Saturday, October 30, 2010

Be A Witch!

My mother wrote this awesome parody and while she does mention a camera phone at the end she really is not that tech-savvy and doesn't have her own blog. So, I have taken it upon myself to post it here for her because it is too wonderful not to share.  I've added a picture of the two of us as witches from last Halloween as a bonus!
Be a Witch
With apologies to Cole Porter

I’ll remember forever my girl, who was three,
Asking me in October, “Mother what shall I be?”
I said “Dear there’s no need to get into a stew,
If you want what is best, there’s just one thing to do:

Be a witch, be a witch,
On Halloween they love a witch
Ride a broom with a cat,
Strike a friendship with a black bat,
Turn a prince to a toad,
Serve some children up a la mode,
If you become a ghost then you’ll remain out of sight,
If you be come a vampire then you’ll have a bad bite,
But on Halloween a witch is always queen of the night.
Be a witch, be a witch, be a witch.

Be a witch, be a witch,
On Halloween they love a witch
Give ‘em tricks, give ‘em frights
And your fame will soar to new heights.
How they’ll cheer and they’ll yell
When they see you cast a new spell.
A werewolf’s just a hairy dog all covered in drool,
A zombie or a ghoul is just a mindless old fool,
But everybody knows a witch is coolest of cool.
Be a witch, be a witch, be a witch.

Be a witch, be a witch,
On Halloween they love a witch
Chant a curse, stir a pot,
Knock ‘em dead with a wicked new plot.
Eye of newt, toe of frog
Is a recipe for great grog.
If you become a princess then you’ll just be too cute,
If you become a pirateyou’ll be stuck with your loot,
But give ‘em poisoned apples and they’ll think you’re a hoot.
Be a witch, be a witch, be a witch.

Be a witch, be a witch,
On Halloween they love a witch
Dress a mummy in wraps
Hang some webby, spidery traps.
Then they’ll go “raven” mad
With your “maleficent” beastie pad.
They all know that a skeleton’s a bag of old bone3s
And the Phantom of the Opera’s just moans and some groans
But they take “pic-chas” of the witches with their camera cell phones.
Be a witch, be a witch, be a witch. 

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thirteenth Child review

Book Talk: Everyone knows that a seventh son is lucky, and a seventh son of a seventh son is luckiest of all.  Perhaps that's why Eff's seventh son father was determined enough to get a seventh son to risk having a thirteenth child.  Thirteenth children bring bad luck to everything they touch and are doomed to turn evil one day.  So while everyone dotes on her twin brother, her cousins blame her, the unlucky thirteenth child, for everything bad that happens.  When her uncle goes so far as to show up with the sheriff one day, demanding he lock Eff away, her family decides to move out west to the frontier to escape her small-minded relatives. Eff's father takes a job as a professor of magic at a college worryingly close to the magical divide that keeps all the dangerous creatures, magic and natural at bay,  and Eff grows up away from those who know how unlucky she is.  But can she outrun her destiny, or is she doomed to turn evil?  By learning magic like a normal kid, is she endangering everyone she loves? 

Rocks My Socks:  Who doesn't love exploring the nature of will versus destiny?  And what more exciting place to explore that issue than an alternate, magical American frontier?  I've seen a lot of alternate history books inserting magic into European time-lines, and a lot of modern urban American fantasy, but this is the first book I can recall seeing that re-tells the story of westward expansion with magic.    Eff makes a strong female lead as well and even though the narrative covers until she reaches eighteen she never wastes time on romance, which is a pretty rare thing in novels.  The whole world is fascinating and well-thought out with a good balance of familiarity and strangeness and nice touches like the Rationalists who refuse both magic and religion.

Rocks In My Socks: They make a point of convincing Eff in the book that birth order doesn't mean anything and her being thirteenth born doesn't make her unlucky, but then it's obvious that birth order does matter for her double seventh brother who has advanced magical abilities and luck and gets sent to a special school by the same parents who insist birth order doesn't matter to Eff.  He's presented as a sympathetic character in the book, but I still wish he ended up having more of a difficult time of it.

Every Book its Reader: The narrative starts when eff is five, so I suppose it could be relatable for younger children, but as most of the story takes place in her teens I'd recommend it to teens and adults who enjoy magic and history, especially those who enjoy strong female leads.

