November 23, 2009

Reading Log: Dreamdark: Silksinger by Laini Taylor


Dreamdark: Silksinger (Faeries of Dreamdark) by Laini Taylor

It's a pretty telling thing when a book sticks with you, even through a massage and another books. I've been waiting for Silksinger since reading Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer about a year ago. I love the Dreamdark world, the fairies and their legends and tales. I was a little afraid that we wouldn't see Magpie Windwitch and the crows in this sequel, but that fear was completely unfounded. As the Magruwen's champion, Magpie has to be a part of this story too, and the new characters, Whisper Silksinger and Hirik Mothmage are wonderful.

The Azazel is the Djinn of the hour in Silksinger. Magpie and her crow companions, and Talon from Blackbringer have found the Djinn Ithuriel, with the help of the imp Batch. Magpie bribed Batch into helping (Batch can find things that he wants to) by promising him a pair of wings. Upon returning through the Moonlit Gardens (the gateway between life and death), Magpie discovers that the last of the Silksinger clan is guarding the Azazel and bringing him to his ancient home of Nazneen. Magpie knows that Whisper is being hunted by all manner of demons ("snags" in the language of Dreamdark) on someone's orders.

Whisper, in the meantime, is trying desperately to get to Nazneen, but without coin or anything but the kettle holding the Azazel, can't get a ride in any of the caravans. After trying several tactics, she stows away in the same caravan that Hirik has become a mercenary for. Hirik also has a secret...he is of the Mothmage clan, the same clan that legend has it refused to help the dragon Fade, and has now become a clan in exile. Hirik also wants to reach Nazneen in order to become the champion of the Azazel and reclaim his clan's honor--the clan knows the truth, that they were incapacitated by magic in the rubies that the rest of the faeries believe the Mothmage clan was paid off to stay out of the war.

Ultimately, Magpie, Hirik, and Whisper all end up in Nazneen. While she is returning the Azazel to his throne, Whisper is captured by the devils who have been hunting her, and taken before Ethiag, the demon commander. She is not alone in her prison, as the Master has also kept the Firedrakes in prison since the defeat of Fade...the Master uses leeches to gather the Firedrake's blood, the only thing keeping him alive through the centuries. Ethiag demands that Whisper sing him a flying carpet (the specialty of the Silksingers), which does, but she weaves in an undertone of wrong-ness.

In the ultimate pages, Magpie learns about betrayal and lives through the death of a dear friend. Her quest ultimately succeeds, but I can't wait to read the next volume.

I loved Silksinger as much as I loved Blackbringer about a year ago. Taylor's writing is very enjoyable, keeping me engaged in the story. But her writing is so evocative, that I kept thinking of the book through the massage I had later in the afternoon. It stuck with me that much.

Reading Log: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld


Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

I haven't read Westerfeld's the Uglies trilogy, so I can't compare Leviathan to his previous works. But I did thoroughly enjoy the book, despite the fact that it's the first of a series that has just come out and now I have to wait forever for the next volumes.

As a young adult, I don't know if I would have enjoyed the steampunk atmosphere, but I do now. As a kid, I tended to want my books to be pure fantasy or pure sci/fi, but Leviathan has an interesting blend of machinery and nature.

The alternate history is also interesting, especially since I know at least a little bit about WWI. Westerfeld notes that there wasn't really a son involved in the murder of Archduke Ferdinand and Princess Sophie, but Westerfeld nicely sticks Aleksander into the story

I did have some difficulty conceptualizing the Leviathan itself, though. It's hard for me to think of a living ship, a whale-creation that is both alive and mechanized, one that contains an apiary within its belly. I'm also not sure I liked the Darwinists use of animals...I think I preferred the Clankers with their non-sentient machines.

