Saturday, August 29, 2009

Reading Rainbow

Yesterday I was greatly saddened to hear that Reading Rainbow was being canceled after 26 years of inspiring children to read. The show is as old as I am and I remember watching LeVar Burton introduce me to all sorts of things, my favorite being the episode about bees. Reading Rainbow (and my mother) told me that reading could take me anywhere and I took that to heart. At a young age I became an avid reader and have not stopped to this day.

In a roundabout way Reading Rainbow also inspired me to become a librarian so that I could inspire children to become avid readers as well. And since I always wanted to be one of the kids reviewing a book on Reading Rainbow here are a few reviews of kids books that are just coming out.

Nerds by Michael Buckley, expected publishing date September 2009, Audience: 8-12.

NERDS stands for National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society. Its newest member is Jackson Jones aka Braceface who became a nerd when he had to get braces. Before becoming a nerd Jackson was the typical cool kid who thought the world liked him. When he joins NERDS he realizes what a bully he had been and learns he needs to earn the trust of the rest of the NERDS by saving the day and the world.

Nerds is a promising new series by Michael Buckley. It interacts and includes the reader in the story and had a nice mix of illustrations, not quite a graphic novel but it has a manga feel; perfect for the reluctant reader.

The Pharaoh's Secret by Marissa Moss, expected publication date October 2009, Audience: 9-13.

The Pharaoh's Secret takes place in modern day Egypt with flashbacks to ancient Egypt during the time of Hatshepsut, the first (and unlike Cleopatra) powerful female pharaoh. The story centers around a young teen, Talibah who visits Egypt with her father and younger brother. In many ways Talibah is older than her years, mostly due to taking care of her brother after her mother died. While in Egypt Talibah is drawn to the story of Hatshepsut and a mystery surrounding her steward, Senenmut. With the help of her younger brother and father they are able to solve the mystery and get closure about her mother's death.

This is a great book for children interested in historical fiction, Egyptology, and strong female characters.

Marie Curie: Mother of Modern Physics by Janice Borzendowski, 2009, Audience: 8-12.

This biography of Marie Curie tells the story of Curie's life, her discovery of polonium and radium and their importance in later scientific developments. Related topics to Marie Curie's life such as Polish history, radiation, and the role of women during Curie's time are also explained to give a well rounded explanation of the choices Curie made and the impact she made on science.

This was a great read for children and adults looking for information about Marie Curie that is explained in an easy to understand way. For a person not interested in science it is easily understood and for someone who is drawn to science will want to learn more.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

More reviews

Sadly I am already behind on writing reviews. Which is kind of pathetic since they aren't very long to begin with. This next one isn't so much a review but just some thoughts I had about this particular book. I couldn't really write about it in a way that sounded like a review.

Stay With Me, by Garrett Freymann-Weyr, 2006. Audience: teen.

This book (along with a few others I have recently read) was about the death of a loved one and this one specifically about suicide. Leila had two half-sisters from her father's first marriage. One of them commits suicide and Leila goes to live with her other sister while her parents are out of the country for a year. During this year the two remaining sisters strengthen their relationship (which was not very close before) and help each other cope with the loss of a sister.

One thing I found slightly disconcerting in this novel is the inclusion of the older boyfriend. Leila is 16/17 years old and begins a relationship with a man in his thirties. This is viewed as a relatively natural thing in the book because the women around her have also fell in love with older men. The difference is they did it as adults and Leila is not an adult. The way the author gets around this is having Leila turn 17, the age of consent in New York but this still leaves it somewhat odd.

I also found that the use of the World Trade Center attack a bit strange. While the book was published in 2006 the time in the book is 2002. There are a few moments when Leila mentions "the attack on the city" but I must not have been paying much attention because I didn't realize what she was talking about until she mentioned the 1st anniversary of the event. Since this is a book meant for a young adult audience I wonder how they pick up on it. By 2006 the teens that are reading this book could have been as young as nine when the attack happened, and by 2009 they could have been as young as 5. The way this book uses the World Trade Center attack dates the book in a way that makes it almost historical when it was published, let alone in the years to come.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Review #3 - Nothing Like You

Nothing Like You, by Lauren Strasnick, Audience: teen

Nothing Like You is a quick summertime read about Holly and her relationships with a pseudo-boyfriend, a boy best-friend, and her father. It begins with Holly losing her virginity to the pseudo-boyfriend (who has a real girlfriend) and the secret that this creates. As the story unfolds we learn that Holly's mother died less than a year ago and because of this has become emotionally numb. While the story is intriguing and the relationships that Holly has with the men in her life are interesting there is something in the writing that is a little grating. Maybe the writer is just trying to channel the way teenagers talk but parts of Holly's inner monologue such as: "Jeff is my dad, FYI" can be twinge inducing.

What saves this novel is the story and honesty of the characters and the knowledge that Holly will eventually be ok due to the support of her best friend and father.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Review #2 - Long Past Standing

Long Past Standing, by Oran Canfield, Audience: teen-adult

Long Past Standing is a memoir about a young man who is addicted to heroin and the crazy path his life took before his addiction. The chapters alternate telling stories about his childhood and about his addiction and recovery. Throughout most of this book the stories of his childhood: learning to juggle, joining a circus, living in Guatemala and Mexico and many others are the more interesting parts of the story. The chapters dealing with his addiction felt vaguely familiar as if I had read them before, which is partly true: any story about addiction tends to have similarities. Towards the end of the book a shift of interest evolves where the stories of his childhood (by this point his high school years) have less interest as his obvious need to kick heroin for good become more and more important.

Having recently read another memoir about drug addiction and crazy family life it seems this story has been told many times. However this particular one was written well, which does not always happen and was able to inspire continued reading.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Review #1 - The Mysterious Benedict Society

As promised here is my first book review:

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (2007), Audience: tweens.