This Book is Not Good For You Review

****Warning: This review contains spoilers for the previous books in the series****
Book Talk: Cass and Max-Ernest are up against their deadliest enemy yet: chocolate!  But not just any chocolate (regular chocolate is only dangerous to Max-Ernest with his allergies) this chocolate is so pure and strong that it can send you back in time--and it can only be made with a tuning fork, but not a regular, musical tuning fork, an ancient Aztec magic device that has been brought to Africa, or is it Central America, and well, maybe you shouldn't read this book anyways, after all it's certainly not good for you.

Rocks My Socks: What's not to love about chocolate!?  On a more serious note Cass and Max-Ernest really get a chance to grow in this novel and explore who they are with Cass coming to terms with her adoption and Max-Ernest re-evaluating his identity.  The continued sense of rivalry between Max-Ernest and Yo-Yoji is an amusing undertone as well, although not prominent enough to be distracting.  Speaking of Yo-Yoji let's just say I got a chance to practice my Japanese a bit in this novel, and let's also strongly hint that he may or may not act like a samurai in a pleasing and hilarious fashion (I guess I'm no better at keeping a secret than our notorious narrator.)

Rocks In My Socks: I don't really like what bosch did with Max-Ernest's parents in this book.  The portrayal of the principal also rubbed me the wrong way a bit.  Presenting her as strict and annoying is one thing, but it goes a bit far for me in this book.  As an elementary school employee though I am admittedly biased in this regard.

Every Book Its Reader: Fans of the last two books will love this third installment in the series.  They'll also appreciate the chocolate recipes in the back.

Midnight Magic review

Book Talk: Ever since Fabrizio's master was tried for witchcraft he and his wife have been prisoners in their home.  The other servants have left them, but they are like a mother and father to Fabrizio and he longs to restore his master's position.  So, he turns to his master's old tarot deck and turns up: the magician, the servant, the castello, the king, the ghost, the princess, the tutor, the queen, and finally: death.  His master may insist that all his magic is illusion and reason always triumphs, but sure enough a summons to the castle soon arrives.  There the king orders Fabrizio's master to get rid of the ghost that is haunting his daughter, the princess.  The only trouble is that the magician doesn't believe in ghosts at all.  How can Fabrizio prevent the final card from coming true when the relationships between the people in the castle are just as confusing and misleading as the halls that they live in?  If he succeeds it could mean wealth and power for his master once more, but if he fails it may mean both their heads.

Rocks My Socks: I enjoyed the contradictions in the novel, like the fact that the magician in the story is one of the few characters who doesn't believe in ghosts.  Or that the servant is the one who seems to have the most power in the plot (a la Moliere).  Any novel set in a castle with secret corridors and ghosts is also always a crowd-pleaser.

Rocks In My Socks: The servant and his master have a habit of arguing in cliches that's amusing at first but got on my nerves before long.  The characters are also all pretty stock which leads to a plot that's pretty predictable.

Every Book its Reader: Ages 9-12 fans of historical fiction and magic.  It's probably a bit too basic to be enjoyed by older teens and adults.

If You're Reading This It's Too Late

Book Talk: As the newest members of the Terces Society, Max-Ernest and Cass have real troubles to worry about: Ms. Mauvais and Dr. L are still out there, along with the rest of the Midnight Sun, and they must protect the secret from them.  But having real troubles doesn't stop Cass from worrying about imaginary ones as well, like these nightmares that she's been having, nightmares about a strange creature and  a haunting song.  Soon she has plenty to worry about though, secret meetings, mysterious acoustic devices, cannibals, and a new kid at school following her and Max-Ernest around making it very hard for them to keep their secret.  It's important they keep their secret safe, after all anyone who knows their secret is in danger, even you, but if you're reading this, then it's probably already too late!

Rocks My Socks:  This book has more codes and mysteries to unravel, more impossible-to-believe twists, and more hijinks from a nervous and unreliable narrator (the chapters are numbered backwards this time around).  I also like the new character, Yo-Yoji who just came back from spending a year in Japan where he had his own rock band and developed his sneaker collection.  The book also includes a homunculus which is a thoroughly under-used fantasy creature, and a fool, which while fairly popular is still a favorite of mine. 

Rocks in My Socks: Much the same as in the previous books, the far-fetched scenarios and gimicks can feel a bit much at times, but if you enjoyed them in the first book, you'll enjoy them in the sequel.

Every Book its Reader: I'd recommend this to those who enjoyed the first book, there is some recap of the first story but I'd advise reading them in order.  Great for a wide range as it combines elements of comedy, mystery, adventure, and fantasy.

