Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Uglies


Westerfeld, Scott. 2005. Uglies.

I have nothing but good memories surrounding Uglies. My first introduction to Miss Tally Youngblood, trickster fifteen year old, was in the fall of 2005. From the early summer sky was the color of cat vomit to I'm Tally Youngblood...make me pretty, I was hooked. So much so that I went out to buy my own copy of the book the very next morning. But in 2005, I wasn't blogging. (I probably didn't know what a blog even was.) I did, however, review it in Librarians Choices 2005. It was one of my picks. I remembered it was one of the hardest reviews I'd ever written-- there is a word limit for Librarians Choices--and it came back with a lot of red marks all over it.

Here is my original review:

Set three to four hundred years in the future, Uglies, a dystopia, focuses on a global community of pretty people. Tally Youngblood introduces readers to this picture-perfect community where appearances are not a matter of one's genes but a matter of extensive plastic surgeries planned by the Community of Morphological Standardss. Tally and Shay are best friends awaiting their sixteenth birthdays and their surgeries after which they'll leave Uglyville behind and join the New Pretties. But Shay doubts that the "Pretty Committee" is as concerned with equality and justice as it appears, suspecting that ulterior motives may lay behind the surface. Days before her sixteenth birthday, Shay runs away leaving a cryptic message for her friend to find the way to Smoke, the rebel community of "ugly" outsiders. When the authorities discover Shay's disappearance, Tally is asked to make the hardest decision of her life: betray Shay and the rebel community to the authorities or face living life ugly.

Uglies is a fast-paced novel taking a typical YA topic--self esteem, conformity, and the perception of beauty--and treating it in a new and ultimately satisfying way by speculating about where current values of beauty and perfection might lead us as a society if taken to the extreme. By setting Uglies in the future instead of a contemporary high school, Westerfeld is able to provide reflection and commentary on a serious topic in a new and original way.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

The Rising Star of Rusty Nail


Blume, Lesley M.M. 2007. The Rising Star of Rusty Nail.

The time: 1953
The place: Rusty Nail, Minnesota

The sleepy town had only one of everything: one grocery store, one church, one lawyer, one doctor, one bar, even one old drunk who shambled aimlessly around the town square. There was even only one stoplight, which hung desolately on a thick wire over the intersection of Main Street and Church Street. Sometimes the light worked, and sometimes it didn’t. But in any case, most of the townspeople drove their rusted Ford pickup trucks so slowly that it didn’t matter one way or another. Time dragged in Rusty Nail and nothing ever seemed to happen. Even the flies in the air seemed to stand still, as though suspended inside honey-colored amber. The slow passing of time showed itself by the rising and falling of the sun, the changing of the seasons, and children growing up and then growing old and replacing themselves with a new generation of children to grow up and grow old in Rusty Nail. (3)

Frances “Franny” Hansen is a ten year old with big dreams. Like her father before her, she dreams of one day making it big in the music world and leaving this town far behind her. Her father had his chance--an encounter with Duke Ellington--but turned down his chance to go on the road because he was in love and engaged. But Franny is not going to miss her opportunity to shine. Her talent? Playing the piano. It is her talent, her passion, her joy. Even if the other kids don’t quite understand how practicing that many hours a week could ever be fun.

Sometimes these opportunities to shine come in ways no one expects. When a Russian woman moves to Rusty Nail, everyone thinks she must be a spy. After all, aren’t all Russians communists? And aren’t all communists in America spies? So while most of the town gives the new woman a cold shoulder, Frances is strangely drawn to her. She is a strange woman, it is true. But she has the most magnificent musical instruments. And Frances has heard this woman play the piano beautifully.

Could this woman be her opportunity? Can Franny convince this strange Madame Malenkov to become her teacher? Or is Franny only asking for trouble and heartache? Will she get her big chance to shine? Or will that bratty-face Nancy Orilee rob her of her destiny?

I really enjoyed certain aspects of The Rising Star of Rusty Nail. It wasn't a perfect book for me. There were lots of little things that I could have done without. But I did enjoy it.

Read Miss Erin's Review
Read Chris Shanley-Dillman's review

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Diary of A Would-be Princess


Green, Jessica. 2007. Diary of a Would-Be Princess.

Jillian James is a fifth-grader who is keeping a required journal for her teacher Mrs. Bright. At first the entries seem forced, but as the year progresses, Jillian seems really to get "into" this whole journaling concept. The journal shows her progress through the year, her changes which are mostly social. For example, Jillian starts out the year as a loner. She doesn't have any close friends. And she definitely doesn't have a best friend. She's definitely not popular like the princesses in her class. But through several school terms, we see her make friends with many other kids in the class. Often she makes friends with those the popular kids deem unworthy of existing. But together, they learn the true meaning of friendship. One thing I really liked about this book was that it showed her relationship with her teacher. Mrs. Bright would make weekly comments at the end of the week. She would offer advice. Provide counsel. Show support. I thought the narrative, Jillian's voice, was very well done as well. Jessica Green has captured some of the frustrations and angst of being that age...of being in school...of life in general. I especially especially loved Jillian's end-of-year speech on procrastination. Overall, this book was fun and enjoyable.

This book was originally published in Australia in 2005.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy


I honestly didn't know what to expect from this book. I didn't know if I'd love it or hate it. But it surprised me, I really did enjoy it. After hearing such awful awful things about the movie, I didn't have this one very high on my to read list until it started popping up in quiz results. First, the "Which Book Are You" quiz and then the "Which Sci-Fi Crew Are You" quiz. That definitely made me curious.

The book is the "story" of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect and their 'hitchhiking' adventures in the galaxy following their escape from Earth moments before its destruction. Ford is an alien who has been stranded on Earth for over a decade. He originally came to Earth to update the entry on Earth for the widely popular book Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy. Their adventures bring them face to face with some interesting people and in and out of dangerous and unique situations.

What makes this book great in my opinion...is the humor. It is just so fun to read from the very first page. It is written in a very unique, very funny narrative voice. I didn't always love the people and the places, but I always loved how the story was being told.

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Blogging Tips Meme

I've been tagged for the Blogging Tips Meme. Participate on your own site if you want to join in on the fun :)

START HERE:

It’s very simple. When this is passed on to you, copy the whole thing, skim the list and put a * star beside those that you like. (Check out especially the * starred ones.)

Add the next number (1. 2. 3. 4. 5., etc.) and write your own blogging tip for other bloggers. Try to make your tip general.

After that, tag 10 other people. Link love some friends!

Just think- if 10 people start this, the 10 people pass it onto another 10 people, you have 100 links already!

1. Look, read, and learn. **-http://www.neonscent.com/

2. Be, EXCELLENT to each other. ***-http://www.bushmackel.com/

3. Don’t let money change ya! *-http://www.therandomforest.info/

4. Always reply to your comments. *******-http://chattiekat.com/

5. Link liberally — it keeps you and your friends afloat in the Sea of Technorati. **** http://chipsquips.com/

6. Don’t give up - persistence is fertile. **-http://www.velcro-city.co.uk/

7. Give link credit where credit is due. ******-http://www.sfsignal.com/

8. Pictures say a thousand words and can usually add to any post.*** -http://scifichick.com/

9. Visit all the bloggers that leave comments for you - it's nice to know who is reading! * -http://stephaniesbooks.blogspot.com/ **

10. Make a blogger template unique: change the background colour, or add a background picture to your header. http://chris-book-a-rama.blogspot.com/

11. Ensure font size of words is not too small and colour of words don't drown in background. - http://booksloveme.blogspot.com/

12.Do at least a few of the blogging quizzes available. It lets people know a little more about you.** http://3m3am.wordpress.com

13. Even when you disagree with a blogger's post, don't leave rude comments. Always be kind. * http://apatchworkofbooks.blogspot.com

14. Join the blogosphere community. Participate in carnivals. Join challenges. Have fun. http://blbooks.blogspot.com

I tag Semicolon, The Hidden Side of A Leaf, A Life In Books, Book Nut, The Written World, Lectitans, Miss Erin, MotherReader, Farm School, In the Pages


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Friday, July 27, 2007

Poetry Friday: Elephant Poems

What An Elephant's Trunk Is Good For
by Douglas Florian

Spraying showers,
Picking flowers.
Moving your bed,
Smacking your head.
Getting cats out of trees,
Picking you up by the knees.
Holding files,
Throwing a Frisbee seventeen miles.
Giving a hug,
Squashing a bug.
Raking leaves,
Catching thieves.
Painting a wall,
Playing basketball.
(It's easy to dunk when your nose is a trunk.)

