, and ends up in a very conservative area living with her grandmother. For her birthday, her father gets her the Fields of Fantasy online game, and she gets very involved with it, talking to a boy online who ends up going to her school. What are the odds, right? Still, even though I saw it coming, I enjoyed Maddy's struggles with fitting in to her new school while still being true to herself. The side story of her father's gaming addiction is interesting as well. This will be popular! (248)

2:46-3:30: Oaks. Why I Fight. Misleading cover-- the main character, if 12, does not look like the photo! This is a title for older students. Very depressing and artistic. Quotation marks are not used, just dashes, and the prose is very lyrical. Basically, Wyatt's mother is unable to care for him, so he ends up with an uncle who is not much better. I thought there would be more about fighting, and the boys might like that, but most of it is about how depressing the various dives where the two live are. I'll send this one to the high school. (228)

3:31-4:35: Quigley. TMI. Becca tells everyone Too Much Information, but her best friend Katie puts up with her. So does Jai, a fashion forward Hot New Boy who is so stereotypically gay that I was not at all surprised when he outed himself. Becca's boyfriend dumps her because she shares too much with these friends, and she copes with this by creating a blog that is so transparent that everyone knows she is sharing her own life, and this gets her in trouble. A little unbelievable, but fun. This will keep Marsha Qualey company on the shelves. I think this book could have been improved by a lot of editing. (302)

4:36-5:15: Simmons. Alien Feast. I have liked all of Michael Simmons diverse books; Pool Boy, Finding Lubchenko, and Vandal, all of which were intriguing and different, but this one was a bit too young and didn't do it for me. The illustrations did not add anything to this story of a futuristic dystopian where human eating aliens (didn't we just see this in Hungry, to much better effect?) have taken over the earth but now need help from humans because our diseases are devastating their ranks. William has been living with unpleasant step parents, so he doesn't care when they are eaten. He ends up with his friend Sophie, whose doctor parents have been conscripted by the aliens, seeking out his uncle Maynard, who is very quirky. Then they run around a lot, trying to figure out what is going on. Somehow didn't hit the right notes for me. (228)

5:16-6:15: Dee. Solving Zoe. Zoe doesn't fit in in her private school that caters to the ultratalented, but begins to enjoy herself when she gets the attention of a mathematically minded boy who creates puzzles for her to solve. I've had enough of private schools. I didn't like Zoe, her family, or her friends. Started having problems staying awake while reading! (230)

6:15-7:30: Hunter. Great Bear Lake. Saints preserve me. Talking animals. Be it noted that the students LOVE the Warriors series, so that's going to be fun to plow through this summer, but, as with Jacques, these are going to be hard for me to plow through. As far as I could make out, the bears are trying to get to the spirit dancing place, and are traveling across the land, looking for food, occasionally fighting, getting lost, looking for more food, and generally wandering in the wilderness. Found this so mind numbing that I could not extract a plot. (301)

7:31-8:30: Harrison. Dial L for Loser. Okay. These are mean, but they are very readable. There is something breezy and easy about the style, which might explain their appeal. While I didn't really believe that the girls would be allowed to have this much fun while expelled from school, nor did I believe they would end up in Hollywood with one of them in a movie, I was able to stay awake! (437)

And blogging. My intent is to finish off Spellspam and the next Clique book this evening, ending the day with about 23 hours, 22 books, and 5,591 pages. And no, I truthfully have done nothing else but walk the dog while reading my book! The children have been very helpful.

Day Two

5:05-5:35 a.m.: Rinaldi. My Vicksburg. Claire Louise's family was going to ride out the seige of Vicksburg at her grandparent's in the country, but came back to live in a cave to be near the cat. The oldest boy, Landon, has joined the Union army as a doctor, and the father, also a doctor, is most displeased. The father goes off to help the Confederate army, and Landon ends up back at Vicksburg with an injured solider who is responsible for a lost message. Claire helps the soldier escape. There is an interesting subplot about Landon's fiance fighting for the Confederates as a man, but a lot about how Claire tried to win her father's approval that was sort of boring. My daughter's name is Claire Louisa! 150 pages. Probably will buy.

