Friday, March 30, 2007

I am a tortured genius ....

Sometimes the things that show up in my Bloglines account are frighteningly in tune with what is going on in my life. One of today's tools from Blogthings was: "Are You a Tortured Genuis?" As you can see, I am only a little more than three-quarters genius. I think I liked it better when I was chocolate cake.


You Are 77% Tortured Genius



You are smart. Brilliant in fact. And while it's a blessing, it's also a curse.

Your head is filled with everything - grand ideas, insufferable worries, and a good deal of angst.



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Guess what I did at work today?

Today I determined it was necessary to complete a big chunk of the author information pages for the resource center web site. I finished a total of 14 authors, making my way through the alphabet to the letter "k." Therefore I checked holdings in the catalog, updated and expanded internet resources, researched in the databases and subsequently provided related periodical articles with appropriate APA formatting, cleaned all of the hazardous coding from old html pages, and placed all the new author information on new pages fourteen times. The lucky fourteen authors and illustrators were updated today were Karen Cushman, Roald Dahl, Leo and Diane Dillon, Lois Duncan, Lois Ehlert, Paul Fleischman, Nikki Grimes, Virginia Hamilton, Kevin Henkes, Karen Hesse, S.S. Hinton, Brian Jacques, Ezra Jack Keats, and Steven Kellogg.

If you remove my lunch hour from the day, I completed a page every half hour. Not too shabby when factoring in regular management and library duties of helping students print, solving computer problems, laminating, and providing reference duties in my "office" (read wide open space without a door or privacy, better known as the resource center). So, pardon me if I feel a bit smug for a moment. The moment has passed. There are 62 author pages to complete before I can send the updated site to the server. If I do fourteen a day for the next four and a half days, I could conceivably finish before we close on Thursday afternoon for Easter Break. That has been my goal all along, but I am not sure if I could do four more days like today.

Add in to this mix the following fun-filled activity, it is time for yearly faculty librarian evaluations. The university and library director subscribe to self-evaluation. Each year we provide details concerning the positive impact we have made to the library and university community. Faculty librarians are responsible for setting goals, with input from the director, at the end of each academic year (we are on year to year contracts, non-tenured faculty). Part one of the process is to evaluate our contribution to the library mission and vision during the past year and comment on the aforementioned goals, part two details new goals for the upcoming year.
Said document is to be completed and presented to the boss early next week for evaluation. Appointments are made for one-on-one meetings with the library director who comments on the evaluations and each librarian contribution and then recommends retention (in the form of another contract) or dismissal and corresponding salary increases.

While I dread the process, it can be a good thing because in essence we are asked to update our CV's. I learned early on to keep a monthly list of different things I do so at the end of the year I have a working document. Unfortunately, with my mother's hospitalization for the last four months, I have had other things on my mind and let the document lapse. Yesterday I pulled out my trusty calendar and filled in many blanks. In retrospect, I think the evaluation may be due on Monday. That will teach me to spend a day on web work.

I started a new book at lunch this afternoon but it will not end up here for some time. I still have a post to complete on the Wiley Miller book; yes I know the entry is empty save a short blurb and cover art, so first things first.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Web page & blidgets

I found another new toy for my blog and guess what? You will never guess. Give up? It is a widget. However this is no ordinary widget, it is a blidget, a widget of a blog. This morning I was perusing my Bloglines account, reading the feed for Jennifer Crusie's blog Argh Ink. Entertaining as usual, I scrolled down the page, glancing at both the comments and prior entries I may have missed. Along the sidebar of Jenny's blog was a very cool little widget showcasing recent postings on one of her other blogs, the Crusie/Mayer Writing Blog (the recent incarnation of their He Wrote/She Wrote blog from last summer) He Wrote / She Wrote, How to Write. Yes, you read correctly; the little blidget allowed me to read short snippets of several recent posts from another blog (HWSW) on Jenny's blog (Argh). Excellent! I immediately clicked on the widget to learn more.

The blidget came from Widgetbox Blidgets, part of the web site Widgetbox: Widgetising the Web. Just what I imagined it to be, Widgetbox has pages upon pages of coding for widgets to be placed on blogs and web sites. While I could have spent an unknown number of minutes, okay maybe hours, searching for new widgets to add to my blogs, I stuck to the immediate goal and searched for the instructions to create a blidget for myself. My plan was to use a blidget of the resource center book review blog for the general resource center blog and to place a blidget of the general resource center blog on the "new" resource center "what's new" page (along with my LibraryThing widget showing images of recently reviewed books on the book review blog).

It was not difficult to locate the blidget-maker on the main page. I have to admit, unfortunately, my first four tires at creating a blidget were spectaular failures; an error code kept appearing and keeping the code from being generated. At that point I did two things, sent an email to the Widgetbox people and decided to try using Mozilla instead of IE. Both things worked spectacularly as I received an email from a Widgetbox support person (it came within a half an hour of my original query) and successfully created the two blidgets I desired (before I got the email answer, making it moot). Nonetheless, I have blidgets of my very own posted on the web page and a blog.

