"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Quotes, October 30th

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now:

Book Title: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, and Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

Book Beginnings: 
Prologue- Midnight was closing in, the one-legged woman was grievously burned, and the Mumbai police were coming for Abdul and his father.
Friday 56: 
The most advanced student in Annawadi, a twenty-one-year-old named Prakash, lived four doors down from the temple. He sat at home with an economics book on his lap and his head in his hands. Two teardrops rolled between his fingers. His all-important exams before college graduation, sabotaged by a spinning eunuch. 

Comments: The author, Katherine Boo, was interested in the question of poverty and why the poorest people of the world are often right next to the richest. From 2008 to 2011 she visited the Annawadi slum on Mumbai, India. She recorded the stories of the residents there. What she found is horrifying and distressing. This award-winning book is all the pieces of her findings put together in one coherent story. It has been a tough read, I won't lie, but I am nearly done and can see a little light in the distance. Perhaps there is room for hope even the direst of situations.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Symphony for the City of the Dead by MT Anderson

M.T. Anderson has been writing fabulous YA literature for the past decade. In Feed, his 2002 National Book Award finalist novel, all characters only seem to care about is buying the latest fashion item or have the popular body tattoo applied, even though their world is falling into a state of environmental decay. One is left with a chilling feeling that this may very well become our future world. From this bleak future, Anderson swings his attention next to a book which deals with the past. His National Book Award winning/Printz Honor book The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, traitor to the Nation, The Pox Party, looks at the life of an African-American man during Colonial times who is doubly exploited as a slave and as a test subject.

Now with Symphony for the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege on Leningrad M.T. Anderson applies his incredible writing skills to his first YA nonfiction book. This book, too, seems destined to win awards as it has already been named to the 2015 National Book Award longlist for Young People's Literature. About the book, a committee member said, "Symphony for the City of the Dead is a masterwork thrillingly told and impeccably researched."

Symphony for the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege on Leningrad is not only the story of the famous Russian composer Dmitri Shotakovich and his experiences in the city of his birth, Leningrad, during the almost 900 day siege during WWII. The book also covers the horrific climate in Russia known as The Great Terror in the late 1930s under Stalin. Shostakovich and other artists, authors, and musicians were especially scrutinized by the Stalin Regime, many even lost their lives. Russia was a terrifying place to live during this time period.

When the Nazis made their way to Leningrad and began what came to be the longest siege in recorded history, Shostakovich and his family were trapped along with more than 2 million residents of the beleaguered city. During this time he began writing his 7th symphony. Bombs would be exploding overhead and this bespectacled composer would rush back from the shelter to continue work on his masterpiece. Finally, after he had written more than two of the four movements of the symphony, he and his immediate family were finally evacuated  to a safer spot far to the east. Before leaving Leningrad, however, he went on the radio in Leningrad and told his countrymen to keep the faith and explained how he was writing them a symphony. Everyone was wild to hear it. It was performed in Moscow and even America before it was finally performed in Leningrad by a ragtag group of starving musicians left behind in the city.

Listen to the 3 minute BBC clip about Shostakovich and his 7th symphony. There is an on-going pesky question, which will never be answered, if Shostakovich really wrote the 1st movement about the Nazi invasion or about The Great Terror under Stalin. The mysterious question will keep people interested for decades to come.

Symphony for the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege on Leningrad is my favorite type of YA book. I learned so much about Russian (Soviet) history in addition to the information on the book title. I was aghast by what I learned, too. Much of the information didn't come to light until the fall of communism in the 1990s. Since I attended high school before that time period, I will give myself a break for not knowing this information before.

My husband and I listened to the audiobook of Symphony read by M.T. Anderson himself. Interspersed throughout the story were little audio clips (teasers) of Shostakovich's music. I was in heaven: 1. Anderson did a phenomenal job reading his own work; and 2. the music!  Oh my. What talent.

Symphony for the Dead is my favorite YA nonfiction of the year, by far. It may actually be my YA favorite book of the year. I got so much out of it. It truly was "thrillingly told and impeccably researched."

Rating 5 out of 5.
Source: MP-3 Audiobook, Candlewick on Brilliance Audio, 2015. I purchased my own copy.


Monday, October 26, 2015

TTT: Popular Horror Books

Top Ten Tuesday: Popular Horror Books in the GKHS Library Over the Past Ten Years

1. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare...book one of the Mortal Instruments series tops the list.

2. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater...another first book in a series, this was wildly popular for a few years.

3. Lord Loss by Darren Shan...book one in the Demonata series is in a distant third. This series has faded in popularity in the past few years.

3. Monstrumologist by Richard Yancey...first book in the series, a book which is truly frightening. The second and third books didn't get as much love in my library as this first book.

