Conference Corner – 2012 Printz Program and Reception

2012 ALA Annual Conference is done, and I have lots of notes to share! Since I’m way behind on writing up my notes from Midwinter and from PLA, I decided to work backwards. When I finally get to notes I’ve already shared I’ll be done. The goal will be to post at least one Conference Corner post each week, but maybe I can do better. I’d like to catch up before KidLitCon in the Fall or maybe the Horn Book at Simmons symposium or maybe VLA Conference. (Now that my son will be in college, there are so many possibilities!)

The final event for me at ALA Annual Conference this year was the Printz Awards Reception. I always love the Printz speeches. I love it that everyone gives a speech, honor winners and the big honcho award winner. They always make sure to say nice things about libraries and librarians, so their words are treasured.

The night began, not surprisingly seeing who got the Honor award, with comedy. Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman gave a speech together thanking us for the Honor for Why We Broke Up.

Then Daniel Handler played the accordion and sang “Without Libraries We’d be Dum,” with special effects by Maira Kalman. This is worth experiencing!

I got a picture with Daniel Handler at the reception. He seemed pleased that he got it to come out looking like someone had pasted him in. (Maybe I did?)

Next Honor winner was Christine Hinwood for The Returning. She told a great story of finding out she’d won an Honor. She had been without internet access and found out on a train. She said she broke all the rules of British train riding and danced down the aisle.

She said, “Teenagers are people, too.” She writes for people.

She also spoke up for the power of fantasy novels. “The fantasy books she read as a child are not childish.” “Fantasy allows exploring issues. . . without baggage.”

The Returning explores issues about war. How do combatants go back to family and a day job once the war is over? So many are affected by war for so long after the war is over.

Craig Silvey was the next speaker, honored for his book Jasper Jones.

I got a picture with him. He has an adorable Australian accent. He said that YALSA has been “absurdly kind to Australians” in their award choices. Many of us firmly believe it’s to get to hear their accents at the Printz Program.

(Oh look! I think that’s Christine Hinwood right behind me.)

Craig Silvey was quite ill when the Printz call came. He “let it ring out” twice, but finally answered this persistent caller. In his brain-addled state, his first thought was, “Oh my goodness. I’ve been honored by Prince.?” Fortunately, the committee gave him more information before he could follow up on this thought.

Like so many Printz Honorees, he talked about growing up in the library. I liked this line about reading fiction: “The truth, I found, was hidden in the lies.”

He talked about accidentally checking out A Clockwork Orange when he was ten years old. “I learned a very valuable lesson: Stories were powerful.”

Next up was Maggie Stiefvater, honored for the book I loved so much, The Scorpio Races.

Maggie Stiefvater also talked about the power of Fantasy. She began with a reading from Diana Wynne-Jones. 10-year-old Maggie thought the food described was wonderful. And yet it didn’t exist. It was imaginary.

For a truly great book, Maggie Stiefvater wants a book with another world inside it.

What makes us believe in a place? Diana Wynne-Jones showed the symptoms of a culture. It was the little things.

“Thisby is a big place made of tiny little sensations.”

Last of all was the acceptance speech from Printz Award Winner John Corey Whaley, still incredibly cute and still incredibly young.

He, also, had some great things to say about books, reading, teens, and libraries.

“You connect teens to worlds beyond their imaginations.”

John Corey Whaley found the story he was supposed to tell. “Listen closely when you open the book and you may hear the faintest sound of banjos.”

His book asks the question: “Is it possible to grow up in an impossible world?”

Talking about writing, he said, “Don’t we all want to make some dent in the side of the world?”

“Teens want the truth about everything, and they know exactly when they aren’t getting it.”

And he closed off with a rallying cry for libraries:

“Close our libraries, and you close our lives.”

“Tweet this: #SaveALibrary”

Review of Bunheads, by Sophie Flack


by Sophie Flack

Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2011. 294 pages.

This book begins:

“My name is Hannah Ward. Don’t call me a ballerina.

“Ballerinas are the stars of the company. They dance center stage under the spotlight, and they get their own curtain calls. Their head shots are printed in the program, with their names in large print. Me, I’m a dancer in the corps de ballet, just one of the dozens of girls who dance in graceful unison each night. My mother thinks I’m a star, but she’s biased.”

Hannah Ward is 19 and a member of the prestigious Manhattan Ballet Company. She’d like to be promoted to soloist, but that will mean around-the-clock hard work, as well as competition with her friends, the other members of the corps. She’s lived in New York City since she was 14, when she went to the Manhattan Ballet Academy. She’s living her dream; is it worth it?

Hannah’s happy with her lot until she meets Jacob, a non-dancer and a student at NYU. He seems to think that if she likes him, she should be able to spare some time with him. But ballet is her life, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be, isn’t it?

