Monday, July 31, 2006

That last ALA conference session ...

Finally. I unearthed my handouts from the session I had starred before even getting on the plane as one I wanted to attend on Sunday in NOLA! ACRL's New Publications Committee & the ACRL-CLS Research Committee co-sponsored a program; Publish, Don't Perish: Helpful Hints for Authors. Since I am waiting, oh so patiently, for my first article to be published and loving the peer review process that makes the article now over a year old before print, I decided this would be a good professional development session for me. With luck, the session would be more than the ever popular "write what you know" rah-rah, blah, blah, blah. Luckily, two of the session speakers were not only informative, but also had common sense tips on publishing.

Marie L. Radford, PhD - School of Communication, Information, and Library Studies Rutgers University

Dr. Radford was a particulary engaging speaker who didn't pull any punches. Beyond her handouts detailing her Radford Rules for Increasing Writing Productivity and Enjoyment, she addressed time management and barriers keeping potential authors from actually writing. What resonated with me the most was her assurance each person in attendance was already involved in an interesting project at work that would be suitable for an article. Additionally, she stressed the importance of writing every day. That, coupled with writing what I know (sigh) had an effect on how the entries on this blog have changed.

At first, I created this blog because I could, because it was fun, and because I was curious to see how a personal blog would differ and/or evolve differently from my various professional blogs. The professional blogs have topics of news and information (plus collection development), educational technology resources, and a new childrens book review blog. Of the three, only one will be collaborative in nature with a children's literature professor adding book reviews and class work to the project. Generally speaking, beyond blog spam, none of the three as of yet have any comments. Quite honestly, two of the three do not lend themselves to comments as they are of an informational nature.

This blog has moved beyond the personal only to a cross between personal (baseball, sci-fi, and blogging) and professional (conference, technology, books) with a few snarky personal comments thrown in for good measure. I am attempting to use it as a way to move beyond the barriers Dr. Radford detailed that everyone must overcome to write. With luck, looking back over the topics I've written about and discussed, one or more will stand out and give me a starting point for my next professional article. Right now I appear to be working true to form and blogging mostly about children's books, adult books (not that kind), technology, and professional development opportunities such as the conference and presenting a poster session.

What do I hope to write about? There are a few things at the forefront right now:

  • The children's literature review blog and collaboration project
  • Beginning a new professional blog with another librarian in Ohio, also a collaborative effort.
  • Honing my skills writing children's book reviews.
  • Working with a partner to writer about conference planning. We have been talking about this particular project for a year now. I sent her the copies of this session and we really need to move beyond the talking stage.

Patricia Glass Schuman, Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.

Ms. Schuman is the President and Founder of Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc. I remember thinking, a publisher definitely is someone to assist would be authors concerning the "ins and outs" of library publishing. Trite, I know, but definitely true. Two different aspects of Ms. Schuman's portion of the program stuck with me: the craft of writing and the process of publishing.

With writing, she suggested the following:

  • Think about what you are reading that is interesting and what audience it speaks to and about, professionally.
  • Find your personal passion. If you are not interested in what you are writing no one else will be either.
  • You have to practice the art of writing. What do you have to say?
  • Consider outlines and sample chapters.

Concerning publishing, she made the following comments:

  • Are you qualified to write a book? What, if anything, have you previously published in the library science field?
  • Look at publishers catalogs. Is what you want to write something they are publishing? Has it already been done and if so, how is your offering different?
  • Make contact with publishers early in the process.
  • Think about what rights you have as an author regarding intellectual property and translation writes.
  • What rights do you have as an author regarding your work?

I have to admit that right now, publishing beyond articles is something I am not really ready to do ... but you never know. I will keep authoring this blog to work on my writing and continue to be in the habit of writing daily, even a short blog entry. Naturally, I started reading one of the Alex Award winners at lunch this afternoon and it will more than likely be the topic of my next entry.

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Rock, Paper, Scissors

When did this happen?

Always willing to admit I'm not the most hip person around, I was nonetheless surprised to see two different news clips for Rock-Paper-Scissors (of all things) on ESPN and CBS Sunday Morning yesterday.

Two. Before lunch. Before I even finished laundry.

Here's what I've learned:

  • There is an official World RPS Society
  • There will be a world championship held in November
  • There is a USARPS League, not to be confused with the world society
  • There is a Master of ROSHAMBOLLAH: see article in Washington Times
  • There was a $50,000 RPS tournament held in Las Vegas ($50,000!)

Even better:

How cool is this?

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Friday, July 28, 2006

2006 Alex Awards Program

One of the best things about the ALA conference is the number of different areas of librarianship represented. As an academic librarian, even though I purchase the children's and YA collection, I do not always have the opportunity to attend sessions dealing with YA and children's literature often more represented by the public and school libraries. Big conferences such as mid-winter and annual often are geared to accommodate all areas of interest. I try to make time for a session or two that deals with this genre for a couple of reasons; first because it is and always has been an area of literature of great interest to me, and second because as the education liaison at the university I work with the professors teaching children's and young adult literature. When so much of my time is spent with technology (web pages, etc), it is simply lovely to make time for literature sessions.

