Archive for July, 2011

Bravo for YA Literature!

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

A month ago, I posted about YA Saves and YA Saves, Revisited. Today I listened to two internet radio interviews with the author whose essay in the Wall Street Journal started the kerfuffle. I wouldn’t have listened, but the interviews also included two brilliant YA authors. The first one included Maureen Johnson, and the second one Lauren Myracle. Both were eloquent in defense of YA Literature.

Laurel Snyder posted a nice reaction to the first interview. And after listening to both interviews, there are things I want to say.

1. It seems silly to me to say that YA is getting darker. The article began with a description of a mother going into a big box bookstore and being unable to find a book for her teenage daughter, because “all” the YA books were too dark. I am a librarian. I happen to know that there are many “light” YA books out there. It seems especially ironic that Meghan Cox Gurdon was on air with Maureen Johnson today. Because Maureen’s books are wildly popular — and yet in my review of Suite Scarlett, posted long before this fracas, I described it as “light-hearted fun.”

She also makes the point that YA didn’t really exist until the late sixties. Well, when I was a teen, we just read adult books. Current YA is not darker than adult books. Is she just objecting to calling it YA? The teens will find it anyway, I think. But how can you say that YA wasn’t around when we were kids, but then say it’s darker than when we were kids? Personally, I think the genre is broadening and expanding. There are PLENTY of light books being written, too.

2. She dismissed librarians’ objections that if the mother had consulted a librarian, she could have easily found appropriate books. I still think that’s a very legitimate objection. The light books DO exist. I am very aware of outstanding YA books. I’m not a big fan of dark books myself, and I find plenty of YA books that I love. But I see those books that don’t appeal to me being loved by teens and making a difference in people’s lives. I strongly disagree that there are not many “light” choices for teens being published today.

3. She said that she is NOT in favor of banning books, and she is not in favor of censorship. So what, exactly, was she trying to say? That publishers should not publish so many dark books? That it should not be called YA? That writers should not write this “dark” material? How is that not censorship?

She also stated more than once that 12 to 14-year-olds are children. Does she think that by labelling a book for “Young Adults,” publishers or librarians are saying that it is appropriate for every 12-year-old?

My response would be Absolutely Not! Just as not every book in our Juvenile Fiction section is appropriate for every 2nd-grader.

As a matter of fact, 12-year-olds are some of the most difficult people for which to do Readers’ Advisory. Because there are often many books they will love in the Juvenile Fiction section, and many books they will love in the Young Adult section. So you normally need to show them both sections of the library and explain that they will like some of both sections.

Now, if Meghan Cox Gurdon was simply trying to say: Parents! Be aware that there’s some “dark” material in YA books these days! Be aware that not every book labelled for 12 and up will be appropriate for every 12-year-old!

Well, if that’s what she was trying to say, more power to her. But I did get the impression she was saying that dark books are bad for kids and should not even be available to them — despite all the outcry on the #YASaves hashtag on Twitter with stories of people whose lives were changed for the better by “dark” books.

4. I think a big part of this issue is the question of protectiveness versus overprotectiveness. I have two sons, ages 23 and almost-17. I was much, much more protective with the first one. But as he grew and pushed back, I realized he was strong enough and smart enough to deal with things I didn’t want him to have to think about. My younger son has a lot more freedom — won by his brother! — and I think he handles it well, and I like talking him about what he thinks, even when it’s so different from what I think.

The thing is, somewhere between 12 and 18, our children DO become adults. I’d rather they grappled with some of the dark issues in the safe pages of a book, while they are still under my roof.

But I realize that’s just me. I have many friends who are much further on the side of protectiveness, and when I was a new mom, at least, I had many friends who were much further on the side of letting the kids find their own way.

Yes, parents should be aware that there’s some dark stuff in YA books. Then they can decide whether trying to keep their kids from that is what they want to do — or not. For some kids, having books talk about issues no one else will talk about is life-changing, even life-saving.