From Bing, Bang, Boing p. 86

Eletelephony
by Laura Elizabeth Richards

Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant—
No! no! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone—
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I've got it right.)
Howe'er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee—
(I fear I'd better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

Other elephant poems on the web to enjoy:

My Elephant Thinks I'm Wonderful by Ken Nesbitt
The Elephant by Hilaire Belloc
The Elephant Elevator Operator by Christopher Cerf and Norman Stiles

And here is CanTeach's page on elephant songs, poems, and finger plays:

Elephants

And these poems would work well with these fabulous picture books:

Elephants Can Paint Too by Katya Arnold, 2005
An Elephant in the Backyard by Richard Sobol, 2004
Ballet of the Elephants by Leda Schubert

Poetry Friday Roundup is at Check It Out.

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Which Author....







Which Author's Fiction are You?




Jane Austen wrote you. You are extremely aware of the power of a single word.
Take this quiz!








Quizilla |
Join

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tasting the Sky


Barakat, Ibtisam. 2007. Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood.

In this memoir, Ibtisam Barakat provides a framework for sharing her powerful and emotional story. The frame of the story is 1981. As a young woman, a teen, her bus is stopped by Israeli soldiers. The passengers are taken by the soldiers and interrogated before they are finally released to go to their destination: Ramallah.

From the very beginning, her narrative hooks the reader with its simple yet powerful style:

Birzeit is where students go to college after finishing high school in Ramallah. Some also come from Gaza, Nablus, and other cities, towns, and refugee camps. In Birzeit, many students become active in politics and have fights with the Israeli army. They chant on the streets that they want freedom from the occupation. But I did not go there to chant for freedom. I have my freedom. It is hidden in Post Office Box 34. This is what takes me from Ramallah to Birzeit.

Post Office 34 is the only place in the world that belongs to me. It belonged to my brother Basel first. He left Ramalllah and did not want to give up the box, so he passed it on to me. On the days I don’t go to Birzeit, I bury the key in the dirt under a lemon tree near our house. If I die, the key for the box will be under the ground with me.

Having this box is like having a country, the size of a tiny square, all to myself. I love to go there, dig the key out of my pocket, turn its neck around, open the door, then slowly let my hand nestle in and linger, even if the box is empty. I wish I could open my postbox every day. I feel that my hand, when deep inside it, reaches out to anyone on the other side of the world who wants to be my friend.
(8-9)

My true journal is written with no pen or paper, but in my mind, with an invisible hand in the air. No one will ever find it (12)

Tears are my secret ink, in the absence of real ink. Liquid stories. (14-15)

She continues on by saying that her many pen pals world wide are always curious about her childhood. But that up until now, she’s lived by her mother’s motto that it is better to forget the past. To forget the atrocities. To forget the fear. To forget the nightmares. But our narrator is coming to a time and place in her life where she wants to remember...needs to remember.

And thus begins the second part of our story. This second part begins on the first day of the six-day war. As a young girl (maybe three year old), her world is turned completely upside down one day when their father brings home news of the war. After a few panicked hours in a water trench in their garden, the family decides to flee their home and join the throngs of rushing refugees that are trying to reach Jordan. The family rushes to their home, takes a few belongings, and the children are ordered to put on their shoes and be ready to go right then. But this poor little girl, she is unable to lace her shoes. And she could only find one.

Initially separated by her family by the rushing crowds, Ibtisam manages to find her family later that day among the crowds. Now no matter what happens, they’ll survive or die as a family all together.

The second part of the book covers the years 1967 to 1971. It covers the war, the year or so spent as a refugee in Jordan, their return to Ramallah and the rebuilding of their homes, the continuing fear of living in a “occupied” region, and the knowledge that set a young girl free: the power to read and write.

She then returns to the frame story, 1981, and shares how telling her story has been self-empowering. And how she is no longer afraid to share with others the traumas of her past.

Like a bird flinging
Its freedom songs
Across the sky

The small girl
I once was
Sings out this story.

I see her smile.
(168)

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Which Sci-Fi Crew Quiz


Which sci-fi crew would you best fit in with? (pics)
created with QuizFarm.com

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Love Is A Many Trousered Thing


Rennison, Louise. 2007. Love Is A Many Trousered Thing.

Love Is A Many Trousered Thing is the eighth book in the Georgia Nicolson series. The first book, Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging was a simply marvelous book. Very funny. Very different. Just enjoyable all around. And each of the sequels has to a certain extent had some of the same charm and humor as the first. But for the past two books really, I'm left wondering how much longer can Georgia go on. In each book, the reader sees Georgia getting beyond annoyed at her friends, especially Jas, and being torn between two guys. Oh, and we also see her do about ten embarrassing things per book. (Okay, maybe not that many, but she does get into quite a few "I carried a watermelon" situations.) Anytime that she converses or flirts with a guy, you can pretty much bet that she'll end up saying or doing something cringe worthy. Which is part the fun I admit. It is these moments that tend to be laugh-at-loud. (Like her weird dancing when her false eyelashes glued her eyes shut on the dance floor in the club.)

But for the eighth book, there really isn't much of the original charm left to go around. Not that formulaic fiction is always a bad thing. Georgia is Georgia. Her two guys? Masimo and Robbie. The Luuurve God. And the Sex God. The original Sex God from the first book. She spends three-fourths of the book trying to even figure out if either one of these boys wants to be her boyfriend. It is probably halfway through before she even has a conversation with one of the boys in question. So the book like most of the sequels is her complaining about her parents, her complaining about her friends, and her complaining because the guy isn't calling her. Georgia is the same old Georgia. Not changed one iota from book one, day one.

You might be thinking that I hated the newest book. It's not that I hated it. I was just disappointed. I loved the books. Especially the first five books. The series was working for me. Each one was a laugh riot. I couldn't get enough of them. And the sixth book was good. I enjoyed it. It had some great moments. But the seventh and eighth books....just feel very tired...and very pointless. Louise Rennison spends 250 pages going in one big circle. You always arrive back where you started.

Confused, complaining, complaining, fighting with friends, complaining, complaining, fighting with friends, complaining, complaining, snogging, complaining, snogging, feeling guilty, complaining, snogging, confused.

What makes Love Is A Many Trousered Thing enjoyable, because there were moments I enjoyed, is the fact that Dave the Laugh plays a role. He's not actually 'in' the book much. But he plays quite an active role in her imagination and in her thought process. And they do have a couple of conversations in the book as well. But her mind does become more and more preoccupied on him. Which if you're a fan of Dave the Laugh like I am (I must admit he's my favorite) then you'll enjoy this book.

