"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, April 30, 2011

April National Poetry Month

Today is the last day of 2011 National Poetry Month. In honor of poetry and music the Seattle University Choirs are performing a program called Inspired! this week-end. All of the pieces of music they sing are inspired by poetry and were set to music at a later date.

I was inspired by many, many of the pieces and the poetry behind the pieces. Here are a few of my favorites:

Summer Again by Alfred Lord Tennyson, music by Ernst Krenek
"Summer is coming, summer is coming,
I know it, I know it, I know it.
Light again, leaf again, life again, love again,"
Yes, my wild little poet.

Sing the new year in under the blue,
Last year you sang it as gladly,
"New, new, new, new!" Is it then so new
That you should carol so madly?

"Love again, song again, nest again, young again,"
Never a prophet so crazy!
And hardly a daisy as yet, little friend,
See, there is hardly a daisy.

"Here again, here, here, here, happy year!"
O warble unchidden, unbidden!
Summer is coming, is coming, my dear,
And all the winters are hidden.
We have had a horrible cold and wet spring in the Northwest.  I think everyone at the concert gave a big Amen to this poem about summer coming!

I Have Had Singing text by Fred Mitchell, music by Ron Jeffers
The singing.
There was so much singing then,
and this was my pleasure too.
We all sang,
The boys in the fields,
The chapels were full of singing, always singing.
Here I lie.
I have had pleasure enough.
I have had singing.

Apparently Fred Mitchell was an 85-year-old Welch farmer. When asked about the bleakness of his life on very inhospitable land his reply became this poem. I, too, have found music to help me transcends life's bumps and turmoils.

The Stonewall YA Book Award Winner 2011: Almost Perfect

The Stonewall Book Award is an award for GLBT books begun in 1971 focusing on books that have exceptional merit related to the GLBT experience. This award is divided into three sections, the Barbara Gittings Literature Award, the Israle Fishman non-fiction award, and the Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award. This year's winner in the YA category was Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher.

Summary: Brenda, Logan's girlfriend of three years breaks up with him at the beginning of his senior year in high school.  Logan had thought that Brenda was "the one." Depressed and lonely he becomes quite smitten with the new girl in town, Sage, who is outrageously different than any other girl at the school .  Initially all of Logan's attempts at going further than friendly flirting in class with Sage are rebuffed. Though Sage seems interested in Logan there is something a little off.  Why can't Sage date while her younger sister can?  Why was she home-schooled and sequestered away from regular teen life for the years prior to this one? Every time Logan would even broach the subject of these inconsistencies Sage would change the subject.  That is until the day when Logan and Sage kiss for the first time and Sage reveals that she is really a boy. The rest of the book worked through the attraction and revulsion that Logan feels once he learns the truth.

Here is a portion of the review from Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books:
Katcher, author of Playing With Matches, manages a delicate balance here: Sage is utterly credible and utterly sympathetic, but so are Logan’s shock and reservations. His narration explores the emotional issues—does this mean he’s gay? Can he face his small Missouri town if people know?—while the story conveys the daunting details of Sage’s everyday realities, such as going to great lengths to avoid showing her driver’s license, which classifies her as male [....]  While transgender readers will find support here, the book’s focus on a bystander broadens the book’s relatability, and the message of acceptance is thoughtfully conveyed. *
Many of the reviews I read about Almost Perfect said that the book was too long.  I would agree that the book seemed overly long though I really can't think what bits needed to be removed to shorten up the book.  The School Library Journal mentioned in its review that the it was "remarkably 'clean' book dealing with sexuality and identity, this is neither preachy nor didactic while directly challenging prejudice and intolerance."*  It went on to say that Almost Perfect could be given to Middle School children who were undaunted by its length (357 pages.) I'm not sure that I would go that far.  Though the book had no overt sex scenes it did deal with many mature topics which included sex and under-age drinking.  I certainly wouldn't recommend it for any student under age fifteen.

What I liked best about Almost Perfect is that is dealt with the topic of transsexualism in a realistic way.  There were no easy answers for Sage. Making the change from boy to girl could happen physically but that didn't mean that everything emotionally and socially would suddenly fall into place.  The book didn't wrap up nice and neatly.  As in life, often there are strings left dangling, questions unresolved, and life left to live with ambiguity.  I actually think that the ending was nearly perfect because it left the reader to fill in the gaps and the imagine what the future could hold for these teens, for all teen in similar situations.  Bravo Brian Katcher for dealing with a tough topic with sensitivity and thoughtfulness!

