"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=========

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Sledding Hill by Chris Crutcher

I finally have the perfect book to recommend to teenagers who want to know more about book banning.  It is The Sledding Hill by Chris Crutcher. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will remember that I read and loved two of Chris Crutcher's books this summer and became a big fan of him at the same time.

The story is set in a small community in Idaho where two friends Eddie and Billy (the narrator) enjoy doing just about everything together, especially running and sledding.  When Eddie's dad dies of a tragic accident he is devastated but at least he still has his friend Billy for support. But then two months later Billy dies in another senseless accident and Eddie goes into a total tailspin.  Before Billy departs from this world he senses that he needs to stay for a while to help Eddie cope with his losses. That is how Billy can be the all-knowing narrator---he has a heavenly vantage point.

When Eddie finally returns to school after his double tragedy, he finds solace in his Modern Lit. class taught by the librarian (no wonder I like it) and the book they are assigned to read, Warren Peece. The book is chalk full of controversial topics but many students find themselves on the pages and are excited to have an opportunity to discuss the book. (And don't you just love the irony in the title of the book?)  That is until the most conservative teacher and part-time pastor, Mr. Tarter, gets a few parents activated in an attempt to ban the book.

The Sledding Hill is different than any fiction book I have ever read because Chris Crutcher inserts himself into the story as the author of the fictional book, Warren Peece, and as a YA author whose works are often banned or frequently-challenged...which is really the case. Crutcher seems to have a sense of humor about himself that shows up in this book and I found it charming.

"This clever, spirited post-modern meta-narrative is a quick read that is bound to be controversial. It has no profanity, sexual acts, drug or alcohol use, or bloody violence but takes dead aim at censors."-School Library Journal
On a related note...I just finished reading this book last night.  Today, out of the blue, as I was walking through the cafeteria another teacher stopped me to ask me if I had any Chris Crutcher books in the library.  It seems that this teacher became acquainted with him this summer and is now a big fan, too.  Weird timing and small world. Also, Chris Crutcher's webpage has a plethora of information and links to even more information about book banning and censorship.  Take a look here.

Remember...banned books week is still on.  
Read a banned book this week.  Carry it with you to 
work or school and keep the cover out for all to see!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Top Ten Quotes and Literary Couples

*I missed last week's meme but liked it so much I decided to write my diary on it in addition to this week's meme. 
The Broke and the Bookish

What are your top ten favorite quotes from books?

1. "That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive- all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment."---The Guernsey Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrons, pgs 11-12.
2. "When I visit the back corners of my life again after so long a time, littlest things jump out first." "Even when it stands vacant the past is never empty."---Whistling Season by Ivan Doig, from first line, page 1, and conclusion, page 344.
3. "I'm skimming across the surface of my own history, moving fast, riding the melt beneath the blades, doing loops and spins, and when I take a high leap into the dark and come down thirty years later, I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy's life with a story." ---The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, pg. 246.
4. "Remembering is a word I use for praying. Sometimes it's like waiting for music to come out of silence." ---Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, pg. 147.
5. "...even after fifty years it retains its aura of brimstone and taboo...what people remember isn't the book itself, so much as the furor. Ministers in church denounced it as obscene...the library was forced to remove it from the shelves...There's nothing like a shovelful of dirt to encourage literacy." ---The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, p. 39.
6. "The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." ---Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.
7. "...until Ammu shook her and told her to stoppit and she stoppited. Around them the hustling-jostling crowd. Scurrying hurrying buying selling luggage trundling porter paying children shitting people spitting coming going begging." ---The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.
8. "Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering."---The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, pg. 11.
9. "His question caught her off-guard, and she didn't know what to do with it. The part of her that was open to the universe was facing in another direction just then."---Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins, p. 327.
10. "Shall we go to Bethlehem, boys, or shall we dance?"---The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry.
11. "I try to fend off the oceanic sadness, but I can't. It's such a colossal effort not to be haunted by what is lost, but to be enchanted by what was."---The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, p.275.
12. "We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to totally suck."---Feed by M.T. Anderson, p. 1.

What are your top ten favorite literary couples?
(In no particular order.)