Novels that question what a person wants out of life are always absorbing. This one provides an authentic look into the world of ballet, making it all the more interesting. I didn’t like the present tense narration, but that’s a personal quibble. The plot seemed a little spotty, with Hannah going through waves of determination to get a promotion, followed by periods where it didn’t seem so important, but I’m sure that’s how it would be in real life, even if it didn’t make as strong a plot arc.

I never took a ballet class and still enjoyed this book. I imagine that any teen who ever took a ballet class will particularly enjoy it.

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ALA Annual Conference 2012 Summary

ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim has finished up! I’m now sitting at my sister’s house, with vacation time for the rest of the week (Yay!), so I’m not sure how much I’ll post before I go home. Eventually, I’d like to give detailed notes for each event in my Conference Corner posts. But here, I’ll sum up the things I did.

It all began Friday. I made it to the Opening Session with Rebecca MacKinnon, a fascinating look at how we need to take a careful look at Internet Security and how it applies to human freedom and privacy, or lack thereof, around the world. I got a copy of her book, Consent of the Networked, and got it signed.

Then: The Exhibits. By waiting in line to get my book signed, I had missed the wild “Running of the Librarians” and some of the crazy book-grabbing frenzy that invades our minds at this time. As such, I was able to restrain myself to one suitcase full of books. (Yes, folks, I have a medical excuse. Get over it!)

Here’s a picture of my loot at the end of the conference, combined with my sister’s loot from a one-day exhibit pass. Hers is only one pile. I believe my total at the end was 68 books. (This is huge progress. I think at my first ALA, I came home with twice that many.)

On Saturday, I gave my sister (with whom I was staying) an exhibits day pass and a ticket to meet me at the Margaret A. Edwards Luncheon, but I went on ahead to visit the exhibits (more loot) and then hear a session on Putting Laughter in Literacy with Alan Sitomer and Raina Telgemeier. Alas! Sara Pennypacker, who was also to speak, was held up by a cancelled flight. Then came the Margaret Edwards Luncheon. I stood in line with Garth Nix! (squee!) And then, already having chosen seats at a table, Susan Patron sat down next to me, so we got to talk during the lunch! (squee! squee!) Pictures will definitely follow.

Saturday afternoon included very valuable sessions on Implementing Every Child Ready to Read 2 and then “Traveling the Spectrum: From Interstellar Adventures to Epic Fantasy, the influence of Science Fiction and Fantasy on the world today. This featured the stellar speakers Blake Charlton, Lois Bujold, and George R. R. Martin, so was excellent! Alas, had I but known, those who got a goodie bag of books by the authors had to stand in line for an hour ahead of time.

Afterward, I had the good luck to run into my co-worker from Fairfax County, so we had dinner together. I had an invitation to a publisher dessert at 9 pm, but I was way too tired by then, and went back to my sister’s house.

Sunday I did get there earlier, and caught the speaker Dan Ariely talking about interesting things he learned in researching his book: The Honest Truth About Dishonesty. Afterward, I got the book signed and hit the exhibits. For the 10:30 session, I got to hear my co-members of ALSC’s Children and Technology Committee speak on using apps in public and school libraries, and then got to have lunch with two of them afterward. After lunch, I attended an information-packed session on getting information out of the 1940 US Census. That information is going to be highly valuable to me when I sub in the Virginia Room. Then it was back to my sister’s to change for the Newbery Banquet.

The Newbery Banquet was, of course, a highlight of the whole conference experience. Chris Raschka spoke about art and memory. Jack Gantos had us roaring with laughter. And we were in a crowd of people who love children’s books.

The final day, for me at least, was Monday. This time I managed to get up early enough for the first session: The Digital Lives of Tweens and Teens. Interesting facts about the current group of 10- to 14-year-olds and how these facts impact the way we should serve them.

Then I was going to go to the session on crossover adult/YA books, but it was way too crowded, so I went to the ALSC awards, where the Siebert, the Batchelder, and the Geisel Awards were given, followed by an ALSC member meeting.

Finally, I hit the closing of the exhibits. It was probably a good thing that they had already wound down almost completely, though I was still able to get a copy of Siebert Honor book Witches signed by the author. Then the plan was to go back to my sister’s, but I had locked my keys in the trunk! (Urgh!)

However, after I called the rental car company and they told me it would cost $57, I went to get something to eat and saw my Triple A card. I was able to get it put on my AAA card instead of the rental car company. And, even better, the tow truck driver was so nice, he made me happy to have locked my key in the trunk because it gave me the opportunity to have my day brightened.

Back at my sister’s, I had enough time for a nap before the Printz Awards. All the Printz Award and Honor speakers were stellar, but Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman started it off with a rousing chorus of his song on the accordion, “Without Libraries We’d Be Dumb.” I was a little hurt today to discover he had not actually composed it as a Printz Honor speech, but I do have to share where I found the full text of his “speech” on YouTube. You must note, however, that the crowd at the Printz Award Reception was far, far more enthusiastic.

More details and notes will follow!