5:36-6:40: Magoon. The Rock and the River. Set in 1968 Chicago. Sam and Steve's father is working with Martin Luther King, Jr. in peaceful protests. As Steve sees the amount of injustice that blacks are experiencing, he decides to forego peaceful measures and joins the Black Panthers. Sam also starts to think this is the way to go after MLK is killed and Sam's father is also shot. This is an interesting description of the race relation problems during this time, and NOT told from the point of view of a white, middle class, Southern teenaged girl. It is a bit long and involved for middle school, so I'll have to think about it. 290 pages.

6:41-7:15: Chaltas. Because I Am Furniture. This is a heavy duty problem novel about abuse and incest, but very delicately done. It didn't even annoy me that it was done in "verse", which explains how the 352 pages went so quickly. Anke's father abuses her brother and sister, and while she is glad to escape this abuse, she also feels unloved because her siblings get some kind of attention. When she joins the volleyball team, she starts to chafe against her family life, and longs to tell someone. When her father attacks a friend, she finds the inner strength to confront her father and improve her family's life. Obviously for mature audiences, but surprisingly has only one f-bomb. Very well done.

7:16-8:30: Cross. Dull Boy. Again, the difference between the character development in fiction for high school and middle school comes up. Avery has had an unremarkable life, but has started to get in trouble because he can't control his increasing strength that manifests itself when he is afraid. He can also fly. He is approached by a woman named Cherchette, who wants him to leave his family to study how to use his powers with her, but he is apprehensive. He also meets other students with powers; Darla, who is trying to gather them together; Sophie, whose skin becomes sticky when she is afraid; Jacques, Cherchette's son who knows the horrible secret of why they all have their powers; and Nicholas, who can absorb things into a vortex.There is a lot of action and adventure, but there is also a lot about fitting in and discovering one's true self. I think there will be a sequel. I'm not sure about this one for middle school, due to the introspection. (308 pages)

8:31-9:15: Tacang. The Model President. BIG disappointment. The cover looks very similar to the Candy Apple Scholastic books, which are not hugely great literature but which are nicely done and vastly appealing to girls, Miss Reluctant Reader among them. This, however, was just weird. The plot also sounds like a Candy Apple book: "Junior inventor Millicent Madding is running for 6th grade class president against the most popular and trendy girl in the school." Okay. It's a little annoying when the election devolves into a "fashion walk-off", but what irritated me was all the purposelessly wacky details: Millie's parents have disappeared into a time machine. The head of the local "Pretty Liddy" school used to be a bearded lady. The uncle orders Lasagna Brittle ice cream. There are names like Heinrich Putzkammer and Paisley Slub. I got a hardcover copy at a "book look", but may not put it into the collection because I can see girls checking it out and returning it with their noses wrinkled up.

9:16-10:00: Philbrick. The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg. Also a "book look" copy, and suspect from the start. Horrible cover, and I'm not a huge fan of Freak the Mighty. This was one of those gently wacky Civil War books where the young boys wander about and get in various scrapes with evil but goofy outlaws. How many of those have I just deaccessioned? I found it nearly impossible to pay close attention after a Quaker man used "thee" as a nominative repeatedly. If you pay that little attention to grammatical detail, can the history be right? And I don't think I'm wrong. According to Curme's English Grammar, the subject form is "thou", the possessive is "thy" or "thine", and the rest of the oblique cases are "thee". (I give it to thee, I see thee, I walk with thee). Sigh. (217 pages)

