More Celestial Events

Once again, it's meteor shower time - this time, the Leonids. If you're in North America, go outside right now, and just hang out until 3:00 a.m. For hints about watching the leonids, go to redOrbit.com.

While you're watching, think about Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer, and hope you don't see any changes in the moon! In her diary, 16-year-old Miranda describes her life in small-town Pennsylvania. It's pretty routine: high school homework, the tragedy of not being asked to the prom, and irritation with her divorced parents and baseball-fanatic little brother. She has stopped figure-skating, and become a swimmer, and she plans to join the volleyball team for her Junior year.

When an asteroid hits the moon (hmmm, speak of shooting rockets at teh moon...), it causes a chain reaction of events. The moon shifts in orbit, causing massive tsunamis that wipe out most coastal cities. Earthquakes cause more havoc, then intense electrical storms and volcanic activity. Communication and transportation grind to a halt, so Miranda and her family plant a family garden and then live off canned goods. Entertainment is books and board games and singing. When food has to be rationed, Miranda has to think about who will be allowed to survive and who will die as a result. Family takes on new meaning for her.

My student book club is reading this now, and it's the first book that has re-captured the interest of students who loved The Hunger Games last year!


October reading about High School

I just finished three more Advance Reading copies: I loved Crazy Beautiful for teen readers. The Blonde of the Joke and Goth Girl Rising... not so much.

Lucius and Aurora are a different version of the age-old "perfect girl and bad boy who eventually fall in love" story. What's different? Lucius Wolfe has blown off his own hands in a home chemistry event. What he was doing, and why, don't get completely explained until the end. The realities of prosthetic limbs for growing teens does get explained - thus the painfully obvious metal hooks that Lucius wears instead.

He starts over at a new school for 10th grade, the same time as Aurora Belle (and yes, the names are unimaginative). As she becomes part of the usual popular crowd, she escapes by spending time with Lucius. A gentle love story, and Lucius's emotional rehabilitation, result.


Roller Derby Librarians?

Miss the Younger and I love roller derby. Our favorite team is The Chicago Outfit (one of whom is Miss's hairdresser by day).

So I thank Shushie for noting this CNN.com article in her blog: Tiny librarian is hell on wheels, about Beth Hollis, Ohio reference librarian by day, and her alter ego MegaBeth, roller derby girl by night. Take that, librarian stereotypes!


All Zombies, All the Time

I just finished two entertaining books: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (author and film producer), and The Zombie Survival Guide, by Max Brooks (author and screenwriter; hmm... I sense a trend here). It's been a slimy pile of fun. Both take the zombie scourge very seriously. Although Brooks didn't mention the infestation of Regency England in his book, I'm sure it was just an oversight in his research.

I enjoyed the way Grahame-Smith interspersed Austen's wit with zombie-stompin' action sequences. Elizabeth Bennet, inseperable from her Katana sword, is as strong as she is smart. I especially loved, when Darcy made his first, insulting proposal, that Liz kicked him into a fireplace. You go, girl! Although Darcy believes her Chinese training was inferior to his family's vaunted Japanese ninja-style training (which Liz debunks by killing said ninjas), he nonetheless admires her ability. He also makes regular double-entendres (blush), which Liz understands (gasp)!

I'm hoping Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, by Ben Winters, will be as well-staged... er, I mean -written.

And then there's The Zombie Survival Guide, a thorough analysis of the long history of zombie attacks, and list of the best weapons and tactics for protection from zombies. The author debunks movie fallacies: machine guns and flamethrowers are NOT practical civilian weapons against zombies, but plain old crowbars and pitchforks work well. He reminds us repeatedly that physical fitness will be our primary weapon in escaping zombie attacks.

Brooks goes on to provide practical advice (and encourage well thought-out planning) for surviving a world potentially overrun by zombies. I think this book might serve well for surviving other apocalyptic world events, as well.


Twilight Convention

Yes, for all my avid Twilight readers, you have your own local conference now: www.creationent.com/cal/twilight_il.htm October 2-4, 2009

And, just for fun, a musical spoof of the Twilight movie, by The Hillywood Show.


Nominate your favorite librarian!

Nominate your librarian today for the Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award!

