Thursday, June 30, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

No, Eva!

I'm a strait-laced sort of person as a rule, but in New Orleans #ala11, I tend to get a little carried away. 

Scolding is sometimes essential (with apologies to David Shannon).

Use your napkin, Eva!
No, Eva!  Leave some ARCs for other people!
Put that Tinkletini down, Eva!
No, Eva, not Nectar of the Gods as well!
No, No, No, Eva!
You said you needed "sensible shoes," Eva!
No, your Super Diaper Baby 2 cape is NOT appropriate Newbery/Caldecott Awards Banquet attire!
Get your hands off Madigan's gorgeous velvet wrap this INSTANT!
No jumping on the bed, Eva - it's 2 o'clock in the morning!!
Get up this instant, Eva!  You're late for your 8 am session!
Oh, Eva, you're still a Good Librarian.  It's just a good thing you don't live in New Orleans!

Review of Eona by Alison Goodman

Goodman, Alison.  Eona. Viking, 2011.

In this sequel to Eon, nasty High Lord Sethon has taken, by brutal force, leadership of the Empire of the Celestial Dragons.  16-year-old Eona, a Dragoneye bonded with the almost mythical Mirror Dragon, and her companions Ryko and Lady Dela, join up with the rebels to find the exiled young Pearl Emperor Kygo and help him take the throne from Sethon.

Eona is a young woman who has lived much of life disguised as a young boy.  Kygo is not only the astoundingly gorgeous Pearl Emperor, but he also has a huge pearl embedded in his throat that is dangerously attractive to Eona; she keeps wanting to rip it out of his throat, an impulse that is apparently caused by a rather strong-willed ancestor of Eona's.  Is it any wonder that Eona is conflicted?

And then there's the nasty, immoral, powerful, smokin' hot and sexy Lord Ido, who is apparently under Eona's power - or is she under his?  The rebels need Lord Ido's mastery of his dragon to help their cause, but no one trusts him, so it's rather dismaying to Eona that she's so drastically attracted to him.

Although there is more to the plot - plenty of dragon lore (including a revelation about the tie between human and dragon that will surprise no one), battles, and so on - it's this love triangle that takes up much of the book.  Unfortunately, the plot drags whenever Eona is agonizing over Ido or Kygo.  The same conversations, recriminations, quarrels, and kisses happen over and over, and it got a bit dull for this particular reader.  Granted, I'm no longer a teenaged girl and had to do quite a bit of eye-rolling at all the self-inflicted drama - still, this book could have done with a judicious trim to make it a leaner, more intense and forward-driving story. 

The last climactic scene is a doozy, though - I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. Oh, and "contraire" Lady Dela (a biological man who lives as a woman) is as captivating as ever.

Definitely recommended for fans, ages 13 and up, of the first book, who will eat this one up despite its length.  If those readers love the Twilight triangle dynamic, so much the better.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

We could be heroes

...just for a couple hours at the Scholastic Super Diaper Baby 2 celebration, where things got a little surreal. 

Doesn't everyone need to wear a red super-hero cape once in a while?

Not gone, just busy elsewhere

Sorry about the lack of posts here - but I've got a few short ones up about ALA at the ALSC Blog here and here.

Back soon with reviews, an ALA recap, and more.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

First day of summer!

Murakami charges shamelessly high prices for all his art and art-related merchandise - but this sure is cute!

Monday, June 20, 2011

What I did on my summer vacation

It's a bit sad to have completed my summer vacation before summer has even begun.  No matter!

I did all the important Twin Cities activities:

One of a jillion canoe photos - that's Natasha in the middle
Gabe at bat
My sis and I - VFW songbirds
Giant Walking Tubes (soon to be Giant Rolling Tubes)

  • Read a lot, and even wrote and blogged some reviews
  • Utterly forgot to send in a promised ALSC Blog post (sorry, guys!)
  • Biked around various lakes
  • Canoed on various lakes
  • Sunbathed beside various lakes
  • Jogged around various lakes
  • Went to a Little League game (featuring my 10-year-old nephew Gabe, who let me know that he had Googled "Eva's Book Addiction" and "nephew" and got ZERO hits!  This one's for you, Gabe.  He's currently reading E.L. Konigsberg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by the way.  I gave him Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman, purely because the main character is a 10-year-old named Gabe)
  • Went to the Mall of America (accompanied by my 12-year-old niece Natasha, who is racing through the 6th Harry Potter book.  I thought she was carrying around #7 and almost gave away a crucial plot point.  "Nooooooo, don't tell me!" she wailed, just in the nick of time.  I gave her The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens.)
  • Rolled down a hill in a bright orange tube at the Walker Art Center.
  • Got rained on
  • Got a bit toasted at the local VFW and, accompanied by my sister, wailed a passionate rendition of Tammy Wynette's D-I-V-O-R-C-E during karaoke.
  • Ate ice-cream almost every day.
  • Ogled the mighty Mississippi.  Just think, I'll be at the other end of the Mississippi in 4 days.  Weird.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Review of Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones

Wynne-Jones, Tim.  Blink & Caution.  Candlewick Press, 2011.