10:01-12:20. Clayton. The Roar. Ah, now THIS was good. If you have students who liked The Hunger Games or Grant's Gone, definitely get a copy of this hefty tome (480 pages). It managed to very nicely sneak in character development in between pod fighter chases and evil henchmen. Most of all, I really like Mika, the main character. After the disappearance and assumed death of his twin sister Ellie, Mika has had trouble coping. Ever since the horrible Animal Plagues that forced the population of the world into cramped living quarters behind The Wall, people who aren't rich live in tiny, damp, moldy apartments, and the students especially have grim lives. When the Youth Development Team comes in and tries to get Mika to drink his Fit Mix, he rebels because he still believes Ellie is alive, and has a bad feeling about the attempts to get mutatnt students to take various potions and practice video games. This one really kept my attention. Mal Gorman was a great evil character, the book got off to a superb start, and the plot twists kept me turning the pages. Sure to be a sequel, and I will be anxious to read it.

So far 12 books; 3,156 pages; and we'll make it an even 14 hours, although I will probably check some blogs to see what others are up to!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Five hours; Five books

6:05-6:40: Lerangis. The Sword Thief. Book three in the 39 Clues series is every bit as action packed and fun as the other two. In this installment, Dan and Amy Cahill face off against the Kabra's and find an unlikely ally in Alistair Oh. The clues take them to Japan, where they find themselves both further imperilled but closer to more clues. I'm impressed at how the three authors (Riordan and Korman as well) have kept the consistency of writing and characterization so even. There's not a lot of character development; more on that later.

6:41-7:45: Harrison. The Pretty Committe Strikes Back. (Book 5, The Clique) Miss Reulctant Reader lurves these, so I've been catching up with her on them, but they are not pleasant books to read. Between the name dropping of make up and clothing that I don't understand, the unlikely situations the girls find themselves in (survival training in the Adirondacks with so few of them?), and the pure meanness of it all sets my teeth on edge. In this one, Massie opens a clinic to teach the "losers" how to kiss boys, even though she hasn't kissed any herself. I'm trying to get the appeal but failing utterly. There are about ten books out now, not counting the summer supplements.

7:46-9:25: Carroll. The Gathering. Book Two of The Quantum Prophecy. I don't think I believe Mr. Carroll that he doesn't run around blowing things up. This is quite action packed. Colin and Renata are unmasked as superhumans, and when Dioxin starts a vengeful killing spree to flush them out of hiding, their families as well as new superhumans band together. It's tough for the kids (including Danny, who is struggling with the loss of his arm and his super powers) to tell who is good and bad, and all sorts of secrets emerge, as well as some powers. Have come to the conclusion that action books frequently don't have as much character development as other genres, and that boys don't particularly care about this. This also would explain why I don't like Horowitz's Snakehead as well as his other books-- I wanted to know more about Alex's motivation. The only reason I was able to read this book was that all books had to be turned in for the end of the year-- I got a copy in September and it has never been in long enough for me to read it. Great stuff.

9:26-10:05: Weissman. Standing for Socks. Attractive cover, interesting premise: Fara gains some notoriety by always wearing two different socks, but finds that the very thing that brings her attention also impedes her ability to run for student government and make a difference at her school. There was something about this that was oddly distant; at the beginning time is broadly covered, and the tone is disassociated. There is way more discussion of socks than I have ever read in any teen books, and this starts to strain credulity. I didn't like Fara all that much, although since I always wear two different earrings, I feel her pain: after a while, she feels locked into having to wear different socks, so that it becomes no more original than wearing matching ones. It will circulate well; the girls will find the search for personal identity more interesting than I did.

10:06-11:15: Swanson. Chasing Lincoln's Killer. Absolutely top notch history, told in an appealing narrative style and beautifully illustrated with period photographs, newspaper clippings, and other documents. Minutely details the events leading up to and following Booth's assassination of Lincoln. I learned all sorts of minutiae that I'd never realized (Secretary of State Seward also had an attempt made on his life by coconspirators). This will have a broad appeal for boys who like to read about the Civil War, and I'm a bit sad that I won't be able to check it out to some of the eighth graders who are leaving.

