Friday, May 25, 2007
Beginning tomorrow I'll be traveling to see family and taking a blog holiday. Vacation from work means vacation from my computer; and while I will probably make time for some much needed tweaking on those poster sessions, the Internet is something else altogether. Here's wishing safe travels and cheap gasoline for the beginning of the summer season.
Take time to remember and say a little prayer of thanks on Memorial Day.
Choosing a tag from this tag cloud will take you to Technorati and list other blog posts tagged with the same information.
Tags: Blog widgets, Technorati tags, Technorati tag cloud, Widgets
It happens like that sometimes ... pow ... and you can't get rid of the visual.
Last evening I was weeding the front yard, pulling up unwanted greenery so my miniature fire bushes could breath (hence the aforementioned cramped legs). My pink-shorts-covered behind was facing God and everyone on the highway as they drove by my apartment. I looked like a living version of the gardening lady lawn art!
You know the one.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Surfing around the site for possible widgets (it’s a sickness) I hit pay dirt. Among the various Technorati Tools provided is a blog widget that will allow users to place a Technorati tag cloud representative of their own tags in their blog. I have tried this before without much luck but decided today might be the time it works.
I clicked on the blog widget icon and received the ubiquitous 404 error message: “Sorry! We have a zillion pages, but not that one.” (Snarky remark alert; a brand new site redesign should not have broken links on prominent pages.) Not to be deterred, I used the menu bar above the options with success.
I inserted the code in my blog around 11:15am this morning. With the web site’s admonitions to be patient in mind, “when you first install this widget on your blog, it will take us a few minutes to build a custom widget with your blog's top tags, but then after that we'll keep it up to date for you, “ I hesitantly refreshed. Indications the cloud might appear were present. On the sidebar it says: View blog top tags and it links to my page on Technorati and my tag cloud on their site. But a half hour later I still don’t see my cloud on my blog. I’m not sure what “a few minutes” means. So I will let the widget sit and gather information until I return from lunch.
Update: It's after 3:00 pm and still no luck with this particular widget. I went back to Technorati, copied the script, and entered the information a second time. Again, clicking on the link takes me to the Technorati page for this blog, but I have no cloud. Hope springs eternal, I'll check back later this afternoon and hope for progress. It just should not be this difficult ...
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Tags: Blog widgets, Technorati widgets, Tag cloud, Technorati
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
"Let's face it: thirteen is an unpleasant age. But that doesn't mean you can't laugh about it, whether you're sill dealing with the issues in the book or are far beyond the. Mistery loves company, so start reading."
Truer words ... Young or old(er), anyone reading this will find one story that resonates of their own youthful indescretions. For more information on Stuck in the Middle, check out Ariel Schrags website/blog.
Tags: Stuck in the Middle, Ariel Schrag, Graphic novels, Juvenile fiction, Young adult fiction
Monday, May 21, 2007
"If white people want to go to school with us so much, seems to me all they needed to do was ask. We'd make room for a few white kids at Attucks Elementary next year. Why did it take the Supreme Court to figure that out?" (p. 2)
What follows is a unique and poignant coming of age story that discusses not only racial tolerance in a way that will be easily understood by any reader. Assigned to a predominantly white school, Rosemary and her best friend J.J. prepare to enter school together. After J.J. is diagnosed with polio, Rosemary and her "white trash" archenemy Grace learn together that being judged by color is not any better than being judged for being poor.
One of the most interesting scenes in A Friendship for Today occurs after a particulary jarring episode where the most popular girl accuses Rosemary of stealing her sweater. The teacher, Mrs. Denapolis, provides a moving lesson in tolerance separating the blue-eyed and green-eyed students from the rest of the class during lunch. When asked why, she responds,
"Because somebody told me that blue-eyed people are thieves and green-eyed people are liars, so I don't want those kinds of students around my other students." (p. 81)
However, this book is not just about racial issues and prejudice. It deals with Rosemary's family, her parents marriage is in trouble, her best friends health, J.J. has polio, and culture of 1954 in the south. Children will start this novel for the story and come away learning about tolerance and understanding.