Blink (real name: Brent) is living on the streets of Toronto to get away from a violent stepfather.  Caution (real name: Kitty) is living with a vicious drug dealer to escape from a tragedy that has made her believe she has no right to happiness.

Blink witnesses a puzzling scene in the hallway of a fancy hotel - a rich guy apparently stages his own kidnapping.  Blink uses a cell phone left behind at the scene to get in touch with the rich man's daughter, who convinces Blink to travel to a remote lodge to see if her dad might be there.  It's in the train station on the way out of town that the two teens meet - Caution steals Blink's money, then has a change of heart and helps him with his task instead.

The pseudo-kidnapping, complete with political/industrial intrigue, thugs with guns, and other thriller trappings, provides the framework from which the basic plot hangs and moves the story forward at a heart-quickening pace.

It's Caution's story, and to a lesser extent Blink's, that provides the heart of the story, however, as well as much of the suspense.  Her self-loathing, her grief, and her refusal to believe that anyone could love her after the event for which she blames herself, are so vast that she has become self-destructive.  Her journey back toward emotional health and the strong family that loves her is tentative, suspenseful, and utterly absorbing.

Blink's story is a bit less dramatic, though still sad and probably all too common.  His life on the street is pretty horrible, and it's easy to understand how a terrifyingly abusive stepdad could lead Blink to it - but it's harder to see why he didn't go to his loving grandparents much earlier.  Perhaps, being a very young and fairly clueless teen, he just didn't think they would take him in or offer him what he needed.  Maybe he thought that somehow he wouldn't be on the streets long.  Certainly his belief that he could make money via the dubious agreement he makes with the rich man's daughter proves his naivete.

I loved all the little bits and pieces that make this story a colorful, multi-dimensional story.  The millionaire businessman isn't what he seemed at first, and neither is his daughter.  One of the "thugs" is actually quite a nice guy - and in fact the whole preposterous scene at the lodge is strangely believable thanks to him.  Blink and Caution turn out to have plenty of loving, good people in their lives - they just have to believe in themselves before they can trust anyone else.

This is a definite Printz contender for all the right reasons, and the biggest one is that it's a well-written tale that teens are going to love.  Highly recommended for ages 14 to 18.

Review of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang

Shang, Wendy Wan-Long.  The Great Wall of Lucy Wu.  Scholastic Press, 2011.

Big sister Regina is gorgeous and speaks perfect Chinese.  Big brother Kenny is a math genius.  And 6th-grader Lucy is great at basketball - but that doesn't impress her family.

Still, Lucy was expecting to have a great year, what with Regina going off to college and leaving Lucy with a room all to herself.  But then - not only does Lucy's old, long-lost, and non-English-speaking Great Aunt Yi Po move in to Lucy's bedroom, but Lucy is forced to take Chinese lessons.  Plus she has Mean Girl troubles in the form of Sloane Connors.  Can Lucy's 6th-grade year be redeemed?

Lucy and her stalwart friend Madison are normal, uncomplicated basketball-crazed girls - so refreshing to read about.  Yes, Lucy is super-annoyed about this Chinese-speaking old relative she had never met filling her bedroom with strange sounds and the smell of Vicks Vapo-rub, and so her behavior veers toward the sullen and cool end of the spectrum where Yi Po is concerned.  But it's all perfectly understandable, with a satisfying conclusion.  There isn't much character development, just lots of types - but they are familiar types, and Lucy's voice is vibrant enough to make up for the lack of dimension in the other characters.

This is funny, warm family/school tale for ages 9 to 12.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Big bad YA fiction

This whole debate raging now about the darkness of YA fiction reminds me of the periodic furor regarding children's fairy tales and folktales.  Will it damage little children if the wolf falls down the chimney and is boiled alive in the pig's cooking pot, or shall we just tweak the traditional ending a wee bit and make the wolf and pig become the best of friends instead?

Bleah.  I've always preferred the grim versions of Grimm et al myself.

So some YA fiction is dark.  So is life.  And most YA fiction is NOT dark.  There is plenty of action, mystery, romance, magic, historical fiction, and plain old harmless fluff around to suit absolutely anyone.

NPR aired a story on the topic yesterday, and our very own Candice Mack, YA Librarian at the Encino-Tarzana Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, spoke for librarians and teens.  Well done!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review of One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street by Joanne Rocklin

Rocklin, Joanne.  One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street.  Amulet, 2011.

