105 Ways to Give a Book

Poetry Friday: Things Left Unsaid

Things Left UnsaidToday’s post is a two-fer — a Poetry Friday and an Under the Radar book. Published in 2005, Stephanie Hemphill’s Things Left Unsaid came out in paperback in April 2007. The first poem of the book caught me right away:
Windless afternoons, slow
oppressive heat before thunderstorm,
the rapidity and eternity
of the week before
the new school year begins.

I scratch mosquito bites,
soak up available rays like a squirrel
preparing for winter famine,
and try to look forward
to whatever comes next.
Sarah is tired of being the good girl, the great student, and the quiet friend. She feels ready for a change, but unsure what that change should be. Along comes bad girl Robin, and the two become friends as Sarah slips herself into Robin’s world. But when Robin does something drastic, Sarah has to sift through the wreckage to find out who she really is on her own.

The book is powerfully and beautifully written. Sensitive and strong, it doesn’t veer toward being preachy with its message about being yourself. In fact, my sense was that the message was more about finding yourself, which takes changes and mistakes. It will resonate with many teenage girls — and some adults — who have to “try on” personal changes like clothes to find what fits. Oh, and did I mention that the poetry is really something? This isn’t a prose book where the sentences are divided to feel more poetic. This is your top-notch poetry we’re talking about here. Another poem I enjoyed:
Denial is the longest river
in the world
easiest to navigate
via the mouth,
but I don’t utter a word.

I stand silent
jeans rolled above knee
my sneakers caked in silt
and wade into murky water
eyes closed, alone.
I’ll add one thing about Things Left Unsaid, that could be seen as either a positive or a negative. At the beginning, in tone and plot, it felt a little My So-Called Life. Now I liked that show, and it’s not an uncommon theme to pair up the good girl with the bad girl, but it really reminded me of the show. I’m just sayin’.

Look for more poems at today’s Poetry Friday Round-up, hosted by Mentor Texts & More. I missed her school-themed picture book carnival by about nine hours, so I was very sure I wouldn’t miss inclusion today.

(It was interesting that Amazon paired this title with Kirsten Smith’s The Geography of Girlhood, which is another verse book that I loved and found was a little overlooked that year. You can read my post about it here.)

It’s Kind Of A Funny Story

I am taking this under the radar thing to the next level by coming in myself under the radar. No group listing, no recount of where I’ve been — oh, and it’s been great — just a review from way back in 2006. Now that this fantastic book is available in paperback, let’s take another look...

It's Kind of A Funny StoryAfter reading up to page 46 of It’s Kind of A Funny Story, I almost gave up on it. There’s something about a book where the character is losing it mentally which make me kind of uncomfortable. I went upstairs, got a cup of coffee, came back to the book, picked it up, studied it for a minute and thought, “Eh, what the hell.” And just kept reading.

I am very glad that I did, considering that I would have missed a great and insightful book. Disaster averted.

Craig is having some trouble. He doesn’t feel like himself and can barely force himself to eat. When he does eat, he can’t always keep it down. He knows that he has bad days and less bad days, but there comes a point where it just wants all the days to end. Fortunately, before actually taking drastic measures, he calls a suicide hotline and goes to the emergency room to be treated. He is surprised to find himself admitted to the psychiatric ward of the hospital, but makes the best of it. There are the usual crazy characters — crazy being the operative word here — and emotional breakthroughs. What is great about this book, however, is the characters are realistic and handled with a degree of sensitivity. It would be easy to make fun of the people in this psychiatric facility, but Ned Vizzini lets us laugh with them, not at them.

Now is when I should add that I worked in a psychiatric hospital just after college, mainly with the teenagers and children. The author has captured this world pretty accurately. There are usually a few regulars who come back repeatedly, but more of the people seem — for lack of a better word — normal. They just need some help getting back on track. Vizzini does a good job of conveying the messages about depression and suicide without being preachy. He also does a good job of showing hope, without seeming like a Pollyanna.

In the end, it is kind of a funny story, because the fragility of people has humor to it, as well as angst.

Best Books of 2007 (So Far)

I was going to do this later, but now fricking Amazon messed me up. They sent me a little email of the Amazon Best Books of the Year...So Far, and I’m all like, “Hey, I did that last year!” Not that they know, or care, or that I have any sort of hold on the idea of making a best books list before the year is even up. Except that I still feel like it’s my idea, because I made a list of the kidlitosphere choices last year and I’m a little possessive like that.

