Librarian on the Roof: 09/30/11
Librarian on the Roof by M.G. King sounds like a silly title, except it's based on a true story. There aren't many nonfiction books for children that cover librarians. King's book recounts the heroic efforts of a single librarian to draw attention and raise well needed funds for her library (and her patrons).
RoseAleta Laurell was newly hired at the Dr. Eugene Clark library in Lockart, Texas and wanted to bring this underused library into the 21st century. When she couldn't get the support she needed she decided to spent time on the roof as a protest to raise money for the children's library.
Stephen Gilpin's exaggerated illustrations bring a sense of humor to this book, making RoseAleta seem larger than life. His drawings are vibrant and cartoony, like something seen in a middle grade graphic novel. They have the same energy that RoseAleta must have had to pull off her protest.
At the back of the book there's a photograph of the real RoseAleta on the roof with a brief explanation of her protest. There's also a summary of the reasons behind writing her story as a children's book.
Virtual Worlds, Real Libraries: 09/29/11
Virtual Worlds, Real Libraries by Lori Bell and Rhonda Trueman begins with the Gartner Research Group estimate that 80% of all internet users will experience a virtual world of some sort by 2011. I doubt they're all librarians or library students, but many of them are.
Bell and Trueman's book is designed as a handbook to understanding the allure of worlds like Second Life and how they can (and are) used for things other than just play. There's some history of librarians and the libraries they've created.
That said, the book wasn't as comprehensive as I hoped. It's a little bit of everything and not a lot of anything in particular. This book would work best as a wiki. In that wiki I would put an atlas of library and university sites with clickable links. While many of the libraries are grouped together on a single island, not all of them are.
Part of my online course work at SJSU requires the use of Second Life. I have to admit that when I first heard that, I balked. Until school I'd had no desire to use the program having felt liked I'd gotten all of my virtual world needs out of my system as an undergrad using MMPORGs.
But my school has a virtual campus as do lots of other universities. Libraries are spawning virtual versions of themselves to handle remote reference questions. Google Books even has a library one can walk through to see the books that are otherwise ebooks in the real world.
Ambient Findability: 09/28/11
Ambient Findability by Peter Morville is often used as a textbook in the reference course I took. The professor I took it from didn't include the book but the title and the fact that it was published by O'Reilly Media piqued my interest enough to want to read it as the class was starting up.
Although the description mentions information overload, the book isn't really about that. It's about how information and people hook up. There is the information that one seeks and that which falls into one's lap.
Morville begins his book by wondering how the reader has come across his book. He goes on to wonder if anyone will find his book.
Much of the book is a discussion on techniques of cataloguing information so it can be found again. It isn't though an SEO recipe book. Instead it is a call for professionalism, consistency and intelligence behind how information is gathered, sorted and marked for retrieval.
I read a library book via interlibrary loan. Someday I would like my own copy.
Collective Intelligence: 09/27/11
Collective Intelligence by Pierre Lévy in my research for the Patron 2.0 paper. It was cited in Henry Jenkins's book, Fans, Bloggers and Gamers. Although the book was written in 1997, well before the advent of social media, the theory is solid and completely applicable to the discussion of Web 2.0.
Lévy begins his discussion with books. The written word is humanity's first and longest lived way of generating collective intelligence. Libraries are repositories of knowledge waiting to be read and interacted with. The modern day wiki, blog, social tagging or microblogging site (such as Twitter) are new expressions of collective intelligence.
While the book wasn't entirely on topic for my research, as I was looking for discussions of blogging in a library setting, the theory was nonetheless fascination. It also provided background for me to format my own research questions around.
Web 2.0 for Librarians and Information Professionals: 09/26/11
Web 2.0 for Librarians and Information Professionals by Ellyssa Kroski was one of the first books I found in the early days of my Patron 2.0 research paper. Having "Web 2.0" in the title made it easy to find when I wasn't quite sure yet what direction my paper was going to take.
Kroski's book is first a description of what web 2.0 is and a brief history of its development. Next it is a descriptive catalog of current (as of 2008) technologies at use for librarians. It includes examples of how to use each of the listed technologies.
For my research the book was useful for seeing what was available. Although I'm fairly savvy with social technology it was good to have a list to check against as I was following links to blogs mentioned in other research. For library professionals the book would offer a good reference for offering Library 2.0 services.
Ellyssa Kroski lectures sometimes at San José State, the school I am currently attending. I have not taken any of her courses.
What Are You Reading: September 26, 2011: 09/26/11
Eleven of fifteen books read last week were picture books that I either read with my kids or while I was waiting for the computer to process the books I had catalogued at my internship. We are reading fewer pictures book in a week because the children have opted for longer books. I am reading Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell and Adventures in Cartooning by James Strum to them.