Three girls, one boy, a mute little brother and his caretaker, an old lady who has lived on Orange Street forever, and a mysterious man in a green car who used to live there a long time ago - these are the character of One Day...  Oh, and there's a cat, a dog, a macaw, a mouse (or is that a baby rat?), and the tiniest baby hummingbird ever.

And of course the orange tree, under whose beneficent branches people bury valuable items and have wonderful ideas and make friends.

Though the book takes place during one day and part of another, the story bounces back in time to previous residents of Orange Street and then back to our current characters in an effortless way, so that the story doesn't feel rushed or compressed.  In fact, there's a summery feeling of timelessness to the story - it could almost take place anywhere or any time.  And yet we're anchored to a very definite place - Los Angeles - and time - now, 'cause when else could a dreadlocked young man be serving as a little boy's babysitter?

There isn't a strong central plot but rather lots of little bits of life - buried things are found, a bird is rescued, a girl comes to terms with her mom's pregnancy, a man reminisces about his father and little brother, a boy dreams of wowing his crush with a magic trick.  It's testament to Rocklin's skill with language and her ease with the way kids and adults think and speak that this is such a compelling, warm, and funny book from start to finish.  It sounds super corny, but I promise it isn't.  It's supremely satisfying, and you might even cry, but it's not the slightest bit corny.

My only tiny quibble is one I often have with these timeless books - I hate it when parents are referred to as Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So.  Maybe in some - or even most - parts of the USA, kids call their friends' parents by their last names.  But in LA, even back in the 70s when I was a kid, we didn't - and for sure it doesn't happen now in a neighborhood like Orange Street.  When the narrator calls a mom Mrs. Perkins, it feels hopelessly dated.  Okay, rant over.

Highly recommended for kids who like neighborhood tales like Allison McGhee's Julia Gillian books.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review of I, Emma Freke by Elizabeth Atkinson

Atkinson, Elizabeth.  I, Emma Freke.  Carolrhoda, 2010.

As befitting a post written during vacation, this will be brief.

Middle school is a time when many kids feel freakish.  Though I looked more or less normal, I felt freakish on the inside.  Emma, however, wears her freakishness on the outside.  At 12 years old, she is almost 6 feet tall with bright red hair.  It's sort of hard to pretend to be invisible with those sorts of looks.  And then of course there's that name, which her mother didn't bother to say aloud before writing it on the birth certificate.

Emma's father is long gone, but she has always been curious about him, so she leaps at a surprise invitation to attend the annual Freke Family gathering in Wisconsin.  And just as she had hoped, there are Frekes galore, many as tall and red-headed as Emma.  In fact, her relatives consider her a beauty.  And it seems that Freke is pronounced not "freak" but "frecky."  What a relief!

But... to say that the Freke gathering is highly regimented is an understatement.  Every minute of the day is accounted for, and no one is allowed to stray from the plan.   Emma risks the condemnation of the tyrannical matriarch Pat Freke, as well as her newfound friends, in order to hang out with the black sheep of the family, a kid who stands out among the Frekes as much as Emma did among her classmates back home.

Everything is just exaggerated enough to make it clear it's a summer novel and not to be taken hugely seriously - so although Emma's mom is problematic with her numerous boyfriends, her Italian grandpa and his elderly dog are goofy and lovable.  The Freke family's lock-step style isn't realistic, but their kindness to Emma is warm, and it's easy to see how compelling it is to feel a sense of belonging for the first time in her life.

This is a light and satisfying read for ages 10 to 12.

(One quibble with the jacket art - this girl does not look like a long and lean 6-footer to me, and I can't imagine why Emma would jump and toss her hair in quite this odd manner.  I'm tired of photos of people on jacket covers and say we go back to drawings.  You know who would have done a great cover for this book?  Trina Schart Hyman!)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Shiny new program boxes

Summer always means the creation of new program boxes for our children's librarians to use.  Yep, they're programs in a box - books, puppets, puppet script, flannelboard stories, crafts, fingerplays, songs - everything anyone would need.

These two new boxes, created by Mara of the Children's Literature dept. and our two fabulous interns Britt and Jessica, fit the One World, Many Stories theme:
Travel and Adventure Box

Animals Around the World box

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

dream homes

I've always had Home Lust.  It's not that I yearn for a large house or a luxurious house or one with a perfect view.  Rather, I can't help but fantasize what my life would be like if I lived in a different home than the one I'm in.  A house on stilts, a log cabin surrounded by an old growth forest, a loft apartment on an artsy downtown street, a neat little Craftsman on a walk street, or even the house for sale the next block over - how exciting it would be to move in and start life over under a different roof.

As a child reader, I was fascinated by three kinds of fictional homes and neighborhoods, all very different from my own funky Venice, CA milieu.

