"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=========

Thursday, October 31, 2013

How important are first and last lines of books?

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, the last line

My 10/15/13 issue of Booklist arrived yesterday. (A little late, don't you think? But that is beside the point.) While perusing it, I found an article, "Carte Blanche: The End" by Michael Cart. In it Cart shined the spotlight on the last lines of a few famous children's and YA books. He asks, "Aren't the first and last the two most important lines of any book?" The first line should grab our attention, and the last, sums things up. Right? Cart also thinks that the last line should point to the future. Many of his highlighted books didn't fit the bill. It's like books should end on a up-note, leaving the reader hopeful, moving forward. May books don't do that. I frequently tell my students that my favorite books always end with a bit of ambiguity which allows me to think about the ending beyond the author's ending.

With these thoughts in mind I thought it would be fun to look at a few books that our school requires (or suggests) that students read.

First line(s)
Last line(s)
Pride and Prejudice/Austen
     It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune, must be in want of a wife.
     With the Gardiners, they were always on the most intimate terms. Darcy, as well as Elizabeth, really loved them; and they were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them.
Scarlet Letter/Hawthorne
       A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments and gray, steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods, and others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes.
It bore a device, a herald’s wording of which may serve for a motto and brief description of our now concluded legend; so somber is it. And relieved only by one ever-glowing point of light gloomier than the shadow: -- “On a field, sable, the letter A, gules.”
To Kill a Mockingbird/Lee
     When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.
     He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.
Fahrenheit 451/Bradbury
     It is a pleasure to burn.
     Yes, thought Montage, that’s the one I’ll save for noon. For noon…
     When we reach the city.
Lord of the Flies/Golding
     The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way toward the lagoon.
     The officer…turned away to give them time to pull themselves together; and waited, allowing his eyes to rest on the trim cruiser in the distance.
The Great Gatsby/Fitzgerald      In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.      So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Their Eyes Were Watching God/Hurston
    Ships  at a distance have every man’s wish on board.
She pulled in her horizon like a great fish net…So much of life in its meshes. She called in her soul to come and see.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn/Twain
     You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly.
But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.

Pride and Prejudice has one of the best, most recited first lines in literature. It sets up the whole novel. While the ending lines do sum everything up, they sure are bland in comparison. I sometimes forget, when waxing philosophical about how much I love the book, that it is still a difficult book to read for most people of this century.

And speaking of difficult to read, Scarlet Letter seems like it is even harder than P&P from start to finish. I had to look up what the inscription on the tombstone meant: “On a field, sable, the letter A, gules.” (On a black background, the letter A, red.) Now I confess to be a fairly patient reader who is willing to look things up to enhance comprehension. But it is the rare student who is so patient. I pity the teacher who has to teach this text.

Harper Lee brings To Kill a Mockingbird around full circle, doesn't she? I never realized it until today that we learn about Jem's broken arm at the beginning and it is actually broken at the end. Fortunately for Jem,  Atticus Finch, his father and the hero of the story,  is with him. Brilliant.

Similarly brilliant are the opening and closing lines of Their Eyes Were Watching God. Neither of the lines are particularly  memorable but both are beautiful and evocative at the same time. The reader is left with a sense of hope and goodness looking toward the future. The first line hints at it and the last line tells us that all is well with her soul.

In Lord of the Flies we are relieved to learn that the boys are rescued, there will be an end to their nightmare that started when they arrived at the lagoon. With Gatsby we know that the tale we have read is being remembered from a past experience, and a haunting one at that.

I am tremendously fond of the opening line of Fahrenheit 451, "It is a pleasure to burn", but the last lines require more back reading to understand. Obviously the reader gets to the last lines by reading the text that came before it so they would know that the protagonist, Montage, carries with him, as he escapes, quotes from books. The last lines aren't my favorite, but the sentiment is so pointed. Where would we be without books? He is thinking about the future, even if that future isn't very far off. As with all school children everywhere, Montage is looking forward to noon.

