Hi, I'm Mrs. F-B!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Poetry Friday - Numbers

This one is for my math teacher friends. I think they'll like it a lot! I know I do, and you know I'm no math wizard, although I am pretty good at mental math if I do say so myself. All that baking, sewing, shopping and eating out in restaurants really does pay off!


Mary Cornish

I like the generosity of numbers.
The way, for example,
they are willing to count
anything or anyone:
two pickles, one door to the room,
eight dancers dressed as swans.

I like the domesticity of addition--
add two cups of milk and stir--
the sense of plenty: six plums
on the ground, three more
falling from the tree.

And multiplication's school
of fish times fish,
whose silver bodies breed
beneath the shadow
of a boat.

Even subtraction is never loss,
just addition somewhere else:
five sparrows take away two,
the two in someone else's
garden now.

There's an amplitude to long division,
as it opens Chinese take-out
box by paper box,
inside every folded cookie
a new fortune.

And I never fail to be surprised
by the gift of an odd remainder,
footloose at the end:
forty-seven divided by eleven equals four,
with three remaining.

Three boys beyond their mothers' call,
two Italians off to the sea,
one sock that isn't anywhere you look.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Attack of the Theater People - Marc Acito

A few years ago when my husband and I were in Costa Rica, we were looking on one of those "trade a paperback" bookshelves in a small hotel, and we found a hilarious book called How I Paid for College by Marc Acito. Turned out he was from Portland, of all things! And then one of my friends starred in a play written by him this winter. It really is a small world.

So when I saw he had a new book out, I really wanted to read it. Unfortunately, the first book was so great, this one just couldn't live up to expectations. I did enjoy this book. It has some very funny moments, and the characters are really vivid, but the plot moved too slowly for me this time, so I didn't enjoy it as much as his first book. I should not be surprised by this, though, because it is extremely rare for me to like the second book in a series as much as I like the first.

Adults looking for a laugh and especially those who have an interest in theater will enjoy Marc Acito's books. Available at the Multnomah County library.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Kirby Larson Blog Tour Stops by WOMS!

Well, I must say I was pretty excited to get an email from Kirby Larson's publicist asking me if I wanted to be part of Kirby Larson's blog tour, although admittedly I had NO idea what that even meant. When I asked what it meant, I got REALLY excited, because what you do in a blog tour is write up a bunch of questions for the author to answer, and then you email them to the author and the author writes answers and sends them to you. I mean, how cool is that? Kirby Larson, Newbery honor author, would be writing to ME (and to all the readers of my blog, of course). So much fun! so, without further ado, here's my first Blog Tour posting! Thanks so much to Kirby Larson for taking the time out of her busy schedule to respond to my questions.

When did you decide you wanted to become a writer?

I don't remember the exact day but I do remember the moment. I had just finished reading Arnold Lobel's picture book, Ming Lo Moves the Mountain, to my (then young) children. A switch went off inside me and I knew I'd finally found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Were you surprised that you decided to write historical fiction since you didn't have a passion for history in the past?

No one could've been more surprised than me!! What was I thinking? Here, I'd never written a novel before and I decide to tackle a historical novel, complete with in-depth research? It was crazy. And wonderful.

Could you share a bit about the main character of your book and what makes her unique?

The main character of Hattie Big Sky is Hattie Inez Brooks and I think she connects with people because she is so far from perfect. She bites off more than she can chew and she makes huge mistakes and she has to work hard to figure out what matters in life. Maybe she's not so unique after all. . .she sounds a lot like me.

What do you hope readers will gain from reading Hattie Big Sky?

It's up to the reader to take away what she or he wants. That's the magic of reading and writing!

It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule, and maybe you could describe the process sort of from start to finish - how long do you generally spend on your first drafting, how many times do you revise and edit? How long does it take once you've finished to get it published?

