"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=========

Friday, December 31, 2010

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Cohn and Levithan

“I’ve left some clues for you. If you want them, turn the page. If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.” So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the New York Times bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York?-from Goodreads
Dash and Lily's Book of Dares is a sweet and thoughtful story of two teens who find themselves alone at Christmas, both ripe for adventure and romance. The chapters alternate between Dash and Lily.  My favorite parts of the story were the things that both of the teens wrote in the red moleskin journal about their thoughts and dreams.  Both are lovers of the written word, as am I, and they articulate their thoughts well.  Parts of the story seem too easy/silly/far-fetched/unrealistic but I did appreciate that the kids each recognized that a romance started this way may not flourish and, at the same time, had family and other friends that needed tending. 

I think that this book will resonate with other teens and I hope that they will want to read it at other times of the year than just during the holidays. I know I will be recommending it to my library patrons the minute I get back from break.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Booking Through Thursday

Questions of the day:
What’s the best book you read this year? Worst? Favorite?

Best book I read this year: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.  (Can you believe I have never read this book, The Great American Novel, before?)

Worst book I read: The Human Stain by Philip Roth. (Perhaps it is because of all the critical acclaim it received but it was a very difficult book to read and I was very disappointed. I did finish it, however.  There were other books that I abandoned mid-book.  I guess one of those really should be the worst.)

Favorite book of the year:  Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes.  (I love, love, love this book and it seems like no one else has read it.)

What are your answers to the above questions?

Angela and the baby Jesus by Frank McCourt

I just found this book this year.  It is a children's picture book written by Frank McCourt with wonderful illustrations by Raul Colon about an event from McCourt's mother's life. 

When Angela was a child she stole the Baby Jesus from the manger scene at her church because she was sure that he would get cold and lonely if she left him there.  It is a darling tale.  If you run into it, take a few minutes to read it.  It will bring a warm feeling to your heart.  It did for mine.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top Ten Book Club Selections for 2010

I am in two book clubs. We often read the same books so this list is of my Top Ten Book Club selections for 2010 though I may have read the book last year, but I discussed it in at least one club this year. I am basing my decision on these criteria: readability, value to me (did I learn something new?), and the discussion that the book generated. Please let me know the titles and authors of books you have used in your book clubs that meet these criteria. We are always looking for good discussion books. Thank you.

Top Ten Book Club Selections for 2010
1.  The Help by Kathryn Stockett-set in the South in the early to mid 1960s.  Black maids are raising white children who grow up and become racist like their parents. This superbly-written book was almost life-altering to read...it really made us think!  It generated excellent discussions in both groups. Even if you aren't in a book club, read this book.

2.  Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann-a series of interconnected stories that are all somehow related to the man who walked between the twin towers of World Trade Center back when it still being built. Though I loved this book, it wasn't everyone's favorite read, we all learned a tremendous amount about the event.  The writing is terrific, too.

3. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout-set in Maine, we are introduced to Olive Kitteridge , a retired teacher and wife to the town's pharmacist,  through 13 interconnected tales. Each story has something to do with the community where Olive is either the main character or a bit player.  Olive isn't a very likable person.  We had a vibrant and diverse discussion about this book.  Is it possible to like a book when you don't like the main character? I did.  I liked this book a lot.

4.  The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein- Set in the Seattle area so we all enjoyed cultural/geographic references that we recognized.  The premise sounds hokey---a dog narrating about his master who likes to race cars and does it especially well in the rain---but it totally works and is very touching.  We found lots to talk about, and everyone seemed to enjoy the book.

5.  Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan-This is a junior book that won the Pura Belpre Award the year it was published. Though we don't often read children's books when we do we are usually delighted. The read was very simple about a young girl who is forced to immigrate with to America from Mexico during the 1930s to work as migrant workers.  The gal who hosted the club for this book actually grew up in the part of California were the story was set.  We had a fabulous and rich discussion.

