Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Puppets

Halloween has always been my favorite time of year. Dressing up, costumes, candy, what's not to like? I'm just gutted that my new library won't be open at that time! Normally, I love to throw a Halloween party for the kids, with ghost stories, coloring contests and the like.

I enjoy working with felt, and last year decided to try my hand at making some felt puppets. Here are the results.

I'm very pleased with the way that this witch looks. I might have tried to find a slightly paler shade of green for her skin, but this was what I had handy at the moment. The main problem is that her hat makes her a bit top-heavy. I should find some way of supporting her hat better. Maybe some chenille stem supports, wired inside?

This troll looks alright. He doesn't necessarily look terribly "trollish" but, I think that gives him a bit of versatility. I put him in a vest because I always picture trolls wearing vests.

I'm pretty happy with this ghost. You can get some good motion going with his arms.

This ghost is also a success. He has a much smaller range of motion, but he looks great gliding back and forth.

This mummy is by far, my favorite. With his arms so straight, he looks quite zombie-like when he moves about. This puppet was easy as pie to whip together. I drew the lines of his "wrappings" with fabric marker, and he's instantly recognizable. I tried several different shapes for his mouth, but this simple rectangle seems to work best.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Children's Literature Council Fall Gala 2009

The crowd at this year's Children's Literature Council Fall Gala seemed a little smaller than it has in years past, and just a little more casual too, which was nice.

I was pleased that the event was hosted at the Skirball Cultural Center this year. The Bowers museum, where it's been hosted in the past, was lovely but a verry long drive for me.

The keynote speaker was Jennifer Holm of Babymouse fame, and she was delightfully entertaining. She gave a wonderful talk about some of the things that inspired her. I was introduced to her, briefly, and when she heard my name is Madigan, she asked, "Oh, do you go by Maddy?" To which I replied, (perhaps a little too sternly?) "No, I prefer Madigan." She answered that by saying, "Oh my gosh! I was just asking!" She said it in such a chirpy and funny way for a brief moment it was almost like talking to Babymouse herself. How awesome!

Most exciting, was that my old friend Hope Anita Smith had won the Myra Cohn Livingston award for poetry for her book, Keeping the Night Watch. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but for just a teensy-tiny second, I was afraid that since I haven't seen her in a few years, and she's won so many awards, maybe there would be some distance between us? Happily, that wasn't the case. She asked me if I wouldn't mind taking her photograph when she got her award, even though there was already an official photographer set up. I guess, when she got her Coretta Scott King award, there was some kind of photo mishap, and she wanted to make certain to catch a photo of this one. So, I gladly obliged. That meant, of course, that I don't have any photos of the event, because I was using Hope's camera. I did snap this photo afterward, as the authors signed books in the courtyard. Jennifer Holm is sitting up front, looking a little weary (I'm not sure how many books she must have signed at this point, but I'm sure it was a lot) Hope is sitting just behind her, steadily signing away.

I wish I'd been able to stay a little longer... the Skirball gave everyone at the event free passes to see their Noah's Ark exhibit, but I had other plans for the afternoon. You can read other attendees accounts of the Gala here, and here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wild Things

It's opening weekend for the movie release of Where the Wild Things are. I'll definitely be seeing it, but not this weekend. I'm excited about the movie, but a little trepidatious too. I'm not much of a movie person, so I think I'll wait a bit to see what other folks have to say about it before I decide whether or not to shell out the money to see it in the theater.

For anyone in the L.A. area who missed their chance to see Terrible Yellow Eyes up in Alhambra, today's the last chance to grab a peek at the Wild Things installation at Space 15 Twenty in Hollywood.

The LAist has some photos of the exhibit, as does Latino Review. The costumes by Christian Joy are amazing! There's more Wild Things goodness to be had on the blog, We Love You So, which features pictures of opening weekends and the like.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Silver Lake Branch Opening

These past few weeks I've been working at a new branch. A brand new branch! I am beyond excited about it. The Silver Lake branch will be the 72nd branch in the Los Angeles Public Library system.

