Friday, September 29, 2006


One of my posts was messing up the old template. After scouring through them and deleting them, one by one, I finally found the responsible post. Now I need to restore them.

Drat! Now I've lost all the good comments. Oh well.
HTML weirdness.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Abadazad anyone?

Abadazad: The Road to Inconceivable - Book #1
Abadazad: The Dream Thief - Book #2

Wow, these sound very cool. Has anyone read these graphic novels? Heard the author and the artist interviewed on NPR tonight.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Looking Glass Wars

The Looking Glass Wars
by Frank Beddor, 2006

Princess Alyss Heart will be queen of Wonderland some day. She is gifted with a powerful imagination that can make her imaginings come true. On the day of her 7th birthday, Princess Alyss's father is killed in an ambush while hurrying home for her birthday party. Despite the vigilence of Hatter Madigan and the elite hatter security forces Alyss's Aunt Redd and her card soldiers attack the castle and overthrow her mother, Queen Genevieve.

On orders from his queen, Hatter Madigan swears to protect the young princess and they flee from the murderous claws of Redd's grinning assassin in feline form, The Cat. With nowhere else to go, Hatter and Alyss plunge into the Pool of Tears.

Lost and alone, Alyss emerges from a puddle of water on the streets of Victorian London to attempt to find her way in a strange new world. The Liddell family adopts her and changes her name to Alice. Forbidden from talking about her earlier life she confides her story to a family friend, the Reverend Charles Dodgson who rewrites her seemingly fanciful story as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, using his pen name, Lewis Carroll.

The story is engrossing and satisfying as a fantasy read. Planned as a trilogy, I look forward to seeing what Beddor will do with the characters. Alyss's childhood friend, Dodge could shape up to be an Anakin-turn-to-the-dark-side character who is haunted by his father's murder. The standout character of the story has to be Hatter Madigan. He is a superhero/assassin/protector with a hat weapon that can slice and dice. I want to know more about him.

Young adults do not have to have characters the same age as themselves to enjoy a story. They are regular readers of McCaffery's Pern stories and the Star Trek books at the junior high near me. Beddor does cover a great deal of ground as Alyss goes from age 7 to age 20 in the story though. As a 20 year old character, she is less interesting than she was as a young child. As the book is pitched at YA readers, I wonder if he should have/could have aged her more gradually.

There are lots of battle scenes and I can see the CGI card soldiers on the big screen now.

Penguin has a splashout site about the book and even a soundtrack to listen to which Entling no. 3 has appropriated and enjoyed very much.

This is a fun read for fantasy readers. I can already think of 4 kids who will be interested in this book.

Official Site:

Author: Maurice Sendak

Nice interview with Sendak this a.m. on NPR. He discusses his new book Mommy? Sendak has been a pop-up book collector for years.

Questioned about his "themes," of children in jeopardy, Sendak responded:

..[that is] the only theme that I have. And it's also a view that sometimes got me into serious trouble as a younger artist. You know... now that I'm know...they treat you like Helen Keller when you get old. They aren't as angry at you for doing odd things.

Mommy? is being billed as his "first" pop-up book which makes me hope maybe more are to come?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Author: Brian Jacques

Brian Jacques is in the house!
Brian Jacques is on tour in the USA. Lucky folks in Colorado, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Georgia, and Florida have a chance to see him at bookstores and at school presentations. I've seen Jacques present at library conferences but he absolutely comes alive when he is with kids. He takes time while signing their books, to talk to them so genially!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Author: Katherine Paterson

Great interview with Newbery Medal recipient, Katherine Paterson in the NYTimes about her new novel, Bread and Roses, Too. She comments on the children who inspire her stories:

TBR: Jake, whose father is an abusive alcoholic, is one of many characters in your novels who have been deserted or rejected by their parents, or by society. What inspires you to write about alienated and troubled kids?

Paterson: I can't be sure of the answer to this either. I guess children whose lives are so difficult are simply more interesting to me than children who live comfortably. It's not that I would want such a terrible life for anyone I know and love, but most children in the world do not have what we middle-class Americans regard as the simplest of life's necessities. Someone has to open our eyes to this fact and help us to see the humanity in people we so easily despise or fear. Since I seem to see it, I thought that someone might be me.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Busy, busy busy

I find that when I don't have time to post or write about books that also means I haven't had time to check in with my kidlitosphere circle. I find I miss knowing what Bartography is up to or what:
Little Willow
Mother Reader
Liz B
are reading. Is indefatigable Kelly still going and going? How are things across the pond with Michele and all the other authors' blogs and smart thinkers' blogs that I check on regularly?