Yes, the web page. As of yesterday I finished all of the necessary pages and am diligently working on the author information pages required. I am tempted to send the thing over to the university server without every author page done, but it would look incredibly tacky, and I am such a horrific perfectionist with the page that I chickened out. This afternoon I finished seven more author pages: Joan Bauer, Eric Carle, Beverly Cleary, Robert Cormier, Bruce Coville, Sharon Creech, and Christopher Paul Curtis. Searching for database/journal articles on these authors I found out Beverly Cleary is 90 years old and Robert Cormier has passed. Tomorrow, I might get out of the "C's."

I'm not sure I need a blidget on this page. As much fun as I had with it, and even as useful as it will be on work blogs and web pages, things seem a bit odd that you can make a blidget out of anyone's blog. Would you need author permission? Time will tell.

You can bet I'll be checking out the Widgetbox page for fun widgets regardless.

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HP cover: Late to the party

Every children's literature blog I read yesterday afternoon (and Amazon) had this image of the cover art for J.K. Rowlings' last Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In keeping with the better late than never scenario, I'm posting it here this morning along with links to three blogs I read yesterday detailing the unveiling:

Over at Buried, an interesting question was raised concerning PW's mention that "For the first time ever, the jacket image is a full wrap-around. On the front of the book"(PW, 3/28/07). She noted that all of the American covers of Harry Potter did indeed have full wrap-around cover art. I checked my copies this morning. She's right. Then, "e" at dulemba observed the likeness between the new HP cover art and our favorite Newbery book, Lucky. Hmmm, I bet that thrills and/or fuels the Newbery conspiracy theorists. Anyway, here is yesterday's news release from Scholastic.

It matter's not to me, I have had my copy (and a copy for my dad) on order from the library book jobber since before Christmas. July 21st is still four months away.


Update: Children's Bookshelf, Publisher's Weekly

Harry Potter Corner, by Sharon Maughn at the Children's Bookshelf, has several points of interest for HP fans including this ...

"A look at the full spread, including back cover, reveals Harry's skeletal nemesis, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, blood-red eyes peering from his cloak, reaching out toward the young wizard. Let the speculation begin: A battle to the death? The end of Hogwarts? The end of the world? The theories are sure to run rampant as readers analyze the jacket for clues about Rowling's final installment of the series, set to run 784 pages with a record-setting first printing of 12 million copies. 113 days and counting…." (Maugh, PW, 3/29/07).


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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Cyber bullies & Blogs

Working in academics, especially with pre-service teacher education students, bullying is often a discussion topic. In the last few years, the most prevalent research and discourse focused on two specific areas; girl bullying and cyber bullying. Interestingly enough, a significant portion of the dialogue has been limited to students, most often centering on the K - 12 set. While that distinction could be viewed as obvious, after all the students are studying to be teachers in the K-12 environment, it is a mistake to think bullying simply stops upon reaching legal age. Clich├ęd but true, a leopard does not change its spots and the practice often continues and is reclassified as workplace bullying.
Somewhat naively, I never considered the cyber aspect of workplace bullying. After reading about a horrific instance of death threats to a blogger first on Walt Crawford's blog Walt at Random and later on Robert Scoble's blog Scobleizer, I have done little else. See for yourself:

You can link to the blogger's web site from either of these posts. I will not link directly from here because this is a personal matter to the blogger in question. I am personally horrified by what has been reported and feel it's important to spread the word, but I will not become another track back on her blog directing traffic here.



Update:

In response to the events mentioned above, the AASL (American Association of School Librarianss) blog has posted concerning the initiation of a a Stop Cyberbullying Day on March 30, 2007.


"Bullying and social cruelty is hateful behavior, no matter what the format or the age of the instigators. As educators, it is imperative that we do whatever we can to make sure that it does not happen to anyone, child OR adult. " (Alice Yucht, AASL blog)

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hypothetical web update

It was another "terrible, horrible, no good very bad (web) day" ... almost.

I should not complain, though when has that stopped me, because it was a day of definite progress. Part of my goal with this never-ending web site re-design is to streamline the number of currently existing web pages into an easily manageable size. Today I cleaned xhtml and html coding, updated internal and external links, while combining four separate pages on guided reading and leveling book kits into a single page.


Flush with success, I moved on to one of the larger hurdles, combining five years worth of individual Caldecott award web pages. Beginning with the 2002 spring semester and continuing until this term, the instructor is not teaching the course for spring 2007, I hosted mock Caldecott panels in the resource center with a children's literature class. In the beginning (smile), the web page for each panel session included online pathfinders, pdf handouts, catalog links, and accompanying photographs of the process. After determining that this activity was worth keeping and archiving the pages, I deemed it necessary to streamline the older information and combine all of the pages into one. The absolute and all-encompassing coding mess left by my old web editor was nothing short of astronomical. At one point, Dreamweaver's html cleaning option froze on my computer as it tried to clean over 150 empty font tags from a document. It was ridiculous. However, I am now one short step from being finished with this portion of the web site. My goal for this week is to get the design far enough that I can begin transferring a few of the new pages over for a "test" run. It is important to me that the pages be useable regardless of their format, so if I can finish everything save the remaining 50 or so children's author information pages, it's a go.

I had a GA ask me today if the new resource center site was ever going to be done. What a sweet, brave girl.

