Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Are You Kidding Me?!

After reading this, I think I need to go lie down until the blinding rage subsides.

*sputters on the way out*


As a children's librarian and someone who enjoys children's lit on its own terms, I feel highly qualified to say: Dude! Coooooooooooooool!!!

Not only a new Sendak, but a pop-up Sendak?

See above.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Just as I'm in the middle of The Queen of Attolia and have just turned in its sequel, The King of Attolia , this gets posted at the "Unshelved" Sunday Book Club. Kewl. Eugenides may well be one of the coolest trickster characters in YA lit. *greedily* Miz Turner, do we get another?

And yes, I'm fully aware that I'm reading the series backwards. I've read it before, nothing will spoil the ending.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Bad Kitty

Book: Bad Kitty
Author: Michelle Jaffe
Published: 2006

Seventeen-year-old Jasmine Callihan is in Vegas. Woohoo! But she’s there with her dad and her ludicrously young stepmom, not to mention her annoying cousin, Alyson, and Alyson’s twice-as-annoying best friend. Woop-de-doo. It doesn’t help that her dad (who has already lost points for not allowing her to take that way cool police internship) is constantly nagging her about why she can’t be more like Alyson.

Alyson is a Model Daughter. Alyson would never knock a wedding cake into the swimming pool while chasing a (possibly fictitious) cat. Alyson would never use eyeshadow to dust for fingerprints. Alyson’s friends would never crash their vacation to help Alyson solve a mystery involving the cat, the cat’s little owner, and the cat’s little owner’s superstar mom who is hiding from her murderous ex-husband. Alyson would never fall in love with a possible Evil Henchman (but he’s so cute!). Wouldn’t Jasmine like to be more like Alyson?

Actually, Dad, no. Jasmine is fine being herself. Frankly, Jasmine (with the help of those vacation-crashing friends, Polly, Tom, and Roxy) is having a blast being herself. And readers will have a blast with her adventures.

This delicious farce of a book reads like The Princess Diaries meets CSI meets the Weekly World News (which plays a role in the plot) meets the BeDazzler meets lots and lots of sugar meets The Magical Multiplying Footnotes. Logical? No. Realistic? No.

On the other hand . . . hilarious? Yep. Clever? Yep. Great characters? Yep, yep, triple yep. Oodles of fun? You betcha. There’s no other word for this book but “madcap caper.” Okay, well, that’s two words, but seriously, read it and tell me I’m wrong. Eh? Eh? Thought so.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Double Identity

Book: Double Identity
Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Published: 2005

Bethany Cole has been protected and indulged all her life. Though she’s never had a lot of friends, her adoring parents have built their lives around her. So when she is suddenly bundled into the car in the middle of the night and dropped off at her mysterious Aunt Myrlie’s, she’s justifiably surprised.

And all that’s before she finds out about Elizabeth . . .

Surrounded by lies and half-truths, it’s oh-so-tempting to just let it go. Her parents are scared, Aunt Myrlie and her daughter Joss are hesitant, and there’s the creepy man in the shadows. But it’s even more tempting to keep digging, because Bethany knows that when she understands Elizabeth, she’ll understand herself.

I found this a fascinating book for its reasonable and calm look at a topic that tends to polarize, and Haddix’s ability to apply the grey areas she’s unearthed to real-life emotions and relationships. Not only is this a story about contemporary scientific breakthroughs, it’s a story about growing up in the shadow of a dead sibling and the constraints of hyperprotective parents.

One of the most interesting characters is Joss, Bethany’s grown-up cousin who was Elizabeth’s best friend and is now a minister. She and Bethany have a number of talks about God, ethics, and morality without it coming off preachy or pat--an interesting way to include this often-sidelined and yet very important point of view on the issue at hand. Margaret Peterson Haddix is best-known for her lengthy Shadow Children series, which I’ve been meaning to pick up for some time now. Maybe when my library card isn’t maxed out . . . again.

Monday, September 11, 2006

When I'm Sixty-Four

No book today, folks, just deep thoughts.

When I'm sixty-four, some child will ask me where I was and what it was like. And I'll tell them.

"I woke up and I knew something was wrong." I woke up around 8:30 Eastern time, before the first plane hit, and I remember that I had the distinct feeling something was off-kilter. I don't know if it was as strong as I remember it being. Maybe I want to tell myself that I knew something was wrong, because how can we have lived those last few days, minutes, hours before our safe little world was broken and not have somehow known?