I gave up on Twilight of the Gods by Denise Verrico because it evolved into a mafia story. I really not a fan of that type of stories even with the interesting take on vampirism. Only two books came from my personal collection this week. I hope to do better this week. As expected, I didn't have time for Dingo by Charles de Lint or Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve, but I did read Restoring Harmony.
This week I plan to start The Replacement. Other than that, I'm not sure. I might start Schenectady by Don Rittner or The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken.
Gave Up On:
Finished Last Week:
This Book Is Overdue!: 09/25/11
I am currently a library and information science student. I read This Book is Overdue! by Marilyn Johnson as part of my research for my Patron 2.0 paper. Even if I weren't a library student right now I would have read the book as I'm such a fan of libraries, especially public ones.
For me, therefore, Chapter 4: "The Blog People" was of the most interest. It looks at the history of blogging and especially blogging by librarians. Library blogs can be divided into three main groups: blogs run by libraries (usually a group effort), blogs run by library organizations (such as the ALA) and blogs run by librarians. They are written for one of two main audiences: individuals (typically library patrons) or as a method of peer to peer communication (blogs are becoming more commonplace as a method for long distance communication during conferences).
The other chapter that really piqued my interest was Chapter 1: "The Frontier." It describes how librarianship has evolved in the last hundred years and how it's now spreading into Second Life. Before I started working on my MLIS I had never tried Second Life. I had done the text-based equivalent in the 1990s when I was an undergrad and I felt like I had gotten it out of my system. Since Second Life's inception, librarians have been setting up virtual libraries and colleges have been setting up virtual campuses. My own school has a virtual campus, which for school I've had to visit more times than I have the actual campus (my coursework is completely done on the computer). That said, I still find Second Life something I don't think I'd use beyond what I may end up having to do for my work as a librarian (when that time comes).
Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: 09/24/11
Last semester I worked on a Web 2.0 research paper where the emphasis was on library blogging and its use by and benefit to patrons (or Patron 2.0). One of the books I came across in the process was Fans, Bloggers and Gamers by Henry Jenkins. As an ex-film theory student, I had to read the book.
This book is an update to Textual Poachers, his book about fandom and fan fiction. His contention is that the fans of yore are the bloggers and gamers of today.
The book is organized chronologically into three sections: "Inside Fandom", "Going Digital" and "Columbine and Beyond." The fandom section is a rehashing of his studies of Star Trek fans and especially Star Trek slash. It was my least favorite part of the book.
The middle section was of the most interest to me as it covers blogging. The blogging though is specifically the subset of fans who post their theories, fan fiction and fan art and that sort. As I was researching the interaction between library, blog and library patron the blogging covered in this book wasn't on topic for my project. It was however an interesting slice of life, something I sometimes run across through book blogging. I did, once upon a time, use my site for posting fan art when I had nothing else to post.
The last section is Jenkin's turn to weigh in on the on-going debate about media violence and its effects (if any). They are worth reading. The basic gist is: media violence doesn't automatically make anyone violent. Those who are already predisposed towards violence might be pushed over the edge but that's a very small percentage of any given population.
The Goddess Test: 09/23/11
The Goddess Test by Aimée Carter because of both the title and the cover. I don't usually read books with pretty girls in flouncy dresses but Sarah Reck made it sound like my kind of book. She was right!
The book opens with Kate driving her ailing mother to the family home in Eden. She has decided this will be the place where she will spend her last days before cancer finally takes its toll. Staring at a new school, making new friends and all that other teenage stuff is the last thing on Kate's mind. Her whole life revolves around caring for her mother.
Eden at first glance, feels artificial. Kate's new schoolmates act as strange as the town feels. For Kate, she's too wrapped up in her mother's illness to notice or care. That is until the nurse convinces her to spend a night out.
Things don't go well that night and Kate ends up trading half her life for the life of another. She's also asked if she knows the myth of Persephone. While she doesn't, she will by the end of her ordeal.
After the oddball set up, The Goddess Test quickly settles into being either a retelling of the Persephone story, or more properly speaking, a sequel to it. Kate is the thirteenth young woman recruited to go through a series of tests to see if she is worth of being the next Persephone. If she fails, then Henry (aka Hades) will forfeit his throne to an unnamed successor.
The staunchest critics of the book complain that The Goddess Test is too far removed from the original myths. I don't mind. It felt no more a stretch of the imagination than Rick Riordan's recent books.
Review copy via NetGalley
xxxHolic Volume 03: 09/22/11
XxxHolic Volume 3 by the CLAMP mangaka group has two main stories and a brief after story that will become an important detail in later volumes. The two main ghost stories are both set in schools and rely on the inborn stubbornness of people. There is also a recurring theme of things not being what they seem.
