Wednesday, December 20, 2006

That kind of day

I don't know where this penguin gif originated, but it arrived in my mail box this morning from a friend. After spending days trying to get information from people, and becoming increasingly frustrated by the task, it really made me laugh.

That said, it is not all that hard to determine which penguin I am.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Break in blogging

Due to a family health emergency, and the upcoming busy holiday season, I will be taking a blog posting break until after the New Year.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Peace to all.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Max's Words

Today's picture book review is Max's Words, written by Kate Banks and illustrated by Boris Kulikov. This particular title has been on my shelf for most of the term. I enjoyed the story and loved the almost fanciful illustrations, but was not sure I could do the book justice with a short review for the resource center review blog. I do know that I needed to clean off my shelf since I was beginning to get library overdue notices via email. No one is exempt from over due books!

Max is part of a collecting family, his brother Benjamin collects stamps and his other brother Karl collects coins. Neither brother wants to share, so Max decides to begin his own hobby; he is going to collect words. As the collection takes form and substance, the words soon overflow Max’s desk to the floor and beyond, becoming a story. Text of each word chosen is highlighted with a bold, dark font, and the matching cutouts strewn gleefully across the page with the word baseball in the shape of a baseball bat, ice cream beginning with an ice cream cone, and hungry shown with a strategically placed bite. Illustrations enhance the developing story; at the beginning a forlorn Max is separated from the richly colored scenes of his brother’s collections. On subsequent pages, Max is a focal point, cleverly placed with his scissors and small words around him. Individual words become sentences and each sentence part of the story; illustrations are more vibrant, filling the page. A story about collecting becomes a story in itself, something children will thoroughly enjoy. This book would be a great introduction to creative writing in the classroom. Grades K-3.

Tags: Kate Banks, Boris Kulikov, Max's Words, Juvenile fiction, Picture books, Juvenile books

Monday, December 11, 2006

A first time for everything

The difference between Friday and today is bigger than the passing of a weekend. Friday was the last day of classes and my floor of the library was abuzz with students finishing projects, papers, articles, and the final portfolio for the lab class facilitated by the resource center. Lines for Ellison machines (all 6 0f them) were five or more deep, surpassed only by the line at the printer as people waited "patiently" for print jobs. There was a lot of commiserating chatter amongst the patrons as the hours counted down on our fall term.

This morning you could have heard the proverbial pin drop in the library. Every computer, with the exception of one dead one, was taken. The printer was busy as students were spread out on every available surface working diligently on final papers and projects. But the quiet was almost surreal. No cell phones were ringing, no music was playing, and there was no chatter. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. In fact, the only "noise" came from those of us working in the resource center.

A student came up and asked if he could shut the door. Wow! The resource center door has not been shut once in the six years I've worked. He was too polite to ask us to be quiet, but made his point none the less. It freaked my student workers. They looked at me, puzzled by the request. I told him to go ahead (he did). Then told the girls to open it again after the two chatterboxes (myself and another worker) left for the afternoon. Guess there's a first time for everything after all.

It was kind of humbling to realize the noisiest person in the library was me.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Get Real

Get Real, by Betty Hicks, is a charming coming-of-age story narrated by thirteen (almost fourteen) year old Destiny Carter. Better known as “Dez,” Destiny has a best friend, parents who do not understand her, a younger brother Denny, and a yen to play the piano. Her avant-garde parents, a scientist mother who incessantly views the weather channel and a poet father who speaks in verse, are noisy, messy, and polar opposites of neatnik Dez. Best friend Jil is adopted and Dez perceives her family, the neat and proper Lewis’s, as picture perfect.

One afternoon Jil overhears her adoptive mother talking to her birth mother Jane, a single woman with another daughter who has decided she would like to get to know the daughter she gave up. As best friends are wont to do, Dez accompanies Jil to meet Jane. Instead of the ideal parent each girl thinks they want, both learn to accept and appreciate the honest parents they currently have. Neither set is perfect, but the girls cleverly differentiate between what consititues a mom or dad - and parents. Their reasoning is both simplistic and profound, "Parents make up stupid rules and worry about insane stuff - because they love you."(p. 167).

