Sunday, March 30, 2008

Long Distance Booktalking

So, family is enroute towards the entling no. 2's recital. It is Springtime in Texas.

Winters are soft compared to other areas of the country. We do not have to shovel snow or blizzards, well sometimes in the panhandle. We do face the occasional hurricane and our rainstorms are frequently of Old Testament magnitude. Fall is ok, we even get some color in the trees most years. In the Summer, the Gulf of Mexico bathes the coastal plain in moisture which combines with stifling heat, causing most of us to dart quickly from air conditioned space to air conditioned space.

But, Springtime in Texas is the bonus that allows us to glory in the outdoors. Traveling over the back roads of the Lone Star State these past two weekends, we have gloried in thick patches and expanses of bluebonnets. The blooms shade from deepest blue at the bottom towards white at the tip. This week, the orange-red Indian paintbrush is beginning to take hold along with a tall yellow bloom that causes the medians and fields on either side of the highway to glow with gold light. I cannot drive through Texas in the Spring and not silently thank God for the life of Lady Bird Johnson. It is magnificent.

While we ooh-ed and aah-ed our way down the byway yesterday, I got a call from the entsister.
She was in Barnes and Noble with the entniece and entnephew buying books and she wanted to ask me about some titles before purchase.

Me: No, don't buy Airman, I have a signed copy for him.

The hilarious thing was, while we talked about the pile of books they were trying to whittle down, she began to get inquiries from other patrons in the bookstore.

Stranger: Ask your sister about this one....

Other stranger: Has she read...

My sister is on the other side of the country and I was booktalking to strangers into a cell phone as we wheeled down the back roads of Texas.

What a hoot!

The good news was, the entnephew and entniece ended up with three books each instead of two.

Go me!!!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Mother of the Bride

Been sort of distracted from my children's book world this week by happy family matters, including a senior recital and choir concert and competition.

One upcoming event will be the launch of Operation Wedding Dress. We've already watched Father of the Bride#1 and Father of the Bride#2, for Treebeard's sake. I enjoy the Steve Martin version, in part because the family lives in a town where I used to live, a long time ago. I have been seeking the wisdom of wedding gurus and sensei who have been through the process.
Entling no. 1 and I have been cybershopping, "hey, look at this one," but we have not yet ventured into an actual salon de wedding.

These ABC Primetime pieces have given me pause.

This one: "...a challenge for the compulsive"
Ha, I'm not compulsive. On the other hand, a control freak? Yes.

No pressure: "...that pinnacle purchase"
I better bring tissues.

Finally, I think that if NewsBoy popped out and asked me, "Mom, what did you really think?" after testing my "honesty" this way I would answer, "I think I am going to rap you on the head with that boom mic and throttle you with this veil.

Thank you to AFriendIndeed who pointed me to the episode.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lord of the Rings - The Chat Version

We all have our fandoms. LOTR is ours. Yahoo is introducing their new email/chat interface.

Pondering attribution

Research and Big6 skills are some of my favorite lessons to teach and I've been doing quite of a bit of it recently.

This made me reflect on a discovery, of sorts, that I made while reading a book to a group of elementary kids. How much attribution should an illustrator give if they use a large portion of another artist's work in their own illustration? I'm not talking about a re-imagining of the Mona Lisa or the Blue Boy or the Scream or other iconic, well known work of art.

This is a photograph that is in the collection of a major fine arts museum. In the children's book, the photograph has been reversed and embellished but the major part of the illustration IS the actual photograph. I assumed there would be an attribution to the photographer at the end of the book but there is none.

I know there are rules about the age of the work, the degree of change and the percentage used etc. but I was struck by the lack of attribution when the illustration is so obviously a photocopy. It was sort of fluke that I happened to have seen the photograph and also been reading the book simultaneously. I know artists who use photos in their work but they have staged the photos and used friends and family as models. Maybe this is not a big deal and I just happened to see the photo and made the connection.

