Friday, February 27, 2009

Poetry Friday is all about MONSTERS

So, it's Poetry Friday, and I thought I would share a song.

Because, man, that's a classic, and a favorite of mine.

And now, here's a non-poetry review:

Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street Michael Davis

Here is everything you ever wanted to know about the seminal show of Sesame Street as well as a history of educational programing.

The beginning can get a bit confusing, as we have the back stories of all the people that would come together and form the show, as well as the tracing of educational programing from Captain Kangaroo (of which many members of the production team would leave to join Sesame Street) and Ding Dong School to Sesame Street and even through Barney.

Readable and fascinating, I now understand why the show has changed so much from my childhood. And, sadly, I learned who is responsible for the wiggly-jigglyness of Elmo's World that gives me such a headache (J'Accuse Mo Willems!)

Getting the show off the ground, securing the funding, convincing stations to carry it, convincing people to watch, convincing people that, wait, TV can be educational AND fun was an epic struggle. The networks all passed on it.

After a few seasons, Hispanic groups staged a sit-in to remind the producers that the inner city (which was the show's target audience, although it gladly welcomed viewers from the suburbs and rural areas) had more shades of brown than were being shown on-air. (And I will tell you now that all the Spanish I know is what I learned off Sesame Street.)

I did some work in a closed records collection this fall as part of a homework assignment (it wasn't closed for security or anything--the papers just hadn't been appraised or processed yet, which is what I was doing.) The papers dealt with educational television and there were several letters from the time period before Sesame Street aired, discussing the show at length. There were many skeptics in the educational programming community that it would work, and Davis outlines the controversy well, especially after the show aired and more experts could get an eye on it. Kids couldn't and shouldn't be taught this way. (And the papers I was examining were also skeptical of nationally produced educational TV--many people thought that it should all be done on the local level.)

But, here I am, a working professional in the big city with a childhood based in a small city and when I count to 12, most of the time, I sing it. (They've disable embedding, so you'll have to click over to watch it.) And, now that I'm an adult, I can fully appreciate the lyrics to this:

I love the lines They talked about the high price of furniture and rugs/
And fire insurance for ladybugs
. Fire insurance for lady bugs. I will not reveal my age when I finally understood the macabre hilarity of that line (Lady bug lady bug/Fly away home/Your house is on fire/Your children are alone).

And I don't like all the changes as they aim the show for a younger audience, but I'm glad that the book explains why they happened. I liked that the book focused on the good of the players involved, while still fully detailing their negative points.

Also, I'm glad it gave a little love to Avenue Q, the musical written by and performed by a great number of Sesame Street alums, all about what happens when the kids and monsters on the street grow up.


Round up is over at Mommy's Favorite Children's Books.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I have had enough, of keeping quiet about all this stuff...

I have had Romeo by Basement Jaxx in my head ALL DAY. Which means I've been dancing in my chair ALL DAY.

Anyway, this weekend I had the pleasure to read a book that I normally wouldn't have picked up, but I had to read it for work.

Dead Is the New Black Marlene Perez

Weird things happen in Nightshade, so Daisy isn't too surprised to find out that new jukebox at the diner is haunted to play prophetic songs, or that the head cheerleader showed up on the first day of junior year, dead and toting around her own coffin. I mean, everyone else in Daisy's family is psychic.

But some weird stuff isn't good. Like the fact that a dead body ran away from the morgue and there's a psyonic vampire on the loose (one that sucks your soul, not your blood.) Daisy might not have her mother's or sisters' pyschic abilities, but she's still on the case. Is Sam really dead or just starting a weird new trend? Is she the killer vamp? Daisy's about the join the cheerleading squad to find out.

An engaging story that's funny and fun instead of scary and dark, even though Nightshade is full of characters that usually populate horror novels. I especially enjoyed the craziness of does he like me or not amidst the investigation and the interaction between Daisy and her older sisters. Daisy often feels left behind and left out, not only because she's the youngest, but because she doesn't have any powers of her own. Immensely readable and enjoyable.

I can't wait until my hold copy of Dead Is a State of Mind.

Monday, February 23, 2009

the perils of first-person history

It's Nonfiction Monday! And I'm talking about two more books that were on the Cybils short-list for MG/YA nonfiction, one of which I really liked, and one of which I really hated.

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball Kadir Nelson

This is a beautifully illustrated book about Negro League baseball. It won the Coretta Scott King honors for artwork and writing and it won the Sibert.

I'm still fuming.

I mean, it wasn't my favorite for King illustrator--it wasn't even my favorite Kadir Nelson book this year (I really liked his work in Abe's Honest Words) but I can understand why it won. I have much greater issues with the writing. I think it's an interesting story and kids will respond to the everyman first person narration, even though I find it fundamentally flawed. Not overjoyed with the writing winning an award, but also not surprised.

I am, however, extremely upset that it won the Sibert. There is NO WAY this book should be held up as a good example of nonfiction for kids.

Let's take another look at those illustrations. Many (possibly all) are based on real photographs. Yes, Nelson is an amazing painter and he breathed new life into those photos but... using paintings instead of photographs when they're obviously available? It makes the book less accurate, because instead of looking at real evidence, we're looking at an artistic interpretation of it.

