Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Weird things heard over Christmas in Hobbiton

Helpful advice from Entling no. 1: "You should really organize your light bulbs, Mom."
Helpful advice from Entling no. 2: "If you would just start a list of everyone's gifts on the first of December, you would be more organized."
Helpful advice (imperative) from the Entlings: "Mom, do not talk about dust mites on Christmas Day!!!"
Helpful advice from Entling no. 2: "You need more bookcases."
Helpful advice (imperative) from Treebeard: "Do not tape a bow to your mother's head!"
Wishful thinking from Entwife: "These are South Beach Diet cookies."
Query from Entling no. 1: "Who has been eating the fudge?"
Query from Entling no. 2: "Who has been eating the fudge?"
Query from Entling no. 3: "Who has been eating the fudge?"
Query from Treebeard: "Who has been eating the fudge?"
Query from Entwife: "Who has been eating the fudge?"
Statement from Entling no. 1: "I'm taking part of the fudge," while packing her car to leave.
Cry for help from Entling no. 3: "Yo!" said at the communion rail after being by-passed twice by the chalice bearer.
Wishful thinking (myself): "Now I remember why we had a van with individual seats for the kids when they were younger," muttered sotto voce while listening to a raucous game of "Zzzzt" from the backseat which will just hold three entlings side by side.
Can't help myself: "Have you read this book?"

Friday, December 22, 2006


Chris at Bartography has eloquently reviewed the work of the Nonfiction Picture Book Nomination committee. His talent as a writer shines in this post. Serving on this committee was an experience I will never forget.

There have been some years when I've looked at the various award book lists and I've pondered, "What were they thinking?" Well, now I've had an inside look at the thought, interest, work and earnest discussion that goes into this process. Folks on the Bluebonnet committee serve for three years. Whoa. I can appreciate the learning curve.

I enjoyed every aspect of it especially the insightful comments from my fellow Cybil-ers, Anastasia, Chris, Deb, and Susan.

I love every book we nominated. The judges have their work cut out for them.

Eragon: fan devotion, books and movies

Years ago, when I was a daily school librarian, one of my "reader" students, B, used to come by the library office after school to talk about books. Like so many teachers' kids (my own entling included) she was trapped at school until her parental unit finished the day's paperwork and prepared for the morrow.

She asked me over and over again if I had heard of this new book called Eragon. Since I had LOTR standups of the fellowship all around my library I would ask, "You mean Aragorn?" No, Mrs. P--ERAGON!

B and her family had met Christopher Paolini at a local bookstore where he was selling copies of this book that he had written and his family had published. Her younger sister had ended up in a pleasant and lengthy conversation with Paolini so their mom went ahead and purchased a copy of the book from him. I think B read the covers off her copy. Later she complained that the new edition that Random House brought out was different from her "original" edition.

I finally did read Eragon. The first 100 pages were an absolute slog. Normally, I would have abandoned the effort but my young friend's earnest devotion to the story compelled me to keep going even though I had to physically push my eyeballs from one word to the next.

At some point the story grabbed me and I enjoyed the last half of the story. Was the story derivative? Oh yes. Paolini is a devotee of Lord of the Rings, Dragonriders of Pern, Star Wars and it shows in every character, plot twist and set piece.

What continues to interest me though is how much kids still love this book. The second book, Eldest, has a devout following also. I have not read it -- my own entling did read it but was not very enthusiastic. It circulates frequently at the libraries where I sub and I know kids who think it is better than Book 1. Is it Paolini's teenager perspective that resonates with the kids?

The entling wanted to see the movie so earlier this week we rounded up some friends and popcorn and zoomed off the local multiplex.

I did not have high hopes. The reviews had not been kind and every word of this review in School Library Journal rings true (I liked this review because the reviewer has obviously read the book.)