As a librarian, I’m proud to have books available for all of those kids. And I’m proud that I’m damn GOOD at helping each reader find a book that they will enjoy.

Notable Books and Library of the Early Mind – ALA Annual Conference Finishing Up Day Two

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

After attending the program on Readers’ Advisory Research and Trends, I stopped in at the end of a meeting of the Notable Books for Young Readers Committee. These meetings are open, so you can come and listen. I heard them discuss a few books I’ve read: Okay for Now, by Gary Schmidt, and The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, by Wendy Wan Long Shang. They also discussed a book I have checked out, The Emerald Atlas, by John Stephens, and made me aware of a book I hadn’t heard much about: Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys.

The format of the discussion was interesting. First, people talk about the strengths of the books, and then any “concerns.” For some of the books, there was no question that the books were very good, more a question of whether they are “notable.” For Okay for Now and Between Shades of Gray, one “concern” was that they are edging toward Young Adult, not children’s books. Indeed, later when I attended a Best Fiction for Teens committee meeting, exactly those two books were mentioned.

However, that concern worries me. I haven’t read Between Shades of Gray yet, but it sounds like an outstanding book. And Okay for Now is absolutely brilliant. Will these books get overlooked by award committees because they will be enjoyed by both children and teens? It will be interesting to see what they decide.

After that meeting concluded, I was fading fast and went back to my hotel for a nap. Then I went to dinner with my roommates, April and Katie. They had gotten a recommendation from a waiter, and we ate at the Cafe Desire, which was indeed excellent. I love this picture of them:

I was lucky with my roommates. I “met” April from the DC KidLit Book Club e-mail list, but we had never met in person. She’s a new teen librarian at the brand-new Rust Library in nearby Loudoun County, working with some of my former co-workers. I loved her enthusiasm and initiative getting involved with YALSA. She’s been friends with Katie for a long time, and Katie is a high school English teacher who is finishing up a Library Science Master’s. She had a good perspective on what teens like.

After dinner, I’d been looking forward to a screening of the film, “The Library of the Early Mind.” I posted the trailer when anticipating ALA.

The movie was outstanding. It was a documentary about picture books and picture book creators and how much they affect kids. There were lots of great quotes I wished I could write down (but it was dark!). Afterward, they had a panel of people in the film:

Pictured are Roger Sutton from The Horn Book Magazine, the director of the movie, Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket), Grace Lin, and Jack Gantos. I liked what Jack Gantos said when asked what he thought of seeing himself in the film. His answer was what you’d expect from a writer: He said he wished he could edit it.

Afterward was a reception. With the small crowd, I was able to tell the director how excellent I thought the movie was. He said to Like it on Facebook, and I’d be able to get updates as to when the DVD comes out and when they post some additional interview footage from the authors they interviewed.

And I saw Grace Lin, and she remembered me! From our reading The Wizard of Oz together last year. I asked if I could get a picture with her again, and she said we can make it a yearly tradition. 🙂

And finally, I met Travis Jonker, of 100 Scope Notes, and got to talk with him. As it happens, he’s already been a year on the ALSC Committee which I am just beginning to serve on, Children and Technology. So he answered some questions I had about the committee and I enjoyed meeting him.

Then, to top off an exciting day, I took the shuttle back to the Mariott, a couple blocks from my hotel. As I was walking down the sidewalk, talking with Sharon from Unshelved, we saw several Librarian/Publishing types coming out of a restaurant.

Lo and behold, one was Maureen Johnson! I asked her if she was Maureen, and she said Yes, and I asked if I could get my picture with her. Here it is:

When I got back to my room, I was telling my roommates about the encounter and how nice all the authors we’d met are. We were discussing if the authors mind being accosted like that. I tweeted: “I bet @maureenjohnson was surprised when she was accosted on the street. But that’s what happens when celebrity authors come to a city full of librarians.”

