Hi, I'm Mrs. F-B!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Streams of Babel - Carol Plum-Ucci

I thought this was a terrific page-turner of a book. I actually read it a little more slowly than I might have otherwise because I didn't want it to end. The events are a little unbelievable, but I found myself not really caring about that because it was a compelling story and focused a lot on character, which if you've been reading my blog for long, you'll know is really important to me. Like Plum-Ucci's other books, this is a mystery novel. Unlike her others, it's also a bioterrorism story. Those who have read her other books or who read and enjoyed Code Orange will likely enjoy this book quite a lot.

This story is told from multiple points of view - called a "split narrative. This has the effect of keeping readers in suspense - just as one character's situation comes to a head, she moves on to the next character's plight, and readers are left hanging for several more (short) chapters before they get back to Cora or Scott or Owen. This certainly works well in this novel to develop tension.

The characters are primarily teenagers - some here in the States, and one in Pakistan. The Pakistani boy, Shahzad, unlike some other terrorism novels is NOT one of the terrorists, but rather a hero working first from Pakistan then from the US to help try and find the roots of the Red Vinegar threat he's uncovered on the Internet.
Shazad is a computer genius at 16! Each of the characters in the story has his or her own quirks, and yet through this experience they all find other people who befriend them in spite of their issues. I think this is a powerful lesson for kids who often think that if someone isn't just like me, I can't hang around with them. It also shows that we all have weaknesses, and that those don't have to define us even though they're part of us.

I do worry that this type of book feeds into what I feel is sometimes an over-hyping of terrorist threats. Sure, we need to be prepared, and yes, obviously some people don't like the way our country does business and might want to hurt us. However, I don't want kids to begin to think that everyone's out to get us, and that they need to be afraid of doing normal things. For that reason, I'd recommend this book for 8th graders and up.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Mother Daughter Book Club AND Much Ado About Anne - Heather Vogel Frederick

These two books are by local author Heather Vogel Frederick, and I loved both of them. I loved them for their strong character development, for their honest portrayal of teenage girls and their relationships with their mothers and with one another, and for their literary references to two of my most favorite books - Little Women and Anne of Green Gables.

The four main characters in these novels are Megan, who would definitely rather be at the mall than at the library; Cassidy, whose over-protective mother thinks hockey is NOT the sport for her at all, even though Cassidy thinks it's her life; Emma is the Mrs. FB of the group - she's read EVERYthing; and Jess is so busy missing her mother who went off to New York for an acting job, that she can hardly think of much else.
But whether they like it or not, these four girls are going to spend one evening a month discussing books in the Mother Daughter Book Club organized by Emma's mom!

Over the course of the first book the club reads Little Women, and over the course of the second book they read Anne of Green Gables. In both books the author does a nice job of tying together things that are happening in the girls' lives with things that are happening in the novels they're reading, but you don't have to have read Little Women to understand the reference.

I thought these books were really thoughtful without being preachy, and lots of fun to read. I would definitely recommend them to middle school girls. I am hoping to use the first one as our first WOMS Book Club book. If you're interested in joining our book club, please be sure to take the SHORT survey that's on the library webpage.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Boy in the Striped Pajamas: A Fable - David Boyne

I listened to this on audio and I totally loved this book! It is a Holocaust novel, so it's not for everyone, and it would be a good idea to have someone to talk with about this novel after reading.

Bruno, the nine year old narrator of this story, is the son of a Nazi officer who moves his family from Berlin to "Out-With" where he is to be the new commandant at the concentration camp. Bruno knows nothing of what's really happening in the camp, which he can see from his bedroom window. All he knows is that many people live there behind the fence, and they all wear striped pajamas and hats and have shaved heads. As Bruno has no friends at Out-with, only a sister who he calls quite frequently, "a hopeless case," he's terribly lonely. He imagines that the people living behind the fence are all happy families who get to run and play and he's sort of jealous of them.

Then one day he meets a boy wearing striped pajamas who lives behind the fence. His name is Schmuel. Bruno and the boy become friends, with Bruno going to see Schmuel nearly every day, even though his father has expressly forbidden going anywhere near the fence. He really wants to go visit Schmuel, and Schmuel wants him to visit, but they both know it's not a good idea. One day, however, after Bruno has told Schmuel his family is moving back to Berlin, they hatch a plan for Bruno to sneak in under the fence which will lift up juuust enough.

What follows is a tense and terrifying conclusion which readers with some knowledge of the Holocaust are sure to understand although it is never spelled out.

This is an incredible piece of writing for mature readers with some understanding of the Holocaust.

Fire on the Wind - Linda Crew

This is one of our Oregon Battle of the Books titles (the 9th one I've finished out of the 16 titles for this year), and it's written by an author whose work I really enjoy, Linda Crew.

