Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review of Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Green, John and David Levithan. Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Dutton, 2010.

John Green specializes in a certain kind of character - the ordinary sort of teenage guy who wears ordinary, nondescript clothes (think jeans, low-tops, and a t-shirt), and doesn't belong to any particular group or clique. What happens? This guy always falls hard for a beautiful, exuberant, unique, witty, outrageous girl with Issues.

David Levithan, as those who have read his books know, is fond of quirky repartee and plenty of excursions to dive-y little nightclubs to see obscure indie bands that no one else has heard of. His teens may seem too cool to live, sometimes (even when they're supposed to be weird or uncool), but they're always people you wish you knew (or you wish you were).

This book is about two Will Graysons; they are two different people, both teen boys who live in Illinois and narrate their stories in alternate chapters. One is the typical John Green Every Dude, but he's a little more closed-down than usual. He keeps his head down, avoids getting entangled in relationships, and is rather aggressively pathetic. This Will's best friend is Tiny, an enormous gay teen with the personality and flamboyance to match his size, who is writing a school musical called Tiny Dancer (fabulous name!).

The other Will is a very troubled teen who is gay but can barely admit it to himself, much less any one else, including his friend-by-default Maura. His big joy and secret is Isaac, a teen he met on the Internet and with whom he has been chatting - and falling in love - for months. Finally, they decide to meet in Chicago. Does this turn out well? Of course not. This Will's segments are all written in lower case, signaling his low self-esteem.

However, one thing that does come of this excursion to Chicago is that the two Wills meet each other, and the gay Will meets Tiny. This relationship becomes a small but crucial part of Tiny Dancer. Meanwhile, straight Will is so reluctant come out of his cozy little shell that the musically snobby but otherwise quite wonderful Jane has to practically beat him around the head and shoulders to get him to commit to the slightest kind of relationship with her.

Both Wills can be aggravating, self-pitying, dense, and downright foolish. But they are basically good people whose instincts for kindness have to be coaxed out by the people around them. This book is all about the necessity of taking risks, even though it means you will very likely get hurt. Over and over, even. But if you don't take risks, the really good stuff will never happen to you - and finally both Wills really get it.

It's Tiny who really shows them - his musical is all about love (well, really it's all about Tiny, but it's about love, too). The lyrics to his songs are so good, I would pay good money to see this musical on Broadway.

What's second base for a gay man?
Is it tuning in Tokyo?
I can't see how that would feel good
But maybe that's how it should go?

This novel is excruciatingly painful and hysterically funny by turns, sometimes on the same page. It's also more "real" than some of Green's and Levithan's other books - these kids really could exist. Well, except for Tiny, who seems WAY too awesome, talented, and out-and-out fabulous to be possible. But I wish he was my friend!

I LOVE this book - and my 15-year-old daughter (who usually reads only fantasy) loves it, too. So there you go. Grades 8 and up.

Susan Patron loves libraries

In case you missed it, here is Susan Patron's eloquent case for why libraries and librarians are vital to all of us - and how you can help the Los Angeles Public Library at www.savethelibrary.org. Thank you to Tina Nichols Coury for posting it on her blog Tales from the Rushmore Kid.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Two books about adventures with friends

O'Connor, Barbara. The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis. Frances Foster Books/FSG, 2009.

Roberts, Ken. Thumb and the Bad Guys. Groundwood Books, 2009.

Every shy and introspective sort of person needs the kind of friend who, by the sheer force of his or her powerful indifference to rules and regulations and the possibility of punishment and public shame, encourages the normally reticent person to Break the Rules.

And so it is with Popeye and Elvis. Popeye lives with his grandma Velma and his good-for-nothing Uncle Dooley (who accidentally shot Popeye in the eye with a BB gun when Popeye was three years old - hence the name) in tiny Fayette, South Carolina, where everything is always the same. Boring. And then a big old motor home gets stuck in the mud near Popeye's house, bringing Elvis (and his 5 younger siblings) into Popeye's life for a while.

Elvis is taciturn (one of Popeye's Velma-taught vocabulary words), rebellious, and full of moody attitude. He is, in short, a Royal Rule Breaker and Popeye is spell-bound. And when they discover a Yoo-hoo carton turned into a perfect little boat and sailing down the creek - and it has an enigmatic note in it, too - they know they've found the perfect small adventure. Who is making these little boats?