Titles for tomorrow's reading include My Vicksburg, The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg, The Rock and the River, Because I Am Furniture, Dull Boy and The Model President.

The Starting Line

This weekend, I am not doing laundry. Not shopping, cooking, cleaning, driving children anywhere, attending any ceremonies, concerts or assemblies, or doing anything but READING.

I have convinced my family that this is actually something I am doing for work. Bribery in the form of Chinese food was necessary, but the troops are ready for the privations, if not the competition. My eldest has high school exams on Monday, my son will probably be writing instead of reading, and Miss Reluctant Reader would rather play tennis or clarinet.

As per contest rules, I will post from home, but my hamster-driven ISP precludes the inclusion of book covers.
Last year (March 8) I mentioned the HarperCollins First Kisses series. Finally got the fourth one, Love at First Click by Elizabeth Chandler. There are two wonderful things about these books-- they are about high schoolers but have nothing inappropriate, and they have strong female characters who have their own interests and stumble upon romances by chance.

Hayley is the school newspaper's sports photographer. She is hard working, no-nonsense, and level-headed, with the exception of a "camera crush" on Flynn. Her older sister, Breeze, is more interested in clothes and boys, and is rather demanding of her boyfriends. When her current inamorato, Jared, neglects her because of football season, she starts dating Flynn. Hayley ends up spending a lot of time with Flynn's young sisters, and gets to know Flynn better, to Breeze's chagrin. The ending will have all of my romance readers sighing pleasantly. Light, fun, escapist fiction for the preteen set.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Library Office???










There's the shelving down; and the circulation desk moved across the aisle from where it was. The space is wonderful, and the library is much more open. Two student computers will be located about where the date is stamped on the picture on right.

Here's the philosophical musing of the day: should I move the circulation desk just a little closer to the door and have a small "office"? The shelving behind (where I just moved the fiction) could be used for reference and career books (which are seldom used). I could have all my materials for processing, and perhaps even a flat work space.

The view of the library is still very clear, but I am concerned that this would make me less accessible. Since this would involve moving every book in the library AGAIN, I'm consulting staff members and not moving anything today.

Later: Ha ha ha. Annoyed everyone about it first thing and started moving books at 9:00 a.m. Now I have an office! It only involved moving 4,000 books or so. Note the reference collection behind the circulation desk, the desk, the shelves for processing books. I even have a moveable work table that is at my height! Just need the electrical and ethernet wiring moved, and I am in business! Of course, who knows how long we'll have to live with the dirty linoleum. Won't bother me. Behind the desk, I have new tile, which could easily be painted with a hopscotch grid!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Lyonesse: The Well Between the Worlds

Sam Llewllyn's first book in the Lyonesse series might be one I consider purchasing if I have more insatiable fantasy readers next year, but I will wait for several reasons. The main character, Idris Limpet, is a bit young at eleven. While the cover promises monster attacks, the most exciting thing that happens in the first 26 pages is that Idris falls off a building into the sea and is rescued. Unfortunately, pages 30-55 are missing in the copy that the publisher provided to a "book look" I attended, and fearing more names like Spignold, Erys, Mawga and Cayo, (which should be added to my list of pet peeves) as well as mentions of the meals"zupper" and "nuncheon", I am ill-inclined to hunt down another copy.

9/2/09-- Mr. Llewllyn was kind enough to comment on this, and it is only fair to address his concerns.

"Sorry to have excited your pet peeves, though I am unclear as to what they are. Welsh names? Ancient Dorset meal titles? Lack of monster attack on page 1 out of 350? Got out of wrong side of bed in morning?As to the protagonist's age, in life as in fantasy people start young, and get older. If you are even vaguely interested in watching this process (seems unlikely from your general tone) you can witness it in a properly bound copy of The Well Between the Worlds and indeed even the second part of Lyonesse, Darksolstice, available soon."