4. Carrie by Stephen King...If I added up all horror books by author, Stephen King would win hands down.

5. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan...book one in the series. This book has also faded in popularity but still gets a bit of attention.

6. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll...a very popular graphic novel published in 2014

7. The Complete Tales of Edgar Allan Poe...this guy has had a corner of the horror market for over 100 years and kids still want to read his stories today!

8. Cujo by Stephen King...the cover alone is frightening. How can anyone read these books?

9. Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber...first book in a surprisingly popular nine-book series. All the books are short and kids race through the series.

10. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman...I love this author and I can actually read his horror, whereas other authors (King) scare me too much.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday Salon, October 25

Colorful fire hydrants near downtown Puyallup
Weather: Rainy and stormy, with a few claps of thunder. Weather patterns rarely last for long in the NW. I expect this will pass over quickly and we will probably have a bit of sun later in the day.

Anthony Doerr, Oct. 23
Author event with Anthony Doerr:  Friday night Carly, Don, and I attended the 3rd Annual Jim Taylor Memorial Lecture series sponsored by the Puyallup Library. The guest speaker was Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See. Unlike most author events I've attended, Doerr did not read excerpts from his Pulitzer prize-winning book. Instead, he talked primarily about the writing process and the research that goes into creating a book with such a wide scope. He also talked about himself and how, from a very early age, he has been curious about everything. Each book he read as a child made him want to pursue a different vocation when he grew up. If he read Jack London, he wanted to become an arctic explorer; a book about Frank Lloyd Wright led him to want to be an architect, etc. He even had a college professor accuse him of being a dilettante because of the many and varied classes he wanted to take instead of fixing on one major. An author, writing a review about All the Light We Cannot See, says this, "Anthony Doerr sees the world as a scientist, but feels it as a poet." One certainly got that sense from listening to this amazing author speak.

Jim Taylor Memorial Lecture:  The author event was named in honor of a high school English teacher with whom I taught and considered a friend. The librarian who introduced the event and our speaker spoke about Jim's dedication to getting a book in the right person's hands and how he instilled the love of literature for all his students. I spoke to his widow after the event and she was so gracious. She, too, is a lover of libraries and literature.

Art in Puyallup:  Yesterday as Don and I were taking Muffy to Wash Your Dog we passed the colorful collection of fire hydrants. Our little town has quite a few displays of outdoor art. Th painted hydrants is one of the latest installations. Later, on the way home, we noticed a sign urging us to stop in at the glass pumpkin sale. This we had to see. We dropped the dog home and circled back. The glass pumpkins were created by students in a program designed to involve students who live in impoverished areas of Tacoma in the artistic and productive process of glass blowing. Since we have the Dale Chihuly-inspired Glass Museum in Tacoma, the program is a combined effort to link artisans with students. Since the pumpkins support a good cause, I had to buy three! Check out the link: Northwest glass pumpkins.
Seahawks inspired colored pumkins
Orange pumpkins weren't the only colors represented in the sale

Glass ghosts

Lovely blue pumpkins
Even University of Oregon colored pumkins
These are the three we bought which are now displayed in our art niche. It was hard to choose just three
Discouraging/encouraging week:  I spoke to an English teacher at my school to ask when she'd like to bring her kids to the library for book talks or to check out a themed book. She indicated she wouldn't be bringing her classes in because she couldn't see asking them to do something like check out a book without grading it and she was too overwhelmed with grading already to add one more thing. I went home from school that day so discouraged.  If English teachers don't support the library and reading, who will? The next day, however, another teacher did bring her classes in and her kids were so happy to have access to the books. Two girls even discovered Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See on the shelf and fought over who got to check it out first. At that moment my heart swelled. Reading at my school is not dead!

Currently reading:
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. This is a nonfiction selection for one of my book clubs. I am attempting to listen to the audio book version but may shift to the print version so I can read it more quickly. Pretty depressing.
  • The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz---a YA historical novel set in 1911. I have decided to muscle through this tome. I like it fine, but it is so long! (Read that sentence with a withering tone of voice, followed by a sigh.)
Set aside this week:
  • The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr---on the heels of my discouraging week I've decided to set aside this book which is also very discouraging about how the Internet is wrecking our brains for reading books. Perhaps I will come back to it some day.
Books Finished this week:
  • Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen---a memoir written by an 8th grader as she attempted to put into practice the advice given in a 1950s publication about how to be popular. I was completely charmed by this memoir.
  • Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege on Leningrad by MT Anderson---an audiobook of this fascinating and well-researched book by an award-winning author. I was very impressed. Watch for my review later today or tomorrow.
From the kitchen:  Talk about emotional baking and eating, I made a batch of Congo Bars, a favorite bar cookie which hearkens back to high school days. 

