Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Dangerous Book for Boys

I loved this Meghan Cox Gurdon review of The Dangerous Book for Boys sent to me by an alert reader.

She transcribes the comments of (her?) 10-year-old boy. How fun!
Then the boy explodes into action. Leaping up, he rummages in a drawer for a pad of Post-It notes and vaults back into his seat. And this, transcribed from life, is what follows: "Man! This book has everything!" the boy cries, marking a page. "Sweet! Making cloth fireproof!" He puts in another bookmark. "The Golden Age of Piracy!" There's a pause, and in a lower voice he says, " 'How to Talk to Girls,' that'll be useful ..."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Busy, busy busy

Just returned from a quick trip to see Entling no. 2 receive lovely recognition at her college. Entling no. 1 comes in for weekend visit tomorrow and have not fully checked in with Entling no. 3 to see what projects, tests, assignments, horrors await next week's high school hijinks.

Everybody's doing it...must have my own daemon.

Everybody's doing it: Visual DNA

Friday, April 20, 2007

Blogging Reviewers

Finding Neverland has an excellent toon on the topic of blogging reviewers. It cuts to the chase!

I have had a chuckle reading the discussion at Roger Reads about the role of blogger reviewers vs print reviewers (currently 63 comments and climbing.) The comments evolved into a multifaceted conversation about the motives of blogging reviewers and swag and cupcakes.

With family members who are journalists I have been aware of the supposed tension between the "news professionals" aka "journalists" and the "amatuers," aka "bloggers in pajamas" for some years now. (I am fully dressed thank you, although, I am wearing Ugg slippers, oops!)

So the question of professional vs amateur (DO pronounce it with a French accent) their motivations, agendas, and gushings etc. have been well hashed out in other blogging realms.

This has been fun to read though and there are many very thoughtful posts and comments about why we kidlitospherians do what we do.

As usual, Roger made a point in the discussion that resonated with me.

I'm guessing that most blog reviewers would say, "I review what I want to review." That's fine, too, and attractively anarchic. But I find, anyway, that those reviews tell me more about the reviewer than they do about the book. And I hasten to say I've met some pretty interesting minds this way.
8:35 PM, April 17, 2007

This comment is exactly why I enjoy kidlitosphere reviews. They do tell us about the voices in this community. I have never heard any of their voices, (well, actually , I have the voices of Chris Barton and Cynthia LS and Fuse #8 (on NPR) but Miss Erin's perspective is different than LizB's and MotherReader makes me laugh and Jen is often focused on literacy and reading and Kelly always has an insight that never occured to me and Indefatigable Kelly just does it all.

Michele is who I would probably be if I had been born in Angleterre and Sheila always finds a book my girls and I need to read as does Susan . There are new blogs and voices to add to my blogroll everyday.

A few years ago, there was a big push to teach 4th graders about "voice." Fourth grade is the writing test year here in Texas. The teachers were always in search of novels with a strong "voice." Well, ok. I don't know what the writing pedagogy flavor of the month is this year. I daresay it is something new.

I asked a student once if they could tell me what "voice" was and the child answered, "It is the sound I hear when I read a book."

I do hear the "voices" of the kidlitospherians when I read their reviews.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

TLA Librarians

One of the wonderful things about TLA is the chance to meet and talk with other librarians from far away school districts (and in Texas, districts can be VERY far away.)

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

At the Children's Round Table breakfast I met a librarian from Corpus Christi who is planning a Percy Jackson party to celebrate The Titans Curse on May 1. She has preordered the books so the kids can get them that day! There is going to be a whole lot of reading going on at that school that day.

I thought the idea of hosting the celebration at the school library was splendid. I hope she sends the photos to RRR. I would love to see them.

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

As different as school districts and libraries are, we all have so much in common. Had a very thoughtful conversation with a librarian who had recently been through a book challenge with the book Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn. We discussed the parent's objections to the book (subject of abortion) and agreed that it is ironic that students are asked to examine the "deeper" meaning in the books they read but book challengers are not. Abortion is not presented as a happy outcome in this story at all. Did the parents want a story where it was a portrayed as something to party about?