This is a summer story full of squabbling little kids, tired old dogs, and eccentric Southern folks with odd names. It has some terrific insults ("hog-stinkin' sack of nothin'"), some excellent vocabulary words (and some creative ways of using them, as in - referring to Velma's rage at Uncle Dooley - "The avuncular atmosphere in the house was not too good."), and a lovely, satisfying ending that is really a beginning.

It feels so timeless that, if it weren't for the small drink boxes of Yoo-hoo and a mention of large plastic bottles of soda, I'd guess this took place in the 50's - there are no computers or cell phones in evidence, just a couple of tv sets.

Also timeless is Thumb and the Bad Guys, set in the tiny Canadian seaside village of New Auckland. If it weren't for a mention of Harry Potter, I'd have been certain that this was set in an earlier decade - and certainly the illustrations by Leanne Franson depict girls and women in cats-eye glasses and other retro attire.

Thumb and Susan are as bored as Popeye was, and it's because nothing exciting ever happens in their town. What they need, Thumb decides, is a Bad Guy. And sure enough, they find one. Kirk McKenna has not only some very odd personal habits but has also been sneaking around in a very nefarious manner. And then the kids get a weird new teacher - why on earth would anyone want to come to their boring village if not for some sinister purpose? It turns out that there is a secret - and the whole town is in on it.

This is a particularly quiet and old-fashioned kind of tale, with plenty of charm and slightly offbeat humor. What is with the teacher and her bathing cap wig? And Kirk's nasty obsession with spitting? And of course there is the reason Thumb got his nickname...

Both of these tales will offer kids a short but hugely entertaining trip to quiet little places where nothing ever happens.

Or DOES it?

Both books are quite short, but are great for grades 3 to 5.

What - me worry?

Being determined to enjoy this gorgeous day, I pushed my netbook away after my last post and got into my running gear. Just before I left the house, my mom called about some stuff I needed to pick up later that day.

Mom: ...and I'll put the key in an envelope for you.

Me: The key?

Mom: The key to the office at UCLA.

Me: ...??

Me: Ohmygod, the class starts this Tuesday!!!!!!!!!

Yeah, I mean, I knew I was teaching a 10-week evening class on storytelling and story-based library programming every Tuesday this quarter and I knew it starts March 30 and I'm even prepared for it.

But still!!!!!!!!!!!

The instant surge of terror-fueled adrenalin launched me out the door and I ran like the twin wolves of Obligation and Responsibility were snarling at my heels - which of course they were. But by the time I arrived home, they were trotting at my side, tails wagging - 'cause darn it, I LIKE to be busy and I'm looking forward to teaching this class and I truly love my work.

The lesson?
Turn Stress into Strides! Turn Fear into Forward Motion!

Seriously - it's not about the finish line, but about the joy of the race.

Worthy of Celebration

My horoscope for today says "Instead of fixing your happiness on some faraway moment when you will be richer, lighter and more loved, you realize that this is the greatest moment of your life and worthy of celebration."

As a rule, I ignore my daily astrological forecast, but this one seems particularly timely and apt. Substitute "better rested, caught up on all email, blogs, and professional journals, and stunningly successful at everything you do" for the richer, lighter, and more loved part, and it about sums up my current state of mind.

Usually I come back from a professional conference rejuvenated in mind, body and spirit, ready to go back to work and Effect Change. And I did glean some excellent ideas and nuggets of inspiration from PLA this past week (which I will share later today or tomorrow).

But when I think of the seething eel-infested morass of scariness that awaits me in my Cluttered Corner Cubicle of Chaos (otherwise known as my "office"), I am filled with terror. Truly - my heart rate speeds up, I feel faint, my palms get clammy. There is SO MUCH TO DO. And I don't want to do a half-assed job, especially in these times. The YA and Children's Librarians deserve and need the best Youth Services Coordinator possible. And that person has got to be me. This is NOT the time to be having a panic attack!

The April 2010 issue of Sunset Magazine includes an essay by Anne Lamott, author not only of excellent novels but also of the essential book about writing, Bird by Bird. In the Sunset essay (not available online at the moment, unfortunately), she writes about the dangers of multitasking and a too-busy life. Her basic message, stated with her usual grace, humor, and straightforward common sense, is that you need to have some quiet time every day in order to connect with yourself. That time won't just happen - you have to make it happen, probably by giving up something else, be it cleaning the house, watching tv, exercising, or - erm - blogging.

