Tuesday, June 28, 2011

New Orleans A.D.

I'll be leaving New Orleans today after a wonderful experience at ALA Annual.  Here are a few thoughts on the Crescent City and its inhabitants:

  • The ease and politeness of the Big Easy is notable.  With very few exceptions, the local population was friendly and accommodating - even to three librarians on an expense account. ("Can we have three separate checks?" "Sure, no problem." "Can we check out an hour late?" "I can do that.")

  • New Orleans is a religious city.  Plentiful are the numbers of transportation companies bearing the name of the Almighty.  The Lord's Son may even be found endorsing iPhone repair. If there is debauchery on Bourbon Street, it is a tourist production; New Orleans serves only to provide the venue.

  • If there is one thing that New Orleanians would like you to know, it is that New Orleans was not a victim of Hurricane Katrina.  Yes, the hurricane passed close by and caused damage from wind and rain.  However, the devastation of New Orleans was caused by human failure - the failure of the levees, the failure of the local infrastructure.  They want us to know that, to remember that, and to ensure that it never happens again.

  • There are many books written about the New Orleans experience during and after Hurricane Katrina.  If you're looking for a distilled, visceral interpretation that is accessible to teens, look no further than Josh Neufeld's graphic novel, New Orleans After the Deluge (Knopf 2010).

I'll be finishing the book on the plane.  I think I know how it turns out.

So long, New Orleans, it's been great!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

in New Orleans @ ALA

I have been so busy here at ALA's Annual Conference in New Orleans, that I haven't had much time to post.  However, you can check out the ALSC blog for what's new at the conference.  I've been blogging for them daily.

In a nutshell, here are some highlights
  • New Orleans is a wonderful city! The people, the weather (yes, I like to be hot!), the food, the sights - fantastic!
  • Dan Savage was moving as he spoke to a huge crowd about It Gets Better.
  • Jeff Kinney is as funny in person as he is in The Wimpy Kid series.
  • Rick Riordan and his panel of colleagues were entertaining and informative. More Percy Jackson GNs are on the way.  The Kane Chronicles will be a trilogy.  The Son of Neptune will be out in October. There is a very cool new ALA READ poster by John Rocco on the way soon!
  • Did I mention the food is awesome?

Rick Riordan signing my copy of The Lost Hero

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans

I'll be blogging from New Orleans for the next few days.  I'm off to the annual American Library Association Conference.  In addition to posting here at Shelf-employed, I'll be contributing to the ALSC Blog with other youth services librarians. (and I'll be tweeting, too!) Follow all the excitement of ALA in NOLA (as it relates to children's literature and youth services) at the ALSC Blog.

I haven't been to New Orleans in a long time. I can't wait to get back!

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Monster Calls

Ness, Patrick. 2011. A Monster Calls. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
 (Advance Reader Copy, courtesy of NetGalley.)

There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.
When the monster calls, Conor is not afraid. For this monster, this powerful, all-seeing monster, born of the earth, the trees and all the ages is not nearly as frightening as the monster that lurks within his nightmare.
... it does not matter what you think, the monster said, because your mind will contradict itself a hundred times each day.
You do not write your life with words, the monster said. You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tales for Very Picky Eaters: a review

Schneider, Josh. 2011. Tales for Very Picky Eaters. New York: Clarion.

If you read my blog often (and thanks if you do), you'll know that I don't normally get excited over chapter books.  It's hard to break new ground or do much "outside the box," with a beginning reader or chapter book (unless you're Mo Willems). 