For the record:

Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging
On the Bright Side I'm now the Girlfriend of A Sex God
Knocked Out By My Nunga-Nungas
Dancing In My Nuddy Pants
Away Laughing On A Fast Camel
Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers
Startled by His Furry Shorts
Love Is A Many Trousered Thing

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Little Miss Learns Her Shapes


Shape is one of the new titles published by Little Scholastic. What is Little Scholastic? Little Scholastic is a new line by Scholastic books. You can read all about it on their official site:
http://www.scholastic.com/littlescholastic/

Many of these new titles were released on July 1, 2007. I haven't received all of the titles yet, though I have requested them from Scholastic so they should be on their way soon, but based on the titles I have received, I am very excited.

Little Scholastic books are designed for babies age 0 to 3. And as the back of the book proclaims it is a title that will "grow" with your child.

Babies: Touch the textures. Point to the images.
1-2: Look at the pictures and text. Listen and repeat the words.
2-3: Learn the concepts. Connect the meaning of the words and images.


I encourage parents to go to their site because it really is quite a resource. I especially recommend reading the article, "Why Babies Need Books" by Kate Jack. Another great article is "Quick Click: Integrating Reading Into Everyday Life for Birth to Age 2." So explore and learn...and then read, read, read!

What I liked about Shape...


I loved the visual and textual components of Shape. The colors were bright and bold. There was great contrast in the illustrations. And the textures were diverse: bumpy, smooth, rough, scratchy, sparkly, etc. The text was simple with only one to four words per page.

For example, the shape on page one was a circle. There was a picture of a car with a smiley face showing through the window. The car has black and white spiral tires. And the car was against a green background. The only words on the page were the words "circle" and "car." The next page, page two, showed a black circle--bumpy texture--against a white background. It simply said "Touch this!" and "Bumpy circle."



LittleMiss's mama writes:

LittleMiss appreciated the simplicity of the book. She stared at the brightly colored pages and her mother ran her hands across the textured shapes. There was not much text so her mother "ad-libbed" and described the items on each page. This book was also a nice size for her.

I think her smile says it all:

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AngelMonster


Bennett, Veronica. 2006. AngelMonster.

Releasing in paperback this August, AngelMonster is the exciting behind-the-scenes story of Mary W. Shelley and Percy Shelley. Mary was just sixteen when a young--but married--poet came into her father’s bookshop. The daughter of quite a famous--and radical--woman, Mary held much appeal to this romantic poet. Percy began pursuing her quite openly. Their chaperone? Mary’s stepsister Jane who was around the same age. Two young girls in love with the idea of love.

He might adore us all, but I adored only him. Handsome, brave, rebellious, gifted, and adhering without scruple to the principles of both my parents’ writings, he could do no wrong. Freedom for slaves! Freedom for women! Freedom from marriage! Freedom for all to love as, when, and where they will! And a freedom of his own, his championship of which impressed me more than any other. Freedom for the human race to live without the tyranny of religion! To my eyes he was beyond doubt a genius. I did not, indeed I could not, resist his charm. I saw no one but him, dreaming or waking. My eyes did not function unless he was there for them to look at. I fell in love so madly I almost did not recognize it as love. It was madness and nothing else. (34-35)

How strange. However much we plan, and hope, and map things in our minds, life never reads the same script as we have prepared. It tears up our predictions and laughs at us for presuming to make them. (40)

Percy Shelley had eloped with his first wife when she was but sixteen and pregnant. History repeated itself. After Shelley’s “It’s my birthday, and I want a present only you can give me” speech, Mary found herself with child. The pair ran away together--along with Jane--to Europe. Mary’s father and stepmother were beyond angry and grieved to lose both daughters to this immoral, practically penniless poet.

At first, life-on-the-run was exciting and thrilling for Mary. But soon having no money wasn’t quite as romantic. And being pregnant? Not so fun either. The book recounts their travels both in Europe and England as they look for the next-big-adventure or the next-big-burst of inspiration to come.



Along the way, the threesome meets the fellow poet Lord Byron. And the threesome becomes four as they find their way to Switzerland for the now infamous trip where the idea of Frankenstein came to life.

The book covers it all--Mary Shelley from sixteen until the death of Percy Shelley in an Italian boating accident. It covers a wide range of emotions--anger, frustration, love, devotion, loyalty, hate, bitterness, rage, pain--as Mary Shelley’s life changes time and time again...

AngelMonster is a fictional account of Mary and Percy Shelley. While many facts within are true, a few have been rearranged to fit the author’s own liking. For example, Mary Shelley in actuality wrote Frankenstein in 1818. However, in AngelMonster, Bennett doesn’t have Shelley writing and publishing Frankenstein until after her husband’s death in 1822.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. It was great. I am a big fan of Frankenstein. And I had studied Mary Shelley’s life quite in depth as a graduate student in a class on the Romantic Poets. A class that focused more on the biographies of Keats, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, and Lord Byron...than on their actual works. (Well, that’s not exactly fair, it was more fifty-fifty.)

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Monday, July 23, 2007

The Cutest Thing

Granted I'm prejudiced because I know Little Miss personally, but I think Little Miss's latest review of My Little Miracle by J. Beck & J Croyden is just too cute to be missed.

My Little Miracle


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Children's Literature Carnival


The Play's The Thing at this July issue of the Carnival of Children's Literature. You really have to explore this yourself to understand just how great this is!!!

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Exploits of A Reluctant Hero


Fergus, Maureen. 2007. Exploits of a Reluctant (But Extremely Goodlooking) Hero.

There were a few things I liked about this book. The main character wasn't one of them. It is told in first person narrative, and so if he is mentioned by name, I don't recall it...and I'm certainly not going to spend a lot of time searching the pages. The book is a series of his "taped" memoirs. The narrator gets in trouble constantly for his inappropriate behavior. And it is easy to see why. He is a typical "pig" of a thirteen year old boy on the verge of puberty. His interests are girlie magazines, fried chicken, and porn. He has a problem with authority figures. (Which shouldn't really come as a big surprise.)

The book is about how this boy "accidentally" becomes a hero for a week or so when he "accidentally" makes a stand about the local mission, the Holy Light Mission. His motivation? A cute girl. Yet somehow or other he ends up as one of the most visible supporters of keeping this soup kitchen open and funded. Will his half-hearted effort be successful? Will he finally learn something of value?

I enjoy some boy-books. For example, King Dork and The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl have their 'icky' boy moments where puberty is at work. But this book is just a little too much for me. Its humor is in all the wrong places--the bathroom. And for the most part this narrator is a complete jerk--to his parents, to his teachers, to his counselor, to his classmates. A glowing example of why junior high island should exist in the first place.

School Library Journal writes, "Fergus captures perfectly the voice of the unnamed 13-year-old narrator who is resolutely selfish and self-serving, prurient and rude, sarcastic and frequently indignant. With a penchant for girlie magazines and fried chicken, he is yearning for puberty and looking forward to Sex Ed class, since his father has not been much help in advising him."

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At the Firefly Gate


Newbery, Linda. 2007. At the Firefly Gate.

Henry is a young teen boy adjusting to his life after a move from the big city to the country. His parents have decided to buy a quaint little cottage in the English countryside. Amongst his worries about trying to make a new best friend, Henry is beginning to have questions about himself. Why is he the only one that sees a man outside waiting by the backyard gate--surrounded by fireflies--almost every evening at twilight? And why has been having these strange dreams at night about flying planes in world war II? These strange coincidences all begin to make a bit more sense when he meets his neighbors. One family has a great-aunt living with them, a woman named Dottie. She takes a special liking to Henry. And the two begin an unusual friendship. They play Scrabble together for hours. And they talk about 'the good old days.' Well, Dottie talks and Henry listens. But the strange thing is, some of what Dottie describes is exactly like the dreams he has been having. For example, when she tells him of how she met her wartime sweetheart, Henry, Henry already knows. He dreamed about it days or weeks ago. Yes, this is a time for strange things to be happening...