This photo is from the Alex Awards program that took place Sunday afternoon. Authors participating in this panel had written some of the 2006 Alex Award winni,ng novels. Speaking at the session were (alphabetically) Neil Gaiman, Greg Galloway, A. Lee Martinez, Susan Palwick, and Jeannette Walls. Of the award winning titles I read The Glass Castle by Walls last fall.

Titles written by the panel and recognized at this session were:

  • Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman
  • As Simple as Snow - Greg Galloway
  • Gil's All Fright Diner - A. Lee Martinez
  • The Necessary Beggar - Susan Palwick
  • The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls

Since we regularly purchase Alex titles, I'm headed down to the recreational reading area right now armed with call numbers.

New Orleans Neighborhood Story Project

Eureka! Almost a month after the NOLA ALA conference (and subsequent travel delay and moving) I have located my informational handout about the Neighborhood Story Project. Despite the obvious reasons to purchase this collection, the sale of books benefits the project itself, it will make a great multicultural addition to the library collection. It's one thing to read what an unknown author has to say and another to know it is written by young adults living in the neighborhood. An excerpt from the handout says:

"The Neighborhood Story Project was a community documentary program based out of New Orleans, Louisiana. The books were bestsellers in the city, depicting vibrant neighborhoods otherwise shunned by the media, but all remains books were destroyed by the flooding. With the assistance of Worzalla Printing, Soft Skull is re-issuing these books under the Red Rttle imprint. The books now stand both as a testament to the resilience of the residents of New Orleans, in particular those from the worst-affected areas, and as a map back from disaster offered by the city's teenagers."

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Blogging Goes to College

Brainstorming Weblog Use in Higher Education. Today I attended a much anticipated workshop/brainstorming session held at OhioLINK in Columbus, OH. Co-sponsored by OhioLINK and Youngstown State University it's purpose, as detailed by the facilitator Paul Kobulnicky, was to:

"Generate a list of possible uses of weblog software in a higher education setting, discuss issues of use and policy that may pertain and then to disseminate our results to the broader community. Along the way we form some personal relationships an get some face time."

Three different small group activities, complete with ingenious ways of breaking us up into groups, and a full group discussion session were instigated throughout the day. The three questions and/or scenarios were as follows (excerpts from workshop agenda):

  1. Potential uses of blogging in the area of teaching and learning.
  2. Uses of blogging as applied to library services.
  3. Potential uses of blogging in higher education considering research, service, administration, and other roles within the university.

Some interesting possiblities raised included using blogs as a "town meeting" of sorts, providing university presidents and provosts with a way to communicate with the university community as a whole. This was seen, and presented, as a great public relations tool. Another group raised the issue of alumni blogs, study abroad blogs, and even the opportunity for strategic planning and policy blogs were briefly discussed.

Though the session was indeed "preaching to the choir," all of the attendants were at the least interested in blogging, various drawbacks to blogs were also raised. Issues of copyright, scholarly publication, ownership, acceptable use, reluctant bloggers, and comment moderation and "censorship" were discussed.

Unfortunately, I opted to leave my work laptop at work and lost a great opportunity to blog during the workshop. I'm looking forward to seeing other participant comments and hope the accompanying blog is kept as a means to continue the process begun today.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

More NOLA session information

I found two more folders of information I brought back from sessions I attended in New Orleans. Moving two days after returning from a major conference was not one of the brightest moves made during the summer, but the point is moot now. The handouts? One was on publishing and writing what you know (more on that later) and the second was the info I've been hunting for on the Neighborhood Project (now I can order the books). I was planning on spending some time genuinly reflecting on the two sessions, but I decided it could wait another day.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I am lightning!

Lunch update! Yes, yes .... I had to go back again and try another quiz. I talked to some friends after lunch about the quizzes and they all exhibited surprise that I was indeed sarcastic. Go figure. This time I wanted to see what gender my brain was, here goes:

***Your Brain is 87% Female, 13% Male***

You have the brain of a girly girl Which isn't a bad thing at all. You're empathetic, caring, and in tune with emotions. You're a good friend and give great advice.

Let's add that I am also a bit cranky with Blogger right now. I've been unable to add the cute joking book clip art I wanted to this post, the right column of this blog keeps disappearing whenever I use justify, and I keep getting error messages with posting.

Okay, one more. I need to decide between what type of weather I am, do I drive like a guy or a girl (tempting), what my funky inner hair color is, and how cynical I might be. Since it's been pretty nice here the last several days, I've decided on the weather:

***You Are Lightning***

Beautiful yet dangerous. People will stop and watch you when you appear even though you're capable of random violence. You are best known for: your power. Your dominant state: performing.

How Sarcastic are you?

Need a good laugh? Take the "How Sarcastic Are You?" quiz from Blogthings. I found this today on the Goddess of YA Literature blog and just for fun, because I know the answer to that particular question, I took the quiz.

The results? No surprises here:

***You're Totally Sarcastic***

You sarcastic? Never! You're as sweet as a baby bunny. Seriously, though, you have a sharp tongue - and you aren't afraid to use it. And if people are too wimpy to deal with your attitutde, then too bad. So sad.

