Wednesday, November 29, 2006

More Reviews!

It has been snowing in Seattle, so what else is there to do but read?

Patricia McCormick is the author of several books that depict the lives of normal, yet troubled teens. In Cut you find Callie in Sick Minds--what the kids interned at Sea Pines call the in patient treatment center that deals with eating disorders, substance abuse and behavior issues. Callie will not talk, cannot talk about why she is there or what is bothering her. Soon, through a series of memories and life changing events, Callie finds that she can no longer remain silent, either. Slowly and haltingly her feelings and worries come out and Callie finally finds herself on the path to wellness.

This is the quickest read in the YA section yet. Short does not mean bad, though. This book is well written and perfect for younger teen girls. It incites understanding in some and empathy in others. Callie is a 13 year old that started cutting herself to relieve the stress and anxiety in her life. Another girl in treatment seems to be doing the same, but to garner attention. There are many other girls with a miriad of problems, with quite a few of the signs spelled out in the book to help identify those problems.

On a completely different note, Peeps by Scott Westerfeld was quite charming. This scientific explanation for vampires was a lot of fun and very educational. Every other chapter had an explanation of different parasites. It was scary and interesting at the same time because although vampires are not real, parasites are and their descriptions here will make you think twice about eating rare meat or swimming in tropical rivers (both of which I have done! Eek!).

The story didn't flow particularly well at times, but the plot had quite a few twists and turns and vampirism as an STD was an interesting idea. This book definitely kept me interested, as do most of Westerfeld's books. Unlike his well known futuristic series that includes the books Uglies, Pretties and Specials, Peeps is set in our time in New York city. It is exciting and a little scary, and I recommend this book for older teens 16-20.

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Friday, November 24, 2006


I haven't been good about posting my reviews over the last couple of weeks. I will briefly mention a couple of adult books that I have read and liked: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Both books were very good; full of vivid description and very believable story lines--despite that The Time Traveler's Wife is based on Sci-fi. I am planning on reading The Painting: A Novel by Nina Schuyler and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini next.

For Teens:

Maybe by Brent Runyon: This book is by the same author as the non-fiction book, The Burn Journals (which I plan to read very soon). Sixteen year old Brian's older brother died recently in a mysterious car crash. Brian doesn't know how the crashed happened, but he fears it was suicide. His family is in mourning and none of them are dealing well with the death. They have moved to a different area and school and all have withdrawn from each other. As time moves on, Brian and his parents must find a way to move on as well.

Brian is definitely a growing teen in all its awkward painfulness. He wants to have sex. Now. And he isn't that picky about who it is with. He is picky about who he dates, though and this keeps him celibate for a while. When he does loose his virginity, he realizes that sex is more than a physical act and impacts everyone involved.

I recommend this book for ages 15 and over, due to some sexual content and casual underage drinking. Also, while some of this book is funny, it is also fairly depressing and dark, so I would suggest it for more advanced readers.

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Gothgirl by Barry Lyga is also a coming of age novel. In this book, Fanboy is coping with a broken family and being teased and bullied at school. Fanboy (as the nickname implies) is a fan of comics and graphic novels and is hoping that publishing his own graphic novel will be his ticket out of town and out of his difficult life. Fanboy has one friend who loves comics but also loves LaCross. When a LaCross game interferes with the boys planned outing to a comic convention, the boys part ways. In steps GothGirl! She likes his graphic novel and will do anything to help him get it noticed by Bendis--a well known graphic novel artist--even if she hates Fanboy with a passion. It turns out she hates herself more and Fanboy has to learn that sometimes all you can do is be there for your friends.

This is a great book that deals with a lot of key issues; divorce and feeling alienated from the absent parent, bullying, friendship, suicide and hopes for the future. Fanboy goes from feeling alienated from fellow students and parents, to realizing that everyone has hang ups and that his own behavior may be causing some of his problems. Overall a great book.

I recommend this book for older teens, aged 15 and up.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006


I felt so productive and socially adept today!