6.  City of Thieves by David Benioff- set in during WWII during the siege of Leningrad, this story is part historical fiction and part funny story. I learned about an aspect of WWII that I didn't know before and enjoyed myself at the same time.  We had a fun discussion, too.

7.  Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Gunn--a riveting non-fiction account about the life and disappearance of explorer Percy Fawcett in the Amazon back in the 1930s. Part travel guide, part action/ adventure tale we all found it immensely readable and very interesting.  We all learned a lot.

8.  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford--Set in Seattle at the beginning of WWII, this is the story of friends (one Chinese-American, one Japanese-American), and their experiences with prejudice, internment, lost love, and having to leave possessions behind in the Panama Hotel (where some still remain today.) A very interesting story with plenty of local history to contemplate.

9.  McCarthy's Bar: A Journey of Discovery in Ireland by Pete McCarthy--part travel journal, part hilarious stories. I think we all decided that we wanted to visit Ireland after reading and discussing this book. 

10. Couch by Benjamin Parzybok--this was the zaniest book we read last year and many of the book club members didn't appreciate the humor of this tale, an epic journey similar to the Lord of the Rings where the object of fascination is a couch not a ring.  This book is hilarious. I love it.  This is my blog, so I can add it to the list even if it wasn't well received by many others!

What books have worked well for your book clubs?  Please share your favorites! 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top Books of 2010

It's Top Ten Tuesday and today's list is:  What are the top books of 2010?

The Broke and Bookish

Top Ten Young Adult Books of 2010
(Books I read in 2010, not necessarily published in 2010)
1. Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes---This is my favorite book of the year by far.  It won the Printz Honor last year and it deserved it! (c. 2009)
2.  The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson---Not only is this book a teen romance story, it is a story about grief and loss and finding ones way. Every single girl I've recommend it to has liked it. (c. 2010)
3.  The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork---This modern tale includes lots of literary allusions to Don Quixote.  I quoted from this book often in the weeks following my reading of it. (Audiobook; c. 2010)
4.  (Tie) Graceling (c.2008) and Fire (c. 2009) by Kristin Cashore--- Very imaginative and captivating fantasy series with Fire being the prequel to Graceling. (Audiobooks)
5.  The Cardturner by Louis Sachar---This book, about a boy who learns how to play bridge and in the process learns a lot about himself and the world, really caught me by the surprise how much I liked it. Sachar said that it is his best book and he wrote Holes.  What does that say? (c. 2010)
6.  Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel---I learned a lot about animal rights from this book.  It seems like a hokey premise to raise a chimp as a son/brother, but it works and I really cared about the outcome. (Audiobook; c. 2010)
7.  The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness--- The first book in the Chaos Walking series this book had me from the very first line and kept me in its grip throughout. (c. 2008)
8.  (Tie) Deadline (c.2007) and Staying Fat for Sarah Brynes by Chris Crutcher (c.1993)---I became a Chris Crutcher fan because of these two books.
9.  Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan---I clutched this book to my chest the minute I finished reading it. I was irritated by all the foul language (authors, why do you do that?) but the storyline soared to a fabulous crescendo. (c. 2010)
10.  Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi---Science fiction, adventure, environmentalism, romance, suspense...this book has it all.  It was a National Book Award finalist in the children's division this year. (Audiobook; c. 2010)

Honorable MentionSorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick (c. 2010); Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick (c. 2010); Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick (c. 2009)

*If I have some time later I will come back and create another Top Ten list of books we read for book club.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Report Card: Challenges 2010

Since I was new to the blogging scene I happily signed up for several challenges this year without realizing what I was getting myself in to. Next year I will exert more caution so that my challenges won't be an additional stressor on my life.That said, I was successful in completing several challenges and got close on others, and actually made a bit of progress on others so it certainly wasn't a waste of time.Here's how I did...