48-Hour Book Challenge Finish Line

No, I didn’t get nearly as much done as I hoped, or as I did last year. But, hey, with a headache and dizziness, this is still quite good. And it was definitely still fun.

I only finished three books. But Code Name Verity was so incredibly good, it was just as well it was the only fiction book I finished. All the better to savor that way.

Here are my stats:

Total time spent on the 48HBC: 27 hours, 30 minutes
Donation to Book People Unite: $48, in honor of my turning 48 within a week of the 48-Hour Book Challenge. (Hey, seemed appropriate!)

How this was broken up:
Time spent Reading: 11 hours, 55 minutes

Books Finished:
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein (Wow!) (343 pages read)
Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, by Lauren F. Winner (216 pages read)
Shiny Objects, by James A. Roberts (73 pages read)

Books partially read:
The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection, by Alexander McCall Smith, 25 pages read
The Bible, 4 pages read
Each Day a New Beginning, by Karen Casey, 2 pages read
Praying for Strangers, by River Jordan, 8 pages read
A Truth Universally Acknowledged, edited by Susannah Carson, 4 pages read
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, by Nina Sankovitch, 22 pages read
The Conundrum, by David Owen, 4 pages read
Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, by Deborah Hopkinson, 26 pages read
Victory Over Verbal Abuse, by Patricia Evans, 2 pages read
The Order of Odd-Fish, by James Kennedy, 13 pages read
Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, by James Kennedy, 16 pages read

Total pages read: 758

Time spent Listening: 3 hours, 25 minutes
Audiobook listened to: Sing You Home, by Jodi Picoult

Time spent Networking (mostly Twitter and Facebook): 1 hour, 30 minutes

Time spent Blogging: 10 hours, 40 minutes (counting only until 11:30)

Books Reviewed: Still, Shiny Objects, Code Name Verity (All the books I finished, so that goal, at least, was reached.)
Reviews Posted: The One and Only Ivan, Still, North of Beautiful, Code Name Verity

Other Blog Posts:
Two for Sonderjourneys
Three for Sonderquotes
Sonderling Sunday
Two about the 48-Hour Book Challenge (Not counting this one, written after the ending time)

Total words written: 5,778

So, it looks like I will need to turn in lots and lots of books if I want to go to California in a couple weeks without holding onto library books I haven’t read. We shall see!

Now, I admit I wish I hadn’t had a headache the whole weekend. But if I had to have a headache, it was definitely nice to be distracted. I’m counting this a success!

Review of Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity

by Elizabeth Wein

Hyperion, New York, 2012. 343 pages.
Starred Review

Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. For me, this is the Year of Escalating Greatness. For the Newbery: First I read Wonder, by R. J. Palacio, and hoped it would win. Then I read The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, and hoped it would win. Then I read Summer of the Gypsy Moths, by Sara Pennypacker, and hoped it would win. Recently, I read Palace of Stone, by Shannon Hale, and now I’m hoping it will win.

For the Printz Award, it hasn’t been so drawn out. I read The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, and was sure I’d found the book I want to win next year’s award. But now I’ve read Code Name Verity. I simply can’t imagine another book surpassing this one this year.

(Mind you, I want all my past favorites to win Honor, and won’t even be too upset if they end up taking the prize. But wow, this book is good!)

I already was a big fan of Elizabeth Wein. I’ve read all of her Aksum books, set in old Africa, and knew that her writing is something special. But I wondered about a book set during World War II. That seemed something altogether different.

And this book is different. There’s still the flavor of her wonderful storytelling ability, but the story, set in France and England during World War II, is nothing like ancient Africa. But every single bit as compelling.

Here’s how the book begins:


I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was. I have always been good at pretending. I spent the first twelve years of my life playing at the Battle of Stirling Bridge with my five big brothers — and even though I am a girl, they let me be William Wallace, who is supposed to be one of our ancestors, because I did the most rousing battle speeches. God, I tried hard last week. My God, I tried. But now I know I am a coward. After the ridiculous deal I made with SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden, I know I am a coward. And I’m going to give you anything you ask, everything I can remember. Absolutely Every Last Detail.

Here is the deal we made. I’m putting it down to keep it straight in my own mind. “Let’s try this,” the Hauptsturmführer said to me. “How could you be bribed?” And I said I wanted my clothes back.

It seems petty, now. I am sure he was expecting my answer to be something defiant — “Give me Freedom” or “Victory” — or something generous, like “Stop toying with that wretched French Resistance laddie and give him a dignified and merciful death.” Or at leaszt something more directly connected to my present circumstance, like “Please let me go to sleep” or “Feed me” or “Get rid of this sodding iron rail you have kept tied against my spine for the past three days.” But I was prepared to go sleepless and starving and upright for a good while yet if only I didn’t have to do it in my underwear — rather foul and damp at times, and SO EMBARRASSING. The warmth and dignity of my flannel skirt and woolly sweater are worth far more to me now than patriotism or integrity.

