Monday, June 28, 2010

More Girl Books

Getting a bit weary of problems with friends being mean. Why aren't there more books like the Ally Carter Gallagher girls? And why aren't there any like that about mild mannered, middle aged librarians who become international spies? May have to take a Mrs. Pollifax break!

Ayarbe, Heidi. Compromised.
Maya's widowed con man father has finally landed himself in jail, and Maya ends up in foster care, where her quirky, scientific ways run her afoul of the other children and lead her to devise an escape plan. She manages to get out, but is followed by Nicole, another inmate who routinely uses foul language. In fact, the book is riddled by gratuitous f-bombs, which is a shame, because I was riveted by the story of Maya trying to travel from Elko, Nevada to Idaho to find her aunt, but I will not be buying it for my library. Nicole and Maya (who probably struggles with an autism spectrum disorder) meet a young boy with Tourette's syndrome along the way, and try unsuccessfully to save him as well. The details of their journey are harrowing and true-to-life, but the ending was a little too neat. I thought that Picky Reader might like this, but even she was put off by the language. Definitely good for high school-- middle schools might want to use Kehret's The Runaway Twin instead.

Dee, Barbara. This is Me From Now On.
What 7th grader doesn't decide, from time to time, that life is boring. What better way to shake things up than a new friend who lives right next door and wears sparkly blue stilettos? Even when this friend is somewhat less than reliable and helpful when it comes to working on a school project. Evie is tired of her friends, and Francesca is an exciting new alternative, although she does get Evie into a fair amount of trouble. Picky Reader liked this one a lot, and it certainly gave a true-to-life picture of the vagaries of 7th grade friendships.

Barnholdt, Lauren. Four Truths and a Lie.
Again, one that Picky Reader liked, probably due to the private school nature of the setting, but it lost me when the main character talks about having just gotten new Laboutin shoes. Isn't her father in jail for embezzlement? Aren't they expensive shoes? And what 8th grader really needs anything more than a decent pair of sneakers from Kohls? Admittedly, I didn't read the whole book (I have a paperback), and it is one that I will recommend to girls who like The Clique series, but I just couldn't read any more books about evil girls in private schools. They are starting to make Erin Hunter's Warriors series look appealing!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Blogging doldrums

I've been going to the public library several times a week, but I am easily distracted and frequently find myself in the adult section. When I am reading book reviews and requesting that the Library Link bring me books, I feel compelled to be super focused and only request new children's books. I've been reading, but I feel deliciously wicked and unfocused. It is, after all, summer.

Lahiri, Jhumpa. The Namesake.
Got the book AND the movie. Interesting story of an Indian family's relocation to the US in the 1960s, and how their son come to reconcile his ethnic heritage with his life as an American. The author won a Pulitzer AND the book was on the best seller list, so I feel very Adult.

Bennett, Alan. The Clothes They Stood Up In.
Was looking for An Uncommon Reader to give Older Teen Girl, but the library no longer has that fictional story of what happens when Queen Elizabeth wanders into a book mobile. Instead, this tiny volume chronicles the lives of the Ransome family after every single thing in their apartment is removed. I like Bennett's writing, but he has a bad habit of randomly sneaking in bad words and sex, completely gratuitously, and rendering his charming stories unsuitable for 12-year-olds. Sigh.

Also picked up Hoffman's Kid Stuff: Great Toys from Our Childhood, which I must have read before, and a biography of the Rolling Stones.

Actually bought Lauren Myracle's Eleven and Twelve for Picky Reader(since there were so many reserves on them), and have been luxuriating in them. I have never been a big fan of books that feel a need to talk about shaving legs and wearing bras, but it doesn't seem to embarass my daughter the way it always has been embarassing to me. They are to her what Beany Malone is to me. I don't have the foggiest idea why I didn't like Myracle the first time out; I now feel that I should reread Peace, Love and Baby Ducks, too.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

SQUUEEEEEE!!!

The incomparable Linda Gerber (Death by Bikini), the hilarious Rhonda Stapleton (Stupid Cupid) and the much lauded but as yet unmet Kay Cassidy (The Cinderella Society, about which I have read good things!) will be at the Polaris Barnes and Noble, this Saturday, June 26, at 2:00 pm!!!

As much as I am so sad that I won't be on the first Cross Country "Fun Run" on Saturday with Picky Reader, I am happy to report that there is an Author Event going on here in Columbus that I'll be able to make!

Sweaty Reading

This will be brief. My entire family will probably be sleeping in the basement tonight if it doesn't cool down any more. I HAVE been reading, but my brain is completely liquified in the heat.

Thor, Anika. A Faraway Island.
Have to add this book (the first in a four book series) to my Holocaust collection if only for this one fact-- of the 500 Jewish children who were taken from Berlin, Hamburg, Vienna and Prague and sent to Sweden for the duration of WWII, only one in four were reunited with their families. This is the story of two sisters, Stephie and Nellie, who are sent to live on an island, where they are separated. Nellie, the younger, assimilates well and enjoys her young family, but Stephie not only has a strict and dour foster mother, but also has to put up with bullying at school because she is not Swedish. Picky Reader was watching Bedknobs and Broomsticks the other day, so finding this was perfect timing. We had quite a discussion about how many children were fostered during the war, for various reasons.

Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds. Alice in Charge.
I love Alice. Really. I love how Naylor makes the books informative, touches on topics of interest to teen girls in an instructive kind of way. I do not for the life of me understand why she is so often challenged. That said, even though it was nice to see what Alice was up to, this latest installment was so fraught with problems at every turn that I found myself wishing that Alice were younger. I understand that as a senior, she is under a lot of stress about college applications, but Alice also has to deal with neo Nazis in her school, her stepmother possibly having cancer, her father's business tanking, a developmentally delayed friend being molested by a teacher, the aftermath of Mark's death AND Patrick's parents moving away from Maryland. It was just too much. I hope the next installment is a tiny bit cheerier. We are reaching the end of Alice's saga, and I don't want to be this depressed when we send her off into the world.