This could have been one among many best friend books stands out as Hicks gives teenage Dez a realistic and fresh voice. Consequently, as both girls struggle to find their own identity, each learns what constitutes friendship and family. The ending is sensibly satisfying without being sappy.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Fudge, and well ... fudge

Ideally I don't mean fudge as an epithet, but actual homemade candy. Each year before winter break, I make several batches of fudge for my GA's and student workers in the resource center. It's a treat they look forward to and I enjoy providing. In fact, I have overheard students discussing with new hires that even though the library pay scale is not stellar, the fringe benefits of treats, and the all-important opportunity to do homework while at work make it worthwhile. Last week I found festive holiday tins and this evening I filled them with fudge before the meaningless football game started (it’s half time right now and sure looks cold in the ‘burgh). Tomorrow is the last day of classes and students soon depart, enjoying a month with family and friends. My holiday offering will be presented, complete with lovely little Ellison die nametags adding a festive touch! Chocolate during finals week; it’s a definite plan.

On to the other fudge, this time having a possible meaning related another less palatable word. Yesterday afternoon, for the first time in several semesters, the roll top laminator suffered a mishap and is out of order. A bit of background information, instead of turning it off and on we unplug it after finishing laminating jobs. Yes this is overkill, but it insures I sleep at night without wondering if it is going to burn down the library. The resource center is a help-yourself area and this pertains to the machinery as well. Many students are well versed in the use of the laminator and choose to complete their own projects with little or no assistance from IRC staff. In fact, most of them know to unplug it when they have finished without any prompting. Yesterday afternoon someone pulled the plug a bit off kilter and one of the prongs broke off in the outlet.


Yes, it was killing me not to just yank that sucker out of the outlet. I didn't, mostly because I did not know which of the breakers turned off that outlet (I'm not a complete idiot). I called the physical plant and they sent someone right over to remove the piece from the outlet. Unfortunately that means the laminator, used for larger jobs, is out of order until a new plug can be installed. A work order was processessed and labeled "urgent." The speed with which it is repaired all depends on who's definition of "urgent" is used. These things happen and it was definitely an accident.

Maybe I'll just eat some fudge and forget about it. Right now, the third quarter is about to begin, the Steelers are winning, and tomorrow is Friday.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Bad Boy's Get Cookie! and Nightmare on Joe's Street

Two titles posted today as I added them to my book review blog at work. The first is Bad Boys Get Cookie by Margie Palatini and the second title a graphic novel based on the Time Warp trio television series, Nightmare on Joe's Street. I am a fan of previous titles by Palatini, specifically Oink!, Zoom Broom, and Piggie Pie, so I was looking forward to this new title. It is as clever as the others, but I was not as impressed with the illustrations (yes, I know, different artists rendered the images).

Bad boys Willy and Wally Wolf are back for another adventure and this time they want cookies! To satisfy their sweet tooth cravings the boys pose as private eyes, from the firm Dewey-Ketchum and Howe, to help Mr. Baker locate his recently escaped gingerbread cookie. Cole’s colorful illustrations highlight the ensuing mayhem as Willy and Wally track down the cookie in true Gingerbread Man fashion. Children will enjoy the cookie’s repetitive refrain, “Na-na-ni-na-na! Lookee! Lookee! You can’t get me I’m one smart cookie!” Eagle-eyed readers will recognize the boy’s Hansel and Gretel-like disguise as the cookie, the story, and maybe Willy and Wally, come to an end.

Nightmare on Joe’s Street is a graphic novel adaptation of the popular Time Warp Trio cartoon series. The story begins with a series character introduction along with a description and synopsis of the time warp device, a book, and a listing of “special guest stars” for the episode. In this episode, the monster appears in Joe’s house looking for his creator. Sam and Joe decide to warp back to the nineteenth century and return Frankenstein to Mary Shelley. Along the way the boys meet Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron as they use music to sooth the savage monster, prevent history from changing, and locate their lost book to return home successfully. Color illustrations appear to be screen shots of the television series and perform well in graphic novel format. Fans of Scieszka’s Time Warp book series may prefer the originals; this offering may appeal to a new group of readers as well as fans of the television show.