There is no typical day -- if there were, I'd have a lot more books finished, I'm sure. HBS took four years to research and write. I revised the book 13 times before it sold and two more times at my editor's request. And there are still things I'd like to revise! There is also no standard in terms of how long it takes to get something published. I have a picture book I've been working on for 25 years that still hasn't sold to a publisher! Typically, though, once a book sells, it takes a year or 2 before it comes out. Picture books can take longer.

What do you do if you get into a writing slump to get back in the groove?

I have been in a slump of sorts. I've dealt with it by reading a lot, writing bits and pieces and drinking lots of lattes. I also rely on my writing friends to snap me out of it.

How did get your first book published?

My first published book was a chapter book called Second Grade Pig Pals, which came out in 1994. It took me about 2 years to write and was sent to about 10 editors before it was accepted by Holiday House. But -- I had been writing for a long time before that and collecting hundreds and hundreds of rejection letters.

How did you find out that Hattie Big Sky won the Newbery Honor? What were your thoughts and feelings when you found out? Who was the first person you told?

It's a big secret -- no one knows which books are even in the running. I found out I'd won when I got a phone call at 6:30 in the morning on January 22, 2007. I groggily answered the phone and a lady asked, "Is this Kirby Larson?" I said yes, but wondered who in the heck was calling me so early. Then she said, "The Kirby Larson who wrote Hattie Big Sky?" And I said yes, again, now irritated that someone was calling so darned early to ask about a school visit or something. Then she said, "Well, I'm calling from the Newbery Committee to tell you that Hattie Big Sky has won the Newbery Honor." I couldn't speak. I couldn't even breathe! My husband was about ready to call 911. When I was finally able to speak again, I don't know what I said. But when I hung up the phone, I broke down and cried. It was the most magic moment in my entire life -- my favorite ever, aside from the day I got married and the day each of our children was born.

Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

I am working on another historical novel that is a big huge mess so would prefer not to talk about it. But I am so excited about my newest book, Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship and Survival, which I wrote with my dear, dear friend Mary Nethery. We loved collaborating so much we have just finished another book due out in fall 09 and we're looking into yet another project to do together.

To finish up, would you like to tell us the name of a young adult novel you highly recommend and why?

Just one??? You are a hard-hearted woman. ;-) I can highly recommend dozens. . .but will highlight just a few: Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson, Unwind, by Neal Shusterman, and Confessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin Van Draanen. Other authors to read: John Green, Dana Reinhardt and Jennifer Bradbury.

Thank you, Erin, for the great questions and for your interest in my work. This was great fun!



Thanks again to Kirby Larson for appearing, courtesy of Provato Marketing. For other stops on the tour you can check this link.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Poetry Friday - The Rider

I really love Naomi Shihab Nye's lyrical, haunting poetry, so here's one of her poems for this week. You can check out more of her poems at the WOMS library!

The Rider

A boy told me
If he roller-skated fast enough
His loneliness couldn’t catch up to him,
The best reason I ever heard
For trying to be a champion.
What I wonder tonight
Pedaling hard down King William Street
It if it translates to bicycles.
A victory! To leave behind your loneliness
Panting behind you on some street corner
While you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
No matter how slowly they fell.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Boston Jane: An Adventure - Jennifer Holm

Boston Jane is our GAB (Girls and Books Mother Daughter Book Club) choice for this month, so although I had read it a long, long time ago, I decided to re-read it for our discussion, and I remembered why I loved it so much the first time. The answer, in short: Jane. Mind you, Jane is no perfect girl, and she has some mighty mixed up ideas about boys and what's important, but she is a strong young woman and she's a great learner, which is something I very much value (duh!). As Jehu says, she's a gal "with grit and courage."

One thing I really enjoyed about this book were all the little blurbs that came from the etiquette book (The Young Lady's Confidante)used by Miss Heppelwhite with the girls. Things like,"a well ordered home is a miniature of heaven," and, "do not let little irritations sway your cheery nature." I am in deep trouble according to this book...

I also liked the themes of this book because they're important. The book addresses friendship, prejudice, greed, community - all things we need to pay attention to, either because they're things we all need or because they're things we might want to notice and try not to do.