I have pointed out that there are parents who have sincere and honest concerns about the books their kids are reading. I continue to applaud their interest in their child's reading life.

I do have a test question about book challenges: who did the parent go to first about the book--was it the librarian or the principal?

Ah, in this case they went to the principal first.

Sorry, folks, this pushes you a little closer to the "nutter" category. If a child is having trouble in school, do you talk to the teacher first or do you go straight to the principal, blustering and threatening? If you go to the principal first, without talking to the teacher, then I'm thinking it is not really about your child.

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

Finally, Grace Lin has a link to a Robert's Snow project at Hancock Elementary School in Houston. What a beautiful idea librarian, Heather Jankowski had to involve her students.
Do not miss this! <-- (Soul-Sister Alert!)

Movie: The Lightning Thief

Fuse #8 has a link to the news in Variety about The Lightning Thief movie. Looks like Chris Columbus will direct. Let's pray for a great screenplay!

RRR mentioned the screenplay was being worked on during his local school visit a few weeks ago.


I've been subbing at an elementary school this week. I've had "fun" cataloging "kits" with big books, and assorted storytelling items for each book. Basically had to decide, do I do a separate entry for each item or list them all on one line with commas. Example: small toy moose to accompany If You Give a Moose a Muffin. I suppose I should have measured the moose and entered it in a 300 tag a: 1 moose b: plastic c: 10 x 15 cm. and then measured and identified all the other small doo-dads that were with the book with individual 300 tags. I didn't. I just listed them all on the 300 a line, separated by commas and measured the bag they were in for c. Time was short and I wanted to finish all of them for the librarian.

That does not mean a thing to you if you do not "enjoy" MARC records. Over the 3 days I was there I cataloged or cleaned up records for 189 items. Not too shabby.

I also enjoyed doing bird research with first graders in the afternoon. The librarian had arranged for two wonderful 4th graders to come as "helpers." We had some very nice easy nonfiction (I think they were Bridgestone) books about birds for our resources.

One table had the parrot book, one had the ostrich etc. The kids listened to or read the book and then filled out a little booklet with an interesting fact, what the bird eats, what the bird looks like etc. On the back there was a place to cite the book as a resource.

It was fun to help them begin thinking about research. The most fun was after the class left and the fourth graders looked at me in exasperation and said, "Those kids sure get off track a lot!" They were amazed that recording the fact that a heron eats crabs could lead to a conversation about Red Lobster. They were sputtering.

I just cracked up. I suggested their own teacher must feel this way too when the kids go "off task."

They came back to help the next day though and both of them asked me if they could have extra booklets so they could show the kids what to do. "We are going to do it along with them," they said.

I think they are natural teachers!

Next TLA report will be on Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbalestier.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The one that got away

When I look at this lovely stack of ARCs and signed copies I tell myself that it is churlish to gnash one's teeth at the thought of the book that I did NOT buy but, there is is.

Humans are never satisfied

Saturday morning, I was holding War Horse by Michael Morpurgo in my hand at the Scholastic booth and I was debating purchasing it.

I have friend who loves horses and this story of WWI might even tempt me even though I swore off animal stories as a child. I had read one too many books where the poor horse's tongue lolls, where the dog limps on raw and tender paws, where the car hits the rabbit, where the poor kid has to kill his dog to become a man ... I always identified with Gordan Korman's character Wallace Wallace in No More Dead Dogs.

No wonder I turned into a fantasy reader. Give me a sharp orc thwacking sword any day!

The cover of War Horse was beautiful though and I was reaching for my money when ... Mo Willems walked by.

He was on his way to the author signing area having just finished his very entertaining breakfast speech and I had been debating whether or not to stand in line to get a signature.

I had a boffo RRR signed t-shirt for the nephew and had made a point to acquire a pigeon t-shirt for the niece. I had been dithering but when he walked by I put down the book and followed him.

Happy, happy! The shirt is so cute!

Sunday morning, Treebeard drew my attention to this Houston Chronicle article by Gregory Katz about ... Michael Morpurgo. He is currently the writer-in-residence at the Savoy Hotel in London.