So that I remember when book 2 comes out:

Deryn Sharp, 15, posing as Dylan Sharp, new mid-shipman on the Leviathan; on her first day, even before her middy exams, she was blown away while flying a Huxley, a jelly-fish-like single flier

Jaspert Sharp, Deryn's older brother, and an airman in the corps, helps Deryn disguise herself and study for the exams

Aleksander Ferdinand, 14 to 16 or so, son of murdered Archduke Ferdinand and Princess Sophie; Sophie was not deemed royal enough blood, so the emperor disinherited Alek upon his birth--the archduke achieved a recognition from the pope, declaring Alek heir to the emperor's throne

Count Volger and Otto Klopp--Alek's retainers (fencing master and chief mechanic, respectively), who rescue and support him as he escapes from the Serbs and other enemies out to kill him

The Leviathan docks in Hyde Park, London, to pick up Dr. ? Darwin Barlow, ancestress of Charles Darwin, and one of the original designers of the Leviathan and many other fabricated beasties. Dr. Barlow is on a mission to deliver fabrication eggs to the Ottoman Empire. Even though England is not officially at war during the course of the novel, the Leviathan is shot down over Switzerland, and lands on a glacier which is devoid of any life. The Leviathan can repair herself, but she needs enough food sources to rebuild her energy stores.

At the same time, Alek has been wakened by Volger and Klopp and hustled into a mechanical walker, supposedly as part of his military training. Only later does he learn that his parents have been killed, and Volger and Klopp are following the archduke's final orders to protect Alek. The only way to get him to safety is to flee across Austria to neutral Switzerland, to a glacial castle the archduke and Volger have prepared for just such a contingency. The Austrians see the Leviathan crash, and Alek ventures out to help.

The book ends with the crew of the Leviathan cobbling parts of the Austrian walker to the Darwinist ship, and defeating German forces which have discovered them. They have struck a bargain with the Austrians, not yet their enemies at war, to take them to the Ottoman empire, where Alek and his retainers will disappear.

January 29, 2009

Neil Gaiman love

I love Neil Gaiman. My ex-boyfriend would get a kick out of the fact that I've been reading The Sandman, and I'm in love with Stardust and Neverwhere: A Novel. I wasn't as fond of American Gods: A Novel as others were, but it was definitely interesting enough to hold my attention. The husband and I listened to The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish and the other stories on that recording. I haven't read The Graveyard Book or Anansi Boys, but I think I've read almost everything else.

So, watch this clip, a simple trailer for Coraline, and you'll see some of why I love the man:

August 1, 2008

Reading Log: Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation by Nathan Winograd

I've been sitting on this one for a while because it's a more complex issue than most of the books I read. And I still don't have a full review ready. But for an additional take on some of the ideas surrounding Winograd's book, visit John Woestendiek's blog, Mutts.

May 7, 2008

Reading Log: It's a Dog's Life...but It's Your Carpet by Justine A. Lee, DVM


I just made an impulse buy at the bookstore. It's a book of questions and answers about dogs by one of the UM Vet Med faculty members. I've only browsed through it in piecemeal chunks (I am at work, after all), but even with what I've seen, I've already sent emails to dog-owning friends recommending it.

What I think is particularly great about this book is that the questions are very practical (should I be paying for the high $ foods? what are the top 10 toxins for canines? are houseplants poisonous?) and the answers are straightforward and understandable. She includes some personal little facts, some medical examples, some case studies, some research, all of which are readable (she owns a pit bull and uses him in her answer for the question about leaving a dog outside unattended). In some ways, she might not take quite a strong enough stance (in the example of leaving a dog outside, I probably would have flat out said a dog shouldn't be left outside unattended), but I do think for the average dog family, she does a great job. (Now I just need to look to see if/what she says about backyard breeding.... ;-) ).

Update: I did get to the point about breeding, and thought her answers were very good. The next area I need to explore her answers for are "where do I get my dog." I don't know if she tackles that one.

Update 2: Better and better. She extols the virtues of "hybrid vigor" while suggesting that designer dogs might not necessarily result in that vigor; she recommends shelters, rescues, and finally breeders. The only ting I wish she had discussed more is not buying from pet stores, but who knows...she may have had a whole book in that topic and her editor told her to take it out. I guess I would say that's the biggest flaw I've seen so far, and as far as it goes, she handles the subject well enough for me to still respect everything else she says.

May 2, 2008

Reading Log:The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss


The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, Day 1) has been popping up everywhere recently. I grabbed it on a whim at B&N recently, it appeared in my recommendations at amazon, and I've seen it mentioned on several blogs (though none of the blogs I read regularly has actually said much about it). Generally speaking, I'll take that as Dog telling me to read the silly book, already.

This isn't a light, single afternoon's read. Weighing in at 736 pages, one might call the physical paperback "dense." To be honest, I've been developing a love hate relationship with this book. I have finished it, and it has definitely stuck in my mind (sometimes in reading a similar book I find myself thinking back to this one and have to remind myself which story really happened in which book). But I've got some complaints.