McCahan, Erin. I Now Pronounce You Someone Else.
Fab cover on this, but it is also about a girl who is a senior in high school, and there is a little too much fooling around with a boyfriend for this one to be middle school appropriate. Older daughter ran off with it, which was fine.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pertinent Posts

Thanks to Charlotte at Charlotte's Library for awarding me a Pertinent Posts Award. In the summer I always feel a bit... well, impertinent certainly is not the word here, but since I don't see any actual students to whom I may recommend books, I always feel adrift.

I may wait until the fall to pass this on; I need to investigate more blogs. Do visit Charlotte's site, however; she has a very good discussion on gender inequities when it comes to middle grade and YA science fiction and fantasy.

Two Good British Fantasy Books

Jones, Diana Wynne. Enchanted Glass.

Jones' can be either fabulous (Dark Lord of Derkholm) or "meh" (Dogsbody) for me. Enchanted Glass came down on the fabulous side. Aidan's grandmother has died, and he heads out to the countryside to find a friend of hers who will take care of him, especially since he is being followed by magical "stalkers". Unfortunately, the friend has died, but his sympathetic nephew Andrew has moved into the house and is trying to figure out the magical "field-of-care" which he needs to superintend. All of the magic is presented matter-of-factly, so no one blinks when Andrew restores his neighbors leg, or when a giant comes and removes the excess veg the gardener tries to foist on them. Aidan and Andrew, aided by Tarquin and his pretty neice, Stashe, find that a neighbor, Mr. Brown, is trying to infringe upon the field-of-care, and that within Mr. Brown's realm there are many "counterparts" to people in the village. Soon, they begin to suspect that Aidan is Mr. Brown's (aka Oberon) son, and the stalkers are trying to kidnap him so that he doesn't take over Mr. Brown's position. Everything comes to a head at the village fete, and ends well. The magical reasoning for all of the adventures is a bit thin, but makes sense, and I do like the fact that excuses aren't given. The magic just is. Combine this with a wonderfully British countryside setting and sensibility, and this was utterly enjoyable. It took me the entire day to read, because I couldn't bring myself to gulp it down. Ms. Jones is apparently very ill; we can all hope that she isn't suffering too much, and that she knows that the kind thoughts of many readers are with her.



Harrison, Michelle. 13 Treasures.

This book won a Waterstone's prize, which I will assume is like a book in the US winning a Barnes and Noble award. I picked it up because it had a shiny cover with pretty leaves, although my soul shrank a bit at the idea of reading yet another fantasy. However, another very good entry into the genre. Tanya has always been bedeviled by fairies, who torment her by visiting her at night and popping her up onto the ceiling and things. This causes her mother to think that Tanya is difficult, since she can't exactly tell her mother about the fairies. Tanya is sent to spend the summer with her grandmother at her mouldering country home, where she spends time with Fabian, the caretakers son. The two uncover two mysteries-- the grandmother's best friend disappeared fifty years ago into the woods, and Aidan's grandfather was suspected briefly. When they see this girl, still looking 14, in the woods, they uncover an evil mystery that leads them into realms of magic. Tanya also meets a girl, Red, whose brother has been kidnapped by the fairies. Red has stolen the changeling left in his place and hopes to trade this child for her brother. Again, the scenes of English country life are endearing (the town of Tickey End is cozy and quaint, despite the magic), but the suspense becomes rather scary at some points-- an intense book. I will look for more from this author, if we can get the titles in the states.



Williams, Carol Lynch. The Chosen One.

This was very similar to another book about a polygamistreligious community that marries off its young girls to old men that I read recently, but was still harrowing and good in the way that V.C.Andrews books seemed good to me when I was 14. Young Kyra is supposed to marry her 60-year-old uncle, but doesn't want to leave her family or give up either her trips to the book mobile or budding relationship with Joshua. She spends the entire book trying to escape and is successful, but it doesn't end very well for the man driving the bookmobile. My older daughter read this one at her high school-- that's the best age for the subject matter.



Lowry, Lois. The Birthday Ball (Illustrated by Jules Feiffer)

Princess Patricia Priscilla is tired of her boring life in the castle, so on the eve of her birthday, when she will be expected to marry one of three comically horrible suitors, she changes clothes with the maid and heads off to the small local school, where she falls in love with the school master, with predictable results. This was a bit reminiscent of The Willoughbys, in that it was an older feeling fairy tale type book. It must be for younger readers, so I just couldn't get into it. Very wll written-- I just don't have many queries for this type of literature. Lowry is always good, and it's interesting to see her take on different genres.



Karasyov, Carrei and Jill Kargman. Jet Set.

Lucy is a fabulous tennis player and the daughter of a career army man who just wants to stay in one place for a while, so she's thrilled to get a scholarship to the prestigious Van Pelt Academy in Switzerland. The popular girls, who are international jet setters, give her a hard time; her one friend, Sofia, turns out to be a mole for a celebrity magazine; the boy she likes only likes her because he thinks her father is wealthy; she has a crush on an English prince. This was light summer reading that fans of The Clique, Pulling Princes, or other over-the-top private school books will like. I can't help thinking that none of this can possibly be true. These two authors come up with fast-paced, well-written summer reads, however, and this will be popular until the cover art dates the book.



Palmer, Robin. Little Miss Red.

From the author of Cindy Ella and Geek Charming, this has a far weaker fairy tale link. Sophie Green, who is greatly enamored of the romance novels about Devon Devoreaux that her friend's mother writes, is tired of her boyfriend, Michael. She is looking forward to a break from him, even though she ends up having to spend time at her grandmother's retirement community. On her way there, she meets the dashing and dangerous Jack, who is everything that Michael is not-- attentive, adventurous, and smolderingly sexy. The two end up spending a lot of time together, and at first Sophie is guilty about ditching Michael-- until he says they should push the "stop" button on their relationship instead of just the "pause" button. The interesting thing about the story is the evolution of Jack into a real (and somewhat boring and annoying) person, and Sophie's embracing of her own adventurous side, as well as her attempts to become closer to her grandmother. Also have to love all of the made up books about Devon, which seem to appear every few pages. Again, a nice summer read.