Being based in London has given Morpurgo time to meet with filmmakers and theater directors, including the ones who are producing one of his earlier novels, War Horse, on stage this fall at the National Theatre.

"It's the sort of thing you dream of," Morpurgo said. "It's very, very exciting."

The much-loved novel tells the story of World War I as seen through the eyes of a horse. Like many of Morpurgo's works, it is aimed primarily at children but also has a following among adults, including many of whom read it first in childhood and have revisited it decades later.

It is a sign.

If you love London, read the whole thing!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

TLA -- 1

Walking the cement floors of an exhibit hall is hard work and makes your feet hurt, no matter how bouncy your new sneakers with the pink swooshes are.

On day 1 of TLA, I was staggering under the weight of a backpack stuffed with new books. The overflow bag in my left hand was slowly dislocating my elbow and separating my left arm from its shoulder socket when I heard someone call my name. It was Chris Barton. He was instantly familiar to me because I've seen his photo on his blog. I hide behind Dragon online because more kids know him than me.

How in the world? I was surprised and amazed when Chris told me that he had recognized my sneakers!

My equilibrium was restored with a cup of coffee and good conversation with Mr. Barton. I also had a chance to talk with Austin authors Julie Lake, Brian Anderson, Don Tate, Cynthia Leitich Smith and GregLeitich Smith: such nice folks, all of them.

I have always lived by the motto, "I read therefore I am" so the chance to actually converse with people who put those words on the page is a heady experience.


I've been subbing this week so I am, no doubt, the last person to see this from Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily. The Harry Potter movie franchise may be on the way to becoming a theme park.

Disney watcher Jim Hill said that the company had been in protracted negotiations with J.K Rowling and Warner's to secure theme park rights for the complex. But that project never materialized. Instead, I'm told Universal went into negotiations with Warner's and that a Harry Potter them park deal is now set in principle but terms are still being finalized. Bill Davis, president of Universal Orlando Resort, was asked in February by the Orlando Sentinel about the possibility of a Harry Potter attraction. Davis replied: "Boy, I think that would be great. I can't talk about what we're going to be bringing to either one of our parks in the future. That's a forward-looking thing we can't discuss. I will tell you we're working hard to bring innovative, new technologically-advanced attractions to both of our parks.”

Monday, April 16, 2007

Wise Librarian

Entling No. 2 works at her institution of higher learning in that building that employs librarians. She got a call this week from one of them and was invited over to look at a new book that had just come in.

EN2 was very pleased to be the first person on campus to read the book and her mother was touched that these college librarians are reaching out to students with books that they know are of interest to them.

EN2 sent us this photo. She accompanied it with a gloating "nee-ner, nee-ner" or as they say in Elvish,"En! Sii'! Yallume! Auta miqula orqu!"

I have worked on it a bit to protect the innocent. As I have oft repeated, I try to spare the entlings the ongoing embarrassment of hearing folks say, "I didn't know SHE was YOUR mother!"

Book Trailer for The Children of Hurin

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Author: Jack Gantos

This post is offered as a public service. If you have never heard Jack Gantos speak in person and you live anywhere near here, I would urge you, encourage you, exhort you to hie yourself to Hammond High School on Tuesday and enjoy.

From the Baltimore Sun:
Gantos to speak
Children's author Jack Gantos, creator of the Rotten Ralph books, a collaboration with illustrator Nicole Rubel, will speak at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Hammond High School, 8800 Guilford Road. Gantos is known for the popular Joey Pigza books and his autobiography, Hole in My Life. Books will be available for purchase and signing. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration is not required. The program is presented in partnership with Great Books, a consortium of Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard county libraries.

I was lucky enough to host Gantos at my school (before he won the Newbery Honor for Joey Pigza Loses Control) for an entire day. One of my teachers actually fell (half way) off her chair because she was laughing so hard at his presentation. My principal used to ask me if we could have him return and I explained the deserved post-Joey three fold increase in his fee. She used to respond, without hesitation, "He is worth it."