When I teach research and note taking skills we discuss plagiarism and the importance of listing resources and taking notes in a way that inhibits copying.

I stress that with the Internet it is very difficult to "get away with it," whether the intent was deliberate or not. Students have to submit their work to at the end of an assignment. The whole point of a research assignment is to exercise their gray cells.

(An aside: I am noticing an alarming trend as students grapple with note taking. Maybe it is the age group, jr. high, but I am wondering if they are so awash in media as passive recipients, that they are becoming incapable of extracting important facts and information from research resources--worry, worry, worry)

But, to return to my ponder, does an artist owe it to a photographer, even if deceased, to reference their work? I wonder what rights to the photo are owned by the publisher of the book that includes the photograph or the museum that has the photo in their collection? It is entirely possible that they had permission to use the photograph but just didn't include the origin of the work. I guess I would give credit where credit is due. It also makes me wonder about other work by this author/illustrator.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Hit and a Miss

There are some books that as a librarian who talks about books with kids, I feel that I HAVE to read.

The Twilight books are the bane of my life.
God bless Stephenie Meyer and her books for the impact they have had on young readers.
When a kid comes in to a junior high library to check out New Moon and tells you that she has already read the book three times "but I just HAD to read it today!" I take note.

When a teacher tells you about her summer trip to Seattle to retrace the characters' lives...well, that is fandom -- pure and devoted.

Alas, over the past year, I have been unable to make headway in the first book despite urgings and strong encouragement from all sides.

C-a-n-n-o-t f-o-r-c-e my eyeballs across the page.

So, I got the audiobook to listen to and despite some setbacks, (zzzzzzzzzzzz...zzzz....zzz...zz, Mom, wake up, I'm finished with my voice lesson) finally managed to finish the book yesterday.

I can see why young readers are so attracted to the story; to think someone so suave and handsome and sophisticated would find a high school girl so mesmerizing and irresistible. That is heady stuff. And certainly the ongoing tension of the story--will Edward chomp Bella--is sort of thrilling-ish...kinda...maybe...

When I told a friend I was listening to the book, she groaned..."Don't listen to it, it is not as good."
Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it. I can't say I enjoyed the audiobook narration. It was just so s-l-o-w.

I found myself bracing and steeling for each usage of the "I" personal pronoun which seems to occur about every five seconds.

Despite my love of YA literature, I think it is interesting that I was unable to disconnect my maternal monitor while I listened to this book. There were times I wanted to stop the story and ask Bella about her college and career plans.

At least I've finished it. Don't know if I will continue with the series. My friend told me the Twilight fans break into two groups and she thinks I have potential as a New Mooner? She is not giving up on me. We will see.


I have been trying to read Garth Nix's Sabriel ever since one of my students told me to read it...oh least five years ago.
Michelle at Scholar's Blog has similarly exhorted me to read the books.

I've picked it up to read and watched it slowly sink lower and lower in the TBR pile. When Nix spoke at TLA I purchased the entire Abhorsen trilogy and had him sign them. My youngest entling, who had previously been uninterested, took them up as soon as I got home. I think she has read them at least a dozen times since then.

I tried the audiobook but just could not fall into the story, until this past week.
Timing is everything.
I have been away in the Old Kingdom for quite a while now. I cannot wait to get on with the series now.

Tim Curry's narration is brilliant, marvelous, pitch perfect. His character voicing is distinct but never forced.

Monday, March 17, 2008

NonFiction Monday: The Worst-Case Scenario

The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook (Junior Edition)Dewey: 646.7/00835

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Junior Edition by David Borgenicht and Robin Epstein, illustrated by Chuck Gonzales, Chronicle Books, 2007

One of the things that delighted me at the International Spy Museum gift store, last summer, was the interesting and humorous selection of books for sale. I was tickled to see the entire line of Worst-Case Scenario books there. These books offer a combination of practical and MacGyver-esque advice. There is also the entertaining speculation of "what would I do if attacked by an alligator or trapped in quicksand?"