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Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Basil

Perhaps best known for his comic strip Non Sequitur, Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Basil is Wiley Miller's first children's book.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Twisted

Sorry for the book teaser, but I took the easy way out and posted the cover (very cool, isn't it?) and links for this entry before I left for lunch today. Tired of the issues accompanying uploading blog photos from home I decided a place holder was appropriate. There is a lot of interest in this title as my humble little blog had a half dozen hits+ on statscounter with bloggers looking for the book. So, without further ado, today at lunch I finished reading Twisted, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Entering his senior year of high school, Tyler Miller is performing community service and restitution being assigned to the school janitors, working weekends with landscaping, and making scheduled visits with his parole officer. Atoning for his sins, spray painting graffiti on the school, Tyler has found somewhat of a silver lining in his punishment because the "hard labor had turned me from Nerd Boy into Tyler the Amazing Hulk, with ripped muscles and enough testosterone to power a nuclear generator" (p. 2). Dealing with his crush on Bethany Millbury, his best friend Yoda's interest in his sister Hannah, and understanding the fickleness of instant popularity, Tyler enters his final year in school determined to survive. However, further complicating his goal is an increasingly unnerving relationship with his father and the fact that Bethany, who finally notices him, is the daughter of his father's boss. When Tyler is falsely accused of perpetrating a heinous crime against Bethany after a party, his world begins to crumble and the only thing left to do is choose.

Twisted is a thoughtful and wonderfully well crafted snapshot of senior year. From sports hazing to underage parties, family problems to unrequited love, Anderson provides Tyler with a believable voice allowing readers to experience pure emotion and teenage angst. Throughout the book various vignettes, specifically the football after party and Yoda's gymnasium hazing, are presented realistically and void of overwhelming drama. The familiar blaming of a usual suspect, in this case Tyler, will take readers back to their own high school days. While the closing scene's with Tyler and his father was resolved a bit too neatly and quickly for my taste, Tyler's own maturity, as well as the subsequent growth of Hannah and Yoda, is believable.

Now, I must return this book to technical services for cataloging before someone (namely the cataloger) misses it.

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Denver Post article: Getting a read on kid lit

The Denver Post published an article Saturday, March 24, "Getting a read on kit lit" that discusses the overwhelming children's literature choices, "Last year alone, 16, 000 new children's titles were published," and the subsequent problems parents and children face when selecting quality books to read.

Tags:
Denver Post, Children's Literature

Friday, March 23, 2007

Hypothetical musing: I wonder

Yesterday afternoon I followed a link from a blog to a blog, proving the prevailing blogosphere link theory correct, to a blogger with an interesting point of view concerning post originality. Normally this would be the portion of my post diatribe where I would link you to the article in question so you could read it for yourself. However, the author said she was not writing for people to link to her because she felt blog posts should be unique works as opposed to simply links to other posts.

So I wondered, do I spend too much time linking my posts to other peoples work? And if so, does that detract from my stated blog purpose?

While I do link to other blogs, most of the ramblings, opinions, blathering, and writings here are a result of my own humble tired brain at work. But that led me wonder more and, subsequently, to take a quick look at blogs I frequent to see what draws me to them. The blogs I read could be placed in three categories; professional, recreational reading, and just for fun. I expect different things from each blog, know that some link heavily and others do not, so it follows that I feel well intended linking to other blogs serve a purpose. For example, I subscribe to the following:

Just a quick sampling of a few feeds (I really should work with my bloglines account here), but looking at them it is obvious some lend themselves more to original work than others. So while I agree with the previously mentioned blog author that it may be annoying to read blogs that only link to others and provide no genuine content, in some cases those links are exactly what I want. Even when blogs are done for professional development, their content is a personal choice. It's nice to have the choice.


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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Looking @ picture books

Continuing through my back log pile of journals this morning I found the March 2007 (vol. 16, no. 4) issue of Book Links. Another ALA publication, Book Links is unique in that it connects books and curriculum, as well as provides web elements for classroom use and "hands-on-learning" elements for librarians and classroom teachers. Two articles caught my interest and both detail appreciating picture books for not only their artistic value, but also for their literary content.

Illustration as Art - Color by Mary M. Erbach (p. 33) Erbach discusses seven different picture books and the use of color by the illustrators including Lois Ehlert, Marjorie Priceman, and Ed Young. The first in a new featured series of "Illustration as Art" articles, subsequent articles will "cover styles of children's book illustration and aspects of book design, and will help both children and adults gain a greater appreciation for art as they learn to look and look again, taking time to digest and explore this wonderfully varied subject" (Book Links, editor's note, p. 33).

Using Picture Books to Teach Literary Techniques by Shutta Crum (p. 57) Crum offers a "sampling of literary techniques" and corresponding picture book offerings that may be used to successfully illustrate the defined technique. Included are allusion, alliteration, imagery, personification, onomatopoeia, and suspense & foreshadowing. Many of the books Crum recommends will be easily found in most libraries including Margie Palatini's Piggie Pie, Dav Pilkey's Dogzilla, and Jon Scieszka's The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs.

Recently I have been trying to highlight children's literature articles in professional journals for education students. This issue of Book Links is going up on the resource center blog after lunch.