Well - running is, for me, a way to connect with myself and the world around me, so that counts as a mindful, necessary, and creative activity. And sometimes my mind whirls so ceaselessly that I have to write, be it blog posts or letters to friends.

But, per the instructions of Anne Lamott and my horoscope, I am NOT going to waste time rending my garments over what I was not able to accomplish this past week due to illness and bad wifi connections nor will I spend the last two days of my long weekend fretting about what awaits me at work.

I am going to DELETE - UNREAD - all 487 new blog posts that have built up in my feed reader over the past week even though this will mean I will be out of the loop/in the dark/vastly ignorant of all recent library/literature issues and events (oh lord, the heart palpitations are starting...). I will do just enough catch-up work today and tomorrow to be able to look forward to Tuesday with anticipation, not dread.

This weekend has been sunny and warm, perfect weather for line-drying laundry, glorying in the flowers in my garden while ignoring the weeds, watching the chickens take dirt baths amongst the parsley, and being a busy little sun-drunk Vitamin D factory.

Time to celebrate this moment, right now.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Review of Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Boyce, Frank Cottrell. Cosmic. HarperCollins, 2010.

If you can accept the wild premise that a 12-year-old boy can look enough like a 30-year-old man to fool numerous kids and adults into thinking he's old enough to have a 12-year-old daughter, then you're set to enjoy this book.

And if this is too much of a stretch, don't worry. This isn't meant to be realistic fiction - in fact, think Roald Dahl slathered with a good dose of Daniel Pinkwater, and you're getting close to the attitude of this loopy, off-the-wall tale.

That Liam is abnormally tall and whiskery enough to be taken for an adult is well set up. He has to carry around his passport to assure various adults that yes, he is indeed just a kid, and he and his slightly annoying friend Florida have fun pretending in public that she is his daughter. After they pretend to want to buy a sports car, which nearly leads to what would have been a certainly illegal and possibly lethal test drive, Florida gets tired of the game. Therefore, she takes some convincing (and some lying to) when Liam wins an opportunity for a few select dads and their kids to preview an amazing new Chinese theme park.

Except it's not quite a theme park - and its most thrilling ride is an actual rocket, for blasting four children and one dad into space and back. Long story short - Liam ends up being the dad.

The three real dads and their kids are right out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, each with a fatal flaw - love of control and power, avariciousness, and so on - that makes them surreal and cartoony. Liam, being an authentic sort of kid, may not make a particularly good or convincing dad, but he is by far the best human of the bunch.

By the time the rocket has gone off course and left the kids with no contact with Earth, the reader may be hard pressed to remember that Liam is, in fact, only 12 years old. He has had to pull himself together and exhibit true Dadliness to the other four so that they not only won't fall apart but can actually find a way to get back home.

Convincing? Of course not - this is a far-fetched Pinkwateresque tale, filled with unlikely characters and impossible situations. But what will be clear to readers is that Liam is able to save the situation thanks to the love and support he has always gotten from his own dad - and his mom, as well. When Liam suddenly gets a signal on his cell phone, a call from his dad immediately comes through. Not because of some coincidence, but because his dad is worried about Liam (who is supposedly away at some school nature trip) and has been calling non-stop.

Fans of Boyce's previous novels will enjoy this one as well, but give it to all those who have enjoyed the odd humor of Daniel Pinkwater, Adam Rex's The True Meaning of Smekday, and of course Roald Dahl. For grades 4 to 7.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Curse of Portland

When I was here in Portland 19 1/2 years ago for my belated honeymoon, I was so morning sick that I stumbled around in a nauseous, exhausted daze. My new husband, meanwhile, spent our Portland visit curled up sick in our hotel bed. Neither of us was in any condition to sightsee - what made the biggest impression on us were the constantly bubbling drinking fountains, something almost unimaginable to us drought-stricken Southern Californians.

Here I am, back in Portland for the Public Library Association conference. I have been sick since Tuesday night - spent most of Wednesday in bed (luckily had no programs that day) and am dragging myself around the convention center today in a seriously unpleasant stupor, determined not to miss any programs. (I'm trying to stay at least 10 feet away from all people, which comes naturally to my hermitic self).

