27.10.07

Reading Blitz

Those of you that know me know that a few years ago my health started to take a downturn. It's much better now, but still a little shakey - and Reno hasn't helped. Although I thought I was doing ok, the wine and champagne and coffee I had on Thursday led to massive dehydration on Friday. So, instead of killing myself at the conference, I tucked myself into bed and started to read the ARCs I'd picked up on the convention floor.

Wow. I have to say, this was one great group of reads. Usually, it's a crapshoot, but for some reason, these four books really worked for me. Ok, one was weaker than the rest, but still!

What did I read?

Big Fat Manifesto, by Susan Vaught. A HS senior, 300+ lbs, has to deal with not just the Senior Deadlines, but acting in a play and creating a column "Fat Girl" for the school newspaper. Then her Big Beautiful Boyfriend decides to get bariatric surgery, and her world starts to change. I'm not 300+, but I could definitely relate to the whole Fat Girl dilemma.

Pandora Gets Jealous, by Carolyn Hennesy. We all know how much I enjoy the Percy Jackson series. This is definitely in that category, and I predict will be a huge hit with my students. Yours, too.

Mysterious Case of the Allbright Academy, by Diane Stanley. A goodish mix of The Mysterious Benedict Society meets The Wright 3, with some Stepford Stuff thrown in. Middle Schoolers will love it.

Life on the Refrigerator Door, by Alice Kuipers. This was the weakest of the four, probably because it seems contrived. The entire book is a series of notes left on the refrigerator door, notes between Claire and her mother. There's a lot going on "off stage" and some of it is pretty heavy, while some (the boyfriend issues) is just alluded to but never really resolved. I'm never sure how I feel about device-driven books (like TTYL), so I'm on the fence about this. I also wasn't happy with the cover design, which looked too much like Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, but then, I wasn't happy when five of the MS-level books we got in over the summer clearly had the same girl model on them. I know certain designs and motifs are popular, but it doesn't help a book stand out in the punters minds!

So, there you have it. Current reading in a nutshell. And now, back to the conference!

24.10.07

Glad to be Nobody

As I sat in my seat on the airplane taking me to LAX (getting to Reno from NYC is more difficult than you'd think!), I started to read some of the magazines I'd brought with me. My back issues pile was getting out of hand and what better way to get through it than to lug it with me and discard as I finished? It's not like I didn't have things to do, what with the fire and an upcoming "presentation" at the conference, but hey - forced relaxation!

My seatmate, on the other hand, was busy with his cell and his Crackberry. Clearly, I'd been placed next to Someone. Several times before we pushed away from the gate he made calls, placed e-mails - all work related. All Very Important. After all, he was Somebody. Then they gave us that "turn off all electronic devices" announcement. He turned off his cell. Not the Crackberry. Now, it's not like he didn't know it was still transmitting, because every time an attendant walked by, he'd palm it. But because he was Somebody, the rules didn't apply. After all, Somebody's always need to be working on a device with keys made for newborns and screens the size of credit cards, not listening to silly FAA regulations.

I felt like a dinosaur, sitting there with my Old Technology of print on paper, 8 x 11 (or larger). How very mid-last century of me. Obviously, I'm Nobody.

Finally, I asked him to turn the thing off. He was angry. His self-justifying response was that it wasn't transmitting (sorry, I know how the damn things work and it really was transmitting). That he needed to be working the entire flight and if I didn't like it I could call an attendant (which I'm now sorry I didn't do, just to confiscate the thing). I responded that I didn't mind his working, but rules are rules and just turn it off.

Funny thing is, I did mind his working. Not because it was noisy or I was feeling guilty about not working myself, but because we're now in a society where Everyone is Someone Very Important. He couldn't take a transcontinental flight to relax - read a book, sleep, listen to music, play solitaire. He was So Important, such a Somebody, that he had to work. In my Nobodiness, I was going to finish some magazines (got through them all!), do a Sunday Times crossword or two, possibly nap.

From up in the sky, what can you really do about things on the ground? Nothing. No one is that Important, that much of a Somebody that they can't take time off. But we, as a culture, have decided that's really not the case, that we need to be (somehow) involved. Even from 30,000 feet.

This man worked for an investment bank, which made him a Somebody. He dealt with financial futures. Very Somebody-type work. Me? I work with people futures, helping teach the next generation. And I'm glad that makes me a Nobody.

23.10.07

Is it me?

