Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner. 

What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program - or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan - or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up? 

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness.

This story is a satire about the superficiality of consumer culture, politics, and mega-corporations that control everything we watch, read, and buy. It deals with racism, disability, and sexuality. There is adventure, mystery, and a dollop of romance. There are important messages here about survival, friendship, beauty, acceptance, independence, and what it means to be a woman. - excerpt from Nancy's review on Goodreads

I grew tired of this silly female tale, there was too much conversation concerning makeup and pedicures, products and dresses and the ridiculous rules or what girls are supposed to be.  What really bothered me that all this is going on while the text this story showed that they were actually incredibly smart girls who were able to invent things, use advances science and geography skills. I know that was part of the satire and part of the lesson of this novel -  to show that despite being the beauty queens with obsessive concerns over outward appearances, that they were more than that to begin with.  But it dragged on for so-o-o long.   I was just waiting for this book to hurry up and get on with it already! They did intersperse amongst the super girly prattle, almost hiding it, plotlines showing how these girls were smart AND capable AND independent. Again,  I get that it was part of the style of this story .  They were continuing to evolve and learn, even beginning to see each other as being capable of more than waving in a pageant parade or talent competition.  They were starting to understand that there was more to living than just being pretty;  they were starting to acknowledge this even in each other. It was still beyond annoying to have to read it page after page after page.

Another really annoying thing - which I suppose could have been a cute little quirk of the book to other readers- was the number of footnotes, references to television shows, and products and advertisements.  I get what the author was going four and it's a great idea. It just didn't translate well for me.  The presence of the notes at end of the page broke up the story.  I would have this great flow going, reading along and then BAM! stop. backtrack. look up the footnote. where was I..oh yeah, back to the story. I much preferred the character forms that peppered the book.  Giving information on the contestants, thoughts, dreams and showing how those ideas were often edited by the Corporation running the world media  pageant.  These were great and served to give a better insight into the true nature of each contestant.
"Maybe girls need an island to find themselves maybe they need a place where no one's watching them so they can be who they really are" (page 177)
This is a worthwhile story coated in Shiny glittery plastic. The way the story is told is it's own illustration of the moral it has to share with the reader:  that we need to look deeper beneath appearances and surface surface expectations down to what is important to the truth of who we are.  Great concept, wonderful quirkiness, OK execution.  Another book that I had to force myself to keep reading past the drawn-out middle to a last third that I really enjoyed.

Friday, October 25, 2013

iPod Friday

(Picture adapted from jamona_cl on flicker)

At the end of the week I give myself a treat and listen to my iPod at work while processing books or working on the database.   These are my picks for today.                          What do you listen to at work?

Love them or Hate them, it's a Nickelback Kind of Day

This Means War

Sharped Dressed Man

Burn It To The Ground


Thursday, October 24, 2013

My Favorite November 11th books

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month
Remembrance Day honours the sacrifices of the men and women of the armed forces who fought for our freedom.  How can we introduce the meaning and importance of showing respect and thanks on this special day to young children?

A Bear in War
written by Stephanie Innes and Harry Endrulat

 Inspired by the true story of “Teddy,” a stuffed bear that was sent to the front lines during World War I. Teddy belonged to ten-year-old Aileen Rogers, who lived with her family on a farm in East Farnham, Quebec. Her father, Lawrence Browning Rogers, enlisted in the Fifth Canadian Mounted Rifles in his thirty-seventh year in 1915.  Teddy now lives in a glass display case at the Canadian War Museum  in Ottawa, Canada.

Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion written by Jane Barlcay

Much has been written about war and remembrance, but very little of it has been for young children. As questions come from a young grandchild, his grandpa talks about how, as a very young man, he was as proud as a peacock in uniform, busy as a beaver on his Atlantic crossing, and brave as a lion charging into battle. Soon, the old man’s room is filled with an imaginary menagerie as the child thinks about different aspects of wartime. But as he pins medals on his grandpa’s blazer and receives his own red poppy in return, the mood becomes more somber. 

