26 April 2008

What's on My Desk May 2008

Marley & Me: Life with the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan. Adult nonfiction. Humor. I am reading this for a book discussion. This is currently in production as a film. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0822832/
I don't know whether I want to slap the author upside the head or kiss him. The title says it all. The dog is goofy, lovable, and very destructive.
I would have at least banished the dog to life outside the house. That way he could only destroy the lawn (and possibly escape).
The back cover says "May very well be the feel-good book of the year. It's definitely the dog lover's book of the year" (USA Today).
If you are looking for other dog books, try Dog Stories by James Herriot, Dog Year by Jon Katz and who can forget, Old Yeller by Fred Gipson and Lassie Come Home! by Eric Knight. I remember reading Lad a Dog by Albert Payson Terhune and The Critter and Other Dogs, also by Terhune, which were written many years ago.
I also read Bad Dog, Marley! by the same author and illustrator Richard Cowdrey. Children's Fiction. DONE. I was expecting this to be one of the stories from the above book, but it is a fictionalized account of a family similar to his with a dog similar to Marley. I guess they thought that having the stabbing scene in a children's book wouldn't work.

The Hungry Thing by Ann Seidler, Jan Slepian, and Richard Martin. Children's Fiction. DONE. It is fun for young children to guess what the Hungry Thing wants to eat by figuring out the rhyming word.

Llama, Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney. Children's Fiction. DONE. The pictures and plot were okay with a worried youngster afraid of the dark and asking for Mama to come back in the bedroom, but the sentence structure was odd. I was not certain what they meant by "Llama, Llama Red Pajama". Was Red Pajama his surname? Sometimes they called her Mama Llama and sometimes mama, so the capitalization was not consistent. There do not appear to be a lot of verbs, just sentence fragments consisting of nouns and adjectives. On the cover it says Llama Llama Red Pajama with no comma, but in our catalog it uses a comma. I see that there is a sequel Llama Llama Mad at Mama, and that book one received good reviews in Hornbook, SLJ, and BL, so apparently not everyone was bothered by this. P. S. I thought that the llama looked uncomfortable sleeping on his back and it seems that a llama would sleep curled up like a dog or sheep, especially with that long neck. Sheep in a Jeep was a much better book.

Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw and Margot Apple. Children's Fiction. DONE. I listened to the cassette tape and read the book. The tape had a nifty background song and was the author seemed to savor each word, drawing out the book. This is a very basic book and can be read to even the littlest listener (in utero?). It doesn't use complete sentences, either, but somehow the book worked better that the llama book. SPOILER: Do not read if you don't want to know the end. One of my listeners loves it when vehicles crash and often plays that his toy cars, airplane, space shuttle, etc. are crashing, so you know he liked this book (and Trashy Town, too).

Finn by Jon Clinch. Adult fiction. DONE. Clinch has created a new take on Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn character by postulating about Huck's origins, specifically focusing on his father. This is a dark, boding work. If you decide to read it, you should probably have some other lighthearted, humorous book on your bed stand in case you can not face the brooding evil that the book embodies any particular night. I recommend partnering it with something completely dissimilar like a James Thurber work, Chicks with Sticks, or a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. Pap Finn is about the lowest of the low in villains. He kidnaps, kills, rapes, steals, lies, drinks, swears, and more. I suppose it might make for a good book discussion book if you could find enough people who can get through reading the whole book without throwing it in a bonfire over his use of the "N" word and more. This might appeal to readers of true crime and mysteries. African American readers, and all readers, should be ware that Pap is a racist as many men and women of this time and place were.

Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi. Adult Graphic Novel. DONE. This one is decidedly edgier that the first as the author experiences more of the world and goes through the process of discovering who she is. Does she want to be an Iranian? Does she want to be a Westerner? Will she follow a traditional or contemporary path? I have read that some people like the first book better, some the second book. It probably depends on the audience. In the second book she is older, but not wiser.

Child's Book of Lullabies by Mary Cassatt and Shona McKellar. Children's Fiction. DONE. It seemed like a good idea - put Mary Cassatt's classy pictures with classic poetry. This is an attractive book and an adult might enjoy it, but the outdated language of the poetry made it too obsure for a young audience. This received good reviews, but my guess is that the reviewers did not actually read these aloud to children. This might make a nice gift for a lady, but not for a child.

My Body Is Private by Linda Walvoord Girard and Rodney Pate. Children's Fiction, but deals with a nonfiction topic - privacy (anti-sexual-abuse). DONE. Let's face it, this is an awkward subject. I read it to my 4 and 5 year old audience because some of them were starting to play "doctor" and I wanted them to know that it was okay to say "no" and want to be left alone. I don't know if they understood everything in this book, but the basic idea came across. I would say that it was written more for a 6-9 year old audience, but my library had it in the preschool section. If you can't find a better book, use this one, but there is definitely room for a different book in this market.