In the first story, Watanuki and Dômeki are sent by Yuko to check out a reported haunting at a high school. Himawari has heard of the school's ouija game getting out of hand and causing trouble for the students. Although Watanuki would prefer to go alone, it quickly becomes apparent that Dômeki's inability to see spirits and his training at the shrine has given him a powerful combination to repel and protect against spirits.
The second story is a great retelling of W. W. Jacob's 1902 story, "The Monkey's Paw." Yuko in her store room of treasures happens to have one (or perhaps, the one). A student teacher working on her thesis demands to buy it. Yuko tries to warn her against it but she of course continues to insist. So all Yuko can do is warn her to not open the container. That advice, is of course, ignored and the story plays out to its expected ending.
Volume 3 ends with a little tale of a chance meeting between Watanuki and a young fox spirit. The fox spirit is the son of the owner of a noodle cart that exists on the border between the human and spirit worlds. Watanuki's ability to find the cart is another example of his unusual abilities. It's also the start of a new friendship for him and a chance to learn that not all spirits are malevolent.
As the fox spirit meeting ends up being important later on in the series, the anime series makes a bigger deal about this initial meeting. In the anime, Watanuki's first meeting is turned into an entire episode.
Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 09: 09/21/11
Volume 9 of Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu starts an interesting arc that explains how soul transference works. Some of that was hinted at in Volume 8 but it's here that it comes to disturbing fruition.
Barry the Chopper is the key to this unsettling revelation. When he goes missing, his keepers send his body to find him. A body needs a soul to function and as Ed and the ex-death-row prisoners haves demonstrated, a soul can even animate a suit of armor. But a soul can't stay forever where it doesn't belong.
Back in Central, the cover up begins. Too many questions have been asked about Hughes's death. Questions lead to investigations which could lead to plans being revealed too early. In a show of efficiency, 2nd Lt. Maria Ross is investigated, arrested and convicted for his murder.
I suppose the Barry plot should be the most disturbing part of this volume but it Maria Ross's story that got to me. Her arrest shows how vulnerable all members of the military are, especially the non-alchemists who only have their weapons to use as defense. But even the "dogs of the military" can be put down if they disobey.
Happy Hour of the Damned: 09/20/11
I read Happy Hour of the Damned by Mark Henry as part of my resolution to read books from my wishlist. I added this one to the list because it's the first of the series and I thought the second book, Road Trip of the Damned sounded good. Unfortunately my experience reading the first book has made me take the rest of the series off my list without attempting to read any further.
In this disjointed paranormal chick-lit mystery, obviously named Amanda Feral, zombie, gets a call from a succubus friend of hers and goes to help. That begins a missing persons mystery that has ties to a big evil with equally big plans.
The first thing that bugged me about the book was the extended flashback after the first chapter. Instead of jumping into the mystery, Amanda decides to stop the story and instead tell me all about how she became a zombie and how she learned to "live" with her new state of undeadness. Frankly, I don't care. Just tell me she's a zombie and I can accept that as the premise of the book. I don't need yet another origin story!
The second thing that bugged me is directly related to the first: Amanda learning what her limitations as a zombie are. Seriously there are some gross extended scenes about how to continue eating human food that involve adult diapers that I don't need or care to read. All it does is stall the real start of the plot.
The third thing that bugged me was Amanda's brand name dropping. I don't care what she wears. I don't care about her fashion sense or her favorite foods. Yes, I get that's set in Seattle and some of that is local color but a little name dropping goes a long way.
Finally there was her non stop chatter. She never shuts up. Her nonstop chatter is shallow and annoying. It's not even funny. It's just there to fill dead air and perhaps to make the book seem more chick-litty. It doesn't work.
Oz the Hundredth Anniversary Celebration: 09/19/11
>Oz the Hundredth Anniversary Celebration edited by Peter Glassman was on display at my local public library. It was on one of the side shelves where they keep the children's fiction. I've thought about grabbing it a number of times and finally gave into that urge.
I grew up on The Wizard of Oz, the book and the MGM film. In fourth grade I started reading the other books in the series. So I had to give this collection of essays and artwork a try.
The book has art inspired by the first book by dozens of different children's book illustrators. Some include short paragraphs about what the book meant to them. Others are paired with essays by children's authors who aren't also illustrators. My favorite piece was by Mark Teague who shows a kid going through a Los Angeles yard as a short cut except there's Oz on the other side.
What Are You Reading: September 19, 2011: 09/19/11
Eleven of sixteen books read last week were picture books that I read with my kids. Both get to pick a picture book and I get to pick something to read. That means I'm reading about sixty pages to them each night before bed.
I gave up on Dandelion Fire by N.D. Wilson. With three different quests going in in different cupboard worlds, it was just too confusing to follow.