McGowan, Anthony. The Knife that Killed Me.

This was a sad and disturbing book, and the fact that the author felt compelled to write it because of his own school experiences makes me doubly sad. Paul goes to a school where the bullies rule, and the teachers are not much better. He gets dragged into a feud between schools by the bully giving him a hard time, and it doesn't end well for anyone. Movingly written, the was a very effective book, but I'm not quite sure if it's middle school appropriate or to whom I would give it. Maybe fans of Bowler's Blade series. I'm still thinking about it.



The asbestos containment has been completed at my library, and so far all the flooring and the glass walls at the back of the library have been ripped out.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Guy Friday

Schwartz, John. Short: Walking Tall When You're Not Tall At All.
I'm 5'2", which is nearly as tall as most of my uncles (who were all about 5'4") and much taller than my grandmother, who was 4'10" (the same height my brother was when he entered high school and was put on steroids because of this. He's 5'10" now). When Surly Teenage Boy reached my height, I was thrilled, so I read this book with extreme interest. This is a different kind of nonfiction book; it looks like a novel and is in a very conversational tone, but presents all the facts that teenaged boys who might be worried about their height will find vey interesting. Schwartz (who stands 5'3") is a science writer for the New York Times, and covers the science, psychology and philosophy of being short. Studies are discussed and debunked, and the whole book is a useful, optimistic look at how being short affects people's lives... or doesn't. STBoy read this and also found it amusing, and I need to personally thank Mr. Schwartz... STBoy has agreed to eat a bacon wrapped chicken breast every night (we negotiated from bacon wrapped chicken nuggets) to get some extra protein, and he's walking about ten miles a day (back and forth from summer school and the public library) in order to stimulate his growth plates. We're hoping for 5'6".

Flake, Sharon G. You Don't Know Me At All: Poems and Stories about Boys.
Again, this is an odd sort of book-- short stories and poems can be hard to sell, even though it seems like a perfect mix for reluctant readers, since they don't have to read the whole book. The stories cover a range of topics, from a boy who gets married at 16 to a boy who is HIV-positive, and have an oddly authentic "boy" voice for having been written by a woman. My older daughter especially liked the poem "Look": Go ahead/ look/ I would too /If I saw what you see /Me /Sixteen / Sexy as can be". (Again, in my world this is not a poem, but I'm losing this battle.) Since I have put all the story collections in with the regular fiction, they are easier to circulate, so I will buy this one, largely because of the African American boy in a hoodie on the front cover... holding a Physics notebook. Yes.

Gimme a Call

Mlynowski, Sarah. Gimme a Call.
Devi has broken up with her boyfriend of three years on the eve of their senior prom, and is devastated. Why did she waste so much time on him? Her girl friends have all gone their separate ways, she hasn't done a great job in school, and with Bryan gone, she feels bereft. When she drops her cell phone in a mall fountain, in front a store advertising a skin cream that will "turn back the clock", she finds that the only number it will call is her own... at the beginning of her freshman year! Realizing that she now has the power to change her life, Devi gives her 14-year-old self instructions on what to do to avoid ending up like senior Devi. Study more-- congratulation letters change from a local university to Hofstra to Harvard! Encourage a friend to do gymnastics, and she develops anorexia. When the same friend is encouraged to do cheerleading, she gets plastic surgery! Some of the changes are profound-- a shy friend who is encouraged to try out for a play blossoms-- and some are silly-- after winning the lottery so she can afford Harvard, Devi finds that her father has run off to France and her mother is married to hot young guy! The changes are fast and furious. Younger Devi struggles to keep up with all of the studying and activities that the older one suggests, all the while pining after Bryan. Older Devi starts to realize that there is no good way to arrange the future that doesn't have some disastrous consequence. The feel-good ending puts all of the elements together in a way that students will like; I would have prefered Devi's life to be just the same even with all of her machinations, but that's only because I'm old and bitter.

This will probably be my favorite book all summer, and I'm tempted to buy it to give to Picky Reader when she starts high school! I love the idea of time travel, and think it would be scary but wonderful to be able to go back to 1979 (knowing what I know now, of course), and change my life. Two things I would do-- start running cross country, so I could be on the very first girls' team at my high school, and NOT TAKE LATIN!!!

What would you encourage your freshman self to do, if you could go back?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Agency: A Spy in the House.

Lee, Ying S. The Agency: A Spy in the House.

Mary Quinn, an orphan who is caught breaking into a house in 1853, is sentenced to hang. She is saved at the last minute by a warden, and taken to Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls, where she recieves an education and has a variety of jobs such as teaching. When she admits that none of the jobs really suit her spirit and sense of adventure, she is given the opportunity to train to be a female spy, and is placed as a paid companion to the daughter of a corrupt shipping magnate. With the help of an attractive young engineer, James, she navigates London society and delves into the business dealing of the Thorold household, finding out a surprising secret about the family business and uncovering information about her own past as well.



I really enjoyed this, and was slightly hesitant about putting it on my list to purchase until I remembered that we are always short of mysteries AND my fan base of Springer's Enola Holmes' books will adore this one. It has just the right blend of romance, adventure, and history. Lee's background in Victorian literature is evident, and there is some sly humor-- Mrs. Thorold mentions her doctors, Abernethy and Bath-Oliver, which are both names of English tea biscuits. Very fun! I was also very pleased with the cover illustration; I noticed the girl's exotic face even before her background was revealed, and I think the illustration fits the description perfectly. This is the first book in a trilogy; the sequel, The Body in the Tower, comes out on August 10.



Scott, Elizabeth. Stealing Heaven.

