Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New Stiefvater cover

The cover for the final book in Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy has been revealed.  I love it! Going for a red-theme makes sense.  With the green and blue, it's almost like a set of primary colors.  I'm in the middle of reading Linger now, and really enjoying it.  Read a full interview with the cover designer, Chris Stengel, on Publisher's Weekly.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

National Library Card Month

September is National Library Card Sign-up Month. I was digging through some of my old papers, and ran across this. It's one of my first library cards. 

I remember the librarian warning me that the little metal clip was very high-tech, and I should be extremely careful with it, as they were expensive to replace. The card came with a little orange card carrier to protect it. The library had a rule that you couldn't get an adult library card until you were twelve. I remember I got mine a couple of months early, after showing the staff that I had already checked out most everything in the children's collection. Back then, each book had a card pocket where you signed your name... you know the sort.

Obviously, I think I took pretty good care of this card. Do you remember your first library card?

Friday, September 24, 2010

LMNO Peas review


I loved this fresh take on alphabet books. With a gently bouncy rhyme, we see little green peas, paired with letters of the alphabet, busily doing everything under the sun. Baker imbues these little green circles with so much personality and optimism, it makes for an amazing read. Their small size in comparison to the large, pastel letters and the creative way that they use the shape of each letter (For example, "underwater divers" splash in the center of the "U" shape and "campers" pitch their tent in the bottom curve of the letter "C") is certain to boost letter knowledge in young readers. Effective use of white space keeps the busyness of each page from getting too overwhelming.

For me, the true test of any alphabet book is the treatment of the often-difficult letter X. Here, "x-ray doctors" examine a gigantic green "X" with bones faintly apparent. There is so much to hunt and find on each page. The illustration of a group of yogis depicts some blissfully stretching peas, with one pea towards the back, struggling to get into the pose. There's a terrific flow from page to page as well, when you see one of the "bikers" from the B page, biking past "drivers" on the D page, followed by the same biker zipping through the finish line run by "flaggers" on the page for F. Later, "readers" from page R relax with their books by the seashore for page S.

My favorite little Easter egg in this book is the ladybug hidden on every spread. She pops up in a ball of yarn, behind a leaf, inside a sandcastle, on the judge's scale. Really fun! The rhyme is inventive and invites to be read aloud, "We're painters, poets, and plumbers fixing leaks/We're pilots, parachutists, we're peas and... we're unique!" This book would work well at storytime, but might be even more appreciated reading one-on-one, when youngsters would have the chance to pore over the artwork for themselves.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cybils panelists announced

Panelist selections for the 2010 Cybils awards have been announced!  The Cybils awards are the only children's and Young Adult book awards chosen exclusively by kidslit bloggers.

I am very sad to say that I was not chosen.  I am, in a word: gutted.  No, that's not strong enough to describe the keenness of my disappointment.  I am absolutely gutted.  Disappointed in the world, and in myself.

I can't say why, but for some reason, I had my heart set on the idea of being a Cybils panelist this year.  What is it about serving on an awards committee that has so much appeal?  Year after year, bleary-eyed, exhausted committee members warn applicants that it is so much WORK, that your home life, your sleep schedule, your very sanity will suffer! And yet, year after year, those same people re-apply, ready to take part in the Great Task of sifting through and determining the best of the year.

I guess, to try and explain the appeal of serving on a committee has to me, I have to back up a bit.  I ran the marathon a few years ago... mainly to prove to myself that I could be athletic, if I put my mind to it.  Training and running the marathon changed me so much, as a human being.  I learned to be more patient and forgiving of myself than I ever thought I could, to pace myself, and to keep on going, consistently.  I haven't run a marathon since, (I find the half-marathon much, much easier on the old knees) but the lessons I learned from it stayed with me.  Completing a marathon is the kind of achievement that is so inarguably gargantuan, it inspires awe in nearly everyone.  And even though I still love running, I am first and foremost, a person who lives in my mind, not in my body, if that makes sense.  Books have been my constant companions... they make the time on the treadmill more bearable.  Serving on a committee, with the hundreds of books to be read, is like a marathon of the mind.  Surely, if I could run a physical marathon (my weakest area) I could take on a task such as this, in an area that I see as my strength (reading and thinking).