Tales for Very Picky Eaters doesn't break new ground - it's the standard chapter book size, 48 pages long, and contains five short illustrated chapters that can stand alone, but  tie together in a neat little story.  So why do I like Tales for Very Picky Eaters?  Begin with the chapter titles - sure to please the most reluctant or recalcitrant reader. Each is a tale - "The Tale of the Disgusting Broccoli," "The Tale of the Smelly Lasagna," and my personal favorite, "The Tale of the Repulsive Milk" (never have been a fan of milk!). But what truly makes this book different is Schneider's very dry sense of humor.
Take the "Tale of the Lumpy Oatmeal."
"I can't eat oatmeal," said James.  "It's lumpy."
"Okay," said James's father.
"Okay?" asked James.
"Okay," James's father said again. "We just need to be extra careful from now on."
"Why?" asked James.
"Well, I got a great deal at the store.  They were selling Growing Oatmeal.  You can eat a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and it will grow right back overnight.  We'll never run out.  It will just keep growing and growing."
James' dad goes on to explain that if they don't eat the oatmeal, it will keep growing and growing.

"And growing oatmeal has quite an appetite.  It will start eating the other foods."
Growing Oatmeal is apparently fond of cake and ice cream, and
"we will have to keep a close eye on the dog because Growing Oatmeal is not a very picky eater."
(cue the devoted Basset Hound here, looking mournful with a framed photo in his mouth, featuring himself with James - no words necessary)
"Could you make some oatmeal with fewer lumps?" James asked.
"Why certainly," said James's father.
Kids will get this kind of humor and I predict they'll like it. Slimy eggs, anyone?

 Wednesday evening my son graduated from 8th grade, Thursday evening, my eldest daughter graduated from high school. It's been a busy time for me, hence my sporadic posts. Next week, I'll be off to ALA in New Orleans for the annual conference. I, and several others will be microblogging from New Orleans for ALSC. Be sure to check out the ALSC Blog!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dumpling Days

Lin, Grace. 2011. Dumpling Days. New York: Little Brown.

(Advance Reader Copy supplied by publisher - artwork not final)

(a booktalk)
In Dumpling Days, Pacy Lin, her parents and two sisters (one older, one younger) are going to Taiwan for Pacy's grandmother's 60th birthday - for 28 days! Twenty-eight days?!  What is Pacy supposed to do for 28 days without her friends in a country where she may look like everyone else, but inside, she's definitely not. At least there will be dumplings!

Pacy Lin is Grace Lin's semi-autobiographical character from her previous books, The Year of the Dog and the Year of the Rat.  In Dumpling Days, Grace Lin has made a departure from her earlier books.  Breaking out of "The Year of the" formula, with its limited page numbers, Dumpling Days is a longer book (approximately 265 pages), that offers Lin a chance to explore many facets of Chinese art, food, and culture,  as well as offer deeper glimpses into the lives of Pacy's sisters, Lissy and Ki-Ki, and even their parents,
Mom and Dad had told us about how they had moved to the United States, but I hadn't thought about their not understanding TV commercials, not being able to order food, being ignored because you didn't speak the language - all the things I found hard here in Taiwan.  Maybe when Mom ad Dad were first in America, everything was just as strange and confusing to them as Taiwan was to me now. It was surprising to think about.

A beautifully concise thought channeled through the voice of a young girl, easily undertood and profoundly important. In addition to offering cultural perspective, through the family's travels and activities, the reader learns much about the Chinese/Taiwanese culture.

The Lost Hero - audiobook review

Riordan, Rick. The Heroes of Olympus: Book One: The Lost Hero. Read by Joshua Swanson.  Listening Library.

A co-worker mentioned that this audiobook has "a slightly campy feel."  That sums this one up perfectly.  Not that campy is a bad thing. (How else can you portray Aeolus, God of Wind, who is insane, living in a palace offering a one-man, 24/7 Olympian version of the Weather Channel?!)

The point is, readers and listeners will likely have different experiences with The Lost Hero.  Text offers much more room for interpretation than does audio.  The sheer number of characters - gods, goddesses, demi-gods, oracles, satyrs, wind spirits, centaurs, cyclopes, kings, wolves and more (!) make it an extremely difficult book for one reader, especially with a length of sixteen and a half hours.  That being said, however, Joshua Swanson does an admirable job, though the voice of Leo Valdez (a new arrival to Camp Half-Blood and a main character) did remind me a bit of Cheech Marin.

