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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

My August Reading/Bookish to-do list. How did I do on them?

School starts tomorrow. How did I do on my goals? I wrote this list on August 4th. I had a busy month and it wasn't a good month for reading. Here's how I did:

Order opening day collection for the library. If I use the district credit card I can only order $200 at a time so it will likely take several smallish orders to get all the books I want for the library for opening day. 

Process all the new books. Covers, tattle-tape, stamping, MARC records, add to system. This takes some time and frankly I am not sure I will get it done with my trips to the Oregon Coast and New York still to come. (A few books arrived today so I didn't get them done but I am almost completely done.)

During my visit to New York City I hope to visit THE STRAND used book store. We'll see if there is time with all the moving in we will be doing for daughter #2. (Unfortunately, we were busy the whole time getting our daughter moved into her apartment. No time for a visit to the Strand, but there is always next time.)

Read potential Printz books (YA books published in 2016, all have 3+ starred reviews) I am actually giving myself to the end of September to read through this list.
  • Rebel in the Sand by Alwyn Hamilton √*
  • My Name Is Not Friday by Jon Walter, √*
  • Summer Days and Summer Nights, short stories edited by Stephanie Perkins
  • American Girls by Alison Umminger √*
  • Draw the Line by Laurent Linn, 
  • Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti √*
  • Flannery by Lisa Moore
  • On the Edge of Gone by Corrine Duyvis
  • Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach
  • When We Was Fierce by E.e. Charlton-Tujillo 
And, of course, I want to write blog reviews of each of them. (Um...I am four reviews behind. Oh man, school starts tomorrow and I just don't think I'll get them done by then.Sigh. *Look for reviews on these books soon.)

Read upcoming book club selections:
  • The Sympathizer (for RHS Books Club September)
  • The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend (for RHS Book Club August) 
  • Arcadia by Groff (for SOTH Book Club September) (Currently reading.)
And finally, finish reading Out of Africa. I've been working on this book all summer and I am only 25% finished. I have a plan to read two chapters a day which should bring me to the end before the end of summer. We'll see if I can make it. (Plod. Plod. Plod. I am making progress but I am not finished, I'm currently at 52%.)

Lofty goals.
(I met two of my three nonreading goals.
I read half of the books I'd hoped to finish but my goals were very large, almost impossible, nevertheless I am still disappointed I didn't finish a few more.)

I'm trying to be hip but doing a bad job of it. I'm entering the discussion on When We Was Fierce.

During the early part of the summer When We Was Fierce by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo came to my attention.  It had wonderful, starred reviews by the likes of Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and Publisher's Weekly. I had to read it. Heck, I might be an old(ish), white librarian-lady but I like to read what the kids are reading and what I think they should be reading. So a book set in the Hood which gives voice to the African-American experience is a must read for me and possibly for my students. With reviews that say this kind of praise, I was especially excited: “... a heartbreaking and powerful modern American story,” (Publisher's Weekly) and  “…a compassionate, forceful look at the heartbreak and choices these black boys and men face” (Kirkus Reviews). With reviews like this you can see why I added it to my book order and readied for its publication date in early August.

One day in early August I was on Amazon.com looking at the book, considering preordering the audiobook and the next day it was unavailable. What happened? I waited, thinking the publisher had just ran out of books. I couldn't get the print edition but the public library had a copy of the e-audiobook which I checked out over the weekend. I started listening to it yesterday. Right on, I'm hip. I don't understand half of the words in context, but it is a very hip book. Isn't it?