Imagine my delight when she tweeted right back, “I liked it!” 🙂

Maureen Johnson is my favorite person to follow on Twitter. I don’t know how she manages to be so funny in only 140 characters, but she does. And she tweeted to me! (Not to mention she writes excellent books! Here are my reviews of Suite Scarlett and her stories in Let It Snow! and Zombies vs. Unicorns.)

The next day was a big one, finishing off with the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet! I’ll blog more about ALA Annual Conference 2011 tomorrow.

Readers’ Advisory Research and Trends – ALA Annual Conference, Day Two

Monday, July 4th, 2011

After the Margaret Edwards Award Luncheon, I took a shuttle back to the Convention Center and attended the program that ended up being the most helpful and practical for use on my job, “Readers’ Advisory Research and Trends Forum: What We Learn from Our Readers: A conversation with Nancy Pearl and Catherine Sheldrick Ross.”

I was late due to the slow shuttle, so I think I missed most of Catherine’s presentation, but what I did hear was excellent food for thought. I’m going to try some of these ideas.

Nancy Pearl talked about four “doorways” into books:

1. Story
2. Character
3. Setting
4. Language

She said that each book has each of these elements, and we tend to think that the books we love have four equal doorways. But as you think about the book in more depth, you can see it’s a sort of pie chart, with a book’s appeal divided between these four elements, with different strengths in different elements.

These doorways transcend genre. She said that a reader who reads for character will enjoy a book of any genre that has strong character development.

I liked her fundamental question she asks when doing Readers’ Advisory: “Tell me about a book you liked.” Even if she has read the book the customer mentions, she asks, “Tell me what you liked about it,” because what the reader enjoyed about the book may be totally different from what she enjoyed about it.

I liked her description of “Desk Paralysis,” where a reader asks a question, and you suddenly forget every book you’ve ever read. She gave some tips for finding books with appeal from the four major doorways.

Story
Books with Story the strongest element tend to be the most popular. Dan Brown and John Grisham fill the bill, but so do authors in many different genres. In fact, she said the chances are that if you go in the fiction shelves of your library, spin around and point, you will probably be pointing to a book with story as the major doorway. They are the most common.

Character
Some authors whose books have Character as the major doorway are Russell Banks, Anne Tyler, and John Irving. They have three-dimensional characters. One quick way to find these books is that the title of the book is often the name of the major character. You can do a display of these books with the heading “People You Ought to Know.”

Setting
You’ll find books where Setting is the major doorway in many genres. One where it’s particularly common is fantasy, where the authors build another world. People say about these books that the setting is a character itself. You can do a display of these books with the heading “Places You Ought to Visit.” You can have a nice mix of genres with that heading, with both imaginary and real places.

Language
Readers who read for the Language are the only ones who self-identify, saying things like, “I only read books with good writing.” Some authors whose books are language-driven are Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Faulkener, and Marianne Robinson.

She reminded us that Readers’ Advisory is a relationship, a conversation. Even if they don’t like the book you showed them, they should be interested in discussing it further with you. It gives the reader a reason to come back to the library.

After this, the moderator gave them some questions, and I have two more pages of notes from their interesting and helpful answers.

Asked about their earliest reading memory, Catherine mentioned reading at bedtime, and Nancy said it wasn’t her earliest, but a book that really formed the way she thought about the world was Space Cadet, by Robert Heinlein.

Catherine: In stressful times, people go back to their old favorites.

Nancy: As you grow, your response to the book changes. The reader is the collaborator with the writer.

Think of Readers’ Advisory as a Professional activity.

Listen to the reader.

What does this reader want to read at this moment in their life?

First rule: It’s not about me.

We’re the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in someone else’s life.

Don’t assume you like a book for the same reason someone else does. That’s where the question comes in handy, “Tell me about that book.”

Think of conversations as ongoing dialogue.

