"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=========

Saturday, January 30, 2010

2010 Challenge: A Buck a Book

I'm passing on an idea for a reading challenge this 2010 but I going to propose it with a twist. Here's the challenge as outlined by DelGal:

"Here's a great way to reward yourself for reading persistence and save money at the same time. Read as many books as you'd like, there is no minimum, and there is no maximum. BUT, here's the "catch", you MUST physically take a dollar and save it somewhere safe where it won't be spent, every time you complete a book. At the end of the year, your total money saved will be the total amount of books read, ideally the more book read, the more money saved. At the end of the year spend this saved money on something fun just for yourself (no paying bills, no buying gifts for someone else!) Maybe more books for the new year? A nice dinner out to celebrate reading? The possibilities are endless!"

Head Full of Books Twist: Spend the money you've saved up on some charity that promotes reading, education, or just helps make a person's life better so that they can make room in their life for reading. An example of such an agency is The Central Asia Institute which was founded by Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea) to promote literacy, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

I'm already up to $7. How about you?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron


I have mixed feelings about this book. It is definitely not the lighthearted book that I expected. In fact it is really a fairly heavy book- not one that every teen would be interested in reading. The main character, James, has just completed high school and is quite anxious about college. He has isolated himself so much from other people that he is almost afraid of them. Due to an anxiety-ridden episode he is forced to go see Psychologist but it is really his grandmother who helps him the most. She is so loving and accepting.

Though the book is quite a bummer to read, it really is exquisitely written. The protagonist, James, is very concerned with the proper use of language and is very irritated, for example, with the psychologist because of her imprecise use of terms such as, "I see", and other such pat phrases. The author, Peter Cameron, is a master of the English language and I was very aware of his precise use of it in this book.

Will I recommend this book to teen readers? Yes and no. No, I will not recommend it to the student looking for a light read. Yes, I will mention it to students who are mature or who might be struggling themselves with depression or mood disorders. My hope is that every person has such a loving, non-judgmental person in their life as Grandma was in this story.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tweak: Growing up on Methamphetamine by Nic Sheff

I just finished this memoir written by Nic Sheff a recovering meth addict.

The first third of the book recounts, in great detail (too much detail) Nic's relapse after a year and a half of sobriety. For a month he uses anything and everything he can get his hands on while living out of the back seat of his car or on the streets. I am usually a sucker for this type of book, but I was honestly put off by the graphic details. No, I didn't need to know how to shoot heroin into the body or how to dig around searching for a collapsed vein. TMI.

The second third of the book recounts his sobriety after his binge. I was genuinely touched by this section, by his honesty and his soul searching. Until his relationship with Zelda started. At this point I once again felt like I was given too much information or the information I was given was too graphic.

The most helpful part of the book was the part he wrote about his experiences in treatment in Arizona where he actually starts understanding the concept of his need to love and accept himself. I was pretty fascinated by some of the therapy methods that they used which seemed to make a substantial impact on this treatment.

One thing I can say is that Nic is a great writer. He has a gift for making his words convey feelings-perhaps that is why I reacted so strongly against all of the gory details, because I was really feeling them.

Here are a few quotes as he struggles with being sick and tired of being sick and tired:

"Honestly, I'm not sure how much longer I can keep doing this. It's like there are seven candles lit in my stomach. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Seven candles burning and smoking-lit-seven flames of doubt, fear, sorrow, pain, waste, hopelessness, despair. They turn my insides black with soot and ash. There is something at the back of my eyes-a pressure building, building, building-hot like the flames of seven candles, which no amount of breath can extinguish...The fire eats away my flesh. The fire spreads. The fires runs through my veins. The fire courses beneath muscles-my tendons-the marrow of my bones. I sit rocking on the street corner. No, I can't keep doing this. I just can't." p.109

"The emptiness in my stomach-the well digging down-the nausea-the aching won't leave me. It's profound-consuming. I feel like curling up, serpentine on the floor, crying. I need a thousand pounds of heroin. I need to drown myself in methamphetamine. I need pills, weed, vials of liquid acid. Or maybe-maybe-I just need to get sober." p.116

"A crack in the floor breaks open and we tumble in..." p.117

"I thought the belief in God was totally backward, delusional, and ignorant. Spencer would talk to me about prayer and meditation, but I basically avoided ever experimenting with it. I just couldn't believe, there was no way...Tonight I pray. Maybe it isn't the first time, but it is the first time I pray with sincerity. I am desperate. And so I cry and ask God for help." p. 126

Note: Nic's father wrote a book about his experience with Nic's addiction from a parent's point-of-view in another well-written book, Beautiful Boy, by David Sheff.

For Older teens to adults; 3.5 stars out of 5.

Monday, January 18, 2010

... and the 2010 Printz Award winners are....