If You're Reading This, it's Too Late by pseudonymous bosch

Sorcery and Cecelia review

Book Talk: Kate's first season in London would have been difficult enough if things had gone smoothly, but the season soon turns from difficult to deadly when she gets caught up in a feud between sorcerers.  Meanwhile her best friend Cecelia is stuck at home and what starts off as an extremely dull season turns sinister when a new girl arrives with trouble trailing right behind her.  As the situation escalates, Cecelia and Kate are told to wait in the drawing rooms and let the sorcerers handle things, but thanks to their letters they know more about the situation than anyone suspects, enough to do something about it themselves! 

Rocks My Socks:  Two words: epistolary novel!  This novel is as true to the letter-writing tradition as you can get, as it actually began as a game between the two authors, each taking on a different persona and writing letters back and forth to each other to amuse themselves.  Thankfully they realized that what they had at the end was a book that others might enjoy as well, so they thought to clean it up and publish it.  You can tell how much they enjoyed writing it and that sense of light-hearted amusement leaps from the pages to the reader.  I also love the setting, an alternate early 19th century London where magic exists.  Similar to Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which I also loved, but not as dense.  There was a Jane Austen feel to it for me with two strong young women discussing their prospects and their dresses and their balls.  Magic, adventure, romance, intrigue, fashion, strong female characters, letters, sass, this book has everything that I love.

Rocks In My Socks: The book was pretty frivolous, which normally annoys me but in this case it was just so much fun that I didn't care.  Kate could have been a bit more assertive, and the storyline was pretty predictable, but I was enjoying myself too much while I was reading it to be very critical.

Every Book its Reader:  There's nothing in this that's really inappropriate, but seeing as the girls are discussing marriage and the like it will probably be easier to relate to for teens and above.  The story has a fair amount of adventure, but it also spends a fair amount of time discussing what color best suits each girl.  There are some boys who would be interested in that, but I wouldn't recommend it to just any boy looking for an adventure fantasy.  If you need a pick-me-up or just want to spend an delightful afternoon in a world of magic and wit this is a great book for you!

Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede. and Caroline Stevermer

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Masterpiece Review

Book Talk: Marvin lives with his family underneath the kitchen sink.  He may be a beetle, but he doesn't let that hold him back: he longs to go exploring and has even taught himself how to swim.  Life as a beetle can be dangerous, though, and he and his family have to make sure that the family who lives in the apartment doesn't discover them or they may be exterminated.  Marvin is determined to present the boy of the family, James, with a proper birthday present, however.  So, after James goes to sleep Marvin uses the ink set James' dad gave him to draw James an exquisite picture.  This leads Marvin to do the unthinkable and show himself to a human, but instead of squashing Marvin, James befriends him.  That doesn't mean that they're out of trouble, though.  When Marvin's parents see the painting, they think he drew it, and eventually this small deception turns into a plot to catch a thief that endangers both of their lives.

Rocks My Socks:  I love that the story is told from the perspective of a beetle.  It's a fun and unique perspective that you don't see that often.  I'm also always a sucker for stories that glorify the little guy because I can readily identify with them.  James doesn't have a typical home life: his parents are divorced and his mother has re-married and had another child, and the relationship between them isn't always smooth.  It's good to read stories about non-traditional families.  The plot of the art theft is engrossing and fascinating.  My favorite part of the story, though, was the relationship between James and Marvin.  It's heart-warming without being saccharine and leads them both to grow and discover new things about themselves, as all great friendships do.

Rocks In My Socks: The book is billed as a mystery, but I don't think that the mystery is really the central plot element.  The mystery does pick up a bit towards the end and lead to some more fast-paced action, but if anything this made the book feel a bit uneven to me.  The human adults also seemed a bit unrealistic to me and suffer from the popular juvenile fiction sickness of Useless Adult Syndrome to some degree. 

Every Book Its Reader: Ages 8 and up.  Both the main characters are boys, but the book is pretty gender neutral.  Great fun for any gender or age!  I think it would make a great read-aloud for a class.  I would especially recommend it to anyone with an interest in the art world, but really this kind of light-hearted adventure could be enjoyed by anyone. 