The question, “Tell me about a book you liked,” gets you into one of the four doorways. From the reader’s response, you can find out which doorway appeals to them right now.

We also need to make people aware that we do readers’ advisory.

Give the message that all reading is important. Never treat any reading (such as romance) as beneath other reading.

When roaming, ask, “Are you finding what you need?” and Listen to the answer.

Staff should talk about books.

Think about adding to your e-mail signature: What I’m reading:

The role of the library has three equal parts:
1. Information
2. Reading for Pleasure
3. Programming and Outreach

Reading for Pleasure is just as important. It does make a difference in people’s lives.

Don’t hold back books on Readers’ Advisory (like Genreflecting) only for Reference. Let them circulate.

Goal: Get the reader to come back and talk to us, even if the Readers’ Advisor got it wrong.

When this program finished, I had lots to think about. I am going to start thinking about the books I read in terms of the four major doorways. Which is the strongest for that book? I think I will try making some lists and see if that helps prompt me for Readers’ Advisory. It was an interesting and thought-provoking session about one of my favorite parts of being a librarian.

After that, I went to a meeting of the ALSC Notable Books Committee meeting, had dinner with my roommates and attended the excellent movie “Library of the Early Mind.” I’ll blog about those tomorrow.

Review of Amelia Lost, by Candace Fleming

Monday, July 4th, 2011


Happy Independence Day! I’m posting this review today in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today by Bookmuse.

Amelia Lost

The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

by Candace Fleming

Schwartz & Wade Books (Random House), New York, 2011. 118 pages.

I’ve been impressed with Candace Fleming’s exceptional ability to make biographies come alive ever since I read Ben Franklin’s Almanac. Reading The Lincolns only confirmed her brilliance.

Like those others, Amelia Lost makes good use of photographs and other supplementary materials to really give you a taste of what Amelia Earhart must have been like.

In this book, she weaves through the book stories from people in the continental United States who heard Amelia Earhart broadcasting while the search for her was going on. That helps us understand the tragedy behind this paragraph later in the book, as Amelia is preparing for her around-the-world flight attempt:

“She needed more practice with her radio equipment, too. Joseph Gurr, who had been hired to install the plane’s communication system, was eager for Amelia to learn how to use her radio and direction-finding equipment. He wanted to show her how to tune the receivers and how to operate the transmitters; to teach her correct radio procedures and help her understand what her radio system could and could not do. But every time Gurr begged her to come for a lesson, she put him off. She was too busy, she said. Her schedule was full. Finally — just weeks before her departure — she turned up at the airport hangar. Relieved, Gurr assumed he had all day to teach her everything about her radio. But after only an hour, Amelia left for an appointment. Gurr was stunned. ‘We never covered actual operations such as taking a bearing with the direction finder, [or] even contacting another radio station,’ he recalled. This very brief lesson was Amelia’s only formal instruction in the use of her communication system. And it would be her gravest mistake. Wrote one aviation expert, ‘The solution to Amelia’s future communication problems was right at her fingertips — if only she had understood how her radio worked.'”

This book was an interesting contrast to Chris Van Allsburg’s Queen of the Falls. Both books were biographies of women who, in the early 20th Century, sought fame and fortune through daredevil acts, and then telling about them on the lecture circuit. Amelia managed to achieve that fame and fortune, partly because she was young and good-looking, partly because she never rested on her laurels, but kept trying to top herself, and partly because she had a savvy publicist who eventually married her. But unfortunately, Amelia’s most lasting fame came from the trip where she didn’t return.

Another top-notch biography from Candace Fleming. This book is absorbing reading and extremely informative. I will be very happy to find it for the next child needing a biography “over 100 pages.” This is not one of those boring books written to help kids write a school report — but it has all the information they would need for a school report, and is presented in such a way that they are even sure to remember it.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/amelia_lost.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Margaret Edwards Luncheon, ALA Annual Conference, Day Two

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

Saturday afternoon, I attended the Margaret Edwards Award Luncheon. Sadly, the honoree, Terry Pratchett, was not able to come to accept the award in person, due to health concerns. However, people spoke about him, they showed a video clip of a speech he prepared, and when that didn’t work, his editor read the speech. We signed cards for him and all received signed copies of The Wee Free Men, as well as the issue of School Library Journal including an interview with Terry Pratchett.

