Pre-summer reading checkpoint

It’s that time of year again: The Brooklyn Public Library summer reading program rolled out a few weeks ago. Every year I try to read along with the teen list, so here’s my pre-summer status check in:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie [Read it and LOVED it!]
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga [Cool, and definitely on my list]
Breaking Up by Aimee Friedman [Another great pick I’ve already read]
Catwalk by Deborah Gregory [Totally not my thing, which probably means I should give it a try for the sake of my fashion-obsessed students.]
The Cute Book by Aranzi Aronzo [Amiguruni? Sweet.]
Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah [Have this, love the cover, will probably read it.]
Dramarama by E. Lockhart [By the author of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, so maybe I should read them together.]
Freak Show by James St. James [Totally looking forward to this… got a great rec from Jennifer, one of my D15 librarian peeps.]
King Dork by Frank Portman [The Salinger angle does not entice me as it might others, but still sounds pretty good.]
Real Food, Real Fast by Sam Stern [A cookbook! This is a great pick, and I’ll definitely check it out and try cooking from it.]
Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls edited by Marisa Anderson [Cool selection, probably won’t read it.]
The Rose That Grew from Concrete by Tupac Shakur [Um? Fine, but this book is mad old. Do kids even care about Tupac anymore?]
Skateboarding Skills: The Rider’s Guide by Ben Powell [Not on my busted knee.]
Street Scene: How to Draw Graffiti-Style by John Lee […. kids these days.]
Tyrell by Coe Booth [Should probably bite the bullet and read this one… heard mixed reviews, and I generally resist the gritty realistic fiction.]

Selected titles I might read from the kiddie list: A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban, A Drowned Maiden’s Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz, Flush by Carl Hiaasen, Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka, Love That Dog by Sharon Creech (a re-read with Hate That Cat), The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, Rules by Cynthia Lord

And from the adult list: The Geography of Bliss; Outliers; Dear American Airlines; The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society;  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

That’s a lot of reading, especially if you count the bin of books I normally schlep home from school for the summer, the backlog of library books, some Pulitzers, and the acquisitions from trips home when my mom and I go used-bookstore crawling across upstate NY. But isn’t that what summer vacation is for?

Published in: on June 18, 2009 at 6:39 pm  Comments (2)  

Thank you, Jessamyn, for the best librarian mission statement I’ve ever read.

“Librarianship both is and is not sexy. Exploit that. Go be secretly awesome. Then tell someone.” This is the final statement in the text from Jessamyn West’s talk to Library Camp at ETIG (a conference I’ve never heard of, but happens in Canada, so it is instantly double-awesome), which she so kindly posted for all to read. (p.s. How much do I want to give a presentation entitled “Now I Will Inspire You” to the staff at my school?) 

If I didn’t feel a little weird about having a mission statement for a middle school library with “sexy” in it, I would plaster that all over my library and print it on five T-shirts, one for every work day. In fact, I can’t really think of a better mantra for most of my kids than “Go be secretly awesome. Then tell someone.”

(p.p.s. Jessamyn is publicly awesome and I’ve been reading her blog for years, since right before I started library school. I don’t know her, but she seems like one of the coolest librarians evah, and one day I’ll send her a postcard.)

Published in: on June 9, 2009 at 10:56 am  Leave a Comment  

48 Hour Book Challenge: Finish Line

Time spent reading: 17 hours
Time spent blogging/Twittering/blog reading: 4.5 hours
Total challenge time: 21.5 hours
Books read: 9
Pages read: 2022

The books: Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Chalice, The Fruit Bowl Project, Savvy, Edward’s Eyes, The Hunger Games, Janes in Love, Masterpiece

I’m going to wait until the challenge closes completely and winners are declared to figure out my total donation for Brooklyn Public Library, so please comment if you want to show the public library some love! (And thanks so much to everyone who’s stopped by so far… it’s great to virtually meet you.)

Thoughts: It rocked. I slightly exceeded my time goal (20 hours) while falling short on my book goal (10), but the experience of blogging steadily, keeping up a Twitter stream as a motivational tool, and, best of all, joining a really fun active community of readers. It was great to find new school and YA librarian blogs for company and to generally swell the progress of my GoogleReader subscriptions.