I'll skip a summary of the book, but here's a quick run-down:  Percy Jackson is missing, Annabeth is searching for him, three new demi-god campers (Jason, Piper and Leo) arrive at Camp Half Blood under peculiar circumstances and are sent immediately on a vague and dangerous quest, there is definitely more to come in future books. Chapters alternate between the perspectives of the three demi-gods.

I was sufficiently intrigued.  I'll probably see this one through 'til the end.

Listen to an excerpt here.
Another review @ Dog Ear

Thursday, June 9, 2011

How Angel Peterson Got His Name: an audibook review

Paulsen, Gary. 2011. How Angel Peterson Got His Name: And other outrageous tales about extreme sports. Read by Patrick Lawlor. Brilliance Audio.
(2 hours, 10 minutes)

Now here's a book of which we don't see too many.  Looking for an available audiobook to download, I came upon this one and chose it merely because it was written by Gary Paulsen, author of last year's Woods Runner.  From the cover art, it looks to be a juvenile chapter book - but it's not.

Think of all the America's Funniest Videos shows that you've seen featuring crazy stunts performed by teenage boys. Imagine similarly crazy stunts performed in the wilds of 1950s and 1960s Minnesota (Bungee jumping anyone? All you need is a barn roof, a pulley and a truck tube!) Now imagine those stunts in the printed or spoken word. And finally, imagine them with a long and humorous "set-up" by the funny and talented Gary Paulsen. Now you've got the gist of How Angel Peterson Got His Name.

First published in 2003, released this year in audiobook, How Angel Peterson Got His Name is a young adult book and a memoir of sorts.  I say "of sorts," because in it, Paulsen shares stories of his boyhood (and a wild and reckless boyhood it was!), but in each of the hilarious anecdotes, Paulsen is not the star player, but a member of the supporting cast.  He is the one waxing the skis for the skiing speed record attempt (Who needs a hill when you've got a V-8 engine to assist?).  He is the one hoisting the WWII surplus parachute into the air for what could arguably have been the first hang-gliding attempt. He is the one who is not(?) peeking under the canvas flap to see the circus "hoochie coochie" women. 

Award-winning narrator, Patrick Lawlor, does a superb reading of How Angel Peterson Got His Name.  Despite being many years younger than Paulsen, listening to Lawlor is like sitting at the foot of a beloved uncle (dads don't tell these kinds of stories) while he spins yarns about the past.

At 72 years young, Gary Paulsen has seen many changes in his life.  Listeners may find a few tidbits from the book to be shocking, such as the accidental electrocution of many a curious cat, when televisions, with their super-charged vacuum tubes were first introduced.  Or young boys using "live pucks" for hockey practice. (Paulsen mentions cats or chickens)  While the past sometimes seems more glamorous or exciting, these are the smaller things that remind us that progress is good. However, some things never seem to change.  I am reminded of the old adage, "boys will be boys." May it ever be so.

Read about Gary Paulsen here.  He's an American treasure.

Note: My gmail account was hacked today. (My apologies if I sent you an email in broken English entreating you to buy a computer!)  When "my" emails were reported as spam, Google shut down my blog for a short time. (Thanks, Google, for giving it back!)  Moral of the story: Always back up your blog and change your password often!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

11 Birthdays

Mass, Wendy. 2010. 11 Birthdays. Read by Kathleen McInerney. Scholastic Audio.
(5 hours, 48 minutes)

* spoiler alert *

It's hard to review this one without a spoiler and it's equally difficult to review it without a reference to the 1993 movie, Groundhog Day. If you've been hibernating, groundhog style, and have never seen the movie, Bill Murray stars as a jaded weatherman who awakens each day to the exact same day, Groundhog Day in Punxatawney, PA.