While I ponder if the info should be added to my "about me" blurb, I'm going back to see what kind of donut I am!

Update: It seems, ta-da, I am a Boston Creme Donut. Really. You can't make this stuff up (well, obviously you can).

***You Are a Boston Creme Donut***

You have a tough exterior. No one wants to mess with you. But on the inside, you're a total pushover and completely soft. You're a traditionalist, and you don't change easily. You're likely to eat the same doughnut every morning, and pout if it's sold out.

OK, only one more. Next up, what is my Pirate name? Mad Flirty Fran!

I lied, I just had to go back and see what color my aura was. Wonder which one of these quizes let's me know how compulsive I may be? Anyway, here are the aura results. At least the color is right since my favorite color is green.

***Your Aura is Green***

You're very driven, competitive, and even a bit jealous.However, you seek out balance in your life - and you usually achieve it! The purpose of your life: inspiring others to be better. Famous greens include: Tony Robbins, Donald Trump, Martha Stewart. Careers for you to try: Guru, CEO, Talk Show Host

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Monday, July 24, 2006

The Fruit Bowl Project

I forgot to mention finishing an interesting read on Friday at lunch, The Fruit Bowl Project by Sarah Durkee. This book has a great premise, one that will appeal to teachers and students alike, and a unique presentation. The first part of the book introduces readers to the teacher, class, and to a lesser extent, Nick Thomas. We are privvy to the writing process undertaken and in the books second half, are presented with the finished product.

West Side Middle school's eighth grade teacher, Ms. Vallis, invites a famous rock star (he is married to her cousin) to speak to her classroom writers workshop. A songwriter as well as star, he explains to the class, “My theory is that for a writer, every song, or every story, that they sit down to write is just like a bowl of fruit that a painter sets out to paint.” The class brainstorms a "boring" idea and each student is assigned to tell it from a different point of view, genre, or style. When finished all will be compiled into a book to share.

I enjoyed the first half of this book a great deal more than the second half. Actually, I felt a bit cheated learning only a small part of each student writing before being presented with their finished work. The projects shared were very inventive, but I would have enjoyed reading more about the characters and a significantly less number of assignments. With that said, I can see how this would be a great starting point for a class assignment and would not be surprised if it motivates teachers to try something similar.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Those Stargate actors

Watching Eureka on Tuesday evening I noted several familiar faces sci fi faces on the show. The sherrif was a cupcake eating goa'uld on SG-1; the colonel was a Russian colonel on SG-1; and I was really amused to have the main character - the marshall - have the name Jack Carter.


I think not.

Tonight watching SG-1 the doctor they brought from earth to determine what was wrong with everyone was another familiar actor. Just got it . . . he was in one of my all time favorite episodes, Window of Opportunity - or GROUNDHOG DAY! He played the guy on the planet responsible for the time loop Teal'c and O'Neill were stuck in (ending a sentence with a preposition - shame).

New Stargate episodes

Finally, new episodes of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. Last week was the first new episodes for season ten of SG-1 and Atlantis, season three. I'm still mourning the loss of Colonel - oops, Major General O'Neill (two L's), but last seasons final few episodes gave me hope as the shows were full cast member episodes and not just the Daniel and Vala show.

So, last week's premier for SG-1 was "okay" as far as I was concerned. Certainly no bells or whistles or fabulous insights. It tied up a lot of issues from the prior season but there were so many convience factors in play. The whole show is sci-fi/fantasy after all, so I can't complain about suspending realistic believability tying up the ends (please). I mean, Daniel just happened to activate the rings in time, Teal'c just happened to be in the right place at the right time, Mitchell just happened to put the marker on Bra'tac so he was ringed in along with them, an Sam just happened to have all the factors exactly as they should be to be rescued. Ok, Ok. But I am a little freaked by the Vala's child being Ori, but she sure is Vala's kid. Shades of the Harsis child of the Goauld several seasons ago.

Tonight's episode, Morpheus, looks promising, as do several others planned for the season. I am gleefully anticipating some season ten episodes; the 200th episode and the return of Jack AND the episode two weeks from now, Insiders, with Ba'al (my favorite badguy).

Laptop battery is almost gone and SG-1 is on right now!

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Web pages, a love/hate relationship

One of the great things about being part of a state wide academic library consortium such as OhioLINK is we get a wide selection of databases for our users. One of the drawbacks of said consortium is said databases change with some frequency as we try to get the best price and service/selection for library patrons. Several databases have undergone changes at the end of the fiscal year, June 30th, and will require a great deal of library web page updating so patrons during the summer sessions do not see interruptions. As library web master, an 'other task to be named later' job I fell into, this type of change is generally my jurisdiction. Luckily, the portion of the library web page detailing databases and database information is a section that has become the director's baby.

However, and there is always a however, a summer project three years ago was the creation of a set/compilation of children's author and information web pages for the resource center. Each page covers a single author and includes books we have (with catalog links), reference books that have author info, article resources, internet links, and - of course - database recommendations. Last count shows I had, conservatively speaking, 75 author pages.