Queenie, which is what she calls herself in the narrative, draws things out. She tells the story of how she entered the war effort, but she tells it from the perspective of her best friend, Maddie Brodatt. Maddie is the pilot who crash landed the plane that brought Queenie into France after Queenie parachuted out of it. They have shown Queenie pictures of the burned plane and ruined cockpit.

Now, the reader has to wonder how much truth Queenie is giving the Nazis in this narrative, being read immediately by them. But the reader never doubts her firm and unquenching affection for Maddie, the girl who loved to fly. Maddie gets more and more opportunities in a men’s world, culminating in the chance to fly Queenie into France. Too bad it ended in a crash and a capture.

I don’t want to say one bit more about the book’s plot except that I am reminded of something Megan Whalen Turner said when she was speaking at the Horn Book-Simmons Colloquium. She said that she feels she has failed if her readers read her books only once.

With Code Name Verity I honestly caught something in the section I just quoted to you that had gone right by me the first time around. I am absolutely going to be rereading this book very soon to see the many, many things that I will look at differently the second time around.

Wow! All right, already! Just read it!

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Sonderling Sunday – Chapter 8 – Eldritch City At Last!

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday, loosely translated as “Nerdy Sonntag.” I hasten to add that you definitely do not need to be a German speaker to enjoy this series. Indeed, I wouldn’t really call myself a German speaker. This series is, quite simply, for people who love words. In it, I look at Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge and compare it with its original English version, The Order of Odd-Fish, by James Kennedy, to discover some bizarre and fun things about German and English and different ways of thinking about things and different combinations of wonderful sounds.

We are on Chapter Eight, which begins on page 65 in the English version and Seite 84 in the German. This is a long chapter, so I’m going to go straight to focusing on the most interesting sentences and phrases.

On the first page a fun one comes:
“Crashing into the ocean” = in den Ozean zu plumpsen

“pretty dull afterlife” = Ein ziemlich trübseliges Leben nach dem Tod (Google translates that as “a rather dreary life after death.”)

“The plane was destroyed, its hull torn and flooded with black, swirling seawater.” = Das Flugzeug war zerstört; der Rumpf war zerfetzt und von schäumendem schwarzem Meerwasser überflutet.

Just to clarify, here Rumpf is “hull”; zerfetzt is “torn,” and schäumendem is “swirling.”

This one is evocative:
“oily murk” = ölige Brühe (Be sure to put lots of “oo” and “ew” in those vowels.)

“floated” = herumdümpelten (“bobbed about”)

“waterlogged” = aufgeweichte (Google just translates this “softened.” Ewww.)

“soaked” = durchnässt (“through-wetted”)

“gash” = klaffenden Riss (“gaping cracks”)

“slimier” = irgendwie schleimiger und glitschiger (Google: “Somewhat slimier and slipperier” – I suspect we have a little elaboration here.)

I like this sentence. Perhaps some insight on where the word “wade” came from, not to mention “slimy”?
“Soon they were all wading in the slimy water.” = Kurz darauf wateten sie alle durch das schleimige Wasser.
Now, “slimy” sounds slimy. But schleimige?! You can almost feel it clinging to you.

“squishy” = matschig

More exquisite disgustingness:
“spilling juices” = aus denen Flüssigkeiten sickerten (“from which liquids leaked”)

For once the German is shorter:
“whoop of delight” = Jubelschrei (Now there’s a good name for a band.)

“treacherous goo” = verräterische Brühe

“rhapsodized” = schwärmte

Okay, say this a few times, just to savor the sounds:
“an enormous mucilaginous gorge” = eine gewaltige, schleimige Schlucht
(Has it struck you, like me, that English has more different words than German for the concept of “slimy”? But you have to give them that the one German word is really good.)

This paragraph is too fun in English not to mention:

“Wonders upon wonders!” said Colonel Korsakov. “I don’t recall eating a small law firm.”

Auf Deutsch:

»Wunder über Wunder!«, erklärte Oberst Korsakov. »Ich kann mich nicht erinnern, eine Anwaltskanzlei gegessen zu haben.«

“with a shiver” = dann fröstelnd ab

“Its crumbling bricks were crabbed with gray, sickly ivy, and cold thin mist twisted around.” = Die verfallenen Steine waren von krausem widerlichem Efeu überzogen und ein kalter, dünner Nebel wirbelte um das Haus.

“yellowed books” = vergilbten Büchern

“crumbling maps” = zerbröselnden Karten

“shattered chandelier” = zerborstener Kronleuchter (“burst crown-lights”)

“gangly” = schlaksig

Oh this is good:
“freckled” = Sommersprossen (“summer sprouts”)

Longest word candidate (19 letters):
“squinted at his visitors” = musterte seine Besucher aus zusammengekniffenen Augen (“looked at his visitors with together-narrowed eyes”)

“whimsical tomfoolery” = wunderlichen Albernheiten

“bony” = knorrige

“snug” = kuschelig Ah! “cushy”!

“puzzlement” = Verblüffung (I think I’ve mentioned this one before, but it’s so good.)