I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I’ve never read a Terry Pratchett book. Now that I have a signed copy of The Wee Free Men, I will have to remedy that.

I jotted down some quotations I liked from the speeches. The first one is Terry Pratchett quoted, and the rest are from Sir Terry’s speech:

“The opposite of funny is not serious. The opposite of funny is not funny. The opposite of serious is not serious. Laughter can get through the keyhole while seriousness is still knocking on the door.”

“When you fill up with books, you overflow.”

“Fantasy is uni-age.”

“The shining path of books spans ages.”

“‘What book do you recommend for a child of eight?’ A book for a child of nine.”

I was happy that an author of humorous books for children won this serious award. The luncheon celebrated that such books, when well-written, do worlds of good for children of all ages.

After the luncheon, I took the shuttle bus back to the Convention Center where I attended the most practically helpful program for me of the weekend: Readers’ Advisory Research and Trends, with Nancy Pearl. I’ll blog about that tomorrow.

Musings on Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Bronte

Signet Classic, 1982. 461 pages. First published in 1846.
Starred Review

This is not going to be a standard review. It turns out I already did a review of Jane Eyre back in 2001, when I was first writing Sonderbooks. If you haven’t read Jane Eyre, Dear Reader, stop reading these spoiler-filled musings and go read the book! It’s a classic! You really should read it!

I listed Jane Eyre on my list of about ten favorite books when I was a Freshman in college. I loved it wholeheartedly — the romance, the melodrama, the true love, the clever and conscientious but plain heroine. I’m still a romantic, and I still loved the story, but I found my perspective at 47 quite different than when I first read it around 15.

In the first place, I hadn’t remembered that the book is a thoroughly Christian one. There are multiple obscure Biblical allusions, over and over again. Now, I understood the allusions, but I’m definitely not used to seeing them in a book that’s for the general public. It made me wonder how much readers miss, reading it today. For example, “A frequent interlude of these performances was the enactment of the part of Eutychus by some half dozen of little girls; who, overpowered with sleep, would fall down, if not out of the third loft, yet off the fourth form, and be taken up half dead.” (Eutychus fell asleep when Paul preached a long sermon and fell from the third loft, but was then restored.)

But mostly I found myself awfully cynical over the romance! Mr. Rochester is just plain mean when he works at making Jane jealous. She could have done much, much better with half a chance of meeting more people! Mostly, I now have a hard time thinking anything at all good about a married almost-40-year-old man who falls in love with a 19-year-old! Right, they’ll have a lot in common! Sure, she’s the only one who’s ever really understood him! I have a much, much harder time believing that than I did when I was a teenager. Rather than find Mr. Rochester romantic, this time I thought him making a fool of himself, and not even being very nice while he was at it.

Mind you, I do like Jane and the way she deals with him as he manipulates her. I don’t blame her for falling in love with him, but if she’d seen more of the world, I hope she would have realized how much better she could have done. (I read a book once that said the reason so many middle-aged men have affairs with much younger women is that those are the only ones stupid enough to fall for the line, “My wife doesn’t understand me.”) This guy was twice her age and besides being married, had had three different mistresses. He doesn’t deserve you, Jane!

What’s more, I found myself wondering if the insane wife was actually insane before she got locked in the attic for years and years. Mr. Rochester explains to Jane that soon after the wedding, he hated his wife, even before she went mad — as if that makes it okay. He tries to portray himself as so compassionate for “keeping” her locked up in the attic with a jailer and pretending she doesn’t exist. I still wonder: How insane was she before she got locked up?