The Mysterious Benedict Society instantly calls to mind Harry Potter and The Series of Unfortunate Events. Reynard (Reynie) Muldoon is a gifted child living in the local orphanage. Due to his high intelligence he is educated not with the other orphans but with a tutor. While he and his tutor are having breakfast he notices an advertisement in the local paper for "gifted child[ren] looking for special opportunites." This ad lead him to a series of tests that he and three other similarly orphaned (or runaway) children pass.

These four become the Mysterious Benedict Society led by Mr. Benedict who sends them on a spy mission to foil the plans of a mad scientist. Each of the four children have unique qualities that help them along the way. Reynie is the natural leader, George "Sticky" Washington remembers everything he reads and can read in many languages but cannot speak them, Kate Wetherall with the help of her bucket full of equipment can get into or out of any situation, and Constance Contraire is very stubborn.

While the tropes may be familiar the story is definitely not boring or usual. This is a story full of highjinks and adventure and with two follow-up novels is sure to become a beloved series and perfect for the reader who read all Harry Potter and Series of Unfortunate Events and is looking for something similar.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


In the past week I was lucky enough to attend two library conference, at least in part. I went to one program at the Association for Jewish Libraries and spent two full days at the American Library Association conference.

The program I attended at the Association for Jewish Libraries conference was about German libraries' (specifically the Berlin State Library) possession of books that were formerly owned by Jews prior to the Holocaust. In the case of the Berlin State Library they are trying to find the past owners of these books (or their heirs) and return them. While I feel this is a noble deed it is creating hours of research and sometimes does not gain any return. The director of the Berlin State Library was the speaker at this program and she said she will not keep any stolen books in the library. The problem with this statement is that if a library were to truly uphold that statement there would be no antique books in the library because at one point or other they were all stolen.

Also as a Jew who has grown up with the Holocaust, Nazi Germany, and World War II thrown at me from every angle I am tired of hearing about it. There is more to Judaism than the Holocaust and there comes a point where we need to find a happy medium between remembering what happened and moving on. Perhaps it would be better for the Berlin State Library to put a bookplate each "stolen" book to commemorate how it came to the library and make a note in the online catalog that corresponds with the bookplate. This allows the memory of these books and their previous owners to live on but also allows us to move on.

I was able to spend more time at the ALA Conference because it was held over the weekend. I attended sessions on Saturday and Sunday as well as visiting the exhibit hall. This was my first ALA Conference and I was immediately overwhelmed by the sheer amount of librarians that were all in one place.

Each day I was there I spent the mornings in the exhibition hall and the afternoons in programs. The exhibits are full of anything a library might need from book publishers to shelves to put them on. I spent most of my time in the publisher exhibits seeing what was new in children's and YA books. I ended up taking home about 20 new books, some for free and some for a nominal price, many of them were also signed by the author. I would have loved to spend more time in the technology pavilion but since I was not working in a library I did not have a technological need that needed to be met.

The two programs I attended were sponsored in part by the Office of Intellectual Freedom. The first one was called Libraries, Librarians, and America's War on Sex and talked primarily about how difficult it is to educate children about sex because a large part of America wants to demonize sex. The book It's Perfectly Normal was used as an example. Many adults believe this book is pornographic because it shows drawings of naked men and women with different body types and at different ages. The point of these drawings (really cartoons) is to demonstrate how everyone's body is a little different and that is ok.

The second program was titled Why is Tango So Scary? and was about the brilliant children's book And Tango Makes Three. This book is a true story about two male penguins from the Central Park Zoo that fall in love and raise a penguin baby (Tango). The couple that wrote it was at the panel (along with their own baby girl) as well as some librarians who have experience dealing with outraged parents who try and attack this book. GLBTQ children's books have always been challenged but this book in particular gets a lot of challenges. Perhaps it is because it is a real story or maybe because it is about penguins and this shows that homosexuality is in nature and not a choice. But most likely it is because it is a book that is about a happy gay family that does not in any way depict sex, which is perhaps even harder for the homophobes to deal with than one that does depict sex.

I attended the GLBT Roundtable Social on Saturday which was also part of the ALA Convention. Here I met two wonderful YA librarians who were fairly new librarians. They were very encouraging about my quest to find a job and I was very excited that they read Garrett's column in Public Libraries magazine (which makes them a-ok in my book). The three of us also got together to meet for lunch the following day, it was really fantastic to make some friends.

I have decided that with all of the free books I got last weekend I would use this time to read and learn to write book reviews (a good skill for a librarian) which I will post here for all to see. So hopefully I will start updated this blog a bit more and have some useful information for others to read. If I can't be a librarian in a library I will try to be a librarian online.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Not much going on

In the past my reason/excuse for not updating was a lack of time. Since graduation I have plenty of time but not a lot to blog about. My life in the library world is limited to my time volunteering which is wonderful but I don't get to do it often, mostly because of the limited hours of the library.

I have had a lot of free time to read, take bike rides and I have joined a Jewish congregation but sadly there is not much (i.e. any) time devoted to going to interviews. I have been sending out many applications and resumes but I have not had a single interview. In the past 24 hours I have received a total of three rejection letters. Well not specifically rejections since I never interviewed but letters about the position being filled and they will keep my resume for future positions. I don't know if I like that they are rejecting me without having met me or if I would prefer that they do that after I have been to an interview.

While this can be disheartening I realize that this is a bad time to be looking for a job, that there are few positions out there and there are many qualified candidates including those who have years more experience than I do. Also I want to be unselfish and say that it is better for an unemployed person to be getting a job rather than myself since I am employed but it is hard to be that altruistic sometimes.

So I keep trying and hope that it gets better.