Except now I have to go through and change the databasae recommendations portion of 75 individual web pages. Right now I'm up to the "P's" (just finishing Philip Pullman) and hope to have all done by the end of today.

The 'what I did on my summer vacation' portion of this term was to begins a full library web page redesign, the second in three years, beginning with the resource center pages. I hasn't happened so far since I am still learning to use the web editor in question. I'm using Dreamweaver and and found it is not at all difficult to edit existing pages. But I would like to utilize css in the new design, making sure we conform to web standards of w3c, and this is more challenging.

So, while I do love playing with web pages and the creating part of the process, I do also hate the pure tediousness of updating such a big chuck of web resources. I wouldn't be doing it all in one day - make that two - except the library web stats indicate this group of pages are a top ten every month.

Done in by success.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Horns & Wrinkles, pass it on

I finished reading at lunch today and was pleased with the book overall. It ended satisfactorily and all of the established fantasy "rules" in place by the author were followed. Definitely what I would call a fable; the book was chock full of animals with human characteristics including both river and rock trolls, magical faeries, humans interacting with the animals, good vs. evil, a self-less good deed, and a moral that was not sappy or overdone. This book would definitely interest children who read fantasy. Actually, the best part of the book was a chance to pass it on to another reader.

The book traveled to lunch with me for the last time today. One of the girls working came up to me and asked if I was a teacher. I told her yes, at one time, but that I worked at the University library now. She replied, "I wondered, you always have a good book with you to read." Seems she noticed Horns & Wrinkles, went to the public library to check it out, and was disappointed to learn they didn't have it. I explained I was reading an advanced readers copy and that it wouldn't be available until September.

Should have seen her eyes light up when I said she could read my copy.

I finished it, along with my chocolate chip cookie, before the end of my lunch hour and left her the book to read. I'll be interested to hear what she thinks.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Horns & Wrinkles, lunchtime reading

I am on my last advanced readers copy book from the ALA conference. This one is Horns & Wrinkles by Joseph Helgerson. Though a fan of J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter, I am not particularly a fan of fantasy in general. This book is well-written and an easy read, regardless of the genre. I am about 3/4 of the way finished and have been following the tale with interest. Full of trolls, fairies, bullies, family, and magic, it is a nice way to spend my lunch hour.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Very appropriate

Leaving work today I walked past campus chapel on the way to my legally parked car. The chapel has had serious renovation and upgrades done during the summer. Today there was a workman on a cherry picker painting the steeple. I could hear music and wondered what he was listening to while painting the church.

It was Phil Vassar.

He was singing Just Another Day in Paradise.

Hear No Evil

I read Grippando's Hear No Evil last evening. After finishing Leapholes, I was compelled to see if his adult novels read as well as the recently published YA title. Though somewhat confused with the already established relationships of various characters, I chose to read the fourth installment of this series instead of beginning at the start, I was quickly interested in Jack's conundrum surrounding taking on the client and an old friend of his father's. The scenario of a stereotypical beautiful blonde client playing her lawyer/s (specifically her well timed tears, lying, and withholding of evidence) was made believable through the complications she brought not only to the mystery, but also to Jack's personal life.

Always a concern in "lawyer fiction" the courtroom trial scenes were blissfully quick and did not skimp on drama or law. References made to jury selection, media attention, and the intricacies of Cuban American politics were important parts of the trial and personal life of Swyteck. I found the one night tryst with a girlfriend working in Africa who just happened to be stopping over on her way to a conference in California (to get DNA) a bit far-fetched, almost a too convenient since she is also a doctor. But this may have been something more realistic if I had read previous books with her playing a more important role.

The ending was interesting on many levels. Jack learned more about his heritage, his mother, and deepened his relationship with his father. His client got caught up in her own web of intrigue and it could be argued she got what she deserved. Most importantly, a young deaf boy - hence the title hear no evil - was given a chance.

I still have three of Grippando's books sitting at home checked out through ILL (see list of ready to read titles). I admit to being more interested in the stand alone title featured on his web site, Lying with Strangers, due out next summer.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Viewer Profile, just had to look

I couldn't help myself.

OK, maybe I could have. The fact that I chose not to is a more honest assessment.

I just took a quick look at the viewer profile numbers for my blog again. Since I last looked on June 11th it's gone from 114 to 214 (100 in a little over a month). I have seen a comment or two and recieved an email or two - or three - since adding an email link to my viewer profile. I find it interesting to look at the numbers.


NOLA Souvenier

I'm still unpacking and finding ALA conference goodies that need my attention (yes, I found the books first). Yesterday I recovered one little souvenier that tickled my fancy at the airport. After viewing all the alligator soup, alligator pastries, and alligator paraphenelia, I picked up this alligator tipped bright orange pencil.

With luck, the alligator will stop people from snitching it off my desk!

I still have handouts from a YALSA session on the Alex Awards to get through and a few other miscellaneous pieces of conference literature. There was an interesting session on publishing that was very informative and inspiring. Since one of the things during the publishing session was to write what you know and to simply WRITE, adding library pieces to this blog can't hurt.