On the whole though I enjoyed the movie. The dragon technology is amazing. Jeremy Irons never turns in a bad performance and I thought Edward Speleers did a perfectly acceptable job as Eragon, the dragonrider. I personally don't "get" John Malkovich and his delivery in a fantasy piece echos "Yondah lies the castle of my faddah" but we are not in the Oscar stratosphere here. The director obviously stole his vision from The Two Towers but if you are going to ape your betters, then Peter Jackson is the place to start.

Not having the book committed to memory may have improved my enjoyment. There were heapings of bitterness about the short shrift given to Murtagh and the compression of time on the way home in the car.

I expect I would have had the same reaction to Anthony Horowitz's Stormbreaker if it had ever reached my fair city. Michele at Scholar's Blog writes about Horowitz and his reaction to the limited release of Alex Rider in the USA. Michele enjoyed Stormbreaker and since she has pointed me towards some other good movies, I feel like I would have enjoyed it too. I will watch for it on Netflix.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Books that guys love

In one of those "things come in 3s" deals, I have been told three times in the last 24 hours that I HAVE to read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (I was cataloging the sequel New Moon, at the library today too. Weird! I better read it.)

I also have been asked three times in 24 hours for recommendations for book gifts for boys. I figure the question must be in the air so for the record, here are my suggestions for books that guys absolutely love:

Guinness World Records 2007
The gold standard for guy-hood fascination. Readers and nonreaders LOVE the Guinness World Record books. Give this as a gift and you will be appreciated.

Calvin and Hobbes
It continually amazes me that guys and girls cannot remember their multiplication tables but can recite entire pages of Calvin & Hobbes dialog and strips from memory. Yes, graphic novels are all the rage, manga "rules" but no comic or graphic will ever top Calvin and his tiger in our hearts.

I Spy & Can You See What I See?
Just check the bindings of these books in any school library and you will KNOW how beloved this series is. In a time when computers can make anything possible, Walter Wick's images are actual photos NOT Photoshop renderings. He designs his sets and layouts with an artist’s eye. The optical illusions book is amazing, drawing you in and making you wonder, how did he do that?

Do you have to give a book for a guy who is marginal about the whole reading thing?

The Lightning Thief
and the sequel, Sea of Monsters by Rockstar Rick Riordan
Received an email from a friend who thought her son, now a 6th grader, would NEVER become a reader. Over Thanksgiving he didn't watch TV or play videogames, he just read this series and then began working through the Alex Rider books. News like that gives his old librarian-for-life a case of the warm fuzzies.

Guys Read, edited by Jon Scieszka
Small bites of prose and illustrations. They don't have to commit to the whole book, just jump in where it looks interesting. Don't miss Jack Gantos's piece though!

Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz
Gadgets, explosions, danger and high speed chases. See above.
  • Stormbreaker
  • Point Blank
  • Skeleton Key
  • Eagle Strike
  • Scorpia
  • ArkAngel
For your dedicated readers try:

For a WWII buff there is Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac. This terrific read follows young Ned Begay from his early years at boarding school to his enlistment in the Marine Corps following Pearl Harbor. Tapped to help develop a top-secret code, he becomes a code talker. Ned is there in the thick of it at Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Guam, and Iwo Jima. He draws on the strength of his Navajo heritage to survive and lives to tell the story of the Navajo code that was never cracked by the enemy to his grandchildren. I love this book.

by Edward Bloor
My reading friends tell me this is one of their favorite books. This was Bloor's first book and has made me a fan for life.

If the boy-o in your life has not read Holes by Louis Sachar or Hatchet (and its multiple sequels) by Gary Paulsen then those are good bets too.

At the junior high library today, I noticed that the Warriors books by Erin Hunter were flying off the shelves.

TA Barron's Lost Years of Merlin was a fantasy favorite with guys before there was a Harry Potter. Boys revere these books which tell the story of Merlin's early life. Mike Wimmer's covers are wonderful.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Author: Rick Riordan

Rockstar Rick Riordan has provided us with a lovely holiday treat. He has posted an audio recording of Chapter 1 of The Titan's Curse at his blog, Myth and Mystery.

Today, while subbing at a local jr. high library, I was talking with a seventh grade teacher about their novel units. She was less than enthusiastic about their next one, The Red Pony by Steinbeck.