Mental notes for next year: I need to be better about mixing longer books that I’m simply dying to read with short books that I can plow through just to up my page count. I can get through a short book of any quality fast content in the knowledge that it will be over soon, but a longer book I’m not that into will really slow me down. I read fast, but not as fast as I thought I did. I’m simply in awe of the quantity of reading some participants were capable of this weekend, so I’ll set slightly higher goals, but not get too cocky. Reading in the evening without caffeine or someone to prod me awake is a bad idea. I probably could have finished two more books in the time I lost to naps that snuck up on me.

My best piece of advice for the future: NEVER LAY DOWN during the challenge unless you’re planning to go to bed. Seriously, don’t even put your head down. Not even just for a second, with your phone alarm set just in case. You’re not fooling anyone, Nappy McNapperburg. Also, eating some vegetables at some point during the weekend couldn’t hurt. Man cannot read on sugary and salty snacks alone.

Published in: on June 7, 2009 at 10:14 pm  Comments (15)  
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48 Hour Book Challenge: Nine read! Rejoicing!

Edward’s Eyes by Patricia MacLachlan took me twenty minutes to read. I’m still a little blown away by that, even though I know it’s a super-short book with pretty big print. A teacher at my school loves this book and says it’s a great tool for teaching foreshadowing. Umm, yeah. I think it would be a great way to introduce the term “plot anvil.” It’s hard to care that much for a character more marked for death than a golden retriever in a ’60s YA novel. My tears refused to be jerked, or maybe I was just out of moisture in my eyes by staying up until 2:30 a.m. to squeeze out one more book for the night.

I woke up to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the gratification of which I have been long delaying. Fully expecting this to be my last book of the challenge (foreshadowing!), I decided to go out with a bang. I’m not sure what I can say about this book that hasn’t been already said, but I thought it very nearly lived up to the hype (although I still think Katsa would win in a Special K showdown). Since I can’t imagine a more hyped YA book since Breaking Dawn, that’s pretty high praise. (OK, maybe Deathly Hallows, but I digress.) It’s got more plot than you can shake a stick at and surprisingly tantalizing descriptions of food. Seriously, I can’t think of another YA book that makes me want to eat goat cheese more. I’m trying to resist the Catching Fire fever currently sweeping the internets and wait for the real book like a good little girl, but it’s gonna be tough. I guess that’s a big advantage in waiting so long to read the first one. SLJ BoB got it right, I think (two books enter! one book leaves!… I’ll stop now).

I had planned to end my 48HBC prematurely since I’d already planned to go to the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Festival, but thought I could squeeze one more book in on the train there, so picked Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg. The sequel to The Plain Janes, the Janes contine to make public art, negotiate their friendship, and fall in luurve. I liked the first one (knit hats for parking meters!) and the second is more of the same. I particularly enjoyed the flower-y prom stunt and the thought of some artsy teens crashing a stuffy grant interview.

Went to MoCCA, basked in the excitement of Cozy Lummox behind a presenter table instead of walking around with the plebes, got some cool stuff. Since my MoCCA partner had to split early to get to a movie, I took advantage of some unexpected time and made it through my ninth, and last book, Masterpiece by Elise Broach. I picked this up for its recent E.B. White Read-Aloud Award win (and can I just wonder aloud here how the judging for this one works? like, shouldn’t it really be an audience choice kind of thing?) and it’s a quietly fun Chasing Vermeer meets The Cricket in Times Square meets From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I don’t generally go for mysteries, but I do like sentient insects involved in Borrowers-esque hijinks. Also Durer.

Whew. That took a lot out of me, and the Tonys are on. Final time/pages recap to follow.

48 Hour Book Challenge: Five down, sleep interferes

The Fruit Bowl Project (NOT The Fruits Basket Project as I keep calling it in my head) doesn’t seem to have a lot of legs outside of the classroom. It’s a fine quick little read, but the first half of the book that’s set-up doesn’t really have that much connection to the meat of the premise, or the variations on a theme. It’s also fairly tedious to read through all the different versions of the story when they’re not terribly inventive (the crazy genres and the math versions worked better for me here than interminable POVs.)