Masterpiece by Elise Broach

The Silver Cup Review

Book Talk: Anna lives with her father and her cousin in a small hut on her uncle's property.  Her uncle is a successful blacksmith and her father makes a living traveling to different towns trading his goods.  He is apprenticing her cousin to the art, which often takes them on long trips and leaves Anna at home while her cousin and Father see the world.  She longs for more excitement than her small world provides,  but when the monotony of her life is finally broken it isn't glamorous excitement that she finds.  First her youngest cousin disappears, then the one that's living with her runs off to join a questionable cause in his search for glory, a cause that ends up ruining the lives of many and leaves Anna with a difficult decision.  How much is she willing to sacrifice to do what she knows to be right?  How can you help someone who doesn't want to be helped?  Anna isn't sure what to do, but whatever she decides she knows that her life will never be the same again.

Rocks My Socks: Leeds obviously did her research on the book, down to the smallest details (who knew they hadn't invented pockets yet?)  and it makes for a very interesting read .  I didn't know much about life in the Middle Ages, so it was fun to see daily life in a small town re-created.  I also found the description of the crusade leading to the mass murdering of Jewish communities compelling and it was an aspect of history that I had never heard about before.  I enjoyed the interaction between Anna and the Jewish girl, Leah.  It brought up some interesting and valuable issues for teens to explore.  I also like them both separately as characters. Anna's commitment to do what is right in the face of a society that is wrong is inspiring and Leah's commitment to her people and her traditions even at a time of such turmoil is admirable. 

Rocks In My Socks: The summary on the jacket made it sound like the focus of the book was the relationship between Anna and Leah, which is why I picked it up, but most of it was actually just description of Anna's daily life.  Leah doesn't even really appear until halfway through the book, and even then she's written out of the storyline before the end.  The part of the book dealing with their relationship also seemed a bit overly sentimental to me at times, but I don't have much of a sweet tooth as far as my fiction goes so it's easy for a book to get overly saccharine for my tastes.  It might have seemed more realistic and justified to me if Leeds taken more time on this part of the narrative to really develop their relationship over time. The ending was also wrapped up a bit too easily and neatly for me.

Every Book Its Reader:  I'd recommend the book to middle to high school students with an interest in the Middle Ages.  I think this book would also make an interesting companion piece to a unit on Anne Frank.  The book does revolve around female characters, but I don't think that the book is overly girly.

The Silver Cup by Constance Leeds

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Repost from my collection development class

I wrote this for a discussion post in my collection development class, and thought it worthy of cross-posting here.  It's probably the result of me still being riled up from banned books week and I don't know how logical it will be considering I left work early with a fever yesterday and I'm still a bit under the weather, but I'm burning up all over again with fervor!  Vive la liberte intellectuelle! 

Slightly off-topic, but I was surprised to find both the textbook and Rose Anjejo's article using as an example of common selection statements a statement regarding not selecting items of a violent nature.  I thought collection development policies were supposed to protect libraries from attempts at censorship--not justify it!  I suppose this is where the problem of ambiguity comes in.  The librarians writing these policies might have very well intended to exclude only extremely violent materials from its collection, but I could see patrons using that criteria as support for challenging a lot of books.  I've received a complaint about a picture book of little red riding hood being too violent, for example.  Indeed almost all fairy tales would be excluded from a library that avoids selecting 'violent' materials. 

What about young adult novels that are extremely violent, but are themselves protests against war and violence, such as the Hunger Games and Chaos Walking trilogies?  (For an interesting blog on the topic, see Educating AliceHunger Games  was recently challenged for its violence, and while I do not deny the violent nature of the books I do question the wisdom of not educating our children about the violence and horrible consequences that can arise from war, especially in today's society where no matter how many books you ban children are going to be exposed to plenty of violence through other mediums.  At least in these books violence has consequences and it's not cleaned up or glorified. 

What about violent books of literary merit, such as A Clockwork Orange?  There's been a bit of a scandal about the violence of this book because the actor who plays Ron chose it to pose with in the ALA's new trio of Harry Potter read posters.  A Clockwork Orange is one of my favorite books and while it is 'ultra' violent it is not without purpose.  It raises what I consider to be a very important and fascinating argument about free choice and the nature of goodness--an argument that would not be half as effective without its extreme use of violence.  Personally I think parents are fretting a bit much over this choice because it's pretty self-regulating in that the future slang that it is written in with catches of Russian words can be pretty difficult to get through, which means that if you're at a reading level advanced enough to get through it you're probably mature enough for its content.