My favorite closing lines on this list are provided for us by Mark Twain through his character Huck Finn. After all the adventures that Huck experiences he is ready to "light out for the Territory ahead of the rest..." because, as he knows from experience, he doesn't want to sivilized [sic]. Talk about preparing our character for the future. Twain has set Huck on a new course and has all his readers imagining what kind of fun Huck will have in the territories, too.

Once, several years ago, my book club was in the habit of looking at the closing line of our book and comparing it to the first line. It was a fun and enlightening exercise. Maybe it is time to resurrect that activity.

Work cited:
Cart, Michael. "Carte Blanche: The End." Booklist 110, No. 4 (2013): 41. Print.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Review: Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas

 Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. These three ground-breaking researchers were all students of the great Louis Leakey, and each made profound contributions to primatology—and to our own understanding of ourselves.

Tackling Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas in turn, and covering the highlights of their respective careers, Primates is an accessible, entertaining, and informative look at the field of primatology and at the lives of three of the most remarkable women scientists of the twentieth century.-Goodreads
 Jim Ottavianni and Maris Wicks have teamed up to create an informative and charming look at the lives and science of three of the most famous primatogists: Goodall, Fossey, and Gadikas. This graphic biography makes their lives and work accessible to students who might be put-off by long biographies of scientists.

We selected this book as a 2014 Mock Printz selection in hopes that our readers would learn something and encourage them to go for their goals.

Publisher's Weekly gave it a starred review stating-
Ottaviani succeeds in capturing their hard work and the thrilling breakthroughs during years of research, without looking away from some of the darker details, such as Leakey's womanizing. Wicks's cartoony illustrations are a great match for the story; they never get bogged down with unnecessary details and briskly move forward the account of the women and their subjects.
 It is worth a look especially if you are interested in scientific research or finding information on famous scientists.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Salon, Oct. 27

Home again Finnigan: Don and I drove down to Eugene this weekend to attend a UO football game vs UCLA. The weather was foggy most of the trip going down until we drove past the Columbia River valley near Portland. As soon as we got past that windy spot we drove right back into the fog.  The weather during the game was a bit foggy and overcast but the air was still and relatively warm. I got by wearing my sweatshirt with a hat and gloves but didn't have to put on a coat. We stayed at my sister's home in Springfield and drove home this afternoon in rain.

Eleven and a half days and counting: I've reported periodically on this blog that the district server has been partially down. Counting weekends that means that it has been down for eleven and half days so far.  With no functioning library system I am looking for things to do that don't require technology. So far I have prepared all new books with covers, tattle-tape, spine labels and stamps. As soon as the system is back up I will just have to enter their barcodes and they will be shelf ready. I've also done a bit of cleaning and sorting. If it is still down tomorrow I will have to find new piles to organize. I'm trying to see the silver-lining.

Moving back in: is going pretty slow. Don and I unpacked all but three of the boxes of our items that we had to move out for the floor repair. We still have a few things that need to be tucked into the china hutch and the DVDs and CDs are still in boxes in the garage. We vowed that we would sort through them this time, not just put them away. We'll see if that really happens.

Books read this week:

Currently Reading:

  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. Vampires are everywhere  When humans are bit they go cold and desire the taste of human blood. If they get it, they will die and rise as a new vampire. I'm within 30 minutes of finishing this audiobook.
  • The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer. We listened to half of this audiobook going to Oregon this weekend. It has been so many years since I read the first book in the series, House of the Scorpion, that I can't really remember all the details. I'd recommend rereading it before tackling this book.
  • In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winter. I'm having a tough time getting any traction on this book. I must devote my undivided attention on it this week.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Review: Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football's Make-or-Break Moment

My husband, who played football in high school, loves to watch college football. He will watch it on TV every night of the week if a game is on. I always tease him that he would watch even if it were game pitting Podunk U vs. WhoCares U. To which he always replies, "It's football, and I love football." I confess that I also enjoy watching if "my team" is playing. But after reading Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football's Make-or-Break Moment by Carla Killough McClafferty my feelings are really torn up about football and the potential damage it can do to the brains of the individuals who play the game.