It is my hope that he will record his Jack Henry books in audio book form sometime in the near future. Only he could do those books justice and if his publisher is smart they will start negotiations to accomplish this, (I was just explaining this to the very patient representative at the Farrar, Straus and Giroux booth at TLA who did tell me that there will be another Joey book this year, I Am Not Joey Pigza as Gantos realized Joey's relationship with his father was still unresolved.)

Those books were a restorative for our whole family as we learned to live with Type 1 diabetes years ago. This was before Lantus insulin had been invented and before the insulin pump became part of our family.

These macabre and insanely funny stories of his boyhood fit our mood perfectly and absolutely begged to be read aloud. You know when you are reading to yourself and find yourself compelled to shout to all in the vacinity "Oh my gosh, you have GOT to hear this," and you end up reading the entire book aloud and everyone is gasping for breath because they are laughing so hard? As I said, we were in a sort of dark place then.

Heads or Tails: Stories from the Sixth Grade, Jack's New Power: Stories from a Caribbean Year, Jack's Black Book: What Happens When You Flunk an IQ Test?, Jack on the Tracks: Four Seasons of Fifth Grade, and later, Jack Adrift: Fourth Grade Without a Clue will always have a special place in my heart.

If you live in Maryland and are in the area, I would encourage you to go hear the stories for yourself. Interview with Jack Gantos

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Singer/Songwriter: Tom Chapin

School Library Journal: Extra Helping has an interview with Singer/Songwriter Tom Chapin. His song "Not on the Test" is hitting the target with parents, teachers and students.

My own entling's excursion into the world of Geometry has been interupted for several weeks as their geometry teachers reviews them on the ALGEBRA that they will be tested over on the TAKS next week. sigh.

What kind of reaction did you get from the song?

The feedback was just astonishing. I keep getting more and more [e-mails]. I had two today, from teachers saying, "Thank you! How can we get this song?" So we realized, it's not on a record and probably won't be for a while, so we decided to put it up on the Web site. And it's been roaring around the Internet from teacher to teacher and administrators and parents, and it's been fun to watch it in cyberspace.

I got my new walkin' shoes

I have my new walkin' shoes (I like the pink swooshes) and I go to San Antonio for the Texas Library Assn. annual conference today.

My first TLA conference, many moons ago, was in San Antonio and I think I walked around with a happy grin the entire time. At that first conference I heard Brian Jacques and Gerald McDermott and Rosemary Wells.

This time I hope to see Chris Barton, Grace Lin, Stephenie Meyer, Cynthia Leitich-Smith, Teri Lesesne, Avi, Sharon Creech, Walter Dean Myers, Sarah Weeks, Darren Shan, Tim Wynne-Jones, Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, Sharon Draper, JOHN GREEN, Helen Hemphill, Don Tate, Brian Anderson, and MO WILLEMS, and more that I haven't even identified yet.

I will need a time-turner though. Lots of the sessions run at the same time. I'll do my best!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Back online

Sometimes being forced offline by a dodgy modem is a good thing. It gives you time to make hot cross buns with your youngest and read some of that book you have to be ready to discuss on Wednesday and check in with the other entlings...

Now we are reconnected to the grid, and I am stuffed with hot cross buns and See's dark chocolate Easter eggs. All I can manage is a quick click around my blog roll.

  • Elaine at Wild Rose Reader (corrected: warning: do not imbibe dark chocolate and blog) is featuring
  • Elaine says she Gregory K. at Gotta Book
I think poets are magicians. With exquisitely chosen words and phrases they impart more feelings and emotions than most folks can communicate in pages and pages of text and prose.

  • Fuse#8 has found the most disturbing video. I just purchased some Dick and Jane quilting fabric. I may never be able to look at it the same way again ... aaaack ...

  • Jen Robinson is also making Sunday visits and pointed me to Lectitans and the question of the week.

  • Kelly Fineman is writing in depth reviews of poetry books for National Poetry Month. Check them out for some excellent additions to your poetry collections.
  • Michele is still writing her "Who" novellas and finding time to post Friday poetry.

Compared to the productivity of my blogging friends I am feeling like a chocolate stuffed slug even though it was dark chocolate which is the healthy chocolate, full of healthy anti-oxidants.