The Printz Award Challenge: At the beginning of the year I had 23 of the 52 Printz Award and Honor books that I hadn't read yet .  I read 5 more of the books this year bringing my total down to 18, though the new Printz Award books will be named in early January so the list will be ever expanding.  This is an on-going challenge and I am committed to it for the long haul. Grade: C

The YA Through the Decade Challenge: As a relatively new librarian I need to back-fill my reading dossier with works that I "should" read/know, so this was a perfect challenge for me.  I will do it again in a heartbeat.  The Challenge was actually quite fun and I completed it in July after reading one YA book per decade 1930 (or before) to the present.  Grade: A+

Audio Book Challenge: I listened to over 22 books in the audio format which was the goal.  This challenge is a gimme since I listen to books in my car and drive to/from work.  I completed this challenge in October.  I've already signed up for the 2011 Audio Book Challenge.  My first book will be Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. Grade: A

Summer Beach Reading Challenge: I completed more than 18 books from July 1st to the end of summer and got to the Shark Level in this challenge.  This challenge felt like cheating since I had already read enough books by the time I signed up to qualify.  I do some heavy reading during the summer so this one took no effort on my part.  I won't sign up for this one again...too easy/no challenge. Grade: B

Jane Austen Challenge: To be a Newbie (which I'm not when it comes to JA) all I had to do was read two of her books and two others (rewrites, prequels, spoofs, etc.).  I read four "others" but nothing by JA herself all year.  I even bought a book that contains Lady Susan and The Watsons two of Jane Austen's unfinished novel fragments.  I guess I still have a few days until this challenge is actually over but I must confess that I doubt I'll get to them. Not meeting this challenge is a blow to my ego.  I will give myself a bit of credit for reading the books I did. Grade: D

Banned Book Challenge: I read a banned/challenged book, The Sledding Hill by Chris Crutcher, during Banned Books Week. The book is, interestingly, about book banning.  I also read The Color Purple by Alice Walker this year, one of the top banned books of the past decade.  I also blogged about Banned Books Week every day to highlight the on-going fight against censorship.  In addition, I did all kinds of promotions for Banned Books Week at my school and got lots of the books into readers hands.  I've done a lot in the past, but nothing like I did this year.  Grade: A+

A Buck a Book Challenge: Instead of pampering myself with some treat at the end of the year with a buck-a-book I decided that I would donate the amount to Pennies for Peace.  It is an organization founded by Greg Mortensen (Three Cups of Tea author) to built schools in Central Asia.  The cool thing about his mission is that he insists that girls be allowed to attend the school which isn't often the case in state-funded or private schools in the area.  I am still reading but I know my total will be over 80 dollars.  I will do this challenge again. Grade: the satisfaction that my reading may actually make a little difference in the world. 

Personal Challenges: Classics Challenge- Grade F; Books in a Series Challenge-Grade D; Books on the 11th Grade List- Grade F; Books on the Nifty-Fifty Cart (I only have two left to go)- Grade B+

How did you do at meeting your reading goals for the year?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Scorch Trials by James Dashner

Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he and the Gladers would get their lives back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to.

In the Maze, life was easy. They had food, and shelter, and safety . . . until Teresa triggered the end. In the world outside the Maze, however, the end was triggered long ago.-Goodreads
Whew! Hang on. Scorch Trials by James Dashner takes off from the first page and keeps the action coming for nearly the whole book. The sequel to The Maze Runner, this book doesn't suffer from the dreaded second book syndrome. Rather it takes the boys from the Glade, where they had escaped at the end of book one, and places them on the Scorch where the daily temperatures and sunshine are so high that they have to travel at night and where lightening storms are deadly. In addition to the physical trials the boys have to endure they also have to escape from disease-crazed cranks and have to contend with girls who are on a similar path.  All the while Thomas is learning that he is somehow the kingpin but he doesn't know what that means or what WICKED wants from him. He is never sure who is on his side either, especially Teresa who was his ally in the glade.

