Recently in Bibliophilic Category

December 31, 2008


Inkheart (Book 1) Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

My review

My 15 yo daughter is determined to re-read the trilogy to prepare or the movie coming out in January. What can I say, I raised her to love books. ;)

Anyway, she insisted that I read them with her so she has someone to talk to. I've been meaning to read these books for a while but they are always checked out and I hate to keep books from my students. Christmas and summer vacation, though, my library is all fair game. :)

View all my reviews.

December 13, 2008

The Shack

The Shack The Shack by William P. Young

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Reading this in preparation for a Women's retreat in February with boyfriend's mom and church. This feels like a test of some sort.

UPDATE: As an intelligent, unaffiliated realist who doesn't like to have religion thrust down my throat, I took this book up carefully. Would it break the bond between my boyfriend's Mom and me if I couldn't get it? I didn't know just how heavyhanded the book would be when I started so I dipped my toes in slowly, letting the story just unfold.

I like Mack. He is a lot like me. That helped a lot, that I had such empathy for the main character. He has questions and the answers aren't easyt for him to wrap his head around ... many times I had to put the book down to think on what I had just read.

Overall, it was an eyeopener and a positive experience. Did I experience a HUGE epiphany? Not really, but I do sleep better at night knowing there are others that have intelligent answers to questions that I can accept without feeling like I've compromised and had to accept something solely on faith.

Sometimes, for some of us, faith is not enough. Sometimes we need reasons and logic before we can let go. This book helped me let go just a little bit more and I appreciate that.

View all my reviews.

November 24, 2008

The Book of One Hundred Truths

The Book of One Hundred Truths The Book of One Hundred Truths by Julie Schumacher

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I enjoy reading smaller books specifically because, as a writer, I know it is so much more of a challenge to tell a story of depth with fewer words. Not all smaller books are successful, though. Many books, especially those written for kids, sacrifice character development and most lose sight of emotional nuances in the small moments.

This book is not one of those books. The characters are fully realized, each moment is a perfect, poignantly realized morsel to savor. Having grown up on the coast, I could almost smell the sea water, feel the breeze on my face, the coolness of the sand beneath the surface on the soles of my feet. I could also feel the shame and panic Thea feels as she finds her carefully constructed web of lies, and her family, unraveling.

I eagerly read this compelling little book and thoroughly enjoyed discovering and uncovering Thea's secrets. It is an incredibly insightful book, focusing on the relationships between people and how secrets and lies can shape or destroy them.

View all my reviews.

November 16, 2008


Coraline Coraline by Neil Gaiman

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wonderful book. Glad I read it during the daytime (read while I was getting an oil change) because it was creepy. Looking forward to the movie.

I recommend this book to most of my students (5th grade+) ... it helps if they can suspend disbelief. Only the most literal of readers won't enjoy it.

View all my reviews.

Just read...

Measle and the Wrathmonk Measle and the Wrathmonk by Ian Ogilvy

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Plenty of action to keep the interest for the most reluctant readers but still smart and twisted enough for sophisticated kids. Frightening premise : Basil Tramplebone (Wrathmonk = evil, insane wizard) is the guardian of a child, Measle, who has to figure out how to survive under his twisted "care", and, many times, how to escape his wrath. I'd recommend for 4th - 6th grade, but it depends on the kid.

September 14, 2008

A terrible master...

"[L]earning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger."

David Foster Wallace, novelist and essayist,

from a 2005 speech at Kenyon College


Via Gawker , Reluctant Habits, Originally from LA Times


November 16, 2007

Connecting boys to the library

One of the challenges of having boys in the library is not only having materials that will interest them but convincing them that reading can be cool.

Michael Sullivan, Connecting Boys with Books: What Libraries Can Do

All about making media center boy friendly and connecting to boys.

Male authors, sports and action stories, edgy comedy, non-traditional format.