My pet peeves normally include talking animals, quirky Southern settings, introspective navel gazing. Made up words, especially ones that are repeated ("P-mail" for "pigeon mail" in one book really irritated me.) also set my teeth on edge. It was not entirely clear that the names were Welsh, although I should have taken a hint from the author's name.

This blog is aimed at middle school students, and the protagonist was a bit young FOR MY SCHOOL. Elementary audiences would be fine with the age of the character. I did, in fact, check out a properly bound copy from my local library, and still was not moved to purchase it, although I will certainly look at Darksolstice when it comes out. Some series improve in second books; The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp is not very good, but the second and third books were very good. It's just good to be able to tell students that.

Unfortunately, it is my students who are very firm about the need for monster attacks on page one. This comes up again and again. While I personally can do without that, students are insistent that "things need to happen". I gave my copy of the book to several students, warning them about the missing pages, and asked their opinions. The final verdict did hinge on the age of the characters. As in many cases, this book did not fit the needs of my population. Other libraries may find that it fills a need in their collection.

Non-book news: The shelves are coming down today!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Hwacha of Darkness

This is cheating. The Hwacha of Darkness is the work of my son, age 13, over the period of several months. It was typed on small sheets of paper using a Smith-Corona typewriter. This story of the dire consequences of global warming and the efforts of the survivors of a cataclysmic melting of the ice caps to try to avert more devastation could use more character development, smoother writing, and a more focused plot line.

But how can you not love a book with the first line "The cruise had been uneventful before the polar bears attacked." My son, while inexpert, has firmly grasped the elements that make a good young adult novel.

I was surprised that my son, who has had very limited experience with violent television, books, and computer games, had so many explosions, fights, attacks by polar bears, mice, evil angels, and the Hwacha of Darkness, a superhuman figure whose weapon of choice was a 15th century Korean cart filled with flaming arrows. When asked why this was, he replied that he didn't want to write a book that would bore him to read. Enough said. Aspiring authors take note: apparently, it is not enough to start the book with an explosions; they need to continue. Also, it doesn't hurt to read a lot of young adult fiction; while surprisingly nonimitative, my son borrowed many successful and appealing themes and plot devices from books he has read.

There was a purpose to all of the mayhem, and the characters didn't take themselves too seriously, which moved the plot along quickly and effectively. The ending is bittersweet-- the Earth is saved, but only because Ricardo ( a matador by profession!) sacrifices himself. It's possible to work in a message if you have enough sword power.

My son and I differ wildly in political matters, but I felt like a success when I read his dedication: "To those on both sides of the global warming issue who have made their case well." If only adults could understand and accept divergent opinions as well.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Velvet Room

Had a conversation on Friday with a book fair volunteer about Zilpha Keatley Snyder's vast body of work, then found a very dusty 1971 paperback of The Velvet Room (1965) while unearthing debris in 5th grader's room. I remember reading and loving this title in middle school, but could not remember what the book was about. This was not a book I owned as a child-- it was clearly something I picked up later. Why did it survive?

Robin's family is struggling to survive during the Great Depression. Her father is a musician, but his illness caused them to lose their home and become itinerant workers. When their car breaks down near an apricot farm, the father is offered a job and a place for the family to live. Robin meets the owner's daughter, an old woman, and gets to see inside the former mansion, wherein lies the velvet room of the title. There is a little bit of a mystery involving a girl named Bonita, and a happy ending for the family.

So what was so appealing about this book? Children seem to like to read about other people having a difficult time, and the depiction of the cabin the family has certainly is shocking to children of today, who are not used to such deprivation. Combine this with the velvet room, a place where only Robin is able to visit, and it's a winning combination very much like Edward's Mandy. Do children today long for a small place of their own? I remember having corners outside, under bushes and such, where I would play, pretending I was one of The Box Car Children. This is not a theme I have seen in recent literature, so perhaps its time has passed. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of this in my library, although it does appear to be back in print. This is one that many adults seem to remember fondly.
 
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