  1.  Leo and StargirlStargirl by Jerry Spinelli... They had the kind of relationship I always wanted in high school.
  2. Elizabeth and Mr. DarcyPride and Prejudice by Jane Austen...Every girl wants a Mr. Darcy, right?
  3. Lennie and JoeThe Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson...Such a tender and young love.
  4. Anne Elliot and Captain WentworthPersuasion by Jane Austen...I can totally relate to Anne Elliott and think of a line from Captain Wentworth's Diary here" Anne, always Anne."
  5. Katsa and PoGraceling by Kristin Cashore...Love that has grown out of mutual admiration and common purpose.
  6. Elinor Dashwood and Edward FerrarsSense and Sensibility by Jane Austen...It was a toss up between this couple or Marianne and Col. Brandon.  I love both couples.
  7. Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley/Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger...Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling...'nuff said.  I'm a fan.
  8. Kathy and Mike FlanniganMrs. Mike: The Story of Katherine Mary Flannigan by Benedict Freedman...This a true life love affair.  So tender and nourishing.
  9. Laila and TariqA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini...A tragic love story with a bit of a happy ending.
  10. Katniss and Peeta...Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins...I wasn't going to put this one on because I was conflicted about the whole Gale/Peeta thing but I had a conversation with another teacher after school and she talked me through the whole true-love thing with Peeta.  I'm there now.  Ready to accept them as a favorite couple.
  11. Todd and ViolaThe Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking series) by Patrick Ness...Don't know if they are a couple or just best friends.  But I love their devotion to each other.
  12. Henry and Clare...Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger...A late addition after seeing other lists.  They had a love which transcended time.
  13. Beatrice and Benedict...Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare...Another late addition. Their banter makes for all kinds of sexual tension.

To Speak or Not to Speak...

Last week a Republic (Springfield), Missouri parent and college professor wrote an opinion piece in the local newspaper, The News-Leader. Among other things this person identifies Laurie Halse Anderson's award-winning book, Speak, as soft pornography. Anyone who has read this book knows that Speak is a condemnation of rape and of casual sex. It is about a girl who is so traumatized by being raped that she can't speak and she spirals into a deep depression.  This 1999 book is powerful in helping students recognize the need to seek help, to ask for what we need. Sure doesn't sound like any pornography I've ever seen or heard of.

Laurie Halse Anderson responded in her blog.  Here is a quote from that blog:

The fact that he sees rape as sexually exciting (pornographic) is disturbing, if not horrifying. It gets worse, if that’s possible, when he goes on to completely mischaracterize the book.
Some people say that I shouldn’t make a big deal about this. That I am giving him more attention than he deserves. But this guy lives about an hour and half from the school district that banned Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN this month. (Where they not only banned it from class usage but also voted to have it removed from the library shelves.) My fear is that good-hearted people in Scroggins’ community will read his piece and believe what he says. And then they will complain to the school board. And then the book will be pulled and then all those kids who might have found truth and support in the book will be denied that. In addition, all the kids who have healthy emotional lives but who hate reading, will miss the chance to enjoy a book that might change their opinion.

Bravo for Ms. Anderson.  We all have to stand up when the censors get out their guns and fire away with lies and half-truths.  We can't sit idly by and think to ourselves, "Well, that would never happen in my community." Today Missouri, tomorrow your home town.

In honor of banned books week read  
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. 
Afterwards donate it to your local secondary school library.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mark Twain on Book Banning

When Huck Finn came under fire and was banned by the Omaha Public Library in 1902, Mark Twain said this in response:

     "Dear Sir, Your telegram has arrived, but I have already said all I want to say concerning Huck Finn's new adventures, there is no need to say it again...I am tearfully afraid this noise is doing much harm. It has started a number of hitherto spotless people to reading Huck Finn, out of a natural human curiosity to learn what this is all about---people who had not heard of him before; people who will go to wreck and ruin now. The publishers are glad, but it makes me want to borrow a handkerchief and cry. I should be sorry to think it is the publishers themselves that got up this little flutter to enable them to unload a book that has been taking up much room in their cellars..."    NY Times September, 6, 1902 (View the original article here.)

I truly believe that Mark Twain was on to something.  Why else would books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), Catcher in the Rye (1951), The Chocolate War (1974), Slaughterhouse Five (1969), and The Color Purple (1982) still be attracting attention decades after they were first published?

Margaret Atwood in her novel The Blind Assassin said, "There's nothing like a shovelful of dirt to encourage literacy."

Bring on the dirt!