The first complaint I have is that this is book one of a planned 3. I didn't do my research ahead of time (heck, it was an impulse buy, after all), but the subtitle isn't readily available on the front cover. As one book of several, I didn't realize that there were future installments until well after I began reading. When I finished, I was frustrated as I always am when there are unpublished chronicles to come (Harry Potter was of course notorious for this behavior also, but at least I knew there were more coming before starting book 1). My frustration only grew when I looked on amazon to discover that book two won't even be out in hardback until May 2009. By then I'll have forgotten the whole thing and have to reread, if I even remember that I read it in the first place.

My second problem is with the narrative frame Rothfuss uses to surround his primary story. It's the same complaint I had with Kostova's The Historian. In The Name of the Wind, the legendary hero Kvothe has been tracked to the town where he resides as a mostly anonymous innkeep by a man known as the Chronicler. After much back-and-forthing, Kvothe agrees to tell his life story to the Chronicler, but it will take 3 days to tell. Kvothe may be talented enough (he is a legendary figure, after all), but the majority of people could not "novelize" their life stories in an "as told to" form. I know this is a very peevish complaint and that not accepting this narrative strategy can severely limit creativity, but I'm starting to find it more and more annoying. What's wrong with just telling a plain old story?

Fortunately, I am mostly capable of ignoring logical gaps if the story is compelling enough. I want to say that this one is. I did enjoy the book; it has plenty of action, plenty of interest, enough new or creatively re-structured elements of fantasy. But overall, I'm not completely convinced that a 3-day life-story marathon session really requires three 700+ pages of a paperback novel (assuming the next installments are around the same length). Even after these 700 page, I'm not sure I really have a sense of Kvothe's primary purposes. We know that he started at the University based on Abenthy's teaching and advice, we know that he is interested in the manner of his parents' death, and we know that he wants to know more about the mysterious Denna. Many times in the story, though, I felt like I was reading related short stories (the most egregious case is toward the end of the novel where he follows leads about deaths that were in the same manner as his parents'). Perhaps this is more realistic, in that our own lives don't ever really seem to follow one primary purpose and could appear quite tangential if novelized. But I'm not willing to let authors have it both ways; if I have to suspend my disbelief in accepting the "photographic/recording memory" from the narrative frame, then the story is not allowed to insist that it is simply following the structure of normal living.*

Do I like the story? Yes. Will I read the next two installments? Very likely. But if book 2 doesn't offer me a slightly tighter internal logic, I may not be able to finish the series, and that would be a very unpleasant thing. Or, I'll just use my local library and not contribute to Rothfuss' royalty collections.

* I'm probably not making myself clear, but at least I understand my logic at the moment.

January 7, 2008

Reading Log: The Chronicles of Faeirie: The Hunter's Moon by O.R. Melling


The Chronicles of Faerie: The Hunter's Moon is possibly the first young adult novel I've read in a while that I probably would have enjoyed more as a young adult. I enjoyed the story line and most of the characters, and I was definitely intrigued enough to read to the end, which was fairly exciting. But the book just never clicked for me the way that so many others have, though I'm almost certain it would have ranked among my favorites when I was somewhere between nine to twelve years old.

Quick plot summary: Gwen is visiting her cousin, Finnabhair (Finn-av-heer), in Ireland for the summer. The two girls set out on a jaunt, sleep on a fairy mound, and Finnabhair willingly goes into the land of Faerie to become the Faerie Queen. The Faerie King, Finvarra, also wants Gwen, as that will give him a human hostage for his bride and a human hostage for the ritual sacrifice. In her efforts to rescue her cousin from the Faerie realm, Gwen flirts with Faerie, yet ultimately escapes with the help of the Wise Woman and her grandson, Dara. Left without a second human hostage, Finn will have to play that role, unless Gwen et al. can come up with something else.

What works: The atmosphere is lovely. I did get caught up in the faerie revels and the tension leading up to the final scenes. I also appreciated Melling's insistance that faerie and real life don't have to be at opposites. For example, Dara is the King of Inch [Island] (where the drama is the highest), but he is also the son of resort owners and will be going to college for business and Irish history degrees. Contemporary and modern is just fine, but it doesn't hurt to leave a dish of milk by the back door for the garden fairies.

