Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Puffin Books has launched a new series of graphic novels, Puffin Graphics, which retell works of classic literature. I like these books. The covers are colorful and very well done. The books echo manga editions in size and format. The interior artwork in these books is in b&w and gray tones.
There is a "making of the book" section at the end of each book. The artist's method of working with preliminary sketches, layouts, and inking are demonstrated. This section might work well for the "drawing book" kids. Without a doubt "how to draw" books are the most highly circulated books in any school library (more than snake books even) and they are often the refuge of non-readers. These students are usually very drawn to graphic novels.
The stories themselves are adaptations but they have maintained the sense of the original. (I have not seen their edition of Macbeth yet.)
Librarians who are skittish about the whole graphic novel thing might find these editions collection-worthy.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, adapted by Gary Reed has maintained the original plot. It always surprises kids to know that Frankenstein was the doctor, NOT the monster.
Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, adapted by Tim Hamilton
L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, adapted by Michael Cavallaro
Illustations are very manga.
Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, adapted by Wayne Vansant
I am very anxious to get feedback on these books from kids.
The REAL proof will be, can you pass the AR test by reading these books?
Oh I hope so.
Monday, January 30, 2006
Sunday, January 29, 2006
He asked the kids what the "typical" wizard looks like and drew one as they added to the description. Then he had them to describe the "opposite" of that wizard. They came up with young vs old, carrying a briefcase/cell phone/Starbucks vs a wand, a suit vs robes, etc. When one of the kids added "evil" as the opposite of "good," Stroud modified it to "morally stupid." Looking at the photo, I noted the word "politician" was listed below as an occupation. I thought that was an useful modifier to "morally stupid."
He read the passage from The Amulet of Samarkand where Nathaniel summons Bartimaeus for the first time after setting up the scene with another illustration. Hearing the author's voice is always a thrill for me.
He offered to answer questions and was pleased, I think, to have real fans of the books asking questions dealing with amazing
minutiae about the stories. Inevitably one kid asked the pointless question, "Where do you get your ideas from?" OK, I admit to a small moan and wail when I heard this question. If authors had a nickel for every time they hear this question, they could retire in grand comfort and never write another word. Stroud was gracious.
Editorial comment follows:
Plea -- Yes Virginia, there are such things as STUPID questions. Thoughtful questions take time to develop and deeper thinking than the wish to hear one's own voice. Chris Crutcher has written very eloquently about "Students and Questions." This is a skill that can be acquired with preparation and thoughtful teaching. It also helps if you have actually read the book(s.)
My entling asked if Gladstone was really buried at Westminster Abbey. Stroud affirmed that he was and described a visit to Westminster Abbey where he walked around and through the statues of statesmen and notables which gave him the idea for the sequence of events in The Golem's Eye.
He was very kind and talked to each person as he signed their books. With my daughter he shared some pictures of his characters that had been drawn by kids in Japan . They were Bartimeus à la "manga."
He drew a little "demon" along with the inscription for the kids. I asked him if he ever worried about tendonitis from book signings (Brian Jacques has to wear an arm brace and cannot personalize books anymore) and he shared that book tours were not the problem but the hundreds of books he signs at the publisher's warehouse before a release were very hard work.
When I asked if he reads for fun when he is on the road and he commented that traveling afforded him rare personal time to read for pleasure. Since he does not read fantasy while he is writing and having a 2-year-old child keeps him busy on the home front, he was thoroughly enjoying reading Ursula Le Guin on this current book tour.
He was a very witty and thoughtful speaker. I enjoyed his sense of humor (which he was going to need as he had minimal time to cross Houston in rush hour traffic to get to the next signing on time.)
Friday, January 27, 2006
I just checked out the Texas Library Association Conference--2006 sessions:
- Anthony Horowitz of Alex Rider fame is presenting on Tuesday!