The Junior Edition focuses its advice for youngsters on the survival skills needed at home, school, socially and outdoors. Looking through the book as an adult, you feel the empathy Borgenicht and Epstein have for kids making their way through the minefield that is childhood.

There are the practical suggestions that are parent pleasing, "How to Make your Room Shipshape" and "How to Survive Outdoor Chores." Other chapters satisfy the gross-out factor, "How to Survive Poo on your Shoe" and "How to Survive Farting in Public." Other sections offer support with situations that truly concern kids, such as bullies, having to eat lunch alone, and being the new kid.

Tips for surviving parent anger are dished out with humor,

Telltale Signs you've got an annoyed adult on your hands

Steam is pouring out of his nose or ears.

Her arms are crossed and her foot is tapping but there's no music playing in the background. ...

She keeps pounding the kitchen table with her shoe...

The book design by Lynne Yeamans is easy on young eyes with reader friendly typeface and lots of white space. Chuck Gonzales's illustrations are comical yet accurate. This is a book that kids will pick up and read. They will recognize the situations outlined in the book which are presented with humor and sympathy.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pulse Blogfest

I've been telling the entling all year that if she has free, leisure time on a school night, she must be forgetting something.

I found some time this evening to do some reading online and I was immersed in Phil Bildner's powerful account of his recent trip back to New Orleans, LA to volunteer along with 34 high schoolers in the Lower Ninth Ward when I realized I, that myself had forgotten about a booster club meeting at the high school. Zooooommm...

Good thing we have spring break next week.

Back at Bildner's blog, I read that he is one of 120 authors who will be blogging at Pulse BlogFest. At least I will have time to read it next week.

From March 14 to March 27, 2008, Simon & Schuster is launching our first annual Pulse Blogfest -- a two-week event where more than 120 of our top teen authors and all of their fans will come together to share ideas on one single blog.


Each day, for fourteen days, we'll have one featured question. For each question, dozens of our authors will be posting blog entries addressing that question. You'll be able to get dozens of unique viewpoints of the same question. Each participating author will be answering anywhere from one to seven different questions throughout the event.

A list of the participating authors is HERE.

Camp Read-Along

BookMoot took the "camp-in-a-box" on the road today. We did some setting up yesterday but today was story time.

The owls were hooting and the coyotes were howling and the campfire was "flickering" and these comments were heard at the campsite.

"Wow, it looks like Disneyland or something. I wish we were coming." -- Me too.

All day long: "Is that fire REAL?" -- What does your imagination tell you?

From a teacher: "I've heard of you, you're a legend." -- Only in my mind, sir, only in my mind.

"Tell Dragon, hi!"
"Where's the dragon?"
"Is your dragon here?"
"I remember that dragon!"
"That dragon is funny."
"He's a puppet." then, another child, "Shhh...don't tell him."

"When are you coming back?"

But the best comment all day was from the Assistant Principal doing a last minute walk-through in anticipation of the FIRE marshal's inspection in a few hours...

Oh, NO! The "fire" has to GO!"

Of all the days to have a camp-out in the library.

Many many thanks to Margaret Read MacDonald's
Three Minute Tales for so much fun with a "jump" story, "Potato in my Hand."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Daylight Savings

Tuesday is the worst.
Sunday morning -- it is later than you think. OK, whatever, get a move on.
Monday morning -- ugghh, feeling off kilter, gotta get up in the dark and get a move on.
Tuesday morning --I've been hit by a bus, run over by a train, trampled by elephants, cannot move.

The Tuesday after the daylight savings switch was always the worst day in the elementary school year for student alertness, teacher coma and kids getting hit in the face with a ball in P.E.

Wednesday will be better.

Interesting, I can't think of a children's book on the subject of daylight savings, even nonfiction.
This morning my own entling moaned , "Why do they do this to us?"