So, want to do it again? We can consider it a public service towards next summer’s reading lists, and school librarians’ fall ordering, and just plain reading choices for people everywhere. If you want to join in, starting after Labor Day, post your “Best Books of 2007 (So Far)” in any or all of the categories: Picture Books, Early Elementary, Elementary, Middle School, High School. Mix in your nonfiction or graphic novels by the age categories. Narrow it down to five choices per category (I know it will be tough). My ultimate plan is to pull together the posts into one big list by the middle of September. Oh, and the books don’t have to be the most literary choices or the Caldecott contenders. They can be on your list because they made you laugh or cry (or were better than Cats) or proud to be an American, whatever.

Now, next week is Recommendations From Under the Radar, with many blogs highlighting books that were overlooked or underappreciated, so I certainly don’t want to see your 2007 Best Books then. That would be wrong. I wouldn’t even have mentioned the idea if Amazon hadn’t made me feel pressured. But after Labor Day, I’ll be looking for your lists.

Next week I’m on vacation, but I may be able to get in an overlooked book or two at the end of the week. Could happen.

Poetry Friday: Worse Than Meatloaf

Today I’m giving you a poem that made me laugh out loud from an excellent, funny book, Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf, by Jennifer Holm.
I think you should get a badge
for not smacking
your bratty little brother
when he eats the charms
off your bracelet because
he thinks it will give
him super powers.
I think you should get a badge
for taking the blame
about shaving the cat
when it was
your weird older brother who did it.
I think you should get a badge
for not crying when
your new stepfather
forgets to pick you up
after school
and Mary Catherine Kelly
gets the part
of the Sugarplum Fairy.
I think you should get a badge
for all these things,
but the Girl Scouts
don’t agree with me.
Man, those last lines crack me up. Really the whole book is funny and interesting and so very different. The subtitle is A Year Told Through Stuff, and that phrase explains it perfectly. The book covers a difficult year for Ginny as she starts middle school, gains a stepdad, loses a friend, makes a friend, changes her look, deals with brothers and endures disappointment. But the whole book is told through... well, stuff. Notes, an ad, a school schedule, a bank statement, poems, essays, flyers, horoscopes, receipts, and on and on. It’s brilliant storytelling and a fresh, new way to convey events. Great example: On one page we see an article on five ways to look pretty that includes coloring your hair. On the same page is the box of a hair coloring product and a receipt from a drugstore. Now, turn the page, and we have a receipt from a hair salon for “hair color treatment (color reversal from red to blond)” along with “haircut and style (to remove burned ends).” And if that weren’t enough humor for you, then the next page has a change to Ginny’s Big To Do List with “Look good in the school photo for once!!!” crossed out, and “Why bother!!! (maybe next year)” now noted.

I loved this innovative approach to charting a year, and props go out to Elicia Castaldi for the pictures. My sixth grade daughter (not middle school here, but still) really enjoyed the book too. I gave it to her and she read it straight through, right then, as opposed to her usual preteen way of half-heartedly taking the book from me with an implied eye-roll, tossing it beside her bed, and ignoring it for two weeks. So, that’s gotta mean something, right?

Summer Shopping And Lune

This week the poetry challenge at Miss Rumphius is a lune. It’s a five word/three word/five word poem. Or alternately, three/five/three. I could reshape my haiku of the other day, but I’ve actually had another lune in mind today.
The days fly by faster
Hours feel shorter
In the last August weeks.
I’m so bummed that summer is almost over. I love the lazy days and late nights. I love the beach trips and pool visits. I love watching my kids spend the morning reading in bed. I am not ready to go back to the crazy schedule of school. I’m not nearly ready for long sleeves (though in Virginia, we get at least through September on that one). I’ve had one week off from work so far, and I like it, and I’m not ready to go back to work.

Though I have to admit — while I was at Borders today, I started straightening out the chapter books in the kids’ section. I couldn’t control myself. I guess you can take the girl out of the library, but you can’t take the library out of the girl.

We were spending gift cards today. The eight-year-old bought an early chapter book series, The Jewel Fairies. I read the related Rainbow Fairies series to her, and since then I’ve decided that she can buy these books as long as I don’t have to read them aloud. Of course, I’m keeping my thoughts to myself, as I am very pleased that she picked the books out and is actually reading the the first one voluntarily. The eleven-year-old bought two new My Dumb Diary books and an American Girl publication, A Smart Girl’s Guide to Sticky Situations. I’m not questioning those choices either. She actually wanted to buy Pick Me Up, but I knew it was cheaper on Amazon and told her I’d buy it there.