Dani and her mother have made a life traveling from town to town and stealing silver and valuables from large estates, but when they come to the small town of Heaven, Dani makes friends for the first time and begins to enjoy feeling "normal". When her mother wants to steal from her new friends, she has to decide what to do. I am always drawn to Scott's work, and enjoy reading it, but there's always some small detail that makes me not buy them for school. Dani is 18, so I understand that it's not exactly middle grade stuff, but the description of Dani's encounter with mother's lover was a bit too much. Sigh.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

After; Girlwise

One of the many downsides of summer is that I don't have as much access to books as I do during the year, especially now that my library is torn apart. If it skews girly, that's because the books in the just returned section of the library are largely girly!



Harmel, Kristen. After.

The cover of this was so pretty that I left it on my quilting table to plan a quilt with those colors, but when I finally started reading it, I ended up finishing it instead of reading the Sunday paper! Lacey's father is killed in a car accident on an ordinary Saturday morning, and Lacey feels responsible. If she hadn't been so slow getting ready, they wouldn't have been in the path of the other car. Lacey's mother throws herself into work in an effort to forget, forgetting even her children's need for dinner on a regular basis. Her older brother, Logan, has a new girlfriend and starts to party heavily. Younger brother Tanner withdraws and becomes increasingly quiet. Lacey, in order to feel more "normal", gets together a group of students who have lost parents so that they can talk if they want, but also hang out and not have to be looked at as "that kid whose parent died". Joining the group is Sam, a new, cute boy who is more interested in Lacey than she seems to be in him. I really liked how realistic this book seemed. Yes, having a parent die is horrible, but the most horrible thing is that the world then expects the child to go back to school and resume their life. The rocky romance with Sam and Lacey is touching and not easy, and even Logan's struggles with alcohol (that end a bit abruptly, in an accident that seems a bit contrived) are understandable. I found myself tearing up several times even though the tone of this book is very upbeat. Definitely will be getting this one for school, and now really want to read this author's When You Wish.

Lee and Low Books

I received review copies of two books from Hannah Ehrlich at Lee and Low Books. I have read this company's catalog before, and purchased many of their multicultural Cinderalla picture books, so I was thrilled that they have a new imprint, Tu Books, which will launch in 2011 with science fiction and fantasy books with greater diversity! I was disappointed that much of their catalog is picture books, but I will definitely be looking for their first graphic novel by G. Neri, The Last Days of a Southside Shorty. I liked Neri's Chess Rumble, and quality graphic novels are always welcome in my library. This company certainly fills a much needed gap, with books on a wide range of cultures.

Russell, Ching Yeung. Tofu Quilt.
Yeung Ying lives in China in the 1960s. Her father is a tailor, and her mother defends Yeung's right to an education and opportunity even though she is a girl. Yeung loves to read, and wants to be a writer, so she works very hard at school (when she's not reading in math class!) and takes in piece work such as painting metal cars, so that she can afford to buy books. She struggles to overcome the cultural expectations that come with being a girl, and aided by her family, manages to win a writing contest. Based on the writer's own life, and told in verse, I was sceptical of this at first, but found it very interesting. The only good thing about novels in verse is that sometimes struggling readers will pick them up because there aren't as many words on the page. I would have rather had more details about life in China and Russell's experiences.

Marx, Trish and Ellen B. Senisi. Steel Drumming at the Apollo.
This is not something I would have picked up on my own, because my students have shown no interest in steel drumming. Apparently, it is a pretty big deal in the city. The book follows a group of boys from the Hamilton Hill Arts Center who put together a band for a try out at the Apollo Theater. It tells a bit about each member, and about the process they must go through to enter the competition. The book is graphically well-arranged, with plentiful illustrations and side bars with additional information. Not only that, but there was even a CD included, so I could hear what a steel band sounds like. This short (54 pages) book was fast-paced and interesting, and I must admit that the best part for me was that the band did NOT win the competition! It would have been just as easy for the authors to interview the winner, and I liked the fact that the band tried hard, didn't win, and managed to go on anyway! I will have to see if I can "drum" up interest for this book in the fall!

Tell Us We're Home

Budhos, Marina. Tell Us We're Home.
Jaya, Maria and Lola all have something in common-- they are all the children of immigrants, and their mothers work for people in their wealthy suburban community cleaning houses and babysitting. They are relieved to find each other, because it is hard for them all to feel they fit in with students who wear designer clothing and don't need to split coffee. Jaya's life is not carefree, because her mother's main employer, Mrs. Harmon, has a stroke. Not only is the house being sold, but Jaya's mother is accused of stealing a very expensive piece of jewelry. Maria's mother is trying her best to live with extended family and contribute financially, having left Mexico after Maria's father died. Maria's family is being threatened with zoning violations by angry neighbors, and her brother is beat up by boys on a local soccer team. Lola's father, a prominent engineer in Slovakia, is so depressed that he does nothing all day and seems unable to muster enough energy to even look for a job. In addition to these obstacles, the girls navigate the waters of school, boyfriends, and family life. This is an excellent description of a life that many of my students don't understand, and is a valuable addition to my multicultural books. The Latino (and Somalian) population in the Columbus area is rapidly growing, and there are not enough books on the experience of immigrant students.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lynn Visible

DeVilliers, Julia. Lynn Visible.
Lynn has always had a quirky fashion sense, heavy on tutus. She's been sewing since third grade and "reinventing" clothing. Now that she is going into high school, she thinks that the teasing that she has experienced will go away, but it only gets worse. Supported by her friend Taylor (who is loyal but whom Lynn doesn't much like), Lynn tries to audition for a teen fashion board, but ends up flinging her custom designed shoe into the salad of the woman putting together the online fashion magazine. Because the shoe is so fabulous, the magazine tracks down the maker and interviews Lynn, rocketing her to sudden popularity and making people admire her designs instead of laughing at them. How will this new-found fame affect her relationships with Taylor, and with the evil Chasey, who used to torment her but now thinks she's cool? This is a fun romp, and the cute cover alone with have fans of DeVillers picking this one up.