The 2010 Printz Award Winner is:

Going Bovine
by Libba Bray

"Sixteen year old slacker, Cameron, sets off on a madcap road trip along with a punk angel, a dwarf sidekick, a yard gnome and a mad scientist, to save the world and perhaps his own life. This wildly imaginative modern day take on Don Quixote is complex, hilarious and stunning. The hero’s journey will never be the same after 'Going Bovine.'" -From ALA Website

One of my students told me that Going Bovine was going to be the winner and she was right. Unfortunately we didn't add it to our list of Mock Printz books until so late that few team members had a chance to read it. It is an incredible book. I heartily recommend this book, especially for those who enjoy quirky, off-beat tales. See my review of it here.

Printz Honor Books:

-Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith
by Deborah Heiligman

-The Monstrumologist
by Rick Yancey

- Punkzilla
by Adam Rapp

-Tales from the Madman Underground: An Historical Romance, 1973
by John Barnes

The Monstrumologist and Punkzilla were on our Mock Printz list. The Monstrumologist was wildly popular with my readers, even those who found it frightening, like me. Punkzilla, a stream-of-consciousness-style tale was not well liked by my readers, so, unfortunately, most students didn't finish reading it. I enjoyed both books eventually, even though they are not be the type of books I normally read.

Charles and Emma is a rare, non-fiction selection by the Printz committee. This book has been getting a lot of attention this year and I look forward to reading it soon.

I don't know much about Tales from the Madman Underground. I'll keep you posted as I have a chance to read it in the next few weeks.

Another happy note:

The Newbery Award Winner was When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I wanted that book to win that award. Yeah! Read what I had to say about this book here.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Tomorrow, at the end of its mid-winter meeting, the American Library Association announces the award books for books published in 2009. Along with many youth services librarians I am waiting with anticipation to see the list. What were the best books published for kids last year?

On the award list may be this book, Liar by Justine Larbalestier. I read it along with my Mock Printz list of books and my first impression was not favorable. I thought it was just a book taking advantage of a current genre craze. But my feelings about this book have actually improved over the weeks since I read it. First off, the book, considered a psychological thriller, is about a girl, Micah, who admits she is a liar. With each chapter as she divulges more information about herself one is never sure if she is really telling the truth this time or not. Even by the end of the book I wasn't sure if I believed her. I think that shows tremendous talent and skill on Larbalestier's part. It must have been hard to keep all the lies straight as she wrote the story.

I don't want to give away the ending, but let me say that when I finished the book I was in complete shock that none of my students had let the ending slip. None. I think I had 10-15 students who read it before me and I can't believe that any of them gave the ending away.
Read it and let me know if you think ... is Micah telling the truth at the end or not?

YA Lit, Grades 9-12, 4 of 5 stars.

Friday, January 15, 2010

YA through the Decades -- Reading Challenge

A new year. A new challenge.

Whitney at Youth Services Corner is presenting us with a wonderful reading challenge. For 2010 I will join her and many other librarians, YA Lit fans, and teens across the country in reading a YA book written per decade starting in 1930 (or earlier.) The only "rule" is that the book has to have been written for Young Adults, features a teens point-of-view, or has become a favorite of teens over the years. Re-reads are fine. Start with any decade.

Here are a few books that I am considering, though this list is partial and not cast-in-stone:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1930s and earlier); Mrs. Mike by Benedict Freedman (1940s); A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle (1960s); Forever by Judy Blume (1970s)...I'm still trying to figure out what other books I'll read to fill in the other decades... 1950s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. Please join in this challenge or at least give me some suggestions in the comments section.

If you are a student or staff member at my school and would like to participate in this challenge, stop by the library and sign up. I will create a bulletin board celebrating the books we've all read by the decades. I look forward to having you join me in this challenge. I will also blog about my selections as I read them.

Now get reading!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

2010 Mock Printz Results

I love my job!

This past Thursday I had one of the top five experiences of my long teaching career. Sixteen students met with me for over two hours to debate the selection of the Mock Printz book for our high school. Two and a half hours of students talking about books, literature, writing styles, and themes. It was so much more than just kids talking about their favorite books. It was students identifying good literature and recognizing the importance of it in their lives. It was about kids making connections with other kids through their shared experiences by reading the same books. I just had to sit back and let them go, making a few comments here and there to bring them back if they strayed too far. It was amazing. I get goosebumps even thinking about the event. Of the ten (eleven) books in consideration for the Mock Printz the average student read five or six, but there were a few students who read all of them. Everyone had something important to contribute to the discussion and to the outcome. We had to vote many times and had wonderful debates to create our winning list. The final results are:

The 2010 Mock Printz Winner:
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

2010 Mock Honor Books:
Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 Mock Printz Workshop

Later this week I will meet with a group of students from my school to hold our first ever Mock Printz Award Workshop. In preparation for this event we have all been busy reading books on a list of ten pre-selected by youth librarians in Clark County which were presented at the WLMA conference in Yakima this past October. Next year I hope to be able to create my own list, but with little notice I was grateful to accept the help and suggestions from librarians who have been through the process before.

