"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

I am currently on a mission to read ten preselected YA books before the ALA Mid-winter meeting when the next Printz Award books will be chosen. Over 20 students at my school are also participating in this challenge with me. (We're calling it the Mock Printz Workshop but more on that on another post.)

This delightful book is one of those preselected books and I found it enchanting. Set in the 1970s, each chapter is titled as if it might have been a category on the game show, The $20,000 Pyramid: Things in a closet; Things in a kitchen drawer; Things on a bus; Etc. I wonder if kids today even remember this show. I have a feeling that some of the symbolism will be lost on them.

Stead does a marvelous job of inserting just enough science fiction into this mysterious story to make it intriguing. The main character in the story, Miranda, has a favorite book, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle, which was my favorite book in 6th grade. I loved Wrinkle so much I remember rereading it and doing all my projects that year somehow related to that book. Miranda comes to believe in the possibility of time travel through Wrinkle and this possibility colors the whole story right down to it's satisfying ending.

Though this book's target audience is really the middle school set I think it is deserving of all the accolades it is receiving and would guess that it is considered for a Newberry Award or Honor. I hope that it doesn't win the Printz award, however, because I want that winning book to be a truly teen or young adult novel. That said, it is still a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.

Grade 5-8; 5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Graphic Novel... a new genre for me

I have just discovered the joy of reading the graphic novel in an attempt to make myself a more "well-rounded" librarian. For those of you in my generation who may not know what a graphic novel is, it is a novel whose story is told through a combination of words and art, often in comic-strip form. Like all books, all graphic novels are not created equal. Kids at my high school mainly tend to read manga, or Japanese-style comics. I don't care for this style, personally, though I understand the appeal. I think it is similar in appeal to the comic books I used to devour as a kid, like Archie, Superman, or my old favorite, Mad Magazine.

The graphic novels that I prefer are the ones that tell a story, sometimes autobiographical and incorporate a variety of artistic styles. I do not prefer the ones that are too much like comics with small voice bubbles and lots of frames per page. It may be a function of my age, but I prefer to have larger frames and I like looking at the art as I read. If my eyes have to work too hard, I might as well be reading a regular novel.

Two graphic novels that I've recently read and enjoyed are Blankets and Tales from Outer Suburbia.

Blankets by Craig Thompson was recommended to me by a new student. It is a coming-of-age tale about a boy who is raised in a very strict, fundamentalist Christian home who is not encouraged by his family or his church to use his artistic abilities, but rather to give them up in favor of more holy vocations like being a minister. I could relate to many of the author's dilemmas and problems. When he went to school he was shunned or teased. When he went to church related events, he never quite fit in. And then there was the tender young love story that caused me to reflect back on my teen years. I was very moved while reading this lengthy graphic novel. The artistry is consistently good and moves the story along. Don't be intimidated by the size of this book. It reads very fast with so many pictures.

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan is a series of fifteen illustrated vignettes. Each of the stories are "out there" but are fun, whimsical, or thought provoking. My favorite vignettes are Eric, an outer-space alien as an exchange student, and a poem about what happens to most poems. The artistic style changes with each vignette making each stand out in a very unique way. Tan won many awards for his graphic book, The Arrival, and I bet that this book will win a bunch also. It deserves it. It will take you less than an hour to read but give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the drawings.

Take time to enjoy a new genre along with me.