Meet Ryan Coolidge, his father is in jail, his mother insists he needs to visit, and all Ryan feels is shame. "How could you not feel shame when you'd seen your father stuffed into the back seat of a police car?" Known for his series featuring Miami lawyer, Jack swatch, Leapholes is author James Grippando's first juvenile/young adult book. In it he explains the vagaries of the law and justice to his audience in a way that helps makes sense of the issues as they are presented.

One afternoon while out riding his bike, Ryan is hit by an ambulance and taken to the hospital. After faking amnesia, wanting to be anonymous and tired of being infamous, Ryan tries to leave the hospital when a fire breaks out. He escapes with a group of five other people by stumbling mistakenly into a top secret facility where they are all immediately infected with "BODS" - Blood Oxygen Depletion syndrome. The good news is, there is a prototype vaccine that while never tested is thought to cure the disease. The bad news is, there are six people needing the vaccine and only five vials. A decision is made, with everyone in agreement, to draw lots and the person choosing the short straw will die.

Ryan's decision to take the vaccine vials and mix them together to share has amazing repercussions as he is subsequently forced to defend himself from charges of manslaughter in front of a jury. Assigned a lawyer, Hezekiah, Ryan is given the opportunity to research his case via the use of leapholes. Unknown by Ryan, Hezekiah is a member of a secret society, Legal Eagles, who work to close law loopholes. Earned by closing inappropriate loopholes within the law, leapholes are a way to travel into law and learn first hand of the realistic concerning historically relevant court cases. Included are cases such as the William Brown (who lives, who dies) and Dred Scott ("the brood follows the dam") dealing with issues of slavery, the underground railroad, and abolitionists. Through the travels, Ryan learns that pleading guilty, or being charged with guilt, is not always what it seems.

Grippando deals with these cases in a simple and interesting way that allows a reader to understand more than simple facts presented in cases. By inserting his characters into the time period it is easier to see how law shaped what happened historically. Included within this arc were discussion questions for classroom use, notes from the author concerning the historical accuracy of the cases presented, and an interesting afterward section with information from famous authors and lawyers regarding their decisions to enter into law practice. This would be a great selection for a read-aloud corresponding to a social studies or history unit on the civil war and slavery.

I found the case of the William Brown interesting as the issues discussed are being debated in college level classes on ethics. Several years ago I had a student worker upset by a similar class discussion:

An airplane is running out of fuel and the only way to make it safely to the airport is to lighten the load. All of the luggage has been tossed from the plane and the pilot determines he has to banish passengers to get everyone to safety. Upon landing, is he a hero or a murderer?

If college students were debating this with vigor, imagine how younger children would react.

Grippando is participating in a group blog, Naked Authors.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Same subject, different day

Thanks to an email from Robin, I took the time this morning to read through reviews on The Boy in the Striped Pajamas from Amazon UK. There are not any professional journal reviews, but there are a plethora (33 when I looked) of opinions from readers already familiar with the book. I could easily characterize them as positive; an abundance of them posted call it moving, beautiful, heartfelt, and profound.

There was one reviewer who pointed out many of the historical inaccuracies, making valid points concerning research that may have been missed by the author. I would hazard a guess since this book is being touted as a "fable" they were purposely left out of the telling. Now, I'm wondering what other information is available concerning this book. How is the publisher publicizing?

Actually, it looks like the publisher isn't publicizing. Very little info is available and it seems the publisher is doing that purposely. Here is some of what I found:

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

I have been driving co-workers crazy both last week and this week talking about my impressions of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I try not to make co-workers any crazier than they are, but ...

The book bothered me.

As previously mentioned, calling this a "fable" is unsettling. I keep thinking that since the topic is disturbing, the book should be as well. But there is something that is keeping me from buying the book for the library. I passed along the arc to the technical services librarian for her opinion. Since she is in Alaska for two weeks, the opinion will be some time coming. I have moved on to other books I picked up at ALA, in fact I'm enjoying Leapholes right now, but Boy continues to lurke in my subconscious like a nasty virus.

This morning while reading the latest issue of Booklist (vol. 102 no. 21), I was interested to see a review on Boy included in the fiction books for older readers section. I quickly noticed it was given a grade recommendation for 7 - 10. OK, I can agree with that. But the review doesn't mention any of the things that bother me about the book (creepiness, cute words for real words, the ending, and it being a "fable") . In fact, except for one detail, I may have purchased the book from the review.

Remember? I read the book.

I was left to wonder if I was alone in my thoughts concerning this book. Even though I have been purchasing children's books for public and academic libraries for almost ten years (OMG ten years!), I'm not a professional reviewer. I count on them to make informed purchases.

Checking my bloglines account before lunch, I was thrilled to read a post from the Horn Book Magazine's blog Read Roger, titled Whither Jackie Paper? It briefly touched on the issue of fables, children's writers, and ... The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

I am not alone.

Really. While I was writing my response to his post, four other people were simultaneously writing as well. I will definitely be checking back to see what additional comments will be posted later on today.