With so much attention being given to the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins this year it is very fun to have another action series to turn to next.  In fact, this series is the second most checked-out series in my library right now. Like Catching Fire, this book doesn't allow the action to drop and it places the action in just enough different setting to keep the interest high.  I liked this book a lot. I don't often read more than the first book in the YA series because I want to familiarize myself with a variety of materials, books, and authors, but you can bet that I will the first in line to read the last book in this trilogy, The Death Cure, when it comes out in October 2011. And I already know, because of the teaser at the end of this book, that the action will continue in book three in a new setting once again.

Have a hard-to-please, action-addict reader that you are still trying to decide what to get for a gift this Christmas?  May I recommend The Maze Runner and it's sequel, Scorch Trials by James Dashner?

Happy Reading!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Book Beginnings.

This is my first time participating in this meme.  How to participate: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments. Include the title and the author so we know what you're reading. Then, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and let us know if you liked or did not like the sentence. The link-up will be at A Few More Pages every Friday.

From Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohen and David Levithan (YA-c.2010)
Imagine this.
     You're in your favorite bookstore, scanning the shelves. You go to the section where a favorite author's books reside, and there nestled in comfortably between the incredibly familiar spines, sits a red notebook.
     What do you do?
Well, I would take a look.  Wouldn't you?  I'm intrigued to find out what is in the notebook...though I suspect it is the book of dares mentioned in the title.  This is an excellent opener for a book since YA books need to start off with a bang or a puzzle or some grabber to get teens interested in reading.  I ready to keep going.


Book Blogger Hop

Today's meme from Crazy for Books is:

"What do you consider the most important in a story: the plot or the characters?"

Plot might entice me to pick up a book but characters keep me reading.  My book group had an excellent discussion on this topic after we read the book Olive Kitteridge.  Olive is not a very likable character yet the book,  a series of vignettes all involving Olive, is excellent.  Is it possible to like a book if you don't like the main character? If you think your answer is no, think about the book Lolita.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What I'm Reading and Want to Read

I just learned that WWW Wednesday is no longer a weekly meme on the book blogosphere so I decided to just do my own thing or I will try this meme at Book Journey. Hopefully a few of you followers out there will let me know what you are reading and either let me know in the comment section or post a link so I can take a look over at your blog. Here goes...

I am currently reading: 
The first two chapters of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  I call them the Christmas chapters.  It has been a long time since I read this book and decided to just reread this small portion. I'm "into" Christmas stories and books right now!

I am currently listening to on audio-books:
The Scorch Trials by James Dashner.  This is the sequel to the very exciting YA dystopian/adventure book, The Maze Runner.  I'm on the last disk and things are coming to a climax.  This is the 2nd book of a trilogy so no doubt I will be left hanging.

I just finished reading:
The Human Stain by Philip Roth.  This was our book club selection for the month and it was the first time since we started meeting that we were unanimous in not liking our book selection.  We did, however, have a good discussion about it and decided it would be a good book for a college lit class...lots of symbolism and things to discuss and dissect.

What is my next book:
Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. I'm going with the Christmas theme again.  I'm looking forward to reading another book by this winning duo. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: New books in 2011

Today's meme at the Broke and Bookish is:  What books do you eagerly look forward to reading in 2011? I have spent the night contemplating this question and decided that with so many books on my TBR pile that it is hard to be excited about up-coming attractions. So instead of books for myself I've decided to answer this question as books for my students/for my library. Many teenagers seemingly "live" to read the next book in their favorite series or from their favorite authors. Here are a few that kids have already asked me about (in no particular order):

1.  Ranger's Apprentice, Book #10: The Emperor of Nihon-Ja by John Flanagan.  It is due out in April 2011.  I have more devoted readers to this series than any other.  Both boys and girls love it.

2.  House of Night, Book #8: Awakened by P.C. and Kristin Cast.  Due out January 4th.  I'd better order this book today because girls will want this book the minute they get back from Winter Break.  This is the series that many girls went to after they had finished the Twilight series.

3.  Blue Bloods, Book #6: Bloody Valentine by Melissa De la Cruz.  The publication date is December 28th but I won't be at school then so I will count this one in the 2011 list.  Girls also go to this series if they aren't sick of vampires, yet.