At the Firefly Gate is an enjoyable read.

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Grief Girl


Vincent, Erin. 2007. Grief Girl: My True Story

Erin Vincent suffered great loss as a young teen--the loss of both of her parents.

I am just like you.
I get bored in school.
I goof off with my friends.
I fight with my family.
I have big dreams.
I am just like anyone else.
And then, in a split second, I'm not.
This is my story


It is a coming-of-age in the midst of grief story. It tells how Erin and her older sister, Tracy, and her baby brother, Trent, deal with the loss of their parents. How their lives change and don't change. It begins in 1983 and concludes in 1986. It's about family. It's about friendships. It's about first jobs. It's about growing up and finding yourself.

It is an emotional book. There are highs and lows in her journey to adulthood. And there are places along the way that are difficult to read about. But overall, I think it is a well written book that many will enjoy reading.

We get sent ugly flowers. The kind you only send to dead people because no one living should have to look at such crap. The house is full of unattractive carnations. Vases of flowers line Dad's bar...They're laughing at me. I'm living in a funeral home. (43)

http://www.griefgirl.com/

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sssh: The Great Cape Rescue


Shalant, Phyllis. 2007. The Society of Super Secret Heroes: The Great Cape Rescue.

Finch and his three best friends, Elliot, Rajiv, and Kevin, are enthusiastic superheroes wannabes. They spend their free time writing and illustrating the comic book adventures of two superhero ferrets. But Mimi, Finch's older sister, teases him that now he's about to be in fourth grader, he shouldn't pretend anymore. After all, wouldn't his classmates tease him if they knew the he and his friends spent all summer pretending to be superheroes with super powers? So reluctantly, Finch sees that maybe some times are best left at home. No more playground fun as superheroes.

But a 'mysterious' towel has other ideas. As a child, his mother bought Finch a green towel with lightning bolts and sewn on strings. A cape to make any superhero proud. But those days are long behind him, he thinks. But then he starts hearing a strange voice in his head. And then, his friends start hearing this mystery voice too. Could this towel be the incredible Thinking Cape?

4 fourth grade boys, 1 glorified green towel, and 1 secret oath make for a very funny, lighthearted read that many youngsters will enjoy.

I promise to do my best to help others at all times, to fight only for truth and justice, never for selfish or evil ends, but to solve problems by thinking, not fighting, whenever I can. As a member of the Society of Super Secret Heroes, I will carry out all missions without ever letting anyone know that it was me. I will protect the Thinking Cape from falling into the hands of ordinary people. And most of all, I will keep my true identity hidden and the SSSh a secret until I die. (62-63)

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Leepike Ridge


Wilson, N.D. 2007. Leepike Ridge.

Let me just say this right up front. It had me at hello. Seriously. Could there be a better first sentence?

In the history of the world there have been lots of onces and lots of times, and every time has had a once upon it.

But it continues.

Most people will tell you that the once upon a time happened in a land far, far away, but it really depends on where you are. The once upon a time may have been just outside your back door. It may have been beneath your very feet. It might not have been in a land at all but deep in the sea's belly or bobbing around on its beck.

Does this book not cry out to be read?

Thomas Hammond is an eleven-year-old boy who is about to take part in a very exciting, very dangerous accidental adventure. When he goes on his night-time stroll, he never expected this to happen. What is the this? Well, let's just say that his idea to float on a foam "raft" from the refrigerator packaging was not his brightest or his best. He was upset. He was bored. And I suppose a part of him did want to get away from it all. After all, who wants their mom to get remarried to a guy like Jeffrey Veatch...but he wasn't trying to run away, and he certainly wasn't planning on almost drowning...and getting lost in an underground cave in the mountains. But what's done can't be undone. You can't wake up and have it all be a dream--a bad dream--though Tom certainly tries. Leepike Ridge is an exciting mystery, a survival novel. One that will keep you hooked until the very last page.

Yes, I loved, loved, loved this one. I loved the style. I loved the characters. I loved the pacing.
I will definitely be recommending this one over and over again.

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Masquerade

de la Cruz, Melissa. 2007. Masquerade.

Masquerade is the sequel to Blue Bloods, a fast-paced vampire adventure released in 2006. The book begins roughly a few weeks or months after the conclusion of Blue Bloods. In the first book, our main character Schuyler promised to go to Venice to look for her grandfather. It was her grandmother's last request. This book, Masquerade, opens with her on her last days of her trip in Venice. Her quest to find her grandfather, Lawrence Van Alen, is just the first step she must take if she's to restore peace and order in this coven of classy vampires. The book also is narrated from Mimi's point of view and Bliss's point of view. Both characters from the previous book. The story is exciting, fast-paced. And one unfolding mystery. As such, I'm not going to describe the plot in ANY detail whatsoever because I don't want to spoil it.

I recommend this book to those that love vampire lit...and for fans of YA drama/adventure in general.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Poetry Friday: 2 for Tossy



Today I am 'dedicating' two poems to my nephew-kitty, Tossy. The first one comes from Nikki Grimes' new book, When Gorilla Goes Walking. It is a picture book poetry collection of poems about a gray cat named Gorilla and her owner, Cecilia.

Little Miss Fussy

by Nikki Grimes

Gorilla is fussy
about what she eats.
She turns up her nose
at the usual treats.

Forget the canned fish,
and chicken, and liver.
Gorilla likes soul food,
so that's what I give her.




Tossy certainly doesn't eat soul food. But he does love cheese. And ham. And chicken-and-dumplings. And pizza. And yogurt. And ice cream. And sour cream. And cool whip. And milk. And he definitely lets you know he wants your food. Which leads me to my second poem...

Under The Table Manners

Author Unknown

It's very hard to be polite
If you're a cat.
When other folks are up at table
Eating all that they are able,
You are down upon the mat
If you're a cat.

You're expected just to sit
If you're a cat.
Not to let them know you're there
By scratching at the chair,
Or a light, respected pat
If you're a cat.

You are not to make a fuss
If you're a cat.
Tho' there's fish upon the plate
You're expected just to wait,
Wait politely on the mat
If you're a cat.

I found this second poem at CatQuotes.com.

Poetry Friday round-up is at Mentor Texts & More.


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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Something About Me List

Here is the long-awaited list of books I'll be reading and reviewing for the Something About Me Reading Challenge hosted by Lisa at breakingforth.blogspot.com.

From Sarah Miller's List I am reading All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things by Robert Fulghum.

From Sally, a.book.in.the.life, and Vasilly, I will be reading So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson.

From Rhinoa's list, I'll be reading Lord of the Rings.

From bookworm, Pattie, I'll be reading Pride & Prejudice.

Alternates I'm considering:

From Athena's list, Peter Pan.

From Tiny Little Librarian's list Gallery of Regrettable Food by James Lileks

From Booklogged's List, I am considering Number the Stars and/or The Tale of Despereaux.

From Karlene's list, I'm thinking Dune or The Secret Life of Bees.

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Another Quiz from Blue Pyramid




You're Davidson College!

You love your mama, Jesus, and America too. But rather than
finding yourself in free-fall, you've been on the rise lately, as people
have flocked to see you. Of all the wars that have been fought, you felt
the Revolutionary War was most justified. Cherish is a word you use to
describe all the feelings you have deep inside. If you were a book, it
would be Charlotte's Web.