11 Birthdays begins, fittingly, with a birth - two, actually.  Amanda's and Leo's.  While gazing separately at their newborn children, two sets of parents are approached by a peculiar, elderly woman.  She asks the beaming parents to promise that the children will spend every birthday together.  Not knowing each other, but willing to appease an old lady's fancy, the parents agree, not truly expecting to carry out her wish.  But amazingly, they do.  For ten years. But this year, their 11th year, Amanda and Leo are fighting and they do not spend their birthday together.  And the day passes miserably.

And the following morning, Amanda and Leo awake to the same day, their shared birthday, their 11th birthday.  And the day follows much in the same pattern as the day before and they awake, yet again, to their 11th birthday.  It takes some number of days for each to realize that the other is experiencing the same phenomenon, and they begin to orchestrate the days events - sometimes with success and sometimes without.

In the end, they realize that there is a mystery to be uncovered if they are to ever escape their 11th birthday.

While it is, at its essence, a book of realistic fiction and self-discovery, 11 Birthdays also contains the elements of magic and mystery that make the entire premise possible.  And while some of Leo and Amanda's exploits at the book's midpoint seem a little fantastic for 11-year-olds,  there is that element of the fantastic. 

This book will most likely be popular with lower middle grades.  I think I would have enjoyed the print version more.  An expressive reader with a distinct voice for each character, Ms. McInerney's voice is, however, too treacly for my taste.  Still, it's hard to go wrong with a book by Wendy MassEvery Soul a Star is one of my favorite books, and I believe that my daughter has read Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life at least five times.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Odd Ball: Hilarious, Unusual & Bizarre Baseball Moments

Tocher, Timothy. 2011. Odd Ball: Hilarious, Unusual, & Bizarre Baseball Moments.  Ill. by Stacy Curtis. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish.

It's Nonfiction Monday again.  Today's roundup is at Practically Paradise.  Be sure to check it out!

Odd Ball is divided into nine chapters or innings, with  titles such as "This Game is for the Birds," which features incidents in which our fine feathered friends have played a role in America's Pastime, and "Missing and Spare Parts," which features true stories of successful ballplayers with physical disabilities that would normally preclude a career in baseball.  (Anyone remember one-handed pitcher Jim Abbott? He played eleven seasons!)

The stories run the gamut of baseball history, from the earliest days, when some of the greatest shenanigans took place, to modern history, which still offers the occasional outrageous incident.
Pages are white with simple font, black text.  The majority of each baseball story, however, is told in the black ink illustrations of Stacy Curtis. Most of the illustrations are done in six-panel, comic style, though some feature fewer, and some are single sketches.  The illustrations evoke the style of old comic strips from the 50's and 60's or the daily Jumble in the newspaper, a style fitting the many zany anecdotes featured in Odd Ball.

My favorite story coincidentally features my favorite team, the Phillies, and one of its most famous players, Richie Ashburn.  On August 17, 1957, Ashburn hit a foul ball into the seats and struck Alice Roth on the nose.  As Alice was being removed from the game on a stretcher, Ashburn his another foul ball, striking the stretcher-ridden Alice in the leg! What are the odds?! All of this is humorously illustrated in a six-panel comic strip, so I assume that Ms. Roth escaped with little more than a whopper of a baseball story.  I hope she got to keep the balls.

"Odd Facts About the Players" rounds out the final inning.

At 64 pages, this is a quick, fun read for baseball fans ages 8 and up.

A Nonfiction Monday note: I was able to meet our esteemed Nonfiction Monday organizer and author, Anastasia Suen, at BookExpo.  We shared a bite to eat at a crowded counter and ending up sitting next to, and swapping stories with Is your Mama a Llama author, Deborah Guarino.  A fun lunch for me!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

48 Hour Book Challenge: Day 2

My final tally:
9 hours, 20 minutes,
4.5 books

It's day 2 of the 48HBC, and honestly, I don't think I'll have much time available today, but I'll give it a shot!