Tags: Patricia McKissack, A Friendship for Today, Juvenile fiction, Juvenile historical fiction
Thursday, May 17, 2007
I am hoping to do a bit of live blogging at my workshop tomorrow, so I brought my laptop from work just in case. As luck would have it, the hotel has free Internet access and I am able to amuse myself and do a bit of work (it's a sickness) while waiting for the GA wedding.
Today? Work and four hours in my car.
Tomorrow? Workshop and four hours in my car.
Saturday? Trip home and three hours in my car.
Sunday? Trip back and three hours in my car.
I think I deserve a new book.
And some chocolate.
Or some cheesecake.
Maybe a bit of retail therapy.
A new pair of shoes or a purse.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Driven by her core of inner strength, determination, and need to honor a friend injured in the blast, Jane convinces the other girls to form an art gang, PLAIN (People Loving Art In Neighborhoods). Each girl plays to their slightly stereotypical assets, the brain, jock, performer, and artist, and soon well-planned projects appear to horrify the town. As things progress and friendships grow the girls begin to revel in their glory planning more complicated exhibits. With an interesting plot twist, authorities (parents and school, and local police) put a stop to the art vandalism, but not before the girl gang become a unit.
Graphic elements of this novel are crisp; clean black and while illustrations are easy to read and slightly reminiscent of popular Japanese manga. Completely unrelated to the artistic abilities of Rugg, but an interesting anecdotal occurrence none the less, towards the end of the novel I noticed one Jane wearing a Pittsburgh Steeler's jersey; specifically that of quarterback Ben Rothlisberger. As an avid Steeler fan I immediately wondered about Rugg's hometown roots. It came as no surprise to see this sentence at the back of the book, "He grew up near Pittsburgh and hasn't come up with a good excuse to skip town."
The story flows freely and is true to what is popular to teenagers, something that was planned by the publisher Minx Books, a subsidiary of DC Comics.
In a New York Times article by George Gene Gustines, For Graphic Novels, a New Frontier: Teenage Girls, talked with a vice president at DC Comics:
“Teenage girls, Ms. Berger said, are smart and sophisticated and “about more than going out with the cute guy. This line of books gives them something to read that honors that intelligence and assertiveness and that individuality.”
“As a whole, the line is positioned as an alternative for teenage girls who have, especially in bookstores, become increasing smitten with the Japanese comics known as manga. In 2004, DC started CMX, a manga imprint, to capture part of that audience. The marketing then was similar to that used for DC’s other titles.”
(NYT, Gustines, 11/25/06).
In what could be described a male dominated market, it is great to see graphic novels being written for teenage girls. For more information:
- For Graphic Novels, a New Frontier: Teenage Girls, New York Times 11/25/06
- Minx Books - The Face of Modern Fiction
Monday, May 14, 2007
Today, however, was the first time I had a student send me flowers! What a lovely surprise and pick-me-up for a Monday afternoon.
I had to share.
Blue boy and Polly, his calf, live in a land where everything, including them, is blue. They dream of seeing other places of colors and travel to lands of yellow, purple, orange, red, pink, and green. Blue and Polly feel oddly out of place in each as the only thing blue, but soon arrive in a wondrous multi-colored city. It fills them with joy until they notice once again they are the only blue thing. Gathering his courage, Blue decides to add his own hues to the city so it will represent all colors and but enable him to remain true to self. In doing so, “He wasn’t just blue anymore. He was every color of the world.” Vibrant illustrations, done on watercolor paper and colorized by computer, are saturated with color making Blue and Polly starkly noticeable on the landscape when visiting each land. This book is a nice introduction to multiculturalism for youngsters and would be suitable for discussions regarding courage and self worth.
Today's second title is Winston the Book Wolf, written by Marni McGee and illustrated by Ian Beck. Some of the supporting characters presented in this tale may slip by readers; the three little pigs outside the library and a food cart operator who looks suspiciously like Oliver Hardy of Laurel and Hardy fame, but it will not detract from the overall appeal of the book.