“jars” = Einmachgläsern

“floating” = schwammen

“stunned” = verblüfft

“violence” = Neigung zur Gewalttätigkeit (“inclination to violence”)

“questionable” = Fragwürdiges (“question worthy”)

This phrase is nice in German:
“Just the opposite” = Ganz in Gegenteil

A simple one that’s just fun to say:
“wondered” = nachgedacht (“thought after”)

Nice and alliterative:
“shook again” = erbebte erneut (“quaked anew”)

“Grunting, sweating, shouting” = Grunzend, schwitzend und brüllend

“sunset” = Sonnenuntergang (“sun downfall”)

“foaming river” = von Gischt schäumenden Fluss (“with spray foaming river”)

“booming and trumpeting” = mit viel Tamtam und Tschingderassa

“We would be run out of town.” = Wir würden geteert und gefedert aus der Stadt geworfen. (“We would be tarred and feathered and thrown out of the city.”)

“divert” = ablenken

“handlebar mustache” = Schnauzbart

“heave” = Kraftakt (“might act”)

“The applause outside was tremendous.” = Der Applaus war ohrenbetäubend. (“The applause was ear-numbing.”)

An even longer word, right at the end of the chapter:
“the screech of grinding metal, laughter and carousing” = das Kreischen von aneinanderschabendem Metall, Gelächter und Freudenschreie (“the screech of on-one-another-scraping metal, laughter and joy-cries”)

Very evocative:
“stuff myself” = mich vollzustopfen

And finally, even more “Sonder” than in the title:
“The Grand Feast of the Odd-Fish” = Das gro?e Fest der Sonderbaren Sonderlinge (“The grand feast of the “special” “special ones”.)

Summing up:

Longest word: aneinanderschabendem

Most improved translation: “an enormous mucilaginous gorge” = eine gewaltige, schleimige Schlucht

Most disgusting translation: Tie between schleimiger und glitschiger and ölige Brühe

Most onomatopoetic: plumpsen

Best name for a band: Jubelschrei

Best image: “freckles” = Sommersprossen

Most alliterative translation: Ganz in Gegenteil

Now then, wasn’t that fun? And a delightful way to spend my time in the 48-Hour Book Challenge. Definitely book-related. Tune in next week as we explore Das gro?e Fest der Sonderbaren Sonderlinge!

Review of North of Beautiful, by Justina Chen Headley

North of Beautiful

by Justina Chen Headley

Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2009. 373 pages.

I read this book on the flight home from KidLitCon 2011, having just heard the author speak as part of an insightful and thought-provoking panel on diversity, and having gotten the book signed. In the panel, Justina Chen said that she didn’t want to get categorized as a writer who wrote only Chinese characters, so she purposely made this character blonde and classically beautiful — with one exception. Here’s how the book begins:

“Not to brag or anything, but if you saw me from behind, you’d probably think I was perfect. I’m tall, but not too tall, with a ballerina’s long legs and longish neck. My hair is naturally platinum blond, the kind that curls when I want it to and cascades behind my back in one sleek line when I don’t. While my face couldn’t launch a thousand ships, it has the power to make any stranger whip around for a second look. Trust me, this mixture of curiosity and revulsion is nothing Helen of Troy would ever have encountered.

“Please don’t get me wrong; I’ve got all the requisite parts — and in all the right numbers, too: one nose, two eyes, and twenty-four teeth that add up to not a bad smile. But who notices pearly whites when a red-stained birthmark stretches across the broad plain of my right cheek? That’s exactly why I never went anywhere without my usual geologic strata of moisturizer, sunblock, medical concealer, foundation, and powder.”

Terra Rose Cooper is named after mapping terms and has a fascination for maps, like her father, the famous cartographer. She’s got a good-looking boyfriend who’s on the wrestling team, but she’s not sure he even really sees her or cares about her more than for sleeping with her. An interfering visiting professor puts a brochure in her hands about a new technique that could eliminate her birthmark. Should she try it?

Her Dad has said he won’t spend another penny on her face. She’d already tried so many things that didn’t work. She never even gets a chance to talk with her boyfriend about it. She does it during Christmas Break, so no one will see her while she’s healing.

But then, driving back from the first procedure with her mother (without telling her father), her car slides on black ice and she has an accident. She almost hits a boy about her age, dressed all in black. That boy, Jacob, has a scar on his own face. He was born in China with a cleft palate and was adopted by his mother Norah (who owns the car she hit) and brought to America.

Meanwhile, Terra’s applying for early entrance to college. She wants to escape from her family, and her emotionally abusive father, as her older brothers have done. One of them moved to China, and he sends tickets to Terra and her mother, telling them to come visit. Terra doesn’t think her mother would ever be brave enough.

One thing leads to another. After Norah and Jacob drive Terra and her mother home, Norah and Terra’s mother hit it off. So Terra sees more of Jacob. Then Norah talks them into traveling to China together, where Terra’s going to see much more of Jacob. But what about her boyfriend?