Update on Muffy:  If you were taking a multiple choice test on my blog post you would notice I mentioned we took Muffy to the self-wash for a bath yesterday. So the answer would be this is a good sign. She has really turned the corner and is walking more and more on her own. She still needs help up and down stairs and support when she squats in the yard, but we are delighted with her progress.

Pilgrim's Prayer:  Our pastor has just returned from the Camino de Santiago in Spain where he walked the Pilgrim's Way. This is a portion of the prayer he prayed each day of his walk:
O God,...Be for us our companion, our guide at the crossroads,
our breath in our weariness, our protection in danger,
our shade in the heat, our light in the darkness,
our consolation in our discouragements, and our strength in our intentions.

Today I am praying for:
  • The people who were affected by the tragic crash in Oklahoma where over 50 people were killed or hurt by a car hurtling into a crowd watching a parade yesterday.
  • For a friend, Sheri, and her family. She is nearing death from breast cancer. May her passing be peaceful as she is surrounded by loved ones. Update: I just learned that Sheri died today. May God be with her family and all of us, her friends.
Just for fun: Reading Rainbow Remix. This makes me smile.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Attempting to follow Nancy Pearl advice on reading

No one should ever finish a book they're not enjoying, no matter how popular or well reviewed the book is.---Nancy Pearl
Nancy Pearl, a well-known librarian from Seattle and author of Book Lust is a voracious reader who encourages readers to abandon books they don't like after reading at least 50 pages. Life is too short to spend time reading a book one doesn't like.

Today I am trying to follow Nancy Pearl's advice, to dredge up the strength and determination to abandon not one, not two, but three books. Gulp! And two of these books are award winners so I really should WANT to finish them, but I don't.

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr---a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2011 in the General Nonfiction category. I am fascinated by the topic but the book depresses me. I am not kidding. I have to stop listening to this audiobook, at least for the time being, because I am not in a good place to hear about how we (humans) are no longer capable of reading long texts which is going to render books obsolete. Ugh. Progress: 50%.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo---another nonfiction selection. This book won the National Book Award in 2012/13. The subtitle is Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. It is really depressing to read about the poverty and corruption in India today. The only problem with abandoning this book is it is a book club selection. I haven't quite made it to 50 pages. What I think I will do is abandon the audiobook and just skim/speed read the print edition to get the gist of it. But I am not sure if I can make myself do this.  I am a finisher when it comes to books , especially ones for book club.

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz---a 2015 YA novel with five starred reviews, this book is getting a lot of positive attention this year. It is about a young girl who leaves home to work as a servant in the home of a rich, Jewish family in the 1910s. The book is in the journal style and the writing is strong. The problem: the book is too long, 387 pages. I am on page 180 and just cannot see myself willing to spend the valuable reading time it would take to finish it.  The public library is helping me out on this one. It is due back and not available for a renewal. Shucks. Guess I will just have to return it and say goodbye! This is easier said than done. I have a really hard time abandoning a book, especially one which I have already committed a chunk of time.

What do you think? Can you abandon books you don't like, even books you "should" read?

Friday, October 23, 2015

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen

Imagine finding a book published in the 1950s about how to be popular and following the advise given in that book today. That is exactly what Maya Van Wagenen did during her 8th grade school year. And the results? Well, they are heart-warming and affirming. Let me explain.

Maya and her family moved to Brownsville, Texas some time during her grade school years. Maya always felt like an outsider at school since many of her classmates spoke Spanish and viewed her as an "other". She felt lonely and isolated. Her good grades also divided her from potential friends who did not warm up to a girl who showed them up in class. As elementary school became middle school, things didn't improve for Maya. She was just a regular teen wanting to be accepted and liked. She wanted to be popular. 

When Maya's father unearthed a vintage book, Betty Cornell's Teenage Popularity Guide, c. 1951, her mother suggested that Maya attempt to keep the advise in the book during her 8th grade school year and to journal about her experiences. Maya agreed to this zany idea. She also decided to not tell a soul what she was doing, even her best friend. When she would show up at school wearing prim and proper clothes any teen would have worn in the 1950s but not today, she would tell people who asked that she was just doing it for fun.

Each month she would tackle a new chapter from Betty Cornell's book and attempt to integrate the advice into her own life. She found herself sitting and walking with good posture, wearing pearls, arranging and rearranging her hairstyle, talking to people she never would have talked to before, and drawing the attention of classmates along the way.

In the end Maya discovered that to be truly popular one has to be thoughtful, kind, and friendly to others, even if that person doesn't reciprocate in the beginning. Her experiment was wildly successful and when she submitted her journal to a book editor it was snapped up immediately. Imagine being a 15 year old and a published author!  Class mates got wind of the book and one texted another saying something like, "Remember that girl in our class last year who wore pearls?  She just published a book. I guess we should have been nicer to her."