Me: "Bleh..."
Teacher: "The kids hate it."
Me: "Ummm...don't you do mythology that sixth week period?"
Teacher: "Yes"
Me: "Have you read The Lightning Thief?"
Teacher (looking at my copy) : "Woah!"

Related news: At Thanksgiving I was telling my parents about Percy Jackson et al. while inhaling my pumpkin pie. My dad loves mysteries. He has not taken on Percy yet but he is now reading all Riordan's Tres Navarre novels.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

HTML madness

Well, I've got to work on the old choir website and get the domain sorted out and I need to work on Book Moot now that I have changed over to the "new" Blogger. The entling has her Christmas recital on Sunday and I'm having folks over afterwards so my weekend will not be graced by any good books! The Dust Bunnies around here have SHARP TEETH!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Alas: Foxtrot

My standard of living takes another hit today as I learn that Bill Amend will cease daily publication of his comic strip, Foxtrot, on Dec. 30. He will continue a Sunday strip.

"After spending close to half of my life writing and drawing FoxTrot cartoons, I think it's time I got out of the house and tried some new things," he said in a statement. "I love cartooning, and I absolutely want to continue doing the strip, just not at the current all-consuming pace."

I love this comic strip. The whole Fox family in their daily nuttines reflects daily life in MY family.

When The Fellowship of the Ring movie was on the horizon, Jason donned his hobbit cloak and waited in line to buy tickets. I always remember the Sunday strip of the Lord of the Rings Christmas tree. You gotta love a guy who titles one of his books, Orlando Bloom Has Ruined Everything.

I will look forward to Sundays in 2007.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Science Books

Greg LS and Chicken Spaghetti have found some great links about science books.

Greg LS points to Kay Wiseman's article, "Science-Themed Novels" in Book Links. Book Links is one of the best journals out there for rounding up books by theme of subject, great collection development tool.

Chicken Spaghetti links to a ponder about the best science books of all time and more suggestions for adult books with high "readability."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Shot Heard 'round the World

The Shot Heard 'round the World by Phil Bildner, illustrated by C.F. Payne, 2005

The 1951 baseball season came down to the Yankees, the Giants and the Dodgers. Would the Giants or the Dodgers win the pennant and a trip to the World Series?
Brooklyn loved their Bums.

Just three more outs were needed to clinch the pennant for the Dodgers. Bildner builds the tension as an entire community held its breath. Coney Island was deserted, rabbis recited special prayers and radios were tuned to WMCA.
We squeezed our spaldeens and twirled our skate keys as our ace Mighty Monte Irwin dug down deep.

As Bobby Thomson swings away, C.F. Payne paints the wide eyed expression of the catcher and umpire as their eyes track the ball. Bildner reminds us that sports fandom is a risky business. Love is always a gamble but the life lessons are worthwhile.

Payne captures the rythm and movement of the game on every page. He evokes the times with period items that are just right, like the small cardboard seal with the pull up tab on a milk bottle and the rocking lawn chairs on front porches. Ebbots Field is beautifully rendered, down to the lettering on the scoreboard. Photographs from behind the plate of Thompson's homerun are a nice addition. Bildner and Payne work well together as they demonstrated in the winning Bluebonnet winner, Shoeless Joe and Black Betsy

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Twenty-One Elephants

Twenty-One Elephants by Phil Bildner, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, 2004

The building of the Brooklyn Bridge was an engineering wonder.

Hannah watches the bridge being built and dreams of crossing it when it is finished. Despite President Chester A. Arthur and other dignitaries celebrating the bridge's opening and the chief engineer of the bridge, Emily Roebling, taking the first ride across the bridge, Hannah's family refuses to set foot on the "eighth wonder of the world. Hannah counters their concerns with facts about the safety of the bridge but they are unswayed.

When Barnum's circus comes to town, Hannah is inspired with a way to prove the bridge's safety. Could P.T. Barnum march his elephants across the bridge?