I finished three books from my own collection. I feel so accomplished. My favorite of the personal collection books was Attention All Shipping. If you've ever listened to the shipping forecast, I recommend reading the book. It's a great tour of the areas mapped in the forecast.
I have finally gotten around to starting Paranormalcy. It's very good. It's something of a mix of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Otherworldlies and the Mortal Instruments series.
This week I hope to read Dingo by Charles de Lint, Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony and Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve. Realistically I probably won't get through all of them but they're due at the library so I will try!
Gave Up On:
Finished Last Week:
A Long, Long Sleep: 09/18/11
A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan is a debut dystopian novel. It takes the Sleeping Beauty story in a new direction.
Rosalind Fitzroy expects to wake up from stasis to find her mother with champagne as she always does. Instead she finds a strange boy and an equally strange future. It takes time but she pieces together that she's been forgotten in stasis for sixty-two years. And now she's the ward of her parents' company, a company that has grown beyond the stars.
As Rose deals with the physical problems of such a long term stasis, she starts to piece together the missing years. We learn along with her of the Dark Times where climate change, drug resistant disease and socio-economic depression took its toll on the population.
I loved piecing together the missing details of Rose's life and the times between her disappearance and her awakening. Her memories of Xander, the boy she draws over and over through the course of the book, help bring her childhood to life and reveal flaws in how she tells her childhood.
Where things felt in need of improvement was Rose's friendship with Otto. He has his own strange background and could probably stand alone as a protagonist in a separate book. As he can't speak, all of is interaction is rendered as text messages between in Rose and himself. These long passages are rendered in an ugly type face and get bogged down with an excess of exposition and back story.
A Long Long Sleep, though, is a first novel. There's room for growth and I think future books will be better. If the novel is made into a film, I would go see it. There's great world building and lots of visually interesting scenes waiting for the big screen.
Dr. Death vs the Vampire: 09/17/11
"Dr. Death vs the Vampire" by Aaron Schutz takes place on a bus between Bend, Oregon and the Idaho state line. The narrator claims to be a professional euthanizer and vampire slayer, part of a secret society. His version of things, though, need to be scrutinized as he takes Meclizine and could be dreaming the entire sequence of events.
The story is layered, a combination of flashbacks about his work as a "Dr. Death" and previous vampire slayings he claims to have done, and his current ride where he discovers a vampire on the bus. For something that reads like the stinger before the opening credits to an X Files episode, the story takes too long to accomplish very little.
Amulet 3: The Cloud Searchers: 09/16/11
The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi is the third installment of the tween graphic novel series, Amulet. Emily and Navin and the rest of the crew are hoping to find the lost city of Cielis. There they hope to learn how to control the Stone that Emily has been forced to wear since book one.
As we are out of the initial travel to a new world and the race against time to save mother, volume 3 takes some time to go into the history of Alledia as well as the reasons behind the Elf Prince's actions in books one and two.
To mix things up a bit, Emily and Navin's mother is now awake. She hasn't gotten used to being in a new world, nor is she willing to accept how much her children have grown and accomplished as heroes. Her over protectiveness is played against the relationship between the Elf King and his son, and I suspect this will be a continuing them in future books.
The world building is especially strong in this volume. The creation of the port city where Emily and Navin hire a ship to take them Cielis reminds me of the trading post in Neil Gaiman's Stardust.
As with the previous two volumes, Kibuishi's backgrounds are amazing. I'm not exactly sold on his character design for the humans and elves. That said, the story is so interesting, it's still a page turner.
Book 4, The Last Council is now out (review coming).
The Secret Box: 09/15/11
The Secret Box by Barbara Lehman is a wordless picture book about a hidden treasure that leads a group of children on an across-town and -time adventure.
The book opens with children at a boarding school, or an orphanage (whatever the building is, it's up to interpretation), finding an old box under the floorboards. Inside are photographs, a map, tickets and a few other odds and ends. Working together, the children piece together the instructions that lead them across town to a beachside amusement park.
Because of the series of steps it takes to figure everything out, and because of the way the children get to interact with children from other decades, the book reminds me most of David Wiesner's Flotsam.
Both of my children liked the book for different reasons. My youngest liked it for all the little details in the artwork. My oldest liked it for its sense of adventure.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: 09/14/11
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley is another gem that was making the rounds of our local BookCrossing group. I'm glad I waited my turn to read it.
Flavia de Luce lives with her father and sisters in the once-grand Buckshaw mansion. She's obsessed by poisons and other unpleasantries. Her unusual hobbies come in handy when a man is found murdered in their garden. Her father is accused and Flavia takes it on her own to solve the mystery, knowing full well that her father couldn't have done it.
One of the only clues is an orange penny stamp stuck to the bill of a dead bird. It seems like such a strange detail but it's enough to send a message to anyone who knows how to decode it.