I have such a stack of books at home that I didn’t even want to look at anything at the store. Maybe that is a better explanation of why I felt compelled to put all the Junie B. Jones books back in the correct order. I didn’t want to be tempted to buy anything at the store, so I figured I’d better keep busy.

At home I feel like I’ve been busy, but I can’t quite figure out what I’ve done. September is speeding toward me and the books aren’t read or reviewed, the living room is full of random stuff, and the garden looks like a Darwinian experiment. I’m not ready for fall, and I think it’s best if I just pretend that it isn’t coming.

Flower Fairy Series

The Cicely Mary Barker books have been repackaged as “Flower Fairies Friends Chapter Books” in a series that includes the one my family read, Buttercup and the Fairy Gold. The pictures in this book are lovely, as they are the original Cicely Mary Barker illustrations of her Flower Fairies. I love the notion of not introducing modern aspects into the fairies’ lives. They don’t use old toothpaste caps for bowls or Campbell’s soup labels for cloaks. No, this is good old-fashioned flower fairy world.

But the problem is the language. The books are short chapter books — the intended audience from Amazon’s listing is from ages four to eight. But the words are hard for this age, including flaxen, foraged, and lurched. I read it to my eight-year-old, and kept stopping to make sure that she understood the words. Some of them she didn’t know and couldn’t guess from context, and she has a decent vocabulary.

Now, my eleven-year-old read it — intrigued by the beautiful pictures — but thought the story was too young and sappy. The plot is simple and slow-paced. Buttercup collects her buttercup pollen, leaves her basket, and finds that it’s gone. It appears that elves have taken it, thinking that the golden dust is fairy gold. They plan to use it to buy things at the fairy market, and Buttercup has to stop them because she needs the pollen for her fairy magic.

Anyway, with the higher-end vocabulary but the simple storyline, I’m not sure of the true audience for this series. The short chapter books may be a better way to get the stories into the hands of young kids, but the new format implies that they are books that can be read independently. I daresay the kids are going to be needing some help reading them, given that I had never heard of at least one of the flower names myself. I mean, Ragwort Fairy?

Frankly, I think this series is all about repackaging, down to the pointer to the Flower Fairy Friends website at the end of the books. That’s not all a bad thing, as they are enjoyable books, but perhaps more care could have been given to the read-aloud vs. the read-alone factor.

Last Chance Beach Book Round-Up

Now, I though that I had done a post about these four books together, but I was sadly wrong. I did write about each separately, but they should be seen one more time before summer totally ends. So that I can put up something quickly before I head to the beach again tomorrow, here are my four favorite beach books of last year. Enjoy.

BeachIf you are a beach lover, then you will find your comfort zone in Beach, by Elisha Cooper. In the softest watercolors, a day at the beach is laid out in little pictures on each page. It’s not a book about plot, but about mood, and it totally captures the laid-back, lazy days at the beach with a hundred things to see. People, clouds, seashells, waves, portrayed and celebrated in all their many variations. Pages filled with twenty different tiny pictures are followed by a full, wordless, two-page spread. Simply a beautiful summertime book.

Bats at the BeachFor a funny take on the seashore, look to Bats at the Beach. It’s a cute book, but it’s more than just cute. There are the legs sticking out from the marshmallow to be toasted on a stick. There’s the image of the bats flying to the beach with their tote bags and umbrellas (for the moon, I guess) gripped in their feet. It’s the picture of the bat buried in the sand and the bat friends making a bird sculpture out of him. The text is cute, but the pictures are very, very clever. And very, very fun.

FlotsamAlways the king of the Weird-Ass Picture book, David Wiesner has done it again with the wordless picture book Flotsam. It starts off as a simple beach story, with a boy finding an old-fashioned camera in the waves. He takes the film to be developed and sees an amazing and surprising underwater world in the pictures. He also sees a picture of a boy holding a picture of a girl holding a picture of a boy... and so on. He realizes that he has to continue the tradition of the camera, takes his picture holding the picture, and throws the camera back to sea to continue its journey. Incredible illustrations made this the Caldecott Winner last year.