Take the University Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

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Bad Tickets


O'Dell, Kathleen. 2007. Bad Tickets.

1967. In the months leading up to the "Summer of Love." Two teenage girls, Catholic-school girls, are about to begin living life in a whole new way. Before Mary Margaret met Jane Stephens, she was somewhat of an ordinary girl. Not a risk-taker. Not progressive. Not shockingly wild. A good girl. A proper girl. But Jane. Jane's another story. She has her own way to do things, and it's a way that is more often than not frowned upon by the Catholic church. Two girls. Two very different girls. They want different things from life. Have different goals, hopes, and dreams. As the girls experiment with living life, meeting boys, partying, and some "recreational" drug use, the girls' learn some life lessons. Some good. Some bad. But the lesson that Mary Margaret learns the most is how to be a true friend. An unforgettable coming-of-age story.

http://www.kathleenodell.com/

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Peek-a-Zoo


Little Scholastic is a new line by Scholastic books. You can read all about it on their official site:
http://www.scholastic.com/littlescholastic/

Many of these new titles were released on July 1, 2007. I haven't received all of the titles yet, though I have requested them from Scholastic so they should be on their way soon, but based on the one title I have received, I am very excited.

Little Scholastic books are designed for babies age 0 to 3. And as the back of the book proclaims it is a title that will "grow" with your child.

Babies: Touch the textures. Point to the images.
1-2: Look at the pictures and text. Listen and repeat the words.
2-3: Learn the concepts. Connect the meaning of the words and images.


I encourage parents to go to their site because it really is quite a resource. I especially recommend reading the article, "Why Babies Need Books" by Kate Jack. Another great article is "Quick Click: Integrating Reading Into Everyday Life for Birth to Age 2." So explore and learn...and then read, read, read!

My thoughts on Peek-a-Zoo:

I liked the brightness of the colors. I thought they were very bold, very striking. There are some great contrasts going on. There were also plenty of textures for babies to touch and feel. (rough, bumpy, soft, furry, smooth, squishy, etc.) The cut-outs were very fun. And the mirror, well, I'll let SugarCookie do the talking there! So this book had a lot to offer visually and texturally.



SugarCookie's thoughts on Peek-a-Zoo:

SugarCookie is ten months old. While he had no problems maneuvering the pages of Eric Carle's My Very First Book of Animal Sounds, he found Peek-A-Zoo to be a bit more tricky. He needed help to turn the pages. He liked to try to turn the pages. But he would try to turn the pages by grabbing the cut-outs on the inside of the book. Which sometimes worked, most times didn't. But fortunately, he had help turning the pages and was able to 'read' the whole book. Again, I wasn't concerned with the reading aspect. It was more of watching to see how we responded to the pictures and textures. He did like to point at the pictures. And he did discover the differences between the textures. But what SugarCookie loved most of all was playing with the mirror on one of the pages. Thanks to the cut-outs, this mirror was available to see on two of the pages. He liked watching himself. He liked making faces. But he really, really liked going nose to nose and mouth to mouth. I don't know if he was trying to kiss himself or what. (I just think that's something kids like to do universally...to play with noses and mouths on mirrors.) But I do know this: he loved it. SugarCookie didn't find this book tasty. Surprisingly enough, he didn't even try once to put the corners of the book in his mouth. I guess he was having too much fun looking and feeling to give it the taste test. Regardless, I think it's a safe bet to assume that he enjoyed his Sunday morning visit with Peek-a-Zoo.



Looking for more board books review, today our other baby reviewer, LittleMiss, reviewed two books.

Two Reviews By LittleMiss

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Animal Quiz




You're a Camel!

You're never thirsty and have prided yourself on rejecting the
recommendation that you drink 8 glasses of water a day. You recommend that you store
yourself in a cool, dry place, or perhaps a hot, dry place... really as long as it's
dry, it works for you. You have a dry sense of humor, like dry martinis, and prefer
cleaning to be dry. You've been known to walk around the house making noises like
Chewbacca the wookie. Your favorite day of the week is Wednesday.



Take the Animal Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.



I wouldn't really think much of the quiz....but how on earth did they know my favorite day of the week is Wednesday????? And Chewbacca.....that's just uncanny.

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All the Other Things I Really Need To Know...


Marinaccio, Dave. 1998. All the Other Things I Really Need To Know I Learned From Watching Star Trek the Next Generation.

Last week, I reviewed Dave Marinaccio's other Star Trek book. The one written about the original series. The books are very different from one another. This second one is organized by character. And it seems to flow better. It has some logic and order in how things are presented. There seems to be less rambling. And overall, I enjoyed it a bit more. Which shouldn't really surprise you if you know me.

I'll admit it now. I'm a Next Generation girl. I was in elementary school when the series premiered. I still remember the glory of it all. It was a BIG, BIG, BIG deal at my house. Every week we'd sit together as a family and watch as the magic of television took us to galaxies far, far away:

"Space... The final frontier...
These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.
Its continuing mission:
To explore strange new worlds...
To seek out new life and new civilisations...
To boldly go where no one has gone before!"

Every week we'd faithfully watch the show. It became a part of our lives. And I was more than a little upset to see it end. It was a show that without a doubt held the top-honored spot as favorite until Stargate SG-1 came along many years later. Now if only some brilliant person out there would write a book called All The Things I Really Need To Know I Learned from Watching Stargate. :)

What both shows have in common--besides the obvious--is that each episode is a chance for daddy-daughter bonding time. Always have been, always will be. And each episode--for the most part--invites repeated viewings. You don't get tired of watching these shows. They're just too good. Some I could watch over, and over, and over again all in the same day.

Another thing they have in common? Wonderful, amazingly hummable, can't-get-enough-of-them theme songs that make me happy. (Really, really happy.) There is no fast-forwarding allowed when I'm around.



Without words:



With words:

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Among the Hidden


Haddix, Margaret Peterson. 1998. AMONG THE HIDDEN.

Among the Hidden is the first in a seven book science fiction series entitled the Shadow Children. Luke is a third child. That alone sets him apart. Makes his very existence a threat to the status quo. In a world where the Population Police have not only ruled that each family is only allowed two children...but where they enforce the law with deadly force, Luke’s existence puts his whole family at risk. Before his twelfth birthday party, Luke’s life was restricted but not unbearable. For a child who’s never known the joy of going shopping, going to school, having friends outside his immediate family, he cannot miss these things. But when his family’s farm’s neighboring land (woods, farmlands, etc) becomes prime real estate development...then his world does change. Suddenly, he’s not allowed outside even in the backyard. No longer can he run and play in the yard. To help in the garden. He can’t even be allowed near any windows--whether the blinds are drawn or not--for fear someone might see his shadow. Restricted almost exclusively to the attic, Luke’s life seems one of lonely despair. But when he sees another face in the window of a neighbor’s house--one who shouldn't be there because she has two older brothers--he begins to realize that he might not be alone after all. He then has to weigh the risks. Is it worth finding a friend if it jeopardizes his life in hiding? What if he’s caught? What if they’re both caught? Is it better to be safe and hidden? Or is there another way to live--a better way to live?

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Bookworms Carnival


Bookworms Carnival first edition is up and running at The Hidden Side of A Leaf. The theme is novels. I was happy to submit a post this time around and I would encourage all of you fellow bloggers to participate in the next edition of the carnival!!! The second edition of the Bookworms Carnival will be hosted at Reading is My Superpower and the theme will be Surviving the Dog Days of Summer: Books That Take Your Mind off the Heat. The deadline to submit is August 10. So you've got a little bit of time to pick that perfect book to review.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

You might be interested....