"From Booklist
Statistics show that boys do not read as much as girls. Given the importance of reading in developing vocabulary, self-expression, and higher-level thinking skills, it is essential to get boys engaged with books. In this brief, highly readable treatise, author Sullivan outlines both the tenets of successful programming for boys in the tweens--ages 8 to 12--and methods that can be used to put theory into practice. Covering genres that appeal to boys, the power of reading-related games, sports-themed library programming, and a well-run chess program, this compendium of ideas and recommendations will help both school and public librarians reach their young male constituents. The combination of practical programming recommendations and philosophical and statistical background makes for potent advocacy. RBB
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved"

- From Amazon

It is now on my wishlist ... heh

And the "You Wouldn't want to be..." series looks like a winner for my kids.

Fellowship of the Books ...

Choosing groups. Older boys, dads and male faculty leading small groups of 4th and 5th grade boys during lunch in the media center.

Pick a name

Confront the books -  set out the books ahead of time and let them choose the books they want to read. Score sheet, where they choose their favorites. Try to get discussions going. Each groups had to read the same series so they would have plenty to talk about when they come back.
Conquer the books _ choose, check out, and read. Return in 2 weeks to eat, chat, argue

Finale: Ice cream sundaes, evaluation

Find boys book lists  

November 4, 2007

Torn between two worlds...

I have just finished an extraordinary book and I had to share it with you. As a children's librarian, naturally, I am exposed to more childen's lit than anything else so I spend most o my time reading that. There is more to my attachment, however.

When I was a child, I was alone quite a bit. My brothers and my sister were much older than I was and they had their own, teenage lives to lead. They had friends houses to escape to when the fighting between our parents got too tumultuous. Indeed, it only seemed that on weekends, when my brothers and sister were off with their friends, that my parents would get into the worst of their rows, having come home more than a little tipsy from the bar or one of our neighbors houses.

My mother was always ready for an argument, sensitive and passionate, insecure and always jealous of the attention my handsome father would get.  My father, ever the narcissistic cruel jokester, would goad her on, detailing what this lady or that lady had whispered to him behind my mothers back, amused by her increasing rage. Eventually the slamming doors turned into broken glass and, mercifully, someone would call the police to calm them down.

I would lie in bed alone listening to the escalation, waiting for it to end, grateful for the intervention when it finally came and dreading the day it didn't. In those days, I had a hard time differentiating between shouts and laughter ... to me, the harsh volume of it all sounded threatening.  I would burrow under my covers, clutching the book I had fallen asleep with as protection, as if it were a doorway to another world that I could easily escape to, if only I wished hard enough.

While the storm calmed below, I was left awake. I would turn on the light on my nightstand, open my book, and begin reading. I had several books that I read and reread, touchstones that would ease my mind when I was distressed. The Hundred Dresses by Estes, Tico and the Golden Wings by Lionni, The Little Mermaid by Anderson and, my favorite of all, a collection of Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm. These stories told of a little one, a weak one, an outcast, an outsider, apart from their family, without friends, who imagines great things for themselves in the face of the ugliness of greed and sheer human stupidity.  Through all of these stories, a great love is what sustains them.  Their connection to the earth and their cunning and will to stay alive sets them even further apart from the flawed humans around them yet, they still give int he hopes that these humans will learn from their sacrifice.

To say that I identified with the heroes and heroines of these stories is a massive understatement.

As I grew, I never forgot these stories and, even now, as a teacher, I read them to my students, teaching them that fables and fairy tales have large life lessons for us all to learn. The question that I was always left with, however, is what becomes of the characters in those stories I loved. Do they live happily ever after? How could they, damaged as they were by the horrors they had seen as children. How on earth could Hansel and Gretel grow up to be well adjusted adults, marrying and having children, without being overprotective to the point of smothering, convinced that some nameless threat would come along to lure their children away and devour them?  How did Little Red Riding Hood not grow up to be paranoid, agoraphobic, paralyzed with fear, trapped by the certain knowledge that every creature she met from the moment she escaped the wolf on that she was being lied to and deceived?

Yet every story ends with "...and the evil was banished and they lived on happily ever after."  In my house, I had to believe that was true. I had to have hope to get out.

As I grew older, my need to believe that grew even more desperate, as my damaged childhood led me down a path of abuse and despair. My happily ever after had turned out to be yet another pipedream and I found myself alone in the wilderness, this time with two children to care for and protect. The stakes were higher, the reasons to fight more noble than just selfishness. I had a purpose and I began my long journey which would lead to my own happily ever after.