One White Wishing StoneOne White Wishing Stone, by Doris K. Gayzagian, is the story of that search for the perfect gifts from the sea. The little girl finds many treasures in her path that will be familiar to all beach goers. While the elusive starfish is found in a tidal pool, she is also impressed with the eight skate egg cases she finds on the sand. Having never seen skate egg cases represented in a picture book, despite having seen them all over the beach, I am impressed with the things that the author chose to highlight of the beach experience. One White Wishing Stone is a counting book with simple — if lovely — text. The illustrator, Kristine Swarner, brings you along on this lazy, lovely day on the beach. Look at the cover with the little girl beckoning you into the waves. Don’t you want to go now?

There may still be time to get yourself to the beach this summer — though I am a strong advocate of hitting the Southern east coast in September for a more serene visit. If you can’t make it, or want to relive those pleasant days when the tide ruled your day, pick up one of these wonderful books.

Poetry Friday: Haiku and Someday

I was on the computer rather late last night, and these thoughts popped into my head in sequence and almost in perfect haiku form. With a bit of tweaking I had the following MotherReader original:
Thunderstorm at night
Welcomed rain on crisp, brown lawns
Crap! The pool towels!
So today we’ll be heading to the pool only if our towels dry from the drenching they received last night. Not a bad plan, overall, because it gives me time to tell you about a book of poems by Eileen Spinelli.

SomedayIn Someday, the free-verse poems alternate between the little girl’s dreams and her realities. While she imagines riding a dolphin and learning the secrets of the sea, instead she is feeding her fish, and thinking that goldfish may not have secrets. (The first part reminded me of my own near-dolphin experience of last week. I got chills.) The poems reflect every child’s need to dream big and let their imagination run wild. This poem was my favorite because I love the image and idea of painting on the seashore.
I am going to be
a great artist.
I will wear a blue smock.
I will carry my paints
to the beach
to paint the sea.
A very rich person
will offer to buy my painting
for two million dollars.
But I will smile.
And I will say: “I’m sorry,
this painting is not for sale.
It is a gift for my art teacher.”
The other reason I am fond of this particular poem is for the nod to the underappreciated art teachers everywhere — many of whom are heading back to school this week to inspire kids and teens, and could probably use a Someday image to hold onto.

I do have to say that with regard to the art of the book itself, I was not crazy about the whole bucktooth thing the girl’s got goin’ on. There were times when it wasn’t used, and other times when it wasn’t distracting, but I really didn’t like it on the cover. Even the American Girl books don’t replicate the bucktooth thing from the famously bucktoothed dolls. Otherwise, the illustrations captured the scenes well with a gentle, dreamy touch. Also, I liked that the book could be used as a beginning reader as well as a read-aloud for a preschooler. A strong girl, poetry, imagination, big dreams — this little book has got it all. Enjoy with your own dreamer.

Poetry Friday’s host is Kelly Fineman, and she already has a fair number of links up. Maybe everyone is trying to get their posts up and then head out of town before summer is over. Waaaah!

Odds and Ends, Out and About

No introduction, just some interesting posts I noticed tonight.

Winner of the longest list title award — enjoy “First Day of School Read-Alouds with Global and Multicultural Perspectives” over at Choice Literacy (with thanks to A Year of Reading for the link).

It’s no surprise to me, but Seven-Imp bloggers love Knuffle Bunny Too. Read their joint review of Mo’s book and the new Sis book here.

Books need bookshelves, and after seeing the Corner Spacesaver Bookcase at Target, I almost 1-clicked it, I like it so so much. Thanks to Semicolon for the link, and for reminding me not only of the wonderful book sculptures that I had seen, but also that I hadn’t seen them all. Now I can.

In a Harry Potter mood? Talk about the last movie and the diversity of characters — or lack thereof — over at A Wrung Sponge. If you’ve been distracted by summer fun, maybe you haven’t chimed it at the discussion over at Scholar’s Blog Spoiler Zone, but there’s still time. You’ll find an original perspective over at... well, Original Content, and Cheryl Klein, Potter editor, posts her thoughts on the last book — as do more than a hundred commenters (thanks to Miss Erin for pointing it out).

Oh, and it makes me disproportionately happy to mention that John Green licked a cat.

One Shot World Tour: Am I Right or Am I Right?

Sorry I’m late. I slept in this morning. Man, I love summer.