When the game was first being played in the late 1890s a player, Von Gammon, died due to a head injury sustained during the game. Everyone was so appalled that the college, Georgia State, and the Georgia state legislature called for the end of football. The governor decided to talk to Von's mother before he signed the bill that would have ended football in the state. Von's mother said that he loved football and would want everyone to keep playing. So football was saved. Yet the death toll from football kept climbing. 
"When the 1905 football season ended, nineteen players were dead and countless others were critically injured. The public was outraged. The game had reached a make-or-break moment fourth down and inches. Coaches, players, fans, and even the president of the United States had one last chance: change football or leave the field. Football's defenders managed to move the chains. Rule changes and reforms after 1905 saved the game and cleared the way for it to become America's most popular sport. But they didn't fix everything."(Goodreads)
Today football faces a new injury crisis as bad as was faced back in 1897 and 1905. Concussions caused by blows to the head during the game can and do have lasting effects on the lives of the players. Researchers are finding that the damage done by repeated blows to the head, even if the player didn't sustain a classic concussion, can lead to depression, dementia, ALS, and CTE (a degenerative brain condition) and even Alzheimer's disease. Even with new and better equipment and helmets the brains of millions of young football players across the country are at risk..

Just a minute ago, as I sat at my desk in the library reading this book, a student came in who had received a concussion in one of our school's football games. He was so bad that he had to go on total brain rest for two weeks: no TV, videos, music, anything. I asked him what he did during that time and he told me that honestly he can't remember.. He thought he slept but his mother told him that he just sat and stared. How frightening.

The book looks like a children's picture book by its size and the quality of the paper but I am hoping that my high school students will pick it up and read it anyway.  It is chock full of important and frightening information about head injuries and football. I highly recommend all football lovers and anyone who is interested in sports safety read it . NFL players have started suing their old teams for making them play even though they had a concussion. The issue of safety in football appears to be just heating up. I'm not so sure that all football lovers will be pleased with what the book has to say because it really challenges the status quo. It truly is "a fourth down and inches" moment for football as we know it.

Just a little poem for your consideration this Friday

Day eight with no server in my district, or to be more accurate, limited server access and no library system. ARGH!!! So far I have shelved every possible book and tidied the library, my desk, and my back desk. All new books are processed and ready to be added to the system once it comes back up. All returned library books are alphabetized to make shelving easier once they can be checked-in. Returned textbooks have been repaired. The hallway display case has a new theme with books that might interest kids prominently displayed. The bulletin boards have been rearranged and new information added.

I even sorted through some old files where I happened upon a copy of this poem written by Jenny Hubbard for her character Alex Stromm in the YA book Paper Covers Rock.  What do you think? Is it accurate? I think it is very descriptive but I wonder if boys are so callused toward their books.

The Way Boys Read
by Alexander No Middle Name Stromm

There's nothing pretty about it:
They'll claim a book,
brand nicknames to all three sides
as if the book might lose itself in tall grass
or wander, dumb as a cow.
The bookmark? A slice
to the top of the page, unthinking
as a kick to a rock on a dirt road.
And some so quick to break the spine,
the way they've broken girls
with too few words, or with false ones.
If the book is large,
it can be laid flat on a desk
so a boy wouldn't even have to touch it,
just lift a finger to flip a page,
halfheartedly, like signaling a truck to dump its load.
                                         -Jenny Hubbard, in Paper Covers Rock

Thursday, October 24, 2013

2013 National Book Award Finalists

The National Book Award Finalists were announced last week and somehow I missed it. Take a look at all the finalists in all the categories at The National Book Award website. 

The Finalists for Young People's Literature are:
Book covers for the 2013 NBA YPL Finalists

 I think that The Thing About Luck and The Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp are more geared toward middle school students. I've read Far Far Away and LOVE it. Now I will have to add two more books to my virtual reading pile: Boxers/Saints, Picture Me Gone.