The quiet suburban street:
Although this is the classic setting for all kinds of sitcoms (Brady Brunch comes immediately to mind) and fiction, I fell under its spell in first grade while being forced to read our deadly dull "Janet and Mark" primers, a late 60s version of Dick and Jane.  Their neighborhood was so clean, their houses so scrubbed, all behavior so predictable.  The safety was absolutely enticing. 

Beverly Cleary's Ramona books take place in a similar but more recognizable neighborhood.  There are wide sidewalks and spacious front yards, but all is not perfect - think of the scary dog Ramona encounters on her way to school.  Still, I wanted to move onto Klickitat Street.

The rambling old house:
I've always lived in small houses and apartments, so the fantasy of living in a shabby, slightly decrepit old house (with a staircase and an attic and a basement!) still lives on in my heart.  It would be drafty and creaky, and both the plumbing and heating would be iffy - but there would be hot chocolate in the kitchen on a stormy night, and then one could snuggle up under a thick quilt in one's fabulous attic or window-filled room.

Who lived in a house like that?  The Hall family of Concord, Massachusetts (Jane Langton's The Diamond in the Window et al), Julia of San Francisco (Eleanor Cameron's A Room Made of Windows), and of course the Murry family of Connecticut (Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time).

The New York apartment:
It was a picture book that first had me yearning to live in a tall apartment, complete with elevator and doorman.  In Tell Me a Mitzi, a big sister (but not very big) gets her baby brother dressed and schleps him downstairs to a taxi (a taxi! we didn't have taxis in Venice) to visit Grandma and Grandpa.  Not only does Mitzi have a doorman, but she also sports a purple star-spangled snowsuit that, as a 6-year-old, I Really Wanted.

Naturally, plenty of other plucky fictional girls live in nifty New York apartments, including Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy and Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me.

Few children's books take place in Venice, and when they do (Sid Fleischman's Disappearing Act and Francesca Lia Block's The Waters and the Wild) I scarcely recognize the place. 

But recently I was walking down my street, and there were kids on bikes zooming up and down the sidewalks, and folks walking dogs, and neighbors in their yards - and I realized...

I live on Klickitat Street!

Or as good as, anyway.  It's a GREAT feeling!

But a sod house on the prairie sure would be cool...

Monday, June 6, 2011

a book in every home

A big - and brand-new - part of this year's summer reading program at the Los Angeles Public Library is a book giveaway.  Every kid, teen, and baby/toddler/preschooler can earn a free book just for reading and taking part in the program!

Which means we've already packed up and shipped out almost 5,000 giveaway books to our 72 branches, and are about to ship out another 3000.  Just my tiny (but strong and mighty!) Youth Services folks - all 4 of us, plus a couple of interns.

And that's just the starter kits - we're sure branches will be requesting more giveaway books once the summer actually starts.

How did we afford all those books to give away?  Thank goodness for First Book!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Countdown to summer

Our summer reading programs for children, teens, and preschoolers start in exactly one week.  How is that possible??


Sometimes my hens make sweet burbling little "bookbook" noises, usually when they've gotten into my newly planted lettuces and are happily kicking and pecking them to shreds.  (This is so NOT the way to my heart.  Why can't they be more like the chicken in Deborah Bruss' Book! Book! Book!?)

Their usual noises are less melodious, and the earlier it is, the noisier they are.  6 am is not a good time to hear strident clucking.  Oh yeah, I hear ya cluckin, Big Chicken.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Review of City of Ice by Laurence Yep

I wrote this review for the June 2011 issue of School Library Journal.  

YEP, Laurence. City of Ice. Bk. 2. 369p. (City Trilogy). bibliog. Tom Doherty Assoc/Starscape. June 2011. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-7653-1925-8. LC number unavailable. 
Gr 5-8–In this sequel to City of Fire (Tom Doherty Assoc/Starscape, 2009), Scirye and her companions have left Hawaii and are pursuing their enemies Mr. Roland and Badik the dragon across the Arctic; their quest is to prevent Roland from finding a magical treasure that will give him terrifying powers. After a perilous journey, the friends join forces with Lord Resak, a powerful Arctic spirit that manifests itself as a giant polar bear, to repel an attack by Roland’s fighters. The eccentric characters from the first book are all here, from the orphan Leech and his smart-mouthed badger friend, Koko, to the brave dragon, Bayang, and they are joined by spunky young Roxanna and her ifrit servant. The adventures are nonstop and the magical creatures and gods are intriguing, though there is little character development beyond the continual bantering and quarreling in which Scirye’s companions engage. The prose and dialogue feel clumsy and inert at times, but this is countered by the colorful alternate-history setting in which ancient peoples such as the Sogdians and Kushans are still around and thriving. Readers who enjoyed the first book will be eager to read more about Scirye’s adventures.