Curbed LA has had some great photos and on-going speculation on their site.
Back in March 2008, they put up some early photos of the construction site, steel framework going up in April. More construction happening in July, 2008. Work on the stone facing in January '09. The (nearly) finished building in July, 2009.

I've got a few photos of my own to add.

Here are the boxes of books that arrived in September. Opening all these up was as exciting as Christmas morning, let me tell you!

Here's the children's DVD section. When we received our CD's of kids music, they came all boxed up, and alphabetized. By the artists first name. D'oh! Luckily, our crackerjack team of library professionals had them re-alphabetized in record time.

The branch will be opening on Monday, November 16, 2009 at 10 am. The date seems simultaneously so close, but still so far away. I feel like a racehorse, chomping at the bit. It's going to be so exciting, opening our doors to the public and getting into the routine of helping people again. In the meantime, there's still so much to do... books to add to the catalog, donations to process, programs to plan.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

West Hollywood Book Fair 2009

Last week, I made it out to the annual West Hollywood Book Fair. It's certainly a much smaller and easier book festival to navigate than the gargantuan Los Angeles Festival of Books that I attended earlier this year. The organizers estimated a crowd of 40,000 for the West Hollywood Book Fair, compared to a whopping 130,000 for the Festival of Books. To be honest, I think 40,000 might be a tad generous. The Fair did manage to feel bustling but not overwhelming. I was only there for 3 or 4 hours, but I managed to see a lot. The weather was just perfect, with just a hint of snap in the air and clear blue skies.

New this year, I noticed several reading tents set up. I loved them! So simple and cozy with plenty of soft chairs to plop down on with one's latest finds. I confess, I expected to see a corporate sponsor for the reading tents, and was a little pleased and surprised when there didn't seem to be one.

One of the first things to catch one's attention was the yaoi booth set up prominently at the Fair entrance. Oh my!
A little further in, I found this Halloween themed booth.

I'd hoped to see Francesca Lia Block, who was signing copies of her newest book, Wood Nymph Seeks Centaur, but unfortunately, I missed her. I did run into June Sobel who was signing over in the children's area though! Other random celebrities present that weekend included Bob Barker and Carol Channing.

I hit up a couple of science-fiction/fantasy panels. A group from World of Warcraft publishing gave a presentation about their upcoming line of tie-in novels. I also listened in on "Comics on Comics" a group of podcasting comedians who provide commentary on comic books.

The children's area had a craft table that looked pretty busy, and several presentations of Shakespeare by kids, some in costume, paraded across the kids' stage. Teens were occupied on the mikes, sharing poetry.

Halloween's around the corner, so I was glad to see this ghost-stories tent. Inside was sufficiently darkened to lend a spooky atmosphere to the dramatic readings shared.

There was plenty of swag to be had at this Fair. Much more than usual. I lucked out and happened to win a raffle prize of free books right away. I also got several recycled cloth bags. I wasn't shy about snagging some kids' posters for my library, either. Speaking of which... the Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on freebies for bloggers. It occurred to me, as I was leaving West Hollywood that I hadn't really mentioned my blog to anyone. I'm fairly confident that none of the free books I received were in consideration of that. I will start mentioning where I've acquired my books in future reviews, however. I'll have more to say about that in upcoming post.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Asian inspired fantasy... with dragons!

Eon is hiding a secret: she is actually Eona. In a fantasy mileau heavily influenced by feudal China, 12 spirit dragons (one for each of the years of the zodiac) help rule the land with the humans they are bonded to. They all serve under the Emperor. Being a Dragoneye wears out the body, so after a 12 year training period and a 12 year reign, the retired Dragoneye has the stamina of a old man, and a scant few years of retirement.