Okay, but Jane completely wins me over in the second half. How incredibly refreshing to see someone decide she would rather die than be a mistress! Yes, she’s truly tempted, horribly tempted. But she follows her principles. Mr. Rochester tells her about his mistresses:

“It was a grovelling fashion of existence: I should never like to return to it. Hiring a mistress is the next worst thing to buying a slave: both are often by nature, and always by position, inferior: and to live familiarly with inferiors is degrading. I now hate the recollection of the time I passed with Celine, Giacinta, and Clara.”

Jane wisely reflects:

“I felt the truth of these words; and I drew from them the certain inference, that if I were so far to forget myself and all the teaching that had ever been instilled into me, as — under any pretext — with any justification — through any temptation — to become the successor of these poor girls, he would one day regard me with the same feeling which now in his mind desecrated their memory. I did not give utterance to this conviction: it was enough to feel it. I impressed it on my heart, that it might remain there to serve me as aid in the time of trial.”

But where Jane fully won my admiration and my heart was after she asked herself who would be hurt by her becoming Mr. Rochester’s mistress. “Who in the world cares for you? or who will be injured by what you do?” Her answer made me cheer:

I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad — as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth — so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane — quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.”

You go, Jane!

Now, part of my enthusiasm for Jane was reflecting that if young women today had half the principles of Jane Eyre, and refused to have affairs with married men, how many, many lives would not be torn apart! If more people let principles rein in their passions, I persist in thinking that many less hearts would be broken, including mine.

However, by this time I was loving Jane and rooting for Jane, so no matter how dissimilar our situations, now I saw myself in her. I, too, felt torn away from the one I had thought was the love of my life. Okay, so he left me, and didn’t want me around. Leaving wasn’t my choice — though the decision to stop begging him to come back seemed almost as difficult as Jane’s decision to tear herself away. The fact is, I had never stopped loving him, and when he moved to the other side of the world, I felt like my heart was being torn out of my chest. How could I fault Jane for loving Mr. Rochester when I still love my husband? I could easily understand Jane’s despairing wanderings. I took great comfort in Jane’s realization that was the same as I had come to — that there was nothing she could do to help the man she loved with all her heart. She would have to entrust him to God’s care.

“Worn out with this torture of thought, I rose to my knees. Night was come, and her planets were risen: a safe, still night; too serene for the companionship of fear. We know that God is everywhere; but certainly we feel His presence most when His works are on the grandest scale spread before us: and it is in the unclouded night-sky, where His worlds wheel their silent course, that we read clearest His infinitude, His omnipotence, His omnipresence. I had risen to my knees to pray for Mr. Rochester. Looking up, I, with tear-dimmed eyes, saw the mighty Milky-way. Remembering what it was — what countless systems there swept space like a soft trace of light — I felt the might and strength of God. Sure was I of His efficiency to save what He had made: convinced I grew that neither earth should perish, nor one of the souls it treasured. I turned my prayer to thanksgiving: the Source of Life was also the Saviour of spirits. Mr. Rochester was safe: he was God’s and by God would he be guarded. I again nestled to the breast of the hill; and ere long, in sleep, forgot sorrow.”

Later, I again found myself cheering for Jane when she grew busy and happy teaching school. However, I fully believed that she would have dreams, over and over again, about the one she loved — no matter how serene her day to day life, no matter how admirable her accomplishments.

And then I related to her next temptation. I thought Charlotte Bronte was brilliant that this was the next thing Jane faced: Her temptation was to give her life being a really really good Christian. She could devote herself to Christian service, and she would be good at it. But service without heart. St. John’s proposal was a true temptation. But because Jane had known real love, she could not settle for a mockery of marriage. No matter how dressed up it would be in piety, her heart sensed that it would be wrong, that love itself is sacred.