This book is full of mapping metaphors and symbolism — almost too many. Terra is an artist, who works with collages and employs many map fragments and symbols. She’s working on a “Beauty Map” about what the world thinks is beautiful. Jacob teaches her to geocache, which of course involves more navigational terms. Her Dad is presented as a famous cartographer whose career was ruined when he supported a map alleged to be by a Chinese navigator who discovered America before Columbus. That map was later proved to be a fraud, and that destroyed her father’s career and is why he moved to a town in the middle of nowhere.

That didn’t ring quite true for me. I wasn’t sure what kind of job a cartographer would even find in an isolated town. And how could something like that mess up his career? But then I was really brought up short by this paragraph:

“Dad’s work was purely high-tech, coding the software for global positioning systems, first for the military back in the eighties and then spinning off to do consulting work for software mapping companies.”

That didn’t ring true for me at all, because my Dad was instrumental in developing software for global positioning systems way before the eighties. And he is no cartographer; he’s an engineer. I’m sure that cartographers use GPS now that it’s been developed, but when my Dad first worked with satellite navigation, they were mostly used on ships, not by mapmakers. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure cartographers didn’t have much to do with developing the software for global positioning systems.

But that’s a piddly detail that I wouldn’t expect anyone else to notice. The author’s story did give us an explanation for why Terra’s Dad was so bitter and resentful and abusive, and especially angry at China. She was pretty vague about what the father actually did, so it felt just a little bit of a clunky way of pulling the map metaphor into the plot.

However, I have to say that the metaphor worked well. After all, Terra was thinking about her life’s path and what constitutes True Beauty.

And by the time I finished, I was impressed by how it was all woven together. It’s tricky to write a good story of someone dealing with emotional abuse, and this one pulled it off well. It’s not only Terra who’s learning to respect herself and stand up for herself; we also see her Mom coming into her own, especially on the China trip with Norah. It happens gradually, in realistic little steps. And it doesn’t end with a neat tie-up. We see that progress has been made, and things could go either way. I thought that whole aspect was masterfully done.

So this is an intriguing read, with lots to think about: true beauty, dealing with subtle emotional abuse, even sibling relationships. And the story is intriguing as well, with nicely done romance.

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Source: This review is based on my own book, purchased at KidLitCon and signed by the author.

48-Hour Book Challenge Sunday Check-In

How quickly my grandiose plans burst like a bubble! I’m in the homestretch of the 48-Hour Book Challenge and so far have only completed one book and written one review! But I’m still having a great time and still enjoying the challenge.

And, to be honest, I’m used to getting approximately one-tenth of my goals done. But I still have fun shooting for the goals.

In fact, I just noticed today that this year, the 48-Hour Book Challenge is happening less than a week from my 48th birthday! That should be significant somehow. Perhaps I should do another challenge on my birthday to celebrate! (And next year, I will actually be 48 on the weekend of the 48-Hour Book Challenge. Oo, and it will be the 8th annual. I will have to think of a way to celebrate.) Oh, I think I know what I’ll do! Regardless of the number of hours I read, instead of donating $1 per hour to Book People Unite, I will donate $48. It seems fitting.

So, although I’m not going to reach the 30 hours I hit last year, my stats still aren’t bad. I’ll list all the books and partial books I’ve read at the end, but so far I’ve spent 10 hours and 10 minutes reading, 4:40 blogging, 3:25 listening, and 1:30 networking, for a total of 19 hours and 45 minutes.

Since I finish up at 11:30 pm tonight, I won’t be able to hit 30 hours, but the only thing I have scheduled today is a nap. I’m afraid I really do need the nap, because now I’m on the 24th day of that vestibular migraine. I hasten to add that it isn’t a real bad one, with more dizziness than headache. But I do get a few weird symptoms as I get more tired, and the headache does increase, and I’m going to let myself fall asleep. But I absolutely AM going to finish Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein today! It is sooo good! And I hope to write a review about it, too.

I hope today to spend most of that time on the computer, writing and posting reviews. And this week, instead of watching a movie while I do my weekly ironing, I plan to listen to an audiobook.

One thing I find very amusing happened. Remember how I had to chauffeur my son to Prom in DC? And I was going to listen to an audiobook while doing it? Remember how the rules state you can only use ONE audiobook? So I couldn’t just decide to switch books?

Well, I picked out an audiobook early in the week with 14 CDs, so I wouldn’t run out of audiobook to listen to. It looked like a nice love story about a music therapist, and I loved that there were original songs at the start of every section. What I didn’t realize was that it would turn into a lesbian love story. Now I didn’t actually mind that — I think that reading is a good way to get a different perspective. And this was a very different perspective from mine. And we all found the description of the woman’s first kiss from her girlfriend quite amusing (lots of explosions and burning going on). I turned the sound low and tried to get them to talk among themselves. But when she started in describing her first time having lesbian sex — well, I decided that was definitely NOT appropriate listening for driving my son to Prom! So that cut down my listening time a bit.