Tags: Winston the Book Wolf, Courage of the Blue Boy, Robert Neubecker, Ian Beck, Marni McGee, Picture books, Juvenile fiction
Friday, May 11, 2007
"As Kinney finished his first draft, he was working for Family Education Network as a game developer and designer. The company, which also owns the Web site funbrain.com, an online community for kids, was looking for content to attract traffic, and when Kinney told his boss he had written a book that might be a good fit for the site, the company decided to test it out. "We started running an entry a day in May 2004," says Kinney. They continued to do so, on a daily basis, until Kinney wrapped the story up in October 2005. " (Joy Bean, Publisher's Weekly, Children's Bookshelf, 2/22/07).
Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a novel in cartoons, is a compilation of original cartoons presented in book format. The pages, cleverly presented as a notebook with cartoons and bold printing, are identical to the serial published on Funbrain.com. Diary is the journal (not diary) of middle school student Greg Heffley. It is an excruciatingly faithful first person account of everyday life during his seventh grade year, begin kept for the sake of posterity: "The only reason I agreed to do this at all is because I figure later on when I'm rich and famous, I'll have better things to do than answer people's stupid questions all day long. So this book is gonna come in handy" (p. 2).
Greg and his best friend Rowley suffer through the trials and tribulations of being the youngest, and self described weaklings, in school full of bullies, cliques, and "morons." Greg's family, complete with Mom, Dad, older brother Rodrick, and younger brother Manny (who's hysterical nickname for Greg causes excruciating embarrassment at the most inopportune times). From the age-old debate of how old is too old to trick-or-treat to volunteering to be a school crossing patrol, from trying out for the school musical to the playground’s urban legend of “the cheese,” no significant - or insignificant -middle school happening is overlooked. This is a comical, not-so-typical look at Greg’s typical life. Future installments are planned and readers will want to see if friendship will survive … eighth grade.
More information on Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid Blog
- Publisher's Weekly, Wimpy Kid Jumps from Screen to Page
- Funbrain.com: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Greg Heffly's Journal grade 7
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid FAQ's
Tags: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney, Juvenile fiction, Novel in pictures
Thursday, May 10, 2007
This book is a visual treat; not book eye candy, it has substance. In a nod towards the history of film it is reminiscent of silent movie screens with each page depicted as a white screen on a black background (or page border). The introduction, part one, part two, and book acknowledgements are presented as white text on black paper, again similar to the words between acts in the movies. While these aspects are clever, the real triumph of this novel is the illustrations. Selznick’s illustrations, pencil on watercolor paper, are works of art. Images are so elegant and full of depth, when turning pages readers will be surprised not to have pencil on their hands. Unique to this type of juvenile literature, a non-picture book, the illustrations not only highlight action taking place, they are an integral part of the story and key to understanding many nuances of the story.
It is 1931 and Hugo Cabret, orphaned at an early age by the untimely death of his father and more recent disappearance of his uncle, lives by his wits in a busy Paris train station. His job, that of his uncle, winding all of the clocks in the station to keep time, presents him with opportunity to work with what he loves best, clocks, gears, and the mysterious automated man his father rescued from a burning museum before his death. Hugo’s quest to restore the automation leads him to contact a puzzling old man, his young granddaughter, and ultimately the magic of filmmaking. Story and illustration combine to offer a distinctive tale of mystery, magic, and family. This book is not to be missed.
More about Hugo Cabret:
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret: Book Site
- Book Page Interview
- Scholastic: The Invention of Hugo Cabret
- Scholastic Canada: The Invention of Hugo Cabret (reviews)
Tags: The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick, Juvenile fiction
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Browsing through a box of books from her grandmother's house, thirteen year old Ali finds a photograph of her mother Claire, her aunt Dulcie inside a Nancy Drew novel. The picture, thirty years old and faded with age, is damaged, showing the sisters in front of a lake and the arm of a third child identified in her grandmothers handwriting as having a name beginning with "T." Curious, Ali takes the picture to her mother and is abruptly told she no longer remembers the third child's identity, leave it be. Several months later, Ali's aunt Dulcie and cousin Emma arrive with plans to vacation at the family cabin in Maine; a cabin that they have not visited in thirty odd years and just happens to be located on a lake.Consumed with the idea of learning the identity of the mysterious third child and joyful at the opportunity to spend the summer by the lake, Ali jumps at the chance to baby-sit Emma for the summer.