Think for yourself and let others do the same.  Read a banned book this week.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Silliest and most illogical reasons for book banning

The silliest and most illogical reasons for book banning

1. “Encourages children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.” ( A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstien) 
2. “It caused a wave of rapes.” ( Arabian Nights, or Thousand and One Nights, anonymous) 
3. “If there is a possibility that something might be controversial, then why not eliminate it?” ( Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown) 
4. “Tarzan was ‘living in sin’ with Jane.” ( Tarzan, by Edgar Rice Burroughs) 
5. “It is a real ‘downer.’” ( Diary of Anne Frank, by Anne Frank) 
6. “The basket carried by Little Red Riding Hood contained a bottle of wine, which condones the use of alcohol.” ( Little Red Riding Hood, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm) 
7. “One bunny is white and the other is black and this ‘brainwashes’ readers into accepting miscegenation."(The Rabbit’s Wedding, by Garth Williams) 
8. “It is a religious book and public funds should not be used to purchase religious books.” ( Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, by Walter A. Elwell, ed.) 
9. “A female dog is called a bitch.” ( My Friend Flicka, by Mary O’Hara) 
10. “An unofficial version of the story of Noah’s Ark will confuse children.” ( Many Waters, by Madeleine L’Engle) ----ALA  Ideas for Displays 

Read a banned book this week. 


    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    The Color Purple by Alice Walker

    The American Library Association published the list of the Top Ten Most Banned Books of 2009 in preparation for Banned Book Week which is September 25-October 2nd this year. The Color Purple by Alice Walker is once again on that list. Can you imagine that people are still trying to ban students from reading this book over 27 years after it was published?  But actually most of the books on the list were published decades ago.  I swear that act of attempting a ban on a book increases interest in the book.  "There is nothing like a shovelful of dirt to encourage literacy." (Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin)

    So I finally read The Color Purple.  Sometimes I am embarrassed when I consider the books I haven't read.  Up until a week ago this book was on that list.  As I started reading it I realized that I basically didn't know anything about the book other than it was about a black family and incest occurred. Here's a quick summary about the book:   "The Color Purple by Alice Walker, published in 1982. It won a Pulitzer Prize in 1983. A feminist novel about an abused and uneducated black woman's struggle for empowerment, the novel was praised for the depth of its female characters and for its eloquent use of black English vernacular." -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

     I don't need to tell you to read it.  If you haven't read it you know you should. It is not just a fabulous book it is an important book. It has an important message for all people about the transformative power of love and friendship in overcoming cruelty and despair. It is a powerful statement about the power we have within us to better our lives.

    Read a banned book this week. 
    "Think for yourself and let others do the same."

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Mock Printz 2011

    Our Mock Printz 2011 reading list.

    1. Bacigalupi, Paolo...Ship Breaker...(Sci-Fi)
    2. Nelson, Jandy...The Sky is Everywhere...(Romance/Realism)
    3. Teller, Janne... Nothing...(Realism)
    4. Stork, Francisco X....The Last Summer of the Death Warriors...(Realism)
    5. Bartoletti, Susan Campbell...They Called Themselves the KKK: the Birth of An American Terrorist Group...(Nonfiction)
    6. Gill, David Macinnis...Black Hole Sun...(Sci-Fi)
    7. Sachar, Louis...The Card Turner...(Realism)
    8. Emond, Stephen...Happy Face...(Partially graphic novel/realism/illustrated-journal style)
    9. Marchetta, Melina...Finnikin of the Rock...(Fantasy)
    10. Richards, Jame...Three Rivers Rising: a Novel of the Johnstown Flood...)Historical fiction; in verse)
    11. Oppel, Kenneth...Half Brother...(Realism)

    Here is a list of possible "others" that we may add to the list...
    -Green, John and David Levithan...Will Grayson, Will Grayson...Realism
    -Molnar, Haya...Under a Red Sky: a Memoir of Childhood in Communist Romania...biography/memoir
    -Benoit, Charles...You...Realism
    -Sedgwick, Marcus...Revolver...Adventure
    -Fisher, Catherine...Incarceron...Fantasy
    -Hemphill, Stephanie...Wicked Girls: a Novel of the Salem Witch Trials...Historical Fiction; in verse
    -Neri, G... Yummy: the Last Days of Southside Shorty...graphic biography
    -Griffen, Adele...Picture the Dead...Historical Fiction
    -?...books not yet published

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Banned Book Challenge...Read a Banned Book Today!