- Paper artist and picture book author, Denise Fleming
- Caroline Cooney (Code Orange and everything else)
- Garth Nix (I swear, I WILL read Sabriel before April)
- Adventure writer, Will Hobbs
- K. M. Grant (Picked up Blood Red Horse as an ARC last year and really liked it. Have not seen the sequel, Green Jasper yet.)
- Rosemary Wells
- Brian Pinkney
- Susan Cooper (Oh my goodness!)
- Mike Thaler (...from the Black Lagoon)
- Rick Riordan
- Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel (hilarious sister team)
- Diane Mott Davidson (culinary mysteries, grown-up books)
- and lots of others...
Celebs appearing include:
- Rhea Perlman (new children's author)
- Julie Andrews (Dame Julie)
- Marlee Matlin
Looks like I will NOT be subbing that week in April.
See you at the conference!
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Re-shelving library books is not a job that seems glamorous or inspiring but it is so important. If a library is lucky enough to have a great volunteer force (bless them all!) -- re-shelving happens. If there are not loads of volunteers then re-shelving occurs when there are not classes to be read to, when teachers do not need help, when the library aide is not being pulled out of the library (to cover a class, unjam the laminator, put out a "fire" in the admin wing,) or when there is not another yet form to be filled out with stats to document the importance of the library program.
Last week I began sorting books for re-shelving so I could take a stack to the shelves and re-file the books more quickly. As I sorted the 500's (Dewey Decimal system) I began to crack up as the 597.9 (Reptiles) stack grew and grew and grew. It finally got so high I had to divide it into two stacks.
It beat the other Dewey sections hands down. The runner up was the 595s, specifically 595.4 (Spiders) and 595.7 (Insects.) I wish I had taken a picture. The stacks of books were a concrete bar graph of the areas of highest (nonfiction) reading interest.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Then we are zooming up to IAH to pick up Entling no. 2. I bet she is talking with a Scottish lilt.
This year The Groundhog is back with Groundhog 202. The story is a pyschological thriller. It is rated GH-13, Groundhogs Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be Inappropriate for Groundhogs under 13.
The pressure of predicting the arrival of Spring is getting to the Groundhog. Is he going mad or is the Shadow really out to get him?
I love weird stuff.
The trailer is here. Check back regularly for updates.
From the folks at the Pennsylvania Tourism Office.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Babymouse:Queen of the World
Babymouse: Our Hero
by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm, 2005
If you are a school librarian and you have money left in your budget, please open your Titlewave or BTSB or Mackin account and put Babymouse on your "To be Purchased" list right now.
I predict you will need more than one copy.
What Dav Pilkey has done for boys with Captain Underpants, Jennifer & Matthew Holm have given girls with a character that they will identify with. Just as Captain Underpants has great crossover appeal with boys and girls, so will Babymouse.
I am a fan of graphic novels for kids but I confess to having a difficult time reading them myself. I could not stop reading Babymouse. The artwork is full of humor, life and movement.
Babymouse lives a life any school kid will identify with. Getting up in the morning is hard. Finding your place in the social strata of school life results in angst and envy. P.E. is not for the faint of heart. Opening your locker is dangerous. Good friends are worth more than gold. Babymouse has an imagination that sweeps her away. After missing the school bus she has to walk to school. In her mind (and on the page) she is a pioneer on an arduous trail through the West. It reminded me of the flights of fantasy Calvin and Hobbes enjoyed.
I realize these books are pitched at elementary but the themes resonate through jr. high. If I was a jr. high librarian, I would have to get them for my collection.
I also love the fact that Babymouse is a reader. There are stacks of books in her room.
Big A Little a reports that The Center for Children's Books has named Babymouse a Gryphon Award Honor book for 2006.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
My experience as a volunteer at my daughter's high school library has been to help kids print from their computers, assign computers and reshelve research material.
When I subbed at a new high school in our district I was so pleased that a lot of my work was helping kids find books, circulating the books to them, helping them use research databases and helping them look for books of interest to them.