Monday, March 10, 2008

NonFiction Monday: Ralph Masiello's Dragon Drawing Book

Dewey: 743.6

Ralph Masiello's Dragon Drawing BookRalph Masiello's Dragon Drawing Book by Ralph Masiello, Charlesbridge, 2007.

An acquaintance of mine has been badgering me to review this book for quite some time. Drawing books are by far the MOST popular books in the school library. They circulate more than Harry Potter, dinosaur books, disaster books, even Shel Silverstein. They are the refuge of non-readers and the choice of creative spirits and budding artists. Examples of artwork are found between the pages of drawing books long after they has been returned.

Masiello offers step-by-step drawing guides of dragons from all cultures. The Aboriginal Rainbow Serpent, Mayan dragons, Chinese dragons, and Western dragons are detailed along with some background information about the creatures.

A page of resources and websites and a pronunciation guide are included. I always wondered how to pronounce Wyvern (WIE-vurn.)

Great fun for fantasy lovers, artisists and small green dragons who revel books about their heritage.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Author School Visit:: Jarrett J. Krosoczka

BookMoot had a treat Friday.

I got to sit-in on an author visit and saw HMOCL Jarrett Krosoczka, talk to first and second graders at a local elementary school.

Krosoczka is a genial presence and he tells the story (I always want to hear a story) of how he became a published author/illustrator. His presentation began with his childhood writing and artwork. It occurred to me that he was lucky to have preserved his school age efforts. (The location of my own entlings' artwork is in question...I gotta get organized.) The kids connected with his childhood drawings as the work of a "contemporary."

Throughout his talk he engaged the kids by having them guess the numbers of times he faced rejection in his efforts to get into his art school of choice and to get his books published.

The wiggle level in this crowd was low. First and second graders bodies just have to m-o-v-e but their eyes were on Krosoczka every minute. The cheers that greeted his decision to read Punk Farm were loud and gratifying. Invited to play along with the band, the youngsters furiously played air guitars, drums, bass and keyboards.

I was very pleased with the quality of the questions. Only one "where do you get your ideas?" was uttered and one second grader asked him for the name of his publisher! To hear a second grader use the word "publisher" must have been a sublime moment for his librarian.

Krosoczka also gets huge BookMoot kudos for adding a little drawing to each book he signs. It takes extra time when the stacks are high but what a treasure for a child!

Memo to self: Remember that lunch time is the chance for a presenter to rest their voice, sit down, and EAT! They have an afternoon of performances to prepare for, physically. Let him enjoy his chips and salsa in peace.

Jarrett will be speaking at the "Mockingbirds and Armadillos: Local Elementary Reading Programs" session on Thursday, April 17, 2008 at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference, in Dallas.

  • Jarrett Krosoczka's website and blog ... his page on School Visits is a good model for authors adding this information to their own sites
  • NPR "Book Tour" - Jarrett J. Krosoczka Rocks with 'Punk Farm'

  • Seven Imp's interview with a myriad of links

Monday, March 03, 2008

Storm: The Infinity Code

STORM: The Infinity CodeStorm: The Infinity Code by E.L. Young, Dial, 2008

Storm: The Infinity Code follows in the footsteps of Alex Rider, Young Bond and Jimmy Coates as an action-caper storyline.

We meet Will Knight, age 14, testing his latest invention, a wall "ascender," at his school in the early hours of the morning. His pre-dawn activities were observed by a classmate named Gaia. She introduces Will to another teenager, who is a sort of adolscent Bill Gates, named Andrew. Andrew earned a fortune in the software business as a computer programming savant when he was ten years old and he has an idealistic dream that somehow fourteen year olds, with money and brilliance, can do things to improve the world situation that adults cannot.

Will is dealing with the death of his father and his mother has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. He agrees to join Andrew's team, STORM (Science and Technology to Over-Rule Misery,) when a solar flare threatens Earth. Now these young brainiacs cannot stop solar flares but they do safeguard the the landing of a passenger plane when communications are disrupted.