190 people applied for roughly 110 spots.  It might sound crazy, but I'm going to go ahead and declare myself the "unofficial" 111th Cybils award team member.  Why not?  There are such things as Mock Newberys and Mock Caldecotts.  I think Cybils has been around long enough and is well-respected enough to merit an attempt at a mock Cybils award.  Maybe I'll get the opportunity to commiserate with other 80 folks who didn't get in.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Library Perfume

Wow! A friend forwarded me this link, for a perfume called In the Library. Christopher Brosius describes himself as an artist whose company, CB I Hate Perfume, appears to have one of the most unique collections of perfumes I've ever seen. In the Library is described as having notes of "English Novel from a Signed First Edition of one of my very favorite novels, Russian and Moroccan Leather Bindings, Worn Cloth and a Hint of Wood Polish." It certainly sounds unique!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Tribute to Mr. Rogers

Last week I had the opportunity to volunteer at The Center for Puppetry Arts for an event honoring Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. David Newell, who played the loveable delivery man, Mr. McFeely, came to the Center to talk about his memories from the show. In conjunction with the event, The Center for Puppetry Arts hosted a sweater drive to benefit the Children's Restoration Network which supports homeless children in shelters and group homes. I was pleased to see so many people generously giving brand-new sweaters and jackets. They will be continuing to collect sweaters at the Center until the end of the month.

The talk that Newell gave was lovely. What I had not realized was that in addition to playing the role of Mr. McFeely, Newell also worked quite a bit behind the scenes and was deeply involved with many aspects of the show, including writing, booking guests, PR and marketing. What had been intended as a 45-minute talk stretched into two hours, as Newell shared video clips and anecdotes about how the show got started. Overall, you got a sense of what an incredibly warm, funny and generous person Fred Rogers was.

Newell shared the story of how his character got his name. In the original script, the delivery man character was to be called Mr. McCurdy. Having gotten funding for the show to air on National Education Television (which would later become PBS), about 20 minutes before they were to begin taping, their sponsor called them. It seemed one of the VP's at Sears and Roebuck (their sponsor) was named Mr. McCurdy, and wanted the name changed. On the spot, Fred Rogers turned to Newell and said, "Okay, your name is now McFeely" - which was Rogers' own middle-name, and the name of his beloved grandfather.

In one clip that Newell shared, Mr. Rogers actually took his puppets from the land of make-believe and talked about how he operated them. King Friday sang his own version of Row, Row, Row Your Boat which used the following words:
Propel, propel, propel your craft, lightly down the liquid solution!
Ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically, existence is but an illusion.

What I noticed about this clip was that when Rogers brought out the Prince Tuesday puppet, as he explained that he didn't do the voice for Tuesday, he held the puppet gently in his hands, but did not use the puppet, as he had with the others. I think that was just the kind of subtle, thoughtful gesture that was so characteristic of the kind of man that Fred Rogers was.

During the question and answer period, many people in the audience wanted to know what the heck was up with Lady Elaine Fairchilde. With her oversize red nose and cheeks, and troublemaking manner, she's always made me think of the classic Punch and Judy. Newell explained that they used Lady Elaine to represent a mischievous side of children's personalities, and especially to discuss discipline issues.

This was a really wonderful evening. I enjoyed mingling with many of the attendees, all of whom seemed like incredibly thoughtful, gentle people themselves!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Book Desk

Wow.  At first glance, this information desk looks like it's made of drystack stone.  

No.  It's actually made of recycled, discard books.  So neat!

Thanks to BoingBoing for the link.  Check out TU Delft's website for the complete set of photos.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Stand Straight, Ella Kate review