School librarians are supposed to be all about collaboration - inside and outside the library, inside and outside the school. For me, though, that hasn't quite been working out and I'm starting to think it's me. You decide...

A few years ago, before the AASL conference in Indianapolis, I was planning a joint presentation on Independent School Library Evaluation. Another librarian (in another state) and I were working on leading a discussion, possibly set up a task force on this so that our regional, state and national Independent School Organizations (like NAIS and NYSAIS) had more valid criteria on which to evaluate us. My "partner" disappeared, not returning e-mails or phone calls. The day before I left for Indy, she resurfaced saying she'd been ill and that she'd FedEx the things she had to my at the hotel. I ended up at Kinko's, redoing all the handouts. And, of course, I presented alone.

About that time, my sister and I were planning a baby shower for our cousin. Suddenly, my sister was unavailable via phone or e-mail. She did come to the party, but I'd had to arrange everything (including the RSVPs, the food, the decorations) by myself.

Two years ago, my sister and I decided to eBay an incredibly ugly set of china our grandmother had given us. She had the entire set, it was going to be "no bother", as a friend of hers was Ms. eBay and would handle it all. 18 months later... nothing. I called. I e-mailed. Nothing. Turns out she'd left the US for Canada (my sister, not her friend).

And now, here I am in Reno. One of my charges for this trip was to help plan the Independent School Section reception - I was one of the Main Greeter Elves. My co-Greeter Elf and I did some planning, some e-mailing. And then... nothing. Just heard that she's sick and won't be here. No word on if anything she got for the event will be sent here by tonight.

So, is it me? Should I just go solo from now on? Or should I give this collaboration thing another try?

22.10.07

Notable Quotes

Sometimes I try my own thought experiment, which goes as follows: what if everyone is actually right? Aristotle and Plato; David and Goliath; Hobbes and Locke; Hitler and Gandhi; Tom and Jerry. Could that ever make sense? And then I think about my mother and I think that no, not everyone is right. To paraphrase the physicist Wolfgang Pauli, she wasn't even wrong. Maybe that's where human society is right now, at the beginning of the twenty-first-century: not even wrong.

The End of Mr. Y, Scarlett Thomas

20.10.07

Oh, to have a free weekend

If it weren't this weekend, I could join in the 24-hour-readathon. As it is, I'll read vicariously through So Many Books and the Bookgirl's Nightstand. Maybe next time...

19.10.07

Links Galore

18.10.07

Post-Harry Potter

Ok, I confess I'm not the biggest HP fan. And I'm not a huge fan of fantasy (or "speculative fiction", which is apparently the new, in term). But even I knew better than the three speakers I heard Tuesday.

One claimed that the genre had only exploded with the publication of HP4. That prior to this, the only way fantasy books got published was to have orcs or troll-like creatures on the cover. That everything published was a bad copy of a bad copy of Tolkein, who created the genre. That almost no one was buying/reading Dianne Wynne Jones. That HP put paid to school stories, and that the stuff that's being published now is really good and experimental. That alternative history was coming into its own. That most of the stuff was being written by D&D players/lovers and is now being written by real authors.

WHAT UTTER ROT.

I don't even know where to begin with this... H.G. Wells? Poe? Jules Verne? The Darkover series, sans trolls or orcs? Ditto Discworld (well, trolls, but no orcs)? Guy Gavriel Kay?

No school stories? Charlie Bone, anyone? It's not all good - and it's not all new. Paolini's Inheritance series is so clearly a rehash of both Tolkein and Donaldson. And what about the role of Fatherland in the development of alternative histories?

All this, off the top of my remarkably uninformed, usually uninterested head.

I left feeling depressed about the future of fantasy, post-Harry Potter.

Upcoming

My schedule just gets busier and busier - Monday and Tuesday were back-to-back meetings. Yesterday and today I had a "coffee" with parents regarding the Rebuilding of the Library, and tonight I continue to unpack the 88 boxes of Insta-Lower-School-Library (photos to come). I've also been working 6-day weeks, with Upper School Parent's Day, Admissions Open House and this weekend's PSATs/Alumni Weekend. Whew!