Why Things Don't Work: Motorcycle by David West. Children's fiction/nonfiction. This is another that is hard to say if it is fiction or nonfiction. My library put it in nonfiction. DONE.

It is basically a motorcycle repair manual, but presented in a graphic novel format. I was surprised that this did work as a read out loud book. We broke it up into two reading sessions because it did use rather grown-up words, but my audience would have liked to have had the whole book at once. I really don't care if I ever learn how to repair or ride a motorcycle, but I knew that a certain 5 year old is into vehicles so I tried it out. The 4 and 5 year olds didn't understand everything but did want to see how the two main characters would do in fixing their bike. This falls into the category of kids-who-memorize-all-the-names-and-statistics-of-the-dinosaurs type of book. Some kids will really dig it and others won't. My audience wanted me to bring home more in this series, so I will. There is also one on a helicopter, plane, race car, tank, and train. Stay tuned for more information on this series. In general, I think this is for about a 8 - 13 year old audience, with cross-over appeal to 14-21 year olds or literacy or English as a Second Language groups. It has diagrams, a glossary, and an index in the back. I would definitely recommend buying this series for a middle school or public library. http://www.raintreelibrary.com/

Why Things Don't Work: Tank by David West. Children's fiction/nonfiction. DONE.
This is another that is hard to say if it is fiction or nonfiction. My library put it in nonfiction. I checked this out and was reading it outside my church without thinking about the irony of reading a TANK book at church. When I realized that not everyone might think a tank book at church was appropriate, I put it in my car for later reading. I certainly did not know all the facts about tanks that were contained in this book.

Town Mouse and the Country Mouse by Aesop, illustrations by Paul Galdone. Text is from Select Fables of Esop and other Fublists, R. & J. Dodsley, Birmingham, England, 1764 . Children's fiction. DONE.
This classic telling of the tale used, among others, the words "repast", "consented", and other words that they didn't know, and the illustrations were decidedly old-fashioned, but my preschool audience was fine with that. This is a classic that has withstood the test of time. You could get a newer version, but this one from 1975 is just as good, if not better.

Flight by Sherman Alexie. YA/Adult fiction. DONE.
An angry young Indian is launched into a time traveling spirit journey when life becomes too much for him. He sees the history of Indians in America and the cruel treatment by the Whites.
I was a bit confused by the flashbacks (and so was the main character) but caught on after a while.
I would recommend this to a reluctant teen reader, but not a little old lady.

Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean. Adult fiction. DONE.
An elderly woman is starting to become disoriented with dementia, but her memories of the siege of Leningrad by the Germans during World War II are clear. As a young woman, she worked at one of the world's best art museums and had to help pack up the priceless materials and try to preserve the extraordinary architecture of the Hermitage from repeated bombings, snow, and rain. She and others were slowly starving, but what kept her alive was her memory of the extreme beauty of the art. She does not always know what is reality and what is memory, but the love, memory, and hope made possible by the art makes something great from these sorrowful times. Personally, I am not into art, but this is a lovely book and reminds me of the awe that the Hermitage brings to those who have been there. (I was there in 1992). This book can certainly be incorporated painlessly into a number of curriculums (history, art, world culture, gerontology).

Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock. Adult fiction. DONE.
I read this to evaluate if we should use it for a book discussion.
This is a series of short stories all set in and around Knockemstiff, a small place in Ross County, Ohio where all kinds of every day perversities and atrocities take place. All the characters are poor or blue-collar working class. The time period varies from piece to piece from about the 1940’s – 1990’s. The author says that none of the characters are directly based on people he knew, but certainly inspired by them. Pro: Male viewpoint – a rough and tumble manly man viewpoint, in the words of the author “manly cowboy stuff” (page 43) Pro: Set in Ross County, Ohio, a south-central county. Mentions Pike County (page 25), Route 50 (Route 50 runs east west from Cincinnati to near Morgantown, WV) (page 31), Hillsboro, Highland County (page 33), Greenfield (page 64), Paint Creek (Bainbridge) (page 71), Copperas Mountain, Ross County (page 71), Massieville, Ross County (page 76), Bob Evans (page 105), Mead (page 118). After that I stopped keeping track. Author is from Ohio and as far as I know, still lives in Ohio as he is working on his master’s degree from Ohio State. …Although, I don’t remember any Ohioan ever telling me that he or she lived in a holler (hollow). People in his book say they do. It also talks of knobs, which I thought was more of an Arkansas concept. Pro: Preface quote: “All Americans come from Ohio originally, if only briefly”. Dawn Powell. This quote could be discussed. Pro: Recent book Pro: Nifty map of the fictional town in the front. Pro: Readers of the “Glass Castle” could compare and contrast the poverty and drunkenness portrayed in the two books. Pro: The book is lyrical enough that it might be fun to read selections out loud. Pro: Since the book is made up of short stories all featuring a town, it is easy to stop after a chapter, then pick up later where you left off reading. Con: Not yet available in all desired formats – only print as of June 2008 Con: Uses the words “ass” and “bitching” on the very first page, which will offend some readers. In other places it uses “nigger” and “coon” and other curse words. I think this book is well on its way to being a Banned Book. It has something to offend just about everybody, including, but not limited to: Incest Rape Prostitution Child abuse Masturbation Swearing Racism Drug use Drunkenness Anti-Christian characters Stereotypes Hunting Gutting animals Homosexuality Abusing the mentally challenged Sexually transmitted diseases …but that is what makes the book work. It is about the dirty, grimy, creepy, working-class dregs of humanity. If we choose this book, you can be sure that some readers will object and high school teachers will NOT assign it. If you want to get publicity, then choose this book and see the fur fly! We will not be accused of being boring or safe! The writing is terse and manly like classic short story or novella writings of Bret Harte and Ernest Hemingway. Others have compared it to Winesburg, Ohio, and works by authors Raymond Carver or Flannery O’Connor. In some ways it reminded me of another book I recently read – “Finn” about Huckleberry Finn’s father. My favorite quote: Page 83: “You gotta stop readin’ them books, start watchin’ more TV”.

I recommend that every public library in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky have this book. I do not recommend it for high school libraries.

Dooby Dooby Moo by Doreen Cronin. Children's fiction. DONE. This is a silly sound effects book. The second time I read it, I read the words aloud better. The animals on a farm are practicing for a talent show at the county fair. The ending is laugh-out-loud funny. A Rat Pack fan or Scooby Doo fan might get extra enjoyment out of this one.

Barney Backhoe Loves to Build. Children's fiction. Board book. DONE. The title pretty much says it all. The backhoe is a John Deere, so it is good for John Deere, Handy Andy, and Bob the Builder fans. The book also uses concept words like big, bigger, and biggest well.

16 April 2008

Too many books.

I have 37 books checked out, 6 waiting to be checked out (holds) and 68 holds (either suspended so I can get them later or currently in the wait queue).
I will have to turn some in since realistically I can only read 2 or 3 at a time.
That is the problem with being surrounded by good books every day - temptation!

P. S. Some of these holds may be for videos which I can go through more quickly than books.

04 April 2008

Google Docs Part II

Google documents is continually improving their project and now I have two projects going on separate accounts. I have one account for the library documents that volunteers and I are working on, and a separate account for the poetry contest that my family sponsors. I think this will be the wave of the future in project sharing, just as wikis arel.
http://www.werelate.org/ This wiki is still being developed as well. I have posted information, but so far people can not save information on individuals back into their home computers using the genealogy GEDCOM standard.

What's on My Desk April 2008

Spiderwick Chronicles, volume 3, Lucinda's Secret by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. Children's Fiction. DONE. Action! Tension! Humor! I hope my hold request for volume 4 comes in soon because I don't like not knowing what will happen next in this series.
The Hungry Thing Returns by Ann Seidler, Jan Slepian, and Richard Martin. Children's Fiction. DONE. I have not read the original, but this sequel can stand alone. It has an animal who says almost the right thing, then people have to try to figure out what he is saying by thinking of rhyming words. Kids like figuring out the answers and the baby Hungry Thing elicits an "aah" response.
Riverworld, To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer. Adult Science Fiction. Hugo Award Winner for Best Novel of 1972. This has a unique plot, but is rather blasphemous. I can see this being a banned book and it made me a bit uneasy to read, since it seems to dismiss all world religions in one fell swoop. A number of times I thought of not finishing it because it made me feel dirty. I could relate to Alice, the poor Victorian era lady who is appalled that nudity, promiscuity, and violence are the norm without religious restraint. This was also made into a television movie, but based on the immorality of this book, I don't think I will watch it.


The title is derived from the 7th of the "Holy Sonnets" by English poet John Donne:
At the round earth's imagin'd corners, blow
Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise
From death, you numberless infinities
Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go.

I liked Barnstormer in Oz by Farmer better. This shows my prejudice, since I generally like just about all Oz books. Now that I think of it, some scenes in Barnstormer made me uneasy as well...
Farmer is an effective author, but I would only recommend him to people who are not looking for a "gentle read". I definitely would not recommend him to conservative home-school type patrons. Personally, I probably won't read any more of his works, but as a librarian I would keep his books on the science fiction shelf with works by many other fine writers.