And oh, the writing. History should NEVER be in first person if the author wasn't involved in the history. I know who Kadir Nelson is, and even I found myself asking at one point if he played for the Negro Leagues. Also, in taking the everyman approach, it makes the text confusing. When discussing how rough the players played, Nelson often says "they" or "them" but he's still in first person, so it sounds like these rough players weren't Negro league players--it sets up a horribly confusing us/them dichotomy.

Now yes, this first person narration makes the book vastly more appealing to kids, it's fundamentally not true and should not be held up as an example to strive for. How would you cite that in a paper? Can you imagine quoting something like this in a research project? How would you explain that yes, your quotation is in first person, but the person talking doesn't really exist? Will kids even realize that Nelson wasn't a baseball player? I had to go back and say "wait, what?" several times, and I consider myself to be a stronger and more experienced reader than most children, especially when it comes to history. And before you say that kids don't need to cite things and write research papers, yes, yes they do. And maybe not everything is a valid source, but if are going to give it an award for what children's nonfiction should be, then it should be a valid source. I don't lower my standards of nonfiction when it comes to stuff written for kids.

Nelson could have written a great and readable book in third person, but no. He chose something that makes his book less accurate, less true, and confusing to understand.

Also, there was no shout-out to the women who played in the leagues. No mention of them whatsoever.

Overall, yes, kids will really like this book. Yes, the pictures are beautiful. BUT! This is NOT what nonfiction for children should be. I'm dismayed that the Sibert committee thinks it is.

Ain't Nothing but a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry Scott Reynolds Nelson

Now this is how you do history in first person. Scott Reynolds Nelson (not to be confused with Kadir Nelson, whom I discussed above) is a historian and was studying the man behind the myth presented in songs about John Henry. This can be told in first person because it's about Nelson's own story, his research process as he tracks down the real story.

Nelson shows how historians get ideas and clues from a lot of different areas and objects--not just letters and records, but postcard pictures, song lyrics, and maps. The reader learns a lot about the research process, but also reconstruction, prison labor, and how the railroads were built.

The design is super kid-friendly. My only complaint is a personal one. Nelson needed to look at some records at the archives that were closed. While he does explain all the reasons why records might be closed, his frustration paints the archivists kind of like bad guys. I understand not getting the records you need and how frustrating that is, but, as a trained archivist, I have a little more sympathy for the record keepers than Nelson does. :)

After reading the book, I had to listen to this on repeat for about an hour.

Round up is over at Miss Rumphius Effect.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Info, please

Ok, here are a bunch of questions, most not at all book related, but if you can help, help me out.

I just found a note to myself that says "fairy challenge." Due to the context of the note, it looks like this is in reference to a reading challenge that I have signed up for. However, I can't think of what fairy (fairy tale?) challenges I have signed up for. But it sounds like something I would sign up for. Is there a challenge currently going on right now? Little help?

I have lately been getting back into crafts that I haven't done since elementary school. Sadly, the craft store left me disappointed. I am looking for kits for cross stitch and latch hook. Also possibly punch needle. The thing is, they need to be non-lame. I love Subversive Cross Stitch and am currently working on one of their products, but am looking for something a little more complicated.

I'm looking for kits that are a long the lines of what you would find at Subversive, or Sublime Stitching, or maybe even Bothy Threads. Eventually, I will just design my own stuff, but I want a few kits to get my mad skillz back into shape.

Meanwhile, I'm doing lots and lots of reading and scratching puppy ears...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Poetry Friday

This is an old poem, and not one of my favorites. However, it was the first one to make it into my college lit mag, and today I am sharing it because one of its lines has been rattling around my head for the past month. I'll talk about that after the poem.


You can have me here,
As you watch the yellow lines blink on and off and
I watch the passing farmhouse with my feet on the dash.
Neither of use notice that the radio has turned to talk--
Hypnotized by the windshield wipers,
Subdued by gray sky,
Each of use overly aware of the other's presence.

You can have me there,
As you philosophize on the lives of the people at the next table and
I gaze at auburn stars on beige foam of brown-oil-slick ocean I hold in my palm.
We drift aimlessly among the shops and cafes,
Feet hitting pavement,
Hands shoved deep in pockets,
Driven to silence by this city at night.

You can have me anywhere you please,
As your voice travels to me in waves and
I search for your eyes that never see the same thing twice.
We are bathed in the soft glow of Christmas lights,
Bodies loosely tangled,
Hair wrapped in our fingers,
Laughter spilling off our tongues and teeth, dripping like honey from our lips.

When you say my name, I release a breath I didn't know I was holding.
You have me where you want me.

I wrote the poem my freshman year of college. But lately, one line has been echoing--driven to silence by this city at night. I think of it as I leave a place in DC, walking back to my car to head home. But tonight, tonight, as I was driving home, so much about this city made me laugh--the girls running across the street as the light changed to read when they were halfway across, the crowd waiting to get into Thai-phoon, the people so wrongly dressed for the neighborhood they were in, the quiet that you get when you hit the part of town that's all memorials museum and federal offices, and in general, just the joy of hanging out with good friends.

Anyway, I hope you all have a great weekend!

Round up is over at The Holly and the Ivy.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Weekly Geeks

What's in a name? This week on weekly geeks, we're talking about the meaning behind character names. And our own names...

So, my name is Jennifer, which is Welsh (Gwenhwyfar) and is related to Guinevere. It means fair one or white wave, depending on what book you're looking at. (And fair one works, I'm pretty pasty!)

So, favorite character names...