Even though the kids commented about not being nice, this book wasn't a rehashing of "Mean Girls." If anything, it was the opposite. Maya stuck to her guns and her project. She was nice and friendly, even when it was outside her comfort zone and the net result was she not only changed her life, she changed the culture of the school.

I was completely charmed by this book. Maya, who is probably only 15 or 16 right now, is quite a good, young writer. I understand the book has even been optioned for a film! I decided to read it because it won the YALSA Nonfiction Book Award last year. I am so glad I did. I recommend that teens and adults alike read it.

Check out her darling webpage.

Rating: 5 of 5 stars.
Disclosure: I borrowed this book from another school library in the district where I work.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Classics Club Spin book: Great Expectations

Great Expectations. Pip meets Magwich.
Book title: Great Expectations

Written by: Charles Dickens

First published in serialized All the Year Round, Dickens' own literary magazine, between Dec. 1860 and August 1861.

The plot in a nutshell: Pip, an orphan, lives with his sister and her husband who is a blacksmith. Everything in his life seems laid out for him with the likelihood he too will become a blacksmith. Two events change the trajectory of his life. First he meets and helps an escaped convict on the marsh one dark day. Secondly, he is introduced to the odd Miss Havisham and her adopted daughter Estella. Pip has a huge crush on Estella even though she is mean to him. Later, Pip learns he has been given a living which will allow him to leave his crude life of smithing behind and move to London to become a gentleman. After years of living off this anonymous benefactor, Pip learns to whom he is indebted. Pip is baffled and horrified. Things don't turn out as he planned and he learns about the importance of love and family along the way.

Hilarious video with no spoilers:

Hilarious video with TONS of Spoilers....in fact the whole thing is a spoiler:

My opinion: I thought I knew the basic outline of the story before I started reading Great Expectations, but I discovered I basically had had no idea what the book was about.  For that reason I am glad I read listened to it. It was an easy book to follow and though I am not sure I would assign the word "love" to my feelings about the book I did like it and enjoyed reading it.  Plus, bonus...I can now say I have read some Dickens! Yay.

Funny listening to audiobook story:
I purchased a very inexpensive audiobook which contains audio for both Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities. When I slip audio CDs into my car's CD player it usually displays the CD number and the track number.  This cheap set got all confused and displayed titles for things not playing like symphonies from various composers or books by other authors.  It was really odd and ultimately funny. My example photo isn't very funny. usually the info wouldn't even mention Dickens.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts Oct.21

I am sad.  Just sad. Here's why:

1. Less students than ever (in eleven years) are reading and checking out books in my high school library. In September alone my numbers were down 500 books from the previous year.

2. I had a conversation with an ELA (English Language Arts) teacher after school and she told me she wasn't planning on bringing her classes to the library because she doesn't want to ask them to read a book unless she plans on grading something they do with the book and she doesn't want to grade anything else. I can appreciate that. I remember being swamped with grading when I was in the classroom. But when I suggested that she bring classes in for book talks to select free choice books she didn't go for that either.  Sigh.

3. This sad feeling could also be a malaise brought on by the book I am currently listening to: The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. Argh. It is so depressing to think about what the world will be like when there is no one left willing to read a full-sized book.

On the good side of things:

1. Last week I shared a diagram of my wayward reading habits. I am happy to report I've finished three of the six books I had started but not finished as of that post and I am around half way finished with two of the others.  That leaves only one book of the six I've made no progress on and it is because I loaned it out!

2. Over thirty students have signed up as readers for my Mock Printz team at the library. In case you don't know what it is, the Mock Printz team attempts to read as many YA books published this year to determine which book should win the coveted Printz Award (similar to the Caldecott and Newbery Awards.) It is a lot of fun and generates a lot of energy among readers in the library.

3. Next week are conferences at my school and I don't have to do any unless I am called in on one, since I only have a very few students, TAs and advisory students.  Yea! I get to use my time working on the plethora of projects in the library which all feel half done right now.

4. The hubby and I got out and worked in the yard last week-end and got the roses cut down, the flower boxes cleaned out of the dead or dying flowers, and beautiful huge chrysanthemums planted to replace them.  Just in time, too.  It is raining this week.

5. Today, October 21, 2015, is the day that Marty McFly came back from the future. (Back to the Future II.)

Thanks to Christine at Bookishly Boisterous for hosting this meme.

Monday, October 19, 2015

TTT: Ten Bookish Wishes I'd Ask of the Book Genie to Grant Me.

TTT: Ten Bookish Wishes I'd Ask the Book Genie to Grant Me
If a genie popped out of lantern and agreed to grant me wishes related to reading and books here is what I would ask for...

1. As soon as a book is published, make sure an audiobook is also released at the same time, especially for YA novels. As you know, I love listening to books. It is surprising how many books have no audiobooks created for them.