4.  Shiver, Book #3: Forever by Maggie Stiefvater.  I don't often read more than the first book in a series but I really liked Shiver so I think I'll give Linger (#2) and Forever a try.  This is the love story between a girl and a werewolf, which sound hokey but it works.  It is not due out until July.

5.  Blood Ninja II: The Revenge of Lord Ota by Nick Lake.  I just discovered that this book has already been released so I will order this one immediately.  I have a few devoted followers of this new series and they'll be glad to see a new installment.

6.  Something new by Stephenie Meyer.  Anything?  I can't find anything in the works except An Illustrated Guide to the Twilight series due out this Spring.  Does anyone else know anything?

7.  Inheritance Cycle (Eragon series), book #4 by Christopher Paolini.  I have no idea how to write a short book so I shouldn't be critical of an author taking his time writing a long, complicated book but fans of the Eragon series, including me, are impatient for the last book in this marvelous series. Will it be out in 2011?

 8.  Bridge of Clay by Marcus Zusak.  This book is supposed to come out in February but I wonder if that means it will be published in Australia at that time not in the USA yet.  Anyway, I'm eager for a new Zusak book.  Aren't you?

9.  Beka Cooper Trilogy, Book Three: Mastiff by Tamora Pierce.  Ms. Pierce has a very devoted following and it will be nice to have the conclusion to this excellent trilogy.  It is set to be released sometime in 2011 though I don't see a publication date anywhere.

10.  The sequel to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  I know he's writing it.  I heard Alexie read the first chapter.  Will it be done and out in 2011.  I sure hope so.

What books are waiting for and hope to see in 2011?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

Argh! The selection of my favorite book for the Mock Printz Workshop was just made more difficult by the reading of this excellent book, Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick.
A boy sits in a cold, bare shack somewhere north of the Arctic Circle, alone but for his father's body lying on a table, frozen both by rigor mortis and the manner of his death. The boy's older sister and stepmother have gone for help. And then there is a knock on the door: outside is a giant of a man asking for the boy's father.

This is as stark a beginning as you can imagine. And it gets worse. The giant is convinced that the dead man has stolen his gold. He isn't going to leave without it – and he has a gun. But so in a way does Sig, the boy. -Mary Hoffman for The Guardian.co.uk
Revolver  is a very short book, just 200 pages. It can be read in one sitting, which is good because it is so taut and tense I never wanted to put it down.  Every word in this psychological thriller seems necessary and purposeful.  It's opening line sets the stage for the tension that follows: "Even the dead tell stories." Sig must discover what his dead father has to tell him in order to survive himself.

Several reviewers say that this is a coming-of-age story.  I don't disagree though I think of it more as a survival story and so much more. When asked by students what the book is about I tell them it is about a revolver, a gun, which plays as important role in the book as any other character. Obviously the title, Revolver, will attract male readers, which I'm always looking for, but I think it will have general appeal to all readers, including adults.Whether this book wins a Printz Award or not in January, I will be purchasing additional copies to place on my Nifty-Fifty Book Cart. I hope by doing this as many students as possible read this book.  You should, too!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Amazing Peace: a Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou

I will let the poem speak for itself and encourage you to pick this book up because of the amazing paintings/illustrations that go along with the poem.  Snuggle up and read it together as a family and try to live it in the new year. Yes, I know the format is in a Children's book but the topic is universal. (My book includes a CD of Maya Angelou reading the poem.) Peace!