"My roommate ran in the house and up the stairs and told me with tears pouring down her face, that somebody had flown a plane into the Twin Towers and that it was an act of war." An act of war. I remember those words verbatim. I have not lived through war. I've never lived through that kind of vulnerability. At least, not until that morning.

"I remember that the sky was blue." It was so blue. So blue, in those CNN shots of the wounded skyline. The only cloud in the sky was the thick, greasy billows of smoke boiling from the towers. You felt as if it should be pouring rain, tears from heaven, but the sun shone.

"I remember that we set aside that hymn in Latin class." For about a week prior, we'd been translating some medieval hymn that went, "Let us rejoice, for tomorrow we die." We were mid-hymn, but after that day, the prof set it aside and none of us saw it again.

"I remember that the President finished reading his book." I don't have a lot of respect for the Commander-in-Chief, I really don't. But what little I do have is because I remember the news reports that the President was reading to schoolchildren when the plane hit. An aide ran in and, whispering in his ear, informed him of what had happened. He listened, maybe nodded, and turned back to the book he was reading aloud to finish it before he left the school, probably to go right to New York.

I wonder what the book was. I wonder if the children understood, or understand, that they were that close to history.

"And the Lord God wept." I want to find a copy of this article. Sometime just after, the Onion ran a special issue called "Holy F---ing S---, Attack on America!" I depend on the Onion to reassure me that the world is as usual, that nothing is so serious that it cannot be satirized. In the main, the articles were satirical Onion stuff. But there was one called "What Part of 'Thou Shalt Not Kill' Do You Not Understand?" As can be inferred, it was God yelling at humanity, but the last line was what brought on the waterworks. It went something like, "At this point, the Lord God broke down and wept."

It's not particularly coherent, or even that deep. How much use will these little scraps be to that child I tell them to? How many pages will it take up in their required report for school? Will they understand how drastically everything changed? Will they even understand what the world was like before we knew such a thing was possible?

We say we won't forget. And we who lived through it and understood it won't. But the children don't understand, not in the way we do. They called this the New Pearl Harbor, and it was. It is. But Pearl Harbor to me is a distant piece of history, something that happened to other people. To my children and grandchildren, 9-11 will be something that happened to other people. They'll never know was it was like to live both in the before and the after.

God willing, they never will.

Monday, September 04, 2006


Book: Angelfish
Author: Lawrence Yep
Published: 2001

Robin Lee is in big trouble. If her parents find out she broke the window at the Dragon Palace, they’ll ground her, and if that happens, she won’t get to dance the part of Beauty in her ballet recital. To keep that from happening, Robin agrees to work in the shop after school to pay off the cost of the window.

Sometimes she thinks that just letting her parents find out would be better, though. Her new boss, Mr. Tsao, is a permanently crabby old man, forever calling her names like “bunhead” and “half person,” (because Robin is only half Chinese) and mocking her passion for ballet. The only time his gentleness ever shows through is with the fish in the shop, especially his treasured angelfish. Is it remotely possible that this Beast will ever allow himself to be helped?

In the third book of the series featuring Robin Lee (the first two are Ribbons and The Cook’s Family), Yep digs deeper into recent Chinese history as well as some of the difficulties of growing up rooted in two different worlds. Though the whole story is told through Robin’s eyes, the real hero of the story is the wounded, angry Mr. Tsao, whose losses are almost unimaginable to Robin. But they are life experiences for him, not to mention Robin’s grandmother, and many of her friends throughout San Francisco’s Chinatown. The ending seems to come a little too quickly and rosily, but Robin’s continuing journey through her own background will be compelling.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Book is Always Better

Okay, remember how I said that if "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" was half as good as the source material, I was heading for Blockbuster?

Well . . . it is, but only half. Some bits feel like the Disney writers suddenly thought, "Oh wait, we have to showcase Lindsay's singing and/or dancing!" and they stuck it in whatever scene they happened to be writing at the time. Still, with elaborate and stylistic fantasy sequences that echo Lola's narrative flights of fancy, it stays surprisingly true to the book (even to the point of using Sheldon's original dialogue) and except for a really overdone Carla Gets Hers scene at the very end, I enjoyed it. Not enough to buy it, but maybe enough to pick it up again if I feel like a grin.

And they kept that wonderful Lola/Ella dynamic intact!