--------- ---------

This is my last week as librarian in residence. It is Book Fair time at the elementary school. The company is local and they have a wonderful selection of books. If I want something that is not there, they usually have it in the warehouse and send it right over.

I like book fair because it gives parents an opportunity to talk to a librarian about books and their worries and concerns about their kids' reading or not reading.

Parent: "My son really doesn't like to read very much, do you have any suggestions on titles that might interest him?"
Me: Yes! Come with me my child.


Parent: "My son likes these Captain Underpants things...are they ok? I'm not so sure about them. What do you think?
Me: Well, you know, I think Dav Pilkey has a direct line into kids' (boys') brains. His books give those kids on the fence about this whole reading thing a reason to live (and learn) just so they can read his hilarious books. He has done more for boys' literacy skills than Harry Potter.


Parent: "Do you think it is ok to sell baseball cards at a book fair? Shouldn't it just be books?"
Well, they have to read the stats on the back of the cards and if they like baseball cards let's point them to Dan Gutman's Baseball Card series.


Parent: "My 3rd grader is reading at a 9th grade level (how do parents know this?) but she/he loves these books. I think they should be reading something at a higher reading level. Do you have anything harder?"
I see you read Stephanie Plum books?
Parent: Oh, yes, this is the new one. They are so funny.
Me: May I share with you the reading level of that series? (This was not scientific, just a quick check I did one time with some random paragraphs that I ran through Microsoft Word.)


Parent: "My daughter loves this Inkheart book and I just got her the sequel. What other fantasy do you think she would enjoy?"
Me: Has she read the Artemis Fowl series? -- Yes.
Has she read Gregor the Overlander? -- Yes.
Has she read Dragon Rider and The Thief Lord? -- Yes and Yes
Has she read Redwall-Charlie Bone-Harry Potter-Eragon-City of Ember and...and...and...? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes...
Me: Ah ha! Has she read The Lightning Thief? Has she read Airborn? Ooooh... NO!
Me: Score!


(Meanwhile, right in the middle of helping preK kids write down some books)
Different 5th grade Teacher: It is time to read to a different 5th grade class again, do you have something you could read to them?
Me: Yes. (This must be a Tuesday thing.)
Once again, Percy Jackson to the rescue.
(35 minutes later...)
Sep 20 9 pm

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Science Fiction or Dystopia

The Lady Rona has an interesting ponder... she is on a quest:

Does anyone have a recent (past ten years, say) favorite science fiction book for the 12-and-under crowd? Not fantasy, not "speculative fiction" (like Among the Hidden, etc), but something you'd purely classify as science fiction. (And no, I have no idea what these terms mean either. That's rather the point!)

This is a little different than the familiar "Is it Fantasy or is it Sci-Fi?" which usually comes down to the cover art: if there are trees--it is fantasy, if there are machines--it is sci-fi.

My suggestion was City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau but as Lady Rona points out, that is also a dystopia.

So then I thought House of the Scorpian by Nancy Farmer (cloning) and then The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer but both of those books could also be classified as dystopian fiction.

The White Mountains trilogy by John Christopher is usually always considered sci-fi but let's face it, the world is in a real mess in that series, nasty aliens capping kids.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card would almost be a slam dunk for sci-fi but remember, Ender is a Third. In their world, couples only have two kids...

So, is it science fiction if aliens land and ruin the world and dystopian fiction if humans ruin the world?
Dystopian worlds usually exist in the future or on "other" worlds so does that make them part of the science fiction genre by default? I do not consider The Giver by Lois Lowry science fiction at all but many do.

Dystopian worlds usually exist in the future or on "other" worlds so does that make them part of the science fiction genre by default? I do not consider The Giver by Lois Lowry science fiction at all but many do.

Is my Battlestar Galactica dystopian science fiction? Hmmm...

Science News for Kids has a terrific section called SciFi Zone. This is an excellent site. Julie Czerneda has a great list of sci fi books including the terrific Pond Scum by Alan Silberberg who blogs at Adventures in Pond Scum.

The Lady Rona is right, only librarians with a mania for classification can have this kind of fun.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Power drain

I have so many awesome books to talk about but in fairness to the books, I am too tuckered out this week. I am doing a semi-longish substitute librarian gig at an elementary here-abouts. I am reminded that one reason, I started subbing was to have more time on the home front.