I have to admit, this book started out a little slowly, but as I got to know Storie and her family either the action picked up or I didn't mind the slower pace. I'm not really sure which. This novel is set in an Oregon logging camp in 1933 and it was really interesting to learn some things about logging. The actual fire in the novel is the Tillamook Burn. I've seen evidence of since I was a little girl but I didn't really know too much about it, and it was pretty fascinating to learn how far and fast it traveled and how it affected the people who were logging at that time.

I have to say I'm glad I didn't live back then, and I'm especially glad no one in my family was a logger, because that seemed pretty dangerous.

I really ended up enjoying this book, but if you choose to read it, just know that although it might not be that exciting at the beginning, it's a really interesting story that's worth reading.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

GET A PRIZE during Teen Read Week Oct. 12-18

Teen Read Week 2008 is next week and the library has some fun activities going on! Don’t miss out on the fun!

•Tuesday is our field trip to see Rick Riordan. This is going to be an awesome experience for the 34 7th and 8th graders who are going!

•The library will be open both lunches on Wednesday and Thursday next week to celebrate, and there will be fun games where you can win a prize!

•All students who check out a book next week will be entered in a drawing to win a free book.

•To encourage students to renew or return overdue books, all students with no overdues as of next Wednesday morning will be entered in a drawing. There will be three winners, one from each grade level. Winners will get a $5 scrip card for Borders! Get your overdues renewed or returned ASAP so you can be entered in the drawing.

The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trenton Lee Stewart

I just finished listening to the audio version of this delightful mystery about four brilliant young people who bascially save civilization. Pretty tall order for four young people, but Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance are up to the challenge.

The story begins when the young orphan Reynie Muldoon finds an ad in the newspaper asking, "Are you a gifted child looking for Special Opportunities?" Reynie's not SURE he is, but it sounds interesting, so he shows up. Reynie and the other children all make it through what turns out to be quite a rigorous testing regimen - each using his or her very different strengths to make it through.

After they've made it through, they're each invited by the very wise Mr. Benedict to be a part of a special group whose job it will be to infiltrate the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened (LIVE) and figure out what exactly is going on there. Mr. Benedict is quite sure that messages detrimental to society are being broadcast from the institute directly into the minds of the world's citizens, and he wants desperately to discover the origin and end the problem.

Once the children arrive it becomes clear that there is something REALLY strange going on here, and it becomes crystal clear as to why Mr. Benedict himself cannot show up here (although there is quite a scare until they've figured this last part out).

There is a lot of suspense and intrigue in this story, and the characters are very well developed, which you know I love. This is the result, of course, of excellent writing, but it also stems from the fact that the book is pretty long, so Trenton Lee Stewart had a good amount of time to flesh out his characters. I think the story has enough suspense and intrigue that most readers won't mind the length, though, and may even be surprised at how fast they can get through it. Listening to this story read aloud I think may also have contributed to my connection with the characters, but these four children are indeed very special, and grew to really love their personalities, even Constance Contraire who certainly lives up to her name.

I'd highly recommend this book to all middle school readers. This would also be a fun read-aloud at home!

This book is available at the WOMS library and at Multnomah County on audio (and in print there, too, of course). We also have the sequel, but I haven't read it yet.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Teens Top Ten/Teen Read Week

Want to vote for the Teens Top Ten books of the year? If you're ages 12-18, you're in luck! CLICK HERE, or just copy and paste this address into your browser:


At the WOMS library we have a lot of fun things going on for Teen Read Week, too!

•Tuesday is our field trip to see Rick Riordan. 7th and 8th graders, we still have a couple spots left, but come see Mrs. FB by Tuesday morning, October 6th if you want to go but haven’t turned in your paperwork yet because she’s going to give our unused spots up to another school this afternoon.

•The library will be open both lunches on Wednesday and Thursday next week to celebrate, and there will be fun games where you can win a prize!

•All students who check out a book next week will be entered in a drawing to win a free book.

•To encourage students to renew or return overdue books, all students with no overdues as of next Wednesday morning will be entered in a drawing. There will be three winners, one from each grade level. Winners will get a $5 scrip card for Borders! Get your overdues renewed or returned ASAP so you can be entered in the drawing.

Join the fun @ Your Library!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I Love Your Blog Award for me - THANKS, Ms. Yingling!

I got some exciting news when I opened my email today, and it was that Ms. Yingling had nominated me for an "I Love Your Blog" award! And now I get the joy of nominating other awesome blogs that I enjoy. I'd encourage you to check out these blogs, too.

Before I get so busy telling you how great these blogs are, I'd better give you the fine print (the rules of getting this award)

1. Add the logo of your award to your blog (which of course I proudly did!)
2. Add a link to the person who awarded it to you.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Add links to those blogs on your blog.
5. Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs.