Outside, the crowd gathered for the veterans’ parade grows as quiet as a mouse, while men and women — old and young — march past in the rain. A trumpet plays and Grandpa lays a wreath in memory of his lost friend. Just then, the child imagines an elephant in the mist. “Elephants never forget,” he whispers to his grandpa. “Then let’s be elephants,” says the old man, as he wipes water from his eyes and takes his grandson’s hand.

A Poppy is to Remember 
by Heather Patterson

How did the bright red poppy that we all wear in November become Canada's symbol of honouring those who fought for our freedom on Remembrance Day?
Moving text coupled with stunning illustrations by Governor General's Award-winning artist Ron Lightburn explain the symbolism behind the poppy.
A bonus for teachers is the five-page spread all about the poem, "In Flanders Fields," Canada's wartime and peacekeeping endeavours, and the adoption of the poppy as our Remembrance Day emblem.

The Peace Book by Todd Parr

The Peace Book delivers positive and hopeful messages of peace in an accessible, child-friendly format featuring Todd Parr''s trademark bold, bright colors and silly scenes. Targeted to young children first beginning to read, this book delivers a timely and timeless message about the importance of tolerance.

Why? by Nikolai Popov

A frog sits peacefully in a meadow. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, he is attacked by an umbrella-wielding mouse in a confrontation that quickly turns into a full-scale war. "A strong anti-war message and lithe, incandescent artwork propel this affecting wordless picture book".--"Publishers Weekly".

Why We Remember  written and illustrated by students from Graysville School in Graysville, Manitoba                                                                                    A book explaining the importance of celebrating Remembrance Day, written by Canadian children. 

And for older children...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Finding Books that Look Like You: Gender roles in Books

While staff seems to accept and even embrace stories where girls break the old gender barriers by being independent and adventurous and (gasp) being the hero, I still face resistance to books such as My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kildodavis. It's a process, as they say.  I will continue to slowly introduce 'controversial' titles as long as they are well written and have a valuable message. 

Add your favorites in the comments.  How do you deal with resistance on 'sensitive' topics?

Dyson loves pink, sparkly things. Sometimes he wears dresses. Sometimes he wears jeans. He likes to wear his princess tiara, even when climbing trees. He's a Princess Boy.

Here are some other titles that challenge the traditional expectations of gender roles in children's books.

Amazing Grace 
By Mary Hoffman.
Grace loves to act out stories. She eventually overcomes restrictions of gender and race to play the part of her dreams, Peter Pan, in the school play.

Anna Banana and Me
By Lenore Blegvad.
Anna Banana is a fearless young girl. When she plays with a timid boy, he eventually becomes as brave as his friend

The Art Lesson

Written and illustrated by Tomie DePaola
Tommy loves to draw but feels constrained in art class. A new teacher finally strikes a compromise to allow for Tommy’s creativity.

Boy, Can He Dance!
By Eileen Spinelli.
Tony doesn't want to become a chef like his father. Instead, he wants to dance. 

The Chalk Box Kid
By Clyde Bulla.
Gregory does not have anywhere to grow a garden, so he creates one of his own.

Ira Sleeps Over

Written and illustrated by Bernard Waber.
When Ira is invited to sleep over at Reggie’s house, he must decide whether to take his beloved teddy bear. In the end, he learns that it is acceptable for boys to have teddy bears.

Little Granny Quarterback
By Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson. 
Granny, who was a star quarterback in her youth, leaps into her television to assist her favorite team with the winning touchdown.

Mama and Me and the Model T
By Faye Gibbons. 
When the Model T arrives, Mama proves that she, like the men, can drive.

The Paper Bag Princess
By Robert Munsch.
Princess Elizabeth rescues her prince from a fire-breathing dragon. When he doesn't  appreciate her efforts, she decides not to marry him after all.

Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt
Written and illustrated by Lisa Campbell Ernst.
Sam isn't welcome in the women’s quilting club, so he organizes a men’s quilting group. Eventually the men and women join to make a quilt together.

The Story of Ferdinand
By Munro Leaf. 
This classic about the value of peace presents Ferdinand, a young bull who prefers smelling flowers to butting heads.

Tough Boris
By Mem Fox.
Boris is tough, but in the end when his parrot companion dies, he—like all pirates—cries.