2. For every new book I purchase for my library please make sure there will be at least five students who want to read it. I have so many new books which have never been checked out. It makes me sad.

3. And, dear genie, when those students bring back a book they like, please make sure they tell their friends about the book. Students tell me but I am not sure they tell others.

4. Please assist an author in creating the a new wildly popular series which creates a whole generation of readers. You know, like Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and dare I say, Twilight. No pressure, but it is time for something new that really excites readers.

5. Genie, I know this sounds impossible but please help me read faster. I think there are over 1000 books in my library which I really want to read and there just isn't enough time to read them all before I die since I usually spend most of my reading time reading newly published books each year. I want a way to digest all the older books fast.

6. Now for something really fun, please allow me to make a few magical trips into literature world. Let me go back and get into books so I can view beloved characters up close and personal. (See Jasper Fford's The Eyre Affair for a fun way to make this happen.) I think it would be really fun to be at the dance where Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy or the dinner party where Anne Eliott is reunited with Captain Wentworth, or how about a student in Anne Shirley's school, or a member of the quiddich team for Griffindor? Just for a day.

7. And please Genie, wipe out my memory of reading favorite books like the Harry Potter series, and To Kill a Mockingbird, so I can read them again for the first time! Wouldn't that be fun?

8. I know this sounds like a stupid and trite wish, but Genie would you please make sure that publishers do a few things to assist both readers and librarians: a. make sure they clearly mark what book it is in the series...on the book; and b. leave a blank space on the back of books for libraries to place their barcodes without obscuring the book information. I wish these two things all the time.

9. Find, for the world's sake, not mine, a few finished manuscripts from Shakespeare and Jane Austen. Tall order, I realize, but why not?

10. Genie, is there any chance I could go back in time and unsquander all those lost opportunities to read the classics as I was growing up? Thanks. That is really helpful to my future (present.)

11. and Genie, please let books be books a little longer before they are made into movies because, as you know, as soon as that happens people stop reading the book.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday Salon, October 18

GKHS, the circular part is the library on the second floor.
Weather: overcast with intermittent rain...the kind of weather the Seattle-area is famous for. Ugh.

Nothing special week: oddly nothing special happened this week that is report-worthy. I did attend a 5 minute meeting. It took me 15 minutes to drive to it and 15 minutes home, so it seemed longer than it was.  This would have been a good meeting to have on Skype.

Ghost toilet will finally cease its phantom flushing: we heard from the city that our water bill was too high and we should look around the house for possible leaks. We didn't need to, we know where the ghost toilet resides. We have finally scheduled a plummer to come in and repair it. No more toilet flushing in the middle of the night.

My library clerk is a hero: the school district delivered 500-600 iPad keypads and asked us to mark them before distributing them to teachers. Sharon spent Friday in the school's wood shop branding the plastic with a hot tool. She got all but 20 of them done.  She is my hero! Thank you, Sharon.

Update on Muffy: Our dog had neurosurgery a month ago. She had her one month exam with the veterinarian neurologist and it was recommended we take her for doggy physical therapy. Cha-Ching. Who knew there were such specialties as neurologists and physical therapists for animals? We were also told to quit babying her and force her to walk more and more on her own.

Mock Printz Roll-out: I rolled out this year's Mock Printz list of books at all three lunches on Friday and around 30 students signed up to participate. There was a tremendous amount of energy during one of the lunches because upperclassmen were all excited to share their experiences with Mock Printz from last year. Phew! I was worried no one would want to join. (See my blogpost about the sad state of affairs in the library this year for an update on reading at my school. Click this link.)

Book finished this week:
  • Read blog post "When reading does not go as planned"
  • Shadowshaper by Daniel Perez Older---considered Urban Fantasy, and I would add, with a bit of Horror thrown in for good measure. The characters are Puerto Rico-Americans and the topic has a bit to do with island mythology. Not a favorite of mine but I think the students will like it.
Currently reading:
  • Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, a memoir by Maya Van Wagenen. The author wrote this book when she was in 8th grade after finding a guide of how to popular published in 1951, she decided to try the advice in that book. Very clever. Progress 60%.
  • Symphony for the City of the Dead: Shostakovich and the Siege on Leningrad by MT Anderson. This is my audiobook currently and this may well be my favorite YA book of the year even though it is nonfiction.
  • Hired Girl by Laura May Schlitz---in diary format set in the early 1900s.
  • The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing our Brain by Carr. I listened to one disc of this book before switching back to Symphony.

Gotta run!  Have a lovely week.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Feeling sad. Can you help?