Flavia's research and investigation takes her to all sorts of interesting, old and sometimes crumbling locations, much like her own home. I loved the descriptions of these places especially the library with the barely standing shack which works as storage for the periodicals.
Flavia herself is of a similar personality to Theodosia Throckmorton. When describing the book to my husband (who loves to read over my shoulders), I said Flavia was like Theodosia's granddaughter.
The Yggyssey: 09/13/11
The Yggssey by Daniel Pinkwater is the sequel to The Neddiad. As the Greek inspired title implies, this book follows Iggy, aka Yggdrasil. She is the girl who lives in a hotel haunted by Hollywood movie star ghosts. She's noticed now that the ghosts are going missing and she decides to figure out why they're leaving and where they are going.
If The Neddiad was Pinkwater's Iliad, or more specifically, a long on-going war, ultimately decided not by a horse but a turtle, then The Yggssey is the author's Odyssey. Just as Odysseus was trying to find his way home, Iggy tracking of the ghosts leads her to understanding her importance and the significance of her name.
Now in one of those odd thematic link-ups I see sometimes while reading multiple books, Iggy's name is the Norse word for the world tree. It's also the tree that's on the portal that plays such a big part in Fullmetal Alchemist. While there is no alchemy in The Yggyssey there is travel between worlds, ghosts and magical realism.
For me though, the book lacked the focus of The Neddiad. There are just too many things going on. The missing ghosts mystery melds into an Oz and Wonderland mashup. To make things even more complicated there are guest appearances from fictional characters like Harvy.
BBAW: Interview with Glorified Love Letters: 09/12/11
Meet Sara of Glorified Love Letters.
1) How did you get into book blogging?
The entertainment site Pajiba started this challenge called the "Cannonball Read," in which the participants aim to read and review a certain amount of books within a year (the longer explanation for which can be found here). When I first started reviewing in late 2009, the goal was 52 books, and I made it to a soul-crushing 51. So this round, I'm aiming for 53. A Baker's Cannonball, if you will.
I wanted to participate because I felt like it would make me a better writer to more seriously consider the books I was reading, and also, the challenge would just get me to read more books overall. I feel a certain responsibility to give each book a honest shake because it's what I would want if it were my own book. Not every review is positive, of course, but I still think I'm fair with any critiques I have. I have no patience for people who just want to turn reviews into intellectual snark-and-wank-fests.
2) Which blog post best represents your blog as a whole?
It used to be that I talked about music more often than books, and now the books have taken over for the most part. I suppose where they intersected in the most me-like way is when I interviewed Tony McCarroll, the first drummer from Oasis. He has a book about his days with the band called THE TRUTH.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am an unabashed devotee to Oasis' music, and in particular, anything that Noel Gallagher writes or sings. That's not to take away from Liam Gallagher's talents, of course, but Noel's where it's at for me. The review/interview is probably one of the longer posts on my site (I want to say it clocked in at around 4000 words), but I really wanted to get it right and to be honest with my thoughts. I was tough on him, but I don't think I was out of line.
3) What is "music commentary?"
I don't talk about music in an overtly intellectual way. When I talk about what I like, it is an emotional response. I am all about owning up to your tastes, and I don't really believe in "guilty pleasures." So when I talk about music, it usually happens in two ways:
My "music commentary" is basically a hybrid of analyzation and personal essay. I don't labor over it too much — What you read on the site hasn't undergone a lot of editing. That can be good and bad, but it's honest.
4) What is/are your favorite genre(s) and why?
I'm mainly a literary fiction gal. Love, lust and loneliness are what I respond to the most. I've read a lot of memoirs, and I read some graphic novels and a few other things. I'm not really into reading sci-fi or fantasy (with some exceptions, of course), which is strange, since I'll watch it in movie/TV-form all the time. I suppose if someone wrote a really good novel about Captain Jack Harkness from Torchwood, I'd be ALL over it, ha!
I'm interested in people — how they tic, their bad behavior, the way they love. Write interesting people, and I'm interested in reading.
5) How has book blogging influenced the way you read?
I read a lot more current books, and I'm a bit more widely read than I used to be. Since I took up this reviewing venture, publishers have been kind enough to send me many books. I don't love everything they send, of course, but there have been some fantastic gems.
Usually, my habit is to binge out on authors. I latch onto a new one and exhaust the back catalog before I can really move on. I'm fighting the urge to do this with David Mitchell and Tessa Hadley for the moment because I have so many other books I'd like to get to first.
6) What was your favorite read this year?
Without a doubt, EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL BEGAN AFTER by Simon Van Booy. I loved it. It is everything I could ask for in a novel, really. Love, lust, and loneliness — and excellent writing. I cannot speak highly enough of it. I'm also trying to not binge out on his other books until I get further into my to-read pile.