Happily, the drinking fountains still bubble merrily.

Full report on the conference to come, once I am healthy and coherent.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Running - my other addiction

Today was the 25th annual LA Marathon - and my second. The route was from Dodger Stadium to the sea, and we passed by a whole slew of famous landmarks on the way. Yep, I do love LA!

Due to the awful logistics at Dodger Stadium, which meant that I didn't even get to the start line until at least 10 or 15 minutes after the dang race started and then had to jog at an excruciatingly slow pace for the first mile or two, and also to a less-than-ideal training regimen, I ran about 4 hours and 38 minutes, 6 minutes slower than my pace last year. Phooey. Still, it was hugely fun (if also hugely painful). LA Marathon 2011, here I come!

The Abracadabra Kid

The first day of spring was warm and sunny here in Los Angeles, a perfect day to spend a few hours in the Huntington Gardens in San Marino. My enjoyment was tempered with sadness, though - when I skimmed my email yesterday morning, I found the news of Sid Fleischman's death.

He lived in Santa Monica and because he attended many local literary events, I ran into him here and there. His warmth and graciousness won over everyone he met and I'm probably not the only person with a slight crush on him. However, I knew him mainly through his writing. My absolute favorite book of his is Mr. Mysterious & Company, which I read and loved as a child, but I also love Bandit's Moon and all of his biographies (including his autobiography, The Abracadabra Kid). His recent book The Dream Stealer is a strange and wonderful fantasy.

Sid Fleischman could perform magic, tell great jokes, AND write with awe-inspiring grace and skill. He was kind, gentle, funny, and smart. What a man. He will be missed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Even disgruntled patrons love us

This past Tuesday, I joined 65 library employees, patrons, and Friends at Los Angeles City Hall to stand against lay-offs that will devastate the services we provide to the people of L.A.

Many folks spoke during the public comment section of the meeting. (See them here - start clip at 32:30)

Library employees told of the positive impact they have on their communities every single day.

Patrons, including a dad holding his young daughter, spoke of the importance libraries have in their lives.

Friends spoke of their commitment to help libraries serve their communities.

A GAB volunteer shook her head as she told council members how sad it is that things have gotten so bad at her library.

And of course a disgruntled patron ranted about how he is constantly mistreated by librarians at the "dynastic" Central Library. But embedded in his diatribe was the fact that he uses the library often for genealogical research and that the library let him back after he was "kicked out."

Finally - I met a blogging friend for the first time face-to-face! Candace of Book! Booker! Bookest! was there to support us. As a children's book author and mom, she is a huge library fan.

Visit Save the Library for information on how you can help the Los Angeles Public Library. And if you can, come to City Hall at 10 am on Wednesday, March 24.

Catching up with BoB

How busy have I been lately? Too busy to check SLJ's Battle of the Books yesterday - and that's saying something.

You've got to hand it to straight-talking Nancy Farmer. Unlike most of the other judges, she doesn't engage in any of this namby-pamby, "I loved both books so much I wanted to flip a coin," touch-feely stuff. Nope, she didn't care for Fire, pure and simple, making her choice of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate quite obvious.

Don't miss the outraged commentary at the end of her post.

Me, I loved both titles. A LOT. Perhaps, being a Fan Girl, I'd have to give Fire the edge, but Calpurnia was pretty darn fabulous for a non-fantasy.

As for Round 1 Match 3: The Frog Scientist vs. The Last Olympian? Let's just say judge Candace Fleming must be a Fan Girl, too!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Round 1 Match 1 - Charles and Emma, victorious

Jim Murphy had to choose between Charles and Emma and Claudette Colvin, and he says it wasn't easy. Still haven't read the latter (though I loved Charles and Emma), so I have to assume our illustrious judge made the right choice.

The clitter-clatter of tiny skulls

I've always had a secret yen to be Bad. Haven't you? Surely every Nice Girl or Boy who plays by the rules and loathes making a scene harbors a deeply hidden desire to go rogue. Eva M - Feral Librarian! Perhaps it starts with the clothing.