As a  high school librarian I view my job as the #1 reading cheerleader at the school. It is my goal to
get reading materials, specifically books, in the hands of readers after helping them make a selection they will like. I love it when students return books and tell me they really liked a book I suggested they read. Every year I scour book review sources to select those books which I hope will excite my readers. I plan and execute reading promotions and create displays to introduce new books and highlight old favorites. My library is beautiful, light, airy, and welcoming. The library is part of the culture of the school and it is a very busy, happy place.

So why am I sad?

My book circulation numbers are down. Way down. This September we checked out over 500 fewer books than the year before and I thought that year was bad. Fewer and fewer students are selecting free reading choices. New books, purchased over the summer, are still sitting in the display area with their bright pink bookmarks announcing their newness with no one even picking them up. Kids who check out the first book in a series aren't returning for the second or third. Sequels to popular books in the past like Every Day by David Levithan or Lair of Dreams (Diviners series) by Libba Bray haven't generated any interest at all. Even a book everyone is talking about, Everything Everything, hasn't circulated once. The horror book display, which is usually the highest interest of all monthly displays, has barely registered an interest except among the most dedicated of all readers.

It is so sad and disheartening.

Now, to be fair, one BIG thing has changed in our school this year which is a likely culprit to the almost near demise of book reading...iPads. Every student at our school has their own iPad now. Likely some of my students have simply moved their reading over from print books to e-books. But my guess is there is less reading happening altogether because the iPads are so enticing. As I walk around the school I see students playing games on their iPads during their free time. Only once, in our six weeks of school this year, have I spied a kid actually reading what looked like a book on her pad. It is so sad.

The second thing that has changed at our school is our English curriculum, which focuses on strong writing and close reading, is so scripted teachers don't feel like they have time to bring their students in for free choice reading selections. Kids are no longer being asked to read entire novels but smaller sections of books or essays for closer inspections.  I'm all in favor of teaching students how to read text closely but shouldn't they also know how to read a whole book, to see the whole thing from start to finish?

If English teachers aren't promoting reading, who will? It is pathetically sad.

At a meeting earlier this week with other librarians, my colleague at another high school in the district started crying when we were swapping stories about our circulation woes. We both have bought our first selection of e-books this year but don't hold out hope this will make much difference in our numbers. Kids are reading less.

I have felt like crying, also. It breaks my heart how easily everyone seems to have let reading go.

Nearly every futuristic dystopian novel I've read envisions the demise of society with the demise of reading. Are Sci-Fi novels coming true today?

Please help cheer me up! Do you have any ideas of things I can do to get my readers back before it is too late? Any and all help (and condolences) are appreciated. I'd love to hear from you. I need help.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Friday Quotes, October 16

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now:

Book Title: Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen

Book Beginnings: 
"School is the armpit of life," my best friend Kenzie once told me. Amen. My school is no exception.
Friday 56:
This morning Mom helped me put my hair in two tiny buns on either side of my head. It looks like mushrooms are sprouting out of my skull. "I was going for the Princess Leia look," I mutter.
This memoir is written by a gal who decided to spend her 8th grade year following the advice she reads in a Teenage Popularity Guide published in 1951. The book won the YALSA Nonfiction award last year. I am super excited to jump into it.

When reading does NOT go as planned

The windy road of reading. Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts cross-linked at Boisterously Bookish.

Often my reading plans do not progress the way I envision or plan.

Case in point:

October 1st- I checked out from my library I Crawled Through It by A.S. King and Shadowshaper by Daniel Perez Older. Both books being under consideration for our Mock Printz list and I wanted to finish them before I met with students. I decided to start with I Crawled Through It as I knew less about that book than the other. Because I wanted to read something when that book wasn't nearby I also started Shadowshaper a day or so later.

October 8th-I highlighted I Crawled Through It for my Friday Quotes (Book Beginnings and Friday 56) even though I hadn't made much progress, yet. The very next day my daughter asked me if I had a book she could read and I loaned her I Crawled Through It, the very book I was reading.

October 8th-I refocused my attention on Shadowshaper. The genre Urban Fantasy isn't my favorite. Progress is slow.

October 9th- My hubby and I drive up to Mt. Rainier for a day of nature.  But nature didn't cooperate and we found ourselves stuck in the Paradise Lodge due to a rainstorm. I pulled out the only book I had in the car to read while we waited out the storm, Hired Girl by Schlitz. I liked the writing style and ended up getting a fair chunk read during that time.

October 9-11th- While traveling to the mountain and back we listened to the audiobook, Symphony for the City of the Dead  by M.T. Anderson about Shostacovich and the Siege on Leningrad. Both of us found the story fascinating and were able to listen to about 1/3rd of the book together. We continued listening every time we were in the car together that weekend.

October 12th-I continue listening to the Shostacovish book on my own and my husband starts the audiobook I had recently finished, Being Mortal by Gwande. He wasn't sure if he could hold two books in his head at one time, but agreed to try.