It's that time again: nominate your favorite librarian (public, school, or academic) for the I Love My Librarian! 2009 Award, sponsored by ALA, The New York Times, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Nominations close 9 October 2009.
Let your local librarians know how much they mean to you and your family, school, or college.


How to Say Goodbye in Robot

Finished another advance reader from ALA, by a new author, and loved it.

Beatrice claims to have no sense of peoples' feelings. Yet, her claims are sometimes disingenious, as she proceeds to make very empathetic observations. However, her reactions also seem true to teens' lack of understanding of their parents' feelings (even if it seems obvious to adults, reading her descriptions).  Loved it.


May I Have Another?

Early this morning, I was off to a bad start. I was so tired, I almost fell asleep at the wheel, so I had to stop and take a breather, making me late to school. While stopped, I noticed that my sick dog had wiped snot on my pants. After a 45-minute commute, it was too late to go home and change.

Then, it turned into a great day:

A boy came in to return Paul Volponi's Black and White. He said "I really liked this. Can you find me another book like this one?" He wasn't very articulate about why he liked the book, so I tried to think of story parallels. I showed him several of Walter Dean Myers' books, Chris Crutcher's Whale Talk, Ben Mikaelsen's Touching Spirit Bear, and the two Volponi books I had left (all our Freshman English classes were in for book talks last week). He considered them all, and left happy with another Volponi, The Hand You're Dealt. No story parallels at all - must be the writing.

Later, a girl came to return Marked, by P.C. Cast, and begged for the second book, Betrayed. She was devastated that someone else was reading it. Several periods later, it was returned. Before I even checked it in, the first girl walked by on her way to a class in the Computer Lab. She saw the book in my hand, and literally jumped up and down with joy. Another happy customer.

Oh yes, and an English teacher asked if I could help him find two book lists, one for his Honors classes, and another one for his reluctant readers. I handed him YALSA's Best Books for the College Bound, and Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers.

I felt like a genius by the end of the day. I love my job!


BBAW 2009: Vote for me! Or just vote.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I am not boycotting the BBAW 2009 Awards. So you are welcome to use this BBAW link to vote for me:We blog about books because we enjoy reading, and enjoy talking about books, and most of all because we enjoy chatting with other people who enjoy books. Nobody is in this for fame and fortune, and none of us will get a Pulitzer for our blog (unless we convince the powers that be to add blogs... hmmm...).

Book bloggers depend on publishers to supply the books. Publishers encourage us to review their products by giving us free copies and advance reading copies, tchotchkes, and prizes to give away, etc. There will always be fine lines to cross, but in a Web 2.0 world, they're scratched in shifting sands. As long as we're all honest about our connections and intentions, let's just enjoy ourselves.

I discovered Book Blogger Appreciation Week for the first time this year. Through being nominated, and following the judging process on Twitter, I've found great new book blogs to read, and many new friends to chat with about books. What result could be more enjoyable than that?


Happy Ramadan

For the next month, a few new students will be joining our usual "I'm avoiding lunch in the H.S. Cafeteria" crowd: Muslim students who are fasting for Ramadan find a food-smell and food-fight-free haven in the Library over their lunch hours. And, hopefully, a quieter, more contemplative setting... although I can't always guarantee that.

In honor of Ramadan, I'm thinking of books I've read recently by or about Muslims. I finished Deborah Rodriguez's non-fiction Kabul Beauty School. I enjoyed the peek at womens' social lives in Afghanistan. And how timely the topic is again, with recent news about the Afghani election, the Taliban's interference with it, women's difficulty getting to the polls, and controversy over the United States' role in that country!

Speaking of Afghanistan and controversy: if you enjoy it, you must read The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid. It's a fictionalized (and one-sided) conversation with a young Afghani man who was educated at Princeton, found a lucrative job and beautiful girlfriend in the United States, and gave it all up over the way he was treated after 9/11. He returned to his home country, where he became even more radicalized. Even in Lahore, he couldn't escape involvement with Americans who distrusted him. A peek at men's social and political lives, and how history can affect them both.


Catching Fire at the Hunger Games

I finished the advance copy of Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, and it is definitely another winner. Students ask me every day "When will it be released, and how soon can I check it out?"