Because of the girl-disguised as boy motif, and the setting amidst the military training barracks, the obvious comparison is Tamara Pierce's Alanna's books, but Eon: Dragoneye Reborn take a much grittier tone. Eona is not only hiding her gender, she is also coping with a painful lame leg. As an awkward repressed memory resurfaces, Eon realizes that that her master was actually the one to inflict the injury, gambling on the fact that her deformity will allow her to avoid the locker room, all the better to conceal her secret. Of course, as a woman disguised as a boy, one of her prime concerns is how to cover her menstruation. This is discussed in frank detail and the author doesn't take an easy out of providing some magical herb which ceases her cycles, either.

The author plays with every possible variation of gender and class roles, including several different types of eunuchs, men and ladies of the court, serving maids, and contraires (biologically male, but they dress and live as women.)

At the tournament where candidates battle each other for the opportunity to become the next Dragoneye, Eona is nearly chosen by the Rat Dragon, but at the last moment she is instead chosen by the Mirror Dragon, missing for these past 500 years. Believing her to be a fellow eunuch, Ryoko and his mistress Lady Dela (a contraire) take Eona under their wing when Eona's victory elevates her to the prickly intrigues of the imperial court.

Eona spends most of her time trying to subdue her female or "Moon" energy, even going so far as to take steroids. It's only at the very end that Eona realizes the Mirror Dragon is actually female as well, and embraces her femininity to fully access her power.

Long battle scenes, and a plot that moved a bit slowly in places can be forgiven for the richly detailed world, complete with several nations, competing social classes, and a complex backstory. Goodman's exploration of gender settles in nicely somewhere between Tamara Pierce's Alanna series and Ursula LeGuin's Left Hand of Darkness. The highly anticipated sequel, Eona: The Last Dragoneye isn't due to be published until 2010, but we can only hope that Eona will be marshaling her magical gifts and martial training to meet the challenges that will surely be facing her ahead.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

School's in session

by Alison McGhee, Alison, illustrations by Harry Bliss

Our nameless heroine with wide Orphan Annie eyes has 10 days until the start of kindergarten and she is terrified that she will not be able to tie her shoes without help. The pictures are in bright, saturated watercolor and black ink. The narrative, all told from the five-year-old girl’s point of view is fairly simple and straightforward, conveying a mounting panic as the first day of kindergarten draws ever nearer. The illustrations abound with hilarious in-jokes for adults and children. The book slyly includes quite a bit of counting backwards as well. The tongue-in-cheek humor of the story highlights how silly her fears really are. After hiding her shoe, the girl’s mother finds them in a haystack and declares, “Looky here – the missing shoes and that needle I’ve been searching for!” The young girl also frequently imagines an army of adults (school officials chief amongst them) repeating, “You can’t ask us for help. Ever.” Many hand lettered comic book style speech balloons are incorporated throughout the text. Those nervous about getting ready for kindergarten will find this story very reassuring. The girl in the story never does figure out how to tie her shoes by the end of the story, but she is reassured that she doesn’t need to be perfect, especially on the first day of school. Kindergarten teachers might enjoy this as a first day read-aloud in order to dispel fears of what is expected at school.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Plenty of brouhaha this year about Banned Books Week. There's a Wall Street Journal article, claiming challenged banned and that librarians make too big a fuss over parents wanting to supervise what their children read, among other things.

In the meantime, bannings and challenges continue. Ellen Hopkins was recently asked not to speak at a school in Oklahoma, as her books were pulled for reconsideration. Laurie Halse Anderson is trying to rally support for her book "Twisted" which was pulled from a school in Kentucky.

Earlier this year, I dealt with a challenge at my own library, when an upset parent demanded that we remove "And Tango Makes Three" from our shelves. I was very grateful to have the support of my immediate supervisors during that time. Fortunately, I was able to use my not inconsiderable customer service skills to calmly hear the patron out and ultimately, she decided to drop her complaint. "And Tango Makes Three" remains one of the top challenged books since it was published in 2005, so much so, that the American Library Association recently hosted a round table program focused on it. I look at ALA's statistics on banned books in 2008, and I know that the book challenges and censorship that I've personally dealt with in the past few years weren't submitted in any official count. As high as those numbers look, they still don't represent the whole picture.


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