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Monday, March 19, 2007

More on graphic novels

After posting about Oddly Normal, Volume 1, I went down to pick up Monday's mail and found a new Booklist journal in my mailbox. The March 15th Booklist, volume 103 number 14, includes a Spotlight on Graphic Novels. Sign up for a trial version of Booklist Online and browse this issue at your leisure. I have not had time to read the issue, but a quick overview reveals it is loaded with great graphic novel information:
  • New Graphic Novels (p. 35-41): Reviews
  • He Reads ... Graphic Novels (p. 38)
  • She Reads ... Graphic Novels (p. 39)
  • You Go, Graphic: A Carte Blanche article by Michael Cart (p. 43)
  • New Graphic Novels for Youth (p. 56)
  • Core Collection: Japanese Manga for Teens (p. 60)
  • Top 10 Graphic Novels for Youth (p. 62)
  • Starred Review: UXL Graphic Novelists: Profiles of Cutting Edge Authors and Illustrators (p. 77)
  • RA Corner review of Graphic Novels: A genre Guide to Comic Books, Manga, and More (p. 79)
I already purchased the Pawuk book, Graphic Novels, reviewed in the RA corner and am interested in the UXL title given a starred review in the reference book bulletin section of the journal. It is not enough to simply own graphic novels, I need reference and research titles with information to support the genre as well. Due to the limited number of available reference books currently available for the graphic novels, most of the books recently purchased about this genre have been cataloged for the resource center reference collection.


Booklist image c. ALA, used here for education purposes only

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Hypothetical musings: spring break

Last week was spring break, or at least that is what the academic schedule advertised. I traveled to Pittsburgh for family issues and was positively thrilled - insert sarcasm here - with the five inches of snow that fell throughout the day on Friday and Saturday. Anyway, a week away from the computer is always enlightening. Here are a few hypothetical musings and, well, gripes:

  • I was able to squeeze in a bit of shopping during the break (woohoo). There are at least five major malls within a half hour drive of my parents home. I went in to a Bath and Bodyworks store filled with glee knowing I would be able to purchase some of my favorite scents. Earth to me, naturally the scent I wanted is a seasonal one that they offer in January and June only. Puh-lease, it's just fresh vanilla. Why must retailers do this? I know it is a marketing strategy, but annoying the customer who wants a specific scent is not the best overall stragegy in my book. I live near an outlet, guess I will need to plan a trip and see if they sent their overstock out after the January sales event.
  • Adding insult to the process was the chirpy cashier who "requested," and I use the term loosely, my phone number at the check out. I politely declined to provide them with the information, it's my decision after all, and she was a bit snotty. Again, a known marketing strategy that allows a retailer to target a customer base and send coupons. I get coupons via email when I want them and have no desire to be on their call list.
  • I continue to be optimistic, though maybe bull headed is more appropriate, concerning the use of blogger from my computer at home in the evenings. With some trepidation I logged in tonight and met with limited success after three tries on two different browsers. I would be more annoyed if I had not had a few issues with the software at work this afternoon when adding various book lists to the resource center collection development blog. However, the sporadic connection is starting to border on the ridiculous.
  • Does one person really need 276 email messages over a one week time period? I think not, but that is what appeared in my work inbox this morning. After going through and weeding unnecessary mail, I only had to read and/or address 50 of them. Interestingly enough that is what I like about blogs. I go to the information at my leisure as opposed to it piling up in my inbox.

One last try to post my lovely spring-break-in-the-snow photograph before signing off this post. If I am foiled again, the picture is going via email and I'll post at work in the morning.

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Oddly Normal lunchtime

I have fifteen minutes of lunch hour remaining, enough time to load today's book image to this post and make a few introductory comments on Oddly Normal by Otis Frampton. My brain is still somewhat on spring break (pithy spring break post coming) and I thought taking a graphic novel to lunch would be an easier read. Not because graphic novels do not take time and/or effort to read, but because I wanted something different.

Oddly Normal is a ten year old girl, half witch and half human. Middle School is challenging enough for kids who are different, but as Oddly explains, "add a few oddities to the recipe, and you're in for special treatment." The book opens on the occasion of Oddly's birthday. Her parents, kindly described as self absorbed, are planning this year's birthday party. When the party begins and ends without any invited guests, Oddly voices a wish that almost any ten year old has at one time or another, "I wish you would both just disappear." She then learns the hard way the old saw about being careful what you wish when her parents, along with her house, disappear.

Oddly's aunt, arriving late for the party, is unable to undo the damage and determines she must take Oddly back with her to Fignation. In an ironic twist, Oddly learns she is no more normal in Fignation than in her regular school. She is not green, does not have warts, and has little or no power as a witch. Point of fact, she is as much an oddity now as before. Feeling her way through the school days, Oddly makes friends and overcomes several challenges put forth by other students looking for "extra credit." A clever anagram of her name, Droll Dynamo, leads Oddly and her friends to Mr. Gooseberry and new revelations concerning her parents. In this case, the end is not the end because the second volume of Oddly Normal is due out soon; check out the Oddly Normal Production Journal on Frampton's blog.