Catching Fire picks up after Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark have returned to their village, but not to their homes. They each have a spacious house in the Victor's Village now, near Haymitch. The three of them haven't been seeing much of each other. Gale Hawthorne is working in the Section 12 mines now, so Katniss can only meet him in the woods on Sundays, to hunt more than talk.

It's time for the mid-year Victory Tour, to parade last year's winners through all the Districts, and get everyone anticipating this year's Hunger Games. But, something has changed. Once again, Katniss and Peeta must pretend to be star-crossed lovers, while they notice strange happenings in other Districts, and worry what is happening to their families back home.

Naturally, Collins keeps the action speeding up, the dangers for Katniss and her loved ones increasing, and you won't believe the surprises she saves for the newest Hunger Games. Can Katniss manage competing threats, stay true to her ideals, and still protect her family and Gale?

It's such a teaser to have to wait for the third book now. We'll plan a big party for the eventual movie release.


Geography of Home: Writings on Where We Live

My daughter recommended this little book, by Akiko Busch, and what a joy it's been to read!
Like Tracy Kidder in House, Akiko wrote of how simple architectural details develop a history within each of us. I'm only half-way through, but her chapters on the Front Door, the Kitchen, and the Home Office all set me off on long daydreams of homes and rooms I grew up with.
In the chapter Dining Room, she discussed our (still current a decade later) obsession with specialty cuisines, dishware, etc.: "Ritual, like religion, it seems, doesn't necessarily have to have a connection with cultural heritage; it's just another personal choice."
The author's dry recitation of facts about the Laundry reminded me of tawdry romance novels. Just the facts, but aren't they fun?
I can't wait to finish the second half.


Check out the meteor shower

It's time to find a dark, dark place, right now (and again tonight after 11:00 p.m.)!

Here's how to view the Perseids in the northeastern sky.

A wonderful story about unusual signs in the sky is Alphabet of Dreams, by Susan Fletcher. Orphans Mitra and Babak have been living a primitive existence, hiding from their parents' killers in the Middle East of two millenia ago. Their safe obscurity comes to a dramatic end when people discover that Babak dreams of the future, and his skill catches the attention of a travelling magus. Competing magi, mysterious spies, and threatening soldiers all work to prevent the children from finding their long-lost relatives - or any place to call home - until they stop with the magi in a small village called Bethlehem.


Looking for Student Essays

The International Society for Technology in Education's online magazine, Learning & Leading with Technology, is looking for 500-word essays by teens on student use of Facebook, MySpace, and other social networks:

  • How important is Facebook/MySpace/texting to you?

  • Are your friends on Facebook/MySpace the same as friends you see in person?

  • Are you different to your friends when you text them vs. when you're talking in person?

  • How does the time you spend texting, or on Facebook or MySpace, affect your development as a person?

ISTE: "Providing leadership and service to improve teaching and learning by advancing the effective use of technology in education."



Liz B. of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy has started an interesting discussion related to her SLJ article about writing fan fiction, When Harry met Bella: Fanfiction is all the rage. But is it plagiarism? Or the perfect thing to encourage young writers?

Isn't this the ideal way to get students involved in reading, and thinking about WHAT they're reading? I have read some Harry Potter fanfic online (examples: 1, 2), and the creativity is astounding. There are ongoing comics, adults-only versions, and all kinds of extensions of existing or imagined storylines. The writers/illustrators have read and re-read all the books, and incorporate their own ideas and interpretations and imaginings. True reading should always be so interactive.

Perhaps the Harry Potter and Twilight books should have been on our students' summer reading lists...


All about Kindles

Nicholson Baker's New Yorker article on the pros and cons of Kindle 2 vs. print books could serve as a history of e-book devices. He even details how they work, why they are or aren't environmentally friendly, their marketing history, and more.