It is a new school with only grades 9 & 10 this year. It will grow to full size over the next two years. When I walked into the library at 7 a.m., 8 boys were gathered and were talking about the manga books they were holding. There was no adult there to "guide" the discussion, they were just sharing their interest and enthusiasm for Rurouni Kenshin.
Later another young man wanted to know which book to read first in The Lord of the Rings? He told me that he did not read a great deal but he wanted to like fantasy so did I know any other books he might like? Sometimes you just feel like you are in the right place at the right time. We walked the fiction collection and I pulled out titles, and did a quick book talk about them. I also gave him a list of books they did not have.
They circulate a great deal of fiction. As I checked out one book to a girl, I exclaimed on the excellence of her reading choice, it was Joan Bauer's Best Foot Forward. We spent a few minutes trading book titles to try (I get the best suggestions from students.) She had not read Squashed yet but she said that will be her next pick. What fun!
Overall, I was so impressed by the culture of reading at the high school. Maybe that will change as the kids enter the world of AP coursework and move closer to graduation. There is nothing like the American Lit AP reading list (AR on steroids) to limit reading for pleasure time. They will have their first 11th grade class next year. It will be interesting to see if anything changes.
I hope not.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
For the Caldecott, child Lit experts are looking at Zen Shorts written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth or Show Way written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Hudson Talbot. There are so many original and beautiful picture books published. I can never begin to choose in this area.
The Newbery possibilites include The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and A Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall, Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles, and The Game of Silence by Louise Erdrich.
My vote would be for Day of Tears by Julius Lester. Lester's wholly original work gives voice to the voiceless men, women and children who were sold at the largest slave-auction in the history of the South.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Today's Foxtrot is funny.
I was reminded last night that 24 is one of Eoin Colfer's favorite shows. Colfer likes his action dramas. Afterall he did describe his Artemis Fowl books as "Die Hard with faries." In case you missed it there is an inside joke about 24 in Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception:
Holly walked rapidly into the cockpit and strapped herself into the pilot's chair, "Seven and a half hours to save the world. Isn't there some law that says we get at least twenty-four?"
Artemis strapped himself into the copilot's chair. "I don't think Opal bothers with laws," he said.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Listen, I am not a zealot on this score, some crank who thinks any schoolchild has a perfect right to leaf through coffee-table volumes of Robert Mapplethorpe photos during study hall.
I don't think people with nothing better to do should be permitted to sit in public libraries looking at dirty pictures on the Internet, and I think a teenage loner who walks around with a copy of Mein Kampf under one arm probably needs some kind of intervention.
An Irving (TX) school district reconsideration committee reviewed the book, When Jeff Comes Home and determined the book would be allowed to remain in the library collection.
The district superintendent subsequently ruled that students will need written parental permission to check the book out after being contacted by the complaining parent who was not happy with the committee's decision.
This week, the school board canceled a hearing that had been called to challenge a new policy of requiring middle school students to obtain written permission from their parents before reading When Jeff Comes Home.
In short, district librarians abandoned the fight to maintain open access to the book in their own libraries.
"We just decided it was better right now to withdraw the appeal," one Irving middle school media specialist told The Dallas Morning News.
Why? It's not even as though an angry mob had descended on school headquarters over this book. It was one very persistent parent.
I would guess that 99% of all parents are willing to respect other families' rights to make their own decisions about their children's reading material. Amazingly, despite what you hear on the news, it seems like any individual can have anything they want from a public school system if they make enough noise.
It is important to remember that a book challenge is NEVER about the book. In my experience there is always another issue: guilt, anger, revenge, power...the book is just the vehicle.
Administrators figure they have bigger issues to deal with and just want the problem to go away. Many are NOT profiles in courage when it comes to following their own district guidelines for reconsideration of instructional materials. They think they can avoid the publicity that comes with book banning.
Well, Mr. Singley, when you try to placate everyone, no one is happy.