Honorable Mention goes to JUST KIDS by Patti Smith. That woman is a legend, and she wrote such a beautiful book about a great period in her life. She deserves all the accolades she's received for it. I hope she writes another.
Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 08: 09/12/11
Fullmetal Alchemist is the first firm step on the road that leads the manga away from the plot developments of the first anime series. It introduces characters and a new way of doing alchemy that weren't shown in the first series but are shown in Brotherhood.
First and foremost there is the kingdom of Xing which is looking for the secret of immortality. Competing half siblings, Prince Ling Yao and Princess May Chan come across the border on separate quests to find a gift that will make their clan immortal and therefore the strongest of all the Xing clans.
Meanwhile, Ed after all his doubts about his past, regains his memories. With them comes the certainty that he and Al must continue to look for a way to undo their mistakes. There's also an added urgency that he might be a ticking time bomb. How long, he wonders, can a soul stay separate from a body before both begin to rot?
What Are You Reading: September 12, 2011: 09/12/11
This week I've been busy with homework. Three-quarters of what I read this week was in the form of children's picture books. With the exception of Home of the Brave by Allen Say, all of these picture books I read with my children. The Home of the Brave I read at my internship as I was trying to figure out how best to catalog it.
I didn't give up on any books this week. I am struggling a bit with Dandelion Fire by N. D. Wilson. It is so different in tone from 100 Cupboards that I'm not sure what to make of it.
I started listening to Ida B. by Katherine Hannigan. The voice actress is doing a wonderful job reading the book.
I still want to start The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. I also want to start Paranormalcy by Kiersten White.
Finished Last Week:
That Day in September: 09/11/11
In the middle of summer I received an email from Artie Van Why asking if I would be interested in reading his memoir That Day in September, a personal account of the attacks on the Twin Towers. As I was gearing up for my craziest semester in school, I reluctantly said yes but made no promises as to when I'd get the review posted. I'm glad he said yes to those terms.
Rewinding to September 11th, 2011, I can't make any dramatic claims to being an eye witness to events. By the time my radio alarm clock when off in California, both towers had already fallen. What I can remember is Carl Kassell saying in his usual dead pan way that to those of us waking up in California, the New York skyline that existed when we went to bed no longer did. From there he went on to outline the timeline of events up to the point where the towers fell.
Artie Van Why was in a building across from the towers. He felt the and heard the impact. He saw the initial carnage. He describes it all in a gut wrenching but respectful way.
Besides describing what happened that day, he also builds his life story to explain the circumstances that brought him to being at Ground Zero. Afterwards he describes how he coped, how he grieved and how he finally was able to get back to living his life.
His book is also a stage play and the theatrical connections comes through in his pacing, word choice and imagery. The book reads likes a Spaulding Grey monologue. If I had a chance to see That Day in September performed live, I would buy front row tickets.
I received an egalley from the author.
Ghostly Ruins: America's Forgotten Architecture: 09/10/11
For as long as I can remember I've been fascinated by old buildings (abandoned or not). Now growing up in California there's not as much in the way of extremely old architecture like there is in other parts of the world, but a building that's even a few decades old can tell an interesting story.
Part of that fascination probably stems from my father's interest in antiques. When he opened his first store it was in a building called The Cracker Factory. As it was an old three story brick warehouse the building had warped stairs and an open cage-style elevator with a bare bulb hanging down where the ceiling of a typical elevator compartment would be. Painted on the ceiling of the elevator shaft was a blue sky with white fluffy clouds. The elevator both fascinated and terrified me.
While The Cracker Factory isn't in Harry Skrdla's Ghostly Ruins: America's Forgotten Architecture, another favorite place of mine is, Bodie, the silver mine ghost town near Mammoth Lakes in California. While Bodie was abandoned in waves over the first few decades of the Twentieth Century, it isn't forgotten. Now a days it has its own Facebook page and makes daily posts about moments in Bodie history.
Skrdla's book covers a few famous buildings, train stations and ghost towns from around the country. The photographs included in the book are for the most part historical, taken when the buildings were in use. The book is more a history on what was than on what has become of the sites.
I know that safety is an issue when going into abandoned structures but a better mix of old and new, before and after would have been fascinating. Also for each location I wanted more. More text, more photographs, more information. That said, I did enjoy the book but it wasn't as satisfying a read as it could have been.
Chester's Back: 09/09/11
Chester's Back by Mélanie Watt is the sequel to Chester. In all of these books, Chester the cat tries to edit or out-right rewrite Watt's books. He makes his "edits" in red marker pen and nothing is sacred.