While I had fun reading this, and will buy it because it will be widely read, it made me cringe on a lot of personal levels. Lynn has been laughed at for years and doesn't like it, yet she keeps dressing in bizarre ways. As someone who occasionally wears vintage prom gowns to work, it seems to me that if you want to dress strangely, you do it without remorse. If you don't want people to make fun of you, you stop whatever behavior it is they make fun of. I also found it a little hard to believe that Lynn spends this much time and effort on clothing. That's not healthy. And she checks her e mail and the online fashion magazine at school? Hmmm. DeVillers is an author who went from one book on my library shelves to a whole section, and she lives in the Columbus area. I loved the cover and the premise of this one, but something made me want to slap Lynn. Realize fully it might just be my age speaking.

Library Report: Everything is now sitting in the cafeteria, and the last thing I did yesterday was to help take down the library shelves. Well, right before I sobbed gently over the circulation desk. I don't do change well.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Body Finder

Kimberly Derting. The Body Finder.
Violet has long known that she can find dead bodies-- she gets a feeling from the area where they are, and also from people who had something to do with their death. When a serial killer starts attacking girls near Violet's town, she and her friend/crush get involved, and Violet is soon put in danger. The was a creepily good read, with a well-done love interest, but I'd go with the grade 9 and up recommendation from School Library Journal. There's nothing sexually graphic, but the chilling chapters of the serial killer following girls and abducting them would not be something I would want to put into the hands of a 6th grader. Lots of people have liked this one, and the cover is beautiful.

Abby the Librarian
Alison's Book Marks
Cari's Book Blog
In Bed With Books
Library Lounge Lizard
Presenting Lenore

All the books being moved out of the library today! Maybe at some point in the next two weeks my reviews will become slightly more coherent.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Sad, lonely library.












Looking north to back work room; looking south to cafeteria.













Looking west (will be nonfiction) ; looking east (will be nonfiction, tackboard).



Study carrell/listening center/computer station on east wall. They are all being removed.

Finish Line, etc.

Blogger wasn't working yesterday, so I packed up my back room instead. Whee. I didn't keep track of hours because I was very distracted. Here's what I read:

Myracle, Lauren. Thirteen Plus One.
Winnie and her friends get a chance to spend a month working at a turtle sanctuary along a beach during the summer after eighth grade. Dinah and Cinnamon both get interested in boys, although Winnie remains true to Lars. Nothing terribly earth shattering happened, but Myracle's younger books are my new favorite-- they remind me a bit of Lenora Mattingly Weber in that they describe all of the things that are NEW about being an up-and-coming teenager. I wanted to check 11 and 12 out of the library, but they had multiple holds on them. Drat.

Carter, Scott William. The last great getaway of the Water Balloon Boys.
Picked this one up at a book look, expecting something like DuPrau's Car Trouble. This, however, is darker and more high school, given some of the language and situations. Charlie, the target of school bullies, is rescued by former friend Jake, who has stolen the principal's '67 Mustang. The two take off on a convoluted path to Denver to see Charlie's estranged father, get involved with some unsavory characters, and eventually some crime. Perhaps for high school, but this was a little too much for younger students.

Morrison, Angela. Sing me to Sleep.
Also more high school, from public library. Beth is bullied at school because of her appearance, but she has a good singing voice and is part of a competition choir. When they get accepted to a foreign competition, the other members give Beth a makeover and she's much more attractive. Her long time friend Scott has always been interested in her, but gaining the attention of the attractive Derek, a singer from another choir, is a surprise, and the two launch into an intense relationship, complicated by Derek's medical issues, which he has kept hidden. A sad book, I would have liked this better if Beth hadn't undergone her "transformation". There was enough going on without it.

Then, last night:

Patt. Beverly. Best Friends Forever: A World War II Scrapbook.
This is a good take on the Japanese internment, but for younger readers. Louise and Dottie remain good friends even after Dottie's Japanese family is removed to an internment camp. Louise's life continues on, converned with the war, of course, and she gets letters from Dottie describing what her life is like. Interesting parallels with Louise's family having rocks thrown in their window because they are German, and the pictures of artifacts from the era are fun to look at, but this would be better suited for the elementary school. On this topic, Hughes' Missing in Action or Kadohata's Weedflower give more in-depth explanation.

Block, Francesca Lia. House of Dolls.
I'm not a fan of Block (Weetzie Bat), but I loved Rumer Godden as a child, and this looked reminiscent of her doll books. It was not bad-- Madison has three dolls and a house for them that was her grandmother's, but she is jealous of the dolls and the attention that they get. The ending is pat and the characters are a tiny bit quirky, but for an elementary population fond of Godden's work (which seems not to be in print), this would be a fresh, new book.

Houtman, Jacqueline.The Reinvention of Edison Thomas.
Eddy is brilliant but has trouble connecting with people. He goes to therapy to try to learn coping skills, but doesn't do too badly. He is upset when he gets third place at the school science fair, but eventually manages to make friends with another boy in his class who is scientifically minded. This was a pretty good book, and a good depiction of a boy with Aspberger's syndrome who learns to function gairly well, but I just found Eddy rather annoying, and wanted this to be slightly more amu
sing than it ended up being.



Just about everything in the library is packed up. Since it is the last day of school for students, I'll be moving computers and equipment out, and tomorrow the custodial crew comes to move things to the cafeteria. At left is a picture of the carpet that they will be installing. The shelves will be wood-look laminate, and I don't think that that chair enters into the equation! Construction starts on Thursday, and is supposed to be completed before the beginning of August!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Running... just slowly

Wow. Talk about a supportive group. Can't tell you how much those 15 comments helped! Yes, had Chinese, got a good night's sleep, and read 8 books instead of my usual 20 or so, but I'm reading, and I do feel better. I don't know how much visiting I'll be doing, but I don't want to miss the party, so will try to hit some blogs early early Monday morning before packing up the back office.