In this day and age, book challenges are becoming a routine part of school life. Administrators and librarians need to keep their nerve, avoid panic and deal with it. One individual should not be able to intimidate an administration or dictate reading choices to my family.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
As a reader and a librarian I have always been a huge fan of series books for kids (and grownups.) If teaching reading is the goal, then series books are the ideal material for young readers. The characters are a known quantity, the action is (usually) fast paced and the format familiar.
Kids get to be better readers by READING. As educators we want as many words as possible to pass beneath their gaze. I was always amazed at librarians who refused to have Goosebumps or Captain Underpants in their libraries. These two series especially, appeal to reluctant readers who cannot begin to handle Harry Potter.
I was lucky in my quest for teaching certification to take classes from child lit guru, Richard Abrahamson and reading specialist, Kylene Beers. I already had a masters degree so I was in the graduate classes for certification, not for another degree. The first day of class Beers asked everyone to close their eyes and raise their right hand if they considered themselves an avid reader. Then with eyes still closed she asked us to raise our left hand if we had ever been hooked on a series as a kid. She had us open our eyes and look around the classroom. Every adult who considered themselves a reader had both arms in the air -- 'nuff said.
I'm still waiting to get my hands on the next Alex Rider -- Ark Angel
Friday, January 13, 2006
Friday the 13th
Less than two weeks after 2006 arrived amidst great excitement and optimism, something terrible happened at 12:01 a.m. this morning: Friday the 13th arrived.
Under normal circumstances, today’s date would be unfortunate. This year, it is even more ominous, a word which here means “extremely worrisome.” That is because this terribly unlucky day occurs TWICE in 2006.
Associates at LemonySnicket.com predict that the second time, Friday, October 13, will bring The End. Of what, however--the Baudelaire orphans? Lemony Snicket himself? Thursday, October 12th?--remains unclear.
There is much to fear in the coming months--alarming puzzles, distressing notations, a series of communications from someone named Beatrice. All of us at AuthorTracker will continue to try to locate the elusive Mr. Snicket, gather information, understand the truth, and share our findings with you.
Still, we are sorry to ruin your year after only 12 days. Perhaps 2007 will be cheerier.
With all due respect,
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Code Orange by Caroline B. Cooney, 2005
Mitty is a high school goof-off. He is a poor student who is more plugged into his music than his schoolwork. He is only taking Advanced Biology because of he wants to be in the same class as the fair Olivia. He works just hard enough to get by which is why he has not started his research paper on infectious diseases. While looking through some very old medical books he discovers an envelope marked VM. Inside are two nasty, ancient scabs, which he examines and handles.
His research leads him to the meaning of VM...variola major or smallpox.
He cheerfully sets off to research smallpox for his report but as his knowledge of the disease grows so does the dawning horror that he has handled and inhaled the dust from the scabs. Is the virus still viable after all this time? Has Mitty contracted the disease and is he spreading it around his beloved New York City? Are his symptoms real or is he imagining things?
There are times when Cooney's discoursing on the disease begins to overwhelm the plot but my eyes kept racing ahead to find out what was going to happen next.
The threat of smallpox as a bioterrorism weapon is a part of the current dialogue so I found the evolution of the story very compelling. The book is a fast read and has an "eeeuww" factor, which should make it a success with teens.
I booktalked it to an 8th grader today and he grabbed the book out of my hands saying, "I've got to read this book."
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
When I first heard about Ratzinger's comment I was greatly annoyed. I am very protective of my boy Harry. But when I read more about the circumstances surrounding the quote, I formed a very different idea.
Have you ever visited one of those vanity press sites? A year or so ago I received a postcard from one of them informing me that someone I knew had just "published" a book with them and didn't I want to buy one?
When I checked out the site I was amused by the supposed testimonials. Actually they were perfunctory thank you notes from very famous people who had received these "books" gratis and their PR team had followed up with an acknowledgment. There were gracious thank you notes from first ladies, celebrities and business leaders all posted on the site to simulate laude and honor for the quality of the "books."
