Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Quick Note!

I finished my ARC of The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly at 2:48 am today.  It was worth the loss of sleep.  I laughed out loud several times, much to Honey's discomfort and confusion, and hugged myself a time or two with delight.  I even got a catch in my throat.  The book comes out on June 7.  More details in a later post.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My knees hurt... Book Expo, 2011!

I wasn't going to go.  I mean, I'm retired, right?  I will be working this summer for the library but I am not working now.  And my most faithful Book Expo buddy is off in the Wild West meeting buffalo and grizzly bears.  So, why not take a year off?  Then, the new YS librarian asked me to go as "the unpaid YS rep".  Did I ask if I would be reimbursed for my expenses?  NO!  I did NOT!  I had a mission and a reason to attend the most favorite trade event of any American book lover's life - BOOK EXPO AMERICA!!!!!!!

I planned!  I made lists - not only of books that I knew were going to be there for perusal and snap-up-age - but also of books I HOPED might be there.  I had a chronological list of who would be signing books where.  I had food in case of low blood sugar and I charted the bathrooms and water fountains.  Thanks to Z, and the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Pennsylvania Library Association - I love you! - there was FREE transportation to and from the Convention Center.

I lost the lists by noon.  The Librarians' Lounge (sponsored by Library Journal) made my food and water planning unnecessary.   I still had the best time anyway.

Meeting Tom Angleberger and getting a handmade Darth Paper finger puppet.  Darth Paper comes out this fall.  I did snag a signed copy of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.  I am accepting bids - high, HIGH bids!
Getting Ellie Krieger's cookbook at the Librarians' Lounge.  She signed for ordinary mortals at the publisher's booth later in the day, too.
Kathie Lee Gifford!!!  Got to meet her face to face.  Of course all I said was "Thank you so much!"  But I met her!
Michael Scott signed a copy of The Warlock, just for me.  He's quite handsome.
I got a copy, signed, of Ilse Bick's Ashes!  The Autograph Table line was across the Center.  I picked it up at the publisher's booth.
Librarians Rock socks!

Swag- lots and lots of swag!

More books! (Notice that the socks got into the last three photos.)
I did not see everything or meet everyone on my lists.  I did see wonderful Ingram rep, Jeff Meskill and his lovely wife, Cara, and got to hang out with Cara for awhile.  Book people are great.

Next year, I hope to go for two days....Hmmm, how will I pay for that?

Monday, May 23, 2011

William's Midsummer Dreams

William S. and his sister, Jancy and brother, Buddy are no longer Baggetts.  Their last name has been changed to Hardison in this sequel to Snyder's William S. and the Great Escape.  Here's the back story.  They are the three youngest Baggetts, born to Ed Baggetts second and long lamented wife.  Ed is a big brutish man with three other brutish sons.  The twins are particularly nasty and they make life unbearable for the three youngest kids.  Read the first book to find out how Jancy, William S. and Buddy make their escape.

Now they are safe and living in another town entirely with their mother's sister, Fiona.   They have been legally adopted.  In the first chapter of William's Midsummer Dreams, William receives a beautiful leather bound notebook for his birthday from someone in his old town.  There is no card and the only clue to its origins in the postmark.  Jancy thinks it comes from Clarice Ogden, the girl who hid all three Baggett/Hardisons from their older brothers in the first book.  This is  a complication that William does not need.  He has plans to spend the summer at Mannsville College playing the part of Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream.  He knows that Clarice will be there and he has no intention of having a girlfriend - yet.

William leaves a worried Jancy at home with Aunt Fiona and Buddy and goes off on his adventure.  He has the convenient habit of convincing himself that everything is just fine and that people really mean it when they tell him they are all right.  He is having too much fun to worry about Jancy and Buddy.  Then one day someone messes with William's stage props and he barely escapes serious injury.  Things look chancy and life gets complicated.