Ms Yingling Reads is one amazing blog you should definitely check out. Ms. Yinlging is a librarian in Ohio (where I have a niece and 2 nephews, so I feel extra connected to her), and she's on on a quest to read every book in her library. Unlike me, who just pretends I've read every book (all the kids think I have anyway!), she's really doing it! I love how she basically creates my order lists for me with her excellent reviews.

Here are 7 other blogs that I really like. They're interesting and fun, and I always learn a lot when I check them out.

Sarah Dessen is my very favorite YA author, and her blog is hilarious. She talks about writing, of course, but she also talks about all these other things, like shopping, shrimpburgers, television (she's a TV junkie!), and her adorable baby. She's a very stream of consciousness writer in her blog, and I feel like I know her personally even though I've never yet gotten the chance to meet her. But someday I will, I'm sure of it. I'm pretty sure we'll be BFFs as soon as we do meet.

Justina Chen Headley's blog is another author blog of someone who's writing I really enjoy. She has two books out now, Nothing But the Truth (And a Few White Lies) and Girl Overboard. And she has a new book coming out soon which I'm excited to read. Its title is North of Beautiful. I just came across her blog recently when I was checking out some Readergirlz stuff - she helped start that website - and I thought it was really great. She's living in China this year - lucky duck - and there are a lot of funny stories about her experiences there. She' coming to Portland next week for the Oregon Association of School Libraries conference, and I'm really hoping to meet her. Meeting an author for me is like meeting a rock star for most people.

I mentioned Justina helped create Readergirlz which is an online book community for girls and here's a link to their blog. Their website is also very cool. They often have contests and fun stuff going on. It's totally worth checking out. during Teen Read week they're going to have live online chats with authors. There's more info about that in a previous entry on my blog.

Fuse #8 is another fantabulous blog I like to check out. It's more for librarian type people, or booksellers, but if you're interested in finding out some cool books or interesting things going on in the publishing world, I'd highly recommend it. I guess this is technically now a School Library Journal blog, but I still call it Fuse #8.

The children's book buyer who's studying to be a children's librarian and writes on Wizards Wireless always provides me with interesting possibilities and she (well, I think it's a she, although I don't know if I've ever seen a picture now that I mention it...have I?) always has these fun little polls on her site that I love to do. Plus pictures, lots of pictures. It inspired me to put more pictures on my blog!

Here's how the YA YA YA's describe themselves: Three Young Adult Librarians blather about YA literature, YA librarianship, and maybe even the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. And they write about YA (young adult) all the time. How could you not love a group that incorporates the name of a book and a genre into their blog name and it fits so perfectly?

Sometimes as a middle school librarian I find myself struggling to find literature that is, well, I guess "wholesome" might be the word, although that sounds a little old-fashioned. But it's hard to find a balance between things that are appropriate for older, more mature readers and younger, less mature readers and to ALSO find stuff kids will enjoy. That's where Deliciously Clean Reads comes in. They will only recommend books that are free of profanity, sex and graphic violence. It's a great resource for me, and I appreciate that someone out there is hitting this angle.

So that's seven of the blogs I like to read that I feel are definitely award worthy. I hope you'll find sometime to check some of them out and get some great new ideas!

As Sarah Dessen always says, have a great day, everyone!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Readergirlz Night Bites - author chats live and online 10/13-17!

More than a dozen authors to converge on rgz forum to chat with ravenous teen readers

In celebration of Young Adult Library Services Association’s (YALSA’s) Teen Reed Week™, readergirlz (rgz) is excited to present Night Bites, a series of online live chats with an epic lineup of published authors. The chats will take place at the rgz forum, Oct. 13-17, 2008.

Playing off of YALSA’s theme of “Books with Bite,” Night Bites will feature five themed chats designed to appeal to an array of literary tastes. Sure to suck in even the most reluctant teen readers, the complete Night Bites schedule is as follows:

o Monday, Oct. 13: Multicultural Bites with authors Coe Booth (TYRELL), An Na (THE FOLD), and rgz diva Mitali Perkins (SECRET KEEPER)

o Tuesday, Oct. 14: Verse Bites with rgz diva Lorie Ann Grover (ON POINTE), Stephanie Hemphill (YOUR OWN SYLVIA), and Lisa Ann Sandell (SONG OF THE SPARROW)

o Wednesday, Oct. 15: Contemporary Bites with Ally Carter (CROSS MY HEART AND HOPE TO SPY), rgz diva Justina Chen Headley (NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL), and Maureen Johnson (SUITE SCARLETT)

o Thursday, Oct. 16: Fantasy Bites with Holly Black and Ted Naifeh (THE GOOD NEIGHBORS), rgz diva Dia Calhoun (AVIELLE OF RHIA), and Tamora Pierce (MELTING STONES)

o Friday, Oct. 17: Gothic Bites with Holly Cupala (A LIGHT THAT NEVER GOES OUT), Christopher Golden (SOULLESS), Annette Curtis Klause (BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE), and Mari Mancusi (BOYS THAT BITE).