In Chester's Back Chester doesn't want to star in a fairy tale that starts the same old way: "Once upon a time..." and decides that a cave cat story would be better. When that doesn't work he tries other costumes and settings.
The Chester books are a lot like the old Warner Bros.' classic, Duck Amok. In it, Daffy Duck is trying to act in a short but the animator keeps getting in his way by changing his costume, changing the scenery or worse. Chester's a little different in that he's in the book and aware of his status as a picture book cat. It's not so much that Mélanie is getting in his way as he is getting in her way. It's a nice reversal on an old gag, one that I'm sure goes back well beyond Duck Amok.
The Cats of Roxville Station: 09/08/11
Every book has a story. With favorite books, I often remember how I found the book (or how it found me) and where I was when I read it. In the case of The Cats of Roxville Station by Jean Craighead George, the memory is on the finding of the book.
We were in San Ramon checking out a new and used book store, one of those places that shelves the old and the new together. It was late afternoon and the sunlight was streaming into the children's wing of the store. I was looking for a copy of The Hunger Games. My daughter distracted me as I reached for it and I pulled the book directly under it out: The Cats of Roxville Station.
The cover immediately caught my eye: a gorgeous, realistic water color of cats at a train station. I like cats and I like trains. I flipped through the book was further smitten by Tom Pohrt's line drawings.
The story, though told from an omniscient point of view, in the style of Richard Adams, is about Rachet, an abandoned cat who is dumped in a river at the edge of a thriving feral cat colony. She survives the attempted drowning and slowly begins to find her place at Roxville Station.
Through her attempts we are introduced the other cats and the humans who share the same space. The cats are for the most part just part of the surroundings. They aren't seen as potential pets or helpful for their ratting abilities. In fact one woman wants to have them exterminated but she doesn't realize a hole in her basement window is allowing some of them in at night.
The one truly sympathetic human is a young boy named Mike but his foster family won't allow him to have Rachet as a pet. He begins to make plans to give her a home he feels she deserves without risking his own current home situation.
The book is frank in its portrayal of people living around feral cats. While it does gloss over some details here and there it's by no means a rose-tinted story of cats living on their own. It's a dangerous life style for the cats. But it's beautifully told and it can be used to show children why its important to spay and neuter pets and why pets should be adopted from shelters if possible.
Cat the Cat, Who is That?: 09/07/11
Harriet is a transitional reader. That means she can read simple words and is starting to wrap her head around sounding out longer words. Mo Willems has a two series aimed at readers like her: the Elephant and Piggie books and a new series staring Cat the Cat.
Since Harriet's such a cat person, we started on the Cat the Cat series first. The one she picked was Cat the Cat, Who is That? by Mo Willems. It introduces Cat the Cat and all her friends. It begins pretty simply with the sorts of animals that usually show up in these sorts of books. These first few pages build confidence in the reader and build a false sense of predictability.
But remember, this is a Mo Willems book. I've yet to read a book of his that is completely predictable, except for its unpredictability. Cat the Cat comes through with a delightfully silly friend. I'm not going to spoil it for you or your young reader. Get the book and enjoy the surprise first hand.
How Many Cats?: 09/05/11
How Many Cats? by Lauren Thompson is a counting forward and backward book framed around the story of a golden retriever's home being invaded by a clowder of cats.
The cats come in groups, first one and then a few at a time. Each page asks the child to count the cats and to see what they are doing as they make a mess in a room in the house. By the time they reach the master bedroom there are twenty cats in all.
Then just as they came, they leave until the dog is left by himself. The dog who at first was happy for the company looks sadly at the mess they have left. Clearly he knows he'll be blamed for what they have done. For as much as I love cats, I have to say, poor dog.
Harriet though loved the book. She loved seeing the cats misbehaving. She loved the illustrations. She loved counting the cats and seeing all the different kinds of cats (including the calicos).
Kat Kong: 09/05/11
Kat Kong by Dav Pilkey in the bookstore and had to grab it. The cover shows a tuxedo house cat looming over a city skyline. Having seen King Kong more times than I can count, you can understand why I laughed and then squeed.
Kat Kong is the sequel (apparently) to Dog Zilla but I haven't read it. I'm not as much of a dog person as I am a cat person. Besides, King Kong came first!
In this version Dr. Varmint and his assistant Rosie Rodent have made and captured a giant cat monster. Like his predecessor, chains and ropes can't hold the great Kat Kong and soon he is let loose on the city.
It's a cute cat and mouse parody of an old horror classic. My children who haven't had the pleasure of seeing the original were less impressed with the book. Harriet liked the giant cat but Sean could take or leave the book.
Other posts and reviews:
What Are You Reading: September 05, 2011: 09/04/11
With school in full session, my reading has slowed. Even the children have been too busy or tried for stories every night.