This is one of the few graphic novels for children I have read that really is for children. It is fun, full of color and imagination, and has a believable story line. Frampton nails the culture and language of middle school children; Oddly's droll sense of humor, irritation with her parents, and intrinsic need to have friends and belong are well done (not overdone). The illustrations and graphics are wonderful, especially Oddly's first view of Fignation. Various colors and hues are strategically present throughout the novel to designate mood (grey's, red's, and blue's) and the school scenes are priceless. Additionally, an "Oddly Normal History" is included at the end of the book for more information. All in all, I am ready for Oddly Normal: Family Reunion.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

My eyes, my eyes

Lunch at my desk today includes popcorn, diet pop, a short blogging break. After a morning of redesigning image buttons and replacing them on many, many, many individual web pages, if I see another page in Dreamweaver I am going to scream. Either that or my eyes are going to jump out of my head and run from the resource center. It is my own fault (don't you hate when that happens?) and I have been dealing with the consequences all morning.

Trying to combine visual appeal with function and usability, the main page contains a logo and photo collage/image map for immediate "pop." The secondary pages have the same logo and navigation buttons to work through the site. While gleefully creating, combining, and editing pages yesterday afternoon I noticed that the secondary page design did not have the same five options as the main web page.

Fabulous.

I had create two more buttons and insert them, along with appropriate links, into 20 pages this morning. The worst part? it is lovely irony. If I had been more secure with my design abilities I would be using Dreamweaver template options and changing it would have been a simple matter of updating the template; all the other pages would have followed automatically. I am convincing myself it was a good thing I caught this before finishing all of the pages, give or take 100 of them.

This is where it becomes obvious I am a librarian with some web design training and not a web designer.

Tags: I can't technorati tag a post on stupidity!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Questioning cover art

I've mentioned here before that I am not a slave to cover art for juvenile and young adult fiction. Picture books? That is another issue completely since they are, by virtue of their nature, about the illustrations. I can not say an attractive cover does not catch my attention when rifling through a new cart of books, but when I am making a decision to buy the book it is from reading the review and determining it's subsequent fit into our juvenile collection.

Within the last few weeks we have received the first two parts of Christopher Pike's Alsosha trilogy. Pictured on the far left is the hardcover version of the first book, Alosha. The islands are somewhat representative of what Ali, aka Alosha, describes as visions of her homeland in the book and it is a visually appealing cover. But, it is not a great fit for book genre or the age level of reader it is trying to attract (IMHO). This morning book two of the trilogy arrived and it looks completely different from the first; it definitely has the fantasy/graphic novel/edgy approach more in keeping with the book's concept. Out of curiosity, I searched Amazon and Barnes & Noble for the rest of the series and found the paperback cover of Alosha, the book on the far right. The paperback cover works with the covers for the rest of the series and I simply question the differences.

I understand the paperback and hardcover versions of books may be different. I checked the hardback and paperback covers of books two and three and they are identicle. So, why would a publisher a trilogy's cover art after the first one? Maybe they lost the artist. Maybe they don't care. Maybe they didn't think anyone would notice. Anyone purchasing the first book with the original cover, wanting to have the full set, is going to be confused when the second and third title look so different; there is no cohesiveness. Maybe it's not such a big deal, but I would have been peeved if my Harry Potter books had changed so drastically midstream. Plus, if the publisher is looking for trilogy branding and visual reminders, these different covers miss the mark. Guess it's will just be one of those things that make me wonder.

Tags: Juvenile books cover art, Alosha trilogy, Juvenile fiction, Juvenile fantasy genre

Childish musings

Working in an academic setting, there are very few little ones in the resource center. Sure, we get the occassional returning student who needs to bring their children. But more often than not the only children in here are the adult ones. This afternoon the sweetest little boy has accompanied his mother to do work and he is amusing himself by playing with a toy car, what I suspect might be a hot wheel, on any surface he can reach. He is a very systematic young man; the table he chose to use is round and he moved back each of the four chairs from the table so he is able to chart his course without interference.

It's just one of those things that make me smile.


Tags: Once again, no tags here.

I am chocolate cake

No big surprise here ...


You Are a Chocolate Cake



Fun, comforting, and friendly.

You are a true classic, and while you're not super cutting edge, you're high quality.

People love your company - and have even been known to get addicted to you.







Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Fickle and juvenile

It might be kinder to say I currently have the attention span of an average five-year old ...

In the last week I have begun to read, and later returned to the circulating collection, no less than four different juvenile novels. I started the books with an open mind, moving outside my interest "zone" to broaden my reader horizons. However in each instance there was not enough in the book to entice me to finish. I took one to lunch three days thinking I could power through to the end; nope, nada, not going to happen. After struggling through two of the four I discussed them with the cataloging librarian who is a fantasy aficionado. She agreed that while they were perfectly acceptable books, neither was a stellar example of an exceptional fantasy novel.

Instead of thinking I am simply literature lazy and do not want to read something critically that is not to my taste, I prefer to say I am exercising my rights as a discriminating reader and choose not to finish. There are so many books to read (and so little quality reading time) that it seems foolish to force the issue. They are two very different things, reading for enjoyment and reading for work. That is why I rely on professional children's literature reviewers when selecting books for the library collection. An entire juvenile section full of only what I enjoy reading, no matter how eclectic my tastes, would be a poor example of collection development policy.