Actually, it’s quite appropriate that I’d be on the late end of posting since I was late to the One Shot World Tour itself. I saw that Chasing Ray was covering Australian authors and I had recently read an awesome book that came to my library from Down Under. I asked if pretty please I might be included in the blogging extravaganza, and here I am. Many of the blogs are posting the whole list of participants with the links, but (1) since so many are doing it, you probably don’t need it here, and (2) frankly, I don’t know how to capture the text with all the links intact. Instead, I will link back to the originator of the tour, and the full list of participating bloggers, at Chasing Ray.

Am I Right or Am I Right?On to Am I Right or Am I Right? by Barry Jonsberg.

If you like your teen angst with a little humor, or a lot of humor, have I got the book for you. This may be one of my new favorites, and I’m only two years late in finding it. Though granted, since it’s an Australian import, those books take time to reach my library. You’d think we were making the author swim them to us.

Calma Harrison has an uncalm life. Her absent father turns up after five years, her mother is keeping a secret from her, and her new best friend is hiding something terrible. Calma tries to solve everything, but it doesn’t always work the way she plans or thinks. The book has hilarious situations and great lines throughout, but it’s not all madcap romp. There are serious undertones of trust and friendship and relationships. But the funny sections are super-sharp funny. Like going to get her hair done fancy for her date, and then... well you should read it, but I’ll give you a quote:
After much screwing up of the eyes and facial contortions, I managed to end up looking relatively normal — a considerable improvement on my usual efforts, where I wouldn’t be out of place in a Picasso painting.
When Calma goes to get a job, I cracked up at the long description of the slow-moving, couldn’t-care-less employee at the wrongly-named customer service desk. Boy, did that strike a chord. Or when Calma gets the job...
I nearly choked when he told me the pay rate. I was under the impression that child slavery had been abolished. A sudden vision came to me — a muscled manager in a loincloth whipping cowering employees for not keeping up with the rhythm of beating drums. I didn’t say anything, though. I even tried to manufacture an expression of unbridled joy at the prospect of working for an hourly sum you’d expect to find down the back of a sofa.
I love how she calls her mom The Fridge, since they primarily exchange notes on the refrigerator due to her mom’s busy work schedule. I love that she invents a Fast Forward and Rewind button for within her book so she can move the story along. I love that she writes poems — after trying to get away with writing poetry badly — for different parts of her life. Really, I love everything about this book, and I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

The Crimes and Punishments of Miss PayneAm I Right or Am I Right? is actually the second book about Calma Harrison. I read the first book, The Crimes and Punishments of Miss Payne, yesterday morning when I woke up ridiculously early and couldn’t get back to sleep (now I’ve explained a bit of today’s sleeping in, so you won’t think I’m lazy). The center of this book is the horrible teacher assigned to Calma’s English class. The kids call her the Pitbull, and while she is mean to everyone, she has a particular vengeance for Calma’s mate Kiffo. Though Kiffo and Calma seem to have nothing in common, they have a special bond that is explained in a small side story throughout the book. Trying to bring down Miss Payne, the two of them get in over their heads, with consequences that are sometimes hysterical and sometimes tragic.

While I personally prefer the teen angst in the second book, The Crimes and Punishments of Miss Payne is a great read with wonderful descriptions — some of them with a true Australian flavor. Take the first paragraph of the book, in which Calma is writing an assignment to use similes:
Kiffo’s hair is like a glowing sunset. However, unlike a sunset, it lasts for a long time and doesn’t suddenly turn black and become studded with stars. It is as wild as a dingo on drugs and sticks up like ears of corn after a cyclone. Maybe like a field of corn that is the color of sunset and has been trampled by a whole load of drug-crazed dingoes during a cyclone.
In describing Calma’s overabundant chest, the author uses the imagery of her having a “couple of wombats tucked down there.” The writing is clever, and again sharp-funny. One caveat: Both books are recommended for home reading only, unless you like laughing out loud in public and having to explain yourself. I’ve done that too many times myself, and it never feels less awkward.

Now go take a virtual walkabout of the One Shot World Tour via the full list of participants at Chasing Ray. Until next time, ooroo.

BACA Off Again

BACAIn light of recent events, it seemed like the BACA logo needed to be made. It pays to be married to a graphic designer.

Oh, and I’ll go ahead and reprint the original two “BACA” articles; the first, “BACA Off,” set the stage for this groundbreaking organization, and the second, “Bloggers Against Celebrity Authors (BACA),” sort of formalized it.