Anyway, I’m having lots of fun with this, as always. I’m not sure I’ll get around to visiting the other participants’ blogs today, but definitely hope to do some visiting later this week.

Happy reading!

Review of Still, by Lauren F. Winner


Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis

by Lauren F. Winner

HarperOne, 2012. 244 pages.

This is going to be one of those “reviews” that talks more about me than about the actual book. But it’s a book on musings about faith, and aren’t the best books of musings those that set off all kinds of thinking and musing in your own head? Many different things came together for me, and I need to write them out to get a grasp on them. In fact, in that I relate to the author herself. She says in the Author’s Q & A section at the back:

I’m sure a therapist somewhere could tell you why I do this, dissect my spiritual life on the page for readers. I like to think I’m called to do it. My own spiritual life owes so much to reading, to books; I like to imagine my own books help other people, that they are a debt offering, a gratitude offering. Also, frankly, it is a kind of writing I enjoy — it is “deep play” for me, this kind of writing. Still, I don’t think this book is really about me. If I’ve written it well, it isn’t about me. It’s about the questions: How does a spiritual life change? How do you enter that change?

First, I’ll talk a bit about what the book is. It’s a book of musings, and it’s also a book about middles. Mid-faith. Midlife. It’s a book about crises. Death. Divorce. And it’s a book about after crisis. Here’s another paragraph from that ending section:

I wanted to emphasize the subtle but hugely significant shift from depressed, intense crisis to pacific openness, from no sense of God to a new sense of God. From wrenched and wrecked to calm communion with a God I both know and don’t know. In part the structure was hard because what might be considered the real crisis point . . . is the prelude to the book. The spiritual unraveling, the alienation from God that I felt after my mother’s death and in the midst of my marriage — that is the backstory. Still opens at the tail end of that darkness. The book is not primarily a picture of the darkness. It is a picture of the end of the darkness, of the stumbling out of the darkness into something new.

Here’s what she says about it at the start of the book:

I was carried to the middle of my spiritual life by two particular events: my mother died, and I got married, and the marriage was an unhappy one. Had you asked me before — before my mother got sick, before I found myself to be a person thinking about divorce — I would have told you that these were precisely the circumstances in which one would be glad for religious faith. Faith, after all, is supposed to sustain you through hard times — and I’m sure for many people faith does just that. But it wasn’t so for me. In my case, as everything else was dying, my faith seemed to die, too. God had been there. God had been alive to me. And then, it seemed, nothing was alive — not even God.

Intuition and conversation persuade me that most of us arrive at a spiritual middle, probably we arrive at many middles, and there are many ways to get there. The events that brought me to the middle of my spiritual life were dramatic, they were interruptions, they were grief.

But grief and failure and drama are not the only paths to a spiritual middle. Sometimes a whole life of straightforward churchgoing takes you to a middle. Sometimes it is not about a conversion giving way, or the shock of God’s absence. Sometimes a life of wandering takes you to a middle. Sometimes you come to the middle quietly.

You may arrive at the spiritual middle exhausted, in agony, in what saints of the Christian tradition have called desolation.

Or your journey to the middle may be a little easier, a little calmer — it is not that God is absent — it is, rather, that your spiritual life seems to have faded, like fabric. Some days the fading doesn’t trouble you at all; other days, it seems a hollowing loss. You’re not as interested as you once were in attending to God. You no longer find it easy to make time for church, for prayer. . . .

This book is about the time when the things you thought you knew about the spiritual life turn out not to suffice for the life you are actually living. This book wants to know about that time, and then about the new ways you find, the new glory road that might not be a glory road after all but just an ordinary gravel byway, studded with the occasional bluet, the occasional mica chip.

So that should give you an idea what the book is about. If you’re the sort who likes spiritual musings (as I do) and books who make you think, there is much to enjoy here.

Now for the part about me. It began on a totally different topic. Our pastor’s been doing a series of sermons on politics, and last week he covered homosexuality.

Now I have to say that I was cringing at the very thought of these sermons. I’ve heard some very dogmatic sermons where I don’t think dogma is warranted. I don’t think the Bible is terribly clear on most political topics, and I definitely don’t think that one political party in America has the lock on the “Biblical view.” In fact, I really hate it when someone claims there is a “Biblical view” on most of these political topics.

But the pastor did a good job at doing his best to present two sides to each one of these topics. He never told us, “This is the Biblical view,” and presented different views on the Bible’s teaching on all of the topics, even when he had a clear leaning one way or the other. I appreciated that very much.

Part Two: Thinking about the sermon later, it occurred to me that it’s worlds easier to decide something’s sinful when it’s not something you’re tempted to do. For example, lying isn’t my weakness. My weakness is telling too much truth to too many people. So when my ex-husband lied, it was incredibly easy for me to think, “See! He has NO self-control!” But the fact is, I have no self-control when it comes to lying, because I need none. I’m just not really tempted in that direction.