* All above quotes were taken from Brian Katcher's webpage:
"Book Reviews - Almost Perfect « Brian Katcher - Author." Brian Katcher - Author. Web. 30 Apr. 2011. 

As a side note.  When I told my husband that I was reading the Stonewall Award winning book about a GLBT issue he said that was a perfect name for the award.  I looked at him dumbly.  I didn't know about the Stonewall Inn Raids in the 1960s until he made this comment.  I have since read a little about them and learned that the raids made by police on the Stonewall Inn in 1969 and the riots that followed are often thought to be the beginning of the gay-rights movement. You, too, can learn more here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Top Ten Mean Girls in Literature

Broke and Bookish
 Top Ten Mean Girls in Literature

1. Miranda Priestly the all-powerful editor of Runway magazine in The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger.

2. Fannie Dashwood the sister-in-law to the Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.

3. Mrs. Coulter the nearly unfeeling mother in His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Reeve.

4. Mrs. Danvers, the sinister house-keeper in Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier.

5. Cruella Deville from One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith.

6. Dolores Umbridge, the abusive and passive-aggressive Defense Against the Dark Arts professor in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

7. Bellatrix Lestrange the Death-eater who killed Sirius Black in the Harry Potter series

8. Scarlett O'Hara the spoiled-brat, bad girl of Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

9. Mrs. Sarah Reed, Jane's loveless and cold-hearted aunt in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

10. Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, the crotchety neighbor of Scout and Jem Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

11. Nurse Rached the cold, sadistic nurse who was locked in the power struggle with Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey.

I've strained my brain and come up with eleven but I know I will think of ten more "mean" women in literature as soon as I hit "publish".  Can you think of any others?

It's Monday and I'm reading...

Book Journey
I'm reading-
Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
I've been nibbling on this book for three weeks now. I finally have set aside some time for this award winning YA book.  I have just reached the half way point and it seems that the climax has passed.  I have no idea how the rest of the story will unfold.

I'm listening to-
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell
This audiobook contains 17 CDs.  That is over 20 hours of listening.  Gasp! Just saying that out-loud makes it sound very daunting.  I think I'll try to find the book in print also so I can alternate between reading and listening which will speed up the process of getting through this epic tale. This is for an upcoming book club.

I just finished-
The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag: a Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley
My advice: don't try to read a mystery over a six-month period.  It makes it difficult to keep track of all the little clues along the way.  I listened to most of this on audiobook tethered to my computer and boy do like the reader, Jayne Entwistle, but I just took too long doing it.

What's up next-
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Actually I was nearly half finished with the 1950s classic before I had to return it to the library for a student who needed it for a class assignment.  I just picked up a copy at the public library so I will get back to it as soon as I finish Almost Perfect. Plath sure could write.  It is such a pity....

I've also made a decision to declare May as Read What You Want Month.  During the month of May I am not going to read anything that I think I "should" read or that I "must" read.  No-no.  I am only going to read what I want to read all month. Want to join me?

Library Wars....my first Manga!

I am now a full-fledged teen librarian.  I have just completed reading my first manga: Library Wars. One. Love and War by Kiira Yumi.

 I confess it was more difficult to read than I anticipated.  This is a Japanese-style manga read from back to front and right to left.  I kept getting goofed up and had to reread passaged several times to understand what was happening.

This series is wildly popular in my library right now so I thought I should take a look..  The series is about a group of individuals who are opposed to censorship and book banning.  They form the Library Defense Force against the actions of the Media Betterment Committee.  There is actually more about tension between men and women and martial arts/physical challenges than about censorship, at least in this first book of the series. 

Kiira Yumi's art is very good as I compare it to other manga I have looked at. I found the story a bit confusing as it seemed to jump around and not fix on one idea for too long but as this is my first manga I will not be too harsh in my judgment.  Perhaps this is typical of the story lines/plots of these types of stories.  I doubt that I will read the rest of the series but now that I've whet my whistle I think I might give another series a try, perhaps Deathnote or Naruto.  We'll see.  In the meantime here is a great quote from the book:

The Media Betterment Act was passed in the last year of the Showa era. It was the beginning of the book hunts. The Media Betterment Committee  was established in accordance with the Act. It seeks to exercise censorship over all media, including restricting offensive books. They're on a mission to deny citizens their right to free access media. Libraries are the only institution that can oppose their censorship.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hottest YA Titles in my library now

Hottest titles in GKHS library right now

Last week I published a list of the top circulating books in my library. I have multiple copies of many of the books on that list. This list represents circulations per book for the last ninety days. There is very little cross over between the two lists.