October 13th-I receive a book from the library which I've wanted to read for awhile, Popular: Vintage Wisdom by van Wagenen. I couldn't help myself and spent the whole evening reading it instead of Shadowshaper.

October 14th- I have to switch cars for a day and our old car doesn't play MP-3 audiobooks so I can't listen to my current audiobook. Therefore, I start the audiobook The Shallows by Carr for my commute that day. The end of CD one is garbled and I will need to find the print edition of the book or a different audio version in order to continue.

October 14th- I force myself to bear down on Shadowshaper. I read over 100 pages and am a breath away from finishing before I turned off the lights for the night. The second half of the book is very suspenseful. My husband reported that he is finding Being Mortal very good and wants to finish it before he continues listening to the other audiobook we started together.

October 15th (today)-I resume listening to The Symphony for the City of the Dead. Make plans for finishing Shadowshaper in the nick of time since I meet with students tomorrow.

In the course of two weeks I will have started six different books (including audiobooks) and have finished none. Sometimes reading plans do not proceed the way I envision them going.

 Does this ever happen to you?

Monday, October 12, 2015

TTT: Dream teams

John Green and David Levithan, co-authors of Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Top Ten Tuesday: Two authors I like to see team up to author a book together:

1. John Green and A.S. King 
Both of these YA authors write serious stuff. John deals with tough subjects, as does A.S. King, but he injects humor which I feel her writing would benefit from.

2. Ernest Cline and Andy Weir
Cline, author of Ready Player One, and Weir, author of The Martian. I love both of these books. Really, really love. Why not combine the love?

3. Rachel Hartman and Christopher Paolini
They both understand dragons and know how to create worlds full of them. (Seraphina and Eragon)

4. Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte
OK, I know they are both dead but don't you think it would be fun to have Bronte suspense with Austen's characters?

5. Suzanne Collins and James Dashner
Two authors who understand how to design Dystopian societies.

6. Justine Larbalestier and Scott Westerfeld
Hey, they are married and they both write YA, so why not?

7. Louise Erdrich and Barbara Kingsolver
My two favorite living female authors

8. David Levithan and Rachel Cohen
Oh right. They've already co-authored several books and I love them.  I want more.

9. Harper Lee and Sue Monk Kidd
Both of these writers just knock my socks off, I'd love it if they would collaborate on a book set in the South.

10. Maggie Stiefvater and Patrick Ness
I love the way that these writers build their worlds and the way they put words together.

Women's Classics Literary Event...the beginning

The folks over at The Classics Club are hosting an event to read classics by female authors. You know those human beings whose works were often overlooked when lists of the best books were created because the topics they wrote about were trivial or trite? Or those persons who had to publish their books under male pseudonyms otherwise no one would publish them or buy their books?

What are the details of the Women's Classics Literary Event? Between now and December 2016 read classics written by female authors. There are no other "rules".  Sign up over at the club, read as many books, journals, essays, biographies by and about the authors as you want. Post links to your blog, if you want. Tweet with the handle: #ccwomenclassics. The whole point of this event is to read classic books written by women. Answer the questions in the survey, if it strikes your fancy. Here are my responses to it:

1. Introduction--- My name is Anne Bennett. I am a high school librarian in Washington State. I was a classroom teacher for twenty-five years before moving to the library. I didn't read many classics as a kid nor did I take any literature classes in college (I took lots of science classes.) I am making up for lost time now, frantically reading as many classics books as I can scrunch in between the YA novels I read for my job and the books I read for my two book clubs. I am excited for this event. It gives me an excuse to focus my efforts on the female authors on my classics list.

2. Classics by women---I haven't read many classics by men or women. Of my list of 60 classic titles I'd like to read/have read, posted here, only 18 of them are by women. That is a situation which needs to be remedied. I hope through this event to find other female authors to add to my list.

3. Highlight an author: Edith Wharton was born in 1862 during the Civil War. She was the first female author to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for The Age of Innocence. Her first novel wasn't published until she was forty but she was remarkably productive, publishing fifteen novels, many novellas, essays, poems, and 85 short stories. She knew many famous individuals of her day including Teddy Roosevelt.

4. A female character written by a male classic author: Estella in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. She is beautiful, refined, and mean. She also is incredibly unhappy and marries for prestige or money (or both.) I often wonder if men create female characters they would like to meet in person, aka super lovely and hot! Dickens' character here seems to fall into that category.

5. A favorite female character: Elizabeth Bennet by Jane Austen. Elizabeth is plucky and spirited. She is smart and has a mind of her own, too.

6. Sites which contain lists of females classics authors
7.  Three classic books I recommend by female authors:
  • My Antonia by Willa Cather
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
8.  I will start reading for this event as soon as I finish the reading projects I am currently working on.