A mystery, a lot of stage craft, successes, friendship, professional jealousy, trouble with the opposite sex and an attempted kidnapping - all these elements add up to a quick read.  Readers who love the theater and acting, readers who cheer for the underdog, readers who wish their own considerable talents were appreciated, and readers who like good writing will all enjoy Snyder's latest outing.  May she have many, many more!!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Friendly Games

Last night, our Friends' Meeting's Connections Committee, aka the Party Committee, hosted a games night.    We did a lousy job of publicizing it (because the Recording Clerk did not get the minutes out in a timely fashion and Oops, I'm doing it again THIS month!)  So we expected that we and our significant others would be the only ones in attendance.  We were happily surprised!

Those expecting to play "Kiddie" games were disappointed.  Cribbage, Cranium and Bridge - BRIDGE!! - carried the evening with a lot of laughter and groans.  Some people played with the mind game "Stargate", a deck of cards that are supposed to help the user solve problems and clarify matters of concern.  It looked fascinating but I was re-learning the art of bidding in bridge.

Other games that were opened that night included Apples to Apples, and Scrabble.  It was a lot of fun!

And this reminds me of The Cardturner by Louis Sachar.  I know I mentioned this book during the Battle of the (kids') Books but it deserves another mention.  The idea of writing a Young Adult novel about the game of bridge seems ludicrous.  Now, up the ante.  The book isn't about party bridge.  Oh NO!  It's about tournament duplicate bridge, which is a world of its won.  Duplicate Bridge has its own ethics, its own language and its own hierarchy.  Drop a 17-year-old boy, whose only reason for being there is that his Great-Uncle, who is blind, needs someone to turn up the cards and tell the uncle what they are, and then play the cards that the Uncle wants played, -  yeah, stick him into this rarefied world.  And why is he there??  Because his Great-Uncle has a great deal of money that the boy's parents hope to get their hands on if they, excuse the pun, play their cards right.  There is so much more than bridge in this book.  But if you are even a little bit interested in this game, which is absorbing and requires concentration, The Cardturner will make you want to take a trick or two.  Maybe even play a full rubber.  Read it and tell me if that isn't so.

Oh and there are a couple of romances in this novel, some stolen identities, a road trip of epic proportions.  Just read the book. 

And find some friends and play some games - offline for a change.  It is so much fun.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead

In this first novel by Paul Elwork, Emily Stewart discovers early in the summer of her thirteenth year that she can making a knocking noise when she cracks her ankle.  When she frightens her twin brother, Michael, with this trick one night, he devises a game that they call "spirit knocking".  The two start with the "ghosts" of relatives.  Michael asks the ghosts questions that can be answered "yes" - two knocks, or "no" - one knock.  Soon children from all over the rural neighborhood come to the little tea house on the Stewart estate to ask questions of "ghosts", mostly created from Michael's boundless imagination.

When adults show interest in the game, Emily wants to quit but Michael insists that they continue and they do...longer than they should.

The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead is set in the years after World War I, when people were desperate to reach their dead loved ones, lost in the war and to influenza.   The stories of the twins' widowed mother, their dead father, their parents' friends and ancestors and the losses of their neighbors are all woven into the story of a child's game, made all too serious because of the grief that pervades the era.  Changes in attitudes towards the landed rich, like the Stewarts, also flavor this book.  Emily carries a lot of the narrative burden.  Michael is a shadowy puppet master, pulling the strings, plotting their next moves.  He is a boy of immense talent and too much energy and restlessness.  Emily is, as the old women who interview her say, "an old soul" at the age of thirteen.

This is a book that moves with the gentle pace of a swollen river, carrying the reader along, closer and closer to the rapids, lulling the reader into a bemused and fascinated calm.  And then, we are beyond our depth and drowning.   Read it!

Monday, May 16, 2011

I So Don't Do...

I just got my hands on I So Don't Do Famous by Barrie Summy.  Back in my "work" life, I ordered the first book in this series for the library and then...what happened?  This is a fun series!  Not Dickens or Jane Austen but, let's face it, our middle school readers don't want Dickens or Jane Austen.  They want books about kids like themselves and if the author throws in a ghost and a mystery well, so much the better.

In her fourth outing, heroine Sherry has just won a trip to Hollywood (squeal) and a chance to meet the love advice columnist from Hollywood Girl magazine.  (Bigger squeal).  She won with her essay on true love, which she knows all about since she and Josh have been dating for months.  But guess what?  He doesn't want to go.  Not only THAT, he (gulp)....well, read the book and find out what Sherry finds out from texts from friends at home.