On the long list I was pleased to see another Mock Printz selection: The Summer Prince by Alaya Johnson. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan is getting great reviews, so I need to read it and order it for my library, too. The other three books on the long list look to be for middle grade readers.

Congratulations to all the authors who have received nominations and especially to those who made the list of finalists.

The winners will be announced on November 20, 2013!


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Does this happen to you?

Does this every happen to you? It seems to happen to me quite frequently. I place holds on several books and audiobooks at the public library. Months pass. Then they all arrive within a week of each other making it impossible for me to actually read/listen to all of them before their due dates. It almost seems like it is some law of physics...If you place holds on anywhere from two to ten library books, given a long enough wait, they will all arrive at once!

This is my week, after waiting for months, I got all but one of the audiobooks I've requested from the public library at once:

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (12+ hours)
The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer (11+ hours)
The dream thievesFangirlThe lord of OpiumThe coldest girl in Coldtown
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (12+ hours)
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (12+ hours)

Why do they all arrive at once?

And the mountains echoed

And the one I really need is And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. I placed a hold on it in June. Now I need it for book club this coming month. I'm still in line for it, my place is 6 out of 45.

At least I'll have something else to listen to while I'm waiting!

Does this happen to you, too?


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Highlights from WLMA 13

My highlights  from the WLMA (Washington Library Media Association) Conference held in Yakima, Washington on October 17-19, 2013.

Arrival, pick up registration, visit the on-site bookstore, walk through the exhibitors mall, purchase book earrings, visit with friends and colleagues, dinner at a Mexican restaurant, fish tacos. Yum!

Book earrings made for this event by one of the officers. Proceeds to go to library advocacy.

Friday Breakfast: Unearthing the Hidden Story with Ruta Sepetys.
  • Super excited. Ruta Sepetys wrote the book Between Shades of Gray inspired by her own familiy's history in Lithuania under Stalin.
  • Sandy and I actually bumped into Ms. Sepetys in the Inklings bookstore on Thursday when we got to town.
  • Her story and how she conducted her research is fascinating and jaw-dropping.

Ruta Sepetys speaking at the WLMA High School Author breakfast
Keynote: Preparing Students for Jobs Unknown with Richard Byrne
  • With the pace of technology development most students we have today will have jobs we can't even envision.  How do prepare them for this?
  • Richard was very personable and funny. He had us participate by posting answers to his questions on todaysmeet.com. It added a fun element to the address.
  • Teachers should use this phrase when teaching: "Today we will explore..." since we are all content producers.
  • A cool project that shows the global community we live in: Project Noah, which is people taking pictures of nature in their neighborhood. Fabulous photos.
  • I want to find out more about Haiku Deck which will soon be functional and an alternative to PowerPoint.
Session 1: Putting Novels to Work with Ruta Sepetys
  • My favorite sessions at WLMA are the ones where I get to be up close and personal with my favorite authors.
  • In this session Ruta Sepetys gave lots of ideas of how to use her book Between Shades of Gray to enhance or introduce historical topics.
  • Everything about this session was amazing: how she conducted her initial research; how she met up with relatives she didn't know in Lithuania; her night in the haunted prison; ties to art, music, sports, and other projects.
  • I am really, really hoping that her presentation will be linked to the WLMA website. I didn't have any paper to take notes and there is so much I want to share with my history teachers. I'll link it here if I can get my hands on it. in the meantime here is Ruta Septyes website. 
    I'm a rotten photographer,as I'm sure you have noticed. I won't be surprised at all if Ms. Sepetys contacts me and asks me to take down my photos.

 Luncheon: Honoring a long-time friend and colleague: Andrea Hynes.
  • Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend this event because I didn't attempt to buy my ticket in time. But lots of my friends and colleagues did attend. Congratulations Andrea on this honor. Enjoy retirement.
Session 2: Newly released books your students will love (MS and HS) with Leslie Bermel from junior Library Guild
  • Love Junior Library Guild!
  • Wrote myself notes of books I want to get. Pondered if I should add another level or two. Currently I get four JLG levels. It seems like I switch levels every year and then wish I hadn't.
  • One a pair of socks in the final drawing. they say: Librarians Rock. We do!