This is a really fun, touching adventure book which has two more in the series. I definitely recommend the Boston Jane series and I'm glad the GAB group chose it. I'm eager to hear our discussion this afternoon!

Stubborn Twig - Lauren Kessler

Stubborn Twig is the Oregon Reads book for 2009, so my book club and another book club decided to read it and we got together for a discussion. It was exciting as a librarian to be part of this huge project. Here's what it says about Oregon Reads from their website:

About Oregon Reads

What if 50,000 Oregonians read the same book in our sesquicentennial year?

The Oregon Library Association wants to find out!

Oregon Reads 2009 is a community reads program that will take place in nearly every public library and in every county in Oregon during the state's sesquicentennial, January through April of 2009.

The selected book, Stubborn Twig by Eugene author Lauren Kessler is the true story of three generations of a Japanese-American family, spanning across the 20th century in Hood River, Portland and Eugene. Bat 6 by Virginia Euwer Wolff and Apples to Oregon by Deborah Hopkinson have also been selected as titles for younger readers for the Oregon Sesquicentennial.

All three titles are books with an uniquely Oregon focus: stories conveying an Oregon experience, approachable by readers throughout the state as well as by those with varying reading levels. All three titles are written by Oregon authors who will visit libraries throughout the state.

We invite Oregon libraries and the public to celebrate the 150th year of statehood by participating in this exciting program focusing on the Oregon experience.

I liked the book a lot, although it was a little slow in some parts and there was so much information that at times it was a little overwhelming. The book tells the story of a Japanese American family who came over from Japan to work and live in Oregon in the early 1900s. They settled in Hood River and ran a store as well as some orchards.

The Japanese in the US, including the Masuis, faced a lot of segregation and prejudice even before World War II, and then the attack on Pearl Harbor happened. When that happened, people in the US became very suspicious and fearful of Japanese people. They accused all people of Japanese descent, even those who were born here, of being spies for the Japanese government. So you can imagine how they were treated. NOT well. And the government took things a step further and put people of Japanese descent in internment camps. It was a terrible thing, and the Masui family, along with many, many others, was horribly impacted by it. It was a terrible time in our country's history, and a very important thing that many people know nothing about.

Our discussion for the book was fantastic! People had so many great insights and things to discuss. We talked about everything from parenting to education to journalism to reading. I, of course, love talking baout books, and the discussion about this book was particularly excellent. We also talked about this book as being the choice for Oregon Reads and whether we thought it was the best choice. for many reasons, we thought it was a good choice, but there were some things about it that might not make it the most accessible book for a wide range of readers. Do you have an idea of what might have been a good choice? Make a comment!

The Other Boleyn Girl - Philppa Gregory

Last summer I read The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory and I loved it, so I decided I wanted to read this one as well, although on the advice of several friends I am giving the movie a miss.

This book, which I actually listened to, was fantastic! I really love her style, and although I knew what was coming - it is, after all, the story of Anne Boleyn, and everyone knows what happened to her...Gulp.

This story is actually the continuation of The Constant Princess which is the story of Catherine, the queen who preceded Anne. There is so much rich detail and description of everything that these books come to life for me. Many of my blog readers know I was supposed to BE a princess, so I'm sort of fascinated with all things princess-y, and this book is no exception.
However, if I were going to be a princess, I'm not sure I would have wanted to do it in the 1500s. First of all there were the corsets. That right there is enough to stop me. But then there was the gossiping and the lack of freedom and the lack of privacy and the scheming. Not too nice. I actually felt sorry for Anne and her sister Mary, the other Boleyn girl, for many reasons, including these, but more because for the most part they really lacked love in their lives, and that's no way to live.

This book is super long and probably would not hold the attention of most middle schoolers, plus it has some grown-up themes in it, but mature high school and adult fans of historical fiction will enjoy these. Available at the Multnomah County Library.