Ginny Weasley is a favorite of mine AND her name and my name are really close (in fact, in some parts of the country, people can't hear or say the difference between Ginny and Jennie. Trust me, i they are NOT pronounced the same way!) Anyway. Ginny's full name is Ginevra. Some sites give it the same meaning and history as Jennifer. Some say that it's Ancient Germanic meaning "Women of the people."

Now, I've been reading the Alice books lately. Alice means of noble kind/noble sort. While Alice isn't nobility (she's far from rich) I would say that her spirit is noble.

What about Annika, the narrator of Kiki Strike? It looks like it's from the Hebrew, Channah (or Hannah) and means grace.

And how about Lyle, of crocodile fame? Apparently, his name comes from the French and means Island, or Islander!

I am Woman, Hear me ROAR!

Today I changed a flat tire in the rain. (I blew it last night, but it was too dark to see, so I didn't change it until this morning). I'm feeling pretty tough. I got the car jacked up and the old tire off ALL BY MYSELF! And then someone drove by and noticed me sitting in a puddle, and offered to help. So he put on the spare. And now I have a new tire on my car and a tasty sandwich in my belly (the repair shop is rather close to the Italian Store.)

Anyway, books.

Wake Lisa McMann

Initially, I wasn't going to read this one because the premise didn't grab me. (It sounded like it might be scary. I don't do scary. Children's scary is ok, but teen and adult scary? TOO SCARY. I am a wuss.)

But, I had to read it for work and am SO GLAD! I would have finished this in one sitting if I didn't have that pesky day job that was making me read the book in the first place.

Janie falls into other people's dreams. If you fall asleep near her, she'll be sucked into your dream while still be conscious of what her body is doing in the waking world. Nightmares are the worst--she's paralyzed and it looks like she's having a seizure.

She knows she's a freak, destined to live alone, never letting anyone too close, and being slightly afraid of some of her classmates, knowing the dark thoughts that lurk in their sleep.

McMann's writing is fast, sections are date and time stamped, with awake action alternating with other people's dreams.

See, it sounds like it would be scary horror ish. But it's not. It's hard to explain. It's part love story, part super natural-y, and part police detective! The sequel sounds much more police detective like, and I can't wait until my name comes up on the hold list. I'm also excited to see more of Janie's relationship with her mother--in the text, we get Janie's impressions of it, but you know there's more there, and that there's more to her mother than Janie allows herself to see and think about.

Oh! There's been talk here in kidlitland in the last year about class in literature. Janie is poor and white and her issues with the popular girls are class-based. It also provides a good reason as to why she hasn't seen a doctor about these issues--she doesn't have insurance and can't afford it, so it's gone uninvestigated.

Anyway, check it out, because it was very different than what I thought it would be, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

For 24 years, I've been living next door to Alice...

Last week I blogged about the changing covers of the Alice McKinley series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Today, I thought I'd blog about the books. I just read 10 Alice books more or less in a row. Separating them out into 10 different reviews is too much work (sorry) so this is just one mass review of the last half of the series. As such, there will probably be some spoilers.

The books I'm looking at are:

Alice On The Outside In which Alice worries about whether or not she's "in" or "out"--complete with quotation marks. Also prejudice and racism! And a lesbian! (Ok, with all the changing covers on this series, WHY does this one still look like it's from 1987? Especially when it came out in 1999?!)

The Grooming of Alice In which there is an eating disorder. Kinda. Not really.

Alice Alone Breaking up is haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaard toooooooo doooooooooo!

Simply Alice In which Alice develops outside interests and Liz and Pam resent her for it. Also! The one with abusive boyfriends!

Patiently Alice In which we talk a lot more about racism.

Including Alice What happens when the step-mother of your dreams finally moves in and you have to see her before she's had her coffee?

Alice on Her Way In which Alice gets her drivers license, goes to New York, and has a new boyfriend who is super clingy. We also learn a valuable lesson about reputations.

Alice in the Know In which there is beer and pot and a friend with cancer.

Dangerously Alice In which Alice has a boyfriend who wants to go further than she does and there's a car accident.

Almost Alice The one with teen pregnancy.

I have a love/hate relationship with Alice. I mean, I wish I was reading this series when I was in junior high and high school (although these books are the most relevant to that time and they all came out after I graduated from high school). I like that Alice sees all the issues around her, but even when she's "living dangerously" she's a pretty straight-laced. We don't have that many characters in YA lit, where they see everything going on around them, don't overly condemn it, but realize it's not for them, which I think is actually a lot of teens. I think Alice worries about a lot of things that most teen girls worry about but don't often put voice to.

On the other hand... everything in the world happens to Alice's friends. Seriously. Every book is a new after-school special. BUT! Everything ends up nice and normal. A friend almost has an eating disorder (I'm sorry Naylor, but no, you can't be "getting a little anorexic") but her friends and family help her see that she's lost too much weight, so she starts eating again and everything is fine. A friend is pregnant but luckily miscarries the baby so she doesn't have to make any of the hard decisions about what to do with it, or even tell her father!

Then, there's Alice's voice. Where I love her feelings and questions, Alice doesn't talk like an authentic teen. When talking about Pam's relationship with her parents in The Grooming of Alice, Alice doesn't say that Pam and her dad fight all the time, no, they "quarrel." In one of the earlier books (before they break up) Alice is talking about how wonderful Patrick is at everything. But, instead of saying that he's good at everything he does, Alice says he's "competent." Really. And this is a boy she really likes, not someone she's stretching to say something nice about.