Myracle, Lauren. Thirteen. (from Book Look)
I've not been wild about Myracle in the past, but Picky Reader loved Thirteen. It was pink and girly, and was about my speed... and I really liked it! Definitely akin to Naylor's Alice books, with family issues, friend issues, boy issues... issues everywhere. Plot? Yeah, but that's not why I enjoyed it. I liked it because Winnie gets to kiss Lars, her boyfriend. *Sigh* Like all Pink Lit, it's the vicarious adolescence that really makes these sing, and despite Winnie's problems, I was glad to be her for a little while. Definitely will pick up 11 and 12, and am reading 13 Plus 1 after grocery shopping.

Hayter, Rhoda. The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams. (from Book Look)
Abbie gets into a lot of trouble in school because she can't contain her magical powers-- sneezes send her rushing to the ceiling, and it's hard to keep certain things from her best friend. When her father brings home a kitten for her, Abbie is happy... until she realizes that there is something not quite ordinary about the kitten, and this leads to an involved mystery she must solve. Loved the cover on this one, and light, magical tales have been increasingly popular with my girls. I was a bit thrown by the lack of explanation for Abbie's family's magic. Sometimes this lack makes it easier to suspend disbelief, but in this case it made it harder. Still, a solid first book, and I'll look for more from this author.

Reger, Rob and Buzz Parker. Stranger and Stranger. (Emily the Strange)(from Book Look)
This is a beautifully designed book. Lovely cover, interesting end papers, and illustrations with the text that add much to the story. But I just didn't get it. This is the second book in the series, so maybe I am missing something there, but the constant journaling (ala Georgia Nicolson) combined with the extreme weirdness of the character (you have a golem? Why?) was a bit off-putting. Surly Teenage Boy picked it up as well and felt the same way. Debating whether this will be popular with the goth crowd anyway.

Witlinger, Ellen. This Means War.(from Book Look)
There is a quote about no day in the world being more perfect than the first day of summer vacation when one is ten, and this book captures a little of that feeling even though it starts in October. Juliet has been best friends with Lowell forever, but now he is hanging out with boys who think it is sissy to talk to girls, and since it is 1962, Lowell stops seeing Juliet. Luckily, Patsy moves in and provides someone to divert Juliet from all of the problems surrounding her. Juliet's parents' grocery store is not doing well, and a national crisis is in the offing, and the boys and girls Juliet knows start a dangerous competition to see who is better. This competition adds interest to a strongly historical novel that explains the Cuban Missile Crisis, duck and cover drills, and the growing uphappiness with the government that lead to the protests of the later 1960s. This may be a hard sell, because the cover is not good, but I enjoyed it and will be pleased to recommend it.

Malone, Marianne. The Sixty-Eight Rooms. (from public library)
After Ruthie visits the Thorne rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago, she becomes entralled with the miniature masterpieces. With the help of her friend Jack, she manages to get a key to the rooms and sneak in while no one is at the museum... and finds that the two can shrink, go into the rooms, and even travel back in time. They discover several mysteries involving the rooms and spend their precious time there trying to solve them. I love any and all time travel books, and the suspension of disbelief worked well in this one. The concept was very intriguing, even though the delivery was a bit slow in spots. (Jack's mother is having financial problems, a lot of time is spent plotting to get into the rooms, etc.) Children who like Blue Balliet will like this, and it has some similarities with The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler as well. Yeah, I will have to buy it.

Vrettos, Adrienne Maria. The Exile of Gigi Lane.(from Book Look)
Was concerned that this wouldn't be appropriate for middle school after the really good put inappropriate Skin, but this would be fine for fans of Harrison's Clique series. I just absolutely didn't get it. Gigi is in line to be the Head Hottie at Swan's Lake County Day School until she is mean to a girl and exiled to an Alaskan fish cannery for 8 weeks. When she returns, she is overweight, ungroomed, and kicked out of the head group. She tries to get in to all of the other cliques, only to fail miserably. Well-written, but should probably be classified as fantasy because I just can't see any of the events happening at any school anywhere.

Higson, Charlie. The Enemy.
This author's Silverfin is so popular that I actually purchased it at Barnes and Noble because it is set in London and involves zombie grownups who attack children. I wasn't disappointed, but Surly Teenage Boy found the beginning confusing and wouldn't read it. A disease has turned grownups into violent, decaying monsters who eat children. Groups of children have holed up in grocery stores to try to survive. When a representative of a group that has taken over Buckingham palace approaches a group hiding in a Waitrose, they decide to try to travel there in order to be in a more secure environment. This book had a lot of action and adventure, but it also had a LOT of death. Fighting zombies is not for the faint of heart! I don't think I would have this in an elementary library (especially since the zombies are invariably refered to as "moms" and "dads"!), but middle schoolers will adore this one, if only for the whole "no grownups around" thing, which I remember being quite the thrilling thought when I was 12. There may be a sequel possible, but I haven't heard of one.

Howe, Peter. Waggit Forever. (from Book Look)
Waggit's group of dogs, the Tazarians, are having problems finding food because the park in which they live is being refurbished. With the help of Beidel, who generously lets them take the food from a Chinese restaraunt in his territory for a while, the group travels across New York City (I think) to another park. On the way, they must still find food, stay safe, and help the weakest of their members to keep going. This was published in 2010, which surprised me. It has the look and feel of a book from the early 1970s, reminding me strongly of things I read then. Even though it involved talking dogs (and one human who can understand them) and was oddly similar to the Warriors series, I found myself liking it and wanting to read the first two books, Waggit's Tale and Waggit Again. There are always a few students who like to read books about dogs (like Lee's Dog Lost), so I think that I will look into buying the other two, providing they weren't actually first published in 1970!