Also a contributing factor to the fickle-ness of my reading patterns is the humble realization that my brain is fried from several consecutive eight hour days of web page re-designs and is close to exploding (always messy) with the knowledge I have a long way to go before declaring the job finished. And for heaven's sake, don't even get me started on the short conversation I had with my boss regarding the soon to begin torture of the library web page re-design.

I could wax poetical about having only two days until spring break, but that's another post. Or, I could provide the information regarding how many days between the end of spring break and Easter break. Maybe I should describe in detail the number of days between Easter break and the last day of classes for this spring 2007 term. But, to do that I would have to admit a student worker supplied me with the information (I had no idea!) earlier today.

Then again, I could reveal it has taken me four tries to correct this post and it remains only boderline grammatically acceptable, possibly even less readable than those four books in question earlier.

Instead, I will pick a favorite book from my collection and just relax. As Scarlett says, "Tomorrow is another day."


Tags: No tags here today.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

It's not the heat

It's the humidity! That phrase always makes me crazy because, trust me when summer days are in the triple digits, it is the heat. I have spent the last three hours compiling book lists to update the resource center web site's author page. The heat and humidity phrase stuck in my mind because I kept thinking now that the page design is finished it's not the web page, it's the content that is driving me crazy. I could easily just change over the old page to the new format, but without updated information that page design is just a new frame on an ugly painting.

I was so intent on the task at hand I worked through my traditional dinner hour. Knowing I could use dinner break time for a quick blog post, about fifteen minutes ago I took my crackers, raisins, and sprite zero over to look at a cart of books. One of the children's books is Smart Feller Fart Smeller and other Spoonerisms by Jon Agee. It was just the thing for an after dinner chuckle.

Agee begins his picture book homage to Spoonerisms with short background information on William Archibald Spooner, including the fact that he was known for flipping the beginning sounds of words, by explaining to readers "There was not explanation for Spooner's embarrassing habit, other than the simple fact that his mouth couldn't keep up with his brain." The book gleefully illustrates several Spoonerisms that will undoubtedly delight younger students. Caricature-like pen and ink drawings work well with the question and answer layout of the book. Readers are ask a simple question, turn the page, and the Spoonerism is revealed. A few of the sayings may need additional explanation for younger children, especially the "gentlemen cart your stars" instead of start your cars (which should be start your engines), but the overall effect is still laugh out loud enjoyable. This book would definitely be enhanced if used as a read-aloud:

"What did the cowboy say to the rocket scientist?"
"You sure are a fart smeller!"

The last page of the book presents a "what they said" and "what they meant to say" section to help with any potential confusion. A nice addition to our library collection of word Agee word books such as Go Hang a Salami, I'm a Lasagna Hog and other Palindromes and Elvis Lives and other Anagrams.

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Statistical curiousity

No, this is not a post on any the three topics I introduced yesterday, but I do have one drafted and will be posting it later today. It is, unfortunately or fortunately, one more bow to my freakishly annoying fixation with blog statistics.

A couple of days ago I noticed that while I had burned feeds and added an appropriate number of "chicklets" to other blogs I use, for some reason I had not done so here. I quickly remedied that oversight (hence the addition of Hypothetical Feeds on the sidebar) and this afternoon determined it might be fun to see how the site states from Feedburner compared to my statistics from StatsCounter.

In the short amount of time it has taken my to create this post there have already been two visitors, eight page views, two visits defined as "incoming" (both from my blogger ID), and one visit defined as "outgoing." Neither of these options for blog statistics are infallible, but it might be fun to compare.

Yes, I know, it is a sickness of sort. But the first step is admitting the problem, right?

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

On my mind ...

Right now the Blogger gods are being kind, they have ceased refusing my posts and login, and I have a few short ruminations I would like to bring to the hypothetical table. I plan on discussing them, possibly at some length, in the next few posts so this is only a teaser.
  • Library Conferences: Why is it that the upcoming ACRL conference in March is twice the cost of the ALA annual conference in June and is a considerably shorter period of time? I tried for several weeks to find a hotel room so I could attend ACRL. Most of them were sold out and ones not affiliated with ACRL were charging upwards of $250 per night. After looking at the price list this afternoon, I am sorry to say I will not be attending ACRL. I was, however, able to get a great rate on a flight and hotel to attend ALA in Washington DC. The room is not in an ALA hotel, they were gone as well, but it is one block from an ALA affiliated hotel so I will be able to walk a block and catch a shuttle bus.

  • New Librarians: A friend of mine recently accepted his first post-MLIS job in an academic library. He asked me last week what professional development advice I might have for him to consider and thanked me for being such a good mentor throughout his coursework. It was an interesting question and I had to give it some serious thought before responding.