So, what's in my future?
  • PSATs/Alumni Weekend (with another Rebuilding the Library coffee) - Oct 20
  • AASL in Reno (which, of course, I'll be blogging) - Oct 25-27
  • another Rebuilding the Library session, in the evening - Oct 29
  • yet another Rebuilding the Library session, in NYC in the evening - Nov. 5
  • a election party for Paul Valentine - Nov. 6
  • my mother's 70th birthday (including a trip to SmallCity USA) - Nov. 10
  • the annual NYSAIS conference at Mohonk - Nov. 14-16
  • Cyrano on Broadway - Nov. 16
Not to mention the backlog of posts on my recent meeting with other, local librarians on The Future of Fantasy - Post Harry Potter and the whole School Library 2.0 issue and the Rebuilding Process. Fingers will be flying anon!

16.10.07

Pretty accurate, for pop psych.




ColorQuiz.comI took the free ColorQuiz.com personality test!

"Longs for sensitive and sympathetic understanding ..."


Click here to read the rest of the results.




(þ: Psychology of Clutter)

So... the question is, what do I do with all this? Food for thought as I escape into my fantasy world.

15.10.07

Notable Quotes

I can't remember a time when I didn't know I was adopted. There was never a dramatic "we have something to tell you" talk. My adoption was simply another fact, like having dark hair or no siblings. I knew I was adopted even before I knew what that truly meant. Understanding adoption requires a basic understanding of sex, something I would not have until third grade when Gina Papadakis brought her grandparents' disturbingly dog-eared copy of The Joy of Sex to school.

14.10.07

Well, Duh

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Non-Reader
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz


(þ: Little Professor)

Imponderables

As many of you know, at MPOW we've gone from a K-12 library to a K-4 library and a 5-12 library. So there's all sorts of supplies and stuff that need to be duplicated. And then there was the fire, so all that stuff needed to be reordered.

One of the Really Helpful things in a library is a bookcart. We ordered three for the K-4 space, and they arrived in July. We reordered them in August. They arrived... our Purchasing Manager checked them in... and then two disappeared.

These are bookcarts. Not exciting stuff - like the 42" flat panel tv that someone ordered, or the many, many computers ordered to replace those that burned. Bookcarts.

Pimp My Bookcart notwithstanding, is there really a black market in the things? I mean, they're bookcarts.

10.10.07

Forgetting

A while ago I read a book whose premise excited me: a boy, hockey player, gets a concussion and has to quit the team. Being a hockey player was his life, so there was a lot in the book about coming to grips with the change in "who am I" as well as the medical stuff. The problem was, the book wasn't quite right for school. There was "language", but more important, the use of the word Wop. As in, "The wop called me down to dinner." Who was this? The hero's father. Sorry, just couldn't put it on my shelves. (Besides, who uses this language nowadays? No one - particularly no child - I've ever met.)

The idea of a lead with amnesia intrigued me, though. I mean, I work at a school with a pretty heavy emphasis on sports - one of my summer workers can't play basketball because of repeated concussions. So it's an issue to be dealt with.

Then along came Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac. None of my worries about the previous book here. It's relatively well written, with teenage characters that ring pretty true to my ear. So it's going on my Big Book Order, and I can honestly recommend it to my 7-12 students. There was only one problem, and it's something I've noticed in several books I've read recently: the editing isn't what it should be. North Tarrytown became Sleepy Hollow in 1996. This book was written (and set in) 2006. Oops.

9.10.07

Sniffle... sneeze... ack!

I have a full-blown head cold right now. It's the worst head cold in the history of head colds. I'm near death.

(ok, so the above was a bit of an exaggeration - I do really have a head cold, though)

The good news was that MPOW lost its internet connection early Sunday and was without it until about an hour ago. What a wonderful excuse to stay home, in bed, with trashy tv, and work on our Big Book Order (looking for 7000+ volumes to create our InstaLibrary when we move from the crowded classroom to the "renovated" Chapel).

So basically, I'm near death but I'm being damned productive!

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Children's/Young Adult
  • After The Leaves Fall, Nicole Baart A coming-of-age story that in some ways reminded me of Up a Road Slowlyand Plainsong.
  • Flight: A Novel, Sherman Alexie If you haven't discovered Alexie as an author, what are you waiting for?
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J. K. Rowling The series ends. None too soon
  • In the Serpent's Coils, Tiffany Trent Eh. Again, nothing so new that I'm going to follow this series
  • Nightmare Academy, Dean Lorey Not a series I'd want to continue - seems to familiar, with little new to recommend it.
  • Oh No, Noah!, Johanna Hurwitz Noah's moved into a new neighborhood: can he make friends? will he survive in a new place (particularly since he's a real klutz and prone to trouble)?
  • Parade of Shadows, Gloria Whelan Interesting historical fiction set in the Levant. Only problem is that there's not enough depth for students that have an interest in the history behind the story
  • The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous, Suzanne Crowley Merilee has Asperger's symptoms and lives a Very Ordered Existence; somehow she learns to let go just a little and live.
  • Where's My Cow?, Terry Pratchett Discworld for the teething set
  • Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr Another formulaic trip down Faerie Lane