Today I once again visited Amazon.com to check the status so I could order a book for my library yet the book was still unavailable. I obviously needed to investigate further. Why is the book still not available? What I found out was surprising. Lauren Barack, writing for School Library Journal on August 12th, said
Amid increasing controversy around author e.E. Charlton-Trujillo’s most recent book, When We Was Fierce, and her use of a made-up dialect along with what some deem as stereotypical characters, Candlewick Press has postponed publication of the book./ 
Oh, no wonder I couldn't get the book. The publisher postponed publication.
In the case of When We Was Fierce, some educators, librarians, and authors found that sensitivity lacking. Jennifer Baker posted a guest review of a pre-publication copy of When We Was Fierce on the blog,Crazy QuiltEdi, calling the title “off-the-mark” with narration that was “deeply insensitive,” she writes. She joins the ranks of educators and librarians, including K.T. Horning and Edi Campbell, who have also posted on why they have found the book problematic./
It seems that the made-up dialect was a problem for other folks, too. I just thought I wasn't with-it enough to understand the words in context, though I can understand the gist of the story.
Baker herself hopes to see more stories told from diverse viewpoints. But to Baker, Charlton-Trujillo’s novel was “glaringly offensive,” she says. When We Was Fierce was highly problematic from the inaccuracies to this very arm’s length approach, [and] the stereotyping of black characters specifically,” she says. “The made up dialect the author used was so egregious, it is horrible” (SLJ).
Oh wow. Here I was trying to like the book and to understand the words in context, thinking I'd be hip if I pulled it off, while other, more knowledgeable readers had grave and valid concerns about the book which I missed. Later in the article Jennifer Baker says that she thinks that publishers are and should increase the diversity in the books they publish but they need to make sure they are "respectful, responsible, and accurate." Apparently When We Was Fierce did not pass on those three points.

The story-line is about a fifteen year old boy T (Theodore) who witnesses the murder of his neighbor Ricky Ricky, a disabled boy. When he went to help Ricky Ricky, T was attacked and nearly killed, too. These two related events send the community into a tailspin and T and his friends are afraid for their own lives. They might even need to move out of state. The book is written in verse, though I can't really tell this detail in the audio version I am listening to which is read expertly by Rodney Gardiner. One point I have repeatedly been struck by, how hard it is to parent children in slums. T is constantly being pressured to join a gang and his mother tries equally hard to keep him away from their negative influences.

If you look at the reviews on Goodreads for When We Was Fierce you'll likely be struck by how opposite many reviewers feel about this book.  There are either 1 star reviews or 5 star reviews, nothing in between. At this point the publisher is listening to the one-star reviewers who are speaking louder.  I am not sure if the book will be reworked and published at a later date. I kind of doubt it. So if you want to read it you will need to get your hands on a ARC version, or check your library audiobook listings. It might be there like it is in my library (available on Hoopla.)

Even though it might not be published I am still counting it as one of  the potential Printz Award books for 2016. I would be highly skeptical this book would get any kind of award, not with this much controversy surrounding it.

2017 Printz Award Contenders

29 / 35 books. 83% done!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Contemporary books paired with classics

Classic or required reads and recommended contemporary pairings.
Reposted from Sept 2. 2013 TTT with additional/new parings in red

Required reads/classics
Contemporary pairing
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Nothing by Janne Teller or
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Don Quixote by Cervantes
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad or
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Dodger by Terry Pratchett
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill
Hamlet by Shakespeare
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
or Ophelia by Lisa Klein or A Steep and Thorny
Way by Cat Winters
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Jane by April Lindner or
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Bridgette Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
1984 by George Orwell
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare
Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman or Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Paper Towns by John Green or
Dr. Bird’s Advice to Sad Poets by Evan Roskos
The Island of Dr. Moreau by HG Wells
The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
Night by Ellie Wiesel
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak or Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys or Maus by Art Spiegelman
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
His Dark Endeavors by Kenneth Oppel
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Railsea by China Mieville
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Revolutions by Jennifer Donnelly
The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
A Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by EK Johnston
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork
1001 Arabian Nights
The Wrath and the Dawn by Becky Ahdieh

Please give me more suggestions if you can think of any!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday Salon, August 28

A view of Mt. Rainier hiding in the clouds at sunset last evening
Weather: the weather has turned from hot and stifling to cool and pleasant. The change occurred yesterday with a very breezy morning. Temperatures today should be in the 70s.