At the library I got my newsletter all updated for the new month, wrote notes to the various (6) people in the community I send them to and put them in the mail bag (that is a feat, you just don't know...). I also finished with my weeding, making a list of the titles that I weeded and sent it out to my fellow teen service librarians. One branch took almost all of them, which made me happy. I don't like letting the little fellers get away from me, but it makes me happy to know they got a new home.

I also went to a meeting downtown today about selection services. It was great to hear about how it all worked and see where it happens. I learned a lot about my own job as well, which I won't go into at the moment. I enjoyed meeting AW and the rest of the staff there.

After work I went to the Spenser Shaw lecture at the Information School. The feature was Richard Peck; a well known YA author and education philosopher. I didn't agree with everything he said, but he was definitely funny and engaging. He said that parents and schools aren't taking responsibility for children learning, children only respected their own peer groups and that all of that was bringing about a legacy of illiteracy where only the "gifted" children "read." He insinuated that even these "gifted" children aren't reading the right things and that parents are allowing kids to fall into the filth of online communities.

Well, as a parent (a single parent that actually read books to my son from the time he was born--which Mr. Peck accused we single parents of being too lazy to do) I have a few disagreements with Mr. Peck. There are plenty of kids reading, I see them every day. Mark Twain isn't for everyone, but I think it is great that he is bringing that experience into kids lives. To expect children to recognize a randomly pulled bit of Huckleberry Finn upon hearing read aloud it is a little beyond expectations. There are plenty of books that I have read and enjoyed where I wouldn't recognize a paragraph of them read to me later. Huck Finn is probably one of them. I knew the one he read us because he had already been talking about Mark Twain and could put the two together--but then, I am 32 years old and I often draw complex conclusions. He did have quite a few good points as well, but they were drowned out by his negativism. I took notes though, wait...

Reading to young children is important (although I think that dad's read just as well as moms), in some cases parents and schools are not taking the necessary steps to engage children in learning and I agree that this is a problem that needs to be addressed (but rather than blaming each other, how about we work together on the problem...). Richard Peck is a great author and fills a much needed niche in the YA genre scheme.

So, overall, much over-generalization, great narrative, engaging author.

There was a reception afterward and I got a great chance to talk to some professors from the iSchool and catch up with my cohort. Some of my fellow employees cut out without gracing the reception, but they missed out. One of my school's librarians were there and we chatted for a bit. Funny story, I think I embarrassed the Dean. I was standing with one of my colleges and Harry turned to me and introduced himself. I reminded him that he had shaken my hand less than 6 months ago at the graduating ceremonies. He was very graceful and congratulated me on my position and the library system for finding such a great employee--pretty good for having no idea who I was 10 seconds earlier. I know his wife better--I had several classes with her over the course of my master's program and talked to her for a while during the reception. She wants to place a directed fieldwork with me after we reopen, which would be a great help for us and hopefully a good opportunity for some student.

Well, I have blathered on quite enough. Good evening.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Book group, Richard Peck and Podcasts

I got word today that my book group at the local middle school will be a go. We are going to start in January and go until May. I know we will mostly have girls, but I hope a few boys will join us.

Tomorrow I am going to the talk by Richard Peck (historical fiction teen author). He is one of my son's teachers' favorite authors. I doubt he can make it--he lives in Darrington--so I am going to tell him all about it. I wonder if they will do a podcast? They did of Stephen Abrams talk, but then, that is what he is all about.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Mentors and such

I should mention, to update, that I cannot have an official mentor. Being temporary makes me ineligible for quite a few things and makes many other things much more difficult (if I want a bus pass at the discount that other employees get I have to go to the 43rd floor of some building downtown). I don't mind though, this is the best opportunity ever. And hey, I have a mentor, it is just unofficial.

I have been lucky in that respect. When working for Sno-Isle I also had a great mentor. A manager that was respectful, understanding and knowledgeable. She really helped me see where I wanted to go without being pushy or dismissive. Now I have an example that is on the move. He is going places. I like seeing different perspectives to the same career. It is highly motivating.

I also enjoy the meetings with my fellow teen librarians. Hearing what is going on at their branches or at central keeps me going with my own projects.