When I read Ratzinger's comments I detected the same "whiff" of perfunctory thank you note-itis. The book had apparently been "gifted" to him by the "author." His comment echoed the theme of the woman's book but did not directly reference HP or JKR. I think it is something that has been taken out of context and blown out of proportion.
The Vatican has actually gone on the record about Harry Potter in past years.
"If I have understood well the intentions of Harry Potter's author, they help children to see the difference between good and evil," said Fleetwood, currently in the secretariat of the European Episcopal Conference. "And she is very clear on this."
He said British author J.K. Rowling was "Christian by conviction, is Christian in her mode of living, even in her way of writing."
As Ratzinger is part of the machinery there I do not really believe he is advocating an about face in literary criticism.
JKR is understandably sensitive about Know-nothings and her books but I don't think the Pope has anything against Harry. Then again, I'm an Episcopalian; maybe I don't know what goes on in Vatican City.
Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart books are going to be a television series. These books are full of atmosphere and swirling London fog. I always wondered how he came to write these books. The Independent reports:
Pullman wrote four Sally Lockhart mysteries after originally creating the main characters for a play. The BBC has bought the rights to the series, and the second title, The Shadow in the North, will be filmed straight after the first, also as a stand-alone drama.
I have not read The Tin Princess. Jim was my favorite character from the original trilogy.I loved listening to the audio versions of these stories. Anton Lesser is the brilliant narrator of the first three. I hope he has recorded this one too.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
District 186 of Springfield, Illinois must have perfect test scores and 100% literacy in their school district because their Know-Nothings have chosen to cut their library programs.
Librarian Connie Potts is a saint.
A few years ago, during a severe round of budget cuts, her position was reduced to half time. Now, she spends the other half of her day supervising volunteer librarians at the district's elementary schools - where all librarians were eliminated during the same round of cuts...
...When that happened in Springfield a few years ago, Potts said, she wasn't sure how to react.
"Should I go and make this work (supervising volunteers) and showing you don't need librarians?" Potts recalled thinking. "Or, (maybe) I don't do anything and show what the district is missing?" She chose to support the volunteers for the sake of the students.
"These little guys need books in their hands," Potts often says.
The district was counting on volunteers to run the libraries but (surprise, surprise) schools with the highest poverty rates are floundering without volunteers to run their libraries.
Interesting to note: District 186 is has a vacancy posted for a Head Varsity Football Coach at Southeast High School. I assume it is a full time position?
Irony: They are also showing a position for a RN at a location TBD (to be determined?) to travel between schools. Nothing like having to share a nurse when there is an emergency at your campus.
Good luck y'all.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Nice interview with Texan Louis Sachar in The Austin American-Statesman.
The characters in your books have gotten older in recent years. Do you think that tracks your experience watching your daughter grow up?
Maybe I've just gotten older, but it used to be when I wrote about kids, I would just identify with whatever grade they were — third-, fourth-, fifth-graders — and then not look at them as little kids because kids don't think of themselves as little kids; their concerns are real to them and their feelings are real to them. But adults can look down at them and say, "How cute." And I never used to do that.
But now, as my daughter's gotten past that age, when I look at third-, fourth-, fifth-graders they all just seem so little to me. I think I would have trouble writing about very young kids again, and that's part of the reason I chose to write about Armpit, who is 17. My daughter probably was 16 when I started writing "Small Steps."
Does she give you feedback on your books, like "Oh, a teenager would never say that."
Not really. She told me how to spell "dawg." If I had somebody call somebody "dawg," I spelled it D-O-G. She said, "No, it's D-A-W-G."
Do you ever think about writing adult novels?
I'd like to. But I always feel a lot more confident writing for kids; whenever I try to write for adults I feel like I try too hard or something, to be too profound, like I've got to have something deep or new to say.
Friday, January 06, 2006
This past year the legislature could not decide which business lobby and special interest group to offend (the contributions to their re-election campaigns must have been pretty even) so they punted the issue of school finance down the field despite special sessions and much public handwringing. Governor Rick Perry then manfully issued an executive order requiring the Texas Education Agency to set about implementing a 65% solution band-aid. This would mandate that school districts spend at least 65% of their revenue on "direct classroom instruction."