Their vacation begins with fun and high hopes as Dulcie paints and Emma and Ali enjoy their time on the beach. However, with the appearance of a seemingly homeless, and harshly clever, young girl named Sissy, who slyly "befriends" Emma, circumstances begin to change transforming their once idyllic vacation into something dark, sinister, and potentially dangerous. Family, mysterious events and a thirty year old murder collide, forcing Ali to juggle family truth and secrets with an unwavering ghostly presence. Readers will be drawn to Ali's determination to solve the mystery and understand her mother and aunt's shared thirty year old summer secret.
Tags: Deep and Dark and Dangerous, Mary Downing Hahn, Juvenile fiction, Juvenile fiction ghost story, Juvenile fiction mystery
Monday, May 07, 2007
Along the way we learn why Jack will never be a barber, a fisherman, or even a goldsmith and are given a delightful glimpse into accompanying pirate tales. Simple pencil/ink drawings highlight each chapter giving readers a glimpse of pirate life and enhancing the individual tale being told (the seagull girl is particularly evocative). Never fear, Jack's career problem is solved in a most satisfying manner. This would be a nice selection for classroom read alouds or language arts story telling lessons.
Tags: Jack Plank Tells Tales, Natalie Babbitt, Juvenile fiction, Juvenile tales
Sunday, May 06, 2007
For the record, summer is not all that different from the rest of the year. There are students on campus all summer because the university has a large summer program for education majors. My hours remain the same (8 am to 5 pm), but since instead of a full contingency of people working in the resource center, myself, two graduate assistants, and ten to twelve student workers, there is just me. That means hours availability is significantly less as I attend various workshops, conferences, and use vacation time. Next week I travel to the Cincinnati area for a workshop. As opposed to last year when the spring workshop was near Dayton, I paid attention to the location and made sure to make a hotel reservation the evening before. I will be driving down Thursday evening, attending the workshop on Friday, and returning home that evening. No three hours in a car, a full day at a workshop, and three more hours in a car for me. Do you know how early you have to get up to be ready to drive three hours for an 8:30 am workshop (she asks facetiously)?
I have made inquiries of campus printing services concerning my posters for the ALA conference next month. After last year's challenge, I will definitely plan better this year and hope not to have an overabundance of pink on my posters (it should have been purple). I am tempted to share a snotty email response from a print shop person regarding that issue, but will take the high road and make due with the simple mention. So fair warning; as there were many, many, many posts on web page redesign, there will now be many, many posts on creating the poster session for ALA.
Finals, here we come.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
One that continues to stand out in my opinion is Dark Hours by Gudrun Pausewang; it's unique in both storytelling and point of view. This afternoon I picked up another title, Hitler's Canary by Sandi Toksvig, that falls in to the same category. As with Dark Hours, Hitler's Canary is a work of fiction inspired by a personal story passed down to the author, Toksvig, from her father. Set in Denmark, the novel spans several years during the German occupation of Denmark in World War II.
Bamse, his father a painter and political cartoonist and his mother an actress, is one of three children. He has an older brother Orlando, a sister Masha, a wide and varied circle of theater friends and a best friend named Anton who is Jewish. One afternoon, seemingly overnight, Denmark becomes an occupied country and brought in to the war. Bamse's father insists they do nothing but live their lives and wait to see what happens, Orlando joins an underground resistance against the Germans, and Masha is having a secret romance with a German soldier. The following exchange between Orlando and his father brings to light not only the title of the book, but also the struggle many of the Danes had during World War II.
"I don't want you getting involved, Orlando. You're only sixteen. This is not your fight."
"Isn't it, Papa? Then whose fight is it? Why aren't you doing something? What's the matter with you? Why are you just letting this happen? Do you know what the British are calling us? Hitler's Canary! I've heard it on the radio, on the BBC. They say he has us in a cage and we just sit and sing any tune he wants." (p. 43)
As each character struggles to do what they believe is right, what follows is a heart wrenching account of the underground rescue of Danish Jews and how it effected one young boy, his family, and their friends. A short epilogue provides information on the actual rescue effort and sections titled "program note" and "author's note" detail facts surrounding the books historical time period and personal information regarding the author's background and basis of the story. This is another fine book about the Holocaust that enlightens readers to how ordinary people handled the atrocities of war, performing feats of bravery "because it was the right thing to do" (p. 191).