New York: I didn't post a Sunday Salon last week because I was in New York helping my daughter move into her new digs in Yonkers, readying herself for two years of graduate school. She is living in an upstairs duplex with two other girls in the same program, Genetic Counseling. The apartment is large with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large living room, dining room, and a kitchen. Once they get settled I'm sure the girls will be comfortable.

Road trip: Don and Carly left here on Sunday, August 14th en route to New York with Carly's Subaru stuffed to the top with as many of her things as she could cram into it. The trip took them five days. They stopped for the night in Missoula, Montana where they spent the night with Courtney and Alec A. longtime friends; Murdo, South Dakota, a little out of the way spot but didn't get to see Mt. Rushmore; Madison, Wisconsin where they stayed with my Aunt Betty, my dad's only living sibling; Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania was the last layover before arriving on the East Coast in Westfield, New Jersey where they joined me after I flew in the day before. Our friends Ken and Carol hosted us for a night before we borrowed Carol's brother-in-law's truck and drove to Yonkers to begin our search for used furniture and get Carly settled.

Licence plate game: Don and Carly attempted to spot all 50 states on their road trip. They saw all but three: Hawaii, they knew this one would be hard as soon as they left Washington State where sightings of the 50th state's plate isn't that unlikely; Mississippi, they saw a semi with these plates but no cars; and Delaware, this is always one of our hardest states to spot. Do folks in Delaware not travel outside their tiny state?

Audiobooks: I'm jealous. Don and Carly listened to two podcasts and four audiobooks on their road trip. I've read none of the books so now I am outside the loop. They seemed to like them best in this order:
  • Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg by Irin and Knizhnik---our Supreme Court Justice who has been a witness for women's rights. I've added this to my TBR pile.
  • A Thousand Miles to Freedom: My Escape from North Korea by Eunsun Kim---apparently an amazing survival story of two women from North Korea and what life is like in that private country.Don says it was a good companion to a book he recently ready, Without You, There is No Us by Suki Kim,about the author's experiences in North Korea.
  • Dead Wake: the Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson---this one has been on my TBR pile for a year. I am jealous my family got to it without me.
  • The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of An American in Britain by Bill Bryson---they obviously thought the book was funny because they kept quoting from it, but they didn't necessarily like the narrator of the audiobook. Don's comment about Bryson's biting wit is that it works best when Bryson narrates his own writing, but the comments sound mean-spirited when read by someone else.
It may be aqua-colored but it matches. We scored finding this used dresser.
Used furniture: We spent three days in Yonkers getting Carly a bed and attempting to find used furniture to help furnish her apartment.  We succeeded in finding a free desk, six Crate and Barrel wooden chairs for the dining room, a very used and ugly coffee table to use as a TV stand, a used but nice end table for the living room, and floor models of a living room chair and ottoman which looked beat up but are very comfortable.  We filled in the marks in the faux leather with a brown sharpie. Her roommates will need to get additional furniture. We went back, after our initial visit, to the second hand store for a dresser which was painted aqua colored.  It just so happened her room decor is the same color. Dressers are hard items to find second hand and in decent shape.

The Color Purple: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"...so we did stop the cleaning and shopping long enough to drive into NYC to see the Broadway production of The Color Purple with Cynthia Erivo singing the lead role of Celie for which she won this year's Tony Award. Wow. Wow. Wow. Heather Headley also stars in the Suge Avery role. If you get a chance to see this show, do it. What a show! Thanks Ken and Carol for joining us for this show. What a fun night!