Sherry, her very best friend, Junie and Sherry's Dad go to Hollywood and there, Sherry is embroiled in a mystery.  Thank goodness her Mom, who was a police detective in life and is now a ghost detective, helps Sherry, Junie and a young teen ghost, Lorraine, in their sleuthing.  As paranormal fiction goes, this is Paranormal Lite.  And that is all right with me.  I like friendly ghosts who have romantic fixations.  I like mysteries that are free of gore.  I like simple young teen romantic crises.  Here's a series to add to my list of recommended reads.  Now, I have to catch up on Sherry's other adventures.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Quilts and other things

Well, finally, I am doing some of the things I promised myself I'd do "when I have more time".  I fished out a quilt top I have had in a bin for I don't want to admit how many years.  Years (and years and years - decades, even) ago, in a library district far, far away, I engineered a quilt for the Children's Room.  I collected fabric and worked with members of the St. Paul's Lutheran Church Quilters (founded 1898) to put another quilt top together and put it in a frame.  Then children and their parents were invited to knot the quilt during a program.  I have no idea what happened to THAT quilt.  It was really lovely and I hope if it is no longer around it was loved to pieces. (I replayed this program at my most recent library posting.  The quilt is in storage here if anyone at PCL is looking for it.  Call me.)

There was a lot of fabric left over and a young mother offered to take it home and make another quilt top.  Then she had to move out of the area and delivered the top - mostly done - to me.  As luck would have it, I decided to move on to another position.  (That sounds like I had the whole move planned out.  Hahahahahaha!)  And my successor called me up and told me she had no use for the quilt top.  If I didn't want it, she was going to throw it away. So, I took it, thinking that someday when I had more time....I HAVE MORE TIME.

So I am in the process of finishing off this quilt top.  THEN, as I fished around my fabric bins I found 11 squares I made in my pre-work, quilt club days.  Only 11, each measuring 10 inches square and each containing no less than 18 separate tiny pieces of fabric.  My son picked out the pattern, called Monkey Wrench.  I promised him the quilt by the time he graduated.  Um, it's late.  Maybe by the NEXT time he graduates.  Maybe this is why he went back to school.  Oh the poor thing, he's waiting for me to finish his quilt.  Well, if I stall he might have a doctorate before it's done but is that fair?  Should I finish the quilt?

I will, by jiggy!  I have it all planned out.  I don't even need to make more Monkey Wrench squares.  I sat up last night and drew out a grid and I can do it.  I just need to find coordinating fabric and a new rotary cutter and cutting mat and some other crafty stuff...A trip to the fabric store!!! Retirement is (sigh) sooooo nice.

Life is good...a garden for the sunny days, a quilt - and books - for the rain!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Patrick is back

Geoffrey Hayes has developed some lovely comics for beginning readers starring his loveable little bear, Patrick.  I remember Patrick from the book Patrick Eats His Dinner.  My son, who is now 35, was only 4 at the time and we both loved the song Patrick sang as he avoided eating his peas.  Something about "little green balls of smooshy poison", I think.  The out of print editions available on Amazon start at $299. 

BUT you can read about Patrick in a brand new series of books starting with Patrick in A Teddy Bear's Picnic and other stories, put out by TOON BOOKS, an imprint of Candlewick Press.  At $12.95, this book is a bargain.  It's at least twice as big as Patrick's first outing with the peas and it includes several sweet, funny, exciting, but ultimately reassuring, stories about Patrick, his Ma, his Daddy, a bully called Big Bear, naps, parks and a trip - all by himself - to the store.  BTW, Big Bear is no match for Patrick in the end.  Hayes is right on target with Patrick's view of the world, concerns and talents.  Beginning Readers will identify with Patrick right away! The graphics have that soft edged look and bright but not glaring colors that Patrick fans have always loved.   I am so glad Patrick is back, just in time for new generations of young readers.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Children of the Lost - David Whitley

David Whitley's Agora Trilogy is two thirds finished.  I finished The Children of the Lost this morning around 2 am.  It was an emergency read - as in I-Could-Not-Put-This-Book-Down emergency.  Believe me, I tried, twice.  I put the bookmark in place, closed the book, took off my glasses and turned off the light - twice.  And both times, I sat back up, turned on the light, put my glasses back on and picked up the book.