Friends from out of town were here, and there was a lot of wash to do, but I managed to squeak in some reading today.

Very glad to have started Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perrera.  I'm completely hooked on the story (though I cannot foresee a happy ending) and will definitely finish it at a later date.

Today's meager stats:

Books started: 1
Guantanamo Boy

Books finished: 1
How Angel Peterson Got His Name

Total hours for day 2: 2 hrs, 20 minutes

My total for the 48 Hour Book Challenge: 9 hours, 20 minutes

For my first time participating, I'm happy with that!  It was lots of fun.  Thanks, Mother Reader, for the challenge.  Look soon for reviews of the books I read!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

48 Hour Book Challenge

Here are the stats for day 1 of the 48 Hour Book Challenge

Books finished: 3
  • Super Diaper Baby 2 by Dav Pilkey
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  • Dumpling Days by Grace Lin
Books partially finished: 1 audiobook
  • How Angel Peterson Got his Name and Other Outrageous Tales about Extreme Sports by Gary Paulsen
Blog posts, comments, Twitter updates, etc. - many!

Total hours spent reading: exactly 6
Total hours spent blogging, commenting socializing: 1 
(really, I spent more, but the rules allow for 1 hour per 5 hours/reading)

Total for the day: 7 hours

Fun? Yes!

Back at it tomorrow...

48 Hour Book Challenge

I just finished A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.  A great book, but since it's not due out until September, I'll hold off on reviewing it for a while and continue down my pile.  My black and white Nook did not do justice to the illustrations.  You can check out a few pages on illustrator, Jim Kay's website.

2 books and 3.25 hours into the 48 Hour Book Challenge. Working on Grace Lin's Dumpling Days and making lunch for my son who's sick.

Super Diaper Baby 2 review

I'm off and running on Mother Reader's 48 Hour Book Challenge, so I may have several posts per day.  The idea is to read as much as I can in the next 48 hours.

Pilkey, Dav. 2011. Super Diaper Baby 2: The Invasion of the Potty Snatchers. New York: Scholastic.

(Advance Reader Copy)
Principal, Mr. Krupp, has told Harold and George that there must be something else that they can write about besides poop!  He even offers them his copy of The Grinch who Stole Christmas for inspiration.  And voila! They find that there is something else to write about – pee!  And they can make it rhyme, too!
And once every toilet
was crushed by the cat,
The people awoke and cried,
“What’s up wit’ dat?”
With more Flip-O-Ramas and “feachering gooder grammer and lesser mis-pelled words,” kids are sure to love Super Diaper Baby 2.  Coming this month to a library near you.

... and I'm off to my next piece of quality literature ...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

48 Hour Book Challenge

June 3rd (or June 4th, depending on your preference) kicks off this year's 48 Hour Book Challenge.  The Book Challenge has been an annual happening for 5 years and is organized by MotherReader.  In a nutshell, "the challenge is to use this window of time to read as much as you want - and then a little bit more - along with your book blogging friends."  Full details may be found here.  I've never participated before, but am hoping to use this time to catch up on my reading pile and share some new books with you.
Here's what's on my "to be read" pile:
  • The Mis-Adventures of Phillip Isaac Penn byDonna Peterson
  • Super Diaper Baby 2: The Invasion of the Potty Snatchers by Dav Pilkey (kids will be so happy to see this one released later this month!)
  • Dumpling Days by Grace Lin
  • The 39 Clues: Cahills vs. Vespers: The Medusa Plot by Gordon Korman (due out in August and also likely to be very popular)
  • Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera (at least I hope to get a start on this one)
  • Several picture books that have also been piling up
I doubt I'll get to them all, but I like the inspiration offered by the 48 Hour Book Challenge - just what I needed - a little push. 

Beneath the Waves - a review

As we read disturbing news accounts of dying manatees , environmental disasters caused by toxic waste, and ocean pollution on the scale of ...