Savvy, on the other hand, I really liked. It has its faults, overt folksiness being the chief amongst them, but I really cared about that ragtag bunch of misfits who you never thought would make it through the season. The ending even made me a little teary. I loved all the little romantic subplots (particularly the bus driver/Bible deliveryman falls in love with sassy diner waitress) and how the climactic scenes managed to be full of action and funny at the same time. There’s something vaguely Sharon Creech-y (or Richard Peck-ish?) about Law’s tone throughout

that blended well with the fantastic elements.

In meta-challenge news, I decided to take a shower and a short walk over to the public library to pick up some holds and bid a tearful adieu to my first three 48HBC reads. And pick up a chocolate milkshake. Which was my lunch. Because apparently I’m trying to recreate what my life was like when I was ten, when I was completely fueled by kid’s books and sugar. Seriously, throw in some boxed mac-n-cheese and reruns of Highway to Heaven and it would be 1989 in my apartment today.  Also, Route 11 BBQ potato chips are totally the best ever. They also make a good dinner. Just saying. I knocked back The Fruit Bowl Project quickly upon my return and was knee-deep into Savvy when I made the mistake of laying down on the couch to read. Yeah. The mid-evening nap is totally my fatal flaw in this thing (and was my undoing last night also… why can’t I learn?) After a very extended nap, I woke up, cursed a little, and tucked in to finish off Savvy and blog a bit. I’m actually feeling pretty good now, so I’m gonna see if I can make some headway on a short book (Edward’s Eyes, I think) so that I’m ending the night strong.

Progress update:

Reading time: 11 hours

Blogging/Twittering/blog-reading: 3.5 hours

Total 48HBC time: 14.5 hours

Books finished: 5

Pages read: 1239 pages (past the 1000 page mark=squee!)

Junk food dinner: stomach grumbling

48 Hour Book Challenge: Three down, dinner break

I realized while reading my third book that if I want to take my afternoon walk to the public library, I’ll need to bring back the first three books I’ve read, and so I won’t have them to make a pile of vanquished tomes at the end of the marathon. So here’s the pile of potential foes as it stands this morning, with the three slain amongst them.

Even 48HBC did not keep me from diner breakfast with Mr. Penny and my currently uninterrupted weekend streak of eggs Benedict. Also, ill-advised snacks were procured.

Book the Third was Chalice by Robin McKinley. Which was beetastic and totally full of bees, kinda giving me the heebeejeebees. (Bees! Ha! Get it? *sigh*) Seriously, stinging flying insects freak me out. I didn’t love it (I kinda need more longing and action in my Beauty and the Beast retellings) but it did make me want to embark on a massive McKinley re-readathon. (Beauty, it’s been too long.)  It’s circular and quiet and full of nature magic and definitely got a well-built world. (The Forests of Hands and Teeth, I’m looking sideways at you.) Mirasol is a classic McKinley heroine: strong, sure in her actions while unsure of herself, and deeply moral in an unassuming way.

My fourth book is The Fruit Bowl Project by Sarah Durkee, a short book that should give me a boost a la the Rocky theme song to keep trucking into the evening hours. Also, there will be a shower and a trip to the public library in order to stretch my legs and breath the free air.

Published in: on June 6, 2009 at 4:57 pm  Comments (1)  
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48 Hour Book Challenge: Two down, need snacks

My 48HBC started on the subway home with the lovely little Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love by Lauren Tarshis, which I happily zoomed through. Both Emma-Jean books are totally sweet and fun little meditations on what it takes to be a good friend, how to build your self-confidence, and how to pay attention to the world around you. I really like that Emma-Jean could be read as a person on the autism spectrum, or she could just be a girl with a different kind of mind, but Tarshis doesn’t force a diagnosis on the character and make the book A. Very Important Book. About Autism.

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love

The books are full of moments like this: “And from way up there, the world around her looked huge, and her school looked so small, and she got this idea–a whispery, feathery idea–that one day she wouldn’t be in middle school, and maybe then she wouldn’t be so worried every single minute.” And I love the quote from Poincare that is a perfect grace note to both books: “It is by logic that we prove, but it is in the heart that we discover life’s possibilities.”

A brief break for social networking (so many cool blogs!) and mei fun, and then I started The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. Which is where I had my Friday night epicfail. First off, Friday night is a bad night for teachers, I think. I’m pretty useless after happy hour most weeks, and attempting to do extended reading after 10:00 when curled up on the couch with a blanket is a recipe for massive napping. Napping that just became sleeping when Mr. Penny arrived home and nudged me off the couch. Sleeping that will turn into sleeping in when it’s Saturday morning and you don’t have to wake up to an alarm, even though you should have set one because you were going to give this book marathon your all as if you were the librarian equivalent of Catherine Ndereba… so, anyway, at least I got a full night’s sleep.