I have added an XML link to my blog page for those of you that want to add it to your reader. If you use rss, I understand that you have to add "?alt=rss" to the end of the url. It is the blue button under the "I Power Blogger" button. I am getting good at this, and in only a few hours.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Blogs, Wikis and RSS

I have been playing with Wiki's and blogger all day--on official business of course. I am setting up my Queen Anne news wiki with rss from the PI and my information in the TSL wiki set up by my colleges. It has been fun playing with this technology, although I just can't seem to remember the programming for embedding RSS feeds. Also, the xml for the Queen Anne community news in the PI is broken at the moment so it won't show up. Hopefully they will fix that soon. Eventually I am going to give invitations to the rest of the staff so that they can all view it and use it for our blog.

Otherwise, it has been a quiet couple of days. I am working a lot at other branches and learning a lot from other librarians and LAs.

Jennifer--how did you make your blog accessible by atom (alternate to rss, but translatable)?


Saturday, November 04, 2006


I just got the letter from KCLS. I had decided that they hated me at my skills assessment and that this must be a "so sorry" letter. But no! I got into the pool and I got a rating of 3.326/4, which I am assuming is good--but you know what they say about assuming...

I had also decided, since I was sure they didn't want me, that I didn't want them either. Clusters-bah! Now I am not so sure. It is definitely nice to have some extra options.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Web 2.0

Yesterday was staff day at SPL. It was very well done; kudos to the organizers. The Keynote speaker was Stephen Abrams, SirsiDynex's vice president of innovation. This guy is on top of Web 2.0, and he talks a lot about it in his blog. He challenged the library to meet our patron's technological expertise and begin using interactive and networking websites, including blogging, web casting, and even Myspace. The talk was very inspirational and the really cool thing is that my manager thinks (and I agree) that we should make a blog for our library while it is closed for renovations, then possibly expand it later with RSS feeds and community news. Keep the community active and interested while we are gone and after we are back.

I have a lot of ideas for this and am excited to get started. Unfortunately I am off work until Sunday, so someone else might beat me to it. I don't want to be greedy, but I really want to be involved from the ground floor. My coworkers are pretty excited about it too and I want to keep them interested.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Le Guin Reviews

Gifts, by Ursula K. LeGuin is the story of a brave young man that chooses to blindfold himself rather than use his wild gift of "unmaking" with the help of his childhood friend. Together they protect his land and people from his abilities and from outsiders that covet their land and livestock.

As usual, LeGuin does a beautiful job of creating new cultures and worlds where the human characters express feelings as we know them, enabling the relation to our reality. The blindness and its necessity are situations we can feel even though the reason, the gift, is a new concept. The story flows well and gives an excitement and fondness for literature through the main character's own love of the written word, the gift of which was won late in life.

In the second book, Voices, LeGuin picks up the story of Orrec and Gry many years later. They have left their upland home and traveled to many far off places, collecting learning and lore. Orrec has found that his gift is not of unmaking, but of making and has created many stories and poems of his own and won renown as performer and scholar.

In Voices, Orrec and his wife Gry travel to Ansul at the request of the Ald Gand, the ruler of that conquered land. Once there, Orrec hopes to gain access to the books of legend and learn from their pages. Unfortunately, in the invasion and the subsequent occupation, most books were destroyed. Those that were not are hidden away to protect them from the invading forces. Soon Orrec and Gry find themselves in the middle of a revolution against the Ald's with Memer, a young local woman who has taken them into her home and heart.

Voices deals with hard issues in its fantasy theme, some of which parallel today's world. Memer is a young woman in an occupied country where the invaders think that women should be hidden and that women found in public are asking to be raped. In fact, that is how Memer came to be. During the initial invasion, Memer's mother was found out in the open and raped by a soldier. Memer is a half-cast, born of both invader and invaded, but it is easy to see where her loyalties lie. Foreign customs, censorship and limited freedoms remind one of what peoples in an occupied lands must experience.

I recommend this book for ages 10 and up, based mostly on difficulty. While rape is mentioned, there are no details. This is an adventure of high order. Younger children might have a harder time getting through the first book to get to the second, but it is definitely worth the work. The book is set up perfectly to continue the story of Memer, Orrec and Gry, so expect a third book in this series.