It's no wonder that when a book offers me the answers to the questions I was left with as a child, I would be drawn to it. Such was the case with Birdwing by Rafe Martin. I remember reading the story of the Six Swans and wondering what happened to the poor 6th son, the one that was never truly turned back to being himself. The description of Birdwing brought that story rushing back to me and immediately caught my imagination:

"Once upon a time,  a girl rescued her seven brothers from a spell that had turned them into swans.  But one boy,  Ardwin,  was left with the scar of the spell's last gasp: one arm remained a wing.  And while Ardwin yearned to find a place in his father's kingdom, the wing whispered to him of open sky and rushing wind.  Marked by difference,  Ardwin sets out to discover who he is:  bird or boy,  crippled or sound,  cursed or blessed.  But followed by the cold eye of a sorceress and with war rumbling at his kingdom's borders,  Ardwin's path may lead him not to enlightenment,  but into unimaginable danger."

I found this book to be a satisfying conclusion to the Six Swans.  The happily ever after aspects are neither trite not are the easily won. His battles are not only with the one that cursed him but the ones that try to love and heal him. Ardwin is an imperfect hero who, through intuition and sheer will, determines his own future. He takes full responsibility for every choice he makes along the way, even the ones that lead to disaster. When things do go terribly wrong (and they do several times), he is human enough to admit his mistakes and noble enough to try to make things right. There is nothing more satisfying than that.

Now if only someone would write conclusions to Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty that were more realistic, maybe I could begin to believe in happy endings again. Until then, I will continue to question conventions, challenge stereotypes and fight my own childhood dragons.

October 24, 2007

The Horror of Fairy Tales

I have been thinking a lot about the stories that I tell my students, especially today after one teacher told me that her son didn't like the movie ( Leo Lionni's Swimmy) I showed in class yesterday. You see, he apparently is a sensitive sort and (SPOILER ALERT!!1!) he was upset that Swimmy's family gets eaten by a mean tuna fish, even though he finds another family and they scare the tuna away in the end. 

That got me to thinking about these fables, why they are so violent, and I know it is because fables are really cautionary tales, stories told to children to teach morals. Folk tales, on the other hand, are told to pass down traditions and keep history/religion/families alive ... I literally translate Folk Tales as People Stories so my students will remember that.

Fairy tales, now they are another creature all together. Watching Criminal Minds tonight (excellent if extremely creepy episode, BTW) the epilogue contained the following quote ...

"Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."  ~ G. K. Chesterton

... and it struck me. The horrors of these fairy tales are truly horrible but good always wins which, for a child, might just be enough to give them confidence to at least stand up to the dragons.  

In a delightful bit of serendipity, I found this article in my feedreader tonight and was reminded how truly horrible Disney is for watering these delicious stories down.

Damn you, Walt. *shakes fist*

Don't have any fables/folk tales/fairy tales to entertain yourself and your chillens? Get thee to a library!! 398.2!!  The Brothers Grimm is a great place to start.

October 14, 2007

Hot wing haiku

Delicious hot wings
marry with ribs on the plate.
Who knew pigs could fly?
                    - written by me on a (clean) napkin at BW3
                      in response to T's off-the-cuff remark.

Yes, I am a word geek. I admit it.

Riding the lemons to lemonade roller coaster lately, trying to find a balance, a stopping point. Seems like it will never end.

Finishing up the media center and feeling proud then one of my windows broke and was replaced with unglazed glass. Have to find money to replace it myself now.

Finally get everything in place and the bookfair comes this week, not to mention the frequent disruption of meetings and staff training sessions (the recent pork barbeque lunch will be a whole other post, I fear). Seems I will never finish.

Terribly frustrated and unhappy with things I can not control yet some incendiary bright spots have emerged ... who knew I loved drag racing?

Preparing myself for yet another downward trip tonight, knowing the next hill is only 2 weeks away, hoping the sheer force of emotional kinesis can get me there.

Finished William Gibson's Pattern Recognition and found quite a bit of myself in the pages. Interesting insight, complex read.  I closed the book and returned to this world enlightened. Gotta love that.

 More later. Feeling cryptic and fragile, yet strangely energized.

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