When a teen astrophysicist, Caspian Baraban, becomes involved in the design of a super weapon the trio are off to St. Petersburg, Russia on a quest to save the world.

Author, E.L. Young is a science writer and the Australian editor for New Scientist magazine. The book is full of science theories and jargon. The gadgets are cool and I loved that they were invented by the teen heroes themselves, not handed to them by an adult "Q" character. Young also includes some background on actual research behind the book's inventions and scientific ideas.

The storyline is over the top espionage fantasy like any James Bond, Bourne Identity or Ocean's (insert Roman numeral here.) Seriously, don't we all have access to a electromagnetic pulse generator that can put out the lights in Las Vegas?

I have an enormous fondness for espionage fantasy capers though, so I'm in.

NonFiction Monday: Young Pelé


Young Pelé: soccer's first star by Lesa Cline-Ransome, paintings by James E. Ransome; Schwartz & Wade Books, 2007

James Ransome's illustrations shine in this picture book biography of Edson do Nascimento, who would be known to the world as Pelé. Using the greens, yellows and blues of the Brazilian flag Ransome paints glowing scenes of Edson's school, family and soccer life.

Edson struggled in school and his first soccer ball was "a sock stuffed with rags, rolled up and tied with string." His inability to focus in class resulted in reprimands and punishments but soccer was always foremost in his mind. His team, the Shoeless Ones, became a force in the city's soccer leagues. His nickname, Pelé, was bestowed at this young age.

The author describes the work ethic of the team; they sold peanuts and shined shoes to earn money for uniforms. The reader is reminded that talent also requires practice, drills, coaching and teamwork to suceed.

There is much here for the young soccer enthusiast to enjoy. Pelé traps, heads, dribbles and boots the ball across the pages. The creators of this biography score, indeed.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

What a Doll!

I love working the circulation desk at school libraries because that is where I really get a sense of what kids are taking home with them. Checking out a library book is such a commitment for some children. Even though the book is "free," it is fascinating how seriously some kids make their decision.

It is fun to note the continuing popularity of Ann M. Martin's The Doll People and The Meanest Doll in the World at the elementary schools where I work. Girls check-out these books everywhere I sub.

I loved dolls as a girl. I liked stories about dolls and doll houses. My own little entlings did not share my enthusiasm. They tolerated dolls but never really played with them.

I read Pam Conrad's Tub People books to
my kids because we had tub people at our
house when they were small.

As a girl I read all of Rumer Godden's doll stories.
I loved the Tasha Tudor illustrations of
The Doll's House...

...and the idea of a Japanese doll house,
with sliding screens, was so appealing in Miss Happiness and Miss Flower and the sequel, Little Plum

In A Secret Garden, Sara Crewe's beautiful doll,
with her exquisite wardrobe and beautiful accessories,
probably led to my fascination with American Girl doll catalogs.
hmmm ... Tasha Tudor again.

...and then there was Big Susan by Elizabeth Orton Jones, probably my first
doll book.

The Newbery award winning Hitty: her first hundred years by Rachel Field was another doll book from my childhood. I think the new edition with Rosemary Well's illustrations make the book more accessible to readers today.

I leave you with a lovely doll moment with the exquisite,
Laura Claycomb
as Olympia in The Tales of Hoffman.

From Wikipedia:

Offenbach intended that the four soprano roles be played by the same singer, for Olympia, Giulietta and Antonia are three facets of Stella, Hoffmann's unreachable love...While the doubling of the four villians is quite common, most performances of the work use multiple sopranos for the heroines. This is due to the different skills needed for each role: Olympia requires a skilled coloratura singer with stratospheric high notes, Antonia is written for a more lyric voice, and Guilietta is usually performed by a dramatic soprano or even a mezzo-soprano.

Stratospheric, indeed.