Saying good-bye was tough: Carly, our youngest, has always lived close by to us. She attended college in Seattle so she was only an hour away. It was a rarity if we went longer than a month without seeing her. Leaving Carly in New York for her schooling and a new life was tough. We are still feeling the absence of her presence. It is our first true empty nest experience since our daughters were born. Even the pets seem to be out of sorts. It will take us all some time to adjust, no doubt.
One of our last meals together at the Shake Shack not far from Carly's new home.
Back to Work: The day after we returned from New York I returned to school full time in preparation for the new school year and I am so BEHIND. Arg. There is so much to do. Our first day with students is Thursday, September 1st but we have meetings for the three days prior to that so I am back to work. Will this be my last year? Retirement is a word I hear coming out of my mouth quite frequently these days.

Wedding: Don and I attended the wedding of our son-in-law's brother, Byron, yesterday evening. It was set at a barn and pasture owned by the bride and her father. It was a unique and delightful setting. The bridal party arrived for the ceremony in a wagon pulled by a tractor and the bride and her father arrived in a big tractor. Cute. We sat on bales of hay and danced on a refurbished floor in the barn. About half way though the father/daughter, all fathers-daughters in attendance were invited to join the bride and her father on the dance floor.
This is the view of where we parked and the where the ceremony was performed.

We sat on bales of hay arranged around an alter.

Don and Rita dancing the father/daughter dance.

Signs point the way to a happy marriage
Books read since I last posted:
  • Draw the Line by Laurent Linn---another YA book with a LGBTQ theme, this one is a part-graphic novel. I liked it.
  • The Memory Book by Lara Avery---a heartbreaking YA novel about a girl who is losing her memory due to a genetic condition which will eventually end her life. I sobbed.
  • American Girls by Alison Umminger---Another YA novel, this one about a girl who joins her sister in LA in an effort to get away from her mother who is neglectful and unkind. She embarks on a project for her sister's friend to find out information about the Charles Manson girls. I didn't really like this book but I finished it.
  • Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti---an audiobook and another YA novel. This one is set in Seattle, which I always think is fun. I liked this book alot and want to reread the last fifty pages just to remind myself how the story winds up. Loved it.
Currently reading:
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, et al...I got this new book for my library and I am attempting to finish it before school starts. I didn't realize when I bought it that it is written as a play script. 16%.
  • Arcadia by Lauren Groff...an e-book and this months book club selection. 15%.
  • When We Was Fierce by E.E. Charlton-Turjillo...The reviews I've read for this fall into two categories, ones and fives.  I hope I am a five. This is my new audiobook and I haven't started it yet, though I have downloaded it to my iPod.
Our hose in the front yard sprung a leak while we were gone, so I need to go find a replacement. Warm weather is still with us and the plants will still need to be watered. Bye!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Memory Book by Lara Avery

Last Friday I flew to New Jersey alone, which gave me a perfect chance to do some serious reading sans interruptions. I brought along two print editions and one e-book with me for options and "just in case"  I ended up with more reading time than anticipated. A few minutes into the flight, we hadn't even pushed away from the gate, I started reading The Memory Book by Laura Avery. I would have finished it before landing at Newark International except for one small problem, I forgot to pack a handkerchief and had no tissues to wipe my crying eyes and blow my dripping nose, so I had to give it a break until I had the needed supplies available.

Samantha McCoy is a talented and driven high school senior who seems to have her whole life planned out. First she wants to win the National Debate Tournament. Next she wants to give a speech at graduation as the valedictorian. After a summer of transition she plans on attending NYU in the Fall to major in economics and public policy and finally law school at Harvard. Ultimately she wants to be a lawyer who represents civil rights violations. But all of her plans are in jeopardy when she learns she has a genetic condition called Neilsson-Pick, type C (NPC) which will erode her memory and attack her body, eventually killing her.

In an effort to help Future Sam, Sammie starts a diary of her memories. As events happen or reflecting back on past events, Sammie chronicles her life. As the disease progresses the reader is even given glimpses of times when memory fails and she regresses to an almost child-like stage. The once driven girl now has to face a new and limited reality about herself and her goals. As she does this she finds herself relying more on friends, especially a new love interest, Stuart, and an old childhood friend Cooper. And, you guessed it, a love triangle develops...but it advances the story and doesn't dominate it.  Toward the end of the book other people, mainly family and a few friends, also write entries into Samantha's memory book so readers get a fuller picture of how Samantha's disease is progressing and how her life has impacted them.  Hence, the need for tissues!