What doesn't work: While the language of the book doesn't exactly condescend, it is clearly intended (giving the benefit of the doubt) for a less sophisticated reader. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but I didn't feel the flow that excellent prose can bring to a novel. I felt like I was reading a young adult novel rather than reading a novel that may or may not be categorized as young adult (think Phillip Pullman).

I was also not satisfied with the character development. Finnabhair comes off as not much more than a selfish, good looking teen age girl who gets accepted into the cool girls' clique. As with many 16 year old girls, Gwen finds herself questioning her body image, especially in comparison with Finn. Yet Gwen still manages to come away with a boyfriend of her own.

Finally, the penultimate scenes just didn't work out for me (I kind of enjoyed the twist at the end, so I'll say I liked the ending). The energy and drama did pull me up to the end, but I'll just say that there was some confusion in the heat of the battle. I'm not really sure what happened or why, and what was ultimately gained from the climax.

All in all, it was a fun read, and I would recommend it to a pre-teenage girl who is interested in Faerie. Since I have the second book in the Chronicles, I'll go ahead and read it, too, but I think these will be in my "find another home" pile.

November 27, 2007



My boss just sent me the R.E.A.D. website link. She does therapy dog work with her girl, Sophie. This is the very program I want to get into with Remy. The acronym stands for Reading Education Assistance Dogs. Click either the link or the picture to go to the website itself.

I've always been a big reader. When I was in 4th grade, my mother and a friend's mother went to the obligatory parent night, where the teachers were providing tips and tricks for getting kids to read. My mother and my friend's mother both wanted to know how to get their kids to stop reading. I read all the time (don't seem to have as much time now, though). I always had a book in class, I always packed 8-10 books for trips because one never knows how fast one will read, or what one's mood will be; I always went to bed late because I just wanted to read one more (and one more and one more and one more) chapter, and I mostly "forgot" my after school chores because I was so engrossed in a book. My best trick, though, was when I was sent to clean my room and discovered a book buried on the floor and never got the room clean because I'd start to read.

So, given my obsession with dogs, my love of books, and my interest in education in general, this type of therapy work seems appropriate. I'm going to just ignore the one thing that will pop into everyone's mind who knows me, and pretend that it won't be an issue. After all, the wonderful thing about volunteering is that I get to choose how to devote my time. If this doesn't work, I'll find something else, but I do really want this to work.

October 16, 2007

"All Summer in a Day" by Ray Bradbury

"It had been raining for seven years; thousands upon thousands of days compounded and filled from one end to the other with rain, with the drum and gush of water, with the sweet crystal fall of showers and the concussion of storms so heavy they were tidal waves come over the islands."

Bradbury's short story, "All Summer in a Day," seems a good comparison to the month of October here in Mpls. I saw a TV version of the story on PBS when I was in 4th or 5th grade. It made such an impression on me that I can still vividly remember some of the scenes even now. This past Saturday must have been our one day of sunshine. I just hope it doesn't rain for the next seven years....

September 13, 2007

Book Cover Meme

Found this one over at Kimbooktu. Type your first name into's "Search" box and choose the first book that is most interesting or amusing. This was the first one for me:

The Fantastic Drawings of Danielle

What's even better, is that I have this book. Becka found it and picked it up just for me. I'm just surprised, though, that this came up before even any Danielle Steele novels. Not that they weren't 2nd-nth on the list...

Teens + books = deja vu

Cipriano from Bookpuddle posted a story that has the same essential effect of my previous overheard conversation about the pink cover.

September 7, 2007

RIP Madeline L'Engle

Author Madeline L'Engle passed away yesterday. Here's the NYT article (you may need to register to read it). I was introduced to her through A Wrinkle in Time, but I wish I could remember how I was introduced to that book. It's always been my favorite of that series, and I always wanted to be Meg.

September 6, 2007

Reading because of a dog

I checked this book out from the library solely because of the dog on its cover:

The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison.

Well, maybe it also came recommended (and I simply cannot find the blog I originally saw this book on), but still! doesn't it look like a Great Dane? Maybe a little on the small side, but the head and ears look just like some of the little girls Payton plays with in our great dane group.

September 2, 2007

"It has a pink cover"

Overheard today at Borders.