    Wordle: Banned Book Week
    Banned Book Week is coming soon.  In honor of that event I am picking books which have been frequently banned or challenged as my reading selections this month.

    Last year Ani Vrabel at Paste Magazine.com wrote an article called "10 Frequently-Challenged Books Everyone Should Read." The article highlights each selection and tells why the book is frequently-challenged and why it is worthwhile reading.  The ten books are listed below and please take a look at the article for all those details. After Vrabel's list I have added a few frequently-challenged books that I think everyone should read.  In the comment section, please add your suggestions of books you think everyone should read, too.

    1. Catcher in the Rye by Holden Caufield
         I read this book a few years ago because it has been such a frequently-challenged book. I honestly think that attempts at banning books actually causes many people to read the books.
    2.  Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
         Because it is an uncomfortable subject it should be banned?
    3.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
         I had a student tell me that he hated this book because it contains the N-word.  I asked him if his teacher did anything about the history of the time when it was written to help him understand the use of the word.  He said no.  Such a pity.
    4.  The Giver by Lois Lowry    
    5.  Lord of the Flies by William Golding    
    6.  Native Son by Richard Wright
    7.  Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    8.  Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
         Can you believe that I haven't read books 4-8?  Obviously they are all on my "list" now.
    9.  Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
         I guess that parents are uncomfortable with death and learning disabilities, otherwise why would they want to ban this classic?
    10. Any book by Judy Blume
          I'm a bit old to have benefited personally from Judy Blume, but my daughters read her books and felt they helped.

    Books I would add to the list of frequently-challenged books everyone should read ...
    A.  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
    Why it is challenged: profanity and sexual content.
    Why it is worthwhile: Alexie is Native American.  He writes about life on the reservation and what challenges alcoholism and poverty  pose for his people.  The book is funny, yet poignant.  It doesn't preach but you will understand much more about the culture and problems.  This book is thought to be semi-autobiographical.

    B.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
    Why it is challenged:  racial slurs; seemingly racism.
    Why it is worthwhile: This is truly the great American novel.  It is so-o-o-o well written.  Twain is truly the best of the best.  Huckleberry Finn does seem to be racist at the beginning of the story but he figures out that his initial thoughts are wrong.  With a good teacher and class discussion, any racial issues can be assuaged.  (I think this book is the perfect book to listen to on audio-books since it is written in vernacular.  Loved it!)

    What books would be put on this list?
    For more ideas, here is a list of 25 frequently-banned books that everyone should be read.

    Your turn......

    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    Friday Blog Hop...Share the Blog Love

    The Friday Blog Hop this week asks us to highlight blogs that we enjoy and why..in other words..share the love.
    Book Blogger Hop
    So here are a few blogs that I enjoy:

    1.  A Book a Week...Becky over at A Book A Week writes crisp, concise book reviews without a bunch of fluff and distracting other tags.  I can read her reviews without having to scroll past long sections of text that don't help me decide to/not to read the book.  Simplicity reigns and I love it.

    2.The Elliott Review... Jessi over at Elliott Review is always so kind and helpful, always answering questions I pose and encouraging me as a blogger and as a teacher-librarian (kindred spirits)

    3. Roof Beam Reader...Adam over at Roof Beam Reader is a blog I enjoy because Adam brings the male voice to books and book reviews...he says he is in the 5% minority.  He always give thoughtful comments.  I appreciate that.  Plus Adam is a fellow teacher.  Yeah!

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    Ten Books I'm Dying to Read

    Yesterday over at Broke and Bookish the question of the week was what are your top ten books that you are dying to read. I decided to stay late at work to write the diary rather than come home and get distracted by "life". I happily sat at my desk and compiled a list of ten books that I really want to read but I can't ever seem to find the time and they keep screaming my name.  I was pretty proud of my list.  It seemed to represent the inner me and the eclectic book choices that I usually make.  As I finished the list I decided to go back and add copyright dates.  That done, I opted to add a few pictures of the books.  First picture added looked great so I decided for another.  Big mistake.  It attached itself, somehow, magically, maddeningly, to the whole document.  When I highlighted the picture, it highlighted the whole document.  Weird.  How do I undo that?  I wondered?  Oh I know, I will just hit remove on the picture it will remove it and all will go back to the way it was before I added the thing.  Wrong.  I removed the whole document.  Every word. Every link I'd created.  Everything.  All gone.  Zippo, and no getting it back either, no back button helped.  I just logged out and came home.  I had just wasted 1 1/2 hours of my life.  And now I don't feel like recreating that list.