  • Finally, if you have not heard "Not on the Test" by John Forster & Tom Chapin give this link a click. The TAKS test is two weeks away for high schoolers here in the Great State.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Be an M-M

Thank you Mental Multivitamin. You can get yours here.

Dragon had to be in the picture too. He always does.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

On the Wings of Heroes


I FINALLY finished listening to The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. In the book's defense, I did not have a regular listening routine due to an irregular life schedule right now. (Come to think of it, when is life ever orderly?) I almost gave up several times because I found the main character's continual bemoaning (tiring in an audiobook, maybe it would have played better in print) of her lost sister just too much. Glad I finished it because I would have wondered about the ending if I had given up but I am glad it is over.

On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2007

I cannot think of any author who does more to refresh the palate and revive the spirit than Richard Peck. He has such fun telling a story. His uplifting and moving novel, On the Wings of Heroes was exactly what I was in the mood for.

This book is an extension, of sorts, of a short story he contributed to Guys Write for Guys Read by Jon Scieszka about his wonderful father and his love of Halloween.

This story begins on the eve of WWII. Peck perfectly evokes a time when neighbors knew each other and families banded together to support their community and the war effort with scrap metal drives, jalopy parades, black outs and tire rationing.

Davy Bowman's beloved older brother enlists and becomes a bombardier on a B-17, flying missions over Germany. Davy worships his brother and his dad. His father loves his boys and fears for the oldest one because, as a WWI veteran, he knows war. The relationship between the boys and their dad is wonderfully written. Peck commented at a book signing, "I'm trying to share my father with boys who don't have them."

Sugar rationing, milkweed collecting and Boy Scout paper drives are part of the lives of Davy and his best friend Scooter. School teachers are called away to work in the war plants leaving bullies free reign in the classroom. News on the radio is all important and loving grandparents arrive to help out when times are tough.

The town is full of Peck's typically quirky characters and life lessons. Is the shotgun wielding Miss Titus crazy or the canniest substitute teacher in the world? What is in the trunk in Mr. Stonecypher's scary attic?

Certainly, Davy's heroes are his father and his brother but after reading this book you understand the heroism of those on the home front too: the long retired teacher who steps into the classroom again; the father whose son did not come home from WWI but will give to the war effort; the victory gardens; blue, silver, and gold stars in the windows representing families in waiting or grieving.

The beauty, tenderness and humor in this very American story put it at the top of my favorite books list.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Just for fun

I don't know how I got there originally but I've been enjoying Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover ever since I found it a while ago. She wrote a very interesting post on Eva Ibbotsen and her "grown-up" books.

Elaine also pointed me toward this lovely radio drama from BBC Radio 4 of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Making of a Marchioness. It will be available for seven days after the original broadcast which was Sunday, April 1, 2007.

Michelene Wandor's dramatisation of Frances Hodgson Burnett's romance.

Emily Fox-Seton is 34, comes from good stock, and has no money. She supports herself helping the well-to-do ladies of Mayfair with their shopping and other chores. Then Lady Maria invites her to a country house party to help with the guests, and Emily's life changes forever.

Lucy Briers (Mary Bennet in the best Pride and Prejudice) is Emily and Charles Dance (if you don't know who Charles Dance is, well, ... what can I say) is Lord Walderhurst and Miriam Margolyes (Professor Sprout and tons of other roles, including several turns in Blackadder) is Lady Walderhurst.

Part 2 is next week.

Also see Open Book where the creators discuss the program. This Open Book also includes an interview with China Mievill discussing his new YA book Un Lun Dun. (Entling no. 3 read it over spring break and liked it very very much.)

Also interviewed: Caroline Lawrence, creator of the Roman Mystery series and Mary Hoffman discussing historical fiction and the mystery and Derek Landy discussing his book Skulduggery Pleasant.

The list of books I'm seeking at TLA grows longer and longer.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Bookshelves of Doom reviews Austenland. I did not know Shannon Hale was writing this book. Based on BoD review, I have just added this title to my "must absolutely find this book" list. Be sure to read the link to Shannon Hale's letter to Colin Firth.

I must add Squeetus to my blogroll. How have I missed it until now?