The Angst of Summer Reading

Yes, we beat our students over the head with summer reading assignments, and they respond by reading the book their first week back at school (maybe - no one knows that better than the school librarian). Lisa Von Drasek asks why they hate summer reading assignments, and what we REALLY want them to do: Summer Reading? Good! Assigned Reading? Bad.
Back on July 2nd, Roger Sutton (Horn Book's editor-in-chief, and Simmons) questioned his Twitter followers: "topic for my class today: why does required reading feel more difficult?" "maybe it only feels that way for people who like to read, thus pleasure turned into obligation?" "or maybe because there are strings attached." Roger was reacting to Nicholas Kristof 's New York Times column on recommended children's books: Little Lord Fauntleroy? Really?
I used to work in a public library summer reading booth. Some of my biggest readers were second-grade boys who read every one of Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants books they could find, then went on to read his other series titles. They wouldn't put the books down, and couldn't wait to tell me about the next one! Now I see so many teen boys who say proudly "I don't read." Where did we lose them?
If my high school students could recapture that fun feeling about summer reading, I would be thrilled. That's why, whether they finish the "assigned" reading or not, I'm happy to hear a teen tell me they read something they liked over the summer. Even if it was another Captain Underpants.


Happy Birthday Harry Potter!!!

Yes, according to J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter is 29 today. Hard to believe. To celebrate, I took the Twitter "Which Harry Potter Girl Are You?" quiz. . . Hermione Granger, no surprise.

And what a wonderful day it was in Chicago! To celebrate my last official day of summer vacation, I took the Parkways Foundation's fundraising tour of the control house of Buckingham Fountain, where we each got to turn the seahorses on or off. I visited the main Chicago Public Library's new YOUmedia room for teens to tell them how much I love the "Not What You Think" campaign. I checked out the Chicago Model City at Chicago Architecture Foundation, and I shopped a little, too.

Finished off the day with my first visit to the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute. The art was fascinating, and the galleries showcased it perfectly; the gauzy natural light on the third floor is divine. My only complaint: the northeast corner of the third floor is a perfect vantage point to view Millennium Park's Lurie Garden, but the shades are closed until dark. Kathryn Gustafson and Piet Oudolf designed their "sunny plate" with a tilt toward the southeast sun, so this is the ONLY building with a perfect view of their lovely plantings. Surely just one shade open to the north wouldn't damage the collection? Shouldn't that view be considered a unique display for their Architecture and Design collection? No other museum has it, and they've blocked it.

Photos to come...

We're not what you think

Did a little research on that bus ad that I posted here: it's from Chicago Public Library's "Not What You Think" tumblelog campaign (aimed at you-know-whos). They have two great posters of tatted young librarians, 1, 2, and one of Granny.

Perhaps some of my friends can expose their tats in the library now? Well, perhaps not at school yet.

I've got mine! CPL card, that is, not a tattoo.


Summer is . . .

...balmy nights at Ravinia. I just heard Lang Lang and Herbie Hancock dueling it out on dual pianos: Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, what an experience!

Of course, that was my reward for spending the entire day attending Prairie Area Library System workshops. In the morning: how school librarians can implement I-SAIL - Illinois Standards Aligned Instruction for Libraries - was presented by Angie Green (Alliance Library System) and Becky Robinson (Media Specialist at Galesburg High School) in their usual high-energy crowd-motivating style. Remember them as AASL "cheerleaders" at the ALA conference?

College-level Research Readiness was presented in the afternoon by Charlet Key (Library Director at Black Hawk College). Charlet gave us amazing insight on what our High School students don't know, and what they will need to know in order to be prepared for college-level research.

And yes, I am reading Loving Frank. . . more later.



Spent last week in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Talk about a cellular dead zone! I couldn't post or Twitter for days. But it was a wonderful week despite (or perhaps because of) that. I had never seen Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater before, so I finally took a side trip to tour it. A beautiful day to walk around in the Laurel Highlands, and to tour a home that makes the outdoor environment such a feature of the indoor environment.

Then my daughter made me an omelette with fresh eggs we bought from a neighbor that day, and the sorrel we weeded from my grandfather's overgrown garden. For dessert: she made a flaky, buttery pie crust with cherry-rhubarb filling, as fast as I could cut rhubarb from the garden. Food is never as good anywhere, as it is in the mountains!

I took Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan, along to read, but I confess I read a trashy romance novel instead. That's what summer away from school is for, isn't it? I promise to read Loving Frank next week.


ALA Chicago another day

A new BBYA list, Teen Programs Under $100: there was so much to see and do on Sunday, that I had to take a long nap afterward!

I stood in line for Sarah Dessen's Along For The Ride and Joe Meno's Demons in the Spring.