When Sammie's mother writes about her happiest memories she writes these poignant woods, "Words cannot capture my grief at watching you fall away little by little. But I suppose in losing some layers, your golden core came out." As readers we get to see that golden core, too, and it is both lovely and heartbreaking to witness.

As I closed the book I wondered to myself why I haven't seen any reviews of it. Surely the YA lit world must be lighting up about another sweet, sad, funny book about a teen who is dying. I'm wondering if there is a title issue with this book. When I googled it there were many more hits for another book by the same title by a different author. That could prove confusing to folks trying to find out about the book. When I found the review for this book on Kirkus Reviews some lady made a devastating comment telling readers what a travesty the book was and no one should read or buy it and they should avoid the author, too. Then the next comment pointed out that she was talking about the wrong book and author, to which the first woman to make a comment admitted she was wrong and got things goofed up. See? Confusing.

One thing I am not confused about is how much I like the book. I think readers who enjoyed The Fault In Our Stars or All the Bright Places will like this book, too. With three starred reviews it should at least be considered by the Printz committee, though they don't usually select such cry-worthy books, I will recommend it for inclusion on our Mock Printz list when the team convenes in September.

Rating: 4.5
Source: Checked out from the GKHS library, a new book just processed this summer
2017 Printz Award Contenders

28 / 35 books. 80% done!


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Friday Quotes

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---

Title: Arcadia by Lauren Groff

Book Beginnings:
The women in the river, singing. This is Bit's first memory, although he hadn't been born when it happened.
Friday 56:
The kid herd is at the stream. The foot bridge is not safe: it wobbles, its ends dunked in the wild runoff...Do it! shouts Leif, who has turned into a dancing goblin. He is hysterical with violence.
Comment: this book is for an upcoming book club. The blurb on the back of the book says that Arcadia is set up as a Utopian dream from its start through its heyday. I am excited to dig in to this book. I can especially attracted to the second quote. I have met children who are so goblinish they seen hysterical with violence.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Draw the Line by Laurent Linn

I had so much much fun with my last book review when I analyzed the book based on its title I decided to try again with Draw the Line by Laurent Linn

Now granted "draw the line" is not nearly as obscure a phrase as "exit, pursued by bear" but let's see what I can find. The urban dictionary defines the phrase this way:

draw the line

1. To decide firmly an arbitrary boundary between two things: "Where do you draw the line between your  own decisions and those of your superiors?" (Robert Marion).
2. To decide firmly the limit of what one will tolerate or participate in: The officer committed fraud but drew the line at blackmail.

So that isn't very fun. But it does explain quite a lot of the story. Aidan Piper is an graphic artist, a nerd, a shy-guy, and gay. He tries to fly below the radar. He doesn't even sign his name on his website promoting his art.  All of that changes one day when he witnesses, and attempts to stop, a hate crime on another gay boy, an acquaintance of his. Someone caught him on film screaming and shared it on social media. Now the whole school knows he is gay and bullying really begins. After weeks of letting everyone walk all over him, Aidan finally decides he has had enough and he draws the line. He will no longer be silent and fly below the radar if it means that he or others will have to bear the brunt of thuggish behavior. With his art Aidan creates a superhero, Graphite. Then Graphite, the gay superhero helps Aidan find his real power.

Hey, why take it from me? Take a look at the book trailer:

The trailer makes the book seem like it is all graphic novel. It is only partially so. About 50 of the 500+ pages are illustrated. Fortunately the book reads really fast.

I've read a lot of LGBTQ books this summer, each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. The strength of Draw the Line is the powerful message it gives to its readers to be yourself and embrace your own skills and talents.  When Aidan was finally ready to accept himself he found a whole world of friends ready to embrace him, and yes, he also found a very hot new boyfriend!