Also, why the @#$#, when she's talking about how awesome Sylvia Summers (her father's girlfriend/fiance/wife) is, does she ONLY talk about how pretty she is? This passage is from Patiently Alice but pretty much the same thing gets said in every book before Sylvia moves in:

Sylvia, with her blue eyes and light brown hair, her wonderful smile and wonderful scent, seemed the perfect [role] model for me and the perfect wife for Dad.

Nothing about how she was nice or caring or had similar interests. NOPE! Alice apparently wants this woman for her mother because she's pretty. And while not admirable, that might be true when Alice firsts gets to know her, but Sylvia has been in the picture for awhile now, and Alice can honestly say that Sylvia is nice and caring and has similar interests. Through the books and plot, we get these things and I have a pretty good feeling that that is why Alice really likes Sylvia, but when she's giving all the basic info in the first few pages? Alice only likes her because she's pretty and smells good.

One other thing really bugged me. In Patiently Alice, the girls all go off to be summer camp counselors for inner city kids. Now Alice got a token black friend in Alice on the Outside, but there are also some race issues in this one. In order to make the kids see that everything isn't all black and white, Gwen puts out black, white, red, and yellow paint and has the kids mix colors together until they get their own skin tone. The moral being that everyone needs a little of every color to get the mix right. BUT! Then one of the girls paints red stripes on her skin and says "Look! I'm an Indian!" and everyone laughs. No discussion (because lots of discussion only takes place to teach morals and life lessons in this series) about stereotyping or racism against Native Americans. Nope, it's a bonding moment amongst everyone. Ha. Ha. Ha. Grrrrr.

Even though a lot of discussion (especially with Alice's Dad or older brother) only takes place so that a RESPONSIBLE ADULT can give us all some guidance, I do really miss those discussions when Sylvia moves in. While there are a lot of adjustments when Sylvia joins that family, that doesn't seem to be one that Alice overly misses. Which seemed odd to me.

And, to end on a positive note, in Alice on her Way, we find out that Alice is Unitarian Universalist. This really excites me because I was raised UU and we don't see a lot of UU kids in literature and when none of your classmates have heard of your religion, well. Ok, so it never comes out and says that Alice is UU, BUT! Alice's dad signs her up for a class at church (the one on Cedar Lane, and there is a UU church on Cedar Lane in Bethesda. No I didn't look this up, my mom did. :) ) Anyway, the class is called Our Whole Lives and is about sex and relationships. That is a UU class. (Also, on the first day of class, they talk about why they're talking about it in church, and it's because one of the church's principles is respecting the inherit worth and dignity in every person. That's UUism.) Anyway, I took this class's predecessor and it's a unofficial right of passage. I was SO EXCITED to see it in a book. SO EXCITED.

While Alice drives me crazy, she does remind me a lot of me at that age, so I keep reading. The next book, Intensely Alice will come out this spring. Yes, I will read it. I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cybils Winners!

Did y'all check out the Cybils winners that were announced this weekend?

I was on the MG/YA nonfiction panel, so I thought I'd discuss the winner for nonfiction Monday!

The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir Cylin Busby and John Busby

John Busby was a police officer on Cape Cod who was about to testify against the brother of Raymond Meyer, a known arsonist and suspected murderer. On his way to work one night, he was shot in the face. If he survived, John knew that Meyer would come after his family next. He also knew that Meyer would only know where John was going to be if someone on the force had leaked that information.

Cylin was 9 when someone tried to kill her father. All of a sudden, there were policemen guarding her house, following her to school, standing outside her classroom door... she wasn't allowed to go over to anyone's house, no one was allowed to come over to hers.

John was frustrated and angry at the lack of progress being made in the investigation. He couldn't talk and had to take his meals through an injection in his stomach, and later through a tube.

Cylin knew she was supposed to pretend that everything was fine, and that life was going on as normal, but it wasn't.

The Busbys tell their story in alternating chapters, giving us both sides of their story--Cylin's chapters keep their child-eye's view, and John's give us the information on the investigation and his medical progress. The book is gripping and a page-turner, with something to appeal to everyone. Some readers will respond to Cylin's feelings of confusion and fear, some will appreciate the police procedural and medical information. Overall, a strong book and a strong winner.

One of my other favorites on the short list was...

Body Drama: Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers Nancy Redd

Usually, when it comes to body stuff for girls, books fall into 2 categories--books about puberty and books about sex. Redd's doesn't--this is a book that is about your body and not sex, but it's for the post-pubescent woman. It covers a range of topics--everything from corns and warts to facials, body piercings and zits, lice and facials, stretch marks and skid marks. The overall image is that yes, I know you feel like a freak because your body does this, but guess what! most bodies do and everyone's feeling like theirs is the only one!

Best of are Redd's confessions throughout the book--about all the embarrassing things she's talking about and how yes, they have happened to her.

And, there are pictures. No weird drawings of things, actual photos. Yes, this means there are photos of all sorts of body parts and bodies, in all shapes and sizes and colors. Some people may find it gross or titillating, but I think it is very empowering. My favorite are the pages showing what airbrushing can do to pictures, and how it's often used. The normal shots versus the airbrushed ones are illuminating and eye-opening.

It's funny, it's informative, and in a very teen-friendly design. This is a book I wish was around when I was a teen and needs to be on every teen girl's bookshelf.