    Today in the light of new day I decided to reinterpret the question.  Instead of creating a list of books that I want to read, but just haven't gotten around to it yet, I decided that "Books I'm Dying to Read" are books that aren't published yet.  Books that I might stay up late to buy (with my age "might" is getting less likely), books that I am aware of their distribution date and look forward to reading before I process it for distribution in the library.  Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins) was one such book. I had the countdown running on my computer. I knew that August 24th was a Tuesday.  I was dying to read it from the time that I finished Catching Fire six months earlier. All the Harry Potter books, after the first book, were that way for me.  I couldn't wait to read the next one. So what remains on that list of eagerly, anxiously awaited books for me?  I can only think of a few.

    1.  The third book in the Chaos Walking series, Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness. I read the first two books in the series this summer and I am watching the calendar for this one because it is due out the end of this month. I am anxious to find out how the mess at the end of book two will be resolved.

    2.  The fourth book in the Eragon series.  I love going to the world where Eragon and Dragons live.  But this one is so far out it isn't even on the radar.  I might have to wait for years for this book.

    3.  The Scorth Trials by James Dashner, sequel to The Maze Runner is due out Oct. 12th and I will position myself to read it before I put it on the library shelf.

    That's all I can think of now.  Three books I'm eager (not dying) to read.

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Mrs. Bennett's Top Ten YA Novels of Summer 2010

    These ten books are the favorite YA novels that I read this past summer:

    1.  The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
          -Deeply moving and poetic; a story of grief and of young love.

    2.  The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork
         - Two boys find acceptance and peace through their friendship; very spiritual.
    3.  The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
         - Exciting adventure fantasy set on a planet where all thoughts are heard.

    4.  Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
         -The last book in the Hunger Games Trilogy; lots of plot twists and turns.

    5.  Deadline  by Chris Crutcher
        -How would you want to spend your senior year if you had one year to live?

    6.  Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick
        -A soldier in Iraq has trouble with his memory after a bomb explodes near him.

    7.  Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
        -In a futuristic time where kids have to scavenge to survive; high adventure.

    8.  The Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
         -A young girl meets a German POW near her home in Arkansas; a classic

    9.  The Card Turner by Louis Sachar
        - A quirky book about friendship, family, love, and playing bridge.

    10. Nothing by Janne Teller (translated from Danish)
        - A disturbing tale about how far kids will go to prove their point.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick

    Bravo Matthew Quick on your debut YA novel. I wept, I laughed, I raged, and I loved your book, Sorta Like a Rock Star.

    At the beginning of this story we meet Amber Appleton, the hero of this story, who lives in a bus, named Hello Yellow, with her alcoholic, school-bus-driving mom, and her darling dog, Bobby Big Boy (Thrice B.) Defying these dire circumstances Amber is a girl of great hope and unyielding optimism, always seeming to find the silver-lining in everything. "True? True". Amber loves J.C. (Jesus Christ) but doesn't go to church though she prays constantly. She finds ways to better the lives of all the people she comes across: Donna and her autistic son, Ricky;  Father Chee and The Korean Divas for Christ (English-language students); a group of old-folks in a retirement home; four misfit boys who love to play video games in the Marketing teacher's room; and a haiku-writing, cranky, loner war vet. But then a tragedy strikes and Amber isn't sure if she'll ever recover her sense of purposeful hope and optimism. But recover she must because Amber Appleton is sorta like a rock star, a rock star of hope.

    Here's what one reviewer of Sorta Like a Rock Star had to say (and I agree):
    Matthew Quick has given us a teen heroine who makes you laugh when you want to cry and cry when you want to laugh. This funny-sad book keeps you guessing until the very last page about which will win: the humor or the heartache? The answer, lucky reader, is both. In short, Amber Appleton might only be ’sorta like a rock star,’ but she is certain to rock your world.” Dana Reinhardt—author of A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life and How to Build a House. (from Matthew Quick's Webpage)

    When a book makes me cry and laugh in the space of a few pages, I know I have found a gem. Quick seems to be concerned with making the world a better place and he does so by introducing us to a contagiously optimistic character who loves with all her heart.  I dare you to read this book and not to feel moved to go out and help someone, somewhere.  Read it first and then get out there!