A few of you may be interested in reading today's Reading with Becky post entitled "How I Got Started." In the post, I talk about how I got started blogging (and a little bit about why) and explain my process of reading, reviewing, and blogging.

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Better Than Life


Pennac, Daniel. 1994. Better Than Life. Translated from the French by David Homel.

Better Than Life is the book that contains the 'Readers' Bill of Rights.' Ten little rules that could potentially change the way a parent parents or how a teacher teaches. (What does a librarian do I wonder? Would it be libraries?) I would encourage everyone to read my "behind-the-scenes" reflections of Better Than Life. Among other things I discuss the why's and how's of how I became a reader...and who I dearly thank for this obsession.




1. The Right to Not Read
2. The Right to Skip Pages
3. The Right to Not Finish
4. The Right to Reread
5. The Right To Read Anything
6. The Right to Escapism
7. The Right to Read Anywhere
8. The Right to Browse
9. The Right to Read Out Loud
10. The Right to Not Defend Your Tastes

Brilliant little rights, aren't they? The book generally tells adults (be they parents, teachers, librarians, or educators) that their insistence that a child or teen must read or must read that specific book drains any and all joy away from the process of reading. Reading is something that is done for pleasure. Make it a requirement. Make it forced. And watch the torture begin. If you want your child/teen to actually be a lifelong reader, you've got to give him/her the rights that real readers have naturally collected. Pennac's argument is essentially that if you look at adults who are readers--adults who love reading and make time for it--they tend to live by these rules. These unspoken rules.

Here are some of my favorite lines:

To reread is not necessarily to repeat. To reread is to provide fresh proof of enduring love. (66)

The cult of reading is a product of the oral tradition. You'll have to become its high priest if you want to propagate it. (88)

If you have to ask yourself where you'll find the time [to read], it means the desire isn't there. Because, if you look at it more carefully, no one has the time to read. Children don't, teenagers don't, adults don't. Life is a perpetual plot to keep us from reading. (145)

Time spent reading is always time stolen. (146)

I've never had the time to read. But no one has ever kept me from finishing a novel I loved. Reading does not belong to the societal organization of time. Like love, it is a way of being. The issue is not whether or not I have the time to read...but whether I will allow myself the joy of being a reader. (146-147)

If we want our sons, our daughters, all young people to read, we must grant them the same rights we grant ourselves. (171)

Another thing I enjoyed about this book is how he compares the act of learning to read to that of alchemy--turning lead to gold.

Lead into gold. Nothing less. He had just turned lead into gold...You never get over that transformation. You don't return from a voyage like that unchanged. No matter how inhibited, the pleasure of reading presides over every act of reading. By its nature, its alchemical sensuality, the pleasure of reading has no fear of visual media, not even the daily avalanche of pictures on the TV screen. (47-48)

Read more...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

What Book Are You Quiz

I admit I took this quiz more than once. I dare you not to do the same. The questions change depending on how you answer. Sort've like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Book. There are endless, endless possibilities.





You're The Hobbit!

by J.R.R. Tolkien

All you wanted was a nice cup of tea when some haggard crazy old man
came into your life and told you it was time to do something with yourself. Now you're
all conflicted about whether to stick with your stay-at-home lifestyle or follow this
crazy person into the wild. While you're very short and a little furry, you seem to be
surrounded by an even greater quantity of short folks lately. Try not to lose your ring,
but keep its value in perspective!



Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.




You're The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy!

by Douglas Adams

Considered by many to be one of the funniest people around, you are
quite an entertainer. You've also traveled to the far reaches of what you deem possible,
often confused and unsure of yourself. Life continues to jostle you around like a marble,
but it's shown you so much of the world that you don't care. Wacky adventures continue to
lie ahead. Your favorite number is 42.

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Meme Time

I found this one at The Hidden Side of A Leaf a great blog to lose yourself in if you've got the time.

A book you’ve read more than once:

Ender's game by Orson Scott Card

A book you would take on a desert island:

The Bible. 66 books in 1.

A book that made you cry:

The Notebook by Nicolas Sparks. Charlotte's Web. The list could be endless. I don't always cry with books, but at movies...sometimes I'm helplessly hopeless.

A book that scared you:

As a rule of thumb, I don't read scary books. I avoid the "horror" genre mostly. If I think a book will *scare* me, I don't read it. This book creeped me out though: The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos. But the reaction wasn't *fear* just great, great dislike.

A book that made you laugh out loud:

This one is easy. Anything Georgia Nicolson. I love Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging. Love the whole series really. But for a lesser-known work, I really liked Anguished English and sequels by Richard Lederer.

A book that disgusted you:

Another easy one. This time I'd have to say Philippa Gregory's Wideacre. To be hailed as somewhat literary--with a bookclub reading guide and everything--it has a shocking amount of stuff: rape, murder, s&m fetishes, incest, just to name a few. How does a woman portrayed as having an ongoing sexual relationship with her brother (her full-brother, not a half-brother or step-brother) for years and years and years make fans out of the readers????

A book you loved in preschool:

Umbrella by Taro Yashima

A book you loved in elementary school:

The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

A book you loved in middle school:

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

A book you loved in high school:

Anne series by L.M. Montgomery. I just loved, loved, loved Anne Shirley. Had a crush on Gilbert too.

A book you hated in high school:

Anything assigned by Mrs. Lippe. It's true. But if I had to pick just one, I'd probably go with Silas Marner.

A book you loved in college:

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.

A book that challenged your identity:

I'm not quite sure what the originator of this meme meant by "challenged" so I'll begin by saying what I think it means. If the question is what book has made you reflect/ponder/question/change your perception of yourself and how you see the world...I'd probably go with the Bible.

A series that you love:

I love too many series. I love Percy Jackson. I love the Chronicles of Narnia. I love Ramona. I love the Shadow Children series by Haddix. The Ender series by Card.

Your favorite horror book:
I don't read horror. But if Frankenstein counts as horror, then that would be my choice. I do love Frankenstein. I've read it probably three or four times.

Your favorite science fiction book:

Ender's Game. Really the whole Ender series. I love OSC.

Your favorite fantasy book:

I love the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. I love the Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley. I love the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

Your favorite mystery:

I don't like "mystery" mysteries. I don't like the typical murder mystery or crime-solving mystery. That's not my thing. I don't mind a little bit of mystery in other genres though. I like having puzzles to solve and holes to fill in with the plot. I just don't want there to be a dead body and suspects.

Your favorite biography:

The Cage by Ruth Minsky Sender. I love many Holocaust memoirs actually.

Your favorite classic:

I really love the Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas.

Your favorite romance book:

I love Julia Quinn. Love, love, love her. But my favorite is Romancing Mister Bridgerton. It is by Quinn. And it is in the middle of her Bridgerton series.

Your favorite book not on this list:

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

What book are you currently reading?

I am reading Esme Raji Codell's How To Get Your Child To Love Reading. It's more of a reference book I'm browsing. I am reading other books on the side. But I'm in-between novels at the moment.

What book have you been meaning to read:

I have a whole stack of them. There are the books authors and publishers have sent me that are waiting to be read. There is the stack of books from Christian publishers and authors that are waiting to be read. There are the books I've borrowed from Dr. Vardell for the Librarians' Choices class/group/project that are waiting to be read. And there are three or four library books waiting to be read. All are blog-related.

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Technical Difficulties

If you've noticed that Becky's Book Reviews has been loading more slowly than usual... I have now fixed the problem, I think. Let me know if you're still having troubles. Thanks, Sarah, for pointing this problem out! I thought it was just me and my five year old Mac having the difficulty.