Insert sigh of relief here.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Random Act of Kindness

I was shelf shifting the juvenile collection today, avoiding things I really should be doing because I really hate shelving books when it means I have to move everything on the surrounding three shelves to make one little book fit, when the phone rang in the resource center. Since you have to catch the phone on the third ring before it kicks over to voice mail, I considered ignoring it. But no, two weeks away from work made me dash to the phone in hopes of catching whoever needed help. Good thing I did.

It was the local police station on the phone! The woman asked for me by name and told me I needed to go move my car because it was illegally parked on the street in front of the library. What? I stupidly responded, "but I've parked in that same spot for the last six months." She said there was an officer behind my car and could I please go outside and move the vehicle.

At this point maybe I should have been concerned about a crank call, but I grabbed my keys and headed out after telling friends in tech services where I was going (I'm not completely nuts). Sure enough, there was a city police vehicle parked behind my car when I arrived. The officer got out of the car and said the street worker/people called in to say I was illegally parked by a no parking sign. Sensing an imminent ticket, I told the officer the same stupid, but honestly baffled "but I park there all the time" line, apologized, and said how much I appreciated the phone call.

I need to insert here how nice the officer was. I think he was more annoyed to be answering a call for a parking ticket than anything else. He mentioned to me he wondered if "they" didn't have anything better to do than waste his time on this issue, noticed that the sign was indeed obviously new, and asked me (hypothetically) what they were thinking putting the sign up so high that no one could reasonable see the thing. Long story shorter, he told me he wasn't in the mood to write a ticket - woohooo - and said if I backed up my car three feet I'd be fine.


He backed up the police cruiser. I backed up my car. I got out and thanked him again. He got back in his car, radioed in I had moved, and left the premises. So, thank you Mr. Policeman for your random act of kindness. I very much appreciate NOT having a parking ticket to pay this week.

I'll be sure to pass on the kindness today when the opportunity arises.

What about the food?

I've had so many people ask me where I ate in New Orleans, mostly those who are familiar with my "if it swims I don't eat it" mantra, that this morning as I'm going through my nifty @ your library ALA New Orleans conference bag I decided to look at the map and figure out just where I did eat! So, here goes:
  • Palace Cafe - Canal Street (Sunday)
    After being disappointed, read turned away, after arriving without a reservation early Friday evening, a fellow library volunteer made reservations for Sunday evening and we dined happily amongst other confernce goers. The menu included many tasty items, some that were not fish, and made it difficult to choose. They were running a $25 dinner special that included salad/soup, main course, and dessert. I had the cafe spinach salad, a wonderful pork selection (not on the menu linked), and Ponchatoula Strawberry Shortcake.
  • Bourbon House Seafood and Oyster Bar (Thursday)
    Yes, I was hesitant to go into a place as well known for it's seafood as this place is, but after looking at the menu posted outside it was an easy decision to make. Thursday evening I met a fellow Ohioan from Toledo Public Library and we had dinner here. The menu included a fabulous pepper encrusted pork entree with rice (it's not on the current dinner menu). I have to say it was the largest pork chop I had ever seen and cooked to absolute perfection. Our chipper server recommended dessert, a double chocolate brownie with homemade ice cream AND caramel sauce.
  • Bourbon House Seafood and Oyster Bar (Friday)
    No, I am not repeating myself. I am repeating the restaurant. Different dinner companion and the same restaurant after we were unable to get into various establishments without a reservation. Our mistake. Remembering the yummy dessert, I planned to eat light and had a salad and fried eggplant for my entree. Oddly enough the chippper waiter from Thursday evening was our waiter again on Friday. I wasn't sure if I should be embarrassed that he recognized me from the previous evening (I was not at my best after traveling all day and wandering around in the 90+ degree heat) but he was as efficient as before. What about dessert? The second night I had chocolate chunk bread pudding. Divine.
  • Le Cafe - Hotel Monteleone (Sunday)
    I decided Sunday morning that I would have breakfast at the hotel cafe. They run a great breakfast buffett, but I'm not that big a breakfast eater. The breakfast menu included some very tempting items, Plantation Cakes and Belgian Waffles, but I stuck with simple fare of eggs, bacon, and toast. The OJ was, naturally, fresh squeezed. It was a nice way to start off Sunday morning.
  • Hotel Monteleone - ROOM SERVICE (Saturday)
    Unable to get into the Hunt Grill at the Hotel, probably a blessing in disguise since I was exhausted from meetings, my presentation, and the opening session, I decided to have a late room service dinner. Alas, I also wimped out and had a hamburger (yum). I did treat myself to dessert. They had banana's foster cheesecake. How could I resist.
  • Cafe Beignet (Monday)
    At the risk of repeating myself, Monday morning I walked down to the Cafe Beignet to have a lucious order of beignet's for breakfast.
  • Harbor Seafood & Oyster (Monday)
    This was the unscheduled restaurant stop Monday evening after the cancelled flight fiasco. Located less than a block from the hotel, this restaurant came highly recommended by the airport shuttle driver and the girl at the hotel desk. I had the roast beef po-boy - and - no dessert. Hey, I was tired and really just wanted a nap.