Ahh...but what constitutes classroom instruction boys and girls?
As Rick Casey perfectly summarizes in today's Houston Chronicle, "Gov. Perry's 65 percent delusion," (read the whole thing)
As of now, the salaries of football coaches are in.
The salaries of school librarians are out.
Good thing we have our priorities in proper order.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, library costs are classified as "supplemental services." Hmmm...
Librarians and libraries serve and teach EVERY SINGLE student in a school. How many people fit into the football team's locker room??
Unlike classroom teachers who change annually as a student progresses, a librarian is with a student for as long as he/she is at the school. We get to know their interests, their highs and woes. A great many of us have an uncanny ability to put the right book at the right time into a child's hands and make them a lifelong reader.
Librarians instruct students in online safety and good searching techniques. As kids spend more and more time online, it is interesting to realize this kind of education is considered "supplemental."
At its very core, this rule pits educators against each other. We are fighting among ourselves for money. School nurses are a vital part of student safety but under this provision, they too are considered "supplemental" and will have to fight it out with counselors, janitors and the school bus fuel budget for funding.
Here in Texas our school districts are INDEPENDENT, as in Houston INDEPENDENT School District, Katy INDEPENDENT School District, and Dallas INDEPENDENT School District. If I do not like the way my school board is spending my tax money I can sign up to talk to them at a board meeting, protest outside the administration building or organize and vote them out of office.
Our LOCALLY elected school boards should decide how to fund our programs not state pooh-bahs. To have The State decree "one-size-fits-all" funding is offensive. I thought "conservatives" were about less "big government." Guess that is true until the power is in their hands.
This is not just a Texas issue. The 65% nonsense is being trotted out all over the U.S.
Here in Texas, if you care about this at all, please contact Governor Perry, Commissioner of Education, Shirley Neely, and your state reps. I am also going to contact my LOCAL school board because if this thing flies, they have to know I expect them to cut the football budget before they cut libraries.
Addresses and background information is here:
Thursday, January 05, 2006
On January 16, 2006, The Oprah Winfrey Show is doing something we've never done before. In addition to announcing my new book club selection—which I promise is mandatory reading for every human being on the planet—I will also announce Oprah's National High School Essay Contest to accompany it.
The essay contest will be based on the book I reveal and will be open to high school students across America. Then, based on their essays, a panel of learned judges will select 50 high school students. Each finalist, along with one designated parent or guardian, will receive a trip to a special Oprah Show taping in late February.
To support this nationwide initiative, my website—Oprah.com—will offer comprehensive study materials for students, teachers and parents. This is an important book that I hope will be discussed in homes and schools across the country.
It will be interesting to see what book earns Oprah's "mandatory reading for every human being on the planet" designation. I can think of many.
Thacher Hurd is painting murals on the walls of the new Children's Room at the Oakland Main Library. Painting in public has been a new experience for him.
"I go to schools and draw in front of kids, but this is totally different," he said. "I actually enjoy having kids come around and say, 'What are you doing? What's that?'"
One young girl picked up his paintbrushes and attempted to paint with him. After he gently told her it was not her turn to paint, she offered to help him wash the brushes.
According to Thacher Hurd's website an exhibition, From Goodnight Moon to Art Dog: The World of Clement, Edith and Thacher Hurd, January 21-March 19, 2006 will be at the Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts. It will include art from the Hurd family as well as a life size recreation of "the great green room."
Now that would be cool.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Monday, January 02, 2006
Here's to lying, cheating, stealing and drinking.
If you lie, may it be to protect the honor of a friend; if you cheat, may if be the angel of death; if you steal, may it be the heart of the one you love. Ane if you drink, may it be in the company of friends like this!
--submitted by Sheryl Mehaffey of Blythewood
Here's to the children and youth who inspire the talented and gifted writers and artists who produce books I enjoy ever so much!