Stand Straight, Ella Kate: The True Story of a Real Giant

This interesting book based on a true-life story of Ella Kate Ewing, born in 1872 and afflicted with gigantism (a disorder of the pituatary gland) causing her to grow to the startling height of 8'4" presents a not-so-subtle plea for embracing diversity. Her parents urge her to "Stand straight, Ella Kate!" but, shy and unhappy with being in the spotlight she slouches through childhood. "I was too big for the world." she says. As a teen she is offered the opportunity to take part in a freak-show. Despite her parents objections, she feels the money is too good to pass up, and leaves her Rainbow, Missouri farmstead for Chicago, where she makes a modest fortune for herself. Her opportunities to travel the world, in a time when travel was much more difficult, make her the talk of her small town when she returns to build a home scaled to her size. There's a note from the author in the back with additional biographical information and a photograph of the woman nicknamed, "The Gentle Giantess." The end pages of the book compare Ella Kate's height with averages for today, and include a life-size drawing of a boot and glove that belonged to Ella Kate. The loose acrylic paintings on Bristol board capture Ella Kate's tall stature, without making her seem too incredibly out of place with her surroundings.  I would recommend this story with it's underlying message of self-affirmation for ages 5-8.

I borrowed this book from my local public library.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bree Tanner review

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner
by Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

I raced through this companion novella to the incredibly popular Twilight series. This was a very enjoyable, fun read. What I liked about it best, was that it returned (or so it initially appears) to a more traditional take on vampires. Bree Tanner, a down-on-her-luck juvenile delinquent, has no idea what's in store for her when a friendly stranger offers her a meal. Before she realizes what is going on, she finds herself turned into a vampire. Told that she must remain out of sunlight, she believes all of the traditional mythology. Crazed by a powerful bloodlust unique to newly made vamps, and possessed of a fierce will to survive amongst the combative and dangerous nest of fellow newborns, it never occurs to Bree to test out any of the information she's been given. She ekes out an existence by keeping herself in the shadow of "Freaky Fred," a fellow newborn whose special talent is the ability to create a repellent aura around himself.

Deeply distrustful of their leader Riley's story that they will be safe during daylight hours due to a rare celestial alignment but not knowing where else to turn, Bree reluctantly joins the newborn army for their ill-fated march to Forks, WA.

In theme and content, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner reminded me very much of a lighter, faster-paced version of M.T. Anderson's dystopian vampire novel, Thirsty. If only Bree had put two-and-two together a little faster. If only she'd been slightly less incapacitated by her thirst for blood. If only her sire, or another vampire had taken her under their wing. A wily survivor, she had so much potential, particularly if the Cullens had been allowed to adopt her into their vegetarian clan.  If only.

The book races at breakneck speed to its inevitable conclusion. With deftly-handled parallel storylines, this short novel packs much more dramatic punch than the rest of the series (particularly the turgid Breaking Dawn) and will be considered essential reading by many Twilight fans, yet is easily accessible even to those unfamilar with the series.

I recieved a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

City Dog, Country Frog review

City Dog, Country Frog
by Mo Willems, illustrations by Jon J. Muth

Ostensibly a book about friendship and the seasons, as City Dog and Country Frog play and share throughout the spring, summer and autumn; the story takes a sudden, although not entirely unexpected turn towards loss. On City Dog's first day in the country, he encounters Country Frog sitting on a rock, "Waiting for a friend... but you'll do." In the spring, they play frog games. In the summer, dog games. In the fall, they reminisce about what a good spring and summer they've had. When City Dog excitedly runs out to Country Frog's rock during winter, "City Dog looked for Country Frog./Country Frog was not there." What follows is a gorgeous two-page wordless watercolor spread of City Dog sitting forlornly atop the rock, gazing out towards the leafless branches of the nearby wood. "That was winter." Devastating! I literally fell apart. This is so beautiful, so well-done and it's so spare. You know that Country Frog isn't coming back. He's gone.

In the following spring, a still sad City Dog is sitting by the rock, when he encounters Country Chipmunk. The story comes full circle when City Dog tells Chipmunk that he's "waiting for a friend" and after smiling "a froggy smile" he tells Chipmunk, "But you'll do."

Stunning watercolor illustrations and sensitive handling of a difficult topic earn this book my highest recommendation for ages 4-8.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Book jewelry

This is so neat.  These jewelry pieces are made by pressing down cut-out books and then carefully laminating them.  The effect is almost like looking at petrified wood, which in an odd kind of way, I guess it sort of is.

This necklace is probably the "bookiest" looking among the collection.  Some of the other pieces, you'd never guess they used to be part of a book.

Check out the rest of the collection at Little Fly Designs.


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