Sigh.  Will it be another year until the third book comes out?  (Grit teeth in frustration.) How will I stand it?  I need to know what Lily finds when she steps into the darkness.  I need to know how the people in the Almshouse react to Mark's appearance.  I need to know NOOOOOWWWWW!!

OK, so in Book One The Midnight Charter, the readers are introduced to life in the walled city of Agora - and two seemingly normal teens.  In Agora everything has a price and every transaction, business or personal must be written up in a contract.  Children are property until they achieve adulthood at the age of twelve and if they cannot pay for food and lodging, adults become property of the people who loan them food.  There is no money, just contracts.

Mark and Lily become acquaintance in the Astrologer's Tower.  Mark has been bought by Doctor Theophilus in the doctor's attempt to cure him of his illness and learn how to fight the plague.  Lily works for the Great Astrologer, Count Stelli, Theo's grandfather.  When Count Stelli throws his grandson out of the Tower, Lily contracts with Mark to change places with him and she follows the doctor into the slums of the city to fight disease with no expectation of payment.  No one trusts anyone else, except family members.  Every thing a person says is weighted with "value".  This place is seriously freaky and hard to stomach at times.  Everyone is out to get something out of every interaction - except for Lily and Theo.  Read the book to see how Lily and Mark end up outside the walls of the city and in the Forest.

In the second book, the one I had to keep reading, The Children of the Lost, Lily and Mark are lost in the forest and then they are saved by a village of eternally altruistic, happy, hard-working farmers who follow the teachings of a silent Father Wolfram and a Speaker who interprets what the Father wants from the village.  For awhile, the place seems like a paradise to Lily.  Mark always has his doubts.  His experiences in Agora were much more eye-opening to the baseness of human nature.  And then, the village is consumed by a Nightmare.  It's pretty awful.  The worst part of this book was the ending.  Mark is back in the city.  How did he get there?  Lily is entering a dark tunnel without a torch.  Why?  And where? And who?  And How?  Oh my.

These books are written for teens.  Mature readers ages 11 and up will find these books absolutely riveting.  Fantasy for grades 6 and up.  Oh yeah.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Red Umbrella

  I just finished The Red Umbrella by Christina Gonzalez.  This is the story of 14 year old Lucia Alvarez and her seven year old brother, Frankie and their journey from Cuba to Nebraska in the early 1960s.  I was floored at how scary Cuba was back then because I should have known.  My foster sister, Raisa Godin, told me of marching with the Youth of the Revolution (singing the words to Christian hymns to the melodies.  "No one could hear", she laughed.  "They were all just shouting.") and of neighbors watching her house in Cuba.  But Raisa always made everything sound like fun or like an adventure!  The neighbors sat with their lights on watching the Godin's dark house.  "They couldn't see us,"  Raisa explained, "but we could see everything they did." The book made me frightened for her and my other foster sister, Mayra, and for their parents, who eventually joined their children in Pennsylvania.  Frightened and aghast that I lived through that with them and never even paid attention.

Fourteen thousand Cuban children were sent to the United States to protect them from the Revolution, and from being forcibly taken away from their families.  Cuban parents reasoned that their children were better thrown on the mercy of strangers, than living in a Cuba without freedom.

Lucia is sure that she will return to Cuba in a few weeks, then months and then, finally when her parents join her and Frankie in Nebraska, in a few years.  But they never went home.  They made new lives here.  Roberto and Amy Godin died here, American citizens.  Raisa and Mayra became citizens and married and raised their families here.  And never once, until now, have I wondered what they miss most about their homeland.  The warmth, I'm guessing as I live through another cloudy chilly Spring day.

Imagine going from the tropics to Nebraska, though.  Pennsylvania was hard enough!!!

Well, now I have to write letters to Raisa and Mayra and tell them about The Red Umbrella.  And tell them that we were lucky to have the parents that we had.  Me, because my parents opened out home to them; they were lucky that their parents valued freedom.   And I want them to tell me about Cuba.  After reading this book and My Havana by Rosemary Wells, I really want to visit Cuba!