Romeo and Juliet (Folger Shakespeare Library)

The Cast
Them--played by 4 young teenagers that I pegged for jr. high when they walked in; 2 boys and 2 girls, one girl is the main speaker
Her--the sales clerk at the info computer

Them: I'm looking for a book called "Romeo and Juliet?" [Yes, it really was a question.]
Her: Are you looking for the play?
Them: I don't know, but it has a pink cover.

I hear the gears grinding in Her's brain as she ponders how to respond to Them.

Her: 9th grade English?
Them: yes...I looked it up and it has a pink cover.
Her: Let's look it this it? The play by Shakespeare?
Them: Yeah, that's it. That's the one with the pink cover.

Poor teacher. She'll never know what hit her when classes start on Tuesday.

April 27, 2007

In what world is this appropriate?

All I can say is "eww." Here's the headline (and link to the article) from yesterday's Baltimore Sun: "Author banned after nudity remark." When a 10 year-old girl asked author Richard Stack to autograph her forehead, he said he would if she climbed on a lunch table and took off her clothes.

His argument: I responded to her request with something equally ludicrous. "I am confident everyone there connected with my visit knows that nothing improper was intended."

It doesn't matter if "nothing improper was intended." You just don't make remarks like that to or about children! Period! If you're an author and you don't autograph body parts, just say so. Say, "I'm sorry, but I only autograph paper or printed materials."

I definitely know about saying the first thing that pops into my head, and I've definitely gotten myself into awkward situations because of that. But jeez-o-pete!

April 26, 2007

My Daemon

The Golden Compass website will help choose your Deamon. Now my closest friends and enemies can help shape it even further before it finally settles into its true form. (If you haven't read the books, do so now; Compass is the first book in the His Dark Materials Trilogy.) In Lyra's world, the Daemon is a physical representation of a person's soul. Daemons take on many different characteristics when their humans are children, just as the children themselves are learning and growing in the world. Around puberty, the Daemons assume their final shape, according to the nature of their humans.

I would argue that perhaps some of us never quite grow up, which is what allows us to continue exploring aspects of our Daemons.

If you click on the picture below, it will take you to a quiz page to help determine the final shape of my Deamon. You have 12 days. Starting now.

March 1, 2007

Art, Dirty Words, and Censorship

Blogger Maud Newton has an excerpt from what might be a very interesting book: Dirt for Art's Sake: Books on Trial from Madame Bovary to Lolita

The excerpt Maud provides discussed Eudora's "Moodwatch" option and the author's attempts to swear while telling friends about email/technological travails. Do you suppose it would flag "WTF"? Lame attempts at humor aside, I am particularly troubled by her account of the Google SafeSearch function at the end of her entry. Apparently just searching for "lolita" raises red flags for Google. Though this could be a good thing to keep students from finding internet sources about the novel (or am I forgetting that they shouldn't be reading that "trash" in the first place? :-) )

February 26, 2007

The politics of reading

Several book issues seem to have bubbled to the surface recently that offer the potential for interesting ramifications in a larger context.

First was the issue of The Higher Power of Lucky and the scrotum. I've blogged about the issue a couple of times, but part of the larger issue is also about how librarians have to choose "appropriate" books for "appropriate" ages, given limited funds, the mission of the library in question, the climate in the community, etc. The general consensus that I've seen around the net tends to be that people objecting to Lucky are in the vocal minority.

I came across the second issue in my email yesterday. Apparently some New England schools are concerned about Jodi Picoult's newest novel, Nineteen Minutes: A novel, to be released on March 6 this year. I love Picoult; most of her novels are in a split time continuum (past, present, past, present) that I enjoy, and her subject matter is always difficult. This particular novel is about the nineteen minutes of a high school shooting incident. Here is an article that describes the issue in greater detail.

I am a little confused about some of this, just because the article states that some of the schools "yanked her book, "Nineteen Minutes," from a mandatory reading list last week." What confuses me is the book has not yet been published. How can it be on a mandatory reading list???

Confusion aside, though, I'm not sure I completely disagree with this reaction. I always have a lukewarm reaction to mandatory reading lists, so I might be a little biased. But if we were to have a discussion of appropriate material for appropriate ages, would I fall into the more conservative category with this particular novel? I haven't read it, so I don't know how Picoult treats the material. And she's never failed me before, though I refuse to read My Sister's Keeper: A Novel. I'm not in favor of preventing high school students from reading Nineteen Minutes, but I might agree that it shouldn't be on a mandatory reading list.