Kittens, Kittens, Kittens by Susan Meyers and David Walker. Children's fiction. DONE. I don't think I have to tell you what this is about. If you want a book on juvenile felines you know where to look. Not suprisingly, the duo also has a book called Puppies, Puppies, Puppies.

Three Little Kittens by Anna Alter. Children's fiction. DONE. There is a definite cuteness factor to this telling of the familiar nursery rhyme.

Kitten Red, Yellow, Blue by Peter Catalanotto. Children's fiction. DONE. The author goes through 16 colors of colors that a cat can have. I am not so sure that little children need to know the difference between brown, rust, and tan unless their parents work for Crayola.

Spiderwick Chronicles, volume 4, The Ironwood Tree by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. Children's Fiction. DONE. This is my favorite in the series so far. It is probably because it is most like my favorite series of books, the Oz books. The dwarves are definitely similar to Baum's Nomes as portrayed in a number of classic Oz books and the description of the dwarves' lair could come right out of Ozma of Oz or Tik-Tok of Oz. The end leaves us wondering how this series will end.

Julius by Syd Hoff. Children's fiction. DONE. This book is very similar to many other Syd Hoff books, so you will like it if you like Danny and the Dinosaur, et al .

Spiderwick Chronicles, volume 5, The Wrath of Mulgarath by Tony DeTerlizzi and Holly Black. Children's Fiction. DONE. So ends the saga. Somehow I doubt they will leave this series at only 5 books. Now to see the movie...

We're Going on a Lion Hunt by David Axtell. Children's Fiction. DONE. This familiar classic children's song is beautifully illustrated, but the plot is someone lacking.
"We're going on a lion hunt. We're going to catch a big one". Okay. So what do you need to catch a lion? You can capture him on film or capture his corporal body so you need at least one item from list A or list B:

A. Gun. Net. Trident. Spear. Bow. Knife. Bait. Rope.

B. Camera. Camcorder. Cell Phone. Telescope. Binoculars. Opera Glasses.

The children bring: one blue stuffed animal. Now, I can understand if an author doesn't want to have them bringing "my gun, bullets on the side" if he is anti-hunting. He is entitled to his opinions and artistic license is fine, but does he have to present the children as just plain stupid to go to catch a lion with no plan at all? It is too bad that the plot had this hole in it so big that someone could drive a Chevy through it, because the 4 and 5 year olds that I read this to enjoyed the pictures and the rhymes. I would recommend the illustrator as an illustrator, but not as an author, or maybe I should blame the editor for letting this book be published as is.

Great Adventure by Steven Curtis Chapman, Joni Eareckson Tada, Stephen Elkins, and Ellie Colton. Children's Fiction. DONE. The song is great. The pictures are decent. The book is a jumbled mess. They took the Dove Award winning Christian song and added pictures. Okay. That would work. Then they cut the song into pieces, added extra words to make a story and an explanation to go with it, that is supposed to be at about a 4-8 year old comprehension level. That did not work. The pages are arranged so there is a picture, the quote from the song, and the extra words. I didn't know how I was supposed to read this out loud. Maybe one person is supposed to read one part and another person is supposed to read the other part? Having asides like in a Shakespeare play is too sophisticated to spring on a 5 year old. The hopeful, forward-looking song comes across with preachy, overbearing tones. Only the heavily religious patron would find this attractive. Most would not. I wonder if all the books in this "Dove Award Signature Series" are this confusing, or if some are better integrated?


Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw. Children's Fiction. DONE. This book is recommended for 2-3 year olds. A very young girl, maybe 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 years old, loves toddling to the library with mommy for storytime or just to get books. She obviously loves the library and it shows. The little girl is African-American (or maybe African-English, since the writers are British), and the librarian appears to be Hispanic. I am guessing that it is an urban library, since they walk and the library uses modern equipment. It is straightforward and clearly written. A child can know what to expect from a trip to the library with this book. This would be a good one to read on day one of a storytime or in daycare visits.

Ten Little Lambs by Alice B. McGinty and Melissa Sweet. Children's Fiction. DONE. My audience and I were a bit confused because on the first page it showed children going to bed and on the second page it showed that they were lambs instead. This is because the teacher or mother or camp counselor or whoever she is calls them "lambs". (Inside the front cover the description says it is a sleepover party, but the book itself does not say). Once we understood that, we caught on that the lambs/children were falling asleep one by one in this book that uses a classic count-down-from-ten-to-zero idea. It would be a good book to introduce the concept of subtraction or minus along with the "Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" song or "A Hundred Bottles of Coke on the Wall" song.