Here is what Time Federle, an author of another LGBTQ book I read this summer had to say about Draw the Line:

“Laurent Linn had me at ‘gay superhero’—and kept me glued to the page with his thoughtful storytelling and genre-defying art. It’s not a graphic novel. It’s not a novel-novel. It’s Draw the Line, and it’s unmissable.” Tim Federle, author of The Great American Whatever

Aidan and his alter-ego, Graphite, are superheroes and role models for all teens today. And we all need as many positive role models as we can get.

At 515 pages, Draw the Line qualifies for the Big Book Summer Challenge.

2017 Printz Award Contenders

27 / 35 books. 77% done!

Monday, August 15, 2016

TTT: Favorite books set in boarding schools

Top Ten Tuesday: YA books set in boarding schools. (Not sure if I can come up with ten but I'll give it a try.)

1. Looking for Alaska by John Green---my first John Green book which I understand is loosely based on his own experience attending a boarding school.

2. Harry Potter series by JK Rowling---Dud, I almost fogot about the most famous boarding school of the all, Hogwarts.

3. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart--- this book is a favorite and so funny. Frankie is very plucky and I love her!

4. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray---It has been a lot of years since I read the first two books in this series set in a very creepy and atmospheric boarding school in England.

5. The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan---this book has a lot of themes and levels. I even learned a little about albinism from it.

6. Winger by Andrew Smith---hey, this list is easier than I thought. This is the first Andrew Smith book I read and it seems normal compared to the others I have read since then. The main character is younger than his peers. Funny and poignant.

7. Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard---- a really depressing but beautifully written book about coping with the death of a friend.

8. And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard---- two in a row by the same author, that begs the question, did Jenny Hubbard attend boarding school herself? This one deals with the subject of suicide and incorporates poetry. I was enraptured by it.

9. Super Mutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki----really funky graphic novel set in a a whacky boarding school. This book grew on me as I read it.

10. Sabriel by Garth Nix---If you haven't read this series by Nix, wht are you waiting for.  It starts in a boarding school but quickly moves to The Old Kingdom where magic exists.

Yay, I did it. I was right when I thought that a lot of YA books are set in boarding schools.

Exit, Pursued By a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Several months ago I listened to the audiobook production of E.K. Johnson's book Exit, Pursued By a Bear. I've been sitting on this review since that time because, frankly, I couldn't figure out what angle I wanted to take with the review since my feelings toward the book are ambivalent. I like the book, I gave it a rating of 4 stars on Goodreads, but I also had some problems with the book. These problems got me stuck. This review is my effort to get unstuck.

Roy Peter Clarke, the author of The Art of X-Ray Reading, encourages people who want to get more out of a book to use X-Ray reading techniques. One of those techniques is to pay attention to titles. What is the author trying to tell his/her readers about the story through the title? Today when I told myself I could delay writing this review no longer, I decided to investigate this very odd title; Exit, Pursued By a Bear. Since I listened to the book instead of reading the print edition, I couldn't look back in the physical book for clues so I looked on-line to see if I could gain some insights. For some reason I thought the phrase was from a poem. I started my investigation there. What I discovered instead got me all excited. The phrase "Exit, pursued by a bear" is one of the oddest stage directions ever given and it was done by Shakespeare in "A Winter's Tale." Directors are left to determine what he meant and how it should be carried out. Did he mean a literal bear or a figurative one? Should the exit be terrifying or comedic?