Round up is over at Jean Little Library!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

It's Valentine's Day!

Dan and I are pretty low-key about Valentine's Day. It's just a month after our anniverary, which is right after the winter holidays... but, we ARE going to brunch tomorrow at a brand new restaurant in Arlington, which I'm very excited about (I didn't even know it was open yet!)

The DC area is very into Sunday brunch.

BUT! It's Valentine's Day, and here are 3 things to make you fall in love:

If you live in New England, I hope you got to check out Kids ♥ Authors Day!

Also, the Cybils winners are up! Be sure to check them out and get reading! (Um, but MG/YA nonfic doesn't seem to be listed? I know what the winner is! Neener. Hopefully we'll get that up soon.)

And, as if that weren't enough, to honor Valentine's Day, Amazon is offering a FREE download of Let's Get It On by Marvin Gaye.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Weekly Geeks!

I also try to be a weekly geek (I mean, I do geek out daily in my own special way) but I never seem to get around to it.

BUT! HA! Better late than never, right? This week we're talking book covers. I'm going to talk about consistency within a series. I'm a big fan of consistency. I like the books on my shelf to match and am not happy when a series changes look half way through. I mean, read my rants here and here about the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series.

And Georgia's where I'm going to start, because I wasn't originally a fan of the new covers. When I started reading, the covers all looked like this:


But, when Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers went to paperback, they changed cover designs. Now the first 4 books (pictured above) look like this:

Now, it's been a few years, and the new covers are starting to grow on me. I like that they incorporate Angus (the cat) on every cover, because he is a big part of every book. I especially like the new cover for Dancing in My Nuddy-Pants, because the romantic shadow on the wall is that of two cats. It's subtle and funny once you read the book (although the old cover, check out the man in the moon--it's two kissing cats!) I miss the old covers, but I do think the new ones will appeal to more teens today. I still, however, insist that those nunga nungas would not knock anyone out.

Despite my fuddy-duddy DON'T CHANGE THE BOOK COVER ways, sometimes it's necessary. I've been reading the Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (expect a big review this weekend or next week.)

Now, Naylor started writing the Alice books in the mid-80s and the series is ongoing. The old covers needed to go. However, they then changed the covers again and the newest ones are fine, but the older ones are still good. Here's the progression for Alice in Rapture, Sort Of.

And! Some of the newer titles/those featuring an older Alice, have totally different covers! (I'm judging entire remakes based on the "Alice" logo, which is consistent across books, but changes when they redesign the overall package)

Now, these two versions of Including Alice are pretty similar, to the point where I think both pictures were taken in the same photoshoot--the model is wearing the same top! But, I think they're both paperbacks...:

There's a bigger difference between these two paperback versions of Alice in April

And a really big difference between these two paperback versions of

The big thing I can see with the newer editions of the Alice books is that each cover seems to look like it's for an older audience than the older cover. I'm wondering why this is. Alice has always been a very controversial series (Alice thinks about sex a lot. Not that she wants to have a lot of it, but just that's she's naturally very curious about this thing that no one talks about.) So, are the publishers trying to push it into older hands by making the covers look older?

Or is it because kids like to read "up"--reading about characters older than they are and books that look older. So are the publishers aging up the covers so that the kids who are Alice's age (she ages a year every 3 books) won't think they're too babyish based on the cover?

Also, some of the covers needed to change. The illustrated version of Alice in Rapture, Sort of needed to go. But the middle one is the right age for Alice. The newer one of the heart in the beach, while technically age ambiguous, makes it feel like it's for a much older reader. The newer version of Simply Alice looks more like how old Alice should be. She's 15 and a sophomore in high school in that book--the older one just looks too young. On the other hand, the newer Alice in April might be too old, as the older one (where you can see her face) looks about the right age.

What are your thoughts?

A Day in the Life

I've been absolutely loving Abby (the) Librarian's posts about a day in the life of a children's librarian. I think a lot of my love of these posts is that her days are so different than mine, even though I'm also a children's librarian!

But, I'm totally stealing her idea and giving you a taste of what my work day is like. I give you 2 days this week:

9 am Get to work, pull books on the holds list and process them, clean up the children's room, discuss upcoming displays with my boss, help design a flyer.

10 am The library opens. I'm on desk. When slow, I check email, work on a replacement list, and weed some books. Some questions

Do you have story time today (YES!)
Do you have A Narrative of Frederick Douglass? (YES--in teen)
Do you have books about Barack Obama for 8-year-olds? (YES, but there's a waiting list)
I need information about different types of land forms.

1 pm Lunch!

1:30 pm Attempting to unearth my desk

2 pm Staff meeting

3 pm Back on desk! Lots of computer help and giving out passes. When slow, I also do some paperwork for an upcoming conference and work on the replacement list. Some questions:

Do you have this book called The Graveyard Book? (That's exactly how they asked and the answer is YES! But there's a waiting list)
Do you have the Firebird anthonogy? (NO, but we can ILL it.)
Do you have any books about Frederick Douglass (YES!)

5:30 pm Home!

Another day:

9 am Pull and process holds, clean up the children's room.

10 am Library open! I set up for storytime and do last-minute prep work.

10:30 am I do story time for 2-3 year olds!

11 am Catch my breath

11:15 am I do story time for 3-5 year olds!

12 pm On desk. Biggest problem is helping a customer open a .docx file.

1 pm Lunch!