  • Conference Programs: I very much enjoyed my first national conference, ACRL in Minnesota two years ago, but was disappointed when so much of the programming was geared toward only reference and instruction. While I do some instruction on an as needed basis and contribute to reference desk duties, my basic function is not reference and instruction. There are many academic librarians who, like myself, have other areas of expertise. After attending my first ALA midwinter last January (San Antonio) and my first annual in New Orleans last summer, I found more of interest to me at a conference not geared specifically to academics. ALA has many children's literature, young adult literature, and other like sessions that are all but ignored in ACRL.

  • Small librarian staff verses larger: I have been pondering my job lately, wondering if it is a good thing or a bad thing that I do not have one particular specialty area. Many education librarians in academic settings are just that, education specialists. Being the education liaison is only one aspect of my job description. Is it a good thing I have many different talents, managing a resource center, education librarian, library web master, and adjunct faculty for the college of education? Or am I missing an opportunity to specialize in one particular area? I guess time will tell.


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Out to lunch - weekend blogging

It is my last Saturday and Sunday reference shift for this term and I am using my "lunch time" for blogging. With complete and utter joy can announce as of today, the first weekend in March, I have completed both my rotating evening (2) and weekend (also 2) reference duty obligations. Unlike my reference librarian counterparts, terms end is busiest for me due to the education course we facilitate in the resource center. For this reason I often opt to be scheduled early. Today was a regular early term Saturday with only a few international students and a very dedicated high school student doing research. If not for various phone inquiries, hours inquiries and book renewals, it would have seem to have been for naught. Luckily, there were many other tasks to hold my attention.

How so? This morning I updated my class WebCT calendar information; I am doing adjunct work for the college of education this term, and resource center web pages to reflect spring break hours for both the library and resource center. Naturally posting colorful and appropriate signs followed. Then the class blog had to be updated and linked to the WebCT calendar and resource center hours as well; cover all the bases and flood every source with pertinent information.

Later that same evening ....

The fabulous new printer I ordered earlier this term arrived Friday afternoon; two drawers for paper, duplex printing, and an extra memory card for faster printing (it boasts 8 seconds). However, since all thirteen computers will have to have their ghost images/partitions updated before we can use the new printer, it is currently sitting pretty, occupying space, and confusing patrons. When the young men arrived to install it, they did not have instructions to configure any of the partitions. Since we cannot go without a printer, perish the thought, I moved our old printer to a new location a very short distance away and had the student techs set up the new printer where it belongs. Students are creatures of habit, so a sign had to be placed on the new printer indicating it did not work and directing them to the old printer. Then, I had to make a sign for whoever updates our images reminding them that the Dell's and Gateway's have different software applications. Yes, another sign was needed. Luckily I have left over bright paper in yellow and blue. No one should miss this signage; hope springs eternal.

Signs were followed by the weekly update for my GA's and student workers. In lieu of staff meetings, there simply is not time, I do weekly updates for the staff so we are all on the same page with recent happenings. Next in line were student timesheets, due Monday and requiring two copies, and subsequent entering of hours into my trusty spreadsheet tracking federal work- study dollars. To make the morning even more adventursome, my scheduled GA has strep throat and is unable to work the weekend shift. I worked two hours in the resource center before working the remainder of my day at reference. Yet one more hours sign was posted for tomorrow indicating we will not open until 3 pm when I arrive.

All of these activites took place before noon. By the time I settled in at the reference desk it was ridiculous to bother with lunch and I chose to have a working/blogging lunch. It was almost a relief to have the high school student ask for assistance with his research. A very sweet youngster, he was overjoyed with the available database selection for his psychology topic and must have thanked me ten times for my help. It was an eventful, yet uneventful, start to my last weekend of work this spring 2007 term.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

About Picture Books

This is a two fold post, it links to an interesting article about picture books in Publisher's Weekly and includes the story of "how I found an interesting article about picture books in Publisher's Weekly." The article, Are Picture Books Back, by Gabrielle Mitchell-Marell, discusses the current publishing surge for children's picture books:

"As for the cause of the poor picture book performance in recent years, many observers point to the same culprit: the swell in these titles, both new and backlist, from Harry Potter to C.S. Lewis and beyond, has taken its toll on the more mature picture book category as younger readers turn to fiction, and away from picture books. Simon Boughton, publisher of Roaring Brook Press, breaks it down this way: "Because the younger kids are now reading up, the seven- and eight-year-old end of the picture book market has become the younger end of the kids' fiction market. Pre-reading kids are where picture books serve the most purpose." This is a marked change from the previous generation, where kids might read picture books into first or second grade. " (Marell, Publishers Weekly, 2/26/07)

The article goes on to discuss how Harry Potter changed some of the marketing trends and the oft cited criticisms of how costly picture books may be. Interestingly enough, the discussion also detailed how picture books rely on libraries and librarian's purchasing them to keep the business growing. Case in point, consider the additional profit made by the publishing houses of such award winning books as the Newbery and Caldecott selections. I'm not sure picture books were ever really gone, but the article is interesting. Almost as interesting, to me anyway, as how I found the article.


If you have ever doubted the "linking" nature of the blogosphere, it's a small world after all, reading this post is an example of the phenomenon; kind of like the Kevin Bacon game (if I may be so bold) without all six degrees. How so?