Off to finish 12 Plus 1!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Tripping at the Starting Line

Mother Reader is hosting her fabulous 48 Hour Book Challenge. I have stacks of books in my TBR pile, laundry done, and plan to order Chinese takeout instead of trying to feed children this weekend.

However, I don't feel a lot like reading. I finished boxing up all the books for the library renovation after finding out that I also have to move everything from the back room... and that the final plans are not quite to my liking, but there is nothing to be done. Least said the better.

I've worked way too hard this week, I'm exhausted, and just have lost my will to read. Sometimes that happens. Things will look better after a good night's sleep.

Athena the Brain

Holub, Joan and Suzanne Williams. Goddess Girls: Athena the Brain.
Athena, who lives with her friend Pallas' family in ancient Greece, suddenly finds out that she is the daughter of Zeus, and is whisked off to the Mount Olympus Academy, where Zeus is principal. Bringing along her bag of scrolls, Athena tries to settle in among the godboys and goddessgirls, investigating her new powers (have to watch those brain storms!), taking place in an invention fare, and dealing with Medusa after an invention goes wrong.

Warning: I was a Latin teacher in a previous life, so I get really picky about mythological books.

While this book (there are four in the series out) was not as annoying as the Pandora Gets Jealous series (which was very grating), it wasn't fabulous, either. There is some stilted language and phrasing (textscrolls, Revenge-ology?), and while the mythology is not incorrect, it's not quite right, either (why is Zeus the principal, while Poseidon is a student?). This would be a fine choice if your ten-year-old wanted to pick it up in a book fair; I think I will pass on purchasing it for the library.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Dan Gutman and Me

Gutman, Dan. Ray and Me.
In this ninth book of the Baseball Card Adventures series, Joey gets hit in the head while pitching at a baseball game and is in a coma for two weeks, when he wakes up, his coach tells him about Ray Chapman, the only pro ballplayer to be killed while batting. Batting helmets were unheard of in the 1920s, so Joey sets off to save the life of Chapman, and the career of Carl Mays, who threw the killer pitch and was haunted by it for the rest of his life. Things are different during this time-- Joey meets Babe Ruth (again) at a speakeasy, finds out that women have just gotten the right to vote, and comes up against complications in getting Chapman to avoid being hit. When his first attempt fails, he returns with a doctor to try to bring 21st century medicine to heal the brain injury. I love how Gutman weaves in the history and illustrates with period photos.

Gutman, Dan. Roberto and Me.
Joey finds out that his Spanish teacher (whose class is his weak spot) met Roberto Clemente as a child when she was suffering from a disease that eventually crippled her. Clemente, an active humanitarian, had promised to revisit her and bring medicine that would have helped-- but he was in a fatal plane crash while on a mission to help victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua. Joey plans to go back to warn Clemente about not getting on planes, but ends up in Woodstock, where he meets Sunrise, a girl his age who has run away from home. Hitching a ride back to her town of Cincinnati, where Clemente is playing, he manages to meet the ballplayer and tells him the perils he faces, but Clemente is determined to continue to help people. I loved that Sunrise asked Joey if they had jet packs and flying cars in the future, and how Joey starts to realize that hippies were not just cartoonish people in Halloween costumes, but people who had a very intense social and political agenda. Joey also is visited by his great great grandson, who has inherited his ability to time travel, and finds that even in 2080 there aren't jet packs, mainly because the present's dependence on oil has contributed to global warming that makes the future look more like 1910.

While the global warming message in the last book was slightly heavy handed, I was once again impressed by how easy Gutman makes writing look! Series that last more than 8 books make me start to wonder how adept the writer is (I was traumatized by my children's love for the Animorphs series, which could only be obtained at the thrift store. I think they had 52 of the 54 titles, and they refuse to part with them!), and the My Weird School series is too young for me, but Gutman is a great writer. He balances the elements that students want in books very well, has good pacing, a humorous touch, and writes exceptionally amusing books that are fun to read. Not that I don't like those things, but I would love to see a more "serious" book from Mr. Gutman, because he would write one that would make teachers AND students happy.

Renovation note: Have everything but fiction packed up, and figure there are about 300 boxes of that to do. Then it's moving everything to the cafeteria. It's going well.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Packing It In.

There are muscles at the back of one's arms called Triceps Brachii. Apparently, the best way to work these is to fold together cardboard boxes and then fill the boxes with books.

Have packed up about 80 boxes, but have not even started the fiction. Read nothing last night because there was a band concert and I was exhausted from packing up books!

That's okay, though. The Salem Press Library Blog Awards have been announced, and apparently, mentioning books frequently is not something people look for in a library blog. (And no, I didn't win an award. Not that I'm bitter or anything.) I looked over the list of school library books, but found little that I like to read, which is reviews of good new books. Interesting to peruse people's opinions and anecdotes, and certainly Awful Library Books and Library History Buff are worth a visit.

*Sigh* Off to pack up more books and then harass students about overdue library books!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Library Renovation Notes

There's not a good way to direct people to this web site: I Googled "tips for packing up a school library" (without quotation marks), and got this link, which doesn't work when I paste it into the browser.

www.sampson.k12.nc.us/countypage/.../Packing%20up%20a%20Library.doc

The information comes from someone in the Sampson County Schools in North Carolina, and it's very good. I wish I had know about the food boxes-- it's all I have and will have to do! Packed up 60 boxes today with the help of my wonderful parent volunteer Michele. I hope to do more tomorrow and maybe even have students move things out to the cafeteria.


Packing up a Library

Weed the collection

Dust the collection.

Take digital/video pictures of each area of your library collection plus placement of tables, pictures, globes, shelves etc.

Order as many rolling book carts as you can to rent/borrow

Boxes:

Order boxes no larger than to hold one shelf of books

Copy paper boxes do well.

Order boxes from Follett or your jobber. Your rep may get these for you free and you just pay the shipping charges.

Don't use food boxes to pack them as the scent from food can lure bugs.