As founder and... what the hell, president of BACA, I probably have to talk about this whole Laura & Jenna Bush book thing. There are definitely levels of celebrity author irritation, and this announcement does hit pretty close to the top. The lowest level is for the celebrity authors whose names and books you can’t quite remember days after the press release. Like what’s-his-name with the new football picture book (I am actually thinking of a new person and picture book here). Then there are the celebrity author announcements that are so ridiculous they don’t even need the help of BACA to scorn and mock. Like ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell (though this guy did a knock-out job). Of course, the highest level of celebrity author irritation is reserved for Madonna, but specifically for her book Lotsa de Casha, in which the rich character learns that the path to happiness is in giving away his money. See, it’s the hypocrisy and sheer chutzpah that mark this book as a 10 on the BACA Irritation Scale.

Now, the Laura & Jenna Bush thing is in the high numbers, for sure. Maybe some will say that whatever else Laura Bush may be, she’s a teacher and a librarian, and that gets her off the hook. Not me. I tend to believe that her influence on children’s reading might best be served in the current political administration. After all, she was paraded around during the campaign circuit largely on her “education” credentials — which at least implies that she has some influence. Of course, that was likely just political posturing... which also makes the book annoying because then, you know, don’t rub it in. It also seems possible that the model for the “little boy” who doesn’t like to read is her husband — though if he ends up liking to read in the book, she’s obviously tacking on a “Hollywood ending.”

Personally, I feel bad that the books will illustrated by Junie B. veteran Denise Brunkus, because I love my Junie B. Jones books. But hopefully she can call up poor Kadir Nelson for moral support.

From a post at Big A, little a, I find that Madonna has a line of children’s clothes based on her book The English Roses. That the line has been available for some time does not change the fact that I just heard about it now. And now is when I am reacting. I’m officially sick of celebrity authors.

I could complain about the quality of the work. Oh boy, could I complain. But what’s sticking in my craw is the greed. Come on, leave us our little bit of turf. If you can be famous (and usually rich) in your field of acting or music or global domination, leave the world of children’s literature for other people to become a tiny bit famous. Because you can imagine, for every book deal these celebrities strike, that’s less of the kid-lit pie for another author trying to get a break. Do celebrities have to be so greedy to take every aspect of everything because they can? Is that a good enough reason? It’s not... it’s just not... fair.

Now, I really don’t think that actors and musicians and global dominators will stay away from this tiny territory I’d like to carve off, fence in, and defend with a shotgun. But I can dream. And to that end, I initiate Bloggers Against Celebrity Authors, or BACA, and I state today, “BACA Off Kids’ Lit!”

Join if you like, if not for me, than for poor Kadir Nelson. The man deserves an author worthy of his work, and as long as the Spike Lees of the world are around, it ain’t gonna happen.

The Bloggers Against Celebrity Authors (BACA) really struck a chord out there. I’m being asked for a logo, guidelines, and a bumper sticker. Who knew?

The logo is in the works. I hope. I’ll say no more at this juncture.

Guidelines for celebrity author exceptions is tricky. I mean, first you’re letting in Lithgow, then Julie Andrews, and next thing you know Pamela Anderson’s got a book deal (title: Who’s Your Daddy?). It’s a slippery slope. The librarian host of The Magic of Books suggested allowing no exceptions for trading on name recognition, but allowing celebrities to write a book under another name. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. But I’m signing off on that rule, because it sounds good in theory.

However, I know we probably all have our personal exception, and that will be worked into the secret handshake. So, at the June membership meeting, I’ll shake your hand, wink, and say “Lithgow.” You’ll wink, and say “Julie Andrews,” or your preferred exception. Then we’ll both smile and nod knowingly. If you don’t have a preferred exception, then you can say “Carrot Top,” because that would be the funniest exception ever. (“I don’t like the work of Jamie Lee Curtis, but that Carrot Top is going places in children’s literature.”)

Fuse#8 wondered about the benefits of membership, considering the possibility that members would have free rein to whack an offending author on the head with his or her own work. While that would be lovely, it might lead to unfortunate arrests and unnecessary back strain from having to carry around all the relevant books on the off chance that one might run into Billy Joel at the corner Starbucks. So, I’m afraid I cannot endorse such actions, even though I might enjoy them.

Benefits of membership will include opportunities to display the logo on your page, to be particularly smug about celebrity authors, and to receive free soda refills at participating Wendy’s.