I just read The Robe of Skulls by Vivian French for the first time. It was funny and sly, and I liked it for many of the same reasons I enjoyed Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage by Kaye Umansky. There is a plucky young heroine, plenty of quirky fairy tale characters, and, best of all, an evil sorceress with a fabulous name who is obsessed by clothing. In Clover Twig, Mesmeranza loved shoes, the more outrageous the better.

In The Robe of Skulls, the deliciously evil Lady Lamorna, she of the ravaged face, sharp collarbones, and flowing long white hair, desires a robe. Not just any robe - it must be of the darkest black velvet, with blood-red petticoats underneath. It should be positively dripping with embroidery spiderwebs entwined with vines of poison ivy. And most important, there must be row upon row of tiny skulls along the bottom hem, so that they will click and clack like hundreds of dice upon the floor as she walks.

Oh, Lady Lamorna. What style! What vision! I, too, want just such a robe. But perhaps I'll settle for what Lady Lamorna finally receives - a truly magnificent robe, perfect in every detail, but with silver-painted walnuts sewn onto the hem instead of skulls. Works for me. Clitter-clatter, clitter-clatter...

As the Queen asks rhetorically during her death scene in The Forbidden Zone, "Why does it feel so good to be so bad?" Maybe it's the clothing, darling.

Can't wait to read The Bag of Bones and the rest in the series.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Review of The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler

Zahler, Diane. The Thirteenth Princess. Harper, 2010.

In this fantasy version of the fairy tale of the twelve dancing princesses, there is a 13th princess, little Zita. Her mother died shortly after her birth, causing Zita's bereaved and maddened father to condemn Zita to a life as a castle servant. Although she learns to cook and clean, everyone in the castle knows she is a princess, and eventually the 12 older princesses reclaim her as their sister - but secretly, so as not to let their father know. When the twelve princesses' health begins to fail and their shoes show odd and inexplicable signs of wear, it is clear there is an evil enchantment upon them. Zita, her stableboy friend Breckin, his soldier brother Milek, and a kindly old witch named Babette manage to break the curse and find the enemy whom the castle has unwittingly sheltered.

Most people who have enjoyed fairy tale-based fantasies by Gail Carson Levine, Donna Jo Napoli, and others will find this a pleasant and well-written diversion. Although not as funny as Levine's tales or as psychologically insightful as Napoli's, there is plenty of substance here. Zita is as plucky a heroine as one could want, yet her father's failure to love her fills her with both puzzlement and despair. The twelve princesses remain unsurprisingly interchangeable, for the most part, but their father is more complex. Elements of other fairy tales are intriguingly wound into the story, adding both freshness and depth.

The tale isn't totally satisfying. Although we learn the motive behind the enchantment of the princesses, the details aren't explained. Why the silver and diamond trees? Why the elaborate food at the nightly enchanted balls? Yes, these are part of the traditional tale - but their presence in this tale remains an enigma. The breaking of the enchantment is quite rushed, and in fact all the magical bits are a bit too easy. For example, Zita and Breckin instantly master the magical art of blending so perfectly into their surroundings as to become invisible - this comes in very handy, of course.

Still, Zita's Cinderella-like story and her able narration of her tale will keep most readers content until the happy ending. For grades 4 to 7.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bloggers Against Library Disaster (BALD!)

Thanks to Lee Wind of I'm Here. I'm Queer. What Do I Read? for hosting a video of LAPL young adult librarian Henry Gambill, telling us about the dire circumstances of the LA City Council's planned cuts to library staffing.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Review of Dragonfly by Julia Golding

Golding, Julia. Dragonfly. Marshall Cavendish, 2009.

In order to seal an alliance between their two countries, it is decided that the Fourth Crown Princess Taoshira of the Blue Crescent Islands and Prince Ramil of Gerfal should wed. Both are reluctant, to say the least, and this only worsens when 16-year-old Taoshira travels to Gerfal and loathes 18-year-old Ramil (and vice versa) at first sight. However, they've barely met when they are both kidnapped by the rapacious, blood-thirsty leader of a neighboring country. They manage to escape, but have many more dangerous adventures before being reunited, against all odds, at last - having, of course, fallen in love with each other along the way.

While Prince Ramil's land and culture feel very familiar - it's the standard-issue, medieval Europe-type kingdom - the Blue Crescent Islands are captivatingly exotic, what with the government run by four chosen Princesses (who are more like priestesses), the Goddess-based religion, and an extremely formal, ritualized culture. It's no surprise that Taoshira (Tashi for short) finds Ramil an uncouth boor.