What about lunches and other breakfasts? It was hard to get away from the conference center craziness to do lunches so I often grabbed something quick from the venue vendors. It was basic conference food fare.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

2006 Home Run Derby

Congrats to Ryan Howard for winning the HR derby last evening. After all the AL player hype it was nice to see a NL player, even a Philly, take the crown. It was cool seeing all the HR's go into the Allegheny River, even though those folks in kayaks were just wacked. I do, however, have a few snarky comments about the broadcast and event in general:
  • What was up with all those big Chevy inflatable baseballs in the river?
  • One big "huh?" to the sports center guy who mentioned how many Phillie fans there were last night at PNC park. According to him, it's not that far away? In who's world? Philadelphia is on the other side of Pennsylvania and a good six hours by car. Guess we are looking at the, "well it is in Pennsylvania" argument.
  • I like Chris Berman, but his schtick adding Pittsburgh cities to the home run calls got old for me early on in the evening. At least he pronounced them correctly, not always an easy feat.
  • That brings me to the pronounciation of our rivers. OK, just so we are all on the same page ... while the Monongahela River looks as if it should be pronounced Mo-non-ga-hEla, it is pronounced Mo-non-ga-hAla by the locals. Or, quite simply, The Mon.
  • Did we have to see all of the steel mill footage?
  • Wow, all evening and no mention of a Primanti brothers sandwhich.

The park looked great and Harold Reynolds was especially complimentary to the city and crowd (Thanks). I look forward to seeing Jason Bay hit clean up in tonights game and hope Freddy Garcia gets a chance to hit.

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Jefferson Parish Library - An update

I got a very nice email this morning from Debbie Troxclair at the Jefferson Parish Library. She extended her thanks again for the assistance given the east and west bank branches of the library and updated us on what was accomplished during the two days of service extended by ALA volunteer librarians. In part, her email said:

Because of your efforts, over 24 sections of books were shifted and dusted; the entire Mystery section and the E shelves were read; members of our staff were freed up to go to the ALA conference; and approximately $10,000 was raised by the booksale (email, 7-11-06).

Speaking for myself I can only say you are welcome! It was a great experience.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

2006 MLB All Star Game

Yes, the 2006 major league all-star game is to be played tomorrow evening at beautiful PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Usually the all-star game is not that big a deal to me. After all, I am a Pirates fan and the last time we had a player actually voted to be a starter was in the 90s with Andy Van Slyke. This year, due to some agressive campaigning, Jason Bay will be an all-star starter in in Pittsburgh. Since that was the last time there was a winning team in Pittsburgh (no I'm not bitter - just don't ask me about Barry Bonds), 1994-1995, it is easy to understand how cool it is to a Pirate's fan having a player voted in as an all-star, especially one who was National League rookie of the year for 2004.

I'm looking forward to the Home Run Derby this evening, watching players hit balls into the Allegheny River. Looking at the Post-Gazette this morning there are a lot of cool features. And, I just read that Jason Bay will be batting clean up in the game tomorrow night.

More about the 2006 All Star Game in Pittsburgh:

OK, all of the "when does Steeler's mini camp open" jokes are getting a bit old.

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Looking at New Orleans

Ever get home from a trip and realize you just didn't take enough pictures? I'm finding that true as I look through appropriate shots to post here of just the city of New Orleans. Looking back through these images I'm struck by the lack of people in the pictures. Not people I know, tourists. As I roamed through the city it seemed there were always people around, but the pictures here show a different story. This first image is from the window of my hotel room, The Hotel Monteleone.

This is a shot from Canal Street, oddly enough depicting Saks Fifth Avenue. I can't say if it was open or not because I was more interested in the trolley car. Through the end of June, riding public transportation was free. I was disappointed not to have time to ride the trolley for a tour of the city through the city. Again, this was taken early morning and there are few people on the street.

The last shot is a picture of downtown New Orleans taken from the window of the Wyndahm Hotel. I had meetings there on Saturday morning and was struck by how clear blue the sky was as a backdrop to these buildings. Many of them still had damage, but I could see men working on the outside of the hotel in the foreground (brick building to the left).

Oddly enough, right after I posted the first grouping of photos a comment was left by a resident of New Orleans thanking me, well ALA really, for attending the conference. I'd like to say without a doubt, it was my pleasure.

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Advance Reader Copies, part two

Before I forget, the other two books I read while waiting for the plane/planes were:

The Driftless Area is the story of Pierre Hunter, a 24 year old who lives his life as he sees fit. From his bartending job to his cross country trek to do what he believes is right, Pierre is part of his midwest town and at the same time, not a part of it. When he takes $77,000 from a thief, what follows is a complex journey involving theft, murder, friendship, and love that is not what it seems.

Runaway introduces readers to Holly, a twelve year old, who leaves her fifth foster family in search of a better life. The grim reality of abusive foster homes and what a twelve-year old does to survive living on her own are are portrayed. Day to day living and surviving are depicted with Holly's humor and zest for life, as well as her acceptance of what that life has become. Told through journal entries, the journal was part of an english assignment, Holly is truthful and insightful. While rooting for this plucky heroine to find happiness, the ending was a bit to pat for the circumstances portrayed.