I couldn't resist the Parade of Bookmobiles, even though my teen companion sighed over my geekiness, and my adult companions went back to the Exhibit floor for more serious pursuits. Yes, I toured almost every one of the 15 bookmobiles.
They filled me with nostalgia (regular Bookmobile visits fired my childhood interest in reading); they fed my automotive love for big trucks; and they piqued my architectural fascination with outfitting them. Racks and cubbies and reading benches and wheelchair lifts behind secret-panel-doors, oh my!

And, speaking of fun, the Library Book Cart Drill Team Championship was about as much fun as you can have with library equipment. Check out NPR's report. My camera didn't do the Baraboo Bookers justice in the semi-dark ballroom.


ALA Chicago today

Lunch with an old friend, connecting with library school classmates, cheering at the AASL L4L mini-session, and touching all those new books - what could be better for a school librarian?

But it did get better: waiting in line for an advance copy of Catching Fire, the sequel to Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, we strangers had a fun book talk about the first one. Our patrons ate it up (sorry, I couldn't resist), so I know I'd never get to read the sequel when it comes in. The chance to read this advance copy before my Book Club meets again in the fall made my day!

One more moment of Nirvana: I watched Neil Gaiman signing hundreds of copies of his new The Graveyard Book, and Laurie Halse Anderson signing Speak and her new Wintergirls, while I chatted with Franny Billingsley and her daughter. Franny's Well Wished and The Folk Keeper were beloved when I worked in a middle school; her newest, Big Bad Bunny, is too young for my high school patrons, but it's adorable, so I've bought it for my favorite very little readers.

Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings...


Reading on the Job?

"The Manley Arts" in Booklist is one of my favorite columns. Will Manley's July column is as topical as always. Wouldn't it be nice if, as Manley proposes, librarians were paid to read on the job?

Sometimes I read the newspaper over lunch, and I do browse reviewing journals at work, but I don't read books on the job. Nonetheless, I read several YA books a week, so I do all that reading in the car and at home. Ironic!


Librarian Trading Cards

No, not the Flickr group. This is the DIY Librarian blog's list (going back to November 2005) of fun librarians, their accomplishments, and their interests. This month Pam Pleviak, the librarian at my sister school, is the featured trading card!

Aside from being a sharp, high-energy school librarian, Pam's most enviable accomplishment this year was promoting her book club. It started the year with 5 students, and grew to 40 by May! She should write a book about all the great promotions she and Evan, her aide, implemented to get students reading.


Print, Audio, or eBooks?

I do a lot of "reading" via audio books in the car, as I commute to work. I've noticed that I enjoy some books more in audio, and sometimes I just enjoy the reader. I've loved some audio books read by their authors, especially memoirs. Sometimes, I check out the print book as well, to clarify parts that I didn't understand in audio. I haven't used a Kindle, but I occasionally use eReader on my Treo, to read in the dark and on hiking trips.
This leads me to Ann Kirschner's article in "The Chronicle Review", Reading Dickens Four Ways. Ann read Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit in every format, switching back and forth to compare the experiences (and other readers' reactions). Her conclusions? Everyone has a preferred format, and there are advantages to each. No surprise there! In the end, it doesn't matter which format you prefer, because the interactive experience of reading itself will never die. Ann summed it up beautifully:
It is the sustained and individual encounter with ideas and stories that is so bewitching. If new formats allow us to have more of those, let us welcome and learn from them.


Summer is...

...time to read "grownup books"! This is the third summer I've read Umberto Eco. I can actually concentrate on Foucault's Pendulum, in between working on my garden and mowing the lawn (mowing gives me time to digest the latest chapter).

Conspiracy theory: I think the bunnies in my yard are working with Casaubon's Templars to deprive me of the treasures of my garden. So far, they have eaten six cantalope plants, two sunflowers, and a host of hostas. What next?

They're taunting me...

(Thanks to Tanja A. on icanhascheezburger.com)


I Love Animoto

I just adore Animoto for fast presentations. I recently created a board presentation, a travelogue, and a collection of family photos. It takes a fraction of the time it would to use PowerPoint or Movie Maker to produce a polished presentation with music. Tonight, I'm making another one!