2 pm I should be off desk and dealing with new books, but it's a little crazy, so I jump onto the adult information desk to help out. Some questions:

Do you have books by Allison Hobbs (YES! But there's a waiting list)
Where are your books about resumes?
Do you have books about KSAs? (YES! Also, I think that is a very DC-centric question)
What's the status of my ILL book?

3 pm Back in the land of children. I talk to a Babymouse fan about the new one (we haven't gotten Babymouse #10: The Musical in yet, but it's on order!). Some questions:

Where are your Frog and Toad books?
When does your chess club meet? (Monday nights)
Do you have the book Tales from the Crypt? (We have the TV series on DVD, but no books. I then get in a long discussion with a 10 year old about the cryptkeeper and how much he freaks me out.)
I need pictures of viral reproduction

5:30 pm Off desk! Grab the new books, yay! replacement copies of the first two Diary of a Wimpy Kid books have arrived! I bring them back to the children's room and get mobbed. I touch base on some things with a few coworkers and then...

6 pm Home!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Biblio File: The Inside Story

I love this interview meme that's going around. My interviewer is my friend Jenny from Jr High and High School, who blogs about the stupid amount of running she does, among other things, over at Adventures of Badgergirl.

Why'd you decide to be a librarian?

Well, I was randomly placed in the library for my work study in college. The summer before my junior year, I was working in the archives a little each day, and my supervisor let me answer basic reference questions and do some processing on collections. As I worked there longer, I was given more and more 'real' work to supplement my student grunt labor. Eventually I looked around and realized that I would be perfectly content to be doing this for the next 30-50 years.

You read a lot. Any idea how many books you've read? Either in you life or during the past few years?

I have no idea how many books I've read over my lifetime. Last year, I read 251. In 2007, it was 219. In 2006 it was 211. In 2005 it was 84. In 2004 it was 50. 2004 was also the first year I started keeping track. Guess when I became a public services librarian and reading become much more integral to my job? (I was a cataloger for a math database before that). (Answer: October of 2005).

You travel back in time and sit down and have lunch with your sophomore self. What's the one thing you tell yourself?

I'm assuming you mean high school. That this year and next year (junior year) will be the hardest years of my life, and after that, it just gets better and better and better. I just need to hang in there. Also, to get over myself and stop freaking out about stuff that doesn't matter in the long run. (Actually, I should tell myself that more often now...)

What was the best class you took in college and why?

Dostoevsky, taught by the late, great Prof. Mohan. I loved this class for so many reasons. One of the big ones is that Prof. Mohan was wonderful. He had an amazing way of viewing the world and seeing all the beauty with in it, he said the most hysterical things (I should find my notes from that class, because I wrote them down). Beyond that though, it was a 300-level class with no pre-reqs, so the course number meant it was all juniors and seniors (high level of discussion with no annoying freshmen) but the no pre-reqs meant that it was a really broad cross-section of majors, which lead to great discussion. To top it all off, we only had about 30-50 pages of reading for each class. I had history at 8, but Dostoevsky didn't meet until 10, so I'd walk to the coffee shop, get my coffee, do my reading, get my free refill, and then go to class.

In a fight, who would win? A T-Rex or 10,000 5-year-olds lead by into the fight by a battle-hardened 7-year-old riding a St. Bernard?

The 5 year olds. I think that army could beat anything in the world.

Do you want to play along? Here are the rules:
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Love is in the air....

Hmmm... blogger and flickr aren't playing well at the moment, so a picture will come at some later point... update 2/13 Finally! Huzzah! Pictures!

A Countess Below Stairs Eva Ibbotson

Anna is a countess who has been rendered penniless through the Russian Revolution. Living in London with her former governess she knows she must find work and ends up as a housemaid in the old-money-but-lost-splendor manor of Mersham. She works hard and tries to keep her blue blood a secret.

Rupert is the newest Earl of Westerholme. He never wanted to return to Mersham, it was supposed to go to his older brother, but George lies buried in Flanders field and Rupert knows George would want the family to hang onto the estate. But how to handle the crippling debt? Enter Muriel, his noveau riche heiress fiancee. The Earl needs her money, she wants his aristocratic title. Too bad she’s a nightmare.

Rupert and Anna soon fall in scandalous love, but it’s never to be, for she’s a poor servant and he’s an engaged Earl. But…

Oh how I loved this. It’s silly. Anna is ever so perfectly good (seriously, she makes Nancy Drew look nasty!) and Muriel is ever so evily bad. All the characters are flat and the plot is predictable and the end is unbelievably nice and tidy and perfect. But, I couldn’t put it down, how was it all going to play out? How was Rupert going to discover Anna’s true identity? Would it all come crumbling down? You knew how it was going to end, but how was Ibbotson going to get you there? It was oh so delicious!

Find Beauty Challenge

So, one of the many awesome things about Justina Chen Headley is that she ties philanthropy in with each book. For North of Beautiful she's having a video challenge. All you have to do is make a 90 second video about what's beautiful to you. For every video that's uploaded, Justina will upload $10 to Global Surgical Outreach, which helps third world kids that have cleft palates and cleft lips (2 separate disorders guys!)

Then, there will be winners of such cool prizes like an iPhone.