When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry
Written and illustrated by Molly Bang. 
Sophie gets angry and deals with her strong feelings by climbing trees

White Dynamite and Curly Kidd
By Bill Martin Jr. and John Archam-bault. 
A child excitedly watches Dad ride the rodeo bull and wants to grow up to be a bull rider like him. The twist is that she’s a girl

Titles selected from the list prepared by Lisen C. Roberts and Heather T. Hill 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Very Hungry Zombie: A Parody by Micheal Teitlebaum

Condensed post from Fang-tastic Fiction 

Teitlebaum and Apple have created a dead-on parody of Eric Carle's classic caterpillar tale in this brightly colored board book that's meant for older kids (probably pre-teens and teens) and adults. The book would make a nice stocking-stuffer for any die-hard (pardon the pun) zombie fan.


    The story begins as the zombie crawls out of his grave—and he is desperately hungry! Like Carle's caterpillar, the zombie has a different chewy snack every day of the week, with varying gustatory reactions. After seven days, the zombie is very full so he goes to sleep, but instead of a cocoon he sleeps in a grave, and instead of turning into a butterfly he arises as a super-zombie, accompanied by all of his tasty friends from the previous week.

Carle's Book
Teitlebaum's version
The illustrations are bright and cheerful and not at all gory. This book mimics the exact construction of Carle's book, right down to the hole-pocked overlapping pages and the prominent use of bright, primary colors.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower .. and liked by Judy Blume

The recent reinstatement of this title at Glen Ellyn, IL library  prompted me to move it up to the top of my reading list, where it has been languishing in limbo for a few years.
Awesome!! Perks of Being a Wallflower RT Glen Ellyn (IL) board listens to Blume, reinstates YA novel
From the back cover: 
Charlie is a freshman.
image source: prinsesamusang.wordpress.com

And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

“This moment will just be another story someday.” 

My thoughts:
I am not going to link the movie trailer here.  Not because I think there is anything wrong with the move, I haven't seen it so I can't say either way. I  won't be linking it because, for now anyways, I want to preserve the purity of the novel.  This book has left a raw, nostalgic aura that is still following me around the house.  Had I read this book when I was in high school I  think I may have become obsessed with it.  Charlie has his own questions and journeys in the book.  They are not my journeys.  And yet, they are.  The specifics of the thoughts and experiences differ but the rawness and honesty and emotion of Charlie's letters lead me back to that time in my own life.  I recognized the longing. I recognized the angst.  The loneliness, The fear. The joy. Those elusive connections that, as it turned out, weren't as elusive as I had convinved myself.  The pattern of the day unfolding and the anxiety in trying to just make it to the next one. When the words didn't match my own experience, the impact and emotional memory brought me right back to those days.  I think I would have loved to have read this back then because it felt in many ways like my own journal.  The book understood the me I was back then.  It broke my heart a little.  I healed my sixteen year old heart a little too.

"We don't get to choose where we came from, but we can choose where we go."

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Upgrade your Brain

Friday, October 11, 2013

Awesome Literary Halloween Costumes

Dress as your favorite children's book character

Photos: © 2011 Ian MacPherson.

Max and Wild Things, Where the Wild Things Are
Max and Wild Things, Where the Wild Things Are

Hobbit, Lord of the Rings
Miss Clavel and Madeline(s), Madeline
Miss Clavel and Madeline(s), Madeline

 Mr. Twit, The Twits
Mr. Twit, The Twits
 Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
Via lilymonster
 Your Favorite Author
Your Favorite Author
This guy is Margaret Atwood.

Your favorite book cover

Your favorite book cover
When in doubt, BE the book.

Alice, Alice in Wonderland

Alice, Alice in Wonderland
Way cooler than the typical Alice you see every year.

Humpty Dumpty

50 Shades of Grey Costume #literary #costumes #halloween
 via LaurenConrad.com on Flickr
50 Shades of Grey
Via tumbr.com

50 Shades of Grey

A little paint-strip humor.

Hunger Games Characters

Clockwork Orange

Amelia Bedelia

Magic School Bus's Mrs. Frizzle

Comic Book Character

Paddington the Cat & Gandalf  (because your pets want in on the fun too!)

via http://preschoolbookclub.blogspot.ca
Gandalf, Lord of the Rings