    BTW- Matthew Quick's blog (along with wife, Alicia Bessette) is titled: Quest for Kindness.  How appropriate is that? Cool? Cool.

    Saturday, September 11, 2010

    One Lovely Book Award

    I never thought I'd receive the "lovely blog award" since I have about the plainest blog I know. But I must admit that is my personality, not too showy.

    Thanks so much to Elliott Review for this award! Here's how the whole thing works:
    1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.
    2. Pass the award to blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
    3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.
    OK so here are the super, fantastic, awesome and of course lovely blogs I have found:

    The Social Frog


    A Book Lover's Opinion

    Life is Good Award

    Wow.  Another blog award.  Thank you Book Bee for the honor.  (I am not worthy!)  The recipient of this award must answer a few questions and pass it on.  So here goes:

    To accept the award you must link back and thank the person who gave you the Life is Good award and answer the 10 questions and pass it along to 6 other blogs :)

    1. If you blog anonymously are you happy doing it that way; if you are not anonymous do you wish you had started out anonymously so you could be anonymous now?

    I don't consider myself anonymous on my blog.  If a person really tried they could figure out who I am and where I am a high school librarian based on my comments, my picture, my profile, etc.

    2.Describe one incident that shows your inner stubborn side?

    I can get pretty stubborn when it comes to ways I want my library run but I can also get talked out of things, too, especially if logic is applied.

    3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror?

    This morning I'd have to say a woman whose hair is really frizzy and out-of-control.

    4. What is your favorite summer cold drink?

    Not sure what this question has to do with anything, but Passion Iced Tea like they make at Starbucks, but I make it at home.

    5. When you take time for yourself, what do you do?

    Luxuriate by reading in the hammock on warm days.  Getting pedicures.

    6.Is there something you still want to accomplish in your life? What is it?

    Participate in some humanitarian mission to an impoverished area or country.

    7. When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever , the shy person, or always ditching?

    Over-achiever, with a bit of the shy person thrown in.

    8. If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment of your life what would you see?

    Listening to my daughter play Jupiter by Holst on her cello with her Youth Symphony at music camp.  She played that same piece eight years earlier at her first camp and now it was her last camp and the same music (harder version).  I felt like life had come full circle.  It made we weep...still makes me weep to think of it.

    9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people or events?

    My blog is about books and literature.  I  don't blog about my religion or my politics, though sometimes they may peak through.

    10. If you had the choice to sit down and read or talk on the phone, which would you do and why?

    I'm not much for talking on the phone, never have been.  So I guess I'd say I'd prefer to read.

    The 6 people I am passing this award along to are:

    I Adore Books and Film

    Collette Kitchen Creations

    Stuck Between the Pages

    Buried in Books

    Must Love Books

    Moydrook Reads

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    It's Friday! Book Blogger Hop Time!

    Book Blogger Hop

    Thank you Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books for taking my suggestion that we all give a link to one of our favorite blog posts in the past three months.  I love the idea of really getting to know other bloggers by their writing styles and the books they like to review.  So here goes...one of my favorite recent blogs was for the book The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork. I really admire the author's writing style and the integrity that he brings to his stories. Take a look.

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

    Can you tell that I have started back to work?  The last time I posted anything was almost a week ago.  Arg!  This happens every year.  Sigh!

    Anyway, I just finished a fabulous book, The Plot Against America by Philip Roth. Though this book is intended for adult readers I think that there is a lot to recommend this book to teen readers as well, especially those who enjoy reading historical fiction.  Roth is an excellent writer, in fact this book ended up on a lot of lists when the "100 Best Books of the Decade" were announced last year. It also came to my attention because it is on a American Library Association's list of books that college-bound students should read.

    The plot of this book is intriguing.  What if some event in history were altered?  How would that alter subsequent events?  In the case of The Plot Against America the event that is altered is the 1940 election when FDR is running for his third term as President of the United States and the war in Europe is looming. Here Charles A. Lindbergh, an American hero and a known anti-Semite, wins the election on the sole promise that a vote for him is a vote for staying out of the war. The premise of the story was based on actual isolationist views expressed by Lindbergh and his activity in America First Committee in the early 1940s. The story is told from the point-of-view of a young Philip Roth, a nine-year-old Jewish boy growing up in Newark, New Jersey where he and his family live in a predominantly Jewish community. Things go downhill fast for Philip and his family as antisemitism in the United States builds to a crescendo and their world gets turned upside-down.