So, the Global Surgical Outreach makes sense, because Jacob, the awesome guy in North of Beautiful has a cleft lip. But this is super close to my heart, because I have a cleft palate. I have NO UVULA, which is that dangly thing in the back of your throat. Not having one, I know what it's for-- when you swallow, it covers your sinuses. Yes, the uvula is the thing that keeps you from shooting milk out your nose. Anyway, I was born with a big hole instead of a uvula. Now, such things are fairly easy to treat with surgery. So, if you have access to decent health care, you have an annoying tendency to shoot milk out your nose at inopportune moments, and if you have a cleft lip, facial scaring. All in all, not too bad. But, if not treated, it interferes with eating, speech, and hearing. Not to mention the social issues of having a deformed face.

So, anyway, who doesn't like talking about beauty? So, check out the rules here, make your video, upload it, and share your beauty with the world.

Monday, February 09, 2009


I didn't post anything when Dewey died, because I wasn't sure what to say. I've lost a few people this past year who were people I only kinda knew, but still made impacts on my life in odd ways I didn't notice until they were gone.

Dewey was one of those people, even if I only knew her through my computer screen. But, I am so damn glad that Hidden Side of the Leaf is still on my google reader, even if she is gone, because I just got to read this post, which totally made me cry.


I have been reading a lot of nonfiction about food lately. I don't know why. Today I bring you two books about Sushi (mmmmm sushi)

First up is The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy Sasha Issenberg

As the title implies, this book is more about the economics surrounding sushi, and the business of it--focusing mainly on bluefin tuna and the coveted fatty belly cut (toro, which is the only thing on the menu at my local sushi bar with a price of "market" but after reading this book, I totally know why.) In his book, Issenberg traces the journey tuna takes from ocean to sushi bar and how that's changed over the years, especially once they figured out how to fly fish caught in Nova Scotia to Tokyo without it spoiling.

Issenberg takes us to Australian tuna farms, and to the restaurateurs all over the world, tracing sushi's global spread. This book really traces the backstory of all that goes into getting the fish onto your table. (And makes me feel a lot better about ordering seafood in the midwest.)

The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice Trevor Corson

This look focuses more on the different ingredients that make up sushi, how they're prepared, and the biology that makes them taste the way they taste. Corson frames his story by following the students and teachers in a semester at the California Sushi Academy. As his students learn about fish, the reader does, along with their lives, the history of sushi, and sushi etiquette.

Story of Sushi was originally published as The Zen of Fish. I've been thinking about which is the better title. Because, while it covers the history of sushi, that's not the focus of the book. The book does focus more on the fish that make up sushi, but there's more to fish than that. I do like the original title, but I think it would be misleading and that the current title captures the book better...

The two books focus on different things, but there is some overlap. I was glad I had read both of them. Every time that Corson noted that the fish flown in from Tokyo was fresher than the fish from Southern California, I knew why, but only because I had already read Issenberg. Major characters in Issenberg are briefly mentioned in passing by Corson, but between the two books, we get a much more complete picture of sushi.

The big difference is that both books cover the post-war American occupation of Japan and how this affected sushi in Tokyo. BUT, they cover it differently, telling different versions of the same story. I wonder which one is right--to the point where I need to go do some research on this. Hmm...

I'd say that Corson was a little more mainstream and accessible, but Issenberg took me all over the world and taught me a lot more about sushi (but then I made Dan take me to the sushi bar for some tuna.)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Book Winner

Erika Lynn got the answer right to yesterday's question and will win an *autographed* copy of North of Beautiful! (Lucky duck!)

Yes, Justina Chen Headley has been geocaching with none other than librarian superstar Nancy Pearl. Nancy Pearl has written several awesome books recommending reading AND has her own action figure. The action figure has automatic shushing action. Some librarians were pissed because apaprently, librarains don't shush people anymore. They should come hang out at my library. I shush people all the time.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Justina's in the House!

I am doing my happy dance about hosting Justina Chen Headley today for her blog tour for her kickass new book, North of Beautiful.

See, I'm even prepared--these are my really big straws, which are for BUBBLE TEA. Except I might just take her to that place in Georgetown for bubble tea and all of yesterday's bubble tea haters can just deal with it already. (I was totally going to photoshop a picture so it would look like Justina and I were drinking bubble tea together, but then I remembered I don't have photoshop on this computer and my paint skills aren't that awesome. Or I could have photoshopped myself into the above photo at Shanghai hotspot M1nt, but I wasn't sure I could handle also doing my reflection in the tank...)

Anyway, frequent readers of my blog know that most of my reading falls into 2 categories: YA fiction, usually girly, and Adult non-fiction, usually about China. And, while North of Beautiful is about many things, it is also a YA Novel that goes to China and talks about how China is changing. Also, Justina just moved back from Shanghai, so how could I not ask her about China? I couldn't.

While in Shanghai, Jacob says that "real Chinese culture" is "anything to do with money...Everything in China is tied to making a buck." Terra thinks this is because in a country with, and escaping, such poverty, how could you not think about money all the time. "Who wouldn't be consumed with money if they lived in such squalor, if they had to worry about their next meal--and whether they would have a home because of the threat of progress." Do you agree with these characters' assessments of modern China?

Let’s just say that when I was living in Shanghai for the last couple of months, it was seen as completely acceptable for everyone and anyone—even taxi drivers—to ask point blank how much money you made, how much your house cost, how much your friends earned.