I will wear these things when I need the reminder that Librarians Rock!
Session 3: Sex in the library with librarians Mary Jo Heller (school librarian) and Aarene Storms (public librarian)
  • Racy title. Geared more toward middle school librarians.
  • I grabbed this off their website: "Books for teen readers about SEX: sexual decision-making, sexual preferences, sexual identity, birth control decisions, abstinence, and personal responsibility. Do these books belong in your library? Decide for yourself!" Sex in the Library
  • They have published a book by the same title. Take a look at it here: Sex in the Library: A Guide to Sexual Content in Teen literature
  • Unfortunately when I was searching for their website it wasn't the first one to pop up in Google.  Hmm!
  • Mary Jo (left) and Aarene (right). This photo from their website. Apparently I didn't take a photo during the session, you can tell by the good quality of this photo.
 Saturday Breakfast: "Why it took me only twelve years to sell a book" by Jay Asher
  • Super-duper excited.
  • Thirteen Reasons Why was published in 2007 and it has been popular in my library ever since then. The library has multiple copies and they are always checked out. I used to exact a promise from my readers before I would check it out to them that they would agree to read the book all the way to the end. I was worried that they would stop in the depressing middle. I no longer have them take such a pledge because of the book has such a good reputation.
  • Jay Asher seems like a regular dude. I loved his story about how he finally came around to writing Thirteen Reasons Why, his attempts at getting it published, what he wanted the title to be, etc.
  • During the breakfast I sat next to Terri Grief the American Association of School Librarians President-Elect. She is also a high school librarian, so we swapped stories.
    Jay Asher letting us in on why it took twelve years to get a book published (it was worth the wait!)
Book signing: Jay Asher
  • Fortunately I had the insight to purchase Thirteen Reasons Why from Inklings Books on Thursday night because they ran out of them.
  • You can see the scrap of paper I gave him with the message: For the Students of GKHS.
  • Thank you, Jay, for writing a fabulous book!
Jay Asher, book signing

Thanks to the organizers of WLMA 13. It was a fabulous conference.

When I got back to the library after only one day away: our district server was (and still is) down. No books have been checked in for days including all these books on the carts.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Unusual Character Names

Unusual character names that I like or find intriguing:

1. Zaphod Beeblebrox...from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe. This name just rolls off the tongue, don't you think?
2. Slartibartfast...from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe. I laugh whenever I hear this name. Say it fast, I dare you.
3. Humbert Humbert...from Lolita. The pathetic pedophile with such a distinctive literary voice.
4. Lolita...from Lolita. Say it this way: Low-Lee-TAH
5. Huckleberry Finn...from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Can you imagine naming your child Huckleberry? It is certainly memorable.
6. Jeremy Johnson Johnson...from Far Far Away by Tom McNeal. Throughout the whole book this character is called by his whole name, not just Jeremy. It was always Jeremy Johnson Johnson.
7. A whole bunch of characters from the Harry Potter books: Harry Potter; Fleur Delacour; Albus Dumbledore; Dudley Dursley; Cornelius Fudge; Neville Longbottom; Luna Lovegood; Severus Snape; Hermione Granger; Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank to name a few.
8. Winnie-the-Pooh...from Winnie the Pooh and The House on Pooh Corner. Isn't this name just darling?
9. Mary Poppins...in the book by P.L. Travers. Practically-perfect-in-every-way!
10. Katniss Everdeen...from The Hunger Games series. I rarely remember character names but this one has stuck.
11. Quasimodo...in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Authors should work harder to create memorable names like this one.
12.  Jean Valjean...in Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I love both the musical AND the book, which I have read.
13. Atticus Finch...in To Kill a Mockingbird. I don't know about you, but if I was in trouble and needed a lawyer, I'd want someone with a name like Atticus Finch representing me.