As BACA members, we will strive to shun celebrity authors in the blogging world. When a non-celebrity illustrator deserves to be recognized, the BACA member may wish to consider the “Spike Lee Who?” option. For instance, a blogger might note the exceptional work of Kadir Nelson by pointing out the availability of the book Please, Puppy, Please “as illustrated by Kadir Nelson and written by some guy.” We will, as members, avoid giving undue publicity to celebrity authors, with the possible allowance of subjecting said celebrity authors to scorn and ridicule.

Our slogan: BACA off kids’ lit! It will look great on a bumper sticker. (NOTE: And now — as of August 13, 2007 — it does.)

Poetry Friday: An Original

Miss Rumphius proposed a poetry challenge on Monday, and I gave it a try... after five days. Not that I’m so good at poetry — or challenges, for that matter — but really, what else am I doing? She chose to write a bouts-rimés, where someone else supplies the rhyming words and you supply the poem. The words are:
nest, rest, flight, sight, flower, hour, wing, sing
Here is my delightful work accomplished at the reference desk in between patrons’ questions. (What is it with these people at the library and their needs? Yeesh.) Oh, and I switched flower and hour and made them plural. Can I do that? Anyway, here goes nothing.
One day my girls will leave the nest,
And I’ll have time to clean and rest.
I’ll cheer them on as they take flight,
But while I have them in my sight...
Shirking chores, we’ll splurge these hours
On riding bikes, picking flowers,
Studying a dragonfly wing,
Reading outside as crickets sing.
Round-up of Poetry Friday takes place at Big A, little a.

Many Goodies

So many goodies to share, so little time before I go to work.

You heard it here first... you know, maybe... but a sixteen-year-old translated Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into French and put it online. He’s kind of in trouble, but I’ve got to admire the determination. And what’s the deal with the French publishing the ending of the book but running that article upside down? Silly French people.

In the Potter vein, if you want somewhere to go and talk amongst yourselves about the book, head to Scholar’s Blog Spoiler Zone and spill your guts. Also on Potter, I was surprised that my quoting the phrase “who doesn’t know Hogwarts from genital warts” didn’t get more of you to check out Defective Yeti’s hilarious post from the point of view of the Amazon warehouse employee. I mean, I just used the words “genital warts” in my blog. Do you realize what that’s going to do to my keyword searches? The least you can do is read it.

If NerdFighters (do you think that word is actually a CamelCase?) donate to the campaign of Daniel Biss or to the Foundation to Decrease WorldSuck, John Green will entertain us. At two hundred donations he says, “I will find a cat, lick it, wax two limbs of your choice while drinking a thoroughly blenderized Happy Meal from McDonald’s.” I don’t care much about the waxing or the Happy Meal, but I deeply love the idea of him going up to a neighbor and introducing himself by asking to lick their cat for a videoblog. The donations are so close. We can make it happen. Oh, and blogbuddy Kelly Fineman makes an appearance in a later video. You go, girl! If you adore Brotherhood 2.0, check out the fabulous article written by Little Willow. Her piece was also part of...

The Edge of the Forest, where I contributed a self-interview about the 48 Hour Book Challenge. Extra props to Kelly for her work getting up another great issue even after computer crashes and scheduling problems galore.

I heard from more than one place that The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar endorses Junie B. Jones, but I’m giving the nod to Bookshelves of Doom because, man, that chick has been a posting fiend lately! Anyway, at the SPOGG Blog (what wouldn’t you give for that name), they talk about the recent blast on the books by The New York Times and support Junie B. Take that, naysayers! Personally, I am highly in favor of Junie B. Jones books, and wrote about it here.

Speaking of Junie B., remember how I said I was going to send Barbara Park my article and write her a letter for Tell an Author You Care Day (Week)? I didn’t know where to send it, but her publicist saw my post and told me that I could send the letter to her attention. Of course the email was in my new, exciting MotherReader email and I kinda had forgotten I had that new thing. But the lovely publicist forwarded my article and website on to Ms. Park, and she was thrilled with what I wrote! That makes me so happy in my heart! As it turns out, in the summer laziness I’ve been feeling, I hadn’t sent the letter yet, so I’m going to get it out of here and in the hands of my writing idol soon. Soon. Yes, soon!