I gave up on a review book, Debris by Jo Anderton. I couldn't get through enough of the book to even consider reviewing it. I just couldn't get into the weird combination of primitive society / high tech. If they have the concept of pions, they should have the concept of a month and not call it "moons."
I finished listening to I am not Joey Pigza. It's actually the last in the series of four books. I haven't read or listened to any of the others. The book, though, stands alone just fine. Tuesday, if I have a chance, I'll stop by the library and pick up a new audio book. I have no idea what I'll pick.
I want to finish The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets by Nancy Springer. I want to start The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff and Dandelion Fire by N.D. Wilson.
Gave Up On:
Finished Last Week:
Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin was published in 1988. I didn't hear about it or the rest of the series until I was an adult. But the illustrations by S.D. Schindler make me feel nostalgic for the late 1980s. Around the time the book came out I drew a little cat bird sketch... similar to (but nowhere near as cute) as the catwing kittens.
Catwings opens with a simple statement, one that asks the reader to accept the story as is and not expect much in the way of explanation. It says: "Mrs. Jane Tabby could not explain why all four of her children had wings" (p. 1). I am normally a stickler for the reasons behind things but I am perfectly willing to go with the flow if the author is upfront about saying no explanation will be given.
As the book opens, Mrs. Jane Tabby and her kittens live in a bustling city full of condemned buildings. It's a noisy and dangerous place. As the children grow into cats, Jane encourages her children to find a safe place to live, away from humans who might want to hurt them or keep them as novelties. The rest of the book tells how the siblings searched for a new home and how they found it.
Chester by Mélanie Watt is the first book in a picture book series about a meddling cat who wants to the star of a book. Mélanie Watt, on the other hand, wants to write a story about a mouse.
Through the dialog between Mélanie and Chester and the cat's use of red marker to draw over the original artwork, the book teaches children about the different parts of a story.
Chester is the first cartoon cat with this much attitude since Garfield. But he's aimed at a younger audience, the pre-K to second grade set.
There are two other Chester books: Chester Returns and Chester's Masterpiece (review coming).
Sam and the Tigers: A Retelling of Little Black Sambo: 09/02/11
Every book, every story, has multiple contexts. There's a context when it's written. A context when it's read and sometimes a context develops as a story ages and people, right or wrong, appropriate the story to their needs. Little Black Sambo (1899) by Helen Bannerman is a story with a sorted past and now, right or wrong, many racist connotations.
When I was a toddler in the 1970s, Sambo was one of the picture books I wanted read to me over and over again. To me, Sambo was a brave boy who was strong enough and brave enough to outwit dangerous and hungry tigers. Growing up in a fairly liberal San Diego neighborhood, I hadn't heard of Sambo being used as a racial epithet until the national uproar forced the shuttering of all (but one) of Sambo's Restaurants in 1982.
By 1983 Little Black Sambo was a taboo story. I don't know (or remember) if the library pulled the book off the shelf or if I had just outgrown the story — I was ten by then. But it was a story that only came up in heated debates over racism in children's literature.
In 1996 Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney collaborated on a retelling called Sam and the Tigers that as Book a Day Almanac post puts it "took the racial sting" out of the story. Julius Lester explains in the introduction to the book that he grew up with the story and loved it. He wanted to reclaim the story and make something that present day children could enjoy without all the associated negativity.
Sambo's name is shortened to Sam and he lives in a land where everyone is named Sam. Animals and people live and work side by side (including pesky, dangerous tigers). Sam has to make a deal with the tigers so he can walk to school safely.
Pinkney's illustrations create a likable and believable boy. Sam's colorful costume and the bright orange tigers will be a recognizable to parents or grandparents who grew up on the original but Pinkney's work is a definite improvement over the version I remember reading as a child.
I'm glad to have found this retelling at the library. Sweeping the unsavory stuff under the rug is a sure fire way to just continue propagating it. Sam and the Tigers can be read in conjunction with the original text which is available online.
Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 07: 09/01/11
Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 7 by Hiromu Arakawa turns up the heat with revelations with how corrupt the military government is and how deep the homunculi have penetrated into things. There is more time spent with Ed and Al's sensei and there's trouble afoot in Dublith.
Usually in these sorts of stories, this level of big reveal comes before a final act where the good guys rally to vanquish the evil and remove the corruption. Arakawa though choses to make the reveal at the end of the first act giving more time for the heros to come to terms with the situation and to plan for a way to root out all the corruption.
After all the excitement there's a humorous after story, a date involving 2nd Lt. Jean Havoc (a man always looking for love) and Catherine Elle Armstrong. This date showed up in the anime as well and is just as hilarious in print as it is fully animated. While this date seems like a throw away story, it is referred to later in the series. Arakawa doesn't toss things out there willy-nilly.