I’m not sure if I’m explaining why I related to this. I guess there’s a side of me that also thinks I can hide my pain in Christian service. Yes, God is enough. Yes, my relationship with God is incredibly comforting me. But if I keep my heart out of it, even that service will be worthless. As it says in I Corinthians 13, “If I give all I possess to feed the poor and deliver my body to the flames, but have not love, I am nothing.”

So, by the end of the book, I’m loving Jane, rooting for Jane, and relating to Jane. I’m still a romantic, so I love the part where Jane asks God for direction, and in answer she can hear Mr. Rochester’s voice across hundreds of miles. By this time, I don’t begrudge Jane her happy ending, no matter how contrived. Honestly, with Mr. Rochester crippled and blinded, the relationship seems a bit more equal. Though I do wish Jane would stop calling him “my master”!

Anyway, 30 years ago when I read Jane Eyre, I thought it a beautiful story of true love persevering despite all obstacles. I think that today I see it as a beautiful story of a young woman with true character and true faith and genuine love and forgiveness in her heart.

And a rousing read, no doubt about it!

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/jane_eyre.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own long-owned paperback copy.

More Book Frenzy – ALA Annual Conference 2011, Day Two

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Saturday morning, I woke up after having gotten far too little sleep. I’d discovered the night before that any restraint I thought I’d have completely vanished when faced with free books. It also happened that Saturday morning would have some of the author signings I was most looking forward to. What’s more, although there were some programs that sounded interesting, HarperCollins was hosting a Fall Preview of its new books from 10:00 to 11:00 — which was NOT when the authors I wanted to see were schedule. So you see, I was doomed to visit the exhibits.

I did see Laini Taylor and get her new book signed, but thought since I’d accosted her the night before, I wouldn’t make her pose for a photo again. Yes, for those of you keeping score at home, I had already shipped Daughter of Smoke and Bone unsigned the night before. Does anyone local want the unsigned copy before I bring it to my library co-workers? They told me if I started reading it that night, I wouldn’t be able to stop until I finished. I believed them, so am waiting for a night when I can start reading early!

I also met Marilyn Johnson, who so kindly sent books to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in support of libraries. I got a signed copy of her book for myself this time. She said they’ve added an Epilogue that talks about the budget fights to keep libraries open. She’s so nice in person, too!

And when I spotted some Library shirts at Stop Falling‘s booth, I couldn’t resist! Especially the sleep shirt that said, “Oops! I bought another Pile of Books!” It seemed so frightfully appropriate! After all, that’s exactly how it happens, right?

I’m planning to wear this one to work tomorrow:

And this one might be too warm for summer, but I like it very much:

I also spotted Tom Angleberger, author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, and was given an origami puppet of Darth Paper, to celebrate the upcoming publication of Darth Paper Strikes Back.

Then I went to the HarperCollins Book Buzz, about adult books coming out in the Fall. It was fully as bad for me as I feared — now I want to read almost ALL the books. And I was able to pick up Advance Reader Copies of several to add to my bag.

Let’s see. Some I’m going to look for that I didn’t snag yet:

They’re republishing Agatha Christie’s books, including a republishing of her wonderful Autobiography that includes a CD of Agatha Christie herself reading some of her books. They are publishing a new biography by an Agatha Christie scholar, John Curran.

Defensive Wounds, by Lisa Black, sounded very intriguing. The author is a forensic scientist, and the editor said that one of the strengths of this book is the relationship between the detective and her daughter.

A Bitter Truth, by Charles Todd, won me over when the editor said that this mystery is not gruesome, and has more tea than dead bodies. She said that this book features a “kind” detective, who gets herself on the suspect list. I want to read it!

Historic Conversations is a set of CDs of seven interviews Jacqueline Kennedy did in 1964, with an accompanying book, Jacqueline Kennedy, by Michael Beschloss. It sounds completely amazing.

My Life, Deleted, was described as a love story, and also a true story of a man who hit his head and was afflicted with profound retrograde amnesia, the worst case on record. He has to get to know his wife all over again. A positive marriage story.