On the topic of laziness, I feel the need to apologize. I thought that with less on my plate in the summer I’d be more focused, but that has not been the case. I’ve neglected to respond to emails, including forgetting that I had an entire separate email account. I didn’t send my check for the Kidlitosphere conference. (It’s in the mail!) I have books I was totally going to review, but I’ve slacked off. Generally, I just want to say that it’s not you, it’s me.

Oh, and my beach visit was lovely. We only spent one day at the ocean, but what a day. Often we see dolphins offshore, but this time they were really close. In fact, a pair of them swam about three yards away from my eleven-year-old daughter! I went running in to join her, but with my glasses on I couldn’t go deep enough. Stupid bad eyesight. Still, extremely cool.

An Elaboration on Belief

This I BelieveMotherReader’s off at the beach with the girls for a couple of days (a trip that, alas, I couldn’t join them on thanks to a big project due at work), but she asked me to make mention of the book This I Believe during her absence, and I was more than happy to oblige. The book, edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman, is a collection of essays on the most deeply held personal philosophies of... well, as the cover puts it, “remarkable men and women.” The concept began as a radio program with Edward R. Murrow back in the 1950s, and was recently revived by NPR (a revival I first heard about in reference to magician/comedian Penn Jillette’s participation).

The sheer scope of essayists is overwhelming, from historic to contemporary. Leonard Bernstein, William F. Buckley, Benjamin Carson, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Newt Gingrich, Helen Hayes, Robert Heinlein, Helen Keller, John McCain, Colin Powell, Jackie Robinson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gloria Steinem, Andrew Sullivan, John Updike, and dozens more.

While no one entry can begin to encapsulate the vast range represented by the whole, MR thought that Rick Moody’s entry, “The Joy and Enthusiasm of Reading,” was particularly appropriate to this forum, and I have to agree. I’ll quote just the first paragraph; you’ll have to pick up the book for the rest — an experience I doubt you’ll regret in the least. (Or I suppose you could read the whole thing at NPR’s website — and hear Moody himself reading it as well. But I still say pick up the whole book.)
I believe in the absolute and unlimited liberty of reading. I believe in wandering through the stacks and picking out the first thing that strikes me. I believe in choosing books based on the dust jacket. I believe in reading books because others dislike them or find them dangerous. I believe in choosing the hardest book imaginable. I believe in reading up on what others have to say about this difficult book, and then making up my own mind.
So how do your individual philosophies — and we’ll limit it to reading philosophies for the moment — compare with Moody’s (either this brief excerpt or the entire piece)? Anyone care to venture your own essay (or mini-essay)?

Harry Potter at Amazon

I think I did a decent job of wrapping up my favorite Harry Potter posts from the kidlitosphere, but I totally missed one outside our area of expertise until today. See, I haven’t been reading my Just For Fun blogroll, and that is a punishable crime. My funny favorite blogger Defective Yeti has a hilarious post from the point of view of the Amazon warehouse employee. Please, go and read it.

Need a sample? Well, the phrase “who doesn’t know Hogwarts from genital warts,” pretty much cracked me up. (Oh, while you’re there, check out his take on the CNN/YouTube Democratic Debate. If you’ve ever looked at comments on YouTube, you’ll lol.)

Good Reads and JacketFlap

So my friend Kelly over at Big A, little a mistakenly invited her entire email address book list to join her at Good Reads. She corrected the mistake by, um, telling us, but I was all like, “Why not join?” and I did. Problem is that I don’t really know what to do there other than add friends. And frankly, I’m not even that good at adding friends because I don’t recognize a lot of the names without the blog names listed. Point being if you’d like to be my friend on Good Reads, you’re probably going to have to ask me, as I can’t guarantee I knew who you were by “Susan, from New Jersey.” Anyway, now that I’m on Good Reads, what do I do? How do I add books? More basically, why do I want to? What’s in it for ME?

JacketFlap I’m enjoying very much. Too much, in fact, as I tend to see the blogs that are on JacketFlap and don’t always get back out to see my blogfriends that aren’t there. I’m also a bit concerned about reading blogs this way after the fall, when everyone starts posting all regular-like. Am I going to get too swamped with entries? Anyway, if you haven’t done so, than check out JacketFlap with its one-stop shoppping for authors, illustrators, publishers, editors, reviewers, and more. Signing in (finally) and using its blog-reader (finally) is really the only summer goal I’ve accomplished so far. (Crap.)

Lots of folks are at SCBWI this weekend, including some friends who are presenting on blogging. Go Kid Lit Bloggers!