But how do you judge whether or not a book has enough literary merit to justify its violence?  And should you even try to do so?  Trying to prevent children from being exposed to violence is certainly a losing battle these days.  Personally I'm in favor of getting children interested in reading, no matter the choice.  For example, neither the librarian nor I at my school really like graphic novels (I'm just not a visual person and end up scanning all the text bubbles, which naturally doesn't lead to a satisfying experience)  but we are making a point to develop our graphic novel collection at the moment, despite occasional parent complaints about it.  We both feel that getting children to read is the first task, and if that's what does it, so be it.  I'm also not so egotistical as to think that my own personal judgment of what's good is the final word on the matter, to each his own has always been my motto (Raganathan would back me up--every book its reader!) 

To bring this back to collection development policies this proves how important it is to consider the wording of your policies to prevent it from being used as a weapon against you.  The trick is to make it detailed enough to be useful, but not so detailed that it quickly becomes obsolete.  I suppose you could go into the specific criteria that would make a book violent enough to be excluded (because most books have at least some degree of violence in them) but I'd question the wisdom of including a clause like this at all.  I'd stick to criteria that can be more objectively applied such as accuracy, authority, and timeliness.  Judgments on the moral character of a book such as violence or use of bad words (what's a 'bad' word--does anyone else remember the 'scrotum' scandal from Higher Power of Lucky?) do not have any place in a collection development policy as far as I'm concerned.

Anjejo, Rose. (2006). Collection Development Policies for Small Libraries. PNLA Quarterly, 70, 12-16.

Evans, G. E. & Saponaro, M. Z. (2005).  Developing library and information center collections. Libraries Unlimited: Westport, CT. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Banned Books Week

Here's some pictures from our display for Banned Books Week last week.  We had a lot of fun with it, and the kids were outraged to see that some of their favorite books were banned.  It was a great conversation starter, not only for the kids, but for visiting parents as well.

The view from outside

Wall display with bookmarks available

Books in chains!

Caution, banned books!  A lot of these were checked out during the week.  The butcher paper to the right had a marker underneath that kids could use to write their thoughts about censorship.

Bbw history
View more presentations from ebretall.

This is a combination of two slideshows that I made and we had playing on a nice, large computer in the lobby.

It was a lot of fun, and I had some great conversations with the kids.  I can't wait for banned books week next year!  

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Strictest School in the World

 Book Talk:  Emmaline is determined to build a flying machine, and she gets the perfect opportunity to do just that when her parents send her from India to stay with her aunt in England.  Her aunt is a widower with the money to support Emmaline in her aviary endeavors and seems to have no qualms with allowing her niece to engage in such a dangerous and unlady-like pastime.  When she finds a local town boy nicknamed Rubberbones to pilot her machine it seems like she has everything she needs.  But soon her time inventing and running free is cut short by her parent's desire that she get a proper education.  The teachers are ruthless and the students are either too terrified to speak or terrifying the others.  If anyone steps out of line they are threatened with the sinister punishment of 'cleaning out the birds.'  Emmaline is used to using her wit to create inventions, but if she wants to escape she will need to find the courage to put her own neck on the line.  Will she be able to do it?  Or will she be stuck forever in the strictest school in the world?

Rocks My Socks: I love the setting of the novel and the satirical jabs it takes at English society at the time like the ruthless soccer match between local towns or how the gypsies are fed up with English children running off to join them.  Emmaline is a bright, determined character and Rubberbones is a lovable scamp.  The details about Emmaline's attempts to make a flying machine are interesting as well.

Rocks In My Socks: Once Emmaline gets to the strictest school etc it becomes very predictable and a bit boring.  I realize that it's supposed to be satirizing the whole strict school trope, but this area of the novel just wasn't as strong or engaging.  It also takes the hyperbole to the extreme at this point and what was at first a fairly realistic story with embellishments for comedic effect turns it into something that is just completely absurd and seems to follow no rhyme or reason or internal rules.  I wish Emmaline had been left to making up flying devices in her small town.  There is a thin line between making fun of a genre of fiction and just writing bad genre fiction, and for me this book skirted that line a bit too much. 

Every Book Its Reader: Boys and girls aged 9-12 who like silly, light-hearted quick reads.  There are similarities to the Lemony Snickett series, but this work is definitely not as dark so for children who liked the series for its humour, I'd recommend this book, but for children who liked Snickett for his darker tendencies I wouldn't.  I think the book is a bit too basic and juvenile to be really enjoyed by most adults.  

The Strictest School in the World by Howard Whitehouse