Two Bobbies - Kirby Larson and Mary Methery

The subtitle of this book is A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival
and it is one of the sweetest picture books I have read in a long time. It's also a bit sad because when Hurricane Katrina happened so many people had to flee and left their pets behind. I cannot imagine leaving my cats behind, but when your life is in danger and you're trying to escape, your priorities are probably a bit shifted.

But the good news is, there's good news! These two pets find each other and become each other's savior. Well, some peopel also help out, but really, if they hadn't had each other, I don't think even the people could have helped. Hurray for realationships - between people, between animals, between people and animals.

I am telling you. This book is SWEET.

I picked this up after a blog interview I did with Kirby Larson who also wrote Hattie Big Sky (which I love, love, love), and I am so glad did. It's available at the Multnomah County Library.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Poetry Friday - Two love poems

This poetry Friday, since we're so close to Valentine's Day, I've picked two love poems, both short. See if you find a theme in the poems I chose (6th graders, do not let me down!).

A Statue of Eros

Who carved LOVE
and placed him by
this fountain,
he could control
such fire
with water?

transl. from the Greek by Peter Jay


It's no use.

Mother dear, I
can't finish my
You may
blame Aphrodite

soft as she is

she has almost
killed me with
love for that boy

Trans. from the Greek by Mary Barnard

I found these poems in this fun book:

Two copies available in the WOMS library.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Shark Girl - Kelly Bingham

THIS was a really great book!!!! It was intense and powerful, funny and also quite poignant. I loved it.

The story is about Jane Arrowood, a fifteen year old girl who goes swimming in the ocean one day, like she's done hundreds of times before, only this time she's unfortunately attacked by a shark and loses her right arm. Readers travel with Jane as she journeys through the difficult territory of her recovery and re-entry into the regular world as someone who feels anything but normal.

What I really love about this story, though, is the way it's told. The author weaves together poetry, phone conversations, newspaper articles, and letters to tell Jane's story. I think all the different perspectives/methods make the story that much more powerful. There's so much punch packed into the spareness of it. Everything that's not said speaks as loudly as everything that is.

I really, really liked this book, but if you're someone who wants a straightforward narrative, you might not enjoy this as much. It would be an interesting pairing to read this together with Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton I think. She's the young surfer who lost her arm to a shark (for real) and then began surfing again.

Available at the WOMS library and Multnomah County.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Along for the Ride reading by Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen, my favorite YA author, has a new book coming out in June. Check out the video below to hear her read an excerpt.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

How I Spent My Last Night on Earth - Todd Strasser

Unfrotunately, the two best things about this book were the cover, which is pretty fun, and the nickname of the main character Allegra. Want to guess what it is? Go ahead, I'll give you a minute...

If you guessed LEGS, you're right. I think that's pretty clever, but the rest of this book required too much suspension of disbelief even for me, and that's saying something! The premise of this book is that an asteroid is on target to possibly hit the Earth, and if it does, that's the end of the world as we know it an the story. Allegra, who's a very level-headed, not to be distracted by emotion kind of girl - of which I really don't think there are very many in high school - is now faced with the possibility that she will die tomorrow without really ever knowing love, and this is a bit of a fright for her.

Enter Andros, the hottie surfer dude who's really never spoken to her before. And yet, she goes off to the beach with him for the night to await the asteroid??? Whose parents would let a high schooler do that if they thought there was even the chance of the asteroid hitting? And it didn't even seem like she told them.

I don't know, it was too much for my grown up brain to wrap itself around. Usually my inner high school girl comes through and I can believe about anything, but this time I just wasn't buying it. If you're only going to read one Todd Strasser, make it Give a Boy a Gun, not this one.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Poetry Friday - This Is Just To Say

I recently read Sharon Creech's recently published Hate That Cat which is just as adorable as her book called Love That Dog. You can see a review of it from January. Anyway, Jack writes poems in both books inspired by this William Carlos Williams poem that I have always loved.