In an article published in the Baltimore Sun in 2002, Holly Shelby interviews several people at the Center Stage in Baltimore who were performing "A Winter's Tale" at the time, and asked them about the crazy stage direction, "Exit, pursued by a bear." First, they wanted us to know, one has to understand that "A Winter's Tale" is a very peculiar play. Shakespeare seems to tease his audiences with all kinds of misperceptions. "The bear makes as much sense as anything else," the director said.
"The bear is indicative of the show's entire aesthetic," says Charlotte Stoudt, dramaturg at Center Stage. "It's a narrative pivot point, the turn from tragedy to comedy in the play. It's crazy. It's campy. It's fun. It's scary. You have all these contradictory feelings, which add up to one of the best moments of the play."
Ah, I've got it. "Exit, pursued by a bear" is a narrative pivot point. In "A Winter's Tale" it is the point at which the action moves from tragedy to comedy. In the book, Exit, Pursued by a Bear, it is the exact opposite. It is very clear to me now how this fits with this book. Hermione and the other cheerleaders in the book are looking forward to  cheer-camp. Everything is going along just great until Hermione is slipped a "roofie" and raped by someone, probably a participant of the camp. Everything pivots at that point. Hermione doesn't remember the rape, except just snatches of her attacker's face because she was drugged. What starts out as a promising year ends up being a nightmarish hell with one very noteworthy exception, Hermione has wonderful and supportive friends who do not abandon her. In fact, in a lot of ways I think the book is less about rape and its ramifications and more about how to be a good friend.

It would take a very sophisticated teenage reader to pick up on the Shakespeare reference in the title, but teens certainly wouldn't miss the point that bad things could/would happen if one were pursued by a bear. Let's go back and see if we can gain any insight about bears from Shakespeare.
"In The Winter's Tale, the word `bear' has its own life, it's mentioned in the play about 12 times. It starts as a word meaning `take away' as in: `Bear the boy away.'' But by the end of the play, the word `bear' becomes about responsibility for one's actions and bearing them and bearing the weight of guilt. And in between weight and responsibility is the ferocious creature." -Baltimore Sun
Wow. All of the sudden the title of this book not only seems good it is almost perfect. Should we think of the "bear" as in a ferocious animal, or a rapist, as in our story? Or is it about "bearing", as in bearing the burden of friendship? And finally, though we don't really see this in Johnston's book, is it "bearing" the weight of guilt, as so many rape victims are left feeling? Or all three? Me thinks all three!

The next time you are stuck on a book review, let me recommend x-ray reading. I am not kidding. Suddenly the whole story makes sense and I am no longer ambiguous about this book. The author is brilliant (and so am I for figuring it out!) I think she wants her readers to know that even in the face of horrible, terrifying events they can be rendered bearable with the support of good friends. Do I think this should be a Printz contender?  Yes, yes I do. Read it and see what you think.

Rating: 4 stars
Source: Audiobook purchased with my own funds.

2017 Printz Award Contenders

26 / 35 books. 75% done!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Olympics book tag. Join the fun!

This tag is from Starts At Midnight and since I am currently obsessed with the Olympics so this tag was impossible to pass it up! 

West with the Night by Beryl Markham
I not only loved it from the first page, I loved it from the first line:
"How is it possible to bring order out of memory?"

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
This has been a reliable book recommendation over the years, too.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Peeta or Gale? Who could possibly pick with these two choices?

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
I rarely do not finish books but I DNF this one. I just couldn't do it.

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki  and Mariko Tamaki
A graphic novel and a wonderful coming-of-age tale.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rawling
Need I say more?

Steeplejack by AJ Hartley
A recent read for me. I enjoyed all the plot twists I didn't see coming.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
This book broke my heart then stitched it back together.

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
Is it really slow paced or am I just not really taking the required time to read it quickly?

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
This was my favorite book as a youngster by far. I still love it.

A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron
Sweet. Sweet. Sweet.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob deZoet by David Mitchell
This book seemed WAY longer than its 479 pages. 
In fact, this book has become a joke of sorts among my book club friends. 
All of us struggled to finish it.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater 
 Gansey, Adam, Ronan, Noah, and Blue.
I want friends like these guys.

Stotan! by Chris Crutcher.
Competitive swimming.

I'm not tagging anyone in particular, but if you would like to join in please feel free.