Since homosexuals haven’t exactly been welcomed into the church, it’s so easy for those left to decide that homosexuality is sinful. We don’t have to look at the other sins that we actually are tempted toward.

Part Three: At Bible Study last night, one person asked what people at church thought of the sermon series. I mentioned a little bit about why I was so glad that two sides were presented. We talked about not being judgmental. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, “Then neither do I condemn you.” But he also told her, “Go now, and leave your life of sin.” So he was not telling her adultery is fine.

I’d just been reading a novel where a gay person has to deal with a hate-filled Christian group. I said that Jesus started with love. But some in the group said that if you love someone, you are going to worry about them staying in sinful conduct.

Part Four: I was reading this book today, and this thought occurred to me: What if it isn’t sinful?

I know, this will seem pretty obvious to many of my readers. But it seems to me that was what the Pharisees were all about: Telling everyone exactly what was sinful and what was not. And Jesus challenged that dramatically, in many different ways.

What’s more — wait for it — I am not Jesus!

In Romans 14:4, it says, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” If I am sinning, I believe that God Himself is going to be working on me, right where I need to be worked on. Can’t I trust him to do that for others?

Then came Part Five. Lauren Winner says this about her divorce: “Among other things, divorcing has shaken up the assumptions I bring to reading scripture. In leaving my marriage, I was doing something that was simply not permissible, not in the way I have always interpreted scripture, and that is something I remain troubled by, confused by — it is not something about which I feel cavalier.”

Now, for someone who is divorced myself, I’m still awfully judgmental about divorce. Because I KNOW what my husband did is wrong! I was hurt by it!

Today, thinking about these issues regarding gay marriage, and thinking that I approve much more of someone who sticks with his gay partner for 30 years than someone who breaks his heterosexual marriage vows after 15 years — well, I realized that I’m awfully judgmental in certain areas myself.

What if I applied that same question to everyone who isn’t me? Even *gasp* my ex-husband?

What if it isn’t sinful?

And what if it isn’t my business even if it is? Shouldn’t I spend my real scrutiny on the activities and attitudes that take up my own time?

As you can see, this author of spiritual musings really got me thinking. She must have been doing something right.

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

And We’re Off! The 7th Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge Begins!

I confess: I really do look forward to this weekend all year. It’s the weekend of Mother Reader‘s 48 Hour Book Challenge.

I began at 11:30 pm tonight, Friday night. My challenge will then run until 11:30 pm Sunday night. I’m going to see how much time I can spend reading.

My stats from last year are definitely going to be hard to beat. If not impossible. Last year, I hit 30 hours and 30 minutes. I finished 8 books, read 1,606 pages, and wrote 9 reviews, but only posted one of them.

This year, I’m going to try very hard to get less behind rather than more behind. With this in mind, I plan to post all reviews I write, as well as several reviews I’ve already written. Since I have about 45 reviews waiting to be posted, any amount will help! And during the 48 Hour Book Challenge, I have a nice amount of traffic from other book challengers, so it’s really a good time to post! Oh, I also want to catch up on writing reviews of books I’ve written. I have 11 books sitting here that I very much want to review, so I will try to review them in the next 48 hours. Mind you, I also want to review every book I read during the challenge, so this writing will cut down on my reading time. But all of it will be fun.

The biggest obstacle to a high number? Well, today is my 22nd day with a low-grade vestibular migraine. I felt somewhat better today, but I find that staying up later does not help. So I’m thinking it would not be a good time to avoid sleep, and that may be my undoing.

Once again, I am lucky in that I am not scheduled to work this weekend. I waited until late so I could go to small group Bible study without it cutting into my time, and then I did the grocery shopping for the week, so I won’t need to do that. Love those late night hours! I brought in my audiobook for in a pinch.

Now, I do need to be my son’s chauffeur for going to Prom tomorrow night, but they are just going to have to bear with me listening to an audiobook! I confess, I’d be tempted to skip church Sunday morning — but they will be showing pictures of the graduating Seniors, and I chose many for my son. Of course the big challenge will be: Can I possibly stay awake on Sunday afternoon and read, or is a Sunday afternoon nap a biological necessity? Time will tell.

I did save Code Name Verity to start tonight, because I have a feeling I won’t be able to stop until I’m so tired I can’t keep my eyes open. Then it would be cool to go through my entire “rotation” of books — a book I own (Code Name Verity), a new library book (The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection), an award winner (Breaking Stalin’s Nose), an Advance Reader Copy of a book not yet published (Keeping the Castle, by Patrice Kindl), an older library book (Silver Phoenix, by Cindy Pon), and rereading a book (Over Sea, Under Stone, by Susan Cooper — though I might save that for the plane). I also have a lot of Capitol Choices books I’d like to get read and a lot of shorter books still for 5th grade and up that I’d like to slip in there. We shall see.

Now I’m going to go read!