So I didn’t love The Forests of Hands and Teeth, I have to say. Zombies aren’t really my thing, Puritanically religious dystopias aren’t really my thing, love quadrangles wherein all the characters are indistinguishable from each aren’t really my thing, etc. I found the present tense narrative awkward throughout and the characterization pretty flat. Everything was so bleak from the beginning that I didn’t really care about what the characters lost throughout the book. But if you like The Giver, The Road, or anything zombie-tastic in general, then this is the book for you. Fine for the squeamish, also, as the flesh rending and skin rotting was kept to a minimum.

I’m debating which book to read next: Chalice by Robin McKinley or Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat. I’d really like to get through another quick, lighter book to set a good tone for the day, but I also might need to jettison another library book in order to get all my holds from the library. (My public library record is the equivalent of one of those little picture puzzles where you have to move all the squares around in a very specific order to unscramble the image. Except with more renewals, holds, library book stockpiling, and getting dirty looks from the circulation desk for living close to the limit.)

Progress update:

Reading time: 4.5 hours

Blogging/Twittering/blog-reading: 1.5 hours

Books finished: 2

Pages read: 479

Good night’s sleep: priceless

48 Hour Book Challenge: Starting Line

Here we go! I’m officially throwing my hat in the ring at 6:00 p.m. with Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love by Lauren Tarshis (started on the train ride home).  So my marathon will last from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Sunday. Here are the official rules (although I’m betting anyone reading this is doing the challenge themselves). I’m willing myself to remember the #48hbc tag when Twittering.

After much thought, I’ll be reading to raise money for Brooklyn Public Library. Because I love them, I practically live there, they’re in tough times, and because libraries are bastions of democratic thought, people! I’ll be donating $1.00 for every book read, $1.00 for every hour spent reading, $.25 for every Twitter tweeted, and $.25 for every comment left on a 48HBC blog entry.

Published in: on June 5, 2009 at 6:35 pm  Comments (11)  

48 Hour Reading Challenge: Limbering Up

I still have to get through the rest of the work day (stupid school keeping me from reading!) before I can officially get to the starting line of 48HBC, so here’s what I’ve got in front of me to read (from memory, pile pic to follow):

  • Emma Jean Lazarus Fell in Love
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth
  • Chalice
  • Because of Anya
  • Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie
  • Edward’s Eyes
  • The Hunger Games (I know, I know. I know!)
  • Beastly
  • Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat
  • Bog Child
  • Sun & Spoon
  • The Fruit Bowl Project
  • The Willoughbys
  • Wintergirls
  • The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World
  • Dragon’s Keep
  • The Misfits
  • Totally Joe

I’m sure there’s more that I’m not remembering (and that’s eighteen books already, which I think is probably more than I have in me). My personal goal is to crack twenty hours and read at least ten books. I’ve got a couple short books in there for motivational purposes, so I’m not shooting for spectacular page counts necessarily. I’m pretty much only breaking for breakfast at the diner, a quick trip to the public library to pick up some holds, and an afternoon at the MoCCA Festival to go to the Adrian Tomine/Seth panel, see Cozy Lummox’s first-ever exhibitor table, pick up mini-comics, and get some new Squidfire shirts. You just can’ t miss MoCCA. Oh, and call my mom. (Hi, Mom!)

Published in: on June 5, 2009 at 1:05 pm  Comments (2)  

Stargirl: Yeah, I’d hit that.

So one of my teachers walks into the library this morning and tells me about his class readaloud of Stargirl. (Could this be the start of a really bad joke also involving a priest and a rabbi?) Whenever he does this unit, he asks the kids at the end whether they would have the guts to date Stargirl themselves. Apparently, kids always say no, quoted as “No way. That girl is CRAZY.”

To which this teacher and I agree: you’re fools, kids. Date Stargirl. Best sex ever. Like, of your life.

Any other inappropriate thoughts about children’s literature you’d like to share?

Published in: on June 2, 2009 at 8:32 pm  Comments (3)