The problem? Apparently blogger didn't like loading the new *blidgets* I had added to the sidebar. So although I find them cute, they've been removed from this site.

http://www.widgetbox.com/widget/beckys-book-reviews
http://www.widgetbox.com/widget/beckys-christian-reviews
http://www.widgetbox.com/widget/reading-with-becky

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Poetry Friday: Phyllis

There have been many people in my life who have encouraged, supported, and inspired me. Dr. Phyllis Bridges is one such person. Not many professors can inspire respect, fear, and loyalty. But Dr. Bridges can and does. She is more than a mentor, she is my friend. I love her for so many reasons. And this poem expresses some of the reasons why.


Phyllis

By Judith Viorst

You knew me when I didn't know myself
And when I lose myself you find me.
Whenever things get bad
And I forget the good I've had,
You help remind me.

I tell you of my joys. My joys increase.
I tell my sorrows. They diminish.
And when I want to quit
You keep me going, bit by bit,
Until I finish.

Friendship is an art and you have made
The act of friendship your great art form.
I know that I can bear
The biggest chill because you're there
To keep my heart warm.

The poem is from Judith Viorst's Sad Underwear and Other Complications.

The poetry friday round-up is at Chicken Spaghetti this week.

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Important Announcement

We have just three days to plan for a very important event: Tell An Author You Care Day is Monday, July 16, 2007. The event/day is planned by Emily of Whimsy Books and Deliciously Clean Reads fame. I plan to do my part and participate on at least two if not all three of my blogs!!!

Why the enthusiasm? I feel every day should be Tell An Author You Care day. Since I've been blogging, one of the greatest life lessons that I've learned is that authors *do care* what their readers think! And they like hearing from fans. (Not everyone I've emailed has written me back, but I'm ecstatic when I do hear back from an author!) Of course not every author has an official home page. And not every author lists their email on the web. But I believe that with enough advanced notice, you can plan on mailing old-fashioned letters to the care of the author's publisher. So start thinking....

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Are You Like Your Mom?

You Are Totally Like Your Mom

You and your mom are practically clones.
You think alike, and you even seem to read each other's minds.
You're definitely you're mother's child... and that's just fine with you.

Read more...

New Website

I have started a new blog called Reading with Becky (http://readingwithbecky.blogspot.com/) that will take the place of the failed/aborted blogs "Becky's Book Guides" and "Book Highlights". The concept or general idea behind the blog is to provide an even more casual behind-the-scenes look at my life as a reader and blogger. I will blog about books before and after I've "officially" reviewed them here. And I may post about books that I'm wanting to read or am in the process of reading. And I will be using that other site as a place to post some of my favorite lines (quotes) that I come across as I'm reading. I will also be scaling/rating what I read on that site. So consider it an extended edition/remix of Becky's Book Reviews and Becky's Christian Reviews. An optional appendix for your reading pleasure.

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All I Really Need To Know I Learned...


Marinaccio, Dave. 1994. All I Really Need to Know I Learned From Watching Star Trek.

It isn't true. At least not for me. But the book is funny. And light. And enjoyable. And there are laugh-out-loud funny moments where it is pure joy to read. The author, Dave Marinaccio, is in advertising. He apparently uses/used Star Trek references every day on the job. And he's from that generation--the generation where Star Trek was the best, the coolest, most awesome thing ever to be on tv. Me? Not so much. Star Trek was on when I was a kid--in reruns of course--but it was always past my bedtime. Sure, there were a few occasions where I was 'allowed' to watch the opening credits...but that is about as far as my exposure went. I do remember probably being ten or eleven when a weekend marathon of Star Trek came on. I remember watching a few episodes then. But exposure to two to four episodes does not a true fan make.

I started watching the original series of Star Trek in 2006. One of the local channels started carrying reruns on Sunday nights. One new episode. One repeat episode. (The repeat being the episode that ran the week before.) So slowly but surely, my exposure was growing. Then my dad and I chanced upon two seasons of Star Trek used. The time had come. (The third season I used one of my Borders coupons to get for those dying of curiosity). He, of course, had watched the show as a kid/teen. He knew every episode backwards and forwards. So Star Trek became a part of my life. I should amend that to the original Star Trek show became a part of my life. We watched the first two seasons of the show within a period of three or four months. (We're still not done with the third season. We've lost momentum.)

For me, the show is not a great work of art like Marinaccio enthusiastically proclaims it to be. It is absurdly funny. The dialogue is laughable. The costumes and makeup of the aliens are often nonsensically comical. The fact that Kirk will fall in love (and make out) with the female of practically any humanoid species no matter how evil OR how ugly is ridiculous. (Ugly hags with green or blue hair???? Really???) And there are many times when watching him on screen I am just overwhelmed by how bad the acting is. But it's an enjoyably stupid show. A show that while absurd-to-me genuinely reflects a part of our cultural heritage. Like eating Chef Boyardee Ravioli as a grown-up. Like reading the Babysitters Club books as an adult. There are probably five or six episodes that I really love. But the rest just range from average to rolling eyes and cringing. (The episode where Spock plays music and sings a song while alien hippies take over the ship. Who wouldn't cringe???)

But what I do love about the show. What I honestly love about the show is the friendship. I love how Spock, Kirk, and McCoy work together, interact together. I love how the relationships build over the shows. I love the dialogue exchanges. I love the insults. I love the rare glimpses of emotion that shine through between-the-lines when it comes to Spock and McCoy. That is what makes the show noteworthy to me.

If I've learned anything from Star Trek, it's the fact that you should always, always, always back away slowly and surely from geometric shapes. When you see a floating geometric shape--you should never go closer for examination.

Of course, Marinaccio's point is that you should NEVER fear the unknown. That you should boldly encounter new things--people, places, circumstances--boldly. No fear. He thinks Star Trek teaches you or shows you that you should have no fear. I disagree. Cautious is better than bold in most circumstances. Maybe not for a starship captain. But for the rest of us on Earth. Better caution and careful preparation for facing the unknown...than to rush into situations you know nothing about.

"Anyone with even a passing interest in Star Trek should know this rule: Never, ever, ever wear a red shirt--not under any circumstances. Don't do it. Pick any episode, Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, a series regular like Uhura and some guy you've never seen before are standing on the transporter pad. If the guy is wearing a red shirt, he will not live past the first commercial. Somewhere on the planet below certain death awaits. I've watched these guys in red shirts get shot, be blown up, be disintegrated, have all their blood drained, have every cell in their body explode and otherwise meet the most painful and horrible deaths imaginable. The endings aren't even especially heroic. First a guy beams down, then he's dead. At least it's usually quick. Nine times out of ten, the poor fellow doesn't have a clue what hit him. Within seconds, Bones examines the fallen crewman with a tricorder, turns to the captain and says, 'He's dead, Jim.' By the next scene it's as if the guy never existed. There's no wake, no funeral and most of the time his name is never spoken again." (68-69)

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Beige


Castellucci, Cecil. 2007. Beige.

It isn't always easy to be the daughter of a punk rock legend as Castellucci clearly shows in her newest novel, Beige. Katy, the daughter of 'The Rat', is only supposed to be visiting her famous dad for two and a half weeks while her mom goes on her research trip to South America. But when her mom's trip becomes extended, Katy realizes that she might just have to find a way to live with her dad after all. (Not that she calls him Dad.) Life is full of adjustments as she settles in to what has now become her life. Even though she never expected to have fun...she is beginning to realize that friends can come in all varieties. Lake, Lake Suck if you want to be precise, is the daughter of Sam, her dad's punk rock bandmate. Lake has been *bribed* to spend the summer hanging out with her. And while their actual friendship is a long time in coming, the girls eventually realize that they're more alike than anyone ever thought possible. Katy might just learn something during this trip...if she can relax enough to listen to herself. Katy will learn to ask herself some hard questions during the course of the novel..."who am I" type questions that will redefine her in many ways and change her perspective on life, love, and family.