1.  Stolen by Lucy Christopher (15)*
     This book is amazing.  I highly recommend it.
2.  Library Wars. 1: Love and War by Kiiro Yumi (14)
3.  Library Wars. 2: Love and War by Kiiro Yumi (11)
     These two graphic novels are about book banning/censorship. Kids love them. 
4.  Why didn't I think of that? : 101 inventions that changed the world by hardly trying by Anthony Rubino, Jr. (11)
     This small, nonfiction book is surprisingly popular.  Kids come in asking for it.
5.  Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S.King (10)*
     A Printz Honor book this year.  Teen-angst.
6.  Blood Ninja by Nick Lake (9)
      If you are a high school librarian and you don't know about this book you are missing out on a very popular book for boys. The sequel Blood Ninja II is very popular also.
7.  Matched by Allyson Condie (9)
     I think the cover attracts readership. I need to look in to the sequel.
8.  Fallout by Ellen Hopkins (8)
     All of Ellen Hopkins books are very popular.  This is the latest.
9.  I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore (8)
     The release of the movie caused a flurry of activity around this book.
10. Iron King by Julie Kagawa (8)
     The first in a three-book series.  Girls are very "into" this series right now, even girls that rarely come to the library.
11. Nightlight: a parody by the Harvard Lampoon (8)
      It is popular to not like Twilight right now.  This book feeds those thoughts since it is a very silly parody of Twilight.  It is also a very small, nonthreatening book.
12. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (8)*
      This is a difficult book to read but girls like it and are willing to struggle to complete it.
13. Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher (7)
     The Stonewall Award book of the year.
14. Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld (7)
     I have more students on hold for this book than any other.  I really should buy a second copy.
15. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (7)
     Hot, hot, hot author.
16. Fallen by Lauren Kate (7)
     Can't say much about this book, or the series but girls like it.
17. The Gift by James Patterson (7)
     James Patterson has hit upon a winning formula for young adults with his many series.
18. Jane by April Lindner (7)*
     I am so happy that girls are reading this book in hopes that it will lead them to Jane Eyre.
19. The Kings of Clonmel by John Flanagan (7)
     The Ranger's Apprentice series is so-o-o popular with boys and a few girls.
20. Last Sacrifice by Rachelle Mead (7)
     Part of the still popular Vampire Academy series.
21. The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan (7)*
     There is something very appealing about the way this book looks and its simple, short dictionary-type entries.  I am pleased that kids want to read it.
22. ++Delirium by Lauren Oliver
      I've had this book less than two months and it has already circulated five time.

Lest you think the popularity of the books are related to my recommendations, most of these books I haven't read.  I placed a * next to those I have read.  Also, I allow a three-week due date.  If students keep the books for the allotted period of time each book would only circulate a little over four times for this time period. Most of these books are coming in and going out the same day. All but two of the books on this list are currently checked-out.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


First Line Friday:  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 would like, 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.
Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher

"I'm not sure what I loved most about being on the track team. Maybe it was the crippling shin splints. Or constantly feeling like I'd just smoked three packs of cigarettes. Maybe it was the empty stands at every meet, or the way the results get buried in the local sports section."

I can really appreciate how lop-sided so many school sports are in terms of attention and support.I'm not very far into the book but I can tell that most of the action has nothing to do with actual track...maybe more about running away or toward.


Follow Friday....a neat way to "meet" new book-blogging friends.  Share the love.  Take a look around.  If you like what you see, please follow, and I'll do likewise.  Will I make it to 200 +  this week?

This week's featured Blog is The Cait File.  Congratulations, Cait!

Question:  What is on my playlist right now?
For some bizarre reason I have been enjoying all the old rock-n-roll I didn't listen to when I was in college.  Current favorite:
Don't Look Back by Boston (notice the irony?)


Book Blogger Hop
"If you find a book you love, do you hunt down other books by the same author?"

I have been known to get excited about the new publication by my favorite authors but, on the other hand, I can read a fabulous book and then completely ignore other things written by that author.  Guess I'm flaky!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Hilarious book titles

Broke and Bookish

This Top Ten Tuesday is a catch-up week.  A chance to create a top ten list that was previously missed.  My top ten rewind is a list of book titles that I think are hilarious... (I think the titles are funny enough that I don't need any explanation!)