    Roth infused a lot of actual historical events and individuals into the storyline, he just altered what happened to them.  I thoroughly enjoyed learning about history, albeit from a warped perspective, and about individuals I knew nothing or little about prior to reading this book.  People like Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, New York City Mayor Laguardia, Senator Burton K. Wheeler from Montana, and the colorful radio personality Walter Winchell came to life for me. Reading about history through fictional works if a very painless way to learn and I highly recommend it.

    The New York Times reviewer said this about the book: "The novel is sinister, vivid, dreamlike, preposterous and, at the same time, creepily plausible."  That "creepily plausible" part is what has me thinking about the book and it's greater meaning. How tenuous is our government and how quickly could it fall apart if just a few things were altered just a little?  It gives me cause to pause and think. That is the genius of this book.

    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    Friday Blog Hop

    Book Blogger Hop

    Question of the week:  Do you judge a book by it's cover?

    Yes and no.  If I am in a bookstore I am more likely to pick up a book with an intriguing cover than one that looks like every other cover or is bland.  But in my library, I try to teach students to read the inside of cover or the back of the book, depending on the type of book.  So I should practice what I preach.  Unfortunately, I think some reprints of classic novels have really boring covers.  For example: Catcher in the Rye has a white cover and dark colored title.  Boring.  I think lots of YA books have unfortunate covers.  The hardback book cover of a marvelous book: Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock, had a picture of a cow wearing a crown.  Who wants to read that? The publisher corrected that error for their paperback version of the book.  It shows two kids laying in the grass.  Much better.  High school students don't want to be seen reading any book that looks juvenile.  Publishers need to remember that.

    Do you judge a book by the cover?

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    The Card Turner by Louis Sachar

    The phrase "The book fell open and I fell in," aptly describes my reading experience with the Card Turner by Louis Sachar. And, mind you, I did not expect to fall in, either.  The book is predominantly about playing the card game bridge, a game I know nothing about.  But fall I did and I was completely captivated.  After reading a few other reviews on the book I think that the consensus of other reviewers is the same---no one expected to like the book because it was about bridge, but everyone did like it...and learned a little about bridge along the way.

    The story follows Alton, a teenage boy who is enlisted to be the card turner for his blind great-uncle while he plays a very highly competitive version of  bridge once or twice a week. Alton has to read the cards to his uncle prior to the commencement of each game and play the cards his uncle directs him to play.  (I know, it sounds like a real snorer.)  Along the way Alton becomes fascinated with game, meets fascinating people, gets sucked in to a family drama, falls in love, and learns a lot about himself.  Like all good YA novels there is a little mystery, a sweet romance, and, of course, embarrassing parents.

    The story is told in  first person with Alton's self-deprecating sense of humor showing up throughout.  About three chapters into the story a picture of  a whale shows up on the page.  Alton tells the reader that this means he is going to explain some complicated strategy used in bridge and if the reader wants he can skip to the text-box where he will summarize what was said.  I frequently did use the "skip" feature provided, but occasionally I read all the material.  There were also diagrams of the card in a hand which helped explain the point that was made.  (I know, I know, it still sounds boring.)  I read three-fourths of the book, then I found that the library had the audio version and I checked it out.  I enjoyed listening to Louis Sachar narrate his own book, but the audio version didn't allow for the visual display of cards when explaining strategies or hands and so it was more confusing to me than reading it.

    My only criticism of the book, and it is a small one, is that Sachar cast Alton's parents as very one-dimensional  people.  All they wanted was to get an inheritance from the great-uncle and they wanted Alton to secure it.  All the other characters were much more multifaceted and weren't so single-minded, unless they were talking about bridge.

    Sachar, the much loved and admired author of the book Holes, admits that he is a bridge fanatic. Here is an Interview with Sachar conducted by BookPage about why he wrote a YA book about bridge.  It is a fun and revealing interview.  Take a moment to hop on over to that page, but be sure to come back.

    I really enjoyed The Card Turner and, I must admit, I am a little intrigued to try my hand at bridge, that is, if I can find anyone who still knows how to play. Whether you decide to try the game yourself is not the point. The point of this review is to entice you to read the book. I hope I've done that.