This is an alternate world fantasy rather than a magical fantasy - that is, while there is no magic, this is certainly not our world, and as in many fantasies, this is a pre-industrial society (although the Blue Crescent Islanders do possess gunpowder technology). Mainly it is a romantic adventure, with political intrigue, clash of nations and cultures, a slave uprising, and much more.

This tale is satisfying and at times fascinating. Tashi in particular is a complex and intriguing character whose transformation and growth throughout her adventures is believable and moving. Ramil remains a bit flat, and other characters are never fleshed out at all. The plot moves quickly, lagging only when Ramil and Tashi are separated for a time, during which Ramil leads a somewhat boring slave rebellion. The various countries and their political dilemmas are sketched just enough to make the plot points understandable, but we never gain a deeper understanding of this world. Not that this is a flaw per se - but it's just that Tamora Pierce and Sherwood Smith tell similar types of stories but give the reader such a complete, three-dimensional experience that you'd swear their worlds really existed.

The jeweled dragonfly (which really should be origami; a folded paper dragonfly figures prominently in the plot) on the cover makes this book look a tad girly, but young teens of both sexes should enjoy this adventure fantasy quite a bit, so long as they aren't expecting magic. Ages 12 to 16.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Share a Story - Shape a Future

The second annual Share a Story - Shape a Future event is underway. This year's theme is It Takes a Village to Raise a Reader, and today's host, The Book Chook, presents links to posts on Literacy My Way/Literacy Your Way.

Yesterday, my GAB post was part of the Day 1, The Many Faces of Reading, hosted by Terry Doherty

There are booklists, giveaways, and contests galore, so do cruise over and check out this blog-tastic literacy event.

Thanks to Elizabeth Dulemba for designing our bear logo!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sharing the joy of reading at the library

Walk into any branch of the Los Angeles Public Library on a weekday afternoon and you'll see hordes of kids clustered around the computers, every table filled with folks reading the paper or doing their homework or working on their laptops, parents and preschoolers hunkered down in the picture book section - and if you look carefully, you might see a library GAB volunteer, dressed in green or purple apron, reading a book to an enthralled child.

This quiet and powerful library reading program, started as a pilot program at three branches of the Los Angeles Public Library in 1989, can now be found at all 72 branches plus Central Library. GAB originally stood for Grandparents and Books because our volunteers were senior citizens. Now, with many of our reading volunteers in their 20s and 30s, we call the program Grown-ups and Books.

The idea is simple. Volunteers read to kids at the local library for two hours a day, once a week. They don't tutor, they don't teach - they simply read aloud to kids, one on one or in small groups, for the sheer joy of it, and also encourage beginning readers to read aloud. Many children don't hear books read aloud at home or at school, and so don't have the motivation or early literacy skills to learn to read. The GAB program aims to spread the pleasure of books and reading to as many children as possible, one kid at a time.

The GAB volunteers receive intensive training in the importance of reading aloud, how to choose books for different age groups, and the best ways to share books with kids. Most of our volunteers, whether they are 21 or 81, students or retired, are avid readers themselves and consider it a mission to pass on their love of books. They are an inspiration to the kids and also to librarians, who both value them and envy them. Although of course we offer storytimes and other programs, we don't have often have the time to simply sit down with a child and share a good book! Thank goodness for our GAB volunteers, who help us do the Good Work of spreading the love of reading.

For more information about the program, please call GAB at 213-228-7487.

Farmer's market customers love libraries

I spent a couple of gorgeously breezy, sunny hours this Sunday morning collecting signatures at the Mar Vista farmer's market for the Save the Library campaign. Teresa (shown above) and Verdel of the Mar Vista Branch were there, too.

Folks were happy to sign, once they realized what was at stake - possibly hundreds of LA Public Library employees laid off, greatly reduced hours, a drastic reduction in storytimes, books, computer access, and DVDs, for years and years to come.

The alarming thing? Many people had no idea! "Save the library? Is it in danger?" Ack! We've got to do a better job of getting the word out.

Oscar madness

We'll be gathered around the telly tonight, munching elegant appetizers and making catty remarks.