Then, finally, today brought the third issue. It is about Whale Talk. Here's the article. Again, haven't read the book, but my understanding is this minister (not a parent, not a teacher, not a librarian) wants the book banned because of its language.

So, in the course of a couple of weeks, 3 different scenarios about reading and what may or may not be appropriate reading have come up. In the case of 1 and 3, I'll go back to my scrotum follow-up position, that we need to be talking about this, keeping the conservative minority at bay. Number 2, well, I just don't know.

February 22, 2007

S-word follow-up

Several more days of emails have passed since the initial kerfuffle about "scrotum" in a children's book. Some fo them today have reminded me of a priceless pencil holder from my favorite Great Dane artist:


Click for a larger view, and even better, buy one from Louise on her site.

Humor aside, though, this is a very serious issue. I suspect that the majority of people truly believe that the people offended by the book are being silly. But they are being vocal, and once again, the people who are actually *right* (i.e., correct, having the proper opinion, smarter than the others, etc.) are being too quiet, assuming that no one will do anything stupid because of a vocal minority. But that's where we're wrong. We need to be writing about it, speaking about it, letting SCROTUMS be SCROTUMS in stories, whether written for 1st grade or senior citizens.

Here's a letter I just composed for the child-lit listserv, in response to a note from Jane Yolen, an author whom I very much enjoy and respect:

I am brand new to the list, not a librarian, nor a parent. But I am an independent thinker, and think that this is a very important discussion to be having. Those of us who favor open access to intellectual ideas are probably in the majority, as the poll on the Chicago site suggested. However, we still have a very vocal minority who are able to push prejudiced and sometimes even dangerous policies and laws through the various channels. Why does this happen? Because we know it is so silly that we don't respond to the arguments that we know are silly. We're too nice. We call a "scrotum" a "scrotum," and just can't imagine that anyone has a problem with that.

I've been reading this thread with interest (I wore an "I read banned books" button in the 4th grade). By and large, everyone who has posted to the list has been in agreement that the argument is silly. The ones who deserve the applause are those who went public, whether by blogging or writing to the newspapers, or perhaps even making suggestions to their own librarians or districts about the merits of the book itself.

And, because it is related to both scroti (? I don't really know the proper plural) and dogs, my favorite dog artist created a "Nutty Penholder" (visible here and was also the subject of a very similar dispute when some people in Manitou Springs objected to her statue of a Great Dane rolling on his back and, yes, displaying the scrotum for even young children to see. (Here is one news article about the story: [**UPDATE: Peterson's website also includes links to articles about the incident]

Silly though it may be, this is a very real issue that has ramifications far beyond a few librarians' decisions not to order the book because of a word choice.

Danielle Tisinger
University of Minnesota
----- Original Message -----
From: JaneYolen
Sent: Thursday, February 22, 2007 12:17 PM
Subject: Re: [child_lit] Newbery "Peer Pressure" Among Librarians?

I have written this in my journal, lest you think I am unaware of what is going on:

Came home to a huge fooforah concerning the word "scrotum" on the first page of Susan Patron's Newbery winning THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY. As someone put it, "A testicle in a teapot." It really is awfully silly. And not as if she were using bad language. That's the official term after all. And she was referring to a dog, not a man. But there were articles in the Times and USA Today and all through the blogosphere about the truly silly librarians who have been upset about this. Except for this paragraph, I am refusing to dignify the discussion by writing to various blogs and lists or to either the Times or USA Today. Enough already.

February 20, 2007

The S-word in action

I recently joined a new listserv on children's literature. It's quite an active list, and I happened to join right in the middle of a lively discussion about Peter Pan, a story I have always thoroughly enjoyed and am not quite ready to give up. But that's not what I want to discuss here.

Most recently, the buzz on said listserv has been about the recent Newberry Award winner The Higher Power of Lucky. I haven't read the book, and I don't think I actually will, because its topic is not one that I am invested in. However, there seems to be somewhat of a kerfuffle (love that word) over the author's use of the word "scrotum" on the very first page of the book. Pause a moment to gasp in shock appropriately, then move on.