Both of these titles are slated for publication in September 2006. Professional reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly are already available for The Driftless Area (see Amazon links above) but not for Runaway.

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Advance Reader Copies

I didn't pick up much from vendor tables because just how many pens do I really need? I did manage to snag a few Advance Reader Copy's of different YA and children's books (good thing seeing as I got stuck an extra day). I have read three of the five I picked up on Sunday at the conference and will be interested to see reviews on the final copies of all three. Below is my opinion on the first of the three novels I read.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne, disturbed me on some level. Not because of the topic, it is an interesting premise with the potential of being effectively used in a classroom. Not because it was not well written; it was. But I feel it's classification as a fable, though it did indeed have a moral, is misleading. This is not a fable, especially in the traditional sense. A look at the book.

The cover art is appropriate and depicts only blue and gray stripes of a prison uniform, or striped pajamas. Despite the title and cover, this is not a book to be read unsupervised by fourth and fifth graders. Case in point, the back cover:

"The story of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is very difficult to describe. Usually we give some clues about the book on the jacket, but in this case we think it is important that you start to read without knowing what it is about."

"If you do start to read this book, you will go on a journey with a nine-year-old boy called Bruno. (Though this isn't a book for nine-year olds). And sooner or later you will arrive with Bruno at a fence. Fences like this exist all over the world. We hope you never have to encounter such a fence."

This is a book about Auschwitz told by a young boy named Bruno whose father is in charge of the prison camp. Bruno and his family are abruptly moved from their comfortable home in Berlin to "Out-with" because his father has been given an important job by "the Fury." Depicted as a normal nine-year-old who is part of a prosperous family, Bruno is spoiled and slightly arrogant in his various assumptions concerning his new home and the people who live behind the bars wearing only striped pajamas. One afternoon Bruno meets Shmuel on the other side of the fence. Lonely for a friend, Bruno learns they share a birthday. This leads to daily meetings beside the fence and the boys become friends, after a fashion. Through their friendship, we learn about Shmuel's life inside "Out-with" as seen by a nine-year old. Neither boy fully understands the camp, which is understandable since adults to this day do not understand, but readers are able to sense the underlying evil. The story ends in an appropriately horrifying manner that will undoubtedly lead to questions.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Morial Convention Center

The convention center was home to many of the main conference functions. From the main opening sessions and special events to the daily conference offerings and vendors, attendees spent a large part of the week in and around this area. Shuttle bus loading zones were at the river's end of the center and clearly marked to help those of us who were directionally challenged.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the convention center post- Katrina. Walking there from my hotel late Thursday afternoon, not the smartest idea I had over the weekend, I was interested in the palm - or were they palmetto? - trees scattered thoughout downtown and directly outside MCC. They were all the exact same height and I had a fleeting thought that they were recent additions to the area, part of the MCC renovation. Anyway, I would estimate about two thirds of the center was renovated and ready for use. There were construction workers on site each day of the conference, but not many. I don't know if that was because it would have been disturbing to the conference or because there were not people available to work.

After looking at what is now, I needed some perspective from what was then. Here are links to information about Katrina and the Morial Convention Center:

I continue to be amazed not only at what has been done, but the overwhelming need for help to continue. Getting convention business and tourists will bring money into the region. I heard ALA brought in over $25 million to the local economy; sounds great until you realize it is an $8 billion industry. But I keep thinking, what about the locals?

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Librarians Build Communities

One of the best opportunites presented to conference attendees in New Orleans was that of being able to participate in one or two planned days of volunteerism. For a simple fee, one that was contributed to the ALA library relief fund, volunteers received free transportation to and from the Morial Convention Center, a boxed lunch and beverage, and a neon yellow t-shirt keepsake. Actually, the most important thing we received for that $10 was a chance to talk with the residents of New Orleans. These are wonderful people who despite all of the obstacles still remaining have a positive attitude and pride in their city and homes.

My scheduled day was Friday, so I arrived in New Orleans Thursday afternoon/evening with enough time to check in at the convention center, find my hotel, and have time to scope things out so I had a clue where to go in the morning. Departure was for 8 am Friday morning and we were advised to arrive at least a half hour ahead of time to sign our waivers, get our t-shirts, and locate the rest of our group members. Before getting to the conference, this day's planning was great, unfortunately they appeared to be a bit overwhelmed and we never left the convention center until closer to 9 am. It was reported that over 900 people signed up for both days working at more than 22 different areas and projects.

My group went to Jefferson Parish East Bank Regional Library to help with their Friends of the Library book sale. Driving up to the outside of this branch, indications were that it was one of the lesser damaged libraries. See the status report on the regional libraries available from library director Lon Dickerson for an overview of the extensive damage caused. The woman at the book drop in this photo wanted to move her car so I would get a better picture of the outside of the library. She did not understand that, in my opinion, her being there using the library was the most important part of the photograph.

I know I discussed this from New Orleans and the Internet Cafe, but now that my pictures are in the computer I thought it was time to revisit the day. More pics to come when blogger stops giving me fits about inserting them into the text.