The book is based on a real event that occured on May 18, 1884. The author's note at the end describes the event and some details about the fears residents of Broolyn had about the bridge. Bildner lives in Broolyn so he is writing about his "hometown." He loves his subject. As a teacher, he used to take his classes to the bridge to write.

LeUyen Pham's illustrations are a blend of caricature and realism. Her sepia tone endpapers are detailed drawings the bridge as it appeared under construction in 1875, and the finished bridge of 1883. Be sure to count the elephants on the covers.

Friday, December 01, 2006

To Dance

To Dance: a ballerina's graphic novel, a memoir by Siena Cherson Siegel with artwork by Mark Siegel, 2006

Bluebonnet award winner, Mark Siegel has teamed with his wife Siena Cherson Siegel and created an exquisite and tender graphic novel that honors dancers everywhere.

Siena began her dance journey in San Juan, Puerto Rico when she was diagnosed with flat feet. She started dance classes and fell in love with the art form. The story follows her family as they move to Boston where she sees the Bolshoi Ballet perform for the first time. She dreams of ballets.

At the age of 11 she auditions and wins a spot in the School of American Ballet and begins to work in earnest. She sees George Balanchine and Baryshnikov, Suzanne Farrell, and Gelsey Kirkland in the halls. Being fitted for her first toe shoes, winning a spot in her first performance and partnering class are all milestones in her life at SAB. Family life is difficult as her parents' marriage fails. As a teenager there are boyfriends and schoolwork and worry about the shape of her body.

Plots of ballets are seamlessly woven into the story as we see the excitement and glamor of performance balanced with the hard work of practice and the heartbreak of not being chosen to perform. Her memoir also allows the reader an inside look at the grief and sorrow that overwhelmed the company when Balanchine died.

Mark Siegel draws the story with detail and love. To depict a story like this in graphic novel form allows the reader to move through the years with Siena. The reader notes the change of color of her leotard as the years pass, each color representing a higher level at SAB. Her painful injuries and aching toes from hours of dancing are communicated without words.

One scene where young Siena is reading the book A Very Young Dancer by flashlight is typical of the care and detail the Siegels have included. I think every school library has that book as it is a favorite with young dancers. Like the girl on the cover, Siena will wear the green leotard.

Siegel opens the story with little Siena dancing on a beach. He ends it on a beach too and it brought tears to my eyes. This is sophisticated storytelling at its very best.

Words to describe this book: Brilliant, fascinating, informative, original, beautiful, a must have for all ballet students, dancers, and fans of ballet

This copy is already being covered in Christmas wrap for the dancer in our family. I just HAD to read it first.

Now, off to the post office to mail it.

Author: Mike Lupica

I read books all the time when I am running hither and yon but some books require my comfy chair and a cup of tea and a block of time to savor every word. I have a stack of these special books waiting patiently for me to finish sewing the apron for the entling's wench costume. (Madrigal Dinner will be over with this weekend. )

One of the books in this stack is Mike Lupica's new title, Miracle on 49th Street. Last night, just before I clicked off the TV, I dialed up The Colbert Report at precisely the moment when Colbert was introducing his guest, "Mike Lupica."

We are not ESPN people at this house so I've never seen Lupica on TV before. I am a real fan of Travel Team and Heat so I had to watch the interview. Of course, Lupica spent more time laughing than talking.

Colbert: "Now you're a sports writer.
Why children's books?
I'm against children's books in general because it implies children should be reading.
Why children's books? How did you make that leap?"

When Colbert did swerve briefly into questions about writing. the author was able to offer a brief story about Travel Team. The idea for the book came from his own experience of forming a team made up entirely of kids, including his son, who had been cut from the 7th grade team. Lupica continued about a time when that son went along with him to an appearance or book signing and sat in the audience. During the Q&A session the lad raised his hand and innocently asked about the royalties Lupica was earning from Travel Team and whether or not the son who had inspired the story was sharing the royalties.

Lupica managed to crack Colbert up a few times. That sense of humor comes through in his books too.