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem   
By Maya Angelou
Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.
Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.
We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?
Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.
It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.
Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.
In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.
We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.
We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
implore you to stay awhile with us
so we may learn by your shimmering light
how to look beyond complexion and see community.
It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.
On this platform of peace, we can create a language
to translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.
At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices to celebrate the promise of Peace.
We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Nonbelievers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
We look at each other, then into ourselves,
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation:
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas in Plains by Jimmy Carter

In a beautifully rendered portrait, Jimmy Carter remembers the Christmas days of his Plains boyhood- the simplicity of family and community gift-giving, his father's eggnog, the children's house decortions, the school Nativity pageant...and the poignancy of his black neighbor's poverty. (-From the book jacket)
Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States of America, is quite an accomplished writer/author. Quite often he writes about political things, which seems like a dumb and obvious thing for me to say, but sometimes he writes about his life as a young child growing up in rural Georgia during the Depression. Christmas in Plains is one such book. In this small book Jimmy Carter recalls stories of long ago Christmases in an America very different that today. As I read through his stories and recollections I felt like I was listening in on a conversation with him. It was as if I had sat down with President Carter and asked him to tell me what Christmas was like during the Depression or what it was like living on a farm. And once he was done telling me those stories he told me about what Christmas was like in the White House. The stories were simple and plain and told without a lot of elaboration or dramatic moments. The conversational tone of the book was very endearing.

Both of my parents were born and live through the Depression so I enjoyed his tales of simple Christmas traditions and happy memories but I think that the average reader would think that the book bordered on boring-not enough drama or humor to keep the average reader reading. I do believe that people my parents age would appreciate this book much more than the set I hang out with...teenagers.  And for contrast I actually really like his book: An Hour before Daylight : Memories of a Rural Boyhood  much better than Christmas in Plains. In that book he talks about what it was like to live in the segregated South during his childhood and how his best friends, until he was school-aged, were black.  His stories are fuller and more detailed which gives them some depth and tremendous insight. I found that book to be fascinating and eye-opening.

 So I hope that you do decide to read something written by Jimmy Carter, I just don't think that Christmas in Plains is the one you should "cut your teeth" on.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd

Which came first the movie or the book?  I pondered this question as I picked up A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd the other day. I hate it when a book isn't any different than the movie. Why should I even bother reading it if they are the same? Fortunately that is not the case with this book which has just catapulted itself near the top of my Favorite Christmas books list.  Let me explain.

Apparently Jean Shepherd, a humorist and radio monologist, wrote several semi-autobiographical essays about his early years during the Depression.  He had these essays published in a book called In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash in 1966.  Later he used four of these essays (and one from another volume) to co-write the screenplay for the 1983 A Christmas Story movie, which has become standard fare during the holiday season in America today. This book, published in 2003, contains the five essays that "Shep" drew material from for his screenplay. (From the Publisher's notes.)

The essays, like the movie, are funny.  Really funny. They are also read aloud good.  I found myself taking the book around with me wherever I went, reading passages aloud to whomever would listen.  I carried it to the lunchroom at school and regaled teachers with excerpts from this little gem of a book.

Shep's essays are not only funny they are superbly written. The essay Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Kid was the only Christmas story. It contained the bits in the movie about Ralphie pining for the Red Ryder BB gun and the visit to Santa at the department store.  I was most familiar with the material in this essay.  The other four contained the stories about the Ovaltine decoder ring, the leg lamp, the school bully, and the Bumpus dog caper. All were a delight. Here is just a tiny, teaser excerpt from the essay Grover Dill and the Tasmanian Devil:
The male human animal, skulking through the impenetrable fetid jungle of Kidhood, learns early in the game just what sort of animal he is. The jungle he stalks is a howling, tangled wilderness, infested with crawling, flying, leaping, nameless dangers...He daily does battle with horrors and emotions that he will spend the rest of his life trying to forget or suppress. Or recapture. (81)
Now I need to run out and rent the DVD so I can watch the movie from the beginning-something I've never done before-and you need to get yourself to the bookstore or library and pick up this book.  Do it today.  You won't be disappointed.  I promise.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

Question of the Day:    
"What very popular and hyped book in the blogosphere did you NOT enjoy and how did you feel about posting your review?"

 I am always very conflicted about posting a negative review.  In fact, I have basically decided that I will follow the Mrs. Thumper rule:  "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."  So even if I don't like a book much I try to find and mention some positive aspect of that book.  An example of that is my review of Evermore by Alyson Noel.  I didn't care for the book, but my students like it.  That is the aspect I will focus on.