Since it is more challenging finding graphic novel titles specifically for a juvenile collection, I was very interested in Nightmare because of it's correlation with/to the original Time Warp Trio series by Sceiezka. I enjoyed the book, the illustrations were in color, and I could envision it being used as a starter lesson for lessons on historical authors. Several reviews mentioned the illustrations were indeed screen shots from the television series, but I was unable to verify that fact online or on the series website. I imagine if the first several volumes are popular, we can look forward to more of the same.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Who's Who? Who am I? What?

I received a letter from Cambridge Who's Who in late October informing me I was "being considered for inclusion into the 2006/2007 Cambridge Who's Who Among Executive and Professional Women in Education 'honors Edition' of the Registry." The letter further explained:

The 2006/2007 edition of the Registry will include biographies of our country's most accomplished women. Recognition of this kind is an honor shared by thousands of executive and professional women throughout America each year.

Inclusion is considered by many as the single highest mark of achievement. Upon final confirmation, you will be listed among thousands of accomplished women in the Cambridge Who's Who Registry.

For accuracy and publication deadlines please return to us your application form within five business days from the receipt of this letter. There is no cost to be included. (Letter, October 25, 2006)

It sat on my desk for several days and on a whim, I sent it back and did not think anything more about it. Until today. This afternoon I got a phone call from Cambridge Who's Who and after a short question and answer period I was congratulated and told my biography was accepted.

Great, but it was at that point the sales pitch commenced.

The price for being included in this edition ranged from $189 - $700 depending on the level of sponsorship (for want of a better word) I was prepared to purchase. I had no desire to make this decision spur of the moment and the longer I "waffled," the harder the sales push. She moved from the highest price to the lowest telling me that she did not want me to miss out on this opportunity. As the conversation contionued, at one point I was asked, "Don't you know who we are?" That was when my patience expired. I replied, "Yes, but I have no intention of making a purchase of this magnitude over the phone without any consideration." She relented and gave me until 5:30 pm this afternoon to decide.

Naturally, I began my research on this company after lunch. I started with my boss, who had never heard of them, and finished with a quick Google search. Findings ranged from a few happy consumers to seriously snarky reports of outright scam. I also found several mentions of this letter in other blogs from other librarians and professionals.

Negative research results:

Positive customer results:

Blogging about the directory:

An interesting discovery:

I was less than thrilled with the sales pitch, mostly because the representative was pushy and rude. (It is now 5:30 pm and I have missed her deadline.) The crux of the matter for me? If, as per the letter, it costs nothing to be included, why do I pay for a subscription and/or membership to join? My overall opinion is a negative one at this point. I do not know if I will get a second phone call tomorrow. But I will be sure to ask why there is such a push for subscription benefits when it clearly states there is not cost for inclusion.

Update: 12/12/06

Last Friday afternoon I received a second call from Rebecca at Cambridge Who's Who. I freely admit I did not expect to hear from the company after missing my deadline earlier in the week. However, when she started the entire sales pitch a second time, including wanting to ask me additional questions to further assess my qualifications for inclusion, I politely interrupted and told her we had this conversation last week. I also reminded her I had answered all of the secondary questions and that she already welcomed me to the "family" (so to speak).

I questioned why I was being asked to make a purchase when the invitation letter specifically noted "There is no cost to be included." The clearest part of her circular answer detailed benefits only offered subscribing customers. I declined the opportunity to make a purchase and admit to some curiosity regarding my inclusion in the upcoming edition of their registry. It is obvious I should have researched before sending in the application, but I was flattered, somewhat naive, and did not see the harm. Quite honestly, no harm no foul for the entire process because I have learned something.

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