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

-- William Carlos Williams

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Bring Ally Carter to Oregon

Want author Ally Carter to come to Oregon on her book tour next year? Go to this link and request her!

View all Portland events at Eventful

Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress - Tina Ferraro

That is just a classic title isn't it? and how about the name Nicolette for the main character? Love it! This is the same author who wrote How to Hook a Hottie which I reviewed a while back. Nice easy to read little chick-lit romance that I read last night. This morning I was maybe re-thinking staying up until 11:00 to finish it, though...

Poor Nicolette. Ditched just before the prom by a boy she's been drooling over for months but who is, predictably, a slimeball. One question I have is, do we girls really choose so many lowlifes as our heart's desire (from afar, generally) as portrayed in books, or does it just make for better stories? I hope it's the latter, because if not, we need to be rethinking some of our choices. Anyway, also somewhat predictably, there's also another cute boy in the picture, one she's pretty much been oblivious to as a boy, really, because it's her best friend's brother.

There's lots of teenage drama and angst in this book, including BFF troubles, lying, divorced parents, a little half sister, and a photo of Nicolette holding a beer can (not hers, really). There's also some funny stuff, especially the list of the top ten uses for said unworn dress (yes, there is an actual wearing - yippee - but it's not one of the top ten list uses).

Finally, I liked how the author at the end of the story very smoothly brought in the idea of taking a used dress to a place where girls without too much money can buy gently used special occasion dresses for a fraction of the price. It's a great idea, because not too many people wear a dress like that more than once, but a lot of people could use a little help when it comes to paying for one. I think it's really cool how a lot of authors are bringing in social justice issues to their writing and helping to make more kids aware of things they can do to help out in their communities and the world at large. The Readergrlz do a great job of rounding a lot of these ideas up, so if you've got a moment, you might check out their blog or their website. I've got a posting about Justina Chen Headley's North of Beautiful contest here as well.

This book is available at the Multnomah County Library.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Coraline out in theaters this weekend!

In honor of Nail Gaiman's winning the Newbery last week AND in honor of the release of Corlaine which I can't WAIT to see - did you know the official premiere is happening here in Portland this week?? - I'm posting ths GREAT little teaser about the book/movie that I found on Neil's blog. Very fun and just a little bit spooky. Enjoy!

The House in the Night - Susan Swanson ; pictures by Beth Krommes.

It's official, I've now read another of this year's award winning titles. Woohoo! This book, The House in the Night, is the winner of this year's Caldecott medal, the award given for the best illustrated children's book, and this one's a beauty. It's all done in scratchboard which is where the artist begins with a piece of "board" (what kind, I'm not really sure) that's covered in black wax and then uncovers the color (white) by scratching the wax off as opposed to other art forms where the color is added TO the white. In this case some bright yellow was added to highlight particular elements in each picture. I saw an interview with this artist and she said doing the pictures for this book was easy because there were ONLY something like 17 of them. Ha! The art in this story has a very luminous quality to it.

The story itself is also lovely, inspired by a nursery rhyme that begins, “This is the key of the kingdom." The story is told in a circular, simple way, and another person whose comments I was reading noted that this allows the reader to really focus on the pictures in this book.

Overall, a wonderful picture book, and a fantastic choice for the Caldecott.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Violet in Private - Melissa Walker

Finally, one of the covers uploads. Blogger is just a little buggy sometimes!

I told you I'd read the third book in the series. I hate not finishing a series once I've started it, even if I don't love the series, which I still can't completely decide on where this one's concerned. That kind of makes me think I must have liked it or why would I be thinking about it so much?

Anyway, Violet is growing up and is a lot more like-able in this book than she was in the others. She's starting to get a handle on what she believes and wants and to think about how she can be part of the modeling world and still do the right thing. She's not around such a harsh environment, either, leaving her with less opportunities to make bad choices, and maybe as a reader I was more comfortable with that, too.

Whether I really liked these books and Violet or not, I know teen girls will enjoy them. Available at the Multnomah County Library.