You just can't beat the energy at an elementary library. The kids are so willing to be engaged (most of the time) and when Dragon and I get a group of 4th graders the meantime could I offer him something else? He was a hard sell because it HAD to be a dragon book but he finally agreed to try Jane Yolen's Merlin and the Dragons, (I'm telling you, sir, every boy I know who had read this book LOVED it! If you don't like it, bring it back!)
--- --- --- --- ---
Walking the shelves (or stacks) with kids is something I enjoy doing. "Hey, this is a really cool story.... Oh man, have you read this one? ... What books have you read before that you really loved? Abby Hayes? Well then, have you read Judy Moody?"

I think kids are pleased to have an adult seriously consider their reading interests.

Even a small library like a school library is just too overwhelming and bewildering to some kids. They need to be eased into browsing the shelves. Others are grateful for the attention.

One of the kids asked me about a book and I started telling him a little about it. He stared at me a minute and asked, "Have you read all the books in this library?" Well, not ALL of them...
--- --- --- --- ---
Had to entertain a 5th grade class for about 30 minutes while their teacher did a team planning thing. I didn't know they were coming so I didn't have a lesson prepared. I went to my sure fire read aloud, Chapter 1 from The Lightning Thief by rockstar, Rick Riordan. I carry my copy with me all the time. It never fails, as Percy Jackson's pre-algebra teacher morphs into a Fury and tries to slash him to ribbons, I glance around at the faces of my listeners: their eyes are wide, their mouths are hanging slightly open, and they are leaning forward as Percy meets the deadly peril.
--- --- --- --- ---
A fifth grade teacher came in with her class and told them they ALL had to get a Newbery book to read. (I emitted a tiny moan, I admit.) She was trying to challenge her kids with some good literature she know some of these books are really not a great choice for all 5th graders. Plus, since it is a relatively new library, it doesn't have the backwash of Newberys that an older library would have. I suggested that the kids also be allowed to choose from past Texas Bluebonnet nominees too and she agreed. Phew.

That is when it is handy to have a librarian who remembers and has read the Bluebonnet books from past years.

It has been great to be walking and talking books with young readers these past weeks.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Snip Snap! What's That?

Snip Snap! What's That?
by Mara Bergman, illustrated by Nick Maland, 2005

Being allowed to read this book to kindergarteners, first graders and second graders is SO MUCH FUN, I can't believe I am getting paid to do it.

From the title page to the first page of the story, we follow a path of footprints from an open man-hole cover, down the street into the lobby of an apartment building. When we look closely at the two page spread we can see a green tail disappearing up the stairs from the lobby.

When the alligator came creeping . . . creeping . . . creeping up the stairs...

Three children try to keep an alligator from coming into their home but can only run and hide as he breaches the doorway. As the alligator draws closer and closer the story repeatedly asks, "Where the children scared?" and answers with a resounding, "YOU BET THEY WERE!"

As the alligator's tongue is flicking and his feet are kicking, listeners enjoy becoming delightfully scared as the beast draws closer and closer. I was cracking up watching the kids hide their eyes or cling to each other as the menace approaches.
An empowering ending delightfully deals with the gator. Nick Maland's quirky
illustrations perfectly convey the danger and help build the suspense. A two page close up of the alligator's head brings the peril right up to the reader's face.

This was a fantastic read-aloud. I just wish I had had an alligator puppet to accompany the story.

Author: Garth Nix

Garth Nix is blogging at InsideADog as the current writer-in-residence. He has written a farewall to Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin.

But last night I wrote a small farewell to Steve Irwin in my head and this morning I typed it up, and here it is. The form is a bastardized version of alliterative verse inspired by Norse poetry (and later practitioners). It probably doesn’t scan or the syllables add up, because I am a very lazy poet. But I think it still works and anyway, it needed to get out of my brain and go somewhere.Steve Irwin deserves a better Viking poem, but this is the best I can do.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Author : Katie Grant

Author Katie Grant (Blood Red Horse and Green Jasper) got to sit next to Hugh Grant at
dinner. Yes, THAT href="">Hugh Grant!

She blogs at DeGranville.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Lassie Come-Home

An absolutely beautiful retelling of Eric Knight's classic story, Lassie Come-Home.

The acting is perfect. The film is full of small roles by sublime British actors
including Robert Hardy, Edward Fox, Kelly Macdonald, Jemma Redgrave and others. Peter O'Toole is the local lord who buys Lassie. How wonderful to see him as a sly and cagey aristocrat who does have a soft spot for his dogs and his granddaughter. Young Jonathan Mason is endearing as Joe who loves his dog so much and cannot understand why his family would sell him.

Take your hankies. Filmed in Ireland, the Isle of Man and Scotland, the scenery is so breathtaking it will bring tears to your eyes even if the story does not.