Fiction/Literature
  • Not the End of the World, Kate Atkinson An oddly interwoven series of short stories - what's real? what's not? how do the stories relate?
  • The Maytrees: A Novel, Annie Dillard I didn't think it was as great as the reviews did, but it's a nice, quiet read that won't disappoint
  • Winnie and Wolf, A.N. Wilson Historical fiction about the relationship between Winifred Wagner and Adolph Hitler -- not quite a Wagner apology, but close
  • Whit, Iain Banks Banks is one of those great "undiscovered" writers and this book, about life in a religious cult, just screams out for more readers

Sci-fi/Fantasy
  • The Alton Gift, Marion Zimmer Bradley Another Darkover novel, finished after MZB's death, and not a bad one.
  • Childe Morgan, Katherine Kurtz If you like the Deryni series, go for it. But if you're not familiar with the series, this isn't a good place to start.
  • Dragons Of The Highlord Skies: The Lost Chronicles, Margaret Weis Ugh. Ok, so I came in during the series, but the backstory/exposition was just too confusing.

Mystery
  • The Book of Air and Shadows, Michael Gruber Yet another "who was WS" mystery/thriller set in the modern era and in Shakespearan times.
  • The Darkness and the Deep, Aline Templeton The mystery part wasn't easily solved, and the characters were well drawn and interesting. A new series to explore!
  • Saturday's Child, Ray Banks Not anything resembling a cozy, more like Lovejoy meets Rebus
  • Sweet Revenge, Diane Mott Davison My first Goldy Shultz. I like the characters enough to consider reading more, but I'll let them come to me.

Non-Fiction


Total removed from Mt. Bookpile this quarter: 26
New books added to Mt. Bookpile this quarter: 32
Net gain: 6
(not off to a good start on my "read don't add" project!)

8.10.07

Too old for my former neighborhood

I spent Saturday in Brooklyn Heights/Cobble Hill with Thing One. When we'd moved in (in 1993), we were some of the youngest people there - the neighborhood wasn't quite "hip" yet, and there were a lot of little old Italian ladies and men around. There were many more Social Clubs than Starbucks, the bank tellers and grocery clerks spoke Italian and the whole place felt like a real neighborhood.

Since then, there's been a lot of change. Smith Street is now "in", with restaurants replacing little shops. There are four Starbucks and many older bakeries (including Cammereri, of Moonlighting Moonstruck fame) have closed. And, of course, changes to our favorite cafe. The vibe is younger, yuppier, hipper and more superficial and fleeting.

We went to the Cobble Hill Cinema, once voted as having the Best Popcorn in NYC by New York Magazine, and saw an ad for Smith & Vine. I've been looking to get a case or so of sherry, so I suggested we go. What a mistake. Easily 10-20 years older than anyone in the store, and clearly not Young & Beautiful, we were ignored. Pity, because I was planning a major purchase, and (had I liked them) come back.

I don't mind feeling old in comparison to my students, or knowing that in a few short years, AARP will be after me for my very own membership (I already have one thanks to Thing One). I do mind that I'm nearly invisible and unwanted in a place I called home for 12 years, particularly when I only left two years ago.

Whew!

As I was driving along Friday, listening to a radio station (WFAS, for those that care) I heard a story that made me think "Oh.My.God. - we're so doomed". What was this story? That there was a group, the Happy Endings Foundation, that wanted to ban/burn books with unhappy endings. You know: the majority of books kids have to read in school by authors as diverse as Shakespeare, Lowrey, Frank and Bronte.

I didn't spend too much time on this, sure it was some nutter Out There and that the idea would have few implications for my job and my life.

How right I was: according to Kelly (who got it from others), it was a hoax by the marketing firm charged with promoting A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Can't believe everything you hear on the radio, can you?

7.10.07

Plans for my day off

After an incredibly difficult week, I was thrilled to come home this morning to find Making Money and The Wit and Wisdom of Discworld on my doorstep. Perfect escape reading!

5.10.07

Links Galore