The list of blogs that interest me continues to grow. As I read different blogs and their comments my curiosity (aka inherent nosiness) often overcomes me and I indulge by click on the linked names attached to comments. If the comment author has a blog, it is displayed and I take time to peruse their blog as well. This summer I found an interesting blog,
Buried in the Slushpile, by the Buried Editor in this manner; I think she may have commented on Read Roger and I followed from there.


Yesterday the Buried Editor's post, Nothing is ever final, contained two different cover art samples for a book her company is publishing. Children's book cover art is a weakness of mine, so I was compelled to add my two cents to the conversation. This morning I looked back to see what other readers thought of the topic and spent a few minutes clicking on those aforementioned comment links. One link, e, led me to dulemba.com, the blog of children's writer and illustruator Elizabeth O. Dulemba and her post Do you follow the biz? linked to the Publishers Weekly article Are picture books back?


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Small cart, new books

It is a lovely new book morning complete with a small cart of arrivals for the juvenile collection. Naturally I was able to peruse and mark several for my greedy self, and have first crack at a small cart of books I missed (the horrors) when they arrived a week ago.

Here are a few new titles I tagged to read after processing:

The two added to my overflowing book shelf are:


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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Innocent in Death

It is hard to believe this series has been in print since 1995. I remember stumbling across the first, Naked in Death, while on a store set up in Charleston, West Virginia. Desperate for a new book to read I was excited to find a new paperback by a favorite author (recent editions of the series have been published in hardback first). It did not take me long to become enthralled with the idea of a series; being able to follow these characters into subsequent books is a rare treat. Something, it seems, that Ms. Robb was aware of her readers wanting:


"One of the things I wanted to do was develop those characters over many books rather than tying it all up in one,” she says. “I wanted to explore these people and peel the layers off book by book. Eve and Roarke have given me the opportunity to explore a marriage, as well. Each book resolved the particular crime or mystery that drives it, but the character development, the growth and the changes, the tone of the relationships go more slowly. I'm enjoying that tremendously." (Nora Roberts, Meet J.D. Robb)

Nora Roberts, writing as J.D. Robb, latest installment of her futuristic in-death series is Innocent in Death. Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her partner Detective Delia Peabody are called to a prestigious private school, Sarah Child, when a teacher is found dead in his classroom. The victim is a new teacher, recently married, and a favorite with faculty and students alike. His death is ruled a homicide, ricin poisoning in his hot chocolate, and Dallas and Peabody investigate. As the case progresses a second teacher, their prime suspect, is murdered in the school natatorium. Eve's murder board presents a suspect, but it is one so distasteful no one wants to believe. Her objectivity is questioned and the probable killer's identity causes disbelief among her superiors.


From Mavis and Summerset to Dr. Mira and Commander Whtiney, fans of the series will recognize the well developed cast of characters. But it is Eve's husband Roarke, and the undercurrents of marital discord, that bring a certain richness to this particular installment. An old girlfriend, in itself nothing new, arrives on scene. Roarke is blinded to the nature of his former paramour and the basic foundations of their marriage are tested. Vital and complex characters intersperced with a solid police mystery make Innocent in Death a strong entry to the continuing In Death series not to be missed.


Throughtout the series I found myself liking some books more than others; and while I very much enjoy the growing relationships between returning cast of characters it has seemed to me Eve and Roarke's marital issues often are portrayed as Eve's "fault." Marriage is a partnership and these characters, who are a complicated, enjoyable, mess, needed to be more rounded in that regard. Having Roarke be the one with blinders and Summerset becoming an unlikey source of comfort to Eve, went a long way to enriching the story. The policy mystery element of each story has been solid, but I faithfully follow the characters.


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Dark Hours

Dark Hours, by Gudrun Pausewang, begins with a brief historical foreword from author Pausewang discussing the end World War I, it’s resulting effect on Germany, and the rise of Adolph Hitler preceding World War II. The story is an open letter to Stephanie, on the occasion of her sixteenth birthday, from her grandmother Gisel. An artfully poignant and life-changing reminiscence of Gisel’s sixteenth birthday, her family's fateful escape to Dresden, follows.


Simple, meaningful prose describes the hardships the family faces. Gisel’s father is losing faith in the war and Hitler, a danger unto itself. Afraid for her father and ordered to evacuate their village, Gisel, her pregnant mother, grandmother, and three siblings must travel by train to Dresden. With only the barest of necessities and their valor, they face a dilemma when Gisel’s mother goes into labor and is subsequently sent to a hospital, far away from the family. While waiting for their train, an air-raid siren sounds and everyone is forced to find shelters. In the ensuing confusion, Gisel and her brothers are separated from her grandmother and left to fend for themselves as a bomb hits their shelter effectively burying them alive. The next several days test Gisel’s courage and patience as she is forced to be caretaker and mother to her charges while waiting and hoping for rescue.


This book touches on an important aspect of World War II that is sometimes overlooked in Holocaust literature. Simply put, not all Germans were bad, just as not all Allies were good. It is a small vignette featuring Gisel’s family, an ordinary German family trying to survive during horrific times, questioning the war, and hoping for peace. In closing, Gisel tells Stephanie, “Perhaps my story will show you that even ordinary people like us can be strong when we have to be. That’s what really matters.”


Read this book, it will touch your heart.

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