On February 18, 2007, the New York Times ran an article titled "With One Word, Children's Book Sets Off Uproar". Many responders on the children's lit listserv feel that the article is one of the best examples of biased and sensational writing they've recently seen (here is a choice quote from the article to illustrate their concern: "Authors of children’s books sometimes sneak in a single touchy word or paragraph, leaving librarians to choose whether to ban an entire book over one offending phrase"). In fact, one member actually said that she was one of the librarians interviewed for the article, and who was subsequently misquoted. From what I've seen on-list, many members of which are school librarians, there seems to be a major mountain and molehill episode going on, most of which was caused because A) the book is the Newberry winner, which generates more readership, and B) the NYTimes article "made it so." (I just watched the Patrick Stewart episode of Extras where he mocks his famous line.)

On the first page of The Higher Power of Lucky, the eponymous heroine overhears a story during an AA meeting of a man whose dog was bitten on the scrotum by a rattlesnake. That's really as much as I know about the issue. Amazon has a "grade 4-6" indication, and most people are saying something in the 9-12 year old range. Many people (on the list and other places) are questioning the word choice, wondering if there wasn't perhaps a better anatomical term (see also the recent Florida kerfuffle over "The Hooha Monologues".....).

Then I found a link to a Chicago Tribune editorial. One of the comments in particular sums up the entire episode for me: on 2/19, "Anon" said: " suppose what's really shocking here is that the dog was apparently not "fixed." What kind of lesson does THAT give to both kids and parents?" I find this question more appropriate than perhaps even Anon meant it to be. First, domesticated animal/pet overpopulation is a serious issue in this country and around the world. Second, it truly does demonstrate the ridiculous levels of concern that Americans in particular (it is interesting to see non-American responses on the listserv) and even more especially, neurotic parents, place on language at fairly odd moments. There may truly be parents out there who are more concerned with the "scrot** word" (to differentiate from the other s-word) than the N-word in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

September 28, 2006

"I Read Banned Books"

It's that time of year again, Banned Books Week. My first ever conference presentation as a graduate student was at a Stephen King conference in Maine promoting banned books.

2006 BBW; Read Banned Books: They're Your Ticket to Freedom

August 25, 2006

Updated Book Meme

I haven't finished the questions from a few days ago, but I have now added a new answer.

August 18, 2006

Book Meme

I've seen this a couple of places now, and it looks like fun. Probably won't answer everything at to do, and all that. But at least here are the questions:

1. A book that changed your life.
Way to Rainy Mountain by N. Scott Momaday--this was the book that turned my attention from studying Sir Walter Scott for my master's degree to Native American literature; I could also add Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims by Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins which moved my dissertation research from contemporary Native literature to late nineteenth-/early twentieth-century Native/white literatures....

2. A book you've read more than once.
Possession: A Romance by A. S. Byatt; Susan Conant's Holly Winter mysteriess; Owen Wister's The Virginian; among many others

3. A book you'd want on a desert island.

4. A book that made you giddy.

5. A book that you wish had been written.

6. A book that wracked you with sobs.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls; any book that has an animal getting hurt or abandoned

7. A book you wish had never been written.
There are several that I've thought of for this answer. Someone mentioned Ann Coulter's book (or shall we say, bo oks?). I also have a huge bias against celebrity auto/biographies. If they're celebrities, don't they make enough money anyway? Do they really need to exploit the awestruck mass of sheep who lead lives of quiet desperation (with apologies to Thoreau)?

But none of these comes close to the best response I've seen yet. I am going to outright steal Crooked Paw's answer to this one:

"I'm probably going to upset a few people with this answer.
The Bible.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying the Bible is a bad book, but if ever there has been a symbol of fundamentalism, the Bible is it. Perhaps, in the beginning, it was looked upon as a guide to life and the worship of God, but over the centuries it has been used as a tool of subjugation, oppression, fanaticism, apartheid, and countless other attrocities. Organised religion siezed upon it and held it up as evidence of their peity, whilst at the same time ostracising those who did not share their beliefs.
Good or bad, full of contradictions and ambiguities, this book has polarised the peoples of Earth, and you cannot convince me that this is a good thing."

Add to that the fact that people tend to get carried away in the literalness of said work. Come on, people. Nothing that is written down is absolutely 100% no mistakes completely and utterly true. Everything spoken or written is shaded with the author's bias. Regardless of who dictated said text to which disciple.

8. A book you are currently reading.

9. A book you've been meaning to read.

10. Tag 10.
Since I have a very limited scope of readers, it's probably not worth tagging anyone. But please feel free to do if you're interested.