To back up a bit, the Printz Award is the highest honor given to young adult literature in America. The actual Printz committee announces its selections during the Mid-Winter meeting of the American Library Association in January. My Mock Printz committee will attempt to choose the winner (and two honor books) and then we will wait with anticipation for the actual results to see if we got it right.

I am so impressed with my group of 25+ high school students who have read feverishly since I introduced this idea to them in mid-October. I asked them to make a commitment to read at least five of the books. Many students have read all ten. Several stopped by my desk today to ask if I had any of the books so they could try to cram in one more by Thursday. All this merely for the love of reading and for the satisfaction of being part of something.

Here is a list of the ten books for our Mock Printz Workshop. Several are wonderful and I would not be surprised if those are considered by the actual committee. Others aren't very good and I hope they aren't considered. I am sure we missed some great books published later in the year that the actual committee won't overlook. We'll see how we did.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork *
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead *
Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan *
Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Monstrumologist by Rick Yancy *
Punkzilla by Adam Rapp
Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman *
Distant Waves: a Novel of the Titanic by Suzanne Weyn

Several students are also considering a write-in campaign for Going Bovine by Libba Bray.

I'll update you later this week with the results of our workshop. Stay tuned!
*= Read my blog on the starred books.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My Favorite Reads of 2009

1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
2. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
3. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
4. Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
5. Hunger Games and its sequel, Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
6. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolley
7. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
8. Tamar: a Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal by Mal Peet
9. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
10. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
11. Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
12. Paper Towns by John Green
13. (Tie) Blankets by David Thompson and Stitches by David Small
14. Going Bovine by Libba Bray
15. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Notes on a few of these books:
The Help by Kathryn Stockett was my favorite book of the year (even though I didn't blog about it). It is set in the deep South in the early 1960s and is about the relationships between black maids and their white employers and their children. It is an amazingly well-written book that really made me think. Everyone in my book club liked it a lot which was a first for us. Read more about this marvelous book at the author's blog.
Whistling Season by Ivan Doig. I listened to this marvelous book on CD and swept up by the story about a bygone era where the life of a community centered around the one-room school house. Set in Montana in 1911. Doig is master storyteller.
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork. I think this book is going to be the Printz Award winner for 2009. The best YA fiction of the year.
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This is my choice for the Newberry Award book for the year. We'll see if I'm right. I hope so. This book is a little gem.
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. My goal was to read ten books this year from the list of 100 Best Novels. I didn't make my goal-I was too busy reading YA literature- but I did enjoy this classic set in England between the World Wars.

Two Tales - Two Epic Journeys

In the manner of small coincidences I ended up reading and listening to these two books during the same time period and they both are stories with epic journeys. In fact, I occasionally got the tales mixed up when I was describing them to others. Though the tales have quite different plots they both deal with a journey that is meant to save the world with zany, unlikely heroes.

Couch by Benjamin Parzybok- Three guys living in Portland, Oregon are forced to moved out of their apartment and so begins the journey. As they attempt to carry the couch to Goodwill they find that the couch gets extremely heavy if carried in a direction it doesn't want to go and light if carried in a direction it does. The guys, with nothing else to do, find themselves carrying the couch out of Portland heading West with every move seemingly directed by the couch. Similar to Frodo's journey with the ring in The Lord of the Rings, everyone they meet along the way wants the couch and wants it for selfish reasons. At some point the threesome realize that they are on an epic journey to save the world by delivering the couch to the right spot, wherever that might be. Their journey takes them to the highest mountains in Ecuador via the Pacific Ocean. Adventures await them every step of the way.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray- Cameron Smith is a nobody high-schooler with a dysfunctional family until his diagnosis of Creutzfeldt-Jacob, "mad cow" disease changes everything. When his hallucinations begin they seem to be related to his disease, or are they? So begins the journey, or is it an hallucination (?), to find the elusive Doctor X who will not only cure Cameron of his disease but will also save the world from the negative effects of dark matter. Along the way Cameron is helped by a dwarf side-kick named Gonzo, a punk-rock angel named Dulcie, and a Norse God stuck in the body of yard gnome. The quest has many parallels to the hopeless but inspirational efforts of Don Quixote, the book Cameron had been reading before his illness. The story is tragic, inspirational, funny and sad. I laughed and cried. The ending wasn't what I wanted but it was very satisfying.

I highly recommend both books though I recognize that they aren't the type of books for every reader. Going Bovine was written with a young adult audience in mind, though I think it will have appeal for many adults just like I think many teens, especially those who like quirky books, will appreciate Couch. 4 1/2 Stars for each.