Tags: Hitler's Canary, Sandi Toksvig, Juvenile fiction, Historical fiction, Holocaust literature
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Logging in to Blogger after spending the evening completing overdue computer maintenance, running scans and defragging the hard drive, on my six-year-old HP Pavilion, I noticed this is post 300. Alas, I have not prepared any blog statistics, nor do I have anything deeply thought provoking, or genuinely humorous to share that would allow me to rise to the occasion. Instead, I have a few tidbits of information that should be filed under "what I learned today."
- The last two days of class means something completely different to me than it does to a graduating senior.
- Googling myself also has a Freudian definition: ego surfing (Jeopardy tonight).
- There is a charming term for instances where words just flow from your mouth without stopping at your brain first: word vomit.
- Author and illustrator Niki Daly is a man. I keep getting him confused with Niki Giovanni.
- Don't automatically blame the printer when planned backgrounds on Word 2003 documents do not appear. In some instances you must set the background to print from the tools bar, not the printer properties.
- Plagiarism means "kidnap" in Latin (Final Jeopardy, and I knew the answer).
- The right time to check batteries in flashlights is before the tornado sirens go off during a storm.
- It is permissible to stop reading a children’s book if I am not enjoying the story (that’s always a hard one). There is always another book to read in the library.
I noticed today that a lot of blogs and newspapers are commenting on the idea of book reviews on blogs verses book reviews in journals, magazines, and newspapers. I have not considered the topic enough to post on the topic as of yet, but have commented on a blog or two following the discussion. I do not consider this a book review blog, but I do indeed talk about books when the mood strikes. As a librarian I spend a lot of time reading books and reading reviews. As a student in grad school for library science (I hate the term library school ... please ... it sounds like kindergarten) I had to write weekly reviews for a children's literature class. I am not a professional reviewer, and don’t represent myself as one in the blogosphere, but I do have some idea on how to craft a book review. Either way, it’s my blog and I’ll write what I want to!
And with that sentiment, I’ll close with a happy 300th post to me.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Cadel Piggott is a nine-year old genius enthralled with how things work; computer systems, circuitry systems, and even the highway system are keenly interesting to him. An unfortunate incident at school, Cadel (meaning "battle" in Welsh) has been expelled for hacking into a high security computer system, he and his adopted parents Lanna and Stuart Piggott are following a court ordered requested to see psychologist Dr. Thaddeus Roth. With the infamous statement, "Next time, whatever you do, don't get caught"(p. 10), Cadel's sessions with Dr. Roth begin.
Cadel learns that Dr. Roth is employed by his biological father to "keep an eye" on him. In quick succession Cadel learns the identity of his biological father, Vernon Bobrick more famously known as convicted criminal mastermind Dr. Phineas Darkkon, and is introduced to another way of dealing with his genius IQ. Under the tutelage of Dr. Roth and his father Cadel matures, intellectually as opposed to in maturity, and hones his own evil genius.
This novel has definite potential on various levels, a fact not lost on publisher Harcourt. Evil Genius has an clever web site, Axis Institute for World Domination, in place for readers (and great publicity). The Axis Institute has class schedules, courses, instructors, and classmates available for students to enjoy. There is an Interview with guest lecturer Catherine Jinks and and an Evil Genius quiz for testing your own evil potential:
Obviously my evil genius quotient is somewhat lacking, but young readers will enjoy the choices presented and the opportunity to upgrade their own genius capability.
Cadel has a lot of room to grow as a character; learning the fine art of responsibility and the subsequent consequences for his genius actions. Since the book flap mentions Cadel "begins to questio the moral implications of his actions," I am relatively certain this will be at least introduced. I hope so because right now the character of Cadel, in my opinion, is a bit of a snot.
Tags: Evil Genius, Catherine Jinks, Children's literature, Young adult literature, Juvenile fiction