1.  The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
2.  The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs by Alexander McCall Smith
3.  Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going
4. The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry
5.  Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
6.  Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicholson by Louise Rennison
7.  How to Not Be Popular by Jennifer Zeigler
8.  I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan
9.  You Suck: a Love Story by Christopher Moore
10. Zombies vs Unicorns edited by Holly Black
11. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Do you have any favorite funny book titles?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Top Circulating books in GKHS Library

Here is a list of the top circulating books for 2011 in the high school where I am the librarian  (Jan. 2nd to present.)

Information in parentheses is (# times circulated during this time period: /# of copies of book in circulation: )

1. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (44/6)

 Hunger Games was one of the school's summer reading books.  Kids who read Hunger Games over the summer are still coming in for Catching Fire.

2. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (32/6)

 See comment above but note the drop off in numbers.

3. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (24/4)

 This book has been a top circulating book for three years. Girls and guys both like it.

4. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (19/9)

 I have lots of copies of this book because it was chosen as a all-class summer reading book. I will be so sad when the movie for Hunger Games comes out because then circulation will drop way off for this whole series.

5. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (18/3)

 Girls love this romantic story.  The three copies are checked out all the time.

6. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater (17/3)

 Sequel to Shiver.  Girls move straight from the first to the second and are eager for the third which comes out this summer.

7. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (17/3)

 I'm glad to see that the #1 YA book in America is on my list of top circulated books, too. (Printz Award winner 2011)

8. Stolen by Lucy Christopher (17/1)

 Technically speaking this book should be at the top of the list because I only have one copy and it has circulated 17 times since January. (Actually I had two copies but one was stolen.  Note the irony!)  I love this book! (Printz Honor)
9. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta (16/3)

 Fantasy fans really seem to like this book though a few have noted that it is a slow starter.

10. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (16/2)

 It has only recently come to my attention just how popular this book is.  I haven't read it so it is students recommending it to other students.

11. Awakened: House of Night by P.C. and Kristen Cast (15/2)

 There was a huge flurry of activity around this book when it first came out.  The House of Night series is still very popular in my library even though it now has eight books in the series.

12. Graceling by Kristen Cashore (15/3)

 This book has been so popular in my library for the past few years that I am shocked when I run across a kid who hasn't heard of it, like the boy who checked it out today on my recommendation.  This book works for boys and girls alike.
13. Halo by Alexandra Adornetta (15/2)

I  haven't read this book and not a single student has shared what the book is about so I wonder if it circulates so well because it has an awesome cover?

14. Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick (15/2)

 Another award winner that is very popular, hurray! (Printz Honor)

15. Shiver by Becca Fitzpatrick (15/2)

One of the few paranormal books that I've read that I really like.  I think I talk this one up a lot.

16. Library Wars #1 by Kiiro Yumi (14/1)

Back to technicalities this should be the second book on the list behind Stolen since my single copy has circulated 14 times since January.  This is the only graphic novel on the list. I've also got #2, with #3 and #4 on order!

Just a few thoughts about library circulations and this list---
  • Since I do not have infinite resources I only buy second and third copies of books if they are proven to be popular or if I am involved in some reading promotion like the Mock Printz Workshop.
  • Sometimes even popular titles languish in someone's backpack unread or even overdue.  Therefore the numbers do not always reflect the seeming popularity of a title. In addition, we offer three week due dates and many students keep the books for all three weeks which obviously effects how often a book can be checked out.
  • Hunger Games doesn't seem to be as popular as it is because so many students read it for their summer assignment or last year.  Thankfully, there is still enthusiasm for the whole series.
  • Next week I will post of a list of the most popular books in the library based on the circulation per copy.  As I mentioned above Stolen and Library Wars would be #1 and #2 on that list. In fact they are the only two books that will be on both lists.
  • When I generated this list I screened out all books that I felt were checked out for particular class assignments.  For example The Book Thief by Markus Zusak has circulated several times since January but part of the reason for that circulation is because it is one of the optional books students can pick for their English class assignment.  That doesn't diminish in any way how much the kids enjoy the book and the positive comments they make when they turn it in.  I did, however, leave in four of the books that were part of my Mock Printz Workshop because the workshop ended the first week of January so I felt they deserved recognition as popular books for their own merits. (There four books I'm referring to are: Ship Breaker, The Sky is Everywhere, Revolver, and Finnikin of the Rock.)
  • Word of mouth is probably the main determinant of how books become popular in a school.  Thirteen Reason Why has remained popular for three years now.  How?  Kids telling kids about the book.  I think just about everyone that checks it out says "I heard this book is good."