April 4, 2006

Buy a Friend a Book Week

Unbeknownst to me, it is apparently Buy a Friend a Book Week. Click on the link for more details. Basically, during select weeks, you buy a book and give it to someone completely out of the blue. No birthday, anniversary, or other "set holiday" present; just because you want to give that person a specific book. Pretty cool, if you ask me.

October 4, 2005

Write in your Library Books!

One of the things we are always taught as children is to take care of your library books. Don't write in them, don't eat around them, don't read them in the bathtub, don't break their spines.

Libraries in the South Central Library System in Wisconsin will have the opportunity to break one of those taboos and check out a blank book from the library to write in, doodle in, draw in. (Read the article here.)

Collaborative artistic journals seem to be popular right now, according to several of the blogs I try to read more or less regularly. But these events all seem to be managed by individuals in a round-robin type of journaling.

I'll be curious to see what ultimately happens. It could be a very inspiring creative task. But the pessimist in me wonders if some wise-a$& will check them out and either deface anything already there or "add" something of his own (I also have a gender prejudice that ok if I admit to it?).

Nevertheless, I hope the project succeeds. If you ever happen to be in the area, and can get to a library that has a copy , let me know how it turns out, will you?

September 8, 2005

more book arrangements

I've just stumbled across a couple of pictures of books arranged by colors. It's a really neat effect, but I don't think I have enough colors on my shelves to pull it off properly right now.

The Adobe Bookstore

a photo from Flickr

August 26, 2005

to reshelve or not to reshelve

I wrote a short story for one of my graduate seminars about a student who was continually finding books in the "wrong" places in the library and wondered who was doing the reshelving. My inspirations for this story were Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" and my own frustrations of books that the library system said were available, but had probably been placed on the wrong shelf somewhere and may never be seen again.

Now, some enterprising souls have taken the act of reshelving to a new level. Avant Game has begun a project called the Ministry of Reshelving where people are invited to move copies of George Orwell's 1984 out of fiction to a more "suitable" location, such as political science, US history, current affairs, etc.

Part of me genuinely pities the poor bookstore clerks who will have to reshelve the reshelved books. I worked too long in retail to not have sympathy for those who have to do it. But another part of me is really amused by the game, especially the book choice and location choices. And at least the "rules" of the game suggest that one should leave a guide to where the books have gone or where they belong.

Would I participate? Probably not. I'm kind of a chicken about some things, interferring with a business being one of them. Would I support a participant? Absolutely. I might even suggest a few other titles that might be appropriately reshelved. Ventura's book, for instance, might better be placed in "Humor," no?

July 28, 2005

Harry Potter Revised

Apparently not everyone is as happy with the newest Harry Potter as most of the reviews claim. According to the Watley News, one fan has created her own version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The article says that the site has many mirror sites so has been difficult to shut down, but between Tuesday and now, it seems to have happened, because I couldn't find it. Has anyone else seen this?

I particularly love this statement:

"Whenever an author puts a work out into the universe, it is no longer their exclusive property anymore," said Mary Sue Pembroke, who is credited as the author of the modified book. "Harry Potter belongs to all of us, not just Rowling. She took some liberties with the story in this latest book that really weren't faithful to the logic of the narrative. My version is, I think it fair to say, much more faithful to the true Harry Potter mythos."

How can a fan's rewrite be "more faithful to the true . . . mythos" than the author's? Rowling "took some liberties with the story?" HOW does this work, except in someone's own crazy fantasy world?

Now, I don't think this book is the greatest book ever written. I enjoyed it to the extent I enjoyed the others (although I will admit that chapter 25 to the end literally had me on the edge of my seat and I probably would have taken the head off [or at least several fingers] of anyone who tried to interrupt me while I was finishing the book). But until Chapter 25, I really didn't feel that this book was any better or any worse than the rest. Harry still makes stupid choices based on stupid obsessions, Ron is still a Weasley, and Hermione is still the best student.

David Kipken's review seems perhaps a bit touchy [read more about this review--find the entry for July 27, 2005], but he does address a question mom and I were pondering last week--What is it that makes this series so popular?

I think it's a large combination of a decent story line that readers of all ages can relate to and media hype/blitz. I don't know. But if anyone has the secret, please share, because I'd love to write a series of books that can turn me into a multi-millionaire.