It all happens at the rgz forum (http://groups.myspace.com/readergirlz) beginning at 6 p.m. Pacific Time (9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time), Oct. 13-17.
Watch the Night Bites video at rgz tv www.youtube.com/readergirlz

About readergirlz
readergirlz is the foremost online book community for teen girls, led by five critically acclaimed YA authors—Dia Calhoun (Avielle of Rhia), Lorie Ann Grover (On Pointe), Justina Chen Headley (Girl Overboard), and Mitali Perkins (First Daughter: White House Rules). readergirlz is the recipient of a 2007 James Patterson PageTurner Award.
To promote teen literacy and leadership in girls, readergirlz features a different YA novel and corresponding community service project every month. For more information about readergirlz, please visit www.readergirlz.com and www.myspace.com/readergirlz, or contact divas@readergirlz.com.

Seen Art? - Jon Scieszka

This is another picture book and I totally and completely fell in love with it. I bought it for our library for Mrs. Mandis to use with her classes and it ROCKS!

It's about a little boy who's looking for his friend Art in New york City? He walks up to someone on the street and asks them if they've "Seen Art?" As in, have you seen my friend named Art. But this person misunderstands him and thinks he wants to see ART, so they direct him to the Museum of Modern Art, called MoMA. When he gets there, he keeps asking different people again and again if they've "Seen Art?" Each person wants to show him a different piece of art, and the book is full of reproductions of some amazing and varied art that's in MoMA. It's an adorable story with fabulous art reproductions and wonderfully drawn characters who are going through the museum.

At the end of the book, the two friendsare re-united, and the main character definitely decides he HAS seen art.

This book didn't get raves from reviewers, but I think they must have been having a bad day because I think it's fantastic. I would highly recommend this picture book for kids through grown ups!

First Daughter: White House Rules - Mitali Perkins

This book is actually a sequel, but silly me, I didn't know that until after I read it. It didn't really matter, but I did feel like I should have known a few things. Ooops.

Sameera, the 16 year old adopted Pakistani daughter of the man who has just become President of the United States is moving into the White House and discovering that this life is going to be pretty amazing and also sort of not so hot in some ways.

I really like how spunky Sameera is, and how she is thoughtful about important issues. I also like how she has a blog. We're basically sisters, I guess :) This story is rich with opportunity for discussion. About friendship. About religion. About politics. About ethics. About how people who have money are treated and how people who don't are treated. About equality (or not) in the education of children in our country. About love and what it means.

This book was a quick read and required some suspension of disbelief, but I really enjoyed it and I think middle school girls will really like it.

P.S. Mitali Perkins is a fun author who is one of the co-founders of the way cool website Readergirlz. http://www.readergirlz.com/issue.html You should really check it out.

Sweetheart - Chelsea Cain

This book was the sequel to Heartsick which I read last year, and both books are definitely grown-up books. They're about a female serial killer, and while I love them, for their mystery and suspense they are definitely not for middle schoolers.

Chelsea Cain, the author, came to my book club last night to talk about her book, and I am always so excited to meet an author and talk with her (or him) about the process of writing a book. It's so interesting to me how someone can create a whole world, and characters, and action and suspense and all that. How do they do it? It was super awesome to get to hear her ideas and how she did her writing and what she was thinking about while she was writing. I you ever get a chance to meet an author, I'd definitely recommend it!

And Tango Makes Three - Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Welcome to Banned Books Week, the week that librarians across the country remind people about the First Amendment and its importance!

For Banned Books Week I decided to set up a display of picture books that have been challenged and/or banned and have students try and guess why. And Tango Makes Three was one of the most often challenged books in the country last year, so I had to read it to find out why.

This picture book, done in lovely watercolors, is the story of three penguins. And you should know that it's based on a TRUE story from the Central Park Zoo in New York City. In the Central Park Zoo there are two chinstrap penguins, Roy and Silo, both male, who have decided that they like each other instead of liking female penguins. So they do everything together, and one day they build themselves a nest and begin sitting on it, just like they see all the other penguins doing. Except two males aren't going to produce an egg. A zookeeper notices the two penguins and brings an egg from another nest that might not have otherwise made it and gives it to Roy and Silo, and they sit on the egg until it hatches - enter Tango. The three of them are a very happy family and do everything the other penguins do.

This is a lovely, sweet story about penguins. Can you guess why it was challenged so many times? Make a comment and let me know what you think about why it might have been challenged and what you think about challenging books. Should people be able to say books should be taken off the shelf in a library? Why or why not?

If you'd like to see this book, you can get it at the Multnomah County Library.