This book is all about self-discovery, growing up, making friends, learning life lessons. It is a fun read, but not a 'clean' one. So stay away if fictional language, sex, alcohol and drug references frighten you.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Still Pondering

As August 1, 2007, is getting closer and closer...I've been spending more and more time each day trying to create my list for the Something About Me Reading Challenge hosted by Lisa at breakingforth.blogspot.com. A less obsessed person would take ten minutes and choose five or six books and be done with it. But I am not less obsessed. I am above and beyond obsessed when it comes to reading, challenges, and making lists. Which makes for very enthusiastic reviews. Very passionate conversations. But some frantic times as well.

Things I know for certain:

From Sarah Miller's List I am reading All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things by Robert Fulghum. (I may read Zel if I get the chance. But it's at the inconvenient branch of the library.)

From Sally, a.book.in.the.life, Vasilly, I will be reading So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson.

These two books I've checked out from my library today.

Things I'm somewhat certain of...

I am still craving Lord of the Rings from Rhinoa's list even though I know it is insane to tackle that book while trying to be responsible with all my commitments.

Tiny Little Librarian's Gallery of Regrettable Food by James Lileks still looks like it would be fun. I had planned to check it out this trip, but it was gone. Hopefully, I'll be able to catch it sometime between now and December.

Things I'm still on the fence about...

Booklogged's Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading by Maureen Corrigan (NF) sounds intriguing but since my library only has it in audio book, I'm not sure I could make myself read it. Audiobooks, for me, can sometimes be more trouble than they're worth.

And there are several on this list that I've already committed myself to reading for other challenges. But the Book Awards Challenge goes through June. And so I may not get to these for a while since I'll most likely trying to tackle Lord of the Rings. (To Kill A Mockingbird, Gone With The Wind) So I could crosspost my reviews.

Peter Pan is tempting me. It is on Athena's list. But I've already read it several times. I just haven't read it since starting my blog. And somehow it seems unfair to all those other books to pick one I'm already so-in-love with.

Also Pride & Prejudice. There are several Austen-related books coming out this year...and she is just so so good. I may not be able to resist this one. (bookworm, Pattie)

So the good news is I'm fairly certain on three of my titles.

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Broken Moon


Antieau, Kim. 2007. Broken Moon.

Set in Pakistan, Broken Moon is the emotional story of a brother and sister in crisis. Nadira is a young teen girl (14? 15?) who has been badly scarred by some of the villagers as revenge against her older brother. (Someone claimed her brother 'ruined' his sister...therefore, they will do the same to his sister.) Umar, her younger brother, was still a baby when this occurred. So her scarred face is the one he knows and loves best. The family has been through hard times, her father has since died. Her mother and brother are living with her aunt and uncle and cousins. But Nadira works for another family as a servant. It is a job she is thankful for since she is really the only one that can provide for her family now. Her older brother (or is it brothers?) has been neglecting his responsibility to his family for years. He doesn't care that his mother and siblings are living in complete poverty.

When Nadira's brother Umar is sold to traders to become a camel jockey, she is determined to fight for her brother. She cannot understand how anyone--especially someone they knew--could agree to sell another human being. So Nadira disguises herself as a boy and also becomes desert-bound to be a camel jockey. She is hoping that she will be able to find her brother and find a way for them both to be free.

It is a dangerous journey, a dangerous lifestyle. With only a little hope and a lot of desperation and determination, it is up to Nadira to save her family and make a better life for everyone. Can the will of one woman really be that strong?

http://www.kimantieau.com/index.htm

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ender's Game


It is time to talk about an old friend. Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. A novel that has become without a doubt my most favorite book in the entire world. Okay, so you might think I'm a bit overly dramatic at times. (I've been told this countless times.) But this time, I really, really mean it. (You still don't believe me, do you?) To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born. No, I wasn't born loving Ender's Game, but sometimes it feels like it. (Yes, it was that life-changing.) It was seven years ago. The fall of 2000. I was taking a Master's level class in Children's Literature. The professor was Dr. Betty Carter. Ender's Game was a required book for the class. Up until that point, I had never read a science fiction book. Never heard of Orson Scott Card. Never even heard of the Nebula and Hugo awards. I was in for quite a surprise. I liked it, I really liked it. Melodramatic as it sounds, this book opened up a new world for me. I began to devour anything and everything Orson Scott Card. I began to spend my weekends searching used bookstores for copies of his works. And I began to obsessively check his official website maybe not every day but more than three times a week. I especially fell in love with his "Uncle Orson Reviews Everything" columns. And as my whole family--even extended family--can tell you, I began centering whole conversations around Orson Scott Card. Did you know that he.....Guess what OSC thinks about this....If OSC likes a movie, then I'll see it. (Although I don't always always agree with him on everything.) If he recommends a book, I try to read it. (I especially read it if it's a kid or YA book since that's my passion.) So maybe it's not normal to know what your favorite author likes to watch on tv...but if he chooses to write about it...then I might as well read it and remember it like trivia. Why is Ender's Game such a life-changing book? Yes, it is wonderful. Yes, it is practically perfect in every way. Yes, I could read it a hundred times and never get bored with it. But it did much more than that. Now, when you ask me to list my top ten books...or my top twenty books...it's hard for me not to make the majority of my list Orson Scott Card.

Ender's Game is the novel that started it all. It remains my favorite and my best. My second favorite would probably be Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus.

What makes Ender's Game so perfect? The characters. Yes, there is action. Yes, there is a war. But it is the characters that draw you in. It is Ender and Valentine and Peter that make you keep turning the pages. I think OSC gets characters in a way that few other authors do. He creates thoroughly human characters.

Andrew Wiggin "Ender" shows readers that it is not easy to be a hero. That 'saving the world' demands great sacrifice and selflessness. A hero's life is not a happy life. Yet a hero is what the world needs when the story opens. Set hundreds of years in the future, Ender's Game shows an Earth that has survived two alien invasions. The "Buggers" (an insect-like alien race) have been defeated twice. But the war--though over--carries on. As long as this alien race is out there somewhere, the Earth could still be in danger. Therefore, the world has united as one to fight their common enemy. The brightest and best children are taken from countries all over the world to Battle School. This school is a space station. The children--ranging in age from six to sixteen--are trained from the very beginning by the military. Everything has a purpose--from the "video games" that psychoanalyze each student to the battle games the children play in zero gravity. The military--the powers that be--believe Ender to be the savior that the world has been looking for all these years. And they will devote their lives to ensuring that he becomes exactly the kind of hero they need for the final battle that is to come. The problem? Such training is not healthy psychologically. These children aren't really children. They're being raised to kill and destroy the enemy as defined by the powers that be. They're being taught to hate. They're being taught to love war....to love battle...to love competition. They don't know about love. They don't know about kindness. They don't know about mercy and compassion. Most forget what life was like on Earth altogether. They've forgotten about their families, their homes, their customs. In other words, they've forgotten just why Earth is worth defending and protecting. The war has become a game to them almost. A fight for the sake of fighting.

To read a more in-depth review (also written by me) click here. Although I'll warn you now, there are spoilers. It was written for a class. And in writing assignments like those, it is all about summary and analysis. And you can't analyze a book without discussing the ending!

My Author Study Paper on Orson Scott Card

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