The most anticipated category? See today's Lio comic strip below:

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Ohwah tuhdor kyam

As if there were any doubt of my dorkiness, I re-discovered several documents from junior high in my files.

Item #1 - A "Certificate of Merit" awarded to me on June 15, 1979 (end of 8th grade) by the principal of the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies, for "outstanding participation in literature."
Well, okay, that's pretty good, though I suspect it was merely an acknowledgment of my bookwormy ways.

Item #2 - Another "Certificate of Merit" from the same year, for "most improved in P.E." Yeah. That throws a different light on the first certificate, doesn't it?

Item #3 - My Junior High School Diploma, presented by the LA Unified School District in June 1980, was awarded to "Eva Galadriel Walter."

Hahahahahahahahahaha! Yes, outwardly I was a painfully skinny, bespectacled 9th-grader, but inside - I was Elfin Royalty!

Which reminds me that I need to start thinking of a costume for my first-ever Comic Con this July. My 15-year-old is going as Gaara, but the possibilities are limited for middle-aged women like me. I could be Hermione - 30 years later (I've got the hair for it) - but my dream (which will remain strictly unfulfilled, thank you very much) is to go as a Na'vi - specifically Neytiri's mother Mo'at. Blue skin, long beaded hair, skinny bod, a tail! Plus, everyone would know who I was supposed to be.

Feeling poorly

I haven't felt up to snuff for more than a week, what with the flu and then insomnia and allergies. Still, whenever I start to feel sorry for myself, I just remind myself of Laura's case of fever 'n' ague in Little House in the Prairie. That account of the whole family being so sick that they couldn't get out of bed, and of Laura finally literally crawling across the floor to get a dipperful of water for herself and the others, struck me viscerally as a child and remains my platonic ideal of Illness. What's a bit of fever compared to that?

Remember what Mrs. Scott thought caused fever 'n' ague? Watermelons! Actually, of course, the family had malaria.

Sometimes fever can be quite pleasant - there's that floating feeling you get. My best experience at the LA Zoo happened at dusk one day. The zoo was closing and we were walking down the hill toward the exit. Despite the chill, I was pleasantly warm and felt a bit as if my brain were floating about an inch above my body. As it grew dark, the animals began to welcome the night. The roar of lions, shriek of peacocks, and bizarre hollow bark of howler monkeys accompanied us all the way to the parking lot. Surreal and magical.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

grim and grimmer

Oh crikey, the pink slips are on their way. I'm not going to get one - been at LAPL since card catalog days; you do the math - but it looks like we'll be saying goodbye and good luck this summer to some of our brightest stars, simply because they had the misfortune of being hired last. Many of them are children's librarians.

Word of our Save the Library campaign is getting out. American Libraries reported on it, as did radio station KPFK.

If enough of our staff is laid off and branches begin to close, programs like this one at the Echo Park Branch (thanks, Candace of Book! Booker! Bookest!) may become more rare.

Here's a small bit of joy for librarians - sign up for The Spectacle's contest by March 25 and you may win 11 wonderful fantasy and science fiction books for kids! Only librarians are eligible - thank you, Spectacle!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Save the Los Angeles Public Library!

Last week I spent several hours at LA's City Hall, listening to my fellow City employees speaking with passion and grace about the impact lay-offs will have on not only the workers and their families but on the whole city. Every city worker laid off will mean cutting back on essential services. The Los Angeles Public Library will be hard hit if those lay-offs go through. Fewer hours open, fewer computer terminals, books, and storytimes will have the worst impact on the our poorest communities.

Our union, the Librarians' Guild, has been started a drive to save the library. If you live in Los Angeles, or just support all libraries wherever they are, please help.

"There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration."
Andrew Carnegie

BoB is back!

The School Library Journal Battle of the Kids' Books has begun - or at least the website is up and running. The actual battle will roar to life on March 15th.

The brackets seem to have been chosen specifically in order to flummox me. For each battle in the first round, I've only read one of the books - with the notable exceptions of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate v. Fire and Tales from Outer Suburbia v. When You Reach Me. Do I have time to catch up on the seven (!!) books I haven't read yet? I do not. Well, it'll make my own rooting easy for the first round. Hopefully some of those unread books will be weeded out in round 2.

First up - two nonfiction contenders, Charles and Emma v. Claudette Colvin, vye for Jim Murphy's vote on March 15.