First You Try Everything, by Jane McCafferty, is NOT a positive marriage story. When the protagonist’s husband tells her he wants a divorce, first she tries everything, in a crazy way. This sounded frightfully familiar to me. They said the book is funny, and I’m intrigued to know if I will like it or be appalled if they show she’s healed because she gets married again. Anyway, I have to read it.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy, by Margot Livesey, is a rewriting of Jane Eyre.

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, by Caroline Preston, was described as a good YA Crossover. The historical story sounds fun, and it’s all done in scrapbooking.

So, after the Book Buzz, I went back to the exhibits, grabbed as many galleys as I could, and purchased a copy of Chime to be signed by Franny Billingsley.

By that time, I was heavily weighed down, so I decided to again ship the books. Then I walked to the Margaret Edwards Luncheon, which was in the hotel next to the Convention Center. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that “next to the Convention Center” still meant very far away indeed. So I was late, but did get to eat and listen to the excellent speeches. I will post about Saturday afternoon tomorrow.

Here’s a picture of the books that I shipped on Saturday:

Review of Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Revolution

by Jennifer Donnelly
read by Emily Janice Card and Emma Bering

Listening Library, 2010. 12 CDs. 15 hours, 4 minutes.
Starred Review
2011 Odyssey Honor Winner

This book is incredible. One of those audiobooks that had me thinking about it all day long and eventually bringing the CDs into the house to finish listening.

I almost didn’t make it through the first two CDs, since the book starts out very depressing. Andi Alpers’ little brother Truman died two years ago, and Andi is convinced it’s her fault. Her mother can’t cope, but spends her time painting pictures of Truman. Her father walked out on them. The only thing that keeps the sadness at bay is Andi’s antidepressants, but if she takes too many, she starts having hallucinations. Even her music can’t keep the depression away for long.

Then Andi’s Dad comes in and takes charge. He puts her mother in a psychiatric ward and makes Andi accompany him on a trip to Paris. He’s a world-renowned geneticist, and his job is to find out if a preserved child’s heart belonged to the Dauphin of France who was locked in a tower during the French Revolution.

While in Paris, in an old guitar case, Andi finds a hidden compartment and a diary written during the French Revolution by a girl who was companion to the Dauphin. The details of Andi’s life are intricately parallel to the story in the diary. Meanwhile, she meets a French musician who seems to really care about her. But even weirder things begin to happen.

The plotting in this book is exquisite. There are resonances between the two plotlines on so many levels. It also doesn’t hurt that the diary is read by another voice, with a beautiful French accent!

The reader only slowly discovers the full story of Truman’s death and all that Andi is dealing with. Despite her prickly exterior, we come to care about her deeply.

This book is amazing. The craftsmanship is astonishing, in the weaving of the two plotlines alone. If you add to the mix how much research the author must have done, it’s an incredible achievement. An interesting thing for me is that I had just seen an article on the Catacombs of Paris in National Geographic. The article talked about cataphiles who explore the tunnels and showed a picture of “The Beach,” where parties happen. The article came out after the book, just a month before I read it. But the French musician Andi meets is a cataphile, and he takes Andi to a party at The Beach in the catacombs, described exactly like the picture. I was impressed that the author took such care with contemporary details, and have no doubt she was also careful about historical details.

Hmm. Now that I’m posting this review, I don’t know where to put it. The diary is historical, but Andi’s story is contemporary. There’s a small paranormal element. It almost should be put in a class by itself as “Masterpieces.” I think I’ll put it in the “Contemporary” category, but be aware that there is much more to this book.

The whole time I was listening to this book, not only did it stick with me all day long, but I was telling everyone I worked with how incredible it was. I do recommend it in audio form, since listening to the French accent added a level of enjoyment for me. Teens and adults alike will find this book a work of art.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/revolution.html

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Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.