Labeling:

If your shelving is not being moved, label all the shelves really well with the range of call numbers to ease re-shelving.

Get neon colored paper: One color for Fiction; One for Easy; One for Non-Fiction; One for Reference. Mark each with black marker.

Clearly number and label the boxes. Fiction 1, A-Ag; Fiction 2 Ah-Bn; etc, on the top, and all sides.

Filling:

Fill one box, label it on several sides with the call number range, then put the next box on top of that first one and continue to a 3 box height level. Maintenance then would move the 3 boxes together.


Put a sticky note on the last book of each shelf. That way you know how many books should go back on each shelf.


Spine Up? Spine Down? Lay flat? However you choose to do it, make sure the books have NO wobble room. Pack tight with butcher paper as a filler.


I would pack them spine down. I had to pack up my library for a year and some of the books that were spine up dropped out of their bindings. If you do pack them spine down make sure they are tightly packed so they don't fall over in the box.


I have packed up a library at least 3-4 times, and I would recommend that:

You lay the books flat. You want to create "bricks" so to speak, so that when the boxes are stacked, the boxes on the bottom can support the weight of those on top. My first experience was with a school district gave me old grocery boxes of all shapes and sizes which were not sturdy and basically fell apart, I have insisted on bankers boxes. After many treatments by orthopedic doctors and neurosurgeons for disc problems and pinched nerves, I only pack boxes 3/4 full at the most. The boxes get too heavy. It is important to have them so the weight doesn't shift side to side, but it has been fine to let the top 1/4th of the box crush down--no damage has occurred. Also, when you move, the banker boxes are the right size to fit in the shelf if you are able to pack by shelf. The last time we did this, we were able to have a door to door move, with the packed boxes going from their old shelf to their new shelf, and sitting in their box until we got ready to unpack. I am afraid the spines would be damaged by packing the spines up--divide and crush.

Having packed 4 libraries, I strongly suggest packing books laying down to save the spine of the tallest books in a box. Also, I would recommend packing the boxes completely with books, up to the top.


Pack crumpled newspaper in any gaps to prevent sliding. If you place them in spine up, don't stack your boxes on top of each other. Over several months (or even days) the lids (or flaps) can cave in under the weight of the top box and crush the tallest spine(s). I've even had brand new books with twisted spines because the custodian stored my new book boxes stacked 2 or 3 high.


The movers stack boxes 5 to 10 high and that puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the bottom box.

Include in each box anything else that was on that shelf (book ends, shelf markers, etc.) so unpacking will be as seamless as possible. Keep a master list of how many boxes of each type so that you will know what to expect to unpack.

Don't overload the cartons (I believe paper weighs 60 pounds per cubic foot) and use good tape on the bottom.

If you are putting the books back in the same places, not re-arranging the library or adding shelving, mark the shelves clearly as to what number starts where to make it easier for helpers to put the books back.


If you have modular book shelves for some of your collection, try to put as many books on the empty shelves and label clearly what they are. Then get some of that packing plastic from Staples, etc. and wrap all around the whole thing. Use a marker and write ON THE PLASTIC which books they are (Call #s).


Run your shelf list by section. When you get ready to unpack your boxes, hang signs on your walls as to call number division, then organize boxes by call number and compare with your shelf list.


If your shelving is being dismantled, make a chart of the shelf layout, and label all the shelves on the chart, and on the shelves themselves.


Packing doesn't take much time; it is unpacking that takes the majority of time.

Make sure you do not lift any heavy boxes. That is what maintenance people do.

Drink water and wear a dust mask.

Watch this Video by Nancy J. Keane:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rms_library/sets/72157600833439419/show/

Thanks to the Librarians on LM_NET who gave us these great tips on packing up a Library!

Tiger Press Young Writers Competition

Got an e mail from Siti Yunus at Tiger Press, asking me to place this widget on my blog in exchange for a free t shirt. Well, I don't really need the t shirt, but it looks like an interesting contest. May try to get Surly Teenage Boy, author of Mr. Mop Man and The Hwacha of Darkness, to turn his hand to it. This is unfortunately limited to UK residents only.
http://www.childrens-books-award.co.uk/

Thirteen Days to Midnight

Carman, Patrick. Thirteen Days to Midnight.
Wow. Don't know why Carman has been writing fantasies like Elyon and Atherton for elementary students when clearly his talents lie in taut, psychological thrillers for YA.

Jacob is recovering from the death of his foster father in a car accident that also should have taken his own life. Right before the crash, the father said "You are indestructible" to Jacob; the same thing that he writes on the cast of a new girl, Ophelia, shortly before she has a skateboarding accident that should have left her scraped and bloody. The two high schoolers, along with friend Milo, begin to discover that Jacob does have the power to be indestructible, and can pass it to others, and then take it back. Ophelia especially tests the limits of this and is intent on saving as many people from death as she can. Jacob struggles with the power-- passing it on becomes more and more difficult, and Ophelia's behavior becomes more erratic and dangerous. Jacob and Milo try to find out the nature of the power, and uncover secrets that Jacob's foster father had kept covered for a very long time.

I got a bit confused at the end, especially with some of the theological implications, but this was a fabulous book, and depicted teenagers very realistically. What would teenagers do if they found out they couldn't be injured? Ride skateboards off roofs and bait bullies, certainly. There are also some brilliant turns of phrase-- I'd quote them, but Surly Teenage Boy has my copy of the book. The one involved a teacher who, when he takes away cell phones from students, keeps them and answers "shut your pie hole" to every text received, which is just brilliant. The other involved Ophelia and Jacob riding a skateboard together and kissing, and had just the right blend of romance and thrills.

Haven't read much lately that really made me sit up and take notice, and I wasn't overly motivated to read this weekend (afraid of burning through my pile for the 48 Hour Reading Challenge this weekend), but this was awesome. I hope that Carman has some similar books in the works.
 
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