One of the sad, unwitting victims in China’s mad dash to modernize are its historic neighborhoods, razed without thought to preservation. These old neighborhoods (hutongs in Beijing and lilongs in Shanghai) won’t be around for much longer. Every day in Shanghai, I saw more and more sections being torn down. That’s history—tangible history—disappearing every moment. Some locals explained to me that the Chinese have no qualms demolishing this past since it’s a reminder of a poverty that’s too close in memory for comfort.

What do you wish Americans knew or understood about China today?

China is hungry and working an eight-day work week, literally every second around the clock. There is a viable pulse—at least in Shanghai where I lived for a few months. You could feel it in the city and see it in the number of cranes erected for its non-stop construction. The work ethic in China is extraordinary. You can check out my blog ( for my Shanghai turnstile posts about some of the movers and shakers in the creative industry…and how hard they work.

China’s fervor to lead the world into the twenty-first century should be a wake-up call to America. There’s so much work we as Americans need to do. We need to invest seriously in education, raising our math and science standards, encouraging more kids (including girls!) to enter technology fields. And then we all need to hunker down, sock away money into our savings, and rebuild our America.

What music are you listening to these days? What TV shows/movies are you watching?

I spent the last four months living in Shanghai and so I feel out of touch with music, TV, and movies. So I’ll put out an SOS to your blog readers:

Young adult author in need of a serious influx of new tunes and TV shows. Smitten with hip hop and rap rhythms. Loves voices like Natasha Bedingfield and lyrics like K.T. Tunstall’s. Looking for a compelling, happening TV show with the unique storytelling of Heroes (first season), wittiness and pop cultural references of the Gilmore Girls, and procedurals like Law & Order. Has serious crush on Eugenides from Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia series. Email all suggestions to Justina [at] justinachenheadley [dot] com immediately.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your high school self?

Chill! Not everything has to be done right NOW. And not everything has to be done perfectly. (I often have to tell my forty-year-old self this, too.)

But I would also tell my high school self to be more financially savvy. Don’t fall into the “good girl” trap of not talking about money. Independence—being able to do what you want—is tied to having the financial wherewithal to bootstrap your own dreams.

Excellent advice! Now, before we wander around DC to make sure all of your books are prominently displayed in bookstores, Justina's giving away an AUTOGRAPHED copy of North of Beautiful to the 1st person who leaves a comment correctly answering the following question:

What famous librarian has gone geocaching with Justina

Hmmm... maybe we'll go geocaching around DC, so someday when I'm a famous librarian, I can be the answer to this question!

Anyway, if you've missed her earlier this week, check her out at Mitali's Fire Escape, Shelf Elf, Archimedes Forgets, and tomorrow she'll be hanging out over at Teen Book Review.

AND! Be sure to read all of Justina's books! In the words of my dear friend Molly, "ZOMG! I LOVE HER!"

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

What a Week!

Justina Chen Headley is on blog tour this week. She's stopping by tomorrow, which is awesome, because this entire week has been about hanging out with awesome women. Even if the other kickass women I hung out with this week are from college and Justina went to Stanford instead of Grinnell. But when you can take a few days off work to stay up until 5 am to hang out with some of your favorite people in the world? We didn't even care when, for some reason the power went off from 2 until 3.

But, just like I cleaned the house for my in-person friends, I'm madly preparing (of course, at the last minute) for Justina's visit, by reviewing 2 of her books! (I reviewed Girl Overboard last spring, here.

First up is the brand spakin' new North of Beautiful

On the outside, Terra is an almost perfect specimen, except for the port wine stain on her face. She even has a boyfriend that she doesn't deserve. Her father is an asshole and her mother eats in rebellion. Terra's older brothers have, for all intents and purposes, fled. Terra works on her body to avoid her father's barbs. She works in her art studio to find the truth. Then, she meets Jacob, the adopted Chinese goth boy with a cleft lip. Jacob sees through all of Terra's defenses and calls her on them. What follows is a trip to China and an exploration of true beauty.

This is totally Justina's best book to date and deserves all the starred reviews it's been receiving. There is a lot in this book--family, beauty, love, geocaching, modern China, and finding and accepting yourself. All without being cheesy or trying to cram too much in. I most appreciated the family dynamics and how each member dealt with Terra's father, especially the tensions between her parents. And, being the Sinophile that I am, I really loved China parts. They capture perfectly the frenetic pace of Shanghai today, as well as some finer moments of Chinese society (and some of the more frustrating differences in cultures.)

Be sure to stop by tomorrow! Justina will give away an autographed copy and we'll talk about modern China!

(Full disclosure: ARC provided by publisher)

Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies)

Patty is half-Taiwanese, half-white, but her white father ran off years ago. She doesn't know how to fit in her skin, embarrassed by her mother's weird Chinese things, but feels like she's betraying her when she disses them. Really, Patty just wishes she was white.

Then, her mother sends her off to Stanford math camp, where she discovers that in many places, being Hapa (half-Asian, half-white) is considered beautiful and meets some really hot Asian guys. Maybe she's cooler than she thought...

Patty is hysterical, and I especially loved the Mama Lecture Series and when she tries to prove life lessons with geometric proofs:

The Patty Ho Happy Camper Theorem

Given: Math Camp is a done deal.
Prove: It is the open door I'm supposed to run through this summer

She then proves it, but I can't figure out how to do columns on this thing, so you'll just have to read the book to check out the awesomeness.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

February New Classics

Hi all! Well, the Guardian Novels Challenge has started!

If you read and review something this month, leave your link below!