9. I hope to read off my classic list but I imagine that my reading choices will start to dictate my subsequent choices.

10-11. I hope to read from a variety of genres including poetry, short stories, and biographies.

12-13. Will I host an event or read-a-long? Too soon to tell. Stay tuned.

14.  A favorite quote:

Read Along with Art AIDS America---Two Boys Kissing

 Pierce County Library is partnering with the Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) and Oasis Youth Center to host a community reading program centered on the YA title Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan.

This title was chosen to support the exhibit Art AIDS America, to spark discussion about the impact of HIV/AIDS.

All the information is here: http://www.piercecountylibrary.org/kids-teens/teens/read-art-aids.htm A TAM educator will join us at the South Hill Library on October 26th to talk about the book and the exhibit and David Levithan will be speaking on November 6th. Location TBD. Stay tuned.

Graham-Kapowsin High School will promote this event through publicity in the library and appropriate clubs.
Click for more information on this title
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Based on true events — and narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS — “Two Boys Kissing” follows Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record. While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teens dealing with universal questions of love, identity and belonging.---from the Pierce County Library website

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday Salon, Oct. 11th

Male Blue Grouse. Photo taken July 2013 at Paradise on Mt. Rainier. Photo by ABennett

Weather: Blue skies right now but it rained earlier this morning.  This time of year there is always the threat of rain.

Adventure Day to Mt. Rainier: Don and I both had Friday off work, for different reasons. We had time to scrunch in an adventure day which didn't take us too far from home since we had commitments on Saturday. We decided a trip to Paradise on Mt. Rainier was in order. Don couldn't remember the last time he had been to the National Park at Paradise. I had gone with the girls two years ago. Surprisingly, we live only 70 miles from Mt. Rainier so it is shocking we don't go there more often to enjoy the spectacular view. The morning started with an awesome sunrise over the mountain but by the time we got to Paradise, it was completely covered by a cloud.  We were on a mountain but couldn't see it.  We hiked a bit and then it started to pour so we went in the lodge, watched the National Parks film about Mt. Rainier, shared a cup of coffee waiting for it to abate. It didn't. After an hour or more we decided to head home. No big deal we'll go back another day when it is sunny. This time we hope to visit the grove of old giant trees which is on the southeast slopes.
This is what the steps to Rainier looked like on Friday, October 9, 2015. The mountain was obscured by clouds. Photo by ABennett
This is what Rainier looked like two years ago on a beautiful summer day. Photo by ABennett
From the kitchen: This week we baked a broccoli and bacon quiche, homemade biscuits, and banana cream pie from scratch. Not good for the diet, but everything was yummy. Believe it or not I have never made biscuits or banana cream from scratch before. it really makes a difference.

The Martian: After our favorite football team lost in double overtime, we went to see the new movie, The Martian, to cheer ourselves up. It worked. We got lost in the movie and cheered for Mark Watney as he tried to survive after being abandoned on Mars. The three of us had all listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed it. We recommend reading the book then going to the movie. there are a few differences, none of them vital to the story.

In honor of "The Martian", here is David Bowie singing "Starman." The movie was full of music from my era. Enjoy.

Book completed this week: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gwande, MD. This should be required reading for anyone who has a family, especially aging parents.

Currently reading:

  • Shadowshaper by Daniel Perez Older. Consider YA Urban Fantasy, with a creepy aspect.
  • The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz. This was the only book I had in the car to read while we were waiting for the rainstorm to pass. I like what I've read so far, set in the early 1900s, diary style.
  • Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege on Leningrad by M.T. Anderson. Audiobook, nonfiction, included the history of the USSR under Lenin and Stalin up to WWII. Very well written. I am learning a lot. Even though I am only 1/3rd of the way, I can already highly recommend it.

Here is Muffy in the leaves yesterday. The patch on her back was shaved for the spinal surgery four weeks ago.
Update on Muffy: improving every day. We still have to walk her with a sling but she is starting to express her personality. Today she attempted to walk Don into the bushes where she likes to sniff around. Don will take her to her follow-up appointment this week. We don't anticipate any problems.

Thought for the day (this one is for me)Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining - it bores everybody else, does you no good, and doesn't solve any problems.Zig Ziglar

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Celebrate this week, October 10th

Photo credit: Tanya Marcoe, 10/9/15
Today I celebrate Fall colors and weather. It is warm and windy here today (balmy), we know that means a weather front is moving in and with it the likelihood of rain. We ran out to rake leaves that have dumped since the yard guys were here on Thursday. Some of the leaves were needed for the compost pile, the rest will go to the county composting station.

Muffy among the leaves in our backyard
Yesterday we awoke to this sunrise over Mt. Rainier. The morning skies can be spectacular this time of